Merry Christmas! Christ our Savior is born!
This is the last “Odds and ends” of 2013. Remarkable considering I started out the year announcing I was taking a break from the blog, feeling depressed about the election and running out of topics to write about. I followed that with 119 posts on the year thus far, which included some of my best writing.
Oh, and I turned 27, so as of March this does not apply to me:
“There is no writer so obscure as a 26-year-old writer. So he is suddenly consumed by ambition anxiety — the desperate need to prove that he is superior in sensibility to people who are superior to him in status. Soon he will be writing blog posts marked by coruscating contempt for extremely anodyne people: ‘Kelly Clarkson: Satan or Merely His Spawn?’” –David Brooks
Ouch, David. Why didn’t you tell me you were a visitor?
Maureen Callahan of the New York Post discusses artistic flameout:
When it debuted in late 2011, “Homeland” was a wild and unlikely hit, a thriller about a brilliant, bipolar CIA agent who falls in love with the Marine-turned-sleeper terrorist she’s tracking. Like Gaga, “Homeland” was a surprise: culturally relevant and super weird, electrifying in its warp-speed approach to burning through story.
But after that first season, it became clear that the writers had no idea where to take their narrative, and the show’s once-organic outrageousness curdled into patronizing gimmickry.
With her first record, Lady Gaga, too, burned through story — the outsider artist who crashed through popular culture, the “Mother Monster” to all the world’s freaks — and she clearly had no sense where to go next.
I believe I need to focus my creativity on writing science fiction. That means fewer blog posts in 2014. I mean it this time.
In a ranging piece on feminism and science fiction/fantasy, John C. Wright writes:
The logic of Political Correctness requires that men and women not be complementary because the concept of complementary strengths and weakness is not a concept that Political Correctness can admit, lest it be destroyed. The concept of complementary virtues undermines the concept of envy, and Political Correctness is nothing but politicized fury based on politicized envy. We can define Political Correctness as the attempt to express fury and envy via radical changes to legal and social institutions.
Hence, the Politically Correct writer attempting to make the female ‘strong’ cannot make her strong in the particular feminine way of, for example, Nausicaä, because that would be the same as admitting that there is a particular nature of male and female, which are different and complementary, which, as I said above, undermines the envy-fury on which Political Correctness is based.
So the logic of Political Correctness directly defies the logic of drama. The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.
This is the best description of political correctness I’ve read. It really does boil down to envy.
“The government doesn’t much care what writers have to say because the public doesn’t much care what writers have to say. It is the fondest wish of many writers to be taken seriously enough to be the victims of McCarthyite surveillance.” –Rod Dreher
“In a country where the sole employer is the state, [opposing the State] means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced with a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.” –Leon Trotsky
“It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.” –Revelation 13:16-17
“With the greatest zest, people took hold of the hope of compensating themselves with no very strict accounting. To judge from my students in and from the townships, that hope has been a greater burden than their hardships. My classes did not want to prepare for exams, did not want to stop shoving or taunting. They had fierce trouble in parting from the idea of always doing as they pleased—that would throw into doubt the ‘Mandela miracle’ of self-determination that embodied for them everything good. Imagine a religion that takes the teenagers’ side.” –Sarah Ruden
The Guiding Promise was altered earlier this year so that members now swear ‘to be true to myself and develop my beliefs’ rather than the original ‘to love my God’.
In 1989, Glenn Tinder went “big picture” in the Atlantic:
We are so used to thinking of spirituality as withdrawal from the world and human affairs that it is hard to think of it as political. Spirituality is personal and private, we assume, while politics is public. But such a dichotomy drastically diminishes spirituality construing it as a relationship to God without implications for one’s relationship to the surrounding world. The God of Christian faith (I shall focus on Christianity although the God of the New Testament is also the God of the Old Testament) created the world and is deeply engaged in the affairs of the world. The notion that we can be related to God and not to the world—that we can practice a spirituality that is not political—is in conflict with the Christian understanding of God.
