Saturday, February 21, 2015

The dollar, the yen, and the euro: 3 peas in a pod

Subprime lending is making a comeback, the Wall Street Journal reports:

Almost four of every 10 loans for autos, credit cards and personal borrowing in the U.S. went to subprime customers during the first 11 months of 2014, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by credit-reporting firm Equifax.

That amounted to more than 50 million consumer loans and cards totaling more than $189 billion, the highest levels since 2007, when subprime loans represented 41% of consumer lending outside of home mortgages. Equifax defines subprime borrowers as those with a credit score below 640 on a scale that tops out at 850.


After declining for the past three years, overall delinquency rates for car loans are rising, according to the New York Fed report. Some economists and consumer advocates are concerned that auto-lending practices are too risky and could result in more loan defaults.


It’s no surprise lending has shot up as the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing tapered. Stocks don’t have that floor supporting their inflated prices. Letting it ride on Wall Street isn’t clearly the best option anymore. Financial firms are returning to lending to make a better rate of return than the savings interest rate, which is practically zero.

But they still need to manufacture demand because despite the equities boom, the real economy sucks, hence these subprime loans. Inflation is around the corner as the Federal Reserve’s $4 trillion starts to circulate. Interest rates will have to be raised soon.

Japan’s quantitative easing isn’t trickling down, but at least stocks are doing well! Andrea Riquier reports at Investor’s Business Daily:

Economists and analysts hailed Abe as Japan’s last best hope. Since he took office, financial markets and corporate profits have benefited from the massive central bank easing and fiscal stimulus of “Abenomics.” The Nikkei has nearly doubled in value.

What’s less clear is the impact of Abenomics on what might be called the real economy.

A weaker yen helps Japanese conglomerates that export but hurts households increasingly dependent on imports.

And Japan Inc. is passing on little of its record profits as salary increases, which many analysts say is the only way to get citizens spending rather than saving.


But for [David] Pogue, the most worrying aspect of Abenomics is something beyond the reckoning and control of the government and the central bank. It’s that the entire world suddenly seems to be turning Japanese.

The European Central Bank in early January finally bowed to calls for the kind of massive bond-buying program that the BoJ pioneered in 2000 as inflation turned negative and the economy stalled.

Now that central banks around the world seem to be locked in a currency race to the bottom, Pogue thinks the low-hanging fruit for the BoJ is mostly picked. “We’re finding out that everyone is in the same boat,” Pogue said. “We’re all trying to do the same thing. We’re all going after the same small pie.”

Keynesians don’t know how to create wealth. They only know how to waste it trying to stimulate wasteful spending.

I can’t blame the Russian separatists in Ukraine. Russia has a brighter future than the EU. Who would want to join a failing union?

Speaking of which, here’s Alvaro Vargas Llosa on Greece, the petulant, itinerant teenager of Europe :

Two bailouts by the EU, IMF and European Central Bank (ECB) kept Greece afloat and inside the eurozone, at a cost of 240 billion euros. In return, the Greek government agreed to raise taxes and cut spending, a self-defeating combination.

Little was done to reform the economy, ensuring that the Greeks would suffer deep pain without the benefits that a freer, more flexible and dynamic system of wealth creation might have brought them.


If Tsipras’ government wants to avoid defaulting on its debt, largely held by the ECB, Germany and France, it needs the last of the bailout funds that Greece was promised. If it fails to pay 7 billion euros this summer, the ECB will stop meeting the liquidity needs of Greek banks, and Greece will leave the euro.

Greece should be allowed to secede and self-destruct, as is Greece’ wont. Europe can’t force them to be responsible if expelling them from the eurozone is not just punishment for defaulting on their loans. Socialized consequences serve only to put off the day of reckoning for failed socialist policies.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage says the EU’s stubbornness in holding Greece to a bargain that the Greeks democratically reject is a threat to national sovereignty. Like Big Nurse, the EU cares. She knows what’s best for you, and she’ll lobotomize you if you disagree.

Perhaps losing a few member states will make the EU more cautious about making false promises and centralizing government in the hands of technocrats. That goes for America and the Federal Reserve, too. Buzzfeed reports:

“I would like to start off by talking about the subject and the subject is secession and, uh, nullification, the breaking up of government, and the good news is it’s gonna happen. It’s happening,” [Ron] Paul, the father of potential Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, told a gathering at the libertarian Mises Institute in late January. The event Paul was speaking at was titled “Breaking Away: The Case for Secession.”

Paul said secession would not be legislated by Congress, but would be de facto, predicting “when conditions break down... there’s gonna be an alternative.”

“And it’s not gonna be because there will be enough people in the U.S. Congress to legislate it. It won’t happen. It will be de facto. You know, you’ll have a gold standard when the paper standard fails, and we’re getting awfully close to that. And people will have to resort to taking care of themselves. So when conditions break down, you know, there’s gonna be an alternative. And I think that’s what we’re witnessing.”

Per usual with Ron Paul, what he says that isn’t complete nonsense makes a lot of sense.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Casual subjugation

That’s what Tom Gualtieri accused conservatives of in keeping marriage between man and woman. Of course any good law based on right and wrong ipso facto casually subjugates those who are irrationally drawn to do that which the law proscribes. That’s the nature of law and the lie of smiley-faced neutrality. Someone gets subjugated, and we’d prefer it not be those holding to the truth of the nature of man and marriage.

Such is not the case now, with the authorities driving out of business those who refuse to participate in their neighbors’ celebratory defilement. At Red State, editor Erick Erickson counts the number of people excommunicated for living the truth against which our libertine culture is at war, then pivots to justifying a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, like Arizona’s bill the NFL effectively killed by threatening to move the Superbowl to another state. Oddly, Erickson invites courts to adjudicate “sincere religious belief” in order to exempