Saturday, August 24, 2013

Odds and ends 8/24/2013

Here’s a funny Seinfeld exchange between Jerry and a woman who just broke up with him:

  • [Jerry:] “So what are you saying? You didn’t like my act, so that’s it?”
  • [Marlene:] “I can’t be with someone if I don’t respect what they do.”
  • “You’re a cashier!”

That last line gets a big laugh. Why? Upon inspection, comedic irony is noticeably absent.

Marlene is not a hypocrite. Jerry knows she’s a cashier. It doesn't matter to him. He couldn’t care less about her means of supporting herself. There are more important attributes to consider.

Her standards are different. How he supports himself is a big deal to her, a deal maker or, in this case, a deal breaker.

“This is what is important: a theology of sin.” –Pope Francis

Robert Oscar Lopez writes a blockbuster essay about the gay mafia in the American Thinker:

The gay movement will never make peace with us until we disown the most important message of Christ. Christ says we must not live in the urges and ambitions of this world, but must live according to his pure vision of love. God gave up Christ to be sacrificed so that we would all be freed from the bondage of sin. There is no way to reconcile this doctrine with the gay lobby’s insistence that they can define themselves according to fleshly desires of this world and buy immortality by purchasing children. Make peace with the gay lobby, and we lose God, condemning ourselves to an eternity without the greatest love of all.

“The hate you encounter,” the priest told me, “is the cry of pain from people who are hurting, because they are living in such darkness.”

What will the right be without God? Without the courage to name and fight evil? Without discernment?

The limits we place on ourselves, such as making secular, natural law arguments, are in their own way a victory for the enemy. Let us not be so caught up in convincing others with secular arguments to join us in our views of politics and the world that we neglect God’s command to convince others to join us in Christ.

“My problem isn’t with the color of a politician's skin. My problem is much more often with the thickness of it.” –Neil Cavuto

Ralph De La Cruz of the Dallas Morning News channels Rob Parker and says Ted Cruz isn’t Hispanic enough:

Of course, Sen. Cruz is an ethnic Hispanic. But the question of whether he’s politically a Hispanic, well, that’s much more interesting. That’s like asking whether Clarence Thomas is, jurisprudentially, an African-American.

“Politically Hispanic”? “Jurisprudentially African-American”? These are nothing but ethnic euphemisms for the progressive agenda. It’s no coincidence these champions of ethnic determinism are descendants of early 1900s eugenics.

In related idiocy, Asian-American George Takei wrote of San Antonio councilwoman Elisa Chan: “It is disappointing when Asian Americans in leadership positions fall short.”

Apparently opposition to the LGBT cultists isn’t an approved Asian-American value. In other words, she’s not yellow enough. Right, George?

Uh oh. The San Antonio City Council left “furry” off the non-discrimination ordinance:

An Idaho man who enjoys dressing up as a dog was arrested early this month for having sex with a cat on several occasions, authorities said.

Ryan Havens Tannenholz, a self-identified “furry,” or someone who wears anthropomorphic animal fur suits, was charged with six felony counts of crimes against nature and one misdemeanor count of cruelty to an animal.

The GOP’s great hope, the tree-hugging, pork-loving Chris Christie, signed a law banning sexual orientation change therapy for minors in New Jersey. This includes “seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation, including, but not limited to, efforts to change behaviors, gender identity, or gender expressions, or to reduce or eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward a person of the same gender.” You couldn’t get a more poorly written law from a high school English class.

If I live in New Jersey and have a son who can’t keep his hands to himself, I now don’t have the option of seeking professional help for him. Actually, I’m not even sure I am able to help my son as a parent. The law bans “efforts to change [the] behaviors” of minors. Therapy is not specified. That must include a parent teaching his child to control his sexual urges, whether homosexual or heterosexual.

Reading from the text of the law, I come to no other conclusion. Am I misreading it?

Maggie Gallagher reacts:

Governor Christie just endorsed a law that thus excludes many gay teens who wish to live in accordance with Bible-based values from the circle of care; he has outright banned chastity as a goal of counseling. His bill is not only anti-religious, anti-liberty, and anti-family, it is anti-science because it does not permit scientific knowledge to evolve in the hands of competent professionals.

The great question now unfolding in our times is: Will we permit government power to be used to strip traditional religious believers of our freedom to live as we choose?

Why not?