Many of the undoubted virtues of pluralism—respect for the individual and a belief in the essential equality of all human beings, to cite just two—have strong roots in the union of the spiritual and the political achieved in the vision of Christianity. The question that secularists have to answer is whether these values can survive without these particular roots. In short, can we be good without God? Can we affirm the dignity and equality of individual persons—values we ordinarily regard as secular—without giving them transcendental backing?
That question—Can we be good without God?—launched my personal journey into ethical monotheism, the God of the Bible, and eventually Jesus Christ.
The following is adapted from my review of Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live?:
The post-Christian West has benefited long and well from the momentum of its Judeo-Christian past, with its emphasis on moral absolutes, such as justice. But for hundreds of years we have been undermining ourselves with new-fangled ideas like humanism and hedonism, with their own moral absolutes, such as reason and well-being.
Contemporary humanists and hedonists mold their views to Christian ones so they don’t seem so scary. But, were the post-Christian West to purge its roots completely, and hand over the reins to humanists or hedonists to remake society as they will, in what direction might they lead us? What would be moral?
If a society is not ultimately held accountable to a single set of moral absolutes, then why not legislate on the basis of a competing set of moral absolutes, such as equality? This moral absolute, equality (of result, of course), so transparently at odds with Biblical justice, is being used presently in the United States to impose secular collectivism and to arbitrarily change the definition of marriage.
Jill Filipovic rejects evolutionary science that confirms different sexual attitudes in men and women. One commenter writes:
I am beginning to think there must be a version of Poe’s Law where a certain kind of feminist is indistinguishable from the “straw feminist” stereotype which feminists say is used to discredit feminism by portraying feminists as unreasonable. It certainly applies here. I accuse Jill Filipovic of being a fictional straw feminist invented by the patriarchy who control the media to discredit feminism.
No, she just followed her assumptions to their logical conclusion. I had my own encounter with Poe’s law on Twitter:
@Mortal_Weight TAX $$. It's not up to the Government to tell you if you can marry a plant, animal or person with the same sexual parts.— Katrina (@KatrinaLimited) December 13, 2013
Straw libertarian, anyone?
Last year, Timothy Dalrymple called for Christians to abandon arguments in favor of male-female marriage because perceived homophobia is too great an obstacle to Christian witness. Owen Strachan at Patheos responds with truth and vigor:
This kind of call, however well-intentioned, is a devil’s bargain. To be a Christian is to stand upon God’s truth, God’s wisdom. All else is sinking sand. The Bible is not a private book, and Christianity is not quietism. The book claims the sinner for its own, and the book claims meta-knowledge over all the cosmos. The Scripture does not merely contain wisdom–“5 Super-Easy Principles for Dieting!”–but is wisdom. Everything, every last thing, in the Bible is wise (2 Tim. 3:15).
So let’s start here, then go there. There is nothing in Scripture to apologize for; there is nothing to feel bad about. God doesn’t need new PR. He doesn’t need people to be embarrassed for him. He’s not looking for super-authentic apologizers who can clear up the scandal of his claims of cosmic dominion. He hasn’t overestimated; his calculations of rightness have not been proven wrong. He isn’t red-faced in heaven in the face of modernity, or postmodernity, or whatever else will come down the pike. He’s not scared by current events. His angels are not hastily recalibrating the kingdom program to retrofit it for an age that has caught them sleeping in the control room.
“There isn’t much to do in prison except desecrate your flesh,” said sadist Max Cady in the 1991 film Cape Fear. This world is our prison. We desecrate our flesh. We abdicate our humanity and holiness as God’s creations to become like beasts.
Phillip Cary writes in First Things about the Fall:
Why does the serpent in the Garden of Eden speak to the woman, not the man? Genesis gives us a very strong hint about this, which I explored in an earlier post: The great difference between the man and the woman at this point is that the man has heard the commandment of God first hand, before the woman was created (Gen. 2:17). We have to figure she has heard what God said from her husband. He is to be her teacher.
