Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Odds and ends 12/24/2014

This doesn’t sound real but I like it.

Dear Ms. Pretty,

I have read your post with great interest. Guess there are lots of girls out there who have similar questions like yours. Please allow me to analyse your situation as a professional investor.

My annual income is more than $500k, which meets your requirement, so I hope everyone believes that I’m not wasting time here.

From the standpoint of a business person, it is a bad decision to marry you. The answer is very simple, so let me explain.

Put the details aside, what you’re trying to do is an exchange of “beauty” and “money” : Person A provides beauty, and Person B pays for it, fair and square.

However, there’s a deadly problem here, your beauty will fade, but my money will not be gone without any good reason. The fact is, my income might increase from year to year, but you can’t be prettier year after year.

Hence from the viewpoint of economics, I am an appreciation asset, and you are a depreciation asset. It’s not just normal depreciation, but exponential depreciation. If that is your only asset, your value will be much worse 10 years later.

Lucky for us the Christian tradition teaches marriage is not merely a transaction of money for sex and vice versa.

That tradition is no longer operative, you say? Well, then, never mind.


Liberal Bob Somerby is unimpressed with his colleague Brittney Cooper.

Someone moved the professor’s bag so he could sit down on a crowded train. In this utterly trivial matter, Cooper is somehow able to see the breadth of that battle against racism.

...

It’s hard to capture the dumbness of this essay. It’s hard to capture the small-mindedness and the self-involvement of its overwrought author.


An anecdote about the quest for self-perfection, from The End Time.


You know thieves are targeting your house. You wait up for them and shoot them as they invade your home. A Montana jury calls this murder.

Kaarma could face between 10 years and 100 years in prison. His lawyers plan to appeal.

The Missoula man shot Diren Dede in the early hours of April 27 after being alerted to an intruder by motion sensors. Witnesses testified Kaarma fired four shotgun blasts at the teen, who was unarmed.

...

Kaarma’s attorneys argued that he feared for his life, didn’t know if the intruder was armed and was on edge because his garage was burglarized at least once in the weeks before the shooting. They said Kaarma feared for his family’s safety.

It’s open season for thieves in Missoula.


Try to follow along. Feminist rag Jezebel reacted to anti-Christmas revelers with self-righteous scorn for not joining in a Michael Brown/Eric Garner protest. Given Jezebel’s own predilections towards intemperate exercise of freedom, this appears to be a classic case of Pharisaism.

Matthew Schmitz of First Things reflects:

I don’t mind the brief the new Puritans carry for good taste, much less their passion for justice. What’s lacking is a sense that righteousness might be the highest and most humanizing ideal. Perhaps, then, we should not decry the new Puritanism so much as demand that it become more truly Puritanical. Say what you will about the original Puritans, but they were nowhere near as narrow as the ones we’re stuck with today.

“Did Ted Cruz really bungle the lame-duck session for Republicans?” Byron York asks. No.

“The other dynamic at play is that now that Cruz has been firmly established as the goat of the lame duck session, Senate Republicans have cover to bail,” the aide wrote before the session ended. “They can give us consents more easily now because they know Cruz will be blamed. There is less pressure on them to hold out and actually force us to run clocks. So that's why I say it is certain that we will walk away with more nominees confirmed than if Cruz had not done what he did.”

That is why we saw Democrats extravagantly “thanking” Cruz for his action. They wanted to establish the storyline that Cruz had blundered into giving Democrats what they wanted, because that would give Republicans the opportunity to point fingers at Cruz — even as they gave Democrats what they wanted.


Abu Zubaydah thanked his interrogators for waterboarding him, Flopping Aces reminds us.


A social liberal is a liberal.

Reclusive billionaire David Koch, a powerful donor in American conservative politics, says he’s a “social liberal.”

“I’m basically a libertarian, and I’m a conservative on economic matters, and I’m a social liberal,” Koch told ABC News’ Barbara Walters during an interview for her special “The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2014” that airs at 9 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC.


Albert Mohler reviews Exodus.


People are fleeing San Antonio, and Bexar County judge Nelson Wolff wants to force them back in.

The city only can annex areas where it can afford to provide adequate services without cutting revenues to existing parts of the city.

Although Wolff called the city’s latest annexation plan a step forward, he challenged the city to do more and absorb larger swaths of the county; allow areas of the county more freedom to incorporate if they so choose; or else give the county more revenue sources to help provide better services in unincorporated Bexar County.

...

The city adopted an annexation policy last year that it will discourage the incorporation of “competing” cities around its edges. That, Wolff said, puts county residents between a rock and a hard place, leaving them in a virtual “no man’s zone.”

“They have no control over their destiny,” said Wolff, who directed assistant to the county manager Seth Mitchell to look at crafting legislation that might adjust the current state law that gives the city power over the ETJ.

They do have recourse: It’s the democratic process, which Wolff is trying to subvert by appealing to state authorities.


“Lebron James again demonstrates social conscience with ‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirt” is the USA Today headline. What it “again” demonstrates is James’ attraction to racial fads, since that’s what this has in common with the Trayvon Martin’s death.

I didn’t jump on the Martin bandwagon because I was suspicious of the circumstances, and rightly so. Martin, who was high, and trying to get higher, attacked George Zimmerman and bashed his head in before Zimmerman shot him dead. Eric Garner was hurting no one when a cop choked him to death. Let’s not confuse compassion based on fact with compassion based on race.


In my opinion, we should leave public education to the dogs. Let the system sink into its moral waste as it wishes, then evangelize the victims. Fox News reports:

Acalanes Union School District officials told the institute the [sex education] class was not taught by teachers but rather the staff from a local Planned Parenthood in nearby Walnut Creek.

Included in the materials provided to students were documents and worksheets that included a checklist entitled, “Sex Check! Are You Ready For Sex?” in which the 13 and 14-year-old students are asked questions such as if they have water–based lubricants and condoms and if they could handle a possible infection or pregnancy. Another worksheet reads like a how-to on obtaining consent from a possible sexual partner and offers possible statements like “Do you want to go back to my place?” and “Is it OK if I take my pants off?”

Sounds like the new “yes means yes” consent requirements.

Students at Acalanes High School in Northern California were given this gender identity chart in a sex ed class conducted by the local Planned Parenthood chapter.

They were also taught about gender identity with the “Genderbread Person,” a play on the name of the holiday cookie, to teach them on how to identify themselves as either, “agender,” “bigender,” and “two spirit” to name a few.

There’ no end to this nonsense.

On Thursday, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new interpretation of the Civil Rights Act meant to prevent employers from discriminating against people who claim the status of a transgendered person.

Holder announced in a memo that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex, also applies to the transgendered.

“This important shift will ensure that the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are extended to those who suffer discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,” Holder said in the announcement. “This will help to foster fair and consistent treatment for all claimants. And it reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Americans.”

This is the same stupid 1964 law that precludes store owners from throwing customers out for acting out of order. If libertarian Senator Rand Paul were still talking about repealing it, I’d take him seriously as a presidential candidate. But he’s not, so I’m not.

I’ve documented gender confusion in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and New York. Now it’s on the move in the heartland. World Net Daily reports:

Come August of next year, high-school students in Minnesota will be permitted to play sports on teams with whatever gender they “identify” with, rather than what their biological gender would dictate, and a leading Christian family group believes this is a recipe for disaster.

On Thursday, the Minnesota State High School League, or MSHSL, officially adopted new policies that would require all public, private and even some religious high schools to accommodate transgender students, effective Aug. 1, 2015. The decision came in the face of fierce opposition that delayed the decision by months.

“They passed a policy that will allow students who identify as transgender to play on teams opposite their birth sex, which will almost certainly lead to them also accessing the locker rooms, bathrooms, even hotel rooms of the opposite biological sex. This is very problematic for many students, parents and even schools around the state,” said Autumn Leva, director of policy and communications at the Minnesota Family Council.

...

She said the clear public opinion on the matter didn’t sway the league, either.

“Even though we brought forward a petition with close to 7,000 Minnesotans who prefer our solution to what the league is doing. Even public and private schools have signed on, saying this is what they wanted and the league didn’t even give it any air time. So it’s really been a pretty one-sided discussion,” Leva said.

That’s because there’s a political “in” crowd and a political “out” crowd. Which crowd do you think those bigoted Christian parents belong to? Which crowd do you think the gay mafia belong to?


Pat Buchanan considers Jonathan Gruber and the seeming democratic irreversibility of the progressive/technocratic state:

What is it that pushes the nation leftward even when conservatives win at the ballot box? The permanent powers and the deep state. While there are conservative enclaves within the major media, they are few. Our mammoth bureaucracy—22 million municipal, county, state, and federal employees—has a vital interest in the preservation and growth of government.

