Friday, November 22, 2013

Odds and ends 11/22/2013

Can you guess the three famous men who died November 22, 1963?

  • John F. Kennedy
  • C. S. Lewis
  • Aldous Huxley

I did not know Huxley died that day, too, until today, the 50th anniversary of his death. Matthew J. Franck reflects at First Things:

Huxley’s claim on our attention comes in a very distant third after Kennedy and Lewis. Although many of his works remain in print, they are all—unlike those of Lewis—quite dated, and it is highly doubtful that by the end of the present century anyone will be reading anything by Huxley.

With just one exception: Brave New World, published in 1932, sells briskly to this day, is widely read in schools and universities, and is regularly invoked as one of the great prophetic dystopias written in the twentieth century. Today, as Huxley himself once told George Orwell, Brave New World seems a much more prescient and disturbing work than Orwell’s 1984.

I agree. I have written here and here on why the denatured technocracy of Brave New World is superior to 1984’s hard tyranny.

“So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly arise and make them miserable.” –Aldous Huxley

This week at the Red Pill Report, I blogged about an apt example of what Huxley foresaw, seeing parallels with another dystopian writer: Ayn Rand.

“When you see rage at the idea of honoring the successful, climaxing in death threats, you are witnessing the ressentiment of those who secretly regard themselves as failures, whatever their outward success, and are desperately struggling to bury the knowledge that they themselves are responsible for their fate. Hatred for the achievers is the outward projection of their own self-loathing.” –Harry Binswanger

Andrew Huszar, the Federal Reserve’s head quantitative easer, apologizes:

Despite the Fed’s rhetoric, my program wasn’t helping to make credit any more accessible for the average American. The banks were only issuing fewer and fewer loans. More insidiously, whatever credit they were extending wasn’t getting much cheaper. QE may have been driving down the wholesale cost for banks to make loans, but Wall Street was pocketing most of the extra cash.

From the trenches, several other Fed managers also began voicing the concern that QE wasn’t working as planned. Our warnings fell on deaf ears. In the past, Fed leaders—even if they ultimately erred—would have worried obsessively about the costs versus the benefits of any major initiative. Now the only obsession seemed to be with the newest survey of financial-market expectations or the latest in-person feedback from Wall Street’s leading bankers and hedge-fund managers. Sorry, U.S. taxpayer.

Trading for the first round of QE ended on March 31, 2010. The final results confirmed that, while there had been only trivial relief for Main Street, the U.S. central bank’s bond purchases had been an absolute coup for Wall Street. The banks hadn’t just benefited from the lower cost of making loans. They’d also enjoyed huge capital gains on the rising values of their securities holdings and fat commissions from brokering most of the Fed’s QE transactions. Wall Street had experienced its most profitable year ever in 2009, and 2010 was starting off in much the same way.

$1.25 trillion in government-bought mortgage bonds later, stocks were booming, buoyed by fake money, and the economy was still stagnant. 2010 saw the introduction of QE2. Now we are in the midst of indefinite QE3.

Daniel Horowitz castigates the Fed:

If not for the Federal Reserve acting to service the debt on the cheap, we would immediately actualize the damaging effects of increased spending under large programs like the stimulus and Obamacare. According to Investors’ Business Daily, “If Washington had to pay the average interest now that it paid in 2000 (6.4%), it would be paying $500 billion more each year to stay afloat.”

Consequently, most people would feel the pain of “the free lunch” and realize that it is not so free. Without the Fed’s monetary manipulation, Washington would be forced to raise taxes more outright in order to purvey Obamacare and the free lunch society. Now they can do so simply by monetizing the debt on the cheap.

This summer, it looked like reality might have finally hit the Fed. I talked about it at the Red Pill Report:

In lieu of a political class that has neither the inclination nor the will to curb spending, the right thing to do, and what Fed Chairman Paul Volcker did in the late ’70s and early ’80s, would be to temporarily spike the interest rate to attract bond buyers. A higher interest rate would increase bond yields and depreciate their sale price, offering bond buyers a good return on their investment. This would infuse the government with cash, but it would be coupled with a necessary evil: It will cause interest payments on the national debt, already hovering at $400 billion per year, to blow through the roof.

A deep recession would follow, as the government cuts back on spending commitments in order to prioritize interest payments on the debt. (This is what would have happened in 2011 had the Republicans followed through with their threats to not raise the debt limit.) The sharp pain of the recession would restore sane fiscal policy in Washington and usher in an era of prosperity akin to the ’80s and ’90s.

You can already see Bernanke laying the groundwork for this. After his announcement to end quantitative easing Wednesday, bond yields rose to 2-year highs. Remember, though, the end of quantitative easing is just the start. The next step is raising the interest rate.

This puts us on track for a recession in the middle of President Obama’s second term. A recession could define the near-term political landscape in Republicans’ favor, including a make-or-break presidential election for the future of the country.

Which is why I think Obama will replace Bernanke, whose term ends next year, with someone who will keep the interest rate low. The nominee will be asked about quantitative easing at her Senate confirmation hearing, and she will say she has no plan to pursue further quantitative easing.

I wrote that before Bernanke reversed himself and all but assured the continuation of QE3 through the end of his term, until it was no longer up to him to set Fed policy. Had he stuck to the Fed position in June, QE tapering would be occurring now, and QE would be over if and when Fed chair nominee Janet Yellen assumed the office. Have no doubts: Yellen favors QE. The issue was whether she would revive QE upon assuming the Fed chair. Testifying before the Senate that she would revive QE would be politically untenable—much less tenable than, say, continuing the work of her predecessor.

I stand by my prediction: The Fed will continue to pursue monetary policies that protect big government from the consequences of its spending binge.

A reminder from FreedomWorks’s Wayne Brough on planning:

Economists focus on wages and prices, and have a general idea about the relationship between them, but Hayek claimed that economists do not-and cannot-possess information about the particular structure of wages that produce equilibrium. A general increase in wages and prices can be modeled, but it is far more difficult to model which set of wages and prices correctly matches labor markets to output in a way that promotes employment and economic growth. Because of these difficulties, Hayek claimed that many economists “happily proceed on the fiction that the factors which they can measure are the only ones that are relevant.” This is akin to looking for the car keys under the lamppost because that’s where the light is.

In Religion & Ethics, Peter Hitchens writes a riveting essay against marijuana legalization:

If [social liberals] campaign for a reform that frees them, and “first-class minds” like them, to take drugs, they are also campaigning for a reform that frees everyone else. That means it frees—or withdraws protection from—the beaten and rejected child of a shattered home on the squalid estate, the school failure, the unemployable young man in the post-industrial desert, the young mother living on benefits and, eventually, her children. And they are campaigning, in effect, for more people to use drugs which can, quite capriciously and unpredictably, destroy their users’ mental health. So for their own convenience and peace of mind, they are willing to condemn unknown numbers of others to possible disaster. This can hardly be called a selfless action.

Finally, we are not islands. If we risk destroying ourselves (as I believe we do if we use drugs) then we risk gravely wounding those who love us and care for us. For me this is a profound individual contract. It is one that will be understood most readily by the parents of adolescent children, children who have a sort of independence but often lack the experience to use it aright. If the law makes light of those parents’ concerns, and refuses to support them, what argument can they use to dissuade their young from taking a path that might well lead to permanent self-destruction?

“No man is an island” is certainly true in our economic lives and our social lives. Man is a cooperative animal. Notice, though, how apostles of the emerging tyranny shout “we’re in this together” and such to the rafters when selling top-down economic centralization, but remain coldly silent about—even quietly supportive of—social vice. It’s almost as if they want to weaken the institutions for the government to annex them. It’s like they want government to eat the civil society.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a more aggressive, federal version of San Antonio’s non-discrimination ordinance, passed the Senate with ease Nov. 7. Daniel Horowitz reports:

The Senate “ENDA” bill (S.815) would bestow civil rights status on anyone who claim they were denied a job because of “such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.” As part of a trial lawyer’s dream, the term “gender identity” is so vague and subjective that it includes “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.”

Let’s put aside the issue of legislating immorality on private individuals and businesses. There is a legitimate question as to what constitutes a sexual orientation or a gender identity. Before insanity reigned supreme in recent years, a man was a man and a woman was a woman. But if all appearances or mannerisms “with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth” are included, then who is to say that a pedophile is not covered under this bill?

Think such an eventuality is outlandish? Think again.

On Friday, the Washington Times broke the story that the American Psychiatric Association in its new edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, reclassified pedophilia as a “sexual orientation” instead of a mental illness.

