Friday, January 31, 2014

Huckabee is right

When Charles Krauthammer sets out to debunk the “war on women,” why does he start with an attack on the conservative targets in that war? It sounds to me like a retreat, not a debunking.

What is it about women that causes leading Republicans to grow clumsy, if not stupid? When even savvy, fluent, attractively populist Mike Huckabee stumbles, you know you’ve got trouble. Having already thrown away eminently winnable Senate seats in Missouri and Indiana because of moronic talk about rape, the GOP might have learned. You’d think.

Huckabee wasn’t quite as egregious, just puzzling and a bit weird. Trying to make a point about Obamacare mandating free contraceptives, he inexplicably began speculating that the reason behind the freebie was the Democrats’ belief that women need the federal government to protect them from their own libidos.

Bizarre. I can think of no Democrat who has ever said that, nor any liberal who even thinks that. Such a theory, when offered by a conservative, is quite unfortunately self-revealing.

Revealing of special insight into the Democrats’ condescension! Calling opponents of subsidized wantoness a “war on women” presumes the public’s inability to think of themselves as more than rutting hedonists.

In light of the narrative’s success, one must ask: Is the public unable to think of themselves as more than rutting hedonists? I don’t know. Maybe we’ve stewed so long in the kettle of secular liberalism that we don’t know what it is to be human anymore.

Is there more to life than sex and death? Are there higher things, dare I say moral absolutes, to which we as a people ought to orient ourselves and strive? The misogynist Huckabee thinks so.

Liberals have a values-free approach. If rutting is your bag, by golly it’s your right to live that way, and it shouldn’t cost you a penny. The state exists to enable all lifestyles. After all, we’re born the way we are. It’s not like we have any choice in the matter.

Krauthammer’s approach, too, is values-free. His objection to the contraceptive mandate lies not on moral grounds, but on utilitarian grounds:

There’s a good policy question to be asked about the contraceptive mandate (even apart from its challenge to religious freedom). It’s about priorities. By what moral logic does the state provide one woman with co-pay-free contraceptives while denying the same subvention to another woman when she urgently needs antibiotics for her sick child?

This means, when the resources are available, when technology is far enough along to end fears of premature death by illness or deformation, then we can go about subsidizing contraceptives—with religious exemptions for the throwbacks and the bigots, of course. Krauthammer, a self-conscious atheist, doesn’t see anything wrong with that, which makes him a more natural prosecutor in the phony “war on women,” as he shows in the opening paragraphs of his piece, than a defender.

He poses the question about moral logic as a hypothetical, but it has an answer: Liberals value sexual freedom more than healing the sick. As Rod Dreher puts it:

For many secular liberals, sexual freedom and pleasure is the summum bonum of life, and must be privileged above all else, including religious liberty.

Ask why, and before you know it you’ll find yourself agreeing with Huckabee.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Don’t send your daughters to UConn

I took a liking to Scott Drew, men’s basketball coach at my alma mater, Baylor University, when an interviewer asked him what his expectations for the team were. His answer was surprising. He said (I paraphrase) he expected to mold good men, men of character, responsible and virtuous men. I thought at the time, If my son plays basketball, I want him to play for Scott Drew.

Drew took over the men’s basketball program at its lowest point in 2003, when a player was murdered and the coach hid NCAA rules violations by blaming them on the murdered player. At the time, Baylor needed a coach with character and humility to commit long-term to building the program up from scratch. In order to do that, he needed to establish trust with recruits and their parents. Believe it or not, athletes’ parents have a lot of say about where their kids go to school. They want to know, when considering sending their kids to Baylor, that their kids will be looked after, that the coach will treat their kids right.

Scott Drew was and is that coach. The turnaround he’s engineered at Baylor wouldn’t have been possible without earning people’s trust. Art Briles, Baylor’s football coach, has achieved a similar turnaround, but in his case the team he inherited was merely bad. By contrast, Scott Drew returned a disgraced program to viability through strong moral leadership. If he fails to prepare basketball players for success in the NBA, he will have at least molded good men for success in life.

Can the same be said for the women playing for Geno Auriemma, the uber-accomplished women’s basketball coach at UConn? You be the judge:

I don’t give a [expletive] about religion when it comes to sports. In fact, I think it’s stupid. I think everyone that goes on national television, and is asked why do you win, says ‘I want to thank God.’ Really? Like God gives a [expletive] that you made 18 jump shots. I have always had a problem with that [thinking]. I have a problem with people showing their religion in public. I have a real problem with that. And I don’t care what religion it is.

If you believe Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross cleared your path to eternal salvation and God authored the universe, in addition to putting you in a setting to perform and excel and be celebrated for your talent, the glory belongs to Him. “Thank you, Jesus,” should be the first words to come out of your mouth. Witness.

And it’s funny. When I was in high school, we prayed before every game. And we prayed after every game. That’s part of the school you are at, part the religious experience of going to a Catholic school. I get that. I did that. I was all in favor of it. And, if I coached at a Catholic high school right now, I’d be doing the same thing.

But ever since I left high school, and ever since I have been a head coach, I don’t pay any mind to that stuff. We don’t pray in the locker room. We don’t pray in the hotel room, pregame, or after a game. If you asked me the religion of my players, I would say I have no idea. I really don’t care. It’s none of my business.

I presume he doesn’t care about his players’ sexual preferences, either? Of course not. No one pays any mind to that stuff.

This tirade says more about how Auriemma looks at people than his (lack of?) faith. Even a non-believer could find it in himself to connect with his players on a non-basketball plane—you know, as women. How comforting it must be to those parents, knowing their daughters’ coach thinks of them as basketball players, first and only.

The secular powers reign supreme in New England. Don’t send your daughters to UConn.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Free Mark Steyn

Raw Story chronicles the falling out between Mark Steyn and National Review. It started to go wrong when Steyn took a bold stance in the Phil Robertson/gay mafia imbroglio in December. Steyn’s editor at the conservative monthly did not appreciate his incisive cultural thuggishness, airing criticisms that amounted to “do take a knife to a gun fight.”

Then the judge in the Michael Mann v. National Review defamation suit gave the government cheese addict Mann a break. The defendant, represented with Steyn, is getting skittish. They are probably thinking of ways to avoid further embarassment and legal fees. They don’t think they can win a libel case in which the supposed libel is neither malicious nor deliberately false. Mann is not a Nobel laureate. His famous hockey stick graph is a fraud. Mann and his colleagues routinely fudge data. And Mann silences dissenting scientists to keep the money train flowing.

Steyn, however, has retained his own counsel. He loves the mud. In 2008, he went the distance against the “human rights” regime in Canada, getting a complaint filed against him by the Canadian Islamic Congress dismissed. He forced his persecutors to reveal their totalitarian colors, and the backlash was glorious. Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, officating “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet,” was subsequently repealed.

In the grand scheme of things, Steyn is a nuclear-powered chihuahua nipping at the heels of Leviathan. His aggression, florid writing style, and relative unknownness make him an easy target for the well-funded inquisitors of politically correct dogma. The shariah lobby, courted by Canada’s multiculturalist ruling class, tried to silence his criticism of Islam and failed. Now the global warming/clean energy lobby, spearheaded by Mann, funded by big government to conduct studies and reach conclusions to justify bigger government, is getting its shot in.

For a relatively small fish like Steyn, the “prudent” response to such a naked assertion of power is to clam up and steer your energy towards state-approved projects. That’s what the more reputable National Review has done. Not only have they dismissed Steyn from providing daily web commentary on current events, but they have ceased covering the global warming hoax altogether. They have failed to heed Barry Goldwater, who said: “Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

The silence at National Review is deafening. Conservative icon William F. Buckley’s legacy entered freefall when the editors penned a 3,500-word apologetic for Republican collaborationists. Others date the decline to the sacking of John Derbyshire, still others to the soul-parlaying years of big-government Republican rule. There can be no doubt now: National Review is gone.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Towards greater unemployment

USA Today gives editorial space to Sam Pizzigati to advocate same-old, same-old:

A century ago, Americans faced an income and wealth distribution even more top-heavy than today’s. But Americans trimmed the super rich down to democratic size. Our forbears had the courage, in short, to confront concentrated wealth and power. Do we?