Staying in New Jersey, the intellectually bellicose Christie picked a fight with Rand Paul, ridiculing the senator’s objections to PRISM as “esoteric” debate talking points that are of no use in the real world. He may as well have said the same about the heated debates in Philadelphia in 1787. Daniel Larison of the American Conservative referees:

It doesn’t occur to Christie that there might be some genuine disagreement among Republicans about what “our principles” are. Even if there is “nothing wrong with our principles,” there could be many things wrong with how they have been put into practice.

R. R. Reno, reacting to Germany putting a third gender option on birth certificates, writes about nihilism and the subordination of reality to will:

It’s fitting that Germany passed this legislation. It reflects our postmodern version of the will’s triumph over given realities. Nazism was an earlier version of this triumph, very different in countless ways, of course, but sharing a basic, underlying similarity. Hitler believed in the priority of the deed over truth, the will over fact, strength over established affairs. He wanted to forge a New Germany in accord with new myths, and part of his appeal rested in the fact that he affirmed the priority of this desire over all else. It’s intoxicating to believe that we can make our own destiny by the strength of our self-choosing.

This priority of the will made Nazism a hyper-modern phenomenon. It was not reactionary in any sense. The old regime was built on metaphysical claims about authority that were fixed and immobile. Hitler wanted no truck with a sacred order that limited the will. Force shapes destiny, and concepts of right and wrong must be made plastic to serve this new future.

If the phrase “will’s triumph” sounds familiar, that’s because it reflects Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will.

In my writing, I have discovered the problem of will to be one of the dominant features of what’s wrong with us. “In pursuit of a mythical level of autonomy, [man] bends all of creation, including his fellow man.”

“The SlutWalk movement is about rape in pretty much the same sense Nazism was about the Versailles Treaty — it’s the legitimate grievance that empowers a movement of irrational hatred.” –Robert Stacy McCain

To borrow from Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, “irrational hatred” is the selfish interests that “cause him to class with the rest of the world, for under such circumstances the world has value to him only as long as it will cater to his desires.” Irrational hatred, then, is narcissism.

McCain’s grievance and Rabbi Hirsch’s narcissism are the fabrics of modernity.

Joshua Schulz gets after autonomy in Public Discourse:

Modern liberalism, pairing the autonomy view of rights with the pursuit of progress, treats technology as necessary for happiness. Every technology is good so long as it pleases someone. Limiting technology therefore limits “choice” or autonomy, and therefore someone’s happiness.

The Obama administration’s HHS contraceptive mandate is rooted in this philosophy. Proponents of the mandate believe that to hinder people's use of a technology that would facilitate the satisfaction of their desires, such as contraception, is to deny them happiness. When one says that abortion, contraception, or in vitro fertilization is a wrongful, bad technology, what they hear is: you don’t have a right to be happy. “And don’t I have a right to be happy?” they respond.


Here we come to the fundamental paradox of modern liberalism. On the one hand, liberalism in all its stages has always treated human freedom as sacred. On the other hand, modern liberals also believe that in order to guarantee their freedom, they can in practice use the state’s coercive power to compel others to do what they believe is wrong.

This is the logical consequence of liberalism’s autonomy view of rights. Since the state is supposed to be “value-neutral” about what each party desires, in cases where human autonomy is at stake it really has no principled way to decide between competing claims. The result, more often than not, is not a fair contract between the two parties but an arbitrary exercise of political power, justified by the myth that we have a right to technological progress and convenience.

Anthony Esolen writes “the state is acting as a church, engaged in catechesis.” Excerpt:

Suppose it were not a Confederate belt buckle that McDowell had ordered removed, but a placard reading “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” That commandment—nowadays not controversial, though we obey it no better than any generation ever has—would be proscribed, as “religious” speech. But “thou shalt not disapprove publicly of the homosexual lifestyle,” which is what “Tyler’s Army” means, and in an aggressive and accusatory way, with the aim of silencing those who might disagree, and humiliating those who might express that disagreement—that is plastered all over the school and on the bodies of the teachers themselves, the masters, whom the students are supposed to respect or at least tolerate, since their future in part rests in those teachers’ hands.

What gives these schools the right to engage in that catechesis? The business of the public school is akin to the business of a group of tutors hired by a group of parents. It has become, instead, the business of a group of self-imagined forward-thinking missionaries introducing students to their new and enlightened world, against the supposed inertia and ignorance of parents, pastors, and the great majority of moral philosophers and theologians older than yesterday.