Add up the beneficiaries of all social programs, and the number now approaches 100 million. They don’t tend to stay committed to folks who will take away what they have come to depend upon.

Higher education is dominated by tenured leftists and radicals. The Ivy League is “No Conservative Need Apply” country. Our popular culture, from movies to music to TV, is dominated by the left. Conservatives in Hollywood meet in catacombs.

There are conservative judges and justices on the courts, but few counter-revolutionaries. The decisions that come down either advance or confirm decisions handed down half a century ago by the Warren Court.

If it happened in America before 1960, it may as well have happened in another country. The conditions in that time are far removed from our cultural memory. We are like a trauma victim subconsciously blocking it from our collective conscious. That is the extent to which liberals have stigmatized the time before they rose to power.

If we’re going to make it, we’re going to have to rebuke most of the political, cultural developments since the ’60s.


It’s been a crazy year. I look forward to taking it easy in 2015. (Yeah, right.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Embracing the Fall

Let’s not pretend there’s no right or wrong here:

Christians and Satanists put up competing displays Sunday on the Michigan Capitol grounds as Christmas week got underway.

The Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple set up its “Snaketivity Scene” featuring a snake offering a book called “Revolt of the Angels” as a gift. The snake is wrapped around the Satanic cross on the 3-feet-by-3-feet display. Capitol rules require that displays have to be taken down each night.

In a videotaped interview with the Lansing State Journal, Satanic Temple spokeswoman Jex Blackmore said her group doesn’t worship Satan but does promote individuality, compassion and views that differ from Christian and conservative beliefs.

Blackmore said that the “holiday season is a time of year that is celebrated in many different ways.”

“Having our government endorse one singular viewpoint or method of celebrating the season is problematic when we have a diverse community of people in Michigan,” she said.

How about one truth, as opposed to a thousand falsehoods? Is that asking too much, to publicly recognize the means by which we are served by God’s forgiveness for our fallen nature, by which we’re empowered to serve our fellow man, by which we civilly coexist?

I can’t think of a better way to depict the alternative to God reconciling to Himself man created in His image. The Satanists’ display embraces the Fall in Genesis 3. “When you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” the serpent said. It convinced Adam and Eve to disobey God with the bait of knowledge, that through their own understanding they could make a better world than the garden God created for them.

“The greatest gift is knowledge”? The greatest gift is Jesus, Whom God gave to us to take away our sins, Who gave His life for each of our sakes. The greatest gift is giving.

Enjoy knowledge for what it’s worth. Read Ecclesiastes. Knowledge without faith is burdened with the meaninglessness of living and the certainty of death. Knowledge is not the bread of life. It must be paired with purpose to have meaning, and if that purpose is not honoring God, it’s something less honorable.

Further reading: “An un-Christian Christmas?”

Friday, December 19, 2014

Racial monad

An untrained ego perceives personal insult at the smallest slight. A strong dose of patience, peace, and understanding from the Holy Spirit is a reliable tonic. Or, if you’re Brittney Cooper, you can justify your irrational rage by imagining the insult is symptomatic of a unconscious, coordinated system of oppression.

On Friday, I was on the train to New York to do a teach-in on Ferguson at NYU. Beats headphones on, lost in thought, peering out the window, I suddenly saw a white hand shoving my work carry-on toward me. Startled, I looked up to see the hand belonged to a white guy, who was haphazardly handling my open bag, with my laptop perched just inside to make space for himself on the seat next to me.

That he wanted the seat on the now full train was not the problem. That he assumed the prerogative to place his hands on my bag, grab it, shove it at me, all while my computer was unsecured and peaking out, infuriated me. I said to him, “Never put your hands on my property.”

His reply: “Well, you should listen when I talk to you.” That line there, the command that when he, whoever he was, spoke, I should automatically listen encapsulates the breadth of the battle against racism we have to fight in this country.

Buoyed by his own entitlement, his own sense of white male somebodiness, this passenger never even considered that he might simply try harder to get my attention before putting his hands on my stuff. His own need to control space, his own sense of entitlement to move anything in his way even if it held something of value to another person, his belief that he had the right to do whatever he needed to do to make the environment conform to his will are all hallmarks of white privilege.

Poor little angel. Everyone’s out to get her!

If she were a feminist, it’d be his male privilege. If she were from Indiana, it’d be his Yankee privilege. The ideological model Cooper superimposes on her surroundings cares about skin pigment, so skin pigment is what she reduces this incident to.

I’d be embarrassed to reveal I’m so narcissistic and insecure that I want to attack anyone who doesn’t yield to my will. Cooper reinterprets these dark feelings to inflate her social justice credentials. This harmless subway encounter is her way of relating to the marchers in Selma and the Woolworth’s sit-in in Greensboro. She knows what the struggle is like. She’s experienced it first hand. So it goes.

If anything, the story explains why headphones should be banned in public. Cocooned with her private thoughts by her $180 headphones, she loses most ability to function socially. I get it. New York is a crowded, noisy, diverse city. New Yorkers suffer from social sensory overload. They can’t process it all, so they withdraw.

Taking minding your business to this level works so long as you don’t take up too much space or get in someone’s way, which Cooper did. If she could have heard her “oppressor” in the first place, she would have moved her bag herself so he could sit down. And then there’d be nothing to write about—except for hundreds of other meaningless encounters for the ego to smart at.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Those crazy Catholic college students

It turns out the Fort Sam lockdown on November 23 was caused by a Saudi national on a student visa speeding through the base gate after he said he had a bomb. That image is a far cry from the impression of a “college student”/“San Antonio-area man” driving onto the base “without proper credentials,” as if he’d made a wrong turn.

The San Antonio Express-News provides the details:

Mutasim Abdul-Aziz H. Alati, 24, a citizen of Saudi Arabia who was here on visas, was not charged until last week for the Nov. 23 incident.

Base guards said he was nervous when he pulled up to the Harry Wurzbach Road gate and asked to see the “big guy.” When asked if he had anything in the car he said he had a bomb and sped through, prompting a four-hour lockdown, authorities allege.

Base officials released few details of the incident at the time, stating only that a local college student had been detained and released after he “attempted to access the installation without appropriate credentials.”

How is being a college student a more relevant detail than hailing from the same country as the 9/11 hijackers? His Saudi nationality and the bomb threat were known fairly early on, but the Army downplayed them. So the exact nature of what happened were scrubbed and sanitized for public consumption.

Does one wonder why, since the initial report was correct, the Army un-clarified it for us. This is the same Army that worried its diversity might be a casualty, in addition to the 13 murdered soldiers, of Nidal Hassan’s jihadist killing spree at Fort Hood. This is the politically correct bureaucracy that pulled the shades down over its own peoples’ eyes in discerning friend from foe.

Intelligence agencies have learned nothing since 9/11 about the natural, organic arousal of holy war against infidels in the Muslim world.

FBI agents looked into his background to make sure there were no terrorism ties; none were apparent.

Swell. We can sleep soundly knowing ISIS isn’t his visa sponsor. The University of Incarnate Word has expelled Alati. It’s worth asking how he came to attend a small Catholic university in the first place.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Don’t mess with TXDOT

Eighty percent of Texas voters approved Prop 1 in November. The question is not whether they got screwed. It’s whether they care enough to do anything about it.

Barely a month after Texas voters overwhelmingly agreed to free up as much as $1.5 billion more a year for road construction, the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization today is set to approve a new long-term transportation plan that doubles the number of roads which will involve “managed lanes,” which is government-speak for toll roads, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

So now tolled roads in San Antonio will include:

  • I-10 between I-410 and Seguin on the east side
  • I-35 between downtown and Selma on the northeast side
  • SH 1604 between Bandera Road and I-35 on the north side
  • US-281 from SH 1604 to Guadalupe County on the north side
  • I-10 between I-410 and Boerne on the northwest side
  • SH 151 between I-410 and SH 1604 on the west side
  • I-37 between I-410 and downtown on the southeast side

In short, all major routes southeast, east, northeast, north, and northwest in and out of and around the city will have toll lanes.

Since TXDOT was pursuing toll roads anyway, why include the anti-toll road language in Prop 1? To get the votes to pass the funding measure.

Ben Ross writes at Greater, Greater Washington of a similar venture on I-95 in Maryland:

Since the tolls won’t cover the extra construction costs that they require, tolls are clearly not a way to raise money. What toll lanes do accomplish is to push most drivers off the pay lanes and onto the crowded free lanes. That might be acceptable if the toll lanes paid for themselves, but in this case it’s the majority that’s getting stuck with the bill, subsidizing an affluent minority.