So the serpent asks about what God has said in order to probe how well he has taught and she has learned. These two are meant to be good for each other, the very crown of the goodness of creation, for they are the animal that has logos, capable of speaking and hearing, and therefore of teaching and learning the word of God.
The crucial fine point to bear in mind is something we learn a few verses after the serpent starts speaking: The man is there the whole time. When the woman decides to eat the fruit, she gives some to “her husband who was with her” (Gen. 3:6). So it’s not as if the serpent has waylaid the woman while her husband is away somewhere else. Teacher and student are both present when the serpent quizzes this student about what she’s learned.
So there is a great silence here: The man, who alone has heard the commandment directly from God, apparently plays no role in the conversation about what God has said. Why this silence?
Cary doesn’t provide an answer. Why God made us the way we are is the great mystery of life. Eve rebelled, and Adam rebelled by allowing her to rebel. I imagine—I repeat, I imagine—he wanted to taste the fruit of the tree himself, but he was afraid. So he had ignorant Eve taste it, as if he had discovered some loophole to trick God.
“The death of one’s culture is the loss of the means to bequeath a patrimony of hard-won truths about what it means to be human.” –Bradley Miller
Matt Purple reviews C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength:
It follows the development of the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments, a technocratic organization known by its euphemistic acronym N.I.C.E. As Lewis, who occasionally dips in as omniscient narrator, describes it, “N.I.C.E. was the first-fruits of that constructive fusion between the state and the laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes of a better world.” Much of the novel follows Mark Studdock, a self-conscious sociologist pulled straight out of a Tom Wolfe novel, as the technocrats batter him into helping them out.
The goals of the N.I.C.E., gradually unveiled by Lewis, are to free man from nature—to throw off his chains—and put science in charge of his destiny. This means not total equality, as Rousseau promised, but slavery: “Man has got to take charge of Man,” one of the N.I.C.E.’s elites says. “That means, remember, that some men have got to take charge of the rest.” And not just Man, but every aspect of his life and economy. “Aren’t we going to solve the whole currency question? It’s we that make money,” says another technocrat, sounding like a future Fed chairman.
Scientific socialism infects every pore of the N.I.C.E. The institute’s controllers reject political ideology and religion, seeing themselves as pragmatists interested only in that which works, in “ideas whose time has come,” as today’s wonky bloggers might put it. But in eschewing any moral system, it’s gradually revealed that the technocrats have made themselves slaves to a higher power. “Despair of objective truth had been increasingly insinuated into the scientists,” Lewis writes. “From the point of view which is accepted in Hell, the whole history of our Earth had led up to this moment.”
There’s no denying the literary value of Orwell’s 1984—that crushing sense of oppression, that awful loneliness...these things stay with you. But ultimately Orwell got the big questions wrong. Today government power isn’t wielded by a Stalinist Big Brother, but by those who say they can use it scientifically, progressively, to make us happier, healthier, more equal—to make people better. If you’re looking for the roots of our technocratic state, you’ll find them portrayed with chilling foresight in That Hideous Strength.
Writing at Townhall, Derek Hunter concurs:
In nearly every way government has replaced religion in the progressive sphere. It is the grantor of rights, the arbiter of morality, the moderator of justice, the compass of true north. Government is the religion, and the agenda is God.
“Going without health insurance is morally wrong,” commanded not one individual with a bias towards forced collectivism, but the holy body politic.
Peter Hitchens writes we have more to fear from Left-wing theocracy:
The villains are not nuns, but their modern-day equivalents—local authority social workers convinced of their own goodness, and dedicated to our new faiths of equality and diversity and political correctness.
They worship the State as fervently as any nun bent before the altar worshipping God, and they view heterosexual married couples with the same glowering suspicious Mother Superiors once reserved for unmarried mothers.