To say you’re against bullying is to say nothing it all. It’s like saying you’re for clean water. Who isn’t?

What I’m against is what people do in the name of “clean water.” Just as I’m against what people do in the name of “anti-bullying.” The anti-bullying movement is an anti-moral categories movement.

Pat Buchanan is distraught over the killing of Australian student Chris Lane:

Teenagers who can shoot and kill a man out of summertime boredom are moral barbarians, dead souls.

But who created these monsters? Where did they come from? Surely one explanation lies in the fact that the old conscience-forming and character-forming institutions—home, church, school, and a moral and healthy culture fortifying basic truths—have collapsed. And the community hardest hit is Black America.

If we go back to the end of World War II, 90 percent of black families consisted of a mother and father and children raised and disciplined by their parents. The churches to which these families went on Sundays were stronger. Black schools may have been largely segregated, but they were also the transmission belts of patriotism and traditional values rooted in biblical truths and a Christian faith.

Matt Purple of the American Spectator is on the ball:

The notion that government can sew the [social] fabric back together is nonsense. The American tradition is one of virtue rising up from the bottom, not being imposed from on top. We’ve behaved well because of strong families, churches, schools, and local communities, not distant bureaucracies hundreds of miles away packed with geeky technocrats waving around the latest social science paper. The federal government can enforce order and defend us, but there’s no evidence it can meddle at the micro level to make us better.

This A.G. Gancarski review of Breaking Bad is next to useless, but the comment by “Matt” hits the nail on the head:

Neither the money nor the meth corrupted Walt. He was always corrupt, always broken, always self-centered, always repulsive. He just lacked basic health insurance.

His temper and ego got him pushed out of the lucrative Gray Matter company he co-founded. He wound up a low-paid, public high school chemistry teacher and car wash attendant who was going to die of cancer and leave his family impoverished.

Because he had no real power, all those darker elements of his personality were suppressed, if only to keep him from looking even more ridiculous and impotent in the eyes of friends and family.

He refused charity from the people who he felt betrayed him. He decided that he was going to die or survive, but either way, he was going to do it his way.

But with the meth...with the meth he built something that was all his, and he controlled everything and everyone who stepped inside his circle. And those horrible traits that always existed within him were allowed to bloom and infest, like bacteria dropped into a pool of warm sugar water.

It was never about making a “superior” product to meet market demands. It was about control and manipulation. It was, as it always was with Walt, getting credit for his genius.

I wrote this for “Giving is greater than the gift,” but when I was finished with the piece it didn’t fit.

In the Netflix series House of Cards, one of the president’s trusted advisors tells Congressman Frank Underwood the president is considering him to be his vice president. The advisor, who has the president’s trust, has the power to sway the president’s decision one way or the other. For a political price, the advisor says, he will recommend Underwood for the vice presidency. Finding the terms unfavorable, Underwood doesn’t take the deal. Instead, he uses his skills as a politician to gain leverage over the advisor’s assets, increasing the value of his hand.

Relevant George Gilder quote: “Supply can create its own demand, even in the political realm.”

Also, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Paul’s parting words to the Ephesian elders attributed to Jesus, but not found anywhere in the Gospels, is justified in the Parable of the Talents.

Reviewing Mary Eberstadt’s How the West Really Lost God, Julia Shaw highlights how families perpetuate faith:

Most secularization narratives ignore the family’s role in religious formation or see familial decline as a result of secularization: people stopped believing in God and then they stopped having families. But Eberstadt turns this simple, direct relationship on its head. The connection between faith and family is multidimensional: “faith and family are the invisible double helix of society—two spirals that when linked to one another can effectively reproduce, but whose strength and momentum depend on one another.”

It’s no secret that churches provide a necessary infrastructure and larger community for raising children. But Eberstadt conjectures that something deeper drives families to the pews. “Something about children might make parents more inclined toward belief in the infinite—to a supernatural realm that is somehow higher and less well-understood than this one.”

Childbirth is the miracle of life, and parents experience it, in Eberstadt’s words, as a “moment of communion with something larger than oneself, larger even than oneself and the infant.”

“I don’t know how you can fight off despair by finding metaphysical certitude in something you know you made up yourself.” –Rod Dreher

I owe much to Francis Schaeffer, who more than anyone else convinced me to examine and articulate the premises that form the foundations of an ethos. Nearly every disagreement and argument I encounter comes from people serving different premises.

This Schaeffer quotes comes courtesy of Phyllis Schlafly: “Now for us, more than ever before, a presuppositional apologetic is imperative.”