“Managed lanes” don’t pay for themselves. And the taxpayers who fund them don’t use them. “Why did Maryland ever undertake such a project?” Ben Ross asks. The answer is the same for TXDOT: Because they can.

The issue is how do you manage growth. Urban sprawl, or not living where you work, started this mess. It was a byproduct of two developments:

  1. Dislocated growth fed by economies of scale: Cities are the only place where relative family stability is possible in a mobile, global economy.

  2. Self-segregation by race and affluence.

Growth is not a given, nor is it desirable in all circumstances. Reckless pursuit of growth will burn us out.

Leroy Alloway, spokesman for [the San Antonio Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the long-range plan called “Mobility 2040” is also adding 34 non-toll roads and is necessary to relieve congestion as the population keeps growing.

He added that there is expected to be $1.6 billion in new projects to address the million new residents moving to our area in the next 25 years.

Alloway says if they don’t add this plan, the city would have unmanageable gridlock.

That is, we need less gridlock, so we can grow San Antonio, so we can have more gridlock.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Odds and ends 12/7/2014

Can you spot the heresy? This person was “technically” baptized, but he objectively misunderstands the scriptures.

So he pulls up his chair next to mine and goes through the list, and as I give my answers, he basically gives a biblical justification as to whether he thinks my answer was right or wrong. I would consider myself a Christian, technically, but I think that every soul will go to heaven, so I don’t know where I stand in with the Bible (and quite frankly don’t care, but I’m open minded).

He gets to the question that asks, if you were to get into a car accident and Jesus were standing in front of you, and said to tell him why you think you should go to heaven, what would you say? And I said, I would say because I’m a good person who loves people and are respectful and courteous towards them, and give them mercy (again, it’s my belief that every single soul will go to “heaven” eventually, and I was giving my positive qualities, which I believe everybody has). So then he goes on this thing about how salvation is a gift and is not earned, and draws a diagram about the three kinds of death and shows me which death I’m still experiencing, and that there are two kinds of water “professors” of Christianity drink—one with arsenic and one without.

He goes on to tell me that in his opinion I clearly have drunk out of the water with arsenic, because I have not read the Bible verse tat says salvation is a gift and not earned by “works.”

The writer presents his resumé to justify himself at the pearly gates. That’s Pharisaism, not the way of Jesus, the way of forgiveness.


A transgender milks its school district for $75,000.

Nicole Maines won her lawsuit against the Orono school district in January before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled that the school district violated the Maine Human Rights Act. It was the first time a state high court in the U.S. concluded that a transgender person should use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify.

Bathroom choice is a “human right.” That’s a federal court ruling. Who in their right mind wants to weigh down their political destiny to such nonsense?

Here are some more highlights on the comical will to gender:


A liberal activist greedy for victimhood cred lies about his Facebook account being hacked and misleads federal investigators, and his sordid movement emerges unscathed. The College Fix reports:

Campus leaders, even while acknowledging the hoax and the federal resources expended to investigate a fake threat, couldn’t bring themselves to call for any punishments against the students who cried wolf.

Instead, they endorsed the political agenda behind the hoax.

The university, which said Nov. 20 that the “hateful and anonymous Facebook posts” were part of a “larger pattern,” issued a weak retraction four days later.

“Based on our ongoing investigation we now are confident that the Facebook posting was not created by a hacker,” Karen Coleman, vice president for campus life and student services, told the community Nov. 24.

“That conclusion does not erase the seriousness of this episode, the harm it has caused to individuals and our broader community, or the consequences for those responsible,” Coleman said. “Whatever its purpose, the language used in this incident does not constitute discourse and will not be tolerated.”

Coleman said the school would host “special sessions” for students, faculty and staff who wanted to talk about the incidents and “get support.”

This is a classic Alinskyite tactic: stage a confrontation to polarize the public and gin up enthusiasm against the enemy. To continue to go along immolating itself, the University of Chicago is ignorant or already corrupted beyond repair.

I want to say radical egalitarians have no shame, but that would be inaccurate. They do feel shame when their fealty to their idol is lacking (e.g., Tobias Buckell).

In this war for the soul of America, whoever shows mercy first loses.


After President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, George Will criticized:

The emblematic sentence from the speech was this: “We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.” The president lives in a parallel universe where a dollar spent on A can also be spent on B. There’s no scarcity, no choices involved. And for all the solicitude he expresses about the rising and coming generations, we’re not investing in them. We’re borrowing from them, because conveniently they’re not here and can’t object.

A penny spent is a penny earned, according to liberal orthodoxy.


Mitt Romney, mulling an incomprehensible third run at the White House, gets no credit for his liberalism because he resides in a conservative party. Kathleen Dolan and Jennifer Lawless wrote at CNN 2 years ago:

Romney said he “recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible.” His example of flexibility, however, was allowing his chief of staff to “get home at 5” to make dinner for her family and be with her children. He stopped short of saying it directly, but Romney appears to hold a common belief that women can best be integrated into the workforce if they are still able to fulfill their duties as wives and mothers.

Or, in his experience, that’s the kind of flexibility you have to offer as a manager to retain women employees. The message from Dolan and Lawless is don’t let real-world experience tread on the doctrines of of sexual sameness.

If you’re not going to get credit for being a liberal Republican, then, tactically, why nominate a liberal Republican?


Blah, blah, blah, she said:

Today, we need a national commission on justice. One that is more than a fact-finding commission. One whose purpose is reconciliation. This one should be modeled after South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Bishop Desmond Tutu.

There was an emphasis in that commission on reconciliation. There was a marked effort to forgive. Tutu wrote, “When I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side ... a better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.

“Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. You can move on.”

Bishop Tutu added a “but.”

“But the process of forgiveness also requires acknowledgment on the part of the perpetrator that they have committed an offense.”

The grand jury system, not just in Ferguson, but nationwide, needs a hard look. Millions feel that officers who are trigger-happy are handed a license to shoot—based not on facts, but on stereotypes the officers carry.

Michael Brown was high. He robbed a corner store. He lunged for a cop’s gun. He charged the cop like a linebacker. Save your grief for actual injustice.

Perception is not reality. Considering the disproportionate rate at which blacks commit crimes, I’m actually surprised there isn’t more parity in police killings by race.


At the American Conservative, Daniel L. Davis rebukes David Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy, the mythology around which his popularity is dubiously based. Excerpt:

In a study published earlier this year by the National Defense University, authors Sterling Jensen and former Iraqi general Najim al-Jabouri wrote this of the Americans’ effectiveness in Anbar province cities: “[t]he surge did not have a role in the Anbar Awakening. Surge troops that came to Anbar in 2007 were not seen as useful… In fact, U.S. troops in general were not seen as useful even before the surge…”

But the authors’ possibly most pointed finding was that the causal factor behind the eventual drop in violence had little to do with either the increase in U.S. troops or the new strategy: “If not for al-Qaeda’s murder and intimidation campaign on Sunnis, and its tactic of creating a sectarian war, the Anbar Awakening—a fundamental factor in the success of the 2007 surge—most probably would not have occurred, and it would have been difficult for the United States in 2006 to convince Sunnis to partner with them in a fight against al Qaeda...”

The Sunni-initiated Anbar Awakening, followed by the Petraeus-led “Sons of Iraq” program, resulted in a dramatic drop in violence. The breathing space purchased with considerable American blood was intended to facilitate the development of Iraqi democracy. Kelley Vlahos, contributing editor for The American Conservative, recently wrote, “in hindsight, the only meaningful space created was for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki” to use America to rid him of political enemies, not the least of which were many Iraqi Sunni leaders and groups.

Maliki’s oppressive rule, which alienated much of the Sunni population in the Western part of the country, was a key factor in the rise of ISIS; his penchant to dismiss Sunni officers and pack the senior ranks of the Iraqi Security Force (ISF) with inexperienced political patrons played a major role in the disintegration of the ISF when the Islamic State began its offensive.

I served in Iraq as a military trainer in 2009, and have twice deployed to Afghanistan (2005, 2010-11). Between my 2009 Iraq deployment and the last Afghanistan deployment—at the height of that surge—I traveled over 14,000 miles throughout both countries, going on mounted and dismounted patrols, with U.S., allied, Iraqi, and Afghan troops, and led a team to train an Iraqi border battalion. I can conclusively state that outside the wire, the counterinsurgency theories were an unqualified failure at the strategic level. The populations were never protected in either country. The insurgent forces were never fully defeated in either country—and are stronger now than they have been at any time since 9/11. The Afghan and Iraqi governments remain the third and seventh most corrupt governments in the world, and do not have the support of their people. The armed forces for both countries, despite the decade-long effort and tens of billions of dollars that the U.S. spent training them, are virtually incapable of conducting even basic security.