One test: Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez says our top marginal tax rate could hit 80% — double the current top rate — without negatively impacting anybody but the super rich. In the two decades after World War II, our top tax rate hovered around 90%.

You’d be surprised what you can get away with when you’re the last first-world economy left standing.

The ’50s were a different world, with a different economic incentive structure. In 2014, an 80 percent top tax rate would force the rich to sit on capital rather than risk it, reducing money’s velocity in the economy, prohibiting it from gravitating to producers.

Think of it this way: A millionaire wants to expand his business, so he hires a man to work for him for $40,000 per year. At an 80 percent top tax rate, he will have to squeeze $200,000 of value out of that worker just to get his money back. How many workers are willing, let alone able, to produce $200,000 of value for $40,000 in wages? Not many. At a 40 percent top tax rate, the worker needs only to produce $56,000 of value for his boss to break even.

Another test: Fast-food workers are pushing for a $15 hourly minimum wage. If the federal minimum had risen since the 1960s as fast as the incomes of the top 1%, that minimum today would exceed $22.

In a high-speed, knowledge-based economy, productivity gains at the top of the corporate ladder have an outsized impact on earnings. The right leadership and direction can make an eight-figure difference in a corporation’s performance, placing a high premium on executive pay. Such productivity gains are not reflected at the bottom of the corporate structure, for obvious reasons.

A $15 minimum wage would price roughly 50 million working Americans out of the labor market. Employers would have to hike prices or find ways to reduce costs, such as replacing people with machines or hiring from an underground labor market (aka “the shadows”). In the likely event the Federal Reserve floods cash into the system to stabilize employment, the dollar would plummet, erasing wage gains and then some.

It’s one of the worst ideas in the history of the Left’s bad ideas. Not surprisingly, Obama stumped on raising the federal minimum wage in last year’s State of the Union, from $7.25 per hour to $9.00. For liberals, that wasn’t enough. Fifteen dollars will not be enough. No amount of wage and price inflation will raise the standard of living of a large segment of the population.

Neither of Pizzigati’s policy proposals addresses the real problem: In a high-tax, high-regulatory business climate, the “little guy” doesn’t have the start-up capital to break through economic barriers. To address a problem, you have to first identify it. Liberals see the rich as the problem, not government.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Betas in the big tent

Proving the lie of big-tent Republicanism, amnesty supporters and marriage redefinitionists are leaving the party. The reason? They just can’t tolerate diversity.

“No matter how hard we tried, no matter how fast support grew, there were still anti-gay forces in the Republican Party. While I thought they would dissolve over time, the truth is they’re tolerated.” –Jimmy LaSalvia

“It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today.” –Pablo Pantoja

These pet-issue GOP defectors are the direct result of beta Republicans’ misguided outreach strategy. They parrot empty, facile language about uniting under a big, watered-down, amorphous tent. They enter partnership with single-issue heretics because they want their votes. But they forget that when you give a partner everything he wants, he will hate you for it.

Betas are instinctive providers. They give people what they want. They seek others’ approval, because deep down they know they’re not good enough. The courted, high on the beta’s affirmation, realizes the beta isn’t good enough, takes what she wants, and leaves him.

Alphas, on the other hand, don’t need approval. What people say they want often is not what they truly need. Alphas give people what they need, which in many cases is bitter medicine: shame for coming up short, and the challenge to strive to be better.

Liberals are masters of dishing out shame and throwing down the gauntlet when their targets come groveling to them. Unlike milquetoast, big-tent Republicans, liberals act like an exclusive club with standards one has to meet to become and stay a member. Foremost among those standards is a program of destructive ideals.

Dogma helps. Open-ended goals of equality and managed technological progress ensure devotees are enslaved for a lifetime. The liberal project never runs out of steam; there is simply too much of the world to be remade in man’s image.

Liberals often do fall short of their ideals. That’s the point. The cure is a dose of shame and, of course, more liberalism. Hey, nobody’s perfect. Take up the cross and carry on.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Putin vs. decadent West

With the Winter Olympics fast approaching, many eyes are on Russia, specifically President Vladimir Putin. The Olympic venue, famous among athletes for its liberated sexual atmosphere—or raucous sexcapades, depending on your point of view—provides the perfect foil for Putin to take his message of cultural authoritarianism worldwide.

Bill Keller of the New York Times writes:

Putin’s moves [against Ukraine] were not isolated events. They fit into a pattern of behavior over the past couple of years that deliberately distances Russia from the socially and culturally liberal West: laws giving official sanction to the terrorizing of gays and lesbians, the jailing of members of a punk protest group for offenses against the Russian Orthodox Church, the demonizing of Western-backed pro-democracy organizations as “foreign agents,” expansive new laws on treason, limits on foreign adoptions.

What’s going on is more complicated and more dangerous than just Putin flexing his political pecs. He is trying to draw the line against Europe, to deepen division on a continent that has twice in living memory been the birthplace of world wars. It seems clearer than ever that Putin is not just tweaking the West to rouse his base or nipping domestic opposition in the bud. He is also attempting to turn back 25 years of history.

I read that less as post-Cold War healing and more as post-Reagan liberal ascendance. Not to reject every development of the last 25 years, but it helps to render a verdict when a lifelong newspaper man like Keller, who’s lived in a liberal bubble all his life, regards the West’s current cultural miasma as the apotheosis of modern man. All of history until 25 years ago was a blight on history, so it goes.

Since his current presidential term began in 2012, Putin has felt increasingly that his overtures to the West were not met with due respect, that Russia was treated as a defeated nation, not an equal on the world stage. His humiliation and resentment have soured into an ideological antipathy that is not especially Soviet but is deeply Russian. His beef with the West is no longer just about political influence and economic advantage. It is, in his view, profoundly spiritual.

“Putin wants to make Russia into the traditional values capital of the world,” said Masha Gessen, author of a stinging Putin biography, an activist for gay and lesbian rights and a writer for the Latitudes blog on this paper’s website.

Gessen says that like it’s a bad thing.

No faction quite like the reactionary LGBT mafia strains the foundations of liberal society. They convince people of their innate perfection, spreading a gospel of narcissism and self idolatry. Putin’s censorship of gay propaganda illustrates the principle that there is no freedom in sin. It’s a principle echoed by the Founding Fathers: Cattle need a shepherd.

The rich and the materially well-off can afford social liberalism. Their money takes care of them. The weaned masses are not so invulnerable to corruption. They’re the ones who are going to build Russia back up, if it’s still around in 50 years.

A Russian people indifferent to sin isn’t part of that equation. Until they relearn to not give relief to the wages of sin and to not indulge in destructive habits, they will need “benevolent” dictators like Putin to lead them.

I want to make America into the traditional values capital of the world.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Odds and ends 1/25/2014

When Mitt Romney was preparing his concession speech on November 6, 2012, he released some pent-up frustration. Byron York of the Washington Examiner reports:

“I don’t think it is a time for soothing and everything’s fine,” said Romney. “I think this is a time for [saying], ‘This is really serious, guys. This is really serious.’”

“To get up and soothe is not my inclination,” an obviously anguished Romney continued. “I cannot believe that [Obama] is an aberration in the country. I believe we’re following the same path of every other great nation, which is we’re following greater government, tax rich people, promise more stuff to everybody, borrow until you go over a cliff. And I think we have a very high risk of reaching the tipping point sometime in the next five years. And the idea of saying ‘it’s just fine, don’t worry about it’—no, it’s really not.”

Too bad he didn’t say that during the campaign. That might have made the difference. People like it when you talk to them like adults.