As if there wasn’t enough evidence of the malleability of “sexual orientation,” Robert Carle writes in Public Discourse:
[California] Governor Jerry Brown dismissed sexual orientation modification as “quackery,” and [New Jersey] Governor Chris Christie said that “people are born gay.” Both these statements ignore empirical evidence that, for many teenagers, sexual orientation is unstable and malleable. The most comprehensive study of sexuality to date, the 1992 National Health and Social Life Survey, found that, without any intervention whatsoever, three out of four boys who think they are gay at sixteen don’t think they are gay by the age of twenty-five.
The University of North Carolina’s National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health surveyed 10,000 teenagers and found that the vast majority of sixteen-year olds who reported only same-sex sexual attractions reported only opposite-sex sexual attractions one year later. Because these surveys produced such unexpected results, similar studies were soon replicated all over the Western world. The outcomes were almost identical, with population-based samples now reaching into the hundreds of thousands.
I’ve come to expect obtuseness on cultural issues from Chris Christie. He’s beholden to billionaire GOP donor Paul Singer, who is a force behind the marriage redefinition movement, and who has a gay son. Keep this in mind when Christie stakes a “moderate” stance on social policy.
The Huffington Post reports:
Gay rights groups say conversion therapy damages young people, because it tells them that it’s not acceptable to be whoever they are.
Too bad. It’s not acceptable to be whoever you are. You are not a saint. You are a sinner. The world does not accommodate you.
I repeat, it’s not acceptable to be whoever you are.
Self-identified homosexuals are unrepentant sinners whom God regards as abomination because they identify themselves with their sin. It is absolutely impossible to be a Christian and an unrepentant homosexual for the obvious reason that Christianity requires repentance for one’s sins.
LGBT rag The Advocate, which published my name and address and the names and addresses of thousands of other signatories (including Angela McCaskill) to the 2012 marriage referendum in Maryland, ran a cover of Pope Francis with the libelous “NO H8” photoshopped on his cheek. Beside his face ran the quote: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?” (I discussed that quote at length here.)
The conflation of Francis’s quote and the marriage redefinitionist movement is superficial and dishonest at best. The Advocate loses the direct implication of the first part: “if someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will.”
Grover Norquist of tax pledge infamy supports a marijuana tax. Listen to this:
“When you legalize something and more people do more of it and the government gets more revenue because there’s more of it ... that’s not a tax increase ... The tax goes from 100 percent, meaning its illegal, to whatever the tax is.”
The Huffington Post‘s reporting is typical:
Earlier this year, Norquist forged an unlikely alliance with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), who introduced a bill that would reduce the tax burden on small, legal marijuana businesses. Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform, threw support behind the bill.
As I explained in “An ‘anarchist’ leads the socialists,” these are not “unlikely” alliances. In marijuana’s case, libertarians and totalitarians have similar means towards different ends. Nihilist social policy happens to coincide with subverting America’s social compact.
Don’t talk to me about federalism, about leaving decisions to the states. We are perfectly capable of idiocy at the state level. New York proves that.
Mark Barrett addresses the “you can’t legislate morality” myth:
It is not uncommon to see arguments advanced on a variety of issues today which appeal to this supposed lesson of Prohibition: that you cannot legislate morality. As American society moves in a direction which is ever more libertarian on a variety fronts, from marriage, to gambling, to drug use, we can expect to see more efforts to both enact and remove laws accordingly. We can, in turn, expect that these laws will both reflect and shape that society. It is critical in this context to remember the proper lesson of Prohibition: the paramount importance of prudence in governing. The virtue to discern and choose what is good but also to understand the best methods to achieve that good.
“The will, which prefers one aspect to another, turns away the mind from considering the qualities of all that it does not like to see.” –Blaise Pascal
Iranian media have said Iran, which already has one nuclear power station at Bushehr, is in talks with Russia to construct more, based on a 1992 agreement with Moscow.
The UAE is building a nuclear power plant near Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia plans to build several over the next decade.