It is incomprehensible that with such an extensive, publicly available record of failure—which cost the United States $2 trillion in direct outlays, 6,842 U.S. troops killed and 52,281 wounded in action—that the designers of this failed concept are given any credibility. The conclusive evidence of the failure is on graphic display right now, in both countries: after six full years and tens of billions spent, the U.S.-trained Iraqi army melted away before a few thousand irregular fighters; after the U.S. pulled out of Helmand province in Afghanistan, the Afghan National Security Forces were incapable of preventing an immediate return of the Taliban.


Something secular aculturists need to understand:

“Religion is seldom a strictly spiritual matter; rather, it involves moral prescriptions as to how to act in everyday secular affairs. Although religious people may reasonably be expected to act with a degree of civility in the public domain, showing respect for others and their differing views, it is not reasonable or practical to expect them to act in the public realm without reference to their deeply held, religiously based moral convictions. So, even if privatization has proven valuable as a way of encouraging social harmony up to a point, it is a principle that cannot address the question of equity in the public sphere in dealing with inevitable differences based on religious conviction.” –George Marsden

Friday, December 5, 2014

Prodigal

In the parable of the prodigal son, the younger brother squanders his inheritance on foolish pleasures. He returns to his father’s home and pleads with him to take him back. The father forgives him, enraging the older brother, who has kept to the straight and narrow path. He wants recognition from his father because, he thinks, he deserves it. The younger brother disobeyed his father. The older brother has obeyed his father all his life, but from expectation of his inheritance, not from love.

The lesson is that it’s not a person’s ability to avoid sin that saves him from sin. God’s grace is boundless, and we all need it. We should rejoice at the redemption of sinners from their sinful nature by their confession of faith in Jesus Christ, who redeemed us from the deathtrap of our flesh. He took the punishment for our sins and put it on Himself, on the cross. When you accept that, dead is the old self and the hunger of pride, envy, lust, etc. Jesus becomes your nourishment instead.

The Pharisees saw people as falling short of God’s grace if they were not good enough. In Jesus, there is no threat of falling short. Anything you could do on your own to “get right” with God, Jesus has already done, times a thousand.

How did the Pharisees respond to Jesus’ teaching? I paraphrase: “What do we need grace for? We keep the laws. We have so many chits to our names. We’re good enough. We’ll make it into heaven.” This is hope in an empty promise. It sounds closer to secular rationalization and resistance to the human condition than the testimony of believers.

Is forgiveness for all trespasses, past and future, license to go on sinning? Paul answers:

We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? ... For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:2, 6-7)

Naturally, since people are imperfect, they set themselves up to be crushed by their shortcomings if they take the Pharisees’ view, that being good enough can get you into heaven. At the outset of my faith journey, I feared this. I was conscious of my sin, and I was scared I would fail and be naked and exposed before God. But I took a chance on a church and they taught me the truth.

To Jesus, your life comes first. It is the headwaters. Your behavior is downstream, an effect, not a cause.

To Pharisees, your behavior comes first. Salvation is downstream.

“Neither Jesus nor any author of the Bible ever implies that any human being is flawless without sin or fault, except Jesus Himself. Instead, the point is that it is a distraction to concentrate only on our specific behavioral shortcomings.” –Timothy Keller, Prodigal God

When a lost soul returns to the home of the Holy Father, those who are already saved should not be embittered because they reveled in sin for a time and are yet still forgiven. For no one is reconciled to God by his own rights. The sinner steeped in the “joy” of his sin is not in an enviable position, anyway.

Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:1-4)

Related: “Righteousness talking.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Exodus: The Director’s Cut

This is what happens when you let an atheist tell Bible stories on the big screen:

If there’s one Old Testament image everyone knows, it’s the parting of the Red Sea. And when shooting that scene in Exodus: Gods and Kings (in theaters Dec. 12), director Ridley Scott knew that he want to treat the incident as realistically as possible. “You can’t just do a a giant parting, with walls of water trembling while people ride between them,” says Scott, who remembers scoffing at biblical epics from his boyhood like 1956’s The Ten Commandments. “I didn’t believe it then, when I was just a kid sitting in the third row. I remember that feeling, and thought that I’d better come up with a more scientific or natural explanation.”

He’s a talented filmmaker with some great movies to his credit, like Blade Runner and Gladiator, but people aren’t going to be fleeced to the tune of $10 a ticket to see Ridley Scott the atheist’s take on the Bible. They want to see the Bible.

What Scott has managed to do is strip the miraculous from the Torah’s central narrative: the enslavement of Israel in Egypt and their rescue by God.

When Moses learns his true identity, he is reluctant to play the role of savior, and he finds a comfortable home in a remote village, where he marries and has a son. But his destiny calls when he comes upon the famous burning bush and is approached by God to lead his people out of slavery. Here is the film’s most controversial choice, for God appears to Moses as a fierce child. Although this may offend some devout viewers, it’s actually far more interesting than the booming offscreen voice that DeMille used in his version of the story. This divine child seems angry and vengeful rather than a benign Buddha figure, but one could argue that this is in keeping with the Old Testament God of wrath.

“More interesting” and more confusing. As long as we’re making stuff up, why include the burning bush in the movie at all? If God speaks through a child, it renders the phenomenon of the bush irrelevant.

The film hits its peak in the sequence recounting the ten plagues. The savage crocodiles were not in the Old Testament, but as they attack humans as well as fish, they turn the Nile blood red, which is at least an ingenious explanation of how the river might have turned to blood. Frogs, boils and locusts are truer to the text and are rendered in luscious visual detail.

Sounds like a plague of crocodiles, which would be fine if the Bible said there was a lot of blood in the water because many fish and people bled out. But the text says the water turned to blood and then the fish died (Exodus 7:20-21). Even water in vessels turned to blood. There was no water for irrigation, nor water to drink for 7 days.

The Nile flows at a rate of 100,000 cubic feet per second, or 750,000 gallons per second. This means 600,000 people—and/or however many fish—would have had to be bled every second for the Nile to continue to flow. For 7 days. Crocodiles is a more “ingenious” explanation for the first plague than an act of God?

The climactic chase to the Red Sea is equally spectacular. Although The Ten Commandments won the Oscar for its visual effects, the parting of the Red Sea in DeMille’s film was laughably tacky. Scott comes up with a somewhat more credible portrayal of how the Israelites managed to cross the sea before a monumental storm drowned the Egyptians.

What’s tacky is relying heavily on computer-generated graphics to deliver the thrills, a tack that ruined Star Wars: Episodes 1, 2, and 3. If the parting of the sea is a purely natural coincidence, not divinely ordered, what investment does the viewer have in the fate of God’s chosen people, for whom said miracles were orchestrated to bring them out of Egypt? From a storytelling perspective, it diminishes the role of Moses, who was the mediator between God and Israel. Much of the criticism of Christian Bale’s performance in the lead role is his lack of conviction and motivation.

I’m not stepping out on a limb in saying Exodus will be forgotten in 10 years, and The Ten Commandments will still be playing on TV every year on Easter weekend. It is the more faithful adaptation in its reverence for God.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

“Fixing” the family

“The destiny of humanity passes through the family.” –Pope John Paul II

At Public Discourse, Rachel Sheffield looks at the brokenness of said family and liberals’ quixotic plan to “fix” it with sterilization. That it happens to further the corporeal license the sexual revolution gave us is mere coincidence, I’m sure.

[Isabel] Sawhill believes that “we may have reached a tipping point” of unwed births. Now “something must take [marriage’s] place.” She proposes replacing the norm of married parenting with a new norm: waiting to have a baby until you are “ready.”

“Social norms that used to stigmatize unwed parenting now need to stigmatize unplanned parenting,” she writes. The way to accomplish planned parenting is by disconnecting sex from childbearing, to “change the default from having children to not having children until you and your partner want them and are both ready to be parents.” She posits that the disconnection of sex from childbearing can be accomplished through “new low-maintenance and long-acting forms of birth control.” These types of birth control require people to “opt-in” to parenting (for example, by having a doctor remove an intrauterine device), rather than “opt out” (by remembering to take a daily birth control pill).

No doubt a doctor paid for by Obamacare, administering the state’s requirements for couples wanting to have children. This would be like the one-child child policy, in which Chinese couples “apply” to the Communist government to have a second child. In this American liberal’s vision it’s worse: You need permission for the first child as well.

