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.

...

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.

...

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.

...

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.

...

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.

...

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.

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