Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nine amendments

On November 5, nine amendments to the Texas Constitution will be put to a vote. Here’s what my ballot looks like:

  1. “Authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed in action.”

    AGAINST. This smacks of political grandstanding by the amendment’s sponsor. My condolences to the bereaved, but wives and husbands of the deceased who did not serve in the military would unfairly receive no exemption under this law. They may see their property taxes go up to make up the difference in lost revenue. Generally I favor fewer tax exemptions and lower tax rates.

  2. “Eliminating an obsolete requirement for a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is operational.”

    FOR. Even if it was operational, I would say get rid of it. Smaller government is better government.

  3. “Authorizing a political subdivision of this state to extend the number of days that aircraft parts that are exempt from ad valorem taxation due to their location in this state for a temporary period may be located in this state for purposes of qualifying for the tax exemption.”

    AGAINST. This amendment seems too specific to be motivated by free market principles. Crony capitalists shouldn’t get their own special tax exemptions.

  4. “Authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization.”

    FOR. I should be voting AGAINST to be consistent with my vote on Amendment 1, but recipients of charitable gifts should not be taxed on those gifts. This amendment opens the possibility of exempting from taxation all charitable gifts down the road.

  5. “Authorizing the making of a reverse mortgage loan for the purchase of homestead property and amending lender disclosures and other requirements in connection with a reverse mortgage loan.”

    BLANK. On one hand, I want people to be able to do what they want with their property. On the other hand, I don’t want newfangled financial instruments to combine with wayward centralized planning to create something akin to another housing bubble. I just don’t know enough about the mortgage industry to make an informed decision.

  6. “Providing for the creation of the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund for Texas to assist in the financing of priority projects in the state water plan to ensure the availability of adequate water resources.”

    AGAINST. Texas is in the middle of a terrible drought, and water resources will continue to be stressed as the state endures growing pains. Nevertheless, I don’t like the idea of giving $2 billion to a panel of bureaucrats. I am also concerned the state water plan would stomp on Texans’ property rights. “Stress is the fertilizer of creativity,” as 24 villain Jonas Hodges said. The market will supply innovations to meet Texans’ water needs.

  7. “Authorizing a home-rule municipality to provide in its charter the procedure to fill a vacancy on its governing body for which the unexpired term is 12 months or less.”

    AGAINST. Current Texas law requires a special election to be called to fill a vacated seat. Elected officials can do a lot of harm in 12 months. I’d prefer they be accountable to the masses who vote for them than to a relatively small cohort of officials who appoint them.

  8. “Repealing Section 7, Article IX, Texas Constitution, which relates to the creation of a hospital district in Hidalgo County.”

    FOR. The Fort Bend County Libertarian Party writes: “The wording of this proposed amendment is confusing but our research indicates it allows Hidalgo County NOT to be required to have a county-subsidized hospital; all counties should have this option.” The freedom to choose whether or not to have a hospital is about as straightforward as it gets.

  9. “Relating to expanding the types of sanctions that may be assessed against a judge or justice following a formal proceeding instituted by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.”

    FOR. Consider this a symbolic poke in the eye of the judicial oligarchy.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Snakebitten

Baby Cobra lay low in the tall grass, closely watching the squirrel that had come to gather acorns, a trap Baby Cobra and Mommy Cobra had laid together. The squirrel’s cheeks were puffed with scores of acorns. Stupid, greedy squirrel, Baby Cobra thought. The more acorns he stuffs in his mouth, the slower his reflexes will be, making him vulnerable to a surprise attack. Even as Baby Cobra thought this, the squirrel stuffed more acorns in his mouth, making itself yet more vulnerable to a surprise attack.

When the squirrel’s back was turned, Baby Cobra struck. His sleek body moved noiselessly through the grass and onto the bare dirt. The squirrel didn’t even see him coming. The sound of dropping acorns signaled instant paralysis. Baby Cobra held the squirrel in his mouth, letting the last drop of venom from his fangs saturate the squirrel’s weak body.

Mommy Cobra slithered out of the grass. “Excellent kill, Baby Cobra,” she hissed.

Baby Cobra dropped the squirrel from his mouth. “Thank you, Mommy.”

“I dare say you’re ready to strike out on your own now.” With that, she licked the air, turned, and disappeared into the jungle from whence she’d come. Baby Cobra stared after her in disbelief. After months of coddling and training, he had expected to be set free from his mother’s care with more fanfare than that. Nevertheless, his joy was not dampened. He celebrated by making a feast of the squirrel he had just killed.

Hours later, resting in the shade of a tree, Baby Cobra watched the digesting mass of squirrel move slowly down his distended body. He was mesmerized by the sun’s light reflecting off his brightly colored scales. I am so beautiful, he thought, basking in the afterglow of a large meal. Even if I was not so quick and cunning, no prey could resist me. As best he could, he curled into a ball, snuggling against himself, and fell into a deep sleep.

While he slept, vivid images flew before him, although he couldn’t recall them the moment they disappeared. What he could recall, however, was the emotion the images called up. He felt a tremendous awe over himself: his quickness, his intelligence, his beauty. The effortless application of his gifts could change his habitat to fit his purposes exactly. He felt lord of himself and all the jungle. All the creatures feared him, and he feared nothing.

Over the next few months, Baby Cobra’s dream came true. Each time he shed his old scales, his new scales were more beautiful than before. As he kept growing and growing, soon squirrels were not enough to sate his hunger. He started hunting monkeys and large birds. When they were not enough, he hunted larger game, including peacocks, pigs, and panthers. He would never grow so big as to eat an elephant, but they frightened easily, and he made sport of terrorizing them. Baby Cobra was no more a baby, but a giant.

One night, Baby Cobra dreamt he was lord of not just the jungle, but of all creation. He imagined his great jaws opening to swallow the world whole, his fangs leaving craters the size of mountains. He was infinite, invincible, perfect. Nothing stood in his way.

A sudden, sharp pain roused him from his sleep. Opening his narrow eyes, in the light of the full moon, he saw two small, dark pits interrupting his patterned scales. The evidence led to an obvious conclusion, but it was so fantastic that he was slow to come to it. He had bitten himself in his sleep!

Baby Cobra panicked. If he did not act quickly, his own venom would work through his body and paralyze him, possibly kill him. He slithered frantically about, wondering what he should do. Mommy Cobra would know, but she had left a long time ago. She could be anywhere now. Baby Cobra knew he had to solve this problem himself.

He recalled a lesson from his mother: how some creatures of the jungle, when bitten by a cobra and fortunate enough to escape, suck out the venom with their mouths. I could do that, Baby Cobra thought. He brought his face to the wound and opened his mouth wide. He stopped himself not a moment too soon. How can I suck the venom out? he wondered. For he knew he would only make things worse by biting himself again, injecting more venom into his body.

Baby Cobra curled up into a ball and cried. What tragic irony! Of all the creatures in the jungle, he was the only one that couldn’t save him from his own venom.

A voice suddenly sounded in Baby Cobra’s head. It sounded much like Mommy Cobra’s voice. Like his dream, he couldn’t make out the individual words, but he understood their meaning loud and clear: He must seek out his prey and plead with them to suck out the venom from his self-inflicted wound.

Such a strange notion Baby Cobra rejected as a matter of course. The venom must be playing with his mind, causing him to imagine things, he concluded. This realization, however, increased his alarm. He had better do something soon, or bad things could happen.

He set out in search of help. He encountered many creatures of the jungle—monkeys, pigs, birds—the kinds of creatures he used to prey on. Before he could make his intentions known, however, every one of them fled, afraid he had come to eat them. Baby Cobra started to cry. It was getting harder for him to move. Paralysis was setting in. He did not have much more time to find help.

“What’s wrong, mighty cobra?” said a voice.

Baby Cobra looked up. He could not see the voice’s owner, but he replied anyway: “I have bitten myself, and I haven’t much longer to live, unless someone sucks the venom out of the wound.”

The voice laughed. “That is a good trick. Any creature foolish enough to fall for it deserves to be your next meal.”

“It’s no trick!” Baby Cobra explained. “Look!” He moved just so the moonlight showed the small pits left by his fangs.

“So it’s true. You have bitten yourself,” the voice said. “And without my help, you’ll die. But why would I, who on any other day would be your prey, help you now?”

“Please take pity on me,” Baby Cobra cried. “If you suck the venom from my wound, I’ll never hunt one of your kind again.”

“Do you swear it on the order of the jungle, of the earth, of all creation?”

“I do! Now, please help me.”

“How I must be a fool!” the voice muttered to itself. There was a rustling of limbs and leaves as the voice’s owner climbed down the tree. Baby Cobra gasped when he saw a squirrel cautiously approaching him on the jungle floor.

“You’re just a disgusting little squirrel!” Baby Cobra exclaimed.

The squirrel stood on its hind legs and put its hands on its hips. “Is that any way to compliment the one who is about to save your life?”

Baby Cobra shook his head. “No, I just meant—well—I haven’t hunted your kind in ages.”

“See to it you don’t in the future. That was the deal. Now, roll yourself over so I can reach the wound. And lie straight, if you please. I want as much distance between me and those fangs of yours as possible.”