This is the first I’ve heard of Gulf states getting nuclear power. Lest we forget, the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. Our Arab so-called allies are soft Islamists, preferring to infiltrate and undermine the West via money, politics, and immigration. But they have no shortage of radical Islamists, jihadists who are impatient to openly strike the infidel.
At the American Thinker, Jeffrey Folks warns rather than confiscate our wealth outright, federal regulators will mandate a portion of all retirement accounts be in government debt.
Despite its 2010 failure to take over retirement savings, the left has not given up. As reported in WND, officials at the U.S. Treasury and Labor Departments continue discussions aimed at channeling private savings into Treasury obligations via a so-called “Automatic IRA.” Once it has forced workers and employers to contribute to Automatic IRAs, and eventually forced existing savings into government obligations as well, government would control much of the investment capital in America. The free market will cease to exist.
Perhaps in support of that goal, Dodd-Frank legislation of 2010 established the Office of Financial Research (OFR), which recently issued a report suggesting that mutual funds may pose a risk to financial stability. At several points in the report, the authors suggest that many aspects of the financial system are not at present highly regulated and that the risks of these unregulated private transactions are unknown. The implication seems to be that greater government scrutiny is called for.
Once it is established that mutual funds pose a risk to financial stability, government will likely proceed on its merry way, with thousands of pages of regulations bringing those funds, and the savings they manage, under the thumb of government. It is only a short step from regulation to appropriation, whether by seizure via regulation or by mandating an investment in “safe” government obligations.
Charles Krauthammer destroys President Obama:
In explaining the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, President Obama told Chris Matthews he had discovered that “we have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly.”
An interesting discovery to make after having consigned the vast universe of American medicine, one-sixth of the U.S. economy, to the tender mercies of the agency bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service.
Most people become aware of the hopeless inefficiency of sclerotic government by, oh, age 17 at the department of motor vehicles. Obama’s late discovery is especially remarkable considering that he built his entire political philosophy on the rock of Big Government, on the fervent belief in the state as the very engine of collective action and the ultimate source of national greatness. (Indeed, of individual success as well, as in “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”)
This blinding revelation of the ponderous incompetence of bureaucratic government came just a few weeks after Obama confessed that “what we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.” Another light bulb goes off, this one three years after passing a law designed to force millions of Americans to shop for new health plans via the maze of untried, untested, insecure, unreliable online “exchanges.”
This discovery joins a long list that includes Obama’s rueful admission that there really are no shovel-ready jobs. That one came after having passed his monstrous $830 billion stimulus on the argument that the weakened economy would be “jump-started” by a massive infusion of shovel-ready jobs. Now known to be fictional.
It’s a man’s world, writes Camille Paglia:
What is troubling in too many books and articles by feminist journalists in the U.S. is, despite their putative leftism, an implicit privileging of bourgeois values and culture. The particular focused, clerical and managerial skills of the upper-middle-class elite are presented as the highest desideratum, the ultimate evolutionary point of humanity. Yes, there has been a gradual transition from an industrial to a service-sector economy in which women, who generally prefer a safe, clean, quiet work environment thrive.
Men are absolutely indispensable right now, invisible as it is to most feminists, who seem blind to the infrastructure that makes their own work lives possible. It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments. It is men who heft and weld the giant steel beams that frame our office buildings, and it is men who do the hair-raising work of insetting and sealing the finely tempered plate-glass windows of skyscrapers 50 stories tall.
We can infer you won’t find many of those “men” in the Obama administration. Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal:
Most of the Obama people just don’t have a background in executing. They have a background in communicating, not doing. That’s where their talent is—it’s where their boss’s talent is—and it’s a good talent, but not one that will in itself force a government to work well.