Sheffield continues:

But “planned parenthood” is a poor replacement for marriage. Sawhill’s plan to promote long-acting birth control fails to address the core problem of unwed births: the breakdown of relationships between men and women in lower-income and working-class America. Those in the higher income portions of the population continue to participate in marriage at high rates and to reap its benefits. Officially lowering the bar for the other two-thirds of America would put more people at risk for the consequences of family breakdown.

As David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values wrote recently in response to Sawhill, “abandoning marriage as a social standard will do nothing to address the actual problems caused by the weakening of marriage. ... An abundance of evidence tells us that marriage matters, whether we say so or not.” He also notes, “Individual responsibility doesn’t begin and end with the individual—it also depends for its success on social institutions that encourage and guide it.”

Marriage provides stability unlike that of any other human relationship. Marriage connects parents, particularly fathers, to their children. One major reason children in married-parent homes are so much less likely to be poor—80 percent less likely—is because the father and his income are connected to the child.

And marriage provides more than money. Children raised by their married, biological parents are more likely to thrive and to avoid behaviors that would hinder their ability to succeed. Children from married-parent homes do better academically, and are less likely to go to prison or participate in negative behaviors like early sexual activity. Other family forms like cohabitation don’t deliver the same benefits.

Sawhill’s strategy leaves all responsibility on the woman. It says a woman can have a baby when she is “ready,” but it says nothing to a man about making a lifelong commitment to that woman and that baby. It also perpetuates a culture of anything-goes sexuality that contributes to poorer marital quality.

George Akerlof and Janet L. Yellen wrote in 1996 for the Brookings Institution about how the proliferation of the birth control pill facilitated the lowering of the expectation that a man should marry a woman if she became pregnant. They explained:

By making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father.

Many men have changed their attitudes regarding the responsibility for unplanned pregnancies. As one contributor to the Internet wrote recently to the Dads’ Rights Newsgroup, “Since the decision to have the child is solely up to the mother, I don’t see how both parents have responsibility to that child.”

It is doubtful that promoting the newest version of birth control would somehow reconnect fathers to their children. Really, the problem is not that there hasn’t been enough focus on birth control, but that there hasn’t been enough focus on marriage.

But marriage is a binding of flesh, a constricting of liberty in its modern interpretation. That anyone could find such permanent sexual arrangement desirable!

This is how sterilization will be sold to men: “You don’t want her to make you a father the rest of your life, do you?” This is how sterilization will be sold to women: “You don’t have to put off your career. Freeze your eggs. You can have it all.”

“Egg freezing allows women more freedom to have a baby later” is the headline:

Dr. Retzloff says egg freezing can literally allow a woman to ‘have it all.’ He says when the woman gets older and has made her professional reputation, she can then decide to have the children.

“The egg is typically fertilized in the laboratory with her partner’s semen, and then that is inserted into the uterus,” he said.

Assuming the partner is male. If not, the lesbians require equal access to male gametes.

Dr. Retzloff says the process of egg freezing to put off childbirth for professional reasons is relatively new, but women who have suffered from certain types of cancer, and undergoing cancer treatment which effects fertility, have engaged in egg freezing for a decade or more, and he says the babies are born without complications, and the process proceeds just like standard conception and childbirth.

“Her health and her ability to carry a child can easily be maintained easily into her fifties,” he said.

Some large companies, including Apple and Facebook, anxious not to lose key employees to maternity leave during their most productive years, have actually held ‘egg freezing parties’ to familiarize women with the process. Many include the expensive process in their company health insurance plans.

He says women no longer have to make choices based solely on their biology; a choice men in the work place have never had to make.

No, no man ever left a job because he couldn’t physically do it. The bigger the lie, the more faithfully people pledge themselves to it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Give thanks

When you see your loved ones’ faces
And rejoice in their warm embraces
Thank the Lord who blessed you so
Whose saving gift our lives graces
To give to each other and grow
Change to love flesh may undergo

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Barkley’s leash

Barkley was a good dog who got in trouble more often than he should. He trampled the garden and chewed on the fence posts. He meant no harm but sometimes his puppy nature got the best of him and he unintentionally made trouble for his master.

One morning Barkley’s master drove a peg into the middle of the yard and slipped a leash over it. He hooked the leash to Barkley’s collar. “Now, Barkley, you’ve left me no choice. I’ve done this so you won’t get into trouble while I’m gone. You’ll only be able to go as far as this leash allows. I’ll check in on you tonight.”

The master left. Barkley was sad. The great, big yard seemed to beckon to him, taunting him. He stretched the leash as far as it would go and lay motionless in the grass, watching the birds hop across the lawn out of his reach.

“What’s the matter, Barkley?” one bird asked.

“My master has tied me to this peg, and I can’t roam free in the yard like I used to,” he moaned.

“That’s because you got into trouble,” the bird said. “You trampled your master’s garden and chewed up his fence posts. You did wrong in your master’s eyes.”

Barkley rolled onto his back and howled at the sky. “I’m so bored. What am I going to do?”

“Why don’t you roll that ball around?” the bird suggested.

Barkley’s head whipped around. Sure enough, a bright green ball sat at the base of the master’s house, just within his reach. He pounced on the ball and rolled it from one end of his circle to the next. He rolled it every which way he could in that small space within the leash’s range, knocking aside his food dish and water dish, scattering their contents into the grass. The water was absorbed into the ground, and the pieces of food fell deep into the grass out of sight.

When Barkley started to get hungry, he regretted scattering his food in the grass. He looked up and saw the bird he had been talking to picking bugs out of the ground with its beak. Barkley decided if the birds could do it, he could do it, too. He dug a hole until he seized a fat, juicy grub in his teeth. It was delicious, but it upset his stomach.

“Silly dog, that’s bird food,” the bird laughed at him mockingly. “And now look, you’ve rolled the ball too far and you can’t play with it anymore.”

The bird was right. In his excitement, Barkley had rolled the ball beyond the length of his leash. The ball was a foot away, but it may as well have been in the next-door neighbor’s yard. He pulled on that leash until his neck hurt. Hard as he pulled, the leash would not stretch, and the peg he was anchored to would not budge.

Barkley whimpered. He was in an even worse spot than before. Now he had a belly ache and he had no toys to play with. “I hate this leash!” he proclaimed. “I wish I was rid of it forever!” He futilely tried to chew through the leash.

“Is it the leash’s fault your belly aches?” the bird chastised. “Is it the leash’s fault you rolled the ball too far?”

For once, Barkley ignored the bird. With nothing better to do, he circled around the peg, drew his paws underneath him, and fell asleep.

When he awoke it was past midday. The sun had crossed the sky and now bathed the whole yard in warm light. Barkley’s belly felt better, but he was still hungry. And he still had no toys to play with.

“At least that annoying bird is gone,” Barkley thought. “I’ve had nothing but trouble since he came around!”

He got up and paced in circles, twisting his leash around the peg as he sniffed around to bide the time. In the bright afternoon light he could see an unusual amount of detail in the blades of grass. He noticed how large they were when he got up close to them. They towered above the end of his nose. He watched the ants’ slow progress crawling over them. When Barkley considered how many blades of grass were within his reach, how many little things there were to explore, the leash didn’t seem so bad.

He noticed something else. Where he stood his paws sank deeper into the grass than in other spots in the yard. He had stepped into a little depression. The ground here was softer because it retained groundwater better. Barkley prodded with his paw, feeling the slight variations of softness and elevation in the dirt beneath the grass. Forgetting the leash completely, he flipped over on his back, enjoying the sensation of the grass and the dirt on his coat of fur.

Barkley passed the whole afternoon like this without even noticing the time.

In the evening, the master came out to see how Barkley was doing. He grinned at the puppy rolling around in the grass. “Barkley!” he called. Barkley rolled onto his belly and greeted his master with a bark.

“I see you dug a hole...but it’s just one hole. Not bad, Barkley. Good boy.” Barkley’s tail wagged at the compliment.

The master slipped the leash off Barkley’s collar and watched, expecting the dog to bolt to enjoy his restored freedom. But Barkley remained where he was, thankful for the small plot of ground around the peg.

The master reached under Barkley’s chin to scratch him affectionately. “Good boy.”

Related: “Snakebitten.”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Odds and ends 11/20/2014

“If it’s okay to force a child into existence because it’s so wanted, then why is it not okay to force a child out of existence because it is so unwanted?” –Alana S. Newman

Rod Dreher recalls how he lost a liberal friend over his choice to homeschool his kids:

When she found out that we planned to homeschool, she launched into a tirade about how unchristian we were for doing so. She didn’t listen to anything we had to say about our hopes for our child’s education, why we thought we could do better by him, or anything. To be sure, our reasons may have been mistaken, but she didn’t address them. She just went into hysterics — literally, she started crying — about what bad people we were to turn our back on Diversity. It was an entirely emotional reaction. By considering homeschooling, we had turned our back on the Community of the Righteous. I expected people to make rational cases against homeschooling, but I wasn’t prepared for that reaction.