Ramesh Ponnurru waxes on the paradigm’s Enlightenment roots:

[Thomas] Paine’s progressive version of liberalism championed the Enlightenment as a set of newly discovered principles for political life that needed only to be followed. [Edmund] Burke’s conservative version, on the other hand, thought liberty and equality were cultural achievements “built up over countless generations of social trial and error.”

For Paine, the discovery that all people by nature have equal rights meant that we no longer needed to learn from the political practices of the past. To defer to the alleged wisdom of our forebears would amount to letting the dead govern us as they had themselves. Each generation should make its own choices.

So should each individual. Paine’s thought often seems to evince a desire to free the individual from history, community and traditional religion. That desire eventually led him to advocate a mini welfare state that he thought would let liberated individuals flourish. He wanted to tax inheritances – the unequal past – to pay for it. Paine also vehemently denied that the basic political questions were complicated. So he thought there would be no need for political parties once enlightened principles had triumphed, or for checks and balances.

Burke agreed with none of this. It made no sense to him to think of the individual in isolation from his community and its history, as in a hypothetical “state of nature.” Each of us is defined not only by choices but also by obligations, many of them unchosen – notably our obligations to children, parents and siblings. Balancing liberty and order was an extremely precarious achievement. Trying to fix a society’s defects could threaten its stability, and abstract principles wouldn’t go very far in identifying a way forward. Hence party politics would never be transcended. There would always be disagreement about how to pursue the common good.


At Powerline, Scott Johnson delves into the technocracy/administrative state. First he quotes William Howard Taft’s eulogy of Chief Justice Edward White (d. 1921):

“The Interstate Commerce Commission was authorized to exercise powers the conferring of which by Congress would have been, perhaps, thought in the earlier years of the Republic to violate the rule that no legislative powers can be delegated. But the inevitable profess in exigencies of government and the utter inability of Congress to give the time and attention indispensable to the exercise of powers in detail forced the modification of the rule.”

...

The CFPB brings us the reductio ad absurdum of the administrative state. The legal structure around the CFPP is designed precisely to insulate it from political accountability. It is a design better suited for a government of unlimited tyrannical power than one of limited powers. One wonders if the Supreme Court will ever return to first principles or set some limits on how far removed the agencies can be from political accountability. That would be a beginning.

...

The theory of the administrative state, as one can deduce from Taft’s eulogy, is that the complexity of modern life called for (and legitimated) governance by experts. It is a theory fundamentally inconsistent with the theory of the Constitution.


“In terms of social values, libertarians are almost identical to liberals. Smoking pot and same-sex marriage both meet with big approval.” –Edward Luce

“Ultimately the affinity libertarians may share with progressives about gay marriage or drug and prostitution legalization is temporary because freedom and other core values are not important in and of themselves. They are a means to achieve something else.” –Marta H. Mossburg

Emily Miller of the Washington Times, known for gun rights advocacy in Washington, D.C., is on point on marijuana. The subheading says it all: “Stoned citizens will further burden the dependency society.” I agree completely.

Watch her explode libertarian heads at Fox Business:

Notice how the host introduces the segment: “You are so right on the gun issue, you’re book is fascinating, I love your writing on it, I love your documentation, but are you just protecting freedoms that apply to you? Why are you so against marijuana?”

I suppose this reflects the thinking on same-sex marriage, too. Five years ago, I could foresee belonging to a vocal minority on the definition of marriage. I didn’t think I’d belong to a vocal minority against drugs, which we discourage children from doing. Don’t we?


At Taki’s Magazine, Fred Reed tears into the Washington media-political-industrial complex:

The problem, sez me, or at any rate one problem, is that democracy doesn’t scale well. When the proprietor of a hardware store in Farmville or Barstow or East Bronchitis or wherever gets elected mayor, he may inadvertently do a good job since he actually knows his town and the people in it. But then he runs for national office and gets to be, say, a Congressman or, God help us, he moves into the Great Double-Wide on Pennsylvania Avenue. (It occasionally happens: We don’t always get rich twerps with private jets and twelve toes being in bed with each other.)

We then have a negligible attorney who will stay in Congress forever and who has never been in the military presiding over an aggressive, nuclear-armed military that couldn’t win a bar fight against an octogenarian in a wheelchair. He is a mere over-promoted ward heeler, he and hundreds like him in the legislature, but he makes industrial policy.


Fallujah falls to the enemy, the New York Times reports:

Adam Banotai was a 21-year-old sergeant and squad leader in the Marine Corps during the 2004 invasion of Falluja, a restive insurgent-held city in Iraq. His unit — which had seven of 17 men wounded by shrapnel or bullets in the first days of the invasion — seized control of the government center early in the campaign.

So when Sunni insurgents, some with allegiances to Al Qaeda, retook the city this month and raised their black insurgent flag over buildings where he and his men fought, he was transfixed, disbelieving and appalled.

...

“I don’t think anyone had the grand illusion that Falluja or Ramadi was going to turn into Disneyland, but none of us thought it was going to fall back to a jihadist insurgency,” he said. “It made me sick to my stomach to have that thrown in our face, everything we fought for so blatantly taken away.”

Senseless, you might say.


Women in combat? Thomas Sowell doesn’t think so:

Too much of the discussion of issues involving the role of women in the military is based on questions about whether women can do the same tasks as men with equal efficiency. The real question is whether either sex functions as well with the other sex around. If you don’t think either sex finds the other sex distracting, you are ignoring thousands of years of experience around the world.

Nobody needs to be distracted in life and death situations, where the difference between victory and defeat can be “a near run thing,” as the Duke of Wellington said after the battle of Waterloo, which settled the fate of Europe for generations to come.

Even consensual sex among members of the same military unit opens a whole Pandora’s box of complications that can undermine the morale of the unit as a whole — and morale can be the difference between victory and defeat, between life and death.

A more insidious consequence of having ignorant civilians micro-managing the military is that the caliber of a nation’s military leaders can be affected when generals have to pass through filters for political correctness to reach the top.

That means losing people whose only abilities are in winning wars with minimum casualties, or preventing wars by knowing the right deployment of the right forces. Top military talent is no more common than any other kind of top talent — and the stakes are too high to filter out that talent with requirements that generals be able to pretend to do the impossible on sexual issues.

Sowell served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War, so his judgment on this issue is informed by his experience in a traditional combat role (i.e., fighting and beating the bad guys).


A profile in courage: Nigel Farage:

In many cases women make different choices in life to the ones men make, simply for biological reasons.

A woman who has a client base, has a child and takes two or three years off – she is worth far less to her employer when she comes back than when she went away because that client base won’t be stuck as rigidly to her portfolio.

I don’t believe that in the big banks and brokerage houses and Lloyds of London and everyone else in the City, I do not believe there is any discrimination against women at all.

I think young, able women that are prepared to sacrifice the family life and stick with their career will do as well if not better than men.

James Delingpole joins rank:

Clearly if you’re trying to run a business it is a massive pain if one of your star employees bunks off at your expense to enjoy her statutory maternity leave. It leaves a gap in your operation which is hard to fill. You need not only to find a suitable temporary replacement but also you have to waste company time bringing them up to speed with your absent employee’s work operations. What’s more you have no idea – actually you probably do: the answer is almost certainly “yes” – whether this absence will be followed in about a year’s time by yet another absence, as the new mummy (not unreasonably) makes a baby brother or sister for the child she’s got already. After that, of course, you have the added uncertainty of not knowing whether your employee is going to enjoy motherhood so much that she decides to give up work altogether. So you have in total a period of perhaps three or four years in limbo during which you could have recruited a more reliable full-time person for the job but are unable to do so because of the way employment law works.

...