Kevin D. Williamson of National Review hits the nail on the head of economic inequality:
The problem is not inequality: The problem is declining or stagnant wages for those Americans who are not thriving in the 21st-century economy. Cannier politicians will note that while they may respond to cheap rhetoric about the new robber barons, Americans are by and large much more concerned about their own paychecks and bank balances than they are those of other people. Republicans would be foolish to adopt the rhetoric of inequality and its implicit class-war thinking, but they would be much more foolish to ignore the underlying economic reality that gives teeth to that critique: Things are not good for the American middle class, and things are bad for the poor. There are signs that economic mobility is in decline, especially at the extremes, and the general environment of economic pessimism, so alien to Americans, is not entirely unjustified.
Republicans have a battery of issues with which to arm themselves here: By standing in the way of educational reform, Democrats rob poor families of educational opportunity in order to look out for the interests of relatively well-off teachers and the growing legion of six-figure school administrators. In defending to the death the entitlement status quo, Democrats ensure a net transfer of wealth from struggling young workers to relatively well-off retirees, in a system that disproportionately benefits higher earners. The nearly universal and frequently criminal misgovernance of large American cities by Democratic political machines — Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Washington, Camden — immiserates millions of Americans, robbing them of educational opportunities, work opportunities, and safe streets.
Republicans have for too long responded to these issues with a growth agenda dominated by reducing statutory federal income-tax rates on personal and corporate income. Those are worthy goals, but they are of limited interest to people who pay relatively little of the former and none of the latter (directly, that is). Republicans are in that sense a victim of the success of President Ronald Reagan, who liked to brag how many Americans he’d taken off the income-tax rolls. When next in power, Republicans should not hesitate to play hardball on these issues, for instance by making federal aid to schools contingent upon universal school choice, a simple reform that would constitute a vast improvement over the No Child Left Behind approach. President Obama has shown what the executive can do unilaterally through regulatory entrepreneurship; a future Republican president can do as much to reverse regulatory encroachment. But if the GOP makes tax cuts its hill to die on once again, or lets martial romance prevent meaningful fiscal adjustments (which must include defense-spending reforms), it will have blown yet another opportunity, the supply of which is not infinite.
At Public Discourse, Michael Stokes Paulsen reviews Oklahoma’s recently overturned ultrasound requirement, and drops this gem:
The pro-abortion argument against [ultrasounds] is, in a nutshell, that it is an unconstitutional impairment of the freedom to choose abortion to be shown and told, in words and in living, real-time moving pictures, what abortion is. Knowledge is bad. And, at a certain level, the pro-abortion side is right: if more women knew what abortion is, and does, and could see their contemplated victims, going forward with such killing likely would more greatly burden their hearts and minds.
This is bizarre reporting from the Washington Post:
What may surprise some people is that [Phil Robertson’s] viewpoint — the part about homosexuality being a sin — is espoused by nearly half the country.
Shocking, I know! It’s as if it was the consensus for thousands of years.
Albert Mohler riffs on polygamy’s path to legalization:
Judge Waddoups ruled that Utah’s law against consensual adult cohabitation among multiple partners violated the Constitution’s free exercise clause, but a main point was that opposition to polygamy did not advance a compelling state interest. In the background to that judgment was the argument asserted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to the effect that the only real opposition to any form of consensual sexual arrangement among adults would be religiously based, and thus unconstitutional.
Kennedy made that assertion in his majority opinion in the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas that struck down all state laws criminalizing homosexual behavior—and the Lawrence decision looms large over Judge Waddoups’s entire decision. In fact, he referred to a succession of court decisions that had vastly expanded the scope of sexual behaviors and noted: “To state the obvious, the intervening years have witnessed a significant strengthening of numerous provisions of the Bill of Rights.”
Yes, that is to state the obvious. Key to that line of legal reasoning is the declaration by Justice Kennedy in Lawrence that the U.S. Constitution recognizes “an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression and certain intimate conduct.” More than once, Kennedy had inserted a statement about the Constitution requiring acceptance of “liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.” Justice Antonin Scalia acerbically dismissed this argument as the “sweet mystery of life passage,” but the damage was done. Judge Waddoups was working within Kennedy’s structure of thought, and Utah’s law against polygamy was found to violate that zone of privacy.