Liberals hate homeschooling. It’s as in-your-face an assertion of one’s natural rights as parents there is. When you homeschool, you blaspheme the progressive obligation to reeducation.


It’s damnesty if you do, damnesty if you don’t.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that Obama “is very focused on” immigration and that Republicans can do only one thing to stop him.

“They can allow that common-sense, bipartisan bill from the Senate to come to the floor of the House of Representatives,” he said. “And if the House passes that Senate bill, the president won’t take executive action. Maybe the republic will be saved. Maybe the ego of the House Republicans will not be bruised. Certainly, the United States of America would benefit significantly from them taking that step.”

Too bad Mitch McConnell took a government shutdown off the table. Defunding the executive is the best way to deal with a tyrant.

It’s repugnant for the press secretary to suggest “the republic will be saved” by abdicating national sovereignty. He exemplifies the elitist coterie of Machiavellians in government who sneaked in with public support to undermine said public.


In Public Discourse, Ashton Ellis lays into suicide advocate Brittany Maynard:

Maynard’s story resonates. In a culture that idolizes youth and beauty, her terminal diagnosis is an act of injustice in search of a solution. Those who support assisted suicide frame the problem as one of law instead of medicine: we already have the necessary medicine to “help” those who want to commit suicide. Helping Maynard doesn’t mean taking an ice bucket challenge to fund a cure. It requires changing the law so she and others can beat a disease to death’s door.

It’s a clever framing tactic. Gone are any considerations about the impact legalizing assisted suicide would have on vulnerable populations such as the poor and the disabled. Not a word is mentioned of how normalizing assisted suicide would alter personal, familial, and professional expectations about when someone should choose death. The issue is boiled down to this: I’m dying of cancer. I want to die now. You have no right to refuse me.

In a society dominated by individualism and relativism, who needs to deliberate? No one wishes to endure a long and painful death, and if modern medicine can’t come to the rescue, then surely the law should permit a competent adult to end her life early—even if it means enlisting the aid of a doctor.

And yet, decriminalizing a doctor’s liability for helping a patient kill herself is not a top priority for the vast majority of Americans. That’s why a young, telegenic presence such as Maynard is needed to force assisted suicide onto the agenda. Her story is both tragic and attractive, making it an ideal frame of reference for groups pushing to expand the so-called “right to die.”


If I had known Prop 1 would “save lives,” I would have voted for it. Just kidding. It’s this kind of deception that makes me suspicious of high-dollar-value ballot measures.

“Tonight Texans from across the political spectrum came together to fight traffic, save lives, and create jobs. Texans have sent a strong message that they want reliable funding for our state’s highways. TxDOT now stands to receive an additional $1.7 billion for road and bridge projects in the next year without new taxes, tolls, or debt. However, passing Proposition 1 was just the first step in addressing the transportation funding shortfall in Texas. We look forward to continue working with our coalition partners as we fight for the additional funding for transportation that will move Texas forward.” – Scott Haywood, President of Move Texas Forward

If we’re not careful, Texas will be the next Virginia: purple and mired in road construction and cronyism.


This line from Amy Nicholson’s Mockingjay reviews sums up my dissatisfaction with the Hunger Games trilogy:

The film’s fixation on narrow-minded Katniss means we still aren’t given a chance onscreen to explore Collins’ elaborate world.

The events of the story are too big and too interesting to tell from the first person lens of a secondary character.


A schoolteacher breastfeeds in class. Cue hyper-feminist hamster spin:

One of the students in Poyen snapped a picture of the breastfeeding teacher and posted the image to Facebook, prompting a lively online discussion about the appropriateness of bringing the child to class and breast feeding in public.

“Honestly I don’t see why breastfeeding there would be a separate issue in any way, seeing how Arkansas law allows her to breastfeed anywhere she’s allowed to be. What’s the worst that can happen, your teenagers learn what breasts were truly made for in a completely innocent manner?” Stephanie Maldonado posted to Facebook.

This breed is hysterical and aggressive. It’s best to avoid them in large numbers.


Entertaining tweets:

Freedom forever!


Winning souls, this is not (hat tip Dreher):

LGBT and ally Catholics appeared at Pride festivities around the world this month, visible signs of Pope Francis’ desire for a more merciful and welcoming Church. Catholic parishes, schools and institutions joyfully celebrated in Boston’s Pride parade proclaiming the peaceful message of the Holy Father.

In Boston contingents from St. Anthony Shrine and Ministry Center were present during the city’s June 14th Pride festival. For their part, the Franciscan friars from St. Anthony’s Shrine hoisted a banner with the pope’s famous five words that have initiated a change in the way the Church is looked at: “Who am I to judge?”. The banner as well as the shirts of the Shrine’s LGBT Spirituality group and the Parents and Family Support Group wore, were equally expressed in the rainbow colors.

The friars moved through the crowds of thousands on the plaza distributing 2000 buttons and stickers with the same message. We ran out of our supply merely half-way through the day. People were exuberant to wear the buttons. We heard from most of the participants in the crowd, “Thank God you are here!” “It’s the Franciscans, how wonderful!”


Adam Gurri writes a fantastic article in the Federalist about the three liberties:

The narrative of federalism is the liberty of communities from central authorities. It is the liberty of Virginia to be different from California, but also the liberty of Fairfax, Virginia to be different from Roanoke, Virginia. It is the liberty of the Amish to operate under a local governance structure radically different from their neighbors. Federalism is at its heart a liberty of decentralization and variation, and for this reason libertarians have often embraced it as part of the larger narrative of liberty. But it has problems, which will become clearer when examined from the perspective of the other two narratives.

The narrative of property is the one most familiar to libertarians, and closest to their hearts. Unlike the previous narrative, this one is focused not on communities but on individuals. Communities have only a vague relationship to a property owner, if the thought of connecting the two occurs at all. If anything, the community is invoked as a vehicle of prejudices and interests which might be used to restrict the scope of ownership. Ownership itself is conceived purely as a right, often owing its origin to the ownership of one’s own body—although theories and stories of how property becomes legitimate are legion. For the most part, in its purest and most modern form, this right is not accompanied with a responsibility. If people have responsibilities, that’s conceived of as a totally separate story—a different branch of moral philosophy having nothing to do with the existence and sanctity of property rights.

If the narrative of property is the one libertarians tend to be the most comfortable with, the last one—the narrative of liberation—is the one that makes them the most uncomfortable. Like property, its focus is also on the individual. Unlike property, these stories cast community in a pivotal role—the role of oppressor, dead weight, or barrier. Under the liberation framework, individuals are liberated from something—superstition, prejudice, poverty, even from family ties or marriage. They are free not only to sell their property or form a community according to their own values, but to hold themselves to no one’s standards but their own. In practice, there are always specific standards either in the background or explicitly. Science is the great liberator of minds over religion and superstition. Policy provides just men an avenue for liberating the poor from their poverty. In law, liberation is embodied in anti-discrimination, affirmative action, and welfare of all stripes. Although libertarians are often intellectually hostile to this narrative and its policy prescriptions, they tend to be culturally much more at ease with its central stories than might be obvious at first glance.


I’m getting married January 17. I have no idea what God has in store for me, for us, two years down the road or twenty. That kind of certainy just doesn’t exist. No one is ever totally ready to take that plunge.

Nathaniel Peters channels the late Father Richard John Neuhaus:

Fr. Neuhaus notes that many young people approach marriage wanting to work it all out before they enter. They have a checklist of characteristics they think are essential in a spouse, and they want to get all the ducks in their own lives in a row before they take the plunge. As much as there is a place for prudence and consideration, however, we cannot live life by a checklist. Rather, Fr. Neuhaus reminds us, we must live in faith-based courage. We must have the courage to look at our own lives, messy and riddled with sin as they are, and commit ourselves to the loving care and providence of God. Courage, Neuhaus says, is the form that faith takes in the midst of anxiety, and we must look our anxiety in the face, make “the great ‘nonetheless,’” and cast off into the deep.

We can do this, Fr. Neuhaus argues, because marriage is God’s project before it’s our project. We do not create it out of whole cloth. Rather it is an institution, “the gift God has given for the right ordering of human loves in abiding fidelity to the gift of life and openness to the gift of new life.” Those who ask themselves whether they are prepared to embark on the adventure the Church proposes should freely admit that they are not prepared for it—but that’s okay, because it is not their problem. They are responding to an invitation to the Lord that requires wise discernment, yes, but that remains the Lord’s invitation.