I said at the beginning that Nigel Farage was brave. And so he is. As Orwell once said: “In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” There are certain things in our cultural climate that politicians (and businessmen, and, unfortunately, most journalists) simply aren’t allowed to be honest about. One is immigration. Another is pretty much anything to do with you gender and equal pay issues. Wimmin like Harriet Harman use their gender in their way that agitators from various ethnic groups use their race (or in the case of Islamists, their religion): they have long striven to create a climate where, unless you’re a paid up member of the appropriate minority, you shouldn’t be allowed even to discuss the issue.


Study reaches opposite conclusions. First graf: “Childless couples have happier marriages, says a new study.”

Fourth graf: “Researchers also found that women without children were the least happy with life overall, however they did find that mothers were happier than any other group.”


“The overarching trend is that the spread of readily accessible information increasingly converts the prestige press into Gatekeepers who see their job as preventing the public from engaging in acts of pattern recognition.” –Steve Sailer

Mark Barrett of First Things reflects on a Greg Weiner article about how big government, Great Society programs effectively redistributed wealth to middle-class bureaucrats, not to the truly needy. Excerpt:

Instead of alleviating the material deprivation of the poor, a new class of professions was created to provide services to the poor. This approach would lead to the entrenchment of an entire class of bureaucrats acting as middle men between the poor and the resources the state was distributing, the course of which was to further inflate the power of the state and creating a lobby for the preservation of those interests, making any reform difficult. Where proper resources were directly distributed, Weiner suggests elderly poverty as an example, there was greater success in alleviating poverty.

So, helicopters dropping cash on poor neighborhoods really is preferable to quantitative easing.


Peter Laufer of the Los Angeles Times mischaracterizes California’s secessionists:

The Jefferson statehood tale appeals to a fantasy Westerners embrace: We’re rugged individualists who like to go it alone.

Or, maybe, as the Declaration of Independence says, “it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.”

I support intrastate secession. There’s no good reason the fates of people with such opposite views of governing themselves should be tied together.


Fay Voshell channels Karl Popper, C. S. Lewis, and her son:

Popper wrote that an important tenet in the philosophy of science was that a theory is not really scientific if it doesn’t admit that there is always the possibility the theory may be false. Any scientific theory that does not allow the possibility it may be false is no longer science, but is ideology, a belief system taken entirely on faith.

I’m remembering a discussion with my eldest son, who says the theory of global warming is non-falsifiable and therefore an ideology rather than true science. He said the problem with global warmists is that no matter how climate actually behaves, all data ostensibly proves the overall temperature of the earth is continually rising. It follows that the recent deep freeze temperatures crippling large parts of our nation are proof of global warming just as the inevitable heat waves coming this summer will also be proof of global warming. Popper would call such a line of reasoning a “closed circle.”

Sounds like a religious cult to me. C.S. Lewis would agree, as he was one of the first to name such cults branches of “scientism,” a belief system that sees scientific theory as infallible and therefore a handy substitute for traditional religious beliefs that see only the almighty and all wise God as infallible.


It’s not witchcraft, it’s sexual enticement. The UK Telegraph reports:

Joanna Dennehy, 31, has admitted stabbing [three] men through the heart and dumping their bodies in ditches, but the trial of two alleged accomplices has unearthed details of the intimidating “man woman”.

Jurors heard how Dennehy lured men to their deaths offering sex before “casting a spell” over Gary Stretch and Leslie Layton, who are accused of helping her cover up the “terrible truth”.

Her first victim was Lukasz Slaboszewski, 31, a heroin addict, Peter Wright, prosecuting, told Cambridge Crown Court.

She coaxed him to a house with a series of text messages on March 19, last year, and he was never seen again.

It helps when your victims are enfeebled by drugs.


Surprise! Military infantilizer, marriage redefinitionist Ilean Ros-Lehtinen has a son, LGBT “rights” activist Rodrigo Lehtinen. Ros-Lehtinen herself came out in favor of same-sex marriage last year. She also sat on the House LGBT caucus. Her husband was a Democrat politician and “converted” to Republican when they were married.


Big money hollows out communities, which is why I look upon the rapid change in the South Texas economy with a wary eye. USA Today, at the end of a long puff piece, concludes:

Once the shale is tapped, there won’t be other reservoirs to siphon — the end of the line for fossil fuels in Texas, says Berman, the geologist and shale skeptic. “We’re drilling shale not because it’s a good idea but because we’ve exhausted all other good opportunities,” he says. “It’s all we got left. When this is done, we’re done.”

Unlike some of his fellow residents, Dockery says he realizes this boom will end someday and South Texas will return to the quiet life of ranching and hunting.

Or people will up and leave, as they have done at the end of every boom and bust cycle, leaving behind dead shells of towns.


Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner gives the straight dope on New York’s new dope mayor:

As New York City’s crusading liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio takes up his pitch fork, don’t worry too much about the wealthy bankers he plans to tax – they can fend for themselves. The potential victims of de Blasio’s “march toward a fairer, more just, more progressive place” are the small businesses and voluntary associations that make up civil society.

Charter schools, crisis pregnancy centers, small businesses and private charities are all in de Blasio’s crosshairs. These are government’s rivals in the business of getting people what they want and need — and a growing government doesn’t tolerate rivals.

Neither does Attorney General Eric Holder want disparate outcomes, no matter individuals’ merits or lack thereof. He believes in equality of result. John Steele Gordon writes:

Punishment for bad behavior must be meted out according to racial quotas. If the school is one-third black, one-third white, and one-third Asian, then each racial group must receive one-third of the punishments. If two-thirds of the infractions are committed by one racial group, then so what? That’s discrimination and discrimination violates federal law.

It is highly unlikely that each group is going to misbehave equally, for exactly the same reason that it is highly unlikely that the boys named John, the boys named David, and the boys named Robert will misbehave equally: the world doesn’t work that way.

Different people, different culture, different behavior, different result. It’s so transparently obvious, it pains one to say it.

Sowell says:

One of the most seductive visions of our time is the vision of “fairness” in a sense that the word never had before. At one time we all understood what was meant by a “fair fight.” It meant that both fighters fought by the same Marquis of Queensbury rules. It did not mean that both fighters had equal strength, skill, experience or other factors that would make them equally likely to win.

In today’s conception of fairness, only when all have the same prospects of winning is the fight fair. It was not in The Nation or some other left-wing magazine, but in the neoconservative quarterly The Public Interest that we find opportunity equated with “the same chance to succeed” or “an equal shot at a good outcome”—regardless of the influence of social, cultural, or family background.

This confusion between the fairness of rules and the equality of prospects is spreading across the political spectrum. Regardless of which of these two things might be considered preferable, we must first be very clear in our own minds that they are completely different, and often mutually incompatible, if we are to have any hope of a rational discussion of policy issues ranging from anti-trust to affirmative action.

To add to the confusion, when prospects are not the same for all, this is then blamed on “the system” or “the rules of the game,” as Brookings Senior Fellow Isabel V. Sawhill does in the Spring issue of The Public Interest. Rules and standards are the creation of particular human beings but circumstances need not be. Ms. Sawhill herself includes “good genes” among the circumstances which affect economic inequalities, and we might add all sorts of other geographic, demographic, cultural and historical factors that were not created by today’s “rules of the game” or by “the system” or by anyone currently on the scene.

It makes sense to blame human beings for biased rules and standards. But who is to be blamed for circumstances that are the results of a confluence of all sorts of conditions of the past and present, interacting in ways that are hard to specify and virtually impossible to disentangle? Unless we wish to start a class action suit against geography or against the cosmos or the Almighty, we need to stop the pretense that somebody is guilty whenever the world does not present a tableau that suits our desires or fits our theories.


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is more than happy to help Republican moderates abandon the conservative wing of the party:

Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

He does it out of concern for the Republican Party, you see.

Cuomo is the progressive counterpoint to Vladimir Putin. He wants to make New York into the progressive values capital of the world.

Anthony Esolen issues a devastating smackdown:

I do not know whether Andrew Cuomo is in imminent danger of losing his immortal soul. He does, it is true, champion the dismemberment and the saline dissolution of our brothers and sisters in the womb, and this is a hideous evil. He does, it is also true, champion the evacuation of any biological and natural meaning from the word “marriage,” and this is also a hideous evil, in a time when the family, especially for the poorest among us, is so frail. But we cannot judge his soul. Much that seems due to malice may be due to misguided affection or invincible ignorance. Yet, though we cannot judge his soul, it is the right of every citizen to judge the wisdom of any politician, and in that light I should like to say that Andrew Cuomo is the biggest horse’s ass ever to grace a political office since Caligula made his charger a Roman senator. I will not say that he is too wicked for heaven; but he is certainly, and this is saying a great deal, too much of a bonehead even for Albany.

How might the business lobby profit from high minimum wages? Let’s ask Momentum Machines:

Small business owners in Southern California have struggled against high taxes and a rising minimum wage for years. But a new robotics startup in San Francisco called Momentum Machines wants to sooth the burdens created by oppressive government by designing a machine that will solve these problems.

According to Momentum Machines, making burgers costs US$9 billion a year in wages in the United States alone. A machine like the burger robot could revolutionize the fast food industry. The company’s website reads: “Our alpha machine replaces all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant. It does everything employees can do except better.”


“The logic of nature is remorseless. The logic of nature cannot be avoided. It can be manipulated for a time through technology and human will, but it will always prevail in the end.” –Vox

Friday, January 24, 2014

Curse of the womb

To keep up the sensibilities of the times, lest modern audiences confuse pregnancy with life, Jacob’s barren wife Rachel must be cursed with abundant fertility. Thus we read:

When Rachel saw that she was with child, she became jealous of her childless sister. So she said to Jacob, “Make me barren, or I’ll die!”

Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from professional pursuits?”

Apropos of the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Collin Garbarino at First Things compares abortion culture to human sacrifice in Carthage:

How is American abortion so very different from what the Carthaginians did? Priests killed their children in a temple, and abortionists kill our children in a clinic. Carthaginian parents expected favors from their gods if they offered their children. They expected a better life. Why do we abort our children?

Americans abort their children because they believe they’ll have a better life. Maybe they want better health by not undergoing the rigors of pregnancy. Maybe they expect that their career opportunities will be better without a child. Maybe they just don’t want to shop at Costco.

Carthaginians killed babies because they wanted a better life. We kill babies because we want a better life. The only difference that I can see is that the Carthaginians sacrificed children to their gods, while we just sacrifice them to ourselves.

David French writes at National Review about how the unborn have been sacrificed to ambition:

[Wendy Davis] as a very young lawyer doing the simple, ordinary work that thousands of young lawyers do, conceded custody of her child on the grounds that “it’s not a good time for me right now” to be the custodial parent.

I’m also shaking my head at the president of the United States, speaking on the anniversary of the legalized killing of tens of millions of children, justifying this slaughter because it gives the former parents the ability to “fulfill their dreams.”

Have you ever heard any president rest his case on such a nihilistic appeal? How do they recite the Lord’s Prayer at Trinity United? “My kingdom come, my will be done”?

Admittedly, Obama would say joining the Peace Corps or becoming a middle-class apparatchik is a more deserving dream to murder your child for than, say, “chasing after the big money.” Even if the latter coincidentally happens to pay for the former and produces the economic progress that liberals campaign on but have a hard time making happen.

All dreams being equal, however, misogynistic fetuses put far too many women’s dreams on hold, forbidding full equality with wombless men. As far as we’ve come, uncontrolled circumstances like homogametic pairing still affect outcomes in the real world to an intolerable degree. If only there were a way to circumvent the reproductive process altogether, we could have our cake and eat it, too. Until then, genocide will have to suffice.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Zero sum

Liberals are broken records.

“Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive.” –Joe Biden, 2010

“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” –Barack Obama, 2012

Biden and Obama exhibit classic demand-sider thinking. Government creates demand for a good or service, and businessmen, motivated by the possibility of riches, supply it. True wealth creation, though, starts with a creative individual’s selfless pursuit of an idea, for which incentives in the marketplace don’t yet exist.

Government incentive is neither sufficient nor necessary. The key variables of innovation are knowledge and opportunity.

“It’s a philosophy we’ve had for the last eight years – one that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.” –Barack Obama, 2008

“They believe that the way to move forward is to give more to the most fortunate, and that somehow the benefits will work their way down to everyone else.” –Bill de Blasio, 2014

Inequality, the natural variability of human beings is in vogue again. It’s a fact of nature, and only absolute tyranny can pretend to overcome nature. The government action required to effect equality on a people is on exhibit in North Korea. It is completely predictable and completely oppressive. It’s a philosophy of zero sum, of static knowledge and static people.

No just system redistributes wealth in any direction. It enforces the right of men to hold property that they earn through their labor.

Larry Thornberry writes at the American Spectator:

If income inequality is the problem, then income equality is the goal. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need, to coin a phrase (or to each according to his or her fanciful desires, if we are to adopt the Sandra Fluke addendum to the original Marx).

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Writer Joe Epstein explained in his 2003 book “Envy” that, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” Earlier on, Henry Mencken took the measure of this important political dimension when he explained that the truly happy man is the one who makes five dollars a week more than his brother-in-law. Parse for the intervening inflation and you have today’s figure.

Envy’s accompanying emotion is resentment. Which is exactly what the hustlers retailing income inequality want from the marks. They want Pavlovian drooling about how Republicans and conservatives (hardly total overlap in these two categories) look out for the interests of evil Wall Street bankers, hedge fund managers, and various other country clubbers instead of those of honest Americanos like the complainers. This is fantasy, but it works with lots of voters.

Demand side

Everything you need to know about economics Frederic Bastiat wrote in 1850:

Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James B., when his careless son happened to break a square of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact, that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation—“It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”

Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier’s trade—that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs—I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”

It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.

Let us take a view of industry in general, as affected by this circumstance. The window being broken, the glazier’s trade is encouraged to the amount of six francs; this is that which is seen. If the window had not been broken, the shoemaker’s trade (or some other) would have been encouraged to the amount of six francs; this is that which is not seen.

This is called opportunity cost in modern parlance.

It must hurt the high-IQ, low-common sense Paul Krugman to be debunked 160 years before his time:

This does mean that the [Fukushima] nuclear catastrophe could end up being expansionary, if not for Japan then at least for the world as a whole. If this sounds crazy, well, liquidity-trap economics is like that — remember, World War II ended the Great Depression.

Or was it Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal? It’s either/or for demand-siders.

World War II didn’t end the depression. The New Deal didn’t end the depression. The end of the New Deal ended the depression. Richard Vedder writes:

The basic argument is that government spending employed a lot of people, and the economy grew. But logic tells us that this assumption puts the cart before the proverbial horse. Once again, governments can only spend if they can tax and borrow against productive work that’s already occurred. Instead, it would be more accurate to say that a resumption of work combined with a less economically interventionist Washington did the job.

From a stock-market perspective, there’s no evidence supporting the conventional claim. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached 155 in October of 1939, it never regained that level until 1945, when the war was ending.

On the labor front, unemployment sat at 18.8 percent in 1938, but by 1939 it had already fallen to 16.7 percent. Amity Shlaes observed in The Forgotten Man that FDR knew a “war on business and a war against Europe could not happen at the same time,” and as has been shown, New Deal legislation so harmful to employment and capital formation was effectively halted by 1938. In 1942, FDR ordered the liquidation of the Work Projects Administration. The WPA employed 2.4 million Americans in 1939, but by June of 1943 the number was down to 42,000.

What seems to have increased national output during the war was the simple fact that Americans were working a great deal more. In this sense we might say the war was superficially stimulative because patriotic Americans felt it was their duty to work. And work they did judging by the increase in hours worked across all manner of industries. While average hours worked in the food products industry was 40 in 1940, by 1944 it had reached 45. In tobacco the number rose from 36 to 42, and in rubber products 36 to 45. FDR asked for income limits, but Congress refused him.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Phil’s vindication

Note: This is a companion piece to “Center of being.”