Baby Cobra seethed with anger at being ordered around by a squirrel, but he had no choice but to comply. The squirrel moved closer, its body tensed in case Baby Cobra broke his promise, and he put his mouth on the wound to suck out the venom.

Baby Cobra felt the squirrel’s touch and risked a look. The squirrel was standing next to him, barely half as tall as he was around. Seeing the dirty, dull brown creature touching his beautiful scales lit up in the moonlight was too much indignity to bear. What was this disgusting squirrel to him, the quickest, most cunning, most beautiful creature in all the jungle, in all the earth, in all creation?

He hissed and lunged at the squirrel, fangs bared, but he was too slow. The squirrel dodged his bite and bolted up the tree. “Serves me right for trusting a cobra!” it said, spitting out what little venom he had been able to suck from the wound.

“Wait! Come back! I’m sorry!” Baby Cobra wailed, but it was no use. The squirrel climbed higher in the tree and was gone. Baby Cobra’s gaze settled on the bite marks, the lone blemishes on his perfect body. Overcome with rage, he turned his fangs on himself, biting the area around his wound over and over, until there were more fang marks than could be counted because he had slashed himself to a bloody pulp. In some dark corner of his mind, he must have believed biting his wound would make it go away. Or perhaps he couldn’t endure being imperfect.

Nevertheless, there was no hope for Baby Cobra now. As the venom worked through his body, he settled into a peaceful sleep. While he died he dreamed again of devouring the world, when in reality the lowly creatures of the jungle devoured him.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Odds and ends 10/25/2013

“The truth exists in spite of us. Our spiritual role in the matter of truth is not that we “create” it, but that we conform ourselves to it as something already given to us. Our freedom means that we do not have to do this. We can, in other words, lie to ourselves.” –James V. Schall

Romans 1:18-22:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.

In her ode to the childless, Jill Filipovic breaks down and tells what she really wants:

A vision of a gender-egalitarian world that has never before existed; a vision of living as one’s true self, including one’s true gender, when you were labeled something else at birth; a vision of equal rights and opportunities regardless of skin color; a vision of public and private spaces accessible to those whose bodies are deemed outside the norm.

In other words, a vision of no normalcy, no boundaries, no morality. Chaos.

Only in one area does Filipovic make sense, when she describes equal opportunity “regardless of skin color.” What she really means is “regardless of merit.” Judging from her past writings, I bet she doesn’t see individuals of varying merits and circumstances, but groups of differently pigmented people, whose collective station in life relative to other groups is the measure of the “just” distribution of society’s wealth.

Speaking of skin pigment, it’s what makes the man, don’t you know.

Other than color and living in Florida, Dwyane Wade’s sons and Trayvon Martin don’t have much in common.

Trayvon Martin is not a unique individual with a unique background, unique aspirations, and—yes—unique flaws. All the traits that make him human the racial tribalists discard. He is first and foremost a black.

Hans von Spakovsky explains how the government “shutdown” wasn’t really a shutdown.

Liberal Peter Beinart thinks Republicans won the shutdown.

In early September, a “clean” CR—including sequester cuts—that funded the government into 2014 was considered a Republican victory by both the Republican House Majority Leader and Washington’s most prominent Democratic think tank. Now, just over a month later, the media is describing the exact same deal as Republican “surrender.”

Partly, that’s because of Ted Cruz. Starting last month, as we all know, the Texas Senator—in conjunction with his fellow Tea Partiers in the House—forced GOP leaders to abandon the very “clean” CR proposal they had once championed. The new Republican position became no funding for the government and no increase in the debt ceiling without the defunding (or at least delaying) of Obamacare.

Now that Republicans are backing off those demands, the press is saying they’ve caved. But that’s like saying that the neighborhood bully has caved because after demanding your shoes and bike, he’s once again willing to accept merely your lunch money.

The sequester (aka one-half of the “fiscal cliff”), over which there was much handwringing last December, has been a boon for (relatively) small government. Art Laffer (of the famed Laffer curve) and Stephen Moore write in the American Spectator:

Washington is experiencing one of the biggest fiscal retrenchments in modern history, and almost no one is paying attention. In the wake of the Bush-Pelosi-Obama spending splurge from 2008-11, federal spending has fallen by 3.1 percentage points of GDP. In the second quarter of 2009, according to National Income Products Account data, federal spending hit 26.5 percent of GDP, thanks to the Obama stimulus and the Bush recession. As of the second quarter of 2013, just as the sequester was beginning to take effect, federal spending as a share of GDP is down to 23.5 percent and, barring some unforeseen emergency, is on track to fall to around 23 percent by the end of this year. The turning point in spending from the binge years of 2009 and 2010 came when the Republicans took control of the House in 2011.

On the other hand, writes Ross Kaminsky...

Barack Obama, already intensely narcissistic and focused on destroying those he considers political enemies, will be emboldened. A strategy of “I will not negotiate” paid off; he will feel even more invulnerable and it will lead to a steady stream of intransigence on every important issue facing the federal government until at least the end of 2014, and probably until the end of his presidency. Stubbornness and language about Republican “extortion” and “hostage-taking” and “ransom” will become the first plays in the administration’s Playbook of GOP Doom.

One-and-a-half cheers for Speaker Boehner!

My view: Rolling back Leviathan is the object. That will not begin until we have new Republican leadership or a new president. I worry about a government-dependent class growing to a permanent majority, over which Democrats and Republicans compete. I worry about an ensconced political class—beyond our direct representatives—that crushes families and people’s dreams. America’s future is being shortened as it consumes its resources in the present.


Let’s go back in time, to July 2013, when the Obama administration announced it was going to delay the employer mandate a year. Jeffrey H. Anderson writes at Weekly Standard:

In a blatant exercise of arbitrary rule, the Obama administration announced this evening that it has unilaterally decided not to implement a key provision of Obamacare on schedule. By law, Obamacare’s employer mandate — its requirement that businesses with 50 or more workers provide federally sanctioned health insurance — should go into effect next year. By executive fiat, it won’t go into effect until 2015.

In addition to being a naked display of lawlessness, this action is an embarrassing setback to the Obama administration and — more importantly — to President Obama’s centerpiece legislation. More than three years after Obamacare’s passage — a passage marked by such shady backroom deals as the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase, and Gator Aid — the administration is now admitting it has failed to get Obamacare up and running on time.

As I explain over at Red Pill Report:

Obama may end up doing on his own what Congress demanded in exchange for raising the debt ceiling: a delay of the individual mandate. But it would not be the political shamefest some predict it will be. Totalitarian government needs leeway to micromanage the affairs of 300 million people. American voters, in their endless capacity to be infantilized by Big Mother government, will understand. What they won’t abide are Republican efforts to merely bring the law up to date with its sordid execution.

“With some Republican critics echoing the media line, the tea-party message may never fully penetrate, but — at the end of the day — there’s a truth of the matter, and the truth is the Tea Party did everything in its power to stop a law that is inflicting huge costs on the American people. That was the right decision, and it was the compassionate decision.” –David French

William L. Gensert writes in the American Thinker that the American people must suffer:

Delaying the individual mandate for a year was the wrong victory to seek. ObamaCare must proceed unencumbered. Americans must suffer, or they will continue to elect incompetent community organizers, preaching “hope and change.”

This is the tide that turns. ObamaCare must be allowed to collapse on its own lack of merits. It is a Ponzi scheme, government style. It relies on ever-increasing numbers of the young and healthy willing to pay more, in order for the sick and elderly to pay less.

I hope Gensert doesn’t get what he wishes for, because Americans don’t always learn the right lessons from their suffering. The logical leap from an Obamacare failure is to elect the likes of Martin O’Malley to spearhead a sustainable, “competent” technocracy. “Competent” is a relative term. It’s impossible to amass enough knowledge to reorganize society.

On that score, Dean Kalahar writes:

Knowledge as a resource has the greatest scarcity and is also the most scattered throughout society; and yet it is the most important component for economizing. As such, knowledge must be preserved, harvested, and packaged from divergent sources.

If accurate utilization of knowledge is essential in making informed economic decisions, then economic decision making must be based on utilizing knowledge to its greatest extent to move resources efficiently and promote economic growth.

The key question then becomes: what knowledge is the most accurate? The answer: That which is found closest to its source. Or In simple terms, he who is most affected knows best; or as an old proverb teaches us, “a fool can put on his coat better than a wise man can put it on for him.”

Vital individual knowledge is traded and shared through a market-based system where widely dispersed information that is highly specialized based on individual situations can be brought together effortlessly. Millions of individual decisions best guide the movement of resources to their most valuable use.

The invisible hand.