Invitations require decisions. To decide, Fr. Neuhaus liked to say, comes from the Latin word decidere , to cut off. It means to say yes to something, and in so doing to say no to others. We are frequently afraid to decide because we might make the wrong decision, but we must make that great “nonetheless” nonetheless.


At the American Conservative, Sheldon Richman looks at the corporatist banking system:

Greater net worth is not the only way the rich differ from the rest of us—at least not in a corporatist economy. More important is influence and access to power, the ability to subordinate regular people to larger-than-human-scale organizations, political and corporate, beyond their control.

To be sure, money can buy that access, but only in certain institutional settings. In a society where state and economy were separate (assuming that’s even conceptually possible), or better yet in a stateless society, wealth would not pose the sort of threat it poses in our corporatist (as opposed to a decentralized free-market) system.

Adam Smith famously wrote in The Wealth of Nations that “[p]eople of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” Much less famously, he continued: “It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.”

The fact is, in the corporate state government indeed facilitates “conspiracies” against the public that could not otherwise take place. What’s more, because of this facilitation, it is reasonable to think the disparity in incomes that naturally arises by virtue of differences among human beings is dramatically exaggerated. We can identify several sources of this unnatural wealth accumulation.

A primary source is America’s financial system, which since 1914 has revolved around the government-sponsored central banking cartel, the Federal Reserve. To understand this, it must first be noted that in an advanced market economy with a well-developed division of labor, the capital market becomes the “locus for entrepreneurial decision-making,” as Walter E. Grinder and John Hagel III, writing within the perspective of the Austrian school of economics, put it in their 1977 paper, “Toward a Theory of State Capitalism: Ultimate Decision-Making and Class Structure.”

Grinder and Hagel, emphasizing the crucial role of entrepreneurship in discovering and disseminating knowledge and coordinating diverse production and consumption plans, write: “The evolution of market economies ... suggests that entrepreneurial activity may become increasingly concentrated within the capital market as the functional specialization of the economy becomes more pronounced.”

That sounds ominous, but as long as the market is free of government interference, this “concentration” poses no threat. “None of this analysis should be construed as postulating an insidious process of monopolization of decision-making within the non-state market system,” they write.

Market factors [that is, free and open competition] preclude the possibility that entrepreneurial decision-making could ever be monopolized by financial institutions. ... The decision-making within the capital market operates within the severe constraints imposed by the competitive market process and these constraints ensure that the decision-making process contributes to the optimum allocation of economic resources within the system.

All bets are off, however, when government intervenes. Then the central role of the banking system in an advanced economy is not only magnified but transformed through its “insulation ... from the countervailing competitive pressures inherent in a free market.” Only government can erect barriers to competitive entry and provide other advantages to special interests that are unattainable in the marketplace.


Ryan Landry analyzes a National Geographic article about dying Norwegian fishing villages. Excerpt:

The writer doesn’t mention it, but whaling and fishing are heavily male industries, and heavily location-dependent. You can build an office building just about anywhere, but to fish, you have to be where the fish are. Look at the pictures at the end of the article. Check out the photo of the girl mentioned at the end going off to study and live in the big city and maybe retire back home when she’s older. She’s a cute girl. She’s going to follow her sisters, who went off to become lawyers and doctors. Over/under on total children by all three women at 1.5? I’ll take the under.

If the young women of an area are running away, the guys will leave as well. It’s like local bars. You get girls to show up, which then brings in the guys. Young men aren’t going to stick around for a rough trade, which yields good money, if there are few if any cute girls to fool around and form families with in proper ratios. Norway’s fertility is 1.77. Marriage is dying, too. The youths must be finding fulfillment in their self actualization and big city jobs. Wrong again.

The whales are there. The fish are there. The people aren’t. The article does rightly square some blame on larger fishing business firms and the people themselves saying no, but it never gets down to why they’re saying no. The small-town fishing life is not enough anymore—but the lives in larger cities are empty! Family breakdown and social atomization are serious problems even in healthy and wealthy Norway. Even the small-town folk of northern Norway are susceptible to the call of narcissistic pleasure, the call that pulls them away from a way of life far older and far greater than themselves. Whaling and fishing worked for them for centuries—but not anymore. Norway withstood busts, depressions, wars, and social upheaval, but it was no match for progressivism.


The Texas Senate is considering a bill similar to what got Arizona in trouble earlier this year.

A measure introduced by State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) which is designed to prevent businesses from being punished for not providing their goods and services to gay couples is raising eyebrows with civil rights groups, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.

Senate Joint Resolution 10, which is a constitutional amendment and would require a vote of the people, says ‘government may not burden an individuals or a religious organization’s freedom of religion or right to act of refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.’

Evangelical Christians have long chafed at ‘human rights commissions’ which take it upon themselves to punish, for example, a bakery which refused to provide a wedding cake for a gay couple.

These fights are doomed to fail if deviant behavior falls under the equal protection clause, which is the direction we’re headed in. Naturally the gay mafia is hysterical:

Opponents say Campbell’s bill say the impact of the measure would be amazing. Not only could companies refuse to provide services to Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, or Jews, and cite a ‘sincerely held religious belief,’ but people could use the law to say their ‘sincerely held religious belief’ allows them to speed on the highway, harm other people, and even to commit violent crimes.

Which is why this should be about property rights. That would mean dissing the precious 1964 Civil Rights Act, something Rand Paul is too pusillanimous to do anymore.


When I lived in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the public schools put Muslim holidays on the school calendar because they didn’t have the spine to tell them to shove it and adapt to the home culture. Neighboring Montgomery County is taking a different approach:

Starting next year, the names of religious holidays like Christmas and Yom Kippur will no longer appear on the school calendar in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Instead of Christmas break, students will have winter break. And when Yom Kippur rolls around, the calendar will simply state that there will be no school.

This new calendar won’t affect the days students have off, and they’ll still be out of class on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Christmas and Easter weekend. It’s just that the names of religious holidays won’t appear on the school calendar.

The county’s Board of Education made this decision Tuesday, pointing out that schools don’t close for religious reasons but for secular ones, such as high absenteeism among students and teachers.

The decision also arrived amid a push from leaders in the Muslim community to see their faith’s holidays, such as Eid al-Adha, get the same treatment from Montgomery County schools as the Christian and Jewish observances.

There appears to be causation here.

I take the Solzhenitsyn view. Just because we beat the Communists doesn’t mean our values are good, only better. American culture is an amoral, materialist, hedonist, self-worshiping, post-Christian absurdity. It is fetid and repulsive. I support the Muslims in their rejection.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

QE is a bull’s best friend

Japan recedes, the New York Times reports—during summer, no less!

Japan’s economy unexpectedly fell into recession in the third quarter, a painful slump that called into question efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pull the country out of nearly two decades of deflation.

The second consecutive quarterly decline in gross domestic product could upend Japan’s political landscape. Mr. Abe is considering dissolving Parliament and calling fresh elections, people close to him say, and Monday’s economic report is seen as critical to his decision, which is widely expected to come this week.

Rising sales taxes have been blamed for triggering the downturn by deterring consumer spending, and with Japan having now slipped into a technical recession, the chances that Mr. Abe will seek a new mandate from voters to alter the government’s tax program appear to have increased significantly.

The preliminary economic report, issued by the Cabinet Office, showed that gross domestic product fell at an annualized pace of 1.6 percent in the quarter through September. That added to the previous quarter’s much larger decline, which the government now puts at 7.3 percent, a slightly worse figure than in its last estimate of 7.1 percent.

The surprise recession underscores the difficulties faced by Mr. Abe, who won power two years ago on a pledge to reinvigorate the economy and end his country’s long streak of wage and consumer-price declines. His agenda, dubbed Abenomics, has focused largely on stimulus measures, in particular an expanded program of government bond purchases by the central bank.

Surprising to whom? Japan has been engaged in this kind of behavior for 20 years. The results were predictable: a bottomless market bubble, low money velocity resulting in near-deflation, and stagnant wage growth. Reaping temporary “growth” spikes (see 2013) through fascist financialization and currency devaluation is a political move designed to hide the fundamental flaws of demand-side economics. Since 1992, Japan’s economy has grown at a 0.85 percent annual rate.

(At least from an ecological perspective, Japan’s demographic death spiral makes sense. There would have been a revolution by now if they were procreating above the 2.1 children per woman replacement rate. The woeful economy appears to be bountiful enough to feed the incredibly shrinking country.)