Hollywood intended for Duck Dynasty to make fun of Christian, “redneck” America, but it backfired:

“It is our understanding that when the TV executives came up with the concept for the show they wanted it to be a case of people laughing at a bunch of backward rednecks.

“But when it didn’t turn out like that and people actually started identifying with the way the family behaved and were laughing with them, not at them, they became uncomfortable. It did not sit well with the New York TV types.”

Jim Goad at Taki’s Magazine has a good read on Phil Robertson’s “homophobia”:

The consensus on the outraged celebrity left seemed to be that anal sex between men wasn’t vile; it was vile for people to say it was vile.

...

What happened to the art of simple, cordial disagreement? Maybe I have a head injury, but I seem to recall a time somewhere in the 1970s and 1980s where people didn’t freak the fuck out and scream for blood over simple ideological disagreements. This was a blissfully quiescent era right after Red Scare paranoia had peaked and just before PC totalitarianism began its ever-strengthening chokehold on the culture.

Though many of the duck-hating dick-lovers would likely claim they’re atheists, what we have here is a basic sandbox dispute between competing religions—traditional Christianity versus Cultural Marxism.

Goad also has it right on Robertson’s “racism”:

Phil’s comments reminded me of what a friend from North Carolina once told me about his family. He said his folks had lived for generations as sharecroppers in a shack on a farm alongside black families, and everyone got along swimmingly until meddlesome Yankee activists stuck their beaks south of the Mason-Dixon Line in the 1950s and 1960s to begin sowing dissent.

As a Philly-born expatriate Yankee who’s lived in all four corners of the USA and in Georgia for the past seven years, I’ve seen blacks and whites get along with far greater ease down South than anywhere else in the country—far more so than in Philadelphia, which is a de facto apartheid state simmering with self-segregated hostility.

It makes sense that down in the despised South, where whites and blacks have lived alongside one another in greater numbers for far longer than they have anywhere else in the USA, they’d have developed enough shared cultural pathways that they get along more smoothly than anywhere else in the USA. It also makes sense that snooty cosmopolites who view everything between New York and LA as “flyover country” would have a distorted, fearful, and, yes, bigoted view of Southern culture.

This point about urban “self-segregated hostility” calls to mind an observation Wendell Berry made in his essay “Racism and the Economy”:

It is no exaggeration to say that, in the country, most blacks were skilled in the arts of make-do and subsistence. If most of them were poor, they were competently poor; they could do for themselves and for each other. They knew how to grow and harvest and prepare food. They knew how to gather wild fruits, nuts, and herbs. They knew how to hunt and fish. They knew how to use the things that their white “superiors” threw away or disregarded or overlooked. Some of them were becoming capable small landowners. In the cities, all of this know-how was suddenly of no value, and they became abjectly and dependently poor as they never had been before. In the country, despite the limits placed upon them by segregation and poverty, they possessed a certain freedom in their ability to do things, but once they were in the city freedom was inescapably associated with the ability to buy things.

At which point, poverty translates to slavery, and the displaced, formerly “competently poor” resent it. Thus you have ghettoization in 21st century American cities like Philadelphia that surpasses the segregation of the Jim Crow South.

Robertson’s memory of blacks was accurate. All things considered, blacks were happier when they knew how to depend on themselves. That’s generally a rule for most people, regardless of color.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Unflesh and unblood

Brad Miner reviews Her and segues into the “technisation” of love, to borrow from Berdyaev. Excerpt:

The world left to Theodore and Amy seems so small. It reminded me of the end of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), a movie I saw as a kid and that scared and saddened me. Scott Carey (Grant Williams) is exposed to a strange cloud and begins losing weight. But also height. He shrinks until he realizes he’s probably heading towards atomic size and then oblivion, which gives him peace, because, as he says, to God “there is no zero.”

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In Her, all the characters have turned in on themselves, and having done so they turn away from others and, of course, God. I don’t know if Spike Jonze would read that sentence and nod or frown; nor do I care. I’m disinterested in what a director means to “say,” and know only what I see on screen. The consensus at the film-review website Rotten Tomatoes is that Her is “sweet, soulful, and smart,” to which I can say, well, one out of three ain’t bad.

Smart the film is. And it may suggest sweetness to some that Theodore’s artificially intelligent lover awakens in him all the emotions he ought to have felt and expressed to his ex-wife (Rooney Mara) or might come to feel for Amy. But it’s the kind of treacle withdrawn pre-teens might mistake for sweet.

And if ever a film was soulless, Her is it. Part of the conceit is that when Theodore “comes out” about his virtual girlfriend nobody bats an eye. No doubt the courts would consent to their marriage, as no doubt also to a union with a unicorn if that were the object of Theodore’s desire. Memories of his failed marriage haunt Theodore, as well they might, since, as imperfectly spontaneous as it was, that marriage was possibly his only chance at actual happiness. Indeed, a message of Her might be that there’s no such thing as virtual happiness. Definitely no virtual salvation.

Her is a film well worth seeing, although if anybody comes away thinking it’s the “feel-good” movie of the year, that person should head straight to Confession, because the world of Her really is a nightmare.

“Sweet” can be a euphemism for “pathetic.” Without a real woman to adore and take the focus off himself, Theodore’s “relationship” with his operating system is no different than humping robots or anonymous phone sex.

To solve the problem of intimacy with his virtual girlfriend, Theodore hires a “surrogate” to give physical presence to the operating system’s affection for him. This treads on familiar territory. In the age of modern love, all kinds of surrogates are being tasked to complete traditional roles that some couples cannot physically perform themselves, most notably childbearing. But Her does not explore the dynamics of having a child with an operating system, falling short of being truly forward thinking. Give it 10 years, and audiences will be more receptive.

Not completely unrelated, in Public Discourse, Alana S. Newman decries the reproductive technologies racket:

Gay male couples are the Number One demographic to be targeted by American surrogacy agencies. This is for several reasons. For starters, partnered gay men are wealthier than any other demographic, earning an average of $116,000 per year per household, which is $21,500 more than the average heterosexual household. Secondly, LGBT individuals and couples are under great social pressure to have children. Their parents want grandchildren. Their friends and colleagues still connect marriage with child-rearing and begin inquiring about plans for parenthood soon after same-sex ceremonies. And some are pressed to acquire children for the sake of the LGBT agenda and the promotion of a la carte families. Children are the latest statement accessories.

There were several disturbing moments at the conference—like the explanation of a UK case where a married woman went searching online for a sperm donor and ended up having a physical, romantic relationship with him. She became pregnant and insisted that the baby was conceived naturally, demanding child support. The man insisted that the pregnancy was achieved via artificial insemination and denied any responsibility toward the child. Meanwhile, the woman’s husband agreed to care for a child conceived artificially, but was not willing to care for a genetically unrelated child conceived through sexual intercourse. The 300+ attendees thought this scenario was hilarious, and the legalese PowerPoint muck was suddenly sliced through with laughter.

The child’s adoptive father wanted the child if it was the product of artificial insemination by a stranger, but he didn’t want it if it was the product of his wife’s sexual congress with said stranger. I understand his feelings towards his cheating wife, but we’re talking about the life of a child!

Are there no adoption agencies where these people are? Adoption is cheaper and more humane than bringing children of dubious parentage into the world.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bathroom choice

The next great California social issues referendum fight will be over bathroom choice. We saw this last year in Massachusetts, where gender Marxists don’t have to appeal to a democratic majority to push through their perverted agenda—not that nonsecular Bay Staters would have a fighting chance, anyway.

Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center, tees it up:

Now, every transgender student in California will be able to get up in the morning knowing that when they go to school as their authentic self they will have the same fair chance at success as their classmates.