I thought San Antonio’s narcissist ordinance was bad! ENDA passed the Senate more quickly with less constituent input. Whereas San Antonio’s NDO affects only companies that contract with the city and people who run for local office, ENDA extends to every company in America, regardless of whether they do business with the government.

Fortunately, ENDA will die in the House of Representatives.

Thanksgiving will be tense this year for the Cheney family. Liz Cheney, who is running for the U.S. Senate, supports traditional marriage against the radical redefinitionists. Her sister, Mary, is gay, and she is “married” to her partner, who took to Facebook to post:

I was watching my sister-in-law on Fox News Sunday (yes Liz, in fifteen states and the District of Columbia you are my sister-in-law) and was very disappointed to hear her say “I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage.”

Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012—she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us.

To have her now say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.

I can’t help but wonder how Liz would feel if as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other.

I always thought freedom meant freedom for EVERYONE.

Or: If you don’t support my identity in sin, you are a bigot.

As this rant illustrates, the “right” to marry trumps the right to disagree on what marriage is.

George Neumayr comments:

What kind of woman takes to Facebook to call her sibling a hateful bigot for merely opposing the most radical social innovation in history — a position that almost all politicians took until a few years ago? Loving the sinner requires loving their sin, demands Mary, who thought it appropriate to use social media to announce that “Liz’s position is to treat my family as second class citizens. That’s not a position I can be ‘lovingly tolerant’ towards.”

A similar episode of familial blackmail occurred 2 years ago to a New York Senate Democrat:

A Democrat from Brooklyn, known for his gruff style and shifting alliances, Senator [Carl] Kruger voted against same-sex marriage two years ago, was seen as a pariah in his party and was accused in March of taking $1 million in bribes in return for political favors.

Some gay activists, assuming he was a lost cause, had taken to picketing outside of his house and screaming that he was gay — an approach that seemed only to harden his opposition to their agenda. (Mr. Kruger has said he is not gay.) But unbeknown to all but a few people, Mr. Kruger desperately wanted to change his vote. The issue, it turned out, was tearing apart his household.

The gay nephew of the woman he lives with, Dorothy Turano, was so furious at Mr. Kruger for opposing same-sex marriage two years ago that he had cut off contact with both of them, devastating Ms. Turano. “I don’t need this,” Mr. Kruger told Senator John L. Sampson of Brooklyn, the Democratic majority leader. “It has gotten personal now.”

Mr. Sampson, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage, advised Mr. Kruger to focus on the nephew, not the political repercussions. “When everything else is gone,” Mr. Sampson told him, “all you have left is family.”

Wrong! All you have left is God.

By the way, I am not surprised to see Paul Singer’s name all over this New York Times article, lauding his efforts to essentially buy New York Republicans’ votes with contributions to their reelection campaigns. This is the same “Republican mega-donor” who congratulated New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for capitulating on same-sex marriage, on which I reported briefly in the October 25, 2013 edition of “Odds and ends.” Let’s look back at that story:

To people like Paul Singer, the hedge fund titan who founded American Unity PAC to encourage Republicans to support marriage equality, Christie’s surrender was cause for celebration.

Jeff Cook-McCormac, a senior adviser to Singer’s PAC, praised Christie’s move to BuzzFeed.

“While he didn’t get the policy outcome he was looking for, he was able to navigate this in a way that’s really thoughtful and respectful of the sentiments of a diverse community within New Jersey,” Cook-McCormac said. “I mean, he’s a rare guy who’s been able to appeal to people with sincerely held beliefs on both sides of this issue.”

He added, “The donor community are particularly looking for leaders who can unite people, and who can find a path back to winning elections.”

Gobbledygook. How do you appeal to people who believe two and two is four and people who believe two and two is five at the same time? Why would you want to appeal to people on both sides of the issue when your PAC was founded to fight for one side?

Getting back to the issue at hand, same-sex marriage, what did Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. think about “gay” rights?

“I am a boy,” an anonymous writer told King. “But I feel about boys the way I ought to feel about girls. I don’t want my parents to know about me. What can I do?”

In calm, pastoral tones, King told the boy that his problem wasn’t uncommon, but required “careful attention.”

“The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired,” King wrote. “You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it.”

Homosexuality is a sin to be personally overcome, not validated through a policy of obtuse nondiscrimination.