“Obama is a powerful and skillful pol, but he’s not unbeatable in every battle. Why should Republicans treat him as if he were? By their repeated failure Republicans have trained Obama and his congressional allies to expect Republicans to roll over. Obama and Harry Reid have no expectation of different conduct in the future. The congressional leadership has already eschewed future government shutdowns. What else is there but surrender?” –Jed Babbin

At First Things, Mark Barrett reviews the New York casino fight:

What’s most remarkable is how today’s conservative opponents are the ones advancing the arguments of the older progressives like Mayor LaGuardia. It is they who are reminding voters that casinos redistribute wealth from the poorest in society up the ladder towards the most affluent, make no contribution to long term economic growth, and cause social ills in the communities where they are built. Countering these arguments, Andrew Cuomo has cobbled together a coalition to support his amendment, the most vocal of which have been the business leaders who stand to profit from casinos and public sector workers, primarily teachers unions, who will be the beneficiary of increased state revenues.

This fits with my view.


Headline: Republican Mega-Donors Quietly Celebrate Chris Christie’s Marriage Surrender. Takeaway: They don’t want to talk about marriage during the 2016 presidential race. Maybe there really is nothing a Republican president can do, legally, to return a correct understanding of marriage to the federal government. But I’ll be damned if I hold back the truth just to placate a few stupid people in the “middle.”


Christine Jeske writes in Christianity Today about “haters”:

I heard of one professor who argued that believing in absolute truth means believing in divisions, and divisions lead to violence and war. Therefore, he reasoned, the foolish Christians and their Truth with a capital T are responsible for all the divisions and wars on earth.

The flawed assumption, from both the Christians and the non-Christians, is this: They say that to disagree is to hate.


George Weigel writes:

In his acute analysis of the character and institutions of the United States, Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville, a nineteenth-century French liberal, stressed the importance of what we call “civil society.” American democracy, Tocqueville understood, wasn’t just a matter of the state, here, and the individual, there. Between the state (or government) and the people there were the many free, voluntary associations that formed the sinews and musculature of America. Those free associations performed many essential social functions: they educated the young, served the poor, and cared for the sick.

Writing a century and a half after Tocqueville, Pope John Paul II also highlighted the importance of voluntary associations for the free and virtuous society. Those associations, the pope argued, shape the human personality of a political community—what John Paul called, in his philosopher’s vocabulary, the “subjectivity of society.” Thus, in a democracy—a way of self-government that depends on the character of a people—the institutions of civil society are schools of freedom: the elementary schools of democracy.

Think about it this way: Every two-year-old is a natural-born tyrant, a beautiful bundle of willfulness and self-absorption who demands (sometimes winsomely and often loudly) that he or she get what he or she wants—now. Who, or what, turns all those two-year-old tyrants into democrats: mature men and women capable of being democratic citizens? Where do we learn what Tocqueville called the habits of mind and heart, and what moral philosophers from Aristotle to John Paul II have called the virtues, that are necessary for the machinery of democracy to work well?

We learn them first in the family, which is the fundamental, irreplaceable institution of civil society. We also learn those habits of heart and mind in friendships and in school, in clubs and sports and in religious communities. Men and women who, later in life, take responsibility for making government work first learned how to do so, not from the state, but from the civil society institutions in which they grew up. Adults who take the responsibilities of citizenship seriously did not learn their sense of civic obligation from a governmental agency. They learned to be responsible and civil and tolerant, flexible but principled, in more humane schools: the free, voluntary associations that Tocqueville and John Paul II celebrated.

Can American democracy survive a rabid, narcissistic ethos that seeks to remake society in its own fanciful image?

Marriage is the primordial civil society relationship, for it is the basis of the family, which is the primordial civil society institution. That is why, for millennia, states have protected marriage, understood as what it is: the stable union of a man and a woman ordered to the begetting and raising of children. When a state claims the right to alter the definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships, it is tacitly claiming the right to redefine the number of persons who may make a marriage (why stop at two?); it is also tacitly claiming the right to redefine, by governmental fiat, every other pre-existing free association of civil society.

Isn’t it normal for teachers to give their students condoms? They’re going to have sex anyway, right?

[Isabel Diaz-Almaraz] was suspended without pay in September 2012 after an investigation into accusations that she had paid for a $1,000 hotel room for prom-going students and had stopped by the suite.

...

During the investigation, Diaz-Almaraz confessed to having purchased the suite with her PayPal account, explaining that she had reserved the room for the students, who later reimbursed her, the Miami-Herald reports. She also admitted that she had visited the hotel suite before prom and the day after. But she denied allegations that she gave students alcohol or condoms -- items that appeared in a gift basket that a student posted to Instagram and reportedly captioned, “Thank you Mrs. D!!!”

...

However, school board members did not heed the judge’s recommendation, and instead affirmed the proposal of the superintendent to fire the teacher. In a unanimous decision, the board voted to officially terminate the dance instructor, who had taught at South Miami Senior High since 2009, for violating school policies.

Isn’t Diaz-Almaraz virtuous for providing a safe, controlled environment for students to have sex? Given teachers’ inability to discourage students from rutting, she did everything right. Just kidding.


Alan Weisman wants to reduce carbon emissions. He presents four carbon emission-reducing strategies. Last, but not least:

If we can’t control consumption, we can control the number of consumers. This is technology we already have, and it’s cheap. Every woman, everywhere, could have contraception.

Most of us would find coercive government limits on child bearing abhorrent. But giving women access to contraception and to education makes draconian edicts unnecessary. An educated woman has an interesting and useful contribution to make to her family and her society. Since she can’t easily do that with seven children hanging on her skirts, most women who get through secondary school want two children or fewer. Providing access to contraception and educating women may be the fastest path to giving our planet a break.

Brilliant! Women will think we’re trying to improve their lot in life, but really we just want them to have fewer kids. That kind of contribution we need less of!

But if that doesn’t work—well, the ends justify the means.


“It’s true that scientific technocracy is a real danger, but it’s not clear to me why a pseudo-scientific reduction of the human being to a mere material body is more dehumanizing, or more on the rise in our culture, than a pseudo-humanist reduction of the human being to a mere receptor of aesthetic stimuli, or a mere participant in identity politics.” –Greg Forster

John Stossell writes about how government infantilizes us and disincentivizes self-growth and self-overcoming:

I had to overcome stuttering to work as a TV reporter. Had today's disability laws existed when I began work, would I have overcome my stuttering problem? Maybe not. I might have demanded my employer “accommodate” my disability by providing me a job that didn't demand being on-air.

Now that the laws exist, it's no coincidence that more Americans say they are disabled.

Tad DeHaven of the Cato Institute writes that this is part of a disability-industrial complex: collusion between specialty law firms, doctors vouching for applicants with dubious claims and federal administrative law judges awarding benefits.

It changes the way people calculate their options.


“It requires irony beyond my reserve—and I think my well is far from dry—to do justice to the harm caused to families with dependent children by Aid to Families with Dependent Children.” –Anthony Esolen

Peter Ferrara is pissed off, less at Terry McAuliffe than at the stupid Virginians who are going to vote for him for governor:

McAuliffe and the Democrats think women in Virginia are too stupid to know what their constitutional rights are, and that they can be played for fools into voting Democrat.

They are that stupid. Paul Bedard reports:

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s roaring campaign has jumped out to a 17-point lead over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, aided greatly by the public support of Hillary Clinton and the government shutdown, according to a stunning new Rasmussen Reports poll.

In the poll, likely voters preferred McAuliffe over Cuccinelli 50 percent to 33 percent. Third-party candidate Robert Sarvis receives 8 percent support. McAuliffe’s lead is his largest to date.

...

McAuliffe has also held his own and more on key issues that typically favor Republicans, said Rasmussen. For example, Virginia voters trust McAuliffe more than Cuccinelli to control government spending, taxes and social issues like abortion.

If the effects of the shutdown on Virginia are enough to sway the electorate to McAuliffe and embrace big government, then Virginia is gone. It is no more than D.C. South.

In the Washington metro area, the shutdown has meant a roughly $200 million hit each work day in loss of federal wages, loss of federal contractor wages and the effects of those lost wages on the economy.

[Stephen] Fuller’s analysis doesn’t include other impacts, including tourism.

“Some of these losses are permanent,” Fuller said, stressing that much depends on how long the shutdown lasts.

In Fuller’s survey the Washington metro area covers Washington itself, five counties in Maryland and eight counties and six cities in Northern Virginia stretching down to the Fredericksburg area.


Joel Osteen wants you to know he isn’t a homophobe. His anti-judgmentalism is nauseating.

“I believe every person is made in the image of God, and you have accept them as they are, on their journey. I’m not here to be preaching hate, pushing people down. I’m not here telling people what they’re doing wrong.”

Why not? Are people doing wrong, or aren’t they?

Osteen has said numerous times that he believes living a homosexual lifestyle is a sin in accordance with his understanding of Christian scripture.

So, you’re sinning, but let’s not talk about that. I don’t want to alienate you from the Gospel.

Absent the reality of sin, the Gospel is pointless.

Note how Osteen qualifies his view of homosexuality with sycophantic praise:

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday in 2012, Osteen discussed his position on homosexuality by telling host Chris Wallace that he “doesn’t dislike anybody” and believes gays are some of “most loving people in the world,” despite his strongly held conviction that homosexuality is a sin.

“I believe the scripture says that being gay is a sin. But, you know, every time I say that, Chris ... people say, well, you are a gay hater and you’re a gay basher,” Osteen told Wallace during the interview. “I’m not. I don’t – I don’t dislike anybody. Gays are some of the nicest, kindest, most loving people in the world. But my faith is based on what I believe the scripture says, and that’s the way I read the scripture.”