Identity in sin is the sacrament of the Left. “Authentic self”? “Fair chance at success”? Enough feel-good pablum can justify anything. It is in keeping with the democratic principles that have made this nation great, that I demand people of all faiths to purge their pews of the ranks of the vile, the bigoted, and the hateful, those who are determined to see keep us divided, not united as we are intended by our Creator to be.

See? Following this formula, you can command slow-witted people to do anything, including abandoning their ancestors’ moral categories that make sense of nature as God made it.

George Neumayr writes:

Called Privacy for All Students, the coalition of groups in favor of the referendum say well over 600,000 signatures have been collected. Should the referendum move forward, its chances of passage appear good. The coalition has hired one of the consultants behind Proposition 8 and cite opinion surveys indicating support for repeal.

Proposition 8 was a disaster. Why hire the same consultants who mucked up the defense of marriage 6 years ago?

Meanwhile, the California left, with the help of the teachers’ unions, is pooh-poohing parental concerns, arguing that only the truly transgendered will make use of the law, as if that should induce parental sighs of relief.

Who exactly are the truly transgendered? Having already argued that identity is fluid, transgender proponents find the question difficult to answer. On the one hand, they argue that biological identity isn’t fixed; on the other, they assert the stability of the transgender one. Genders change, they say, but self-perceptions don’t.

Excellent point, one I’ve made too many times to count. But it doesn’t matter. Reason does not figure into the transcendent will.

“At the limit, contemporary subjectivism apotheosizes the will so that it becomes the source of value, but this puffing up of our freedom is actually ruinous, for it prevents the appropriation of the objective values that will truly benefit us.” –Father Robert Barron

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Prophets of same-sex marriage

The dissenters in the original same-sex marriage case, Goodridge v. [Massachusetts] Department of Public Health, were prophets:

“There is no restriction on the right of any plaintiff to enter into marriage. Each is free to marry a willing partner of the opposite sex.” –Justice Francis X. Spina

Indeed there is no discrimination on the basis of gender. There is no discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, either, as that is a made-up category.

“An orderly society requires some mechanism for coping with the fact that sexual intercourse commonly results in pregnancy and childbirth. The institution of marriage is that mechanism.” –Justice Robert J. Cordy

Better than the mechanism of a literal nanny state, conjugal union arises out of the complementary sexual, biological natures of men and women.

“It is rational for the Legislature to postpone any redefinition of marriage that would include same-sex couples until such time as it is certain that that redefinition will not have unintended and undesirable social consequences.” –Justice Martha B. Sosman

Such as the chaos we are witnessing today with the federal definition of marriage diverging from states’ definitions of marriage.

For example, the Los Angeles Times reports:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Friday that the federal government would recognize hundreds of same-sex marriages that took place in Utah over the past three weeks, two days after Utah announced it did not consider the marriages to be legal.

Holder’s announcement left some 1,300 couples who rushed to marry after a federal District Court ruling on Dec. 20 in complicated legal limbo, with their marriages deemed valid for federal tax purposes but not for state taxes.

“I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” Holder said in a videotaped statement. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”

A federal District Court judge had ruled the state ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional and refused to delay the implementation of his ruling while it was appealed, opening the courthouse door to surprised couples who had not expected such an opportunity anytime soon in a conservative state like Utah.

While the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stop the marriages while hearing the state’s appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court last week put a stop to them at least until the 10th Circuit rules. The one-paragraph order from the justices did not explain their reasoning.

The Obama administration wants as much chaos as possible in order to force the Supreme Court’s hand. Based on the Court’s reasoning in Lawrence v. Texas and United States v. Windsor, they will impose same-sex marriage on all 50 states. Democratic leaders will have plausible deniability, should they feel the need to exercise it to remain politically viable to their “bigoted” constituents.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Warm-hearted Chris Christie

Chris Christie has signed a bill giving in-state tuition breaks to illegal immigrants. He explains:

Our job, I believe, as a government, is to give every one of these children who we have already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in, an opportunity to maximize the investment for their benefit, for the benefit of their families, for the benefit of our state and the country. Even if you’re cold-hearted about this, you can agree with the common sense of the economics: An investment made should be an investment maximized.

Opposing giving benefits to illegal immigrants, that’s “cold-hearted.” And the money this will cost New Jersey, that’s “investment,” not spending. Well, if it makes economic sense, I guess we can overlook the fact that they’re in the country illegally. Problems like illegal immigration are easy to solve when you malign the opposition as cold-hearted.

Latino community organizer Martin Perez explains what it’s really all about:

Finally we have governor who made a commitment to us. The good thing about this governor is that when he makes his commitment, you have to understand that he will deliver the goods.

Buying minorities off, that’s what liberals do.

Another thing liberals do is accuse their critics of partisanship, while maintaining they are models of pragmatic virtue, especially in the wake of scandal (see Benghazi). Here’s Christie’s response to a brewing scandal in his administration on December 23:

Even though two top Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials have resigned over “Bridgegate,” the now infamous closing of approach lanes that caused several days of monster traffic jams earlier this fall, it is still not clear exactly what happened, or who was responsible.

David Wildstein, the former director of Interstate Capital Projects at the Port Authority, has been blamed for the debacle, which supposedly took place in order to carry out a traffic study on the span, but Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director, who also recently quit, indicated he was to also to blame for not properly communicating information about the closures and the study.

Meanwhile the Executive Director of the PA, Patrick Foye, has testified he was never aware there even was a study.

So has the governor seen a study?

“No,” Christie said, in response to the question posed by host Eric Scott. “What do I care?”

If a study was produced, the governor said, his Democratic critics would not be satisfied. “Because they’d find something else. They’re already saying, ‘Well, maybe the Governor had nothing to do with this and maybe there’s no fault here but he created through his attitude, a culture which would permit this kind of thing to be done.’ That’s the latest line.” He added: “I get it. They’re partisan politicians.”

Turns out Christie was wrong, and his “partisan” critics were right. He released a statement January 8 to explain himself:

What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.

No apology to the people whom he sullied as “partisan politicians.” Beware the politician who wards off criticism by downplaying it as partisan. It betrays an attitude of unaccountability.

Circle of fascism

A whopping 3 percent of Americans say immigration reform is their top priority. Republicans are working overtime for that 3 percent.

Investor’s Business Daily opines about the “unholy alliance” between big business, big labor, and big government:

House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Budget Committee chief Paul Ryan and Judiciary Committee head Robert Goodlatte — all good Republicans — are working on a draft of “principles” for immigration reform. And yes, it includes amnesty.

It’s hard not to be cynical about this. Businesses like cheap labor. And politicians like political contributions from business. So they’ve formed an unholy alliance to push the idea that the costs of amnesty for illegals would outweigh the benefits. But they don’t.

Last year, economists Robert Rector and Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation toted up the fiscal costs to U.S. taxpayers of unlawful immigrants and amnesty. They’re staggering.

It’s difficult to take lines like “unholy alliance” seriously. It should be common knowledge by now that corporations long to strike deals with fascist government. When it comes to political power, it’s always better to be on the inside than on the outside looking in.

To consolidate control, fascists concentrate the country’s wealth and resources in the hands of corporations. The business lobby figures the costs of an expanded welfare state will be easily covered by the profits of using cheap, illegal labor. Tensions between the greedy and the poor are alleviated, even though the problems causing the tensions are not (see “Liberal scrooges”).

In turn, business titans do the government’s bidding, enacting large-scale social engineering projects that politicians fancy themselves the architects of. To complete the circle, corporations send the politicians kickbacks in the form of campaign contributions to keep them in office, offices whose yearly salaries and pensions are a money train in themselves.