An idea came to mind while reading through the comments on Rod Dreher’s post about same-sex marriage and religious liberty. State discrimination against people with distinct, immutable traits is the litmus test for being granted protected status. Blacks are the most obvious example. Judicial wise men foolishly interpret sexuality, impossibly complex and unique to every person, as distinct and immutable. Is there any chance a judge will allow those who follow written scripture—distinct and immutable—the same level of protection as those seeking the right to sexual destiny?

“The whole point of Obamacare is to make everyone conform to the government’s idea of what is fitting and proper in health care. Your own calculation of your self-interest, and your own moral and religious beliefs about ethical health care coverage, matter not at all under Obamacare.” –Matthew J. Franck

Socialist Howard Dean makes my point (re: “The fate of the union” and “Obamacare and the republic”):

I wonder if he has the legal authority to do this, since this was a congressional bill that set this up.

Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal foolishly thinks Obamacare is good for Republicans:

ObamaCare is really a political self-punching machine, slugging itself with every botched rollout, missed deadline, postponed mandate, higher deductible, canceled insurance policy and jury-rigged administrative fix. John Roberts, we hardly knew you: Your ObamaCare swing vote last year may yet turn out to be best gift Republicans have had in a decade.

We heard the same phony argument when the Supreme Court irrationally upheld the individual mandate last year. Mitt Romney still lost the presidency because he failed to muster political will against Obamacare. (And for good reason: Obamacare was based on his own totalitarian healthcare law in Massachusetts.)

Here’s how Obamacare doesn’t benefit Republicans: They’ve failed so far to muster the political will to represent a majority of Americans who disapprove of Obamacare. There’s no reason to believe they will muster the political will to represent a greater majority of Americans. They face the same opponent, whom they’ve lost to time and time again. The Democrats are dug in, recalcitrant. They control the Senate, they control the White House. The road to liberty runs through those political bodies. The Democrats are holed up like Lt. Col. William Travis in the Alamo, like King Theoden in Helm’s Deep. Republicans must attack, attack, attack, because President Obama and Harry Reid are not going to surrender to a simple show of force. They know the stakes. They are playing for the fate of the republic. They will fight to the death, so they must be put to death. Politically speaking, of course.

Daniel Horowitz agrees:

We cannot afford to wait until the website is fixed and the dependency takes root. It’s tempting for Republicans to just sit back and enjoy the polling data, but polling data will not get rid of the law. Polls are not elections. And even 2014 will not save us. In the best case scenario, we will have 51 seats in the Senate with a unified filibuster-strong Democrat minority that, when coupled with the wayward Republicans, will give Senator Harry Reid a de facto majority. Moreover, President Obama will still be president. Waiting until 2017 is simply unacceptable.

This nerd sees blessed, healthy people who have little use for doctors benefiting from “discrimination” in the healthcare market.

The only way to end that discriminatory system is to bring everyone into the system and pay one fair price. That means that the genetic winners, the lottery winners who’ve been paying an artificially low price because of this discrimination now will have to pay more in return. And that, by my estimate, is about four million people. In return, we’ll have a fixed system where over 30 million people will now for the first time be able to access fairly price and guaranteed health insurance.

Yes, they are lucky that they are born healthy. So are others who are born tall and who are born rich. The world “discriminates” people with luck and talent and natural gifts from those who do not. In the spirit of equality, are we going to make everyone sick, everyone short, everyone poor? Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron” satirized this totalitarian mindset 50 years ago. It numbs my mind to see it advocated by this foolish wonk.

I enjoyed Jay Leno’s interview of George W. Bush. One of Bush’s gifts is his humility. You hear it when he praises the troops and praises the American character. He doesn’t worry about suffering common indignities that a powerful man like him can avoid.

Sexual “liberation” is regressive, not progressive, I wrote earlier this year. Heather Wilhelm agrees. Excerpts:

Our time-traveling anthropologist might also be nonplused at the almost primitive, pagan nature found in much of America’s pro-choice culture. In ancient times it was perfectly normal to worship body parts—some of the most famous male and female representations go back to the Stone Age—but today, one would think we’d be a bit more sophisticated. Most of us know, thanks to hundreds of years of science and philosophy, not to mention a little bit of common sense, that human beings are more than just an animalistic body. Some of us might even go out on a limb and say we have an eternal soul.

The ultimate irony of the modern abortion debate is that those who see themselves as “progressive” and “forward-thinking” are actually taking us back, in a sense, to the days of the woolly mammoth. By dissecting humans into little more than a collection of body parts—and turning a blind eye to the existence of clearly living, breathing babies—they ignore much more than just science. They ignore the best of civilization as a whole. They are, it could be argued, today’s new primitives.