“Being gay” is a simplification of what the Bible condemns as sinful. We are all full of sinful urges, and with Jesus’ help we can resist them, the devil’s temptations.

By the way, there is no tension between gays being the “most loving people in the world” and the fact that homosexuality is a sin. The author’s “despite” is gratuitous and wrong.


The gay mafia is advancing in San Antonio. The ridiculous non-discrimination ordinance passed, forbidding the city to do business with common-sense thinkers on sexuality and gender. Now at Lackland Air Force Base the idol of self worshipers, narcissists, and identitarians are teaming up with the PC police to root out bibliophiles.

I wrote about anti-Christian persecution at Lackland at the Red Pill Report in August.


Gary DeMar writes:

Antonio Gramsci’s philosophy for cultural and social change was the model for the new Leftists. Gramsci (1891–1937) considered Christianity to be the “force binding all the classes—peasants and workers and princes and priests and popes and all the rest besides, into a single, homogeneous culture. It was specifically Christian culture, in which individual men and women understood that the most important things about human life transcend the material conditions in which they lived out their mortal lives.” Gramsci broke with Marx and Lenin’s belief that the masses would rise up and overthrow the ruling “superstructure.” No matter how oppressed the working classes might be, their Christian faith would not allow such an overthrow, Gramsci theorized. Marxists taught “that everything valuable in life was within mankind.”

Wynton Hall of Breitbart wants to get back to basics:

Quantitative easing is when the Federal Reserve buys securities to drive down interest rates and prop up the economy.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds wants to defederalize the drinking age:

I strongly recommend that the GOP get behind defederalizing the drinking age. Not only is it the right thing to do — the federal 21-year-old drinking age was a dumb idea of Liddy Dole’s and never should have been enacted into law — but it would help them with the youth vote. Seems like a natural issue for, say, Rand Paul, but any of the new Tea Party crowd in the Senate could run with this.

I see the constitutional/limited government argument. But why would it help with the youth vote? Because it would give youth license to drink. What a platform! This smacks of Rand Paul appealing to drug users and Louis Farrakhan followers.

I support defederalizing the drinking age, too, but I would counsel temperance.

For perspective, read my proposal to attract alcoholics to the GOP.


Mollie Hemingway discusses “fecundophobes,” people who fear fertile women:

There is much more than a whiff of the misogyny in denigrating mothers of multiple children as brainless, in stating that mothers who are homemakers are inferior to those who “earn” their living, or in attacking women for prioritizing fertility above independence. It’s not just that nobody on planet earth could be truly independent — which is to say completely self-reliant or free of any other human support. It’s not just that we each depended on others from the moment of our conception to birth, but all of society is comprised of individuals who work with each other and depend on each other throughout their lives. Or healthy societies are, at least. It may be impolitic to suggest that men and women are in any way different, science be damned, but many women have a particular specialty in cultivating relationships and family.

Related: Susan Reimer of the Baltimore Sun boldly juxtaposes the Redskins name controversy and the death of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s 2 year-old son:

In the days since the child’s death, it has come to light that the unmarried Mr. Peterson may have had as many as five children by four different women. They include a 6-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy by his current girlfriend, a 4-year-old with a dancer in a “gentleman’s club” in Dallas and a 3-month-old with a waitress in Minnesota. He is said to be providing financial support to those children.

All of this transpired at the conclusion of a week when the call for the Washington Redskins to abandon a nickname viewed by some as offensive reached fever pitch, culminating in sportscaster Bob Costas’ self-righteous address, delivered during halftime of Sunday Night Football.

President Barack Obama has suggested that owner Dan Snyder think about changing the name, the league is applying pressure on the team, and any number of sportswriters have said they will not use the name in their reporting.

But, so far, nobody has criticized Adrian Peterson for his careless and cavalier sexual behavior.

The question we should be asking is not whether Mr. Peterson should have played football Sunday. But whether he should have worn a condom when having sex. Or whether he should be having sex with waitresses and dancers at all.

Peterson was a 2 year-old boy’s absentee sperm donor, whose mother took up with a criminal who beat the boy to death. I don’t know upon whom to heap more scorn: the mother for endangering her child, or the father for not being around. This could have been prevented if Peterson and the woman were married.


Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal comments on the president’s lack of credibility:

Not enough notice was given to Sen. Marco Rubio’s statement that the chances for success on immigration reform are about dead. Why? Because, said Sen. Rubio, there is “a lack of trust” in the president’s commitments.

“This notion that they’re going to get in a room and negotiate a deal with the president on immigration,” Sen. Rubio said Sunday on Fox News, “is much more difficult to do” after the shutdown negotiations of the past three weeks.

Sen. Rubio said he and other reform participants, such as Idaho’s Rep. Raul Labrador, are afraid that if they cut an immigration deal with the White House—say, offering a path to citizenship in return for strong enforcement of any new law—Mr. Obama will desert them by reneging on the enforcement.

Welcome to reality, Rubio.


“The obtuse feminist-dating dichotomy outlined in the article suggests a naive distinction between the male id and the progressive alterity of a non-conformist constructivist framework for sexual equality. Consequently, the alienating ideology of the patriarchal idealism of a male-dominated dating essentialism helps expose the idea of “leveling the romantic playing field” as introspective discourse at its very worst.” –commenter “brizsam,” responding to Jill Filipovic

Got that?


In closing, Wikipedia summarizes the backlash against New Coke:

Despite New Coke’s acceptance with a large number of Coca-Cola drinkers, a vocal minority of them resented the change in formula and were not shy about making that known — just as had happened in the focus groups. Many of these drinkers were Southerners, some of whom considered the drink a fundamental part of regional identity. They viewed the company’s decision to change the formula through the prism of the Civil War, as another surrender to the “Yankees.”

Company headquarters in Atlanta started receiving letters expressing anger or deep disappointment. Over 400,000 calls and letters were received by the company, including one letter, delivered to [Roberto] Goizueta, that was addressed to “Chief Dodo, The Coca-Cola Company.” Another letter asked for his autograph, as the signature of “one of the dumbest executives in American business history” would likely become valuable in the future. The company hotline, 1-800-GET-COKE, received 1,500 calls a day compared to 400 before the change. Coke hired a psychiatrist to listen in on calls and told executives some people sounded as if they were discussing the death of a family member.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Who killed love?

The headline reads: “Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?” It should read: “Who killed love?” As the article lays out, the problem isn’t Japanese Millennials’ lack of sex drive. It’s a lack of orientation to the future, most essentially expressed in the procreative act.

Japan’s under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren’t even dating, and increasing numbers can’t be bothered with sex. For their government, “celibacy syndrome” is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world’s lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060. [Relationship counselor Ai] Aoyama believes the country is experiencing “a flight from human intimacy.”

Japanese young people are “bothered with” sex. They just don’t see a deeper meaning in it beyond pleasure. They dissociate it from love. They dissociate it from family.

Aoyama says the sexes, especially in Japan’s giant cities, are “spiraling away from each other.” Lacking long-term shared goals, many are turning to what she terms “Pot Noodle love” – easy or instant gratification, in the form of casual sex, short-term trysts and the usual technological suspects: online porn, virtual-reality “girlfriends,” anime cartoons. Or else they’re opting out altogether and replacing love and sex with other urban pastimes.

In other words, the products of a consumer culture that, like intravenous injections, provide the body with what it needs without sating its real hunger: to commit to something greater than oneself, to see oneself as the inheritor of a moral legacy and as an ancestor to future generations. Technology and urbanization erect barriers among people, as well as between people’s souls and their bodies, alienating them from their true desires.

Unmentioned in the article is the post-war bankruptcy of Japan’s ethnocentric, uber-nationalist ethos, embodied by the state religion, Shintoism. The dehumanizing machinery of the ever-consolidating, ever-centralizing corporatist state is reflective of Japan’s cultural collapse. The “tiger” economy has the future prospects of a man stuck on a desert island. When you have nothing better to live for, you live for yourself. You forgo investing human capital in the possibilities of a future beyond yourself.

Romantic apathy aside, Kishino, like Tomita, says he enjoys his active single life. Ironically, the salaryman system that produced such segregated marital roles – wives inside the home, husbands at work for 20 hours a day – also created an ideal environment for solo living. Japan’s cities are full of conveniences made for one, from stand-up noodle bars to capsule hotels to the ubiquitous konbini (convenience stores), with their shelves of individually wrapped rice balls and disposable underwear. These things originally evolved for salarymen on the go, but there are now female-only cafés, hotel floors and even the odd apartment block. And Japan’s cities are extraordinarily crime-free.

So is Pyongyang, North Korea. Low crime sometimes testifies to robust public safety. Sometimes it betrays a dearth of cultural vitality, tamped by totalitarian government or, in Japan’s case, suffocated by short-sighted pleasure seeking.

In The Matrix, the machines farmed humans as an energy source, from infancy to old age. The machines duped people by making them believe they were living meaningful lives, when all they were really doing was dreaming. Meanwhile, their bodies were harvested.

Modern Japanese society—urban, cosmetic, saturated by commercial technologies—caters not to human desires, but to consumers. On toys that distract and edify, people spend their money that they spend themselves earning, until all is spent and they shrivel up and die.

In the final analysis, it’s people consumer culture feeds upon. Love is collateral damage.

Related reading: my Surrogates movie review.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Forfeit

The Los Angeles Dodgers won game 5 of the NLCS Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals. They trail in the series against the Cardinals 2-3. Here’s what didn’t happen in the Dodgers clubhouse before the game.


Dodgers manager Don Mattingly gathered his players and coaching staff before the team was scheduled to take the field for batting practice. “Gentlemen,” he said dourly, “we’re down three games to one. We can’t win three games in a row. We can’t win this series. We have to forfeit.”

The players and coaches looked at each other in disbelief. Was their manager serious?

“Don, we want to play. We can beat these guys,” pitcher Zack Greinke, slated to start game 5, said.

Mattingly shrugged. “Statistically, it’s possible. But not likely.”

“What about the fans? They came to see us play. They paid to see us play,” another player spoke up.

“They’ll understand. What are they going to do next year? Cheer for the Cardinals?”

“They sure as hell won’t cheer for us. Not if we give up.”

“But we didn’t give up,” Mattingly said. “We played last night, remember? That was our chance to even the series at two games apiece. We lost.”

“We have another chance, though! And if we win, another chance. And if we win that game, another chance.”

Mattingly tapped his foot impatiently. He didn’t expect disagreement on this. His veteran eyes swept over the clubhouse. In most of their faces he saw shock and disbelief, but also a hint of resignation. But in the faces of six players he saw stern resolve, anger even.

“There’s no debate about this, gentlemen. I’ve already informed the league of the team’s decision.”

“That decision was not yours to make alone. You should have consulted us,” first base coach Davey Lopes said.

Mattingly looked at Lopes with surprise. Before he could respond, third-year player Juan Uribe stood up. “Have they announced it yet?”

“Not yet, but I imagine it will be soon. Fans usually start showing up two hours in advance of the game.”

Uribe clapped his hands together. “Good. There’s time to fix this.”

Mattingly stood back, hands on hips, amazed one of his players would challenge his authority. “What?”

Uribe gathered his glove and bat. “I don’t care what you say, Don. I’m playing.”

“Me too,” Greinke said.

In all, five rotation players and two bullpen relievers joined Uribe. It was almost enough to field a team. They were just one player short.

“Who else wants to beat the Cardinals?” Uribe said. A couple of players looked like they might take Uribe up on his offer, but Mattingly shot them withering looks.

“You think you can win with eight players, Juan? I can’t remember the last time you had a hit in this series. And who’s going to play outfield for this ragtag bunch?”

Uribe looked at his teammate, Andre Ethier. “We need you at center field, bro. What do you say?”

Ethier looked down at his iced-up ankle, which he had injured earlier in the season. “Guys, I can barely move out there. Don is right. We have to forfeit.”

“To hell with it. I’ll play center field,” bullpen reliever Brian Wilson said.

Mattingly scoffed. “You don’t have the athleticism or the arm to pull that off!”

“I’m a baseball player, aren’t I?” Wilson glared at his teammates who were still sitting. “A baseball player plays baseball. He doesn’t forfeit in the middle of the series. Aren’t you baseball players?”

“We can’t win three games in a row. Not against the Cardinals’ pitching,” Ethier said.

“But we can win tonight!” Greinke exclaimed.

A staunch silence hung think in the air. Uribe found himself in a staredown with Mattingly. “You’re not going to keep me off that field tonight.”

Mattingly’s cheeks burned. “Go ahead. Play. When you lose, you’ll see I was right.”

“I don’t play the game to avoid losing,” Uribe shot back. “I play it because that’s what I do. It’s who I am.” He turned to face Davey Lopes. “Davey, we could use you in the dugout, calling the shots for us out there. What do you say?”

Lopes shot a sideways glance at Mattingly. “Sorry, Juan. As much as I hate to forfeit, we’re a team. A team sticks together. I’m with Don on this.”

Uribe was furious. “This isn’t a team! This is a bunch of quitters!”


“The people claiming this outcome was ‘predictable’ aren’t self-reflective enough to understand that it was specifically their opposition that helped make it so predictable.” –Ben Howe

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Odds and ends 10/16/2013

I was dismayed last month when Pope Francis, emphasizing the totality of Christian faith, fed the cruel narrative that Christians are obsessed with “social” issues. John Zmirak reacts:

It is true that the mercy of God is at the heart of this faith. And it was really important to warn Catholics of the need to emphasize mercy ... back in the 17th century.

At that time, the most powerful threats to the Faith came from brilliant, apostolic Calvinists and Jansenists, who thundered about the fewness of the saved and almost exulted in the damnation of unbaptized infants. But how many people now are crippled by an excessive fear of God? Is this really the threat we face?

Or do we face increasingly intolerant secular governments that are redefining marriage and punishing Christians who dissent; potent elites who teach our children that “gender” is a social construct subject to surgery; multi-billion-dollar organizations that are trying to spread abortion to every land on earth; totalitarian Islamists who cut the heads off priests and burn down churches; vast countries still ruled by Communist governments which persecute the Church? Do I really need to go on?

There is quite a long list of churches that show no “obsession” with the less-popular parts of the Christian moral message. Instead, for the past 40 years they’ve been preaching mercy, inclusion, tolerance, and a leftist/statist vision of social justice.

George Neumayr is more aggressive. He compares the pope to Peter pandering to Jewish Christians by refusing to eat with “unclean” Gentiles (Acts 21).

Even if given the most charitable reading, Pope Francis’s recent interview with Jesuit publications was alarming in its spirit-of-Vatican II liberalism. Catholicism is not a personality cult and so Catholics, following the example of St. Paul, don’t need to ooh and aah over unsound, non-infallible remarks, which were made incidentally to publications like America known principally for their heterodoxy.

Some future Edward Gibbon should devote a chapter or two to this grimly comic episode: a Jesuit pope chatting about the appeal of diluted orthodoxy and “pastoral” effectiveness with the least pastorally effective and most heterodox order in the Church. We can’t “obsess” over abortion, contraception, and gay marriage “all the time,” he said, telling his fellow Jesuits exactly what they wanted to hear. They don’t even talk about those issues some of the time.


In an amazing Public Discourse article, Morgan Bennet explains the addictiveness of porn—fast, free, and ubiquitous Internet porn—incidentally affirming sexuality’s malleability:

Think of the brain as a forest where trails are worn down by hikers who walk along the same path over and over again, day after day. The exposure to pornographic images creates similar neural pathways that, over time, become more and more “well-paved” as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. Those neurological pathways eventually become the trail in the brain’s forest by which sexual interactions are routed. Thus, a pornography user has “unknowingly created a neurological circuit” that makes his or her default perspective toward sexual matters ruled by the norms and expectations of pornography.

These “brain trails” are able to be initiated and “paved” because of the plasticity of brain tissue. Norman Doidge, MD—a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and author of the New York Times and international bestseller, The Brain That Changes Itself—explores the impact of neuroplasticity on sexual attraction in an essay in The Social Costs of Pornography. Dr. Doidge notes that brain tissue involved with sexual preferences (i.e., what “turns us on”) is especially malleable. Thus, outside stimuli—like pornographic images—that link previously unrelated things (e.g., physical torture and sexual arousal) can cause previously unrelated neurons within the brain to learn to “fire” in tandem so that the next time around, physical torture actually does trigger sexual arousal in the brain. This in-tandem firing of neurons creates “links” or associations that result in powerful new brain pathways that remain even after the instigating outside stimuli are taken away.

An indispensable quote from C.S. Lewis (hat tip boy genius Michael W. Hannon):

For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides ... The danger is that of coming to love the prison.

Jackson Cuidon writes a thoughtful review of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon in Christianity Today. Excerpt:

But what’s so frequently omitted from the discussion is that we’re still in this world, even if we’re not of it. That our entire life will be lived with this feeling of a thing inside us that feels like loneliness, or emptiness, or fear, or hurt. That feeling drives all of Don Jon, start to messy finish, every character pursuing in some way what he or she sees to be fullness of life. And all of them come up short.

Jed Babbin lays out what it will take for Congress to end the shutdown:

Sen. Susan Collins, a liberal Maine senator, offered a six-point package that would have reopened the government on last year’s spending levels, extended the debt ceiling’s limits to cover six months of government spending, and made a few teeny cuts in Obamacare (such as delaying the tax on medical equipment that will be imposed in January). Harry Reid rejected that.

According to uber-liberal Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Reid’s rejection was based on something not on the table before: the end of the spending cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 known as “sequestration.” In plain terms, Reid wants to increase federal spending in each of the next eight years in an amount that would restore the $950 billion that would otherwise be cut by sequestration.

If you look at it from the other end of the telescope, Reid is insisting that federal spending of $962 billion next year isn’t enough. He’s dead set on increasing federal spending. So is Obama.

In short, complete capitulation to Harry Reid and the Democrats.