Jonathan Turley, the attorney who represented the Browns, has long been an ardent opponent of anti-polygamy laws. In an article he published shortly after the decision was handed down, Turley argued that the case was not really about polygamy, but privacy. “The decision affects a far greater range of such relationships than the form of polygamy practiced by the Browns. It is a victory not for polygamy but for privacy in America.”
At the same time, he also acknowledged the link between the legalization of homosexual relationships and the acceptance of polygamy. “Homosexuals and polygamists do have a common interest,” he said, “the right to be left alone as consenting adults.” He added: “There is no spectrum of private consensual relations—there is just a right of privacy that protects all people so long as they do not harm others.”
Ah, the simplicity of MYOB ethics.
Of course, the moral revolution that has transformed marriage in our times did not start with the demand for legal same-sex marriage. It did not begin with homosexuality at all, but with the sexual libertinism that demanded (and achieved) a separation of marriage and sex, liberating sex from the confines of marriage. So sex was separated from marriage, and then sex was separated from the expectation of procreation and child-rearing. Marriage was separated from sex, sex was separated from reproduction, and the revolution was launched. Adding to the speed of this revolution, then, was the advent of no-fault divorce and the transformation of marriage into a tentative and often temporary contract.
Once that damage had been done, the demand to legalize same-sex marriage could not be far behind. And now polygamy is enjoying its moment of legal liberation. Once marriage was redefined in function, it was easy to redefine it in terms of permanence. Once that was done, it was easy enough to redefine it in terms of gender. Now, with the logic of moral revolution transforming marriage in all respects, polygamy follows same-sex marriage. If marriage can be redefined in terms of gender, it can easily be redefined in terms of number.
Daniel Greenfield weighs in:
Reproductive rights and gay rights activists both campaigned to be left alone. There are still gay protests with placards arguing that their marriages are no one else’s business and pro-abortion rallies demanding that politicians stay out of the bedroom. But if the marriage of Adam and Steve shouldn’t be at the disposal of Harry and Julie, why should Harry’s bakery and Julie’s talent be at the disposal of Adam and Steve? If the government should stay out of the bedroom, then why must it dive into the bedroom to compel the owners of companies like Hobby Lobby to subsidize violations of their faith?
Cases like these show that the issue is not rights, but control. If the only way to obtain what you call your rights is by compelling someone else to give up theirs then what you are really demanding is not a right, but a means of imposing your values and your convictions on someone else.
Noam Scheiber writes in the New Republic that “populism” is splitting the Democratic Party. You have the technocrats, corporatists, and special interests (big government) on one side, and the anti-establishment, power-to-the-people socialists on the other side. It’s a rehash of the classic Stalinist vs. Leninist argument.
My opinion? The anti-establishment may garner the votes, but it’s the political machine operators, vested in their piece of the centralized, bureaucratic, socialist pie, that prevails. Stalinism won in the 1920s. It will win again in the 2010s. Scheiber comes to the same conclusion:
When you actually try to reform the status quo, any approach that relies on courting insiders (lobbyists and businessman, often regulators and Washington think tankers) rather than ginning up public support typically stalls out before long. The oil-state Democrats cave to energy companies; northeastern Democrats cave to the financial industry; coastal Dems cave to the tech sector; farm-state Dems cave to Big Ag. There are defense-contractor Dems; big-box retailer Dems; health insurer Dems (one reason for the Rube-Goldberg contraption we know as Obamacare).
There’s a good reason Obamacare is a “Rube-Goldberg contraption.” The healthcare industry, lest we forget, is one-sixth of the economy, comprising millions of producers and consumers. The ridiculous Obamacare bill and its leviathan regulatory offspring are socialists’ flawed attempt to replace the rational decisions of all the actors in the healthcare market. Also, in the transition to a purer socialism, socialists need industry’s biggest actors to buy in, lest they withdraw from the system, allowing it to collapse under the reality that it is not immune to the laws of economics. Socialists guarantee this with bribes, rents, and conflicting incentives.