If your destination is hell, one step closer would be called progress.

Arizona State University student Annica Benning weighs in at the College Fix:

The sexism is overwhelming. Liberals are quick to paint conservatives as “anti-women,” and often claim Republicans are engaged in a so-called “war on women,” yet these degrading and exploitative ads portray women as giddy, sex-starved and desperate whose biggest wish is that some hot guy will be “easy to get.”

This belittles the progress women have made over the years toward equality and independence, but Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, defended them, saying: “People get upset when you portray women as independent.”

That is interesting – independence can now be defined based on sexual promiscuity?

“Equality” and “independence” are dubious benefits when they cost us harmony and happiness.

Re: military sexual assaults, Jed Babbin explains in the American Spectator:

My law school pal Joe Rehyansky served as an Army JAG prosecutor for 18 years and then about a decade as an assistant DA in Tennessee. He told me, “In all my years prosecuting, in and out of the Army, I never saw a sexual assault allegation swept under the rug; never encountered a woman who was afraid to file a formal complaint; and never saw such a case handled as anything other than a crime that was prosecuted or not based on the evidence. Victims these days, especially women victims claiming sexual assault, see themselves as a privileged class. Something’s got to be done, regardless of whether the allegation is provable.”

If the civilian lawyers of [Kirsten] Gillibrand’s new system are outside the chain of command, who will prevent them from going on crusades pursuing soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who are unjustly accused? That bias doesn’t concern Gillibrand. Her new legal force would be “independent.”

In the current military justice system, the prevention of bias is one of the top priorities, and it’s a goal that is achieved. First of all, most commanders don’t interfere at all with the decision to bring someone up on charges. They rightfully rely on their lawyers. When they don’t, the military justice system deals with any interference they might attempt in a manner designed to protect the rights of the accused.

There’s a concept in military justice called “command influence.” A senior commander — whether it’s a colonel or a multi-star general — is designated the “convening authority,” which means that the charges in a special or general court martial are brought under his orders.

When any commander, or someone higher in the chain of command, tries to influence the lawyers or the judge in a prosecution, either by urging prosecution and conviction or by telling the lawyers or judge that a suspect should get a free pass for a crime, that’s improper command influence under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The consequences can be severe.

Louis C. K. is in the Luddite camp. John Lott differs:

“If you could go back in time to Orville Wright and go ‘Hey, dude, I had to sit on the runway for 40 minutes,’ he’d be like ‘Oh shit, well let’s not even bother then. Hey, Wendell, shut it down. They make you wait for a bit,’” [Louis C. K.] channeled.


The rant argues that man ought to view technology with awe and reverence. In the short run, there’s nothing wrong with that—at least the awe part. When we see the latest inventions and upgrades do something amazing, it’s fun and harmless to say “Wow, look at this!”

Yet technological progress comes from trial and error, impatience, even boredom. The same impulse that led Louis C. K.’s fellow passenger to blow off steam when the Wi-Fi went down led somebody else to not just fix it but eventually improve upon it, to make Wi-Fi in the sky not just possible but reliable—and faster to boot.

A year ago, I predicted Chris Christie would lose his reelection bid:

Had Republicans taken control of the White House and the Senate, the narrative of a “maverick” Chris Christie would have been established. In the last year of his first term as governor, he would have exploited opportunities to defy the Republican-controlled federal government in order to appeal to moderates and position himself for reelection.

Alas, that didn’t happen. Christie’s reelection odds shrank with the federal government remaining in Democratic hands. Moderates are more likely to be unmoved by Christie’s hosannas to Obama than they would have been by his pokes in the eye to Romney. Now, Christie is more likely than not to lose his reelection bid, as if there was ever any doubt the Garden State would remain among the bluest of blue.

What was I thinking? A poor prediction, and poorly written to boot.

In closing, Robert George of the Girgis, George, Anderson marriage triumvirate highlights liberals’ internal inconstancy on the death penalty and abortion:

[Mario Cuomo] condemns the death penalty in the most explicitly, indeed flamboyantly, moralistic terms: “I am against the death penalty because I think it is bad and unfair. It is debasing. It is degenerate. It kills innocent people.” He does not pause to consider that these are precisely the claims pro-life people make against the policy of legal abortion and its public funding—a policy that Cuomo defends.

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