Japanese stocks rose on the announcement of an official recession Monday. This is opposite world, after all. In opposite world bad economic news assures more money printing to support the bull market. Read wealth manager Hugh Hendry tell his investors about how he would be remiss if he didn’t play along with this new anti-reality:

My premise hasn’t really changed since I published my paper explaining why I had become more constructive towards risk assets this time last year. That is to say, the structural deficiency of global demand continues to radicalize the central banking community. I believe they are terrified: the system is so leveraged and vulnerable to potentially systemic price reversals that the monetary authorities find themselves beholden to long only investors and obliged to support asset prices.

...Investors are perhaps misconstruing rising equity prices as a traditional bull market spurred on by revenue and earnings growth, and becoming fearful of a reversal, when instead the persistent upwards drift in stock markets is more a reflection of the steady erosion of the soundness of the global monetary system and therefore the rise in stock prices is something that is likely to prevail for some time. There is more to it of course, as I will attempt to explain, but not much.

This should be a great time to be a macro manager. It is almost without precedent: the world’s monetary authorities are targeting higher risk asset prices as a policy response to restoke economic demand. Whether you agree with such a policy is irrelevant. You need to own stocks. And yet, remarkably, the most contentious thing you can say in the macro world today is “I’m bullish”.

Because the economic fundamentals read disaster. The natural instinct is to cut and run. But Keynesian central bankers continue to blow the bubble up. So, while people with jobs wary of what the near future holds in store get hit with tepid growth and low savings rates, institutional investors with disposable income let it ride in a rigged market. Who knew liberals had perfected the recipe for inequality?

The difference between the United States’ quantitative easing and Japan’s quantitative easing is roughly 3 years and a factor of eight. Now would be a good time for reporters to dust off the “Winter chills economic growth” template.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Obamacare’s hubris and deception

At the National Interest, W. James Antle III analyzes the uncomfortable truth behind technocrat Jonathan Gruber’s deception:

Gruber—again, not once, but twice—publicly endorsed the view that Obamacare was designed in this way to encourage states to set up their own exchanges. Since many states did not, a large number of Americans obtained their coverage through the federally run HealthCare.gov. The law could fall apart if these people don’t receive taxpayer subsidies.

Whatever you think about the intelligence of the average voter or the funding mechanisms for Obamacare, Gruber is clearly right about one thing.

“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes,” Gruber admitted in 2013. Does any serious person really contest that this is true? Fortunately for Obamacare partisans, that did not stop the Supreme Court from ruling that the individual mandate was permissible under Congress’ taxing power, since any other constitutional justification was a stretch.

“In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which explicitly said that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed,” Gruber added. “You can’t do it politically, you just literally cannot do it.”

Is the man wrong about this, either? Sure, there was an abstract discussion about the need for the young and healthy to participate. That’s rather different than admitting the law would have winners and losers.

Gruber is an MIT professor. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard, the president’s alma mater. Do they not teach about hubris in the Ivies? More tyranny comes out of those hallowed halls than anywhere else.

The headline of Antle’s piece is deceiving. Gruber’s gaffe is embarrassing, sure, but it’s not going to hinder Leviathan, which knows not shame. It’s not going to cause progressives to abandon their idol. If anything, now that they’re intentions have been exposed, they’ll cling to it like it’s their last breath.

Only indomitable political will can defund Obamacare, the kind Republicans have been unable to wield with reckless glee that makes enemies wet their pants, like Éomer here in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. One wonders why. Could it be the authoritarian Gruber got his start under the ostensibly conservative 2012 Republican presidential nominee? Terry Hurlbut writes:

Fox News Channel has a problem, too. They hammer Prof. Gruber, and they hammer Barack Obama. But what of Mitt Romney? After all, Romney hired Gruber, did he not?

Imagine how the Election of 2012 might have played out, had Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) known about the Noblis speech and campaigned on it. Would Republican voters still have given Romney enough delegates to nominate him for President? Or might they have nominated someone else, perhaps even Rep. Paul himself?

And consider this: Gruber said, as early as the start of primary season in 2012, that Romney has very dirty hands. Gruber even said, “Candidate Romney won’t tell you this today.” Of course he wouldn’t.

...

And where is now the case for the Republican establishment? Do they not have at least as much guilt as does Obama? Did not Mitt Romney start the process of that “incremental universalism” of which Gruber also speaks?

Yes. As if Romney’s heinous debate performances and neoliberalism weren’t disqualifying enough, Gruber’s gaffe should end the foolish talk of him running for president yet again. A vote for Romney is a vote for a third term for Gruber.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Procreation, sterilization

As Ryan T. Anderson praises the 6th Circuit Court, it’s important to remember the question before the court is not: “Is same-sex marriage permissible?” It’s: “Is same-sex marriage obligatory?” The court’s response in the negative comes from a liberal frame of mind. Anderson writes:

So why do states define marriage as a male-female union? The court provides two answers.

First, the court notes the unique problems of male-female sexual unions and the profound social purpose of marriage: “governments got into the business of defining marriage, and remain in the business of defining marriage, not to regulate love but to regulate sex, most especially the intended and unintended effects of male-female intercourse.”

Imagine a society without marriage. It does not take long to envision problems that might result from an absence of rules about how to handle the natural effects of male-female intercourse: children. May men and women follow their procreative urges wherever they take them? Who is responsible for the children that result? How many mates may an individual have? How does one decide which set of mates is responsible for which set of children? That we rarely think about these questions nowadays shows only how far we have come and how relatively stable our society is, not that States have no explanation for creating such rules in the first place.

Indeed, the court concludes that “one can well appreciate why the citizenry would think that a reasonable first concern of any society is the need to regulate male-female relationships and the unique procreative possibilities of them.” While people don’t “need the government’s encouragement to have sex” or “to propagate the species,” they “may well need the government’s encouragement to create and maintain stable relationships within which children may flourish.”

And this need for marriage policy is based on human nature: “It is not society’s laws or for that matter any one religion’s laws, but nature’s laws (that men and women complement each other biologically), that created the policy imperative.”

Marriage policy provides an “incentive for two people who procreate together to stay together for purposes of rearing offspring.”

That’s assuming the state is not interested in raising children. More on that later.

Maybe the 6th Circuit Court’s ruling will impress Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy. Probably it won’t. Past foundations continue to be dug up to rebuild society anew on “modern” principles.

Right as he is, Anderson needs to give this fight up. We showed up too late to the fight over marriage. The battlefield was impossible to take from an enemy that had already dug in. You can reason with comically obtuse libertarian John Stossel until you’re blue in the face. At the end of the day, his side has already won and he doesn’t have to treat your opinion as equal to his.

The next landmark constitutional fight will be over parental rights. Melissa Harris-Perry of MSNBC prematurely showed her hand. The commercial eugenic state is coming to take over the reproductive process. It is preparing to radically redefine paternity and maternity in light of its spinning from whole cloth presumed material rights to contraception, abortion, and adoption. The longer Anderson wastes his breath on a lost cause, the more likely this next fight will be settled on another empty battlefield.

This is the most indicative article about the future of the sexual revolution I’ve read:

Sex could become purely recreational by 2050 with large numbers of babies in the Western world born through IVF, the professor who invented the contraceptive pill has claimed.

Prof Carl Djerassi, the Austrian-American chemist and author, said he believes that the Pill will become obsolete because men and women will choose to freeze their eggs and sperm when young before being sterilised.

He also claims it will end abortions, as no children will be unplanned or unwanted.

You can’t assure no child is “unplanned” without sterilizing the public. That is not a great leap of the imagination. If parents cannot be relied on to raise their children, and if they rely on rights secured by the state to avoid having children, they consent to whatever means the state provides to enable their consequence-free rutting.

Mass sterilization solves two problems for progressives:

  1. It ends the scourge of abandoned children they helped create by liberalizing marriage.

  2. It ends the “inequality” of natural parentage.

This is where we’re headed, as foretold in Brave New World: The right to kill unborn children and the right to have children—“planned” of course—add up to the large-scale, dehumanizing human reproduction farms featured in Aldous Huxley’s superior dystopian novel. Welcome to the machine.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Prof Djerassi said that advances in fertility treatment made it much safer for parents without fertility problems to consider IVF.

The progress will give rise to a ‘Manana generation’ who are safe in the knowledge that parenthood can be delayed without repercussions, he claims. They may even have healthier children because their eggs and sperm would be younger.

Why would they want children at all, when they have crafted a system that prioritizes perpetual adolescence? Someone will have to raise the next generation. If not enough adults step up, government will commandeer the whole process, from fertilization to driver’s license.

All of the preceding is nothing compared to this seminal quote from Djerassi:

“For them the separation between sex and reproduction will be 100 per cent.”

So they’ll be less human. The thwarting of Creation will be complete, if only in their heads.