Socialism doesn’t work without fascist big government. And even then it doesn’t work.
This Bloomberg article on estate tax loopholes is instructional on how government creates problems, in response to which it creates bigger problems:
Congress created the GRAT while trying to stop another tax-avoidance scheme that Covey developed. In 1984, Covey, a lawyer at Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP in New York, publicized an estate-tax shelter he’d invented called a grantor retained income trust, or GRIT.
Covey figured out how to make a large gift appear to be small. He would have a father, for example, put investments into a trust for his children, with instructions that the trust should pay any income back to the father. The value of that potential income would be subtracted from the father’s gift-tax bill.
Then, the trust could invest in growth stocks that paid low dividends so that most of the returns still ended up going to his kids. Six years after Covey started promoting this technique, Congress termed it abusive and passed a law to stop it.
The 1990 legislation replaced the GRIT with the GRAT, a government-blessed alternative that allowed people to keep stakes in gifts to their children while forbidding the abuse Covey had devised.
Covey studied the law and found an even bigger loophole. “The change that was made to stop what they thought was the abuse, made the matter worse,” he says.
Fredric Grundeman, who helped draft the bill while he was an attorney at the U.S. Treasury Department and is now retired, says the framers didn’t recognize the new law’s potential for abuse.
“How do I say it?” Grundeman says. “When Congress enacts a law, it isn’t always well thought out.”
Move along. Nothing to see here.
“Race is fictional. It’s not a biological reality. It’s a socio-political construct,” says MSNBC’s Touré. A remarkable admission. I couldn’t agree more. It’s on this understanding of race that I can say without laughing that Bill Clinton is blacker than Robert Griffin, III, that President Obama is gayer than Doug Mainwaring, gay same-sex marriage opponent.
In all sincerity, I think Touré means charges of racism are merely imprecise, as opposed to false. On the Marxist view, race is a proxy for class, in which “black” stands in for the trodden-down proletariat whose destiny is to rise against the “white” bourgeoisie.
Touré also dropped this line:
You do know, there is already a generous, benevolent black man in your children’s lives who lives in a place that is magical, who has given something to each and every American, whether they have been naughty or nice. You know who I’m talking about.
Surely he doesn’t mean the half-white president, whose bills of debt, weak job prospects, and canceled health insurance policies are far worse stocking stuffers than lumps of coal.
The past 2 weeks have been heavy on Nietzsche. Here’s an excerpt of some scholarship on nihilism, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Stanley Rosen identifies Nietzsche’s concept of nihilism with a situation of meaninglessness, in which “everything is permitted.” According to him, the loss of higher metaphysical values which existed in contrast to the base reality of the world or merely human ideas give rise to the idea that all human ideas are therefore valueless. Rejection of idealism thus results in nihilism, because only similarly transcendent ideals would live up to the previous standards that the nihilist still implicitly holds. The inability for Christianity to serve as a source of valuating the world is reflected in Nietzsche’s famous aphorism of the madman in The Gay Science. The death of God, in particular the statement that “we killed him,” is similar to the self-dissolution of Christian doctrine: due to the advances of the sciences, which for Nietzsche show that man is the product of evolution, that earth has no special place among the stars and that history is not progressive, the Christian notion of God can no longer serve as a basis for a morality.
Ironically, Nietzsche accused moralists of nihilism for negating human nature and commanding death to the only valid source of life and vitality: the will.
For Love of the Game is one of my favorite baseball movies. Baseball announcer Vin Scully has an excellent monologue about an aging pitcher’s last career start. It’s not as effective if you don’t imagine it in Vin Scully’s rich voice:
You get the feeling that Billy Chapel isn’t pitching against left handers, he isn’t pitching against pinch hitters, he isn’t pitching against the Yankees. He’s pitching against time. He’s pitching against the future, against age, and even when you think about his career, against ending.
That could describe a lot of life’s unfulfilled desires.