At Powerline, John Hinderaker explains why raising the debt limit doesn’t mean the government will default:

So what will actually happen if Congress doesn’t increase the debt ceiling by approximately October 17? The government’s debt obligations will be paid, but reductions in other spending will start to become necessary. In effect, leaving the debt ceiling as is would function as a spending cut. This is why the Democrats hate the idea so much. They know there is zero chance of default, but they are horrified at the prospect that voters and taxpayers may find out that there is a relatively simple way to bring about spending reductions that would create, in effect, a balanced budget. Hence the [Democrats’] hysteria.

It’s simple truths unsung to the rooftops that handicap the conservative cause so.

Joel Pollak goes full-tilt at Breitbart:

Who are the “hostage-takers” now? Convinced by opinion polls that the media will let them get away with it, Democrats are now refusing to pass a “clean” continuing resolution to end the government shutdown, as well as a straightforward debt ceiling increase, in order to undo the sequester cuts that went into effect earlier this year. They are the ones holding a gun to Republicans’ heads, threatening default if their demands are not met.

Just like Obamacare, the sequester—passed in the Budget Control Act of 2011—is the “law of the land.” And yet Democrats want to undo it--or else they will keep nearly 400,000 federal employees out of work and let the country risk not paying its bills. Where is the outrage at this disgusting hypocrisy? Where are all the dire warnings about children with cancer and catastrophic interest rates and the end of civilization as we know it?


Central planning fails, Investor’s Business Daily editorializes:

What works and always has is voluntary cooperation among free people. Consumers and producers don’t need functionaries in Washington managing their transactions. Groceries, wrist watches, cheeseburgers, bowling balls, aspirin and any number of other goods and services are bought and sold just fine without government involvement. These markets organize themselves.

Buyers and sellers speak clearly to each other through price signals. Government planners would only wreck what has developed efficiently on its own.

Statist Michelle N. Meyer mixes metaphors in the Los Angeles Times:

Those who fear that nudging will put us on a slippery slope to an Orwellian nanny state ought to recognize that we are already on that slope. Nudges offer an offramp to a more sure-footed terrain that people across the political spectrum should prefer.

So nudging puts us on a slippery slope to an Orwellian nanny state. But nudging also puts us on an offramp to more sure-footed terrain. If the nudging is the same, how does one tell the difference? You can’t. This is Orwellian nanny state apologetics.


“Independent” Senator Bernie Sanders loses me in the first paragraph:

I start my approach to healthcare from two very basic premises. First, healthcare must be recognized as a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the healthcare they need regardless of their income. Second, we must create a national healthcare system that provides quality healthcare for all in the most cost-effective way possible.

If healthcare is a right, a doctor cannot refuse to treat me, no matter what. He is my slave.

Related: Stupidity from Kathleen Sebelius:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius launched a media campaign this week to propagandize the transformative health-care overhaul. She compared the sweeping, coercive law that gives government huge power over the health-care industry to an iPhone system update.

“Everyone just assumes, “Well, there’s a problem, they’ll fix it, we’ll move on,’” Sebelius said about Apple’s iOS updates. “And like many of their customers, I put the ‘new’ system on my phone and went on my merry way, but it was just a reminder that we’re likely to have some glitches. We will fix them and move on. Is this a sign that the law is flawed and failed? I don’t think so. I think it’s a sign that we’re building a piece of complicated technology. We want it to work. We want it to work right. We’ve got an incredible team working 24/7 to do just that.”

The difference being no one is coerced to buy Apple products. Apple is made better by competition. Obamacare is dependent on there not being any competition. Obamacare is dependent on coercion.

Quoth the idiot:

Of course, I want people to have health care. I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.

Will Obamacare hurt job creation and marriage? Diana Furchtgott-Roth asks. Does it get warm in summertime?

The Affordable Care Act is partly responsible for the slow jobs recovery. If employers with 50 or more employees do not offer the right kind of health insurance, and at least one employee gets subsidized coverage on the exchange, they are faced with penalties of $2,000 per employee per year. Since the first 30 workers are exempt from the penalty, moving from 49 to 50 workers can cost an employer $40,000 a year.

No wonder that many small businesses are opting to stay at 49 workers. If they decide to expand, they can use temporary workers or contract employees.

Bob Funk, president and founder of Express Employment Services, the fifth-largest employment agency in America, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published last week, “Obamacare has been an absolute boon for my business…We’re up 8% this year. But it’s just terrible for the country.”

...

Under the Act, if workers have affordable single-family coverage from an employer — coverage that by law workers are obligated to accept — their family members will not be eligible for premium subsidies on the exchanges. This can make the cost of insurance for some low- or middle-income families unaffordable. But if they divorce, they get the subsidy.

Without subsidies, low-income families will not be able to afford to buy insurance on the state exchanges. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that family plans will cost $20,000 (in after-tax dollars) a year by 2016. Anyone under 400% of the poverty line, currently $94,000 for a family of four, qualifies for a subsidy — unless a family member has employer-provided insurance.

In a 2011 National Bureau of Economic Research working paper , Cornell University professor Richard Burkhauser, Indiana University professor Kosali Simon, and Cornell PhD candidate Sean Lyons showed that in 2014, when the law will take full effect, 13 million low-income Americans may be unable to get subsidized health insurance through new state health care exchanges because one family member has employer-provided coverage for that person only.

Perversely, the only way for other family members to get subsidized coverage would be for the spouses to get divorced. Then the spouse without coverage and the children could get coverage on the exchange.

Less job creation, less marriage. Nirvana!


Matthew J. Franck describes our modern problem of definition:

Is marriage now simply an affective/sentimental/romantic/sexual relationship of two persons who wish to share their lives together? Then what limiting principle demands that it be sexual, and not affective in other non-sexual ways? Or that marriage be exclusive, with a requirement of fidelity to one’s spouse? Or that it be permanent—or even that its dissolution be governed by any standards other than the will of the parties? Or that the relation be limited to two persons, or that it rule out the union of close blood-family members?

Same-sex marriage advocates have offered no serious answers to any of these questions—or, at least, none that do not crumble under the slightest analytical pressure. Rather than say what marriage is—which anyone can see is an absolute prerequisite to saying whether “equality” demands its availability to partners never before thought capable of marrying—these advocates simply shout “marriage equality” ever more loudly, point to an array of “government benefits” linked to marital status, and make their desire for the thing substitute for an argument about what the thing is that they want.

Because equality!

It’s. The. Law.

The decision to allow a transgender 45-year-old college student who identifies as a woman but has male genitalia to use the women’s locker room has raised a fracas among parents and faith-based organizations, who say children as young as 6 years old use the locker room.

The locker room at Evergreen College in Olympia, Wash., is shared with the Capital High School swim club and a children’s swim academy, along with the students at Evergreen.

“The college has to follow state law,” Evergreen spokesman Jason Wettstein told ABC News affiliate KOMO. “The college cannot discriminate based on the basis of gender identity. Gender identity is one of the protected things in discrimination law in this state.”

Brandon McGinley comments: “These afflictions, as with any other, call for care and compassion, not for trying to redefine the human species.”

I was having dinner with some people a few weeks back, and someone brought up San Antonio’s nondiscrimination ordinance. She clearly was opposed. Another woman said, “What do you suggest we do?” This question presupposes the existence of transgenders means we have to accommodate them. Wrong! I suggest the freaks get over it. Freaks have been getting over it for thousands of years. Everyone is at least a little freaky on the inside. It’s our job as higher functioning primates to subdue the freak inside us.


“Before the government wanted to know everything about everybody, everybody wanted everyone to know everything about them.” –Daniel J. Flynn

Be very afraid:

During a single day last year, the NSA’s Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers, according to an internal NSA PowerPoint presentation. Those figures, described as a typical daily intake in the document, correspond to a rate of more than 250 million a year.

The Washington Times reports the NSA’s snooping on our cell phone metadata and virtual communications has foiled one, possibly two (!), terrorist plots. Apologist for the Leviathan James Clapper isn’t concerned:

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper denied that the number of plots foiled should be the sole metric by which the success of the program is measured. “I think there’s another metric here that’s very important. ... I would call it the ‘peace of mind’ metric.”

He explained that the agency also could use the database to satisfy itself that global terrorists abroad did not have connections or associates in the U.S., and that attackers like those at the Boston Marathon were not part of a wider international plot.

You could do that without downloading the whole Internet—unless proving the absence of terrorist connections among the 99.9%, contra the existence of terrorist connections among the 0.1%, is your object. Guilty until proven innocent, after all. Process of elimination, don’t you know.

Related: A case of cognitive dissonance. Jack Goldsmith, security statist, would agree with the government warehousing cellular communications and the Internet, as rich a target for security breaches and cyberterrorism as there will ever exist.