The aforementioned Schlafly cites a troubling fact about NAFTA: “NAFTA was predicted to create 20,000 new U.S. jobs by increasing our exports to Mexico. That turned out to be another pipe dream; by 2010 NAFTA had eliminated 682,900 U.S. jobs, some in every state.”

Simply put, free trade in a global market puts over-regulated businesses in America at a competitive disadvantage. Adding a new worker to your business incurs costs well beyond salary. Compliance with the stacks and stacks of employment and insurance laws incurs costs that cut into profits, pushing jobs overseas where they can be done at less cost.

Milquetoast Secretary of State John Kerry comments on the violence in Egypt:

The interim government and the military, which together possess the preponderance of power in this confrontation, have a unique responsibility to prevent further violence and to offer constructive options for an inclusive, peaceful process across the entire political spectrum.

So the junta has a “responsibility to prevent further violence,” but whether it is responsible for the violence it perpetrated already—eh, what difference does it make?

Staying with Egypt, Stanley Kurtz lays out the uncomfortable truth: “The minimum consensus on social fundamentals necessary for democracy to function is simply not present in Egypt, and there is no reasonable prospect that it will be any time soon.”

Replace “Egypt” with “America.” Is the statement less true?

Victor Davis Hanson summarizes Benghazi, the “mother of all scandals”:

In reaction to all this, we jail a petty video maker, who makes the perfect scapegoat as a supposedly right-wing Islamophobic hate monger whose take-down advances our president’s politically correct narrative of Muslim outreach. That yarn required a president, secretary of state, and UN ambassador to lie repeatedly. When we ask questions, witnesses are browbeaten, the knowledgeable fade into the Washington woodwork, the luminaries have all left their offices, and we are left with “phony” scandal and “what difference does it make.”

As if more evidence was needed, Obamacare is once again proving the ineptitude of government to micromanage our lives. The New York Times reports:

In [yet] another setback for President Obama’s health care initiative, the administration has delayed until 2015 a significant consumer protection in the law that limits how much people may have to spend on their own health care.

The limit on out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-payments, was not supposed to exceed $6,350 for an individual and $12,700 for a family. But under a little-noticed ruling, federal officials have granted a one-year grace period to some insurers, allowing them to set higher limits, or no limit at all on some costs, in 2014.

Lawlessness. Obamacare is begging to be defunded.

In 2009, when I was living in Maryland, I met my visiting aunt and her family for an evening in D.C. During dinner I said in passing that people in D.C. don’t have kids, they go to Virginia. It was complete bullshit. Knowing what I know about D.C., I felt it to be true, but I had no hard evidence at all to back it up.

So I was pleased to read this in the City Journal:

Jason Walker, a 45-year-old father of two, left Washington, D.C. (which may have the highest percentage of childless households in the nation), for Ditmas Park to escape “a culture dominated by childless people leery of the existence of kids.”

Shout it from the rooftops: Homosexuality is not immutable:

Lisa Diamond, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, spent over a decade tracking sexual identity changes in a group of 100 women for her book “Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire.” She wrote, “Women’s sexuality is fundamentally more fluid than men’s, permitting greater variability in its development and expression over the life course.” Based on her research, she describes three main ways that sexual fluidity is expressed: “nonexclusivity in attractions” (i.e., the capacity to find all genders sexually attractive), “changes in attractions” (i.e., suddenly becoming romantically involved with a woman after a lifetime dating men) and the capacity to become attracted to ‘the person and not the gender’” (i.e., a partner’s sex is irrelevant).

Diamond also differentiates between “change, choice, and control” as “totally separate phenomena.” As psychologist John Michael Bailey of Northwestern University told me in an email, “The sentence ‘I choose to prefer sex with women to sex with men’ is meaningless. Schopenhauer wrote: ‘Man can do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants,’” he says. “We choose our behaviors but not our desires.” But it may be that women generally have a broader range of desires to choose from.

More than a decade ago, social psychologist Roy Baumeister proposed the idea of female “erotic plasticity.” In a paper on the subject, he explained that men tend to have rigid sexual preferences that “generally remain the same for the rest of the man’s life.” Women, on the other hand, “are more likely to switch back and forth,” he wrote. “Some heterosexual women may begin to experiment with lesbian activities in their 30s or 40s. Some lesbians begin desiring sex with men after many years of exclusive same-sex orientation.”

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