Shockingly, self-interest rules the day.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The plank in the Defense budget

“If we don’t watch it, the Pentagon’s going to become a government benefits agency that fights wars on the side.” –Rep. Paul Ryan

“There’s a war within the Defense budget. You have to tackle this issue. Personnel costs are now pushing out defense power.” –Mackenzie Eaglen, AEI

Veterans groups and sundry conservative stalwarts are upset at the military pension sequester in the Ryan-Murray budget. They’re attracted more to the symbolism of the cuts than the reality. They are actually modest cuts to the rate of acceleration of payouts. Never mind that personnel costs have doubled since 2000, while the numbers of the rank and file have stagnated.

The cuts don’t go far enough. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the savings will be $12.8 billion over 5 years. That comes out to 0.62 percent of $413 billion in personnel costs per year.

In these heady times for the republic, opposing throwing more money at the troops is fiscal responsibility, not treason.

“First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). Republicans invoke budget-balancing families to stress government’s duty to cut spending. When they defend military families from facing the same reality, it’s hard not to think hypocrisy. They look less principled and more like reactionary Democrats when their voter blocs are threatened with a decrease in the flow of money from Washington.

Can you tell the difference between Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and socialist Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren?

“You’re willing to do this over politics? You’re really willing to cut these people off, to leave them with no money to put food on the table, to put a roof over their heads, to take care of their children?”

“Our veterans are owed the highest protection, care, and service by our grateful nation, and I will continue to work to ensure that we take care of America’s heroes.”

I hear the same patronizing tone.

There’s one thing worse than being shamed to give more to those who feel entitled to your money: that’s being spoken of as if you’re the one entitled to other people’s money.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It was not fate

“I was torn about the message of the film in the same way that I think I am about the war in Afghanistan itself. I don’t want any more senseless American death. And at the same time I know that there were bad people there and good people that need help.” –Jake Tapper

Assessing a mission as “senseless” depends on the likelihood of victory and whether the benefits outweigh the costs. If the likelihood of victory is low, or the costs of losing outweigh the benefits of winning, the mission may be called senseless. Only the military and civilian leadership, to whom all the risks are known, can make that call.

Whether giving a mission the green light is the right or wrong call, people’s verdict rests on the outcome, not on the factors that go into the decisionmaking process. In that sense, every losing effort could be called “senseless” because, looking back, we see decisions that we know have led to failure.

Jake Tapper may have been lamenting the human toll in the Afghan War in general and Operation: Red Wings in particular. In light of America’s imminent withdrawal without achieving strategic victory in Afghanistan, the blood and treasure sacrificed in the last 12 years do seem wasted and, therefore, senseless.

Or he may have been making a critique of Lone Survivor that the disastrous outcome of Operation: Red Wings hangs like a pall over the warriors on the screen. All their expertise, advanced training, and advanced weapons fail to save their lives. The S.E.A.L. team has no idea their mission is going to fail or that they are about to die. You are meant to feel dread and pity as you watch them careen obliviously towards their deaths.

The reenactment of fate is a major element of this type of movie. Take Titanic, for example. Sappy romantic subplot aside, viewers are well aware of what happens to the doomed passengers aboard the ship. The first-class passengers’ arrogance and displays of wealth provide a stark contrast to the watery fate that awaits them. They, too, could be said to be embarking on a “senseless” voyage. The fools don’t know! we think.

Neither do we, when our time comes.

It was not fate that made the Titanic sink, nor was it fate that made Operation: Red Wings a failure. In the course of events, the future is not set. The Titanic could have completed its maiden voyage or not. S.E.A.L. team member Marcus Luttrell and his comrades could have won the battle or not. That’s why he bristles at Tapper’s characterization of the operation as senseless. His team was called to do a job and it failed. He did not proceed on the mission with the knowledge that it would fail.

But that’s not how the narrative was shaped after the event took place, and it’s not the narrative presented in Lone Survivor. The movie’s point is not to bemoan the loss of one battle, it’s to bemoan the battle ever took place.

The lesson we should extract is the lack of trust Americans receive in non-Western countries, and the futility of trying to “empower” tribal people to embrace democracy. If anything doomed Operation: Red Wings, it was the rules of engagement that stressed winning the Afghanis’ hearts and minds, which forced Luttrell’s S.E.A.L. team to release local goat herders who had found them in the mountains. In Afghanistan, anyone could be an enemy. It’s impossible to tell friend from foe. This proved true in Luttrell’s case, as the goat herders immediately informed the Taliban on his team’s position.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stoned before the state

By identifying libertarianism as the opposite of progressivism, Sarah Elizabeth Cupp sees legal weed as a problem for gun-banning, salt-banning, cigarette-banning, contraception-mandating progressives. Her central claim is that the freedom to smoke weed is a freedom that strikes a blow against the nanny state.

That rumble you just felt was the fault lines of political discourse shifting beneath your feet, so catastrophic is this revelation from Cupp. If true, it should shame progressives everywhere, from the gun-banning, pot-enabling progressive New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, to the gun-banning, pot-enabling, progressive magazine, The Progressive, in Wisconsin.

On the defining issue of the day, same-sex marriage, progressives and libertarians stand together. Like legal weed, ostensibly same-sex marriage is about “limiting government,” “getting the government out of the bedroom,” etc. Is it odd that progressives, the acolytes of big government, in the cases of marijuana and marriage, oppose the weapon of the law to meddle in people’s private affairs? Or is it the case, as with all licenses to sin, legal weed and same-sex marriage create more social ills for the progressives to “fix” through ever larger government?

Cupp is in denial over the common ground shared among libertarians and progressives, which makes it difficult for libertarians to fight progressives effectively. A libertarian herself, she frames the progressive ethos as acting exclusively to restrict individual liberties “for the greater good,” which allows her to conflate dissimilar issues. She writes:

The same argument used against guns is used for pot: that legalizing pot and making it more available will reduce crime. No good liberal would say the same of guns, though there is substantial evidence to prove more guns equal less crime.

So, by Cupp’s telling, the challenge to progressivism is to square a severe attitude towards gun ownership with a lax attitude towards marijuana. She indicates liberals will have to support restrictions on weed for consistency’s sake. But such a movement would only be consistent on Cupp’s oversimplified model, in which in one corner you have progressive busybodies and in the other corner you have unfettered liberty. As progressives’ support for marriage redefinition and legal weed shows, the progressive ethos is more complicated than that.

It’s true gun bans don’t reduce violent crimes like armed robbery, gun assaults, and murder. (Gun bans’ efficacy in reducing violent crime is mixed.) But the real point of contention on gun control is that gun bans make it a crime to own guns. Guns in the hands of the people are a major obstacle to centralizing power. Unarmed people are easier to control, which is why progressives favor heavier gun regulations.

This leads up to an uncomfortable question, especially for libertarians who support legalizing weed: Are stoners easier to control? Are people who dumb themselves down with drugs easier to control? Progressives know the answer. Peter Hitchens writes:

A development in modern societies that is far more of an immediate menace to human freedom... is the thing that Huxley warned against most particularly and wanted us to learn from Brave New World—the danger that we would come to embrace our own servitude. More specifically, it was his prediction that we would voluntarily drug ourselves into conformist contentment and artificial joy, so losing our curiosity and our free spirit.

Liberty is not an end unto itself. There are many ways to exercise one’s liberty, some nobler than others. Where does using drugs fall on that spectrum? That question is made easier by asking, How would you teach your kids to exercise their liberty?

The “war on drugs” has failed, and mass incarceration for marijuana possession is amok. But from these premises alone, legalization does not logically follow.

Legalizing weed reduces crime, insofar as what is now called crime is redefined as non-crime. “Defining deviancy down” is how Daniel Patrick Monihan put it. Smoking weed, with all its detriments to individual initiative and the family, continues, on a greater scale than before.

Traditionalist conservatives and libertarians both understand “reducing crime” is a progressive fig leaf. Where they differ is what does the fig leaf cover up. To libertarians, it covers up an instinct to meddle in people’s lives. To conservatives, who have progressives pegged more accurately, it covers up an instinct to control people.