In Ilan Berman’s sharp analysis of Russia’s bleak future in the Washington Times, I’m reminded of the saying, “A man is most dangerous when he is backed into a corner.” Excerpts from the article:

Russia is dying. The once-mighty Russian state is undergoing a catastrophic post-Soviet societal decline. Health standards are abysmal, and life expectancy in Russia is nothing like it is in the West — just age 60 for men (less than in Botswana and Madagascar) and 73 for women, roughly the same as in Saudi Arabia. Alcoholism — the scourge of Soviet society — continues to ravage the country, with a death rate among Russia’s youth that is 35 times higher than among their counterparts in Europe. So does drug addiction. According to United Nations statistics, more than a fifth of all heroin consumed globally every year occurs in Russia. Prevalent, too, is a corrosive culture of abortion, with unofficial estimates placing the number of annual abortions at 2 million to 2.5 million — close to 2 percent of the Russian Federation’s potential population.

In all, the country is contracting by close to half-a-million souls every year owing to both death and the emigration of its citizens (to Europe and beyond). At this rate, according to the Kremlin’s own estimates, Russia could lose a quarter of its population by the middle of this century. It’s a phenomenon that demographers have described as “the emptying of Russia” — a wholesale implosion of Russia’s human capital, and a collapse of its prospects as a viable modern state.

...

Over the past two decades, Russia’s population east of the Ural Mountains has declined by a fifth, and now stands at some 25 million, or some six inhabitants per square mile on average. This depopulation has sharpened the strategic competition over the country’s resource-rich east, which is now increasingly coveted by an energy-hungry China. In this unfolding contest, China, a rising global economic and strategic power, holds the upper hand over a declining Russia. Because it does, China could soon grow bold enough to challenge Russia for dominion over the latter’s economically vital eastern territories.

Don’t corner the Russian bear.


Here’s a fun story: Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. Girl finds out she’s gay. Boy finds out he’s a girl—and gay as well. The two lesbians live happily ever after.


I liked this Public Discourse tease: “Nobody can simultaneously explain why pedophilia is so vile and uphold the first commandment of the sexual revolution: Fulfill thy desires.” Why read on?


Patrick J. Deneen writes an essential article in the American Conservative about the Anti-Federalists:

They insisted on the importance of a small political scale, particularly because a large expanse of diverse citizens makes it difficult to arrive at a shared conception of the common good and an overly large scale makes direct participation in political rule entirely impracticable if not impossible.

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First, there is the conservative disposition, one articulated perhaps most brilliantly by Russell Kirk, who described conservatism above all not as a set of policy positions, but as a general view toward the world. That disposition especially finds expression in a “piety toward the wisdom of one’s ancestors,” a respect for the ancestral that only with great caution, hesitancy, and forbearance seeks to introduce or accept change into society. It is supremely wary of the only iron law of politics—the law of unintended consequences (e.g., a few conservatives predicted that the introduction of the direct primary in the early 1900s would lead to increasingly extreme ideological divides and the increased influence of money in politics. In the zeal for reform, no one listened). It also tends toward a pessimistic view of history, more concerned to prevent the introduction of corruption in a decent regime than driven to pursue change out a belief in progress toward a better future.

Deneen cites “creative destruction” as a figment of liberal capitalism, imbibed by modern conservatives unmoored from (or, perhaps, never moored at all to) their Anti-Federalist roots. Creative destruction is inevitable, but is exacerbated by tying up human capital in the machinery of socialism.


George Will reflects on the Left’s post-Kennedy assassination ascendance:

The transformation of a murder by a marginal man into a killing by a sick culture began instantly — before Kennedy was buried. The afternoon of the assassination, Chief Justice Earl Warren ascribed Kennedy’s “martyrdom” to “the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots.” The next day, James Reston, the New York Times luminary, wrote in a front-page story that Kennedy was a victim of a “streak of violence in the American character,” noting especially “the violence of the extremists on the right.”

Never mind that adjacent to Reston’s article was a Times report on Oswald’s Communist convictions and associations. A Soviet spokesman, too, assigned “moral responsibility” for Kennedy’s death to “Barry Goldwater and other extremists on the right.”

Three days after the assassination, a Times editorial, “Spiral of Hate,” identified Kennedy’s killer as a “spirit”: The Times deplored “the shame all America must bear for the spirit of madness and hate that struck down” Kennedy. The editorialists were, presumably, immune to this spirit. The new liberalism-as-paternalism would be about correcting other people’s defects.

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The bullets of Nov. 22, 1963, altered the nation’s trajectory less by killing a president than by giving birth to a destructive narrative about America. Fittingly, the narrative was most injurious to the narrators. Their recasting of the tragedy in order to validate their curdled conception of the nation marked a ruinous turn for liberalism, beginning its decline from political dominance.

As for liberalism’s cultural dominance, it is unrivaled.


I considered adding this Mystic River excerpt to “Wealth of love,”, but decided against it. Still, it’s an amazing piece of writing by Dennis Lehane. A young man whose fiancé was killed describes what being in love is like:

“It’s like knowing all the answers on a test the minute you sit down at your desk. It’s like knowing everything’s going to be okay for the rest of your life. You’re going to ace. You’re going to be fine. You’ll walk around forever, feeling relieved, because you won.”

David Gilmour only likes teaching male authors. Misogynist? First ThingsCollin Garbarino satirizes the PC mob’s reaction:

Gilmour has a literary same-sex attraction. Can’t we just live and let live? Must we mock and belittle him because he doesn’t love women? Because he doesn’t want to read women? Doesn’t Gilmour have the right to love whomever he chooses? Who are we to judge?

I think Gilmour’s confession was very brave. He should be applauded for staying true to himself. He’s risked much in admitting to the world that he loves to read other men and that he doesn’t care who knows about it. Can he help that he loves male authors? It’s wrong for everyone to ask him to change.

Some people on the left will claim that it’s a slippery slope. If we let Gilmour just teach what he loves, white males, then we might have to start letting other instructors teach what they love too. Someone might want to teach a literature class focused on women authors. Will we be able to allow that? Someone might want to teach a class on Asian literature. I say that these are things we might have to risk in order to embrace tolerance and acceptance. In the spirit of progress, let’s stop condemning Gilmour for his same-sex literary attraction. Let’s stop being bigots.


In Greece, socialists fail, paving the way for violent nationalists. Is this 2013 or 1932?


“For the most part the upper levels of society have a disciplined approach to hedonism. They—we—don’t tend to overdo it. But the lower levels? They end treading water in a degraded public culture, often unable to keep their heads above the polluted water.” –R.R. Reno

Margaret Wente writes a compelling article about the virtue of self-control:

Today, it’s work habits – not credentials or connections – that separate one liberal-arts BA from another. The one who works her butt off and saves her money is still destined for the upper middle-class. The Grand Theft Auto addict is destined for his parents’ basement.

The trouble is that cultivating 19th-century habits in the 21st century isn’t easy. In Victorian times, self-regulation was reinforced by many kinds of external pressure, including social norms, religion, family and Queen. The consequences of lapsing from the straight and narrow – social disgrace, even ruin – could be severe. Today, you’re far more reliant on yourself to stay the course, and nobody else much cares if you don’t.

On top of that, we face temptations our ancestors could never have imagined – many of them engineered to zero in on our pleasure centres with scientific precision. As Daniel Akst argues in his highly readable book, Temptation: Finding Self-Control in an Age of Excess, modern life requires an unnatural degree of self-control. Our ancestors were too busy just surviving to succumb to bad habits. But in an age of super-affluence, it’s a constant struggle to keep our appetites in check. “It’s not that we have less willpower than we used to,” he writes, “but rather that modern life immerses us daily in a set of temptations far more evolved than we are.”

Self-discipline and high IQ often go together. But they are not the same. As Mr. Akst reports, self-discipline is a far better predictor of university grades than either IQ or SAT scores. Two University of Pennsylvania research psychologists, Martin Seligman and Angela Duckworth, have argued that a major reason for student underachievement is not inadequate schools or boring textbooks, but “failure to exercise self-discipline ... we believe that many of America’s children have trouble making choices that require them to sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term gain.”

Read “Say no to casinos” and “Social liberals” for more on this theme.


Reacting to Miley Cyrus’s VMA exhibition, John Hayward writes:

Sexualizing young people is an important mission of the Left. They want little girls to jump right from teddy bears to Planned Parenthood. That helps dissolve the bonds of family, which is a fading bastion of independence and self-reliance against collective power. It’s important for the “Ozzie and Harriet” crowd to feel utterly marginalized, as unwelcome in 2013 as the pilgrims of Plymouth Rock. We are supposed to accept that the world has forever moved on from those days. Parents can’t control their kids – indeed, their influence is expressly unwelcome when it comes to sexual training, where the concept of “parental consent” has become as antique as the pocketwatch or bustle. Liberal culture defines wanton sexuality and the rejection of family authority as “empowerment.” It softens people up for hardcore government dependency when they’re forced to stop twerking and face the consequences.

Read my poem about the whole episode here.


For 2 hours, Food Stamp users in 17 states had no limit to the amount of stuff they could buy, due to a glitch in the system. And they did buy an unlimited amount of stuff—or tried to. They left two Wal-Mart stores in Louisiana depleted. Takeaway:

Evans believes it was natural human reaction that led people to fill up their carts during the glitch, but Walmart shoppers Stan and Judy Garcia feel very differently. “That’s plain theft, that’s stealing that’s all I got to say about it,” said Garcia.

Maybe it’s both.


Number 6: Where am I?

Number 2: In the Village.

Number 6: What do you want?

Number 2: We want information.

Number 6: Whose side are you on?

Number 2: That would be telling. We want information... information... information.

Number 6: You won't get it.

Number 2: By hook or by crook, we will.

Number 6: Who are you?

Number 2: The new Number 2.

Number 6: Who is Number 1?

Number 2: You are Number 6.

Number 6: I am not a number, I am a free man.


There’s no happy harmony between career and family, Baylor professor Elizabeth Corey writes in First Things:

Flexible hours, parental leave, working from home, and other policy changes are necessary for women to flourish as professionals and mothers. But the core of the problem is more spiritual and psychological than political or social. A failure to recognize this is frankly to succumb to ideological blindness. To quote Spar again: “Feminism wasn’t supposed to make us miserable. It was supposed to make us free.” But “feminism” is not a lived life; it is a political movement, a set of ideas abstracted from ­experience and propounded as ethical imperatives. It should not surprise any thoughtful person when reality does not conform to the dreams of ambitious elites with bright ideas.

Taylor, my biblically articulate student, sees that she has a talent, and she feels called to develop it, which means giving herself to the hard work of pursuing excellence. To do so she must focus on herself, for the sake of the gifts she has been given. The problem is not that this work is time-consuming or that it reduces or eliminates a woman’s ability to do other things. The problem is that the serious pursuit of excellence requires a self-culture. The excellence is within us and must be developed: my musical potential brought to fulfillment, my academic aptitude developed and realized through education.

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But, if I am right, these two endeavors require different orientations of the self, and we simply cannot approach marriage and family in the spirit of achievement at all. If we try to do so, we will find ourselves frustrated and conflicted. For well-behaved or smart children are not markers of our success; children are ends in themselves, to be loved and cared for as individuals. They need from us something other than our talents; they need us, full stop.

Most women see this difference, at least to some degree. Caring for children takes place, for the most part, in private. There is no payment. Most of the time there is no audience. There are no promotions and few thanks. We often talk of trying to be a good parent, and rightly so, but it’s not an achievement, at least not in the same way that being a good pianist is an achievement. It is a kind of self-giving different from self-culture. The mode of being demanded by children isn’t of the sort that allows mothers (or fathers, for that matter) to engage in the self-culture that’s such an important part of any sustained pursuit of excellence.

Elise Hilton reviews Mary Eberstadt:

Whether one “likes” the Pill or not, Eberstadt is firm: the Pill and the associated sexual revolution are the “linchpin of change in Western religiosity.” What’s the fall-out? Fewer marriages, fewer children, fewer children growing up in intact (biological parents married to each other) homes.

How does this affect Christianity? Eberstadt argues that the collapse of the traditional family is an “unseen engine of secularization”: People don’t like to be told they are doing something wrong. If you go to church on Sunday and hear a sermon condemning cohabitation or artificial birth control – which you practice – you’re probably going to be unhappy. Maybe you won’t go back. Eberstadt points out that Christianity has a message – core precepts that it is compelled to teach. The more people in “broken and frayed homes” take offense to traditional Christian teaching, the less likely they are to transmit the faith to the next generation, the very faith that helps hold families together, Eberstadt argues. The two strands of the double helix continue to unravel.

Unto what do they unravel? Hedonism and living in the present that condemn the future.


Rod Dreher writes brilliantly about how he came to the Catholic Church, and how he left the Catholic Church. Excerpt:

My own brokenness was plain to me, and I was ready to turn from my destructive sins and become a new person. The one thing I didn’t want to do was surrender my sexual liberty, which was my birthright as a young American male. I knew, though, that without fully giving over my will to God, any conversion would be precarious. By then, I was all too wary of my evasions. To convert provisionally — that is, provided that the Church didn’t hassle me about my sex life — would really be about seeking the psychological comforts of religion without making sacrifices.

What I was told, in effect, in that university Catholic parish was that God loved me just as I was — true — but that I didn’t need to do anything else. It dawned on me one day that at the end of this process, all of us in the class would end up as Catholics, but have no idea what the Catholic Church taught. I bolted, and a year later, I was received into the Church in another parish.

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God is love was not a proclamation that liberated us captives from our sin and despair, but rather a bromide and a platitude that allowed us to believe that, and to behave as if, our lust, greed, malice and so forth — sins that I struggled with every day — weren’t to be despised and cast out, but rather shellacked by a river of treacle.


Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper says he’s not Tim Tebow. I’m not sure Tebow himself is “Tim Tebow.” The reportedly “outspoken proponent of his evangelical faith” barely volunteers more than a “thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” in interviews. But when he’s asked about his faith, he speaks about it as openly as he does any other topic. Really, he’s no more outspoken than I am.


William Murchison doesn’t think Wendy Davis and Texas make good dance partners:

The largest of those reasons is the state’s independent streak — a trait as old as Texas. Texans do not, by and large, take to being instructed as to their obligations to The Larger Good. They prefer figuring out those obligations themselves. They don’t disdain governmental help to those in need of it; unlike New Yorkers and Californians, they acknowledge limits — moral as well as economic — to a state’s assigning itself the role of permanent caregiver. Unwilling to play such a role, Texas keeps taxation as low as feasible — the better to encourage work and investment.

Sen. Davis would surmount these philosophical roadblocks… how? Through inflicting Texans with higher taxes and stricter regulations? Could she really bring off such a feat in such a state? The lady aims, apparently, to urge bigger and bigger bucks for Texas’s just so-so system of public education: without explaining thus far what she intends to buy with such extra cash as the legislature might grant in new taxes.

Liberalism in the early 21st century defines the problems of the world as stemming from too little tax-payer money, as well as from too little caring on the part of stingy, unfeeling taxpayers. Liberals want to shake the public money tree, on which they assume cash grows with hardly any help from those who labor with minds and hands.

Kinky Friedman is running for Texas Agriculture Commissioner and wants to legalize marijuana. Why?

“I am certainly hearing from a lot of friends in Colorado that their property taxes and their state and local taxes are going down,” Friedman said.

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Friedman says the taxes that would be collected from legalized marijuana would be used to close the funding gap which exists in education.

“All the candidates talk about education, yet we remain 48th in education funding,” he said. “I’m the only candidate telling you how we fund it.”

Assuming funding is the problem in Texas education, why fix it with legalizing marijuana? There are a million ways to raise the money. Why the fiscal subterfuge? I know why. He doesn’t want to admit he wants to get high. Why doesn’t he admit it? After all, a gut-wrenching 58% of Texans are in favor of legalizing marijuana. That’s a majority landslide elections are made of. So, I ask again, why doesn’t he admit he wants to get high?

Because the stigma surrounding marijuana use is well-deserved. It creates chemical imbalances in the brain and enriches criminal elements.

Consider this an “evolution” of Friedman’s previous stance on marijuana. Seven years ago, he favored decriminalization, short of legalization.

The candidate said Wednesday that crack “is a different deal” from marijuana.

“Marijuana is a very different situation. It’s not like crack and (other) drugs that create violence,” he said.

No, of course not! Just sloth, apathy, and broken homes.

I will campaign vociferously against Kinky Friedman for Texas Ag Commissioner.


In closing, I give you Anthony Esolen, bad ass:

The call for “pluralism” is a dodge, a way to excuse oneself from having to justify the single counter-cultural thing one wishes to promote. Many people are “pluralistic” about marriage these days. Not nearly so many are “pluralistic” about property, or revenge, or war—or education, or even unbridled speech.

A people without iron have no culture—a miserable and subhuman state of affairs made possible by wealth and mass distractions. The shepherds on the plains of Mesopotamia had iron. The Inuit on the delta of the Mackenzie once had iron; now they have television and welfare. The Guarani in the jungles of the Amazon still have iron. The people who lived in my great aunt’s village in Calabria had iron—quite a lot of it, though the intrusion of the technopoly has been rusting it.

The purpose of law is to corroborate and invigorate the ways of a people. That’s what the carbon does to iron. It makes it harder and stronger; it makes it more like iron and less like coal.

If a people understand that one day in a week ought to be set free from labor, so that they may come together as a people in the most important and solemn and joyous thing that people do—rather than working every day, or rather than subjugating the human community to the needs of the machine, giving John a “free” Monday to slug alone at home in an empty neighborhood, and Jim a “free” Tuesday to do the same—then they will naturally seek to use the carbon of the law to corroborate the iron of their ways.

If they understand that children actually thrive best in the quiet world of the home, looked after by the woman who gave them life and who loves them and knows them best, then they will seek to use the law to invigorate that world, if any development from without should threaten it; to remove obstacles from its natural and healthy growth.

What Americans suffer now is an imaginary and disintegrative “Constitution” which declares that, in one way or another, the law shall not perform that most important work of the law, because culture itself is “unconstitutional.” Mass education, mass politics, mass entertainment, and mass distraction masquerading as news—they are now what we take for culture, but those things bear the same relation to a living culture as the scattered members of a raccoon have with the beautiful and innocent animal that failed to cross the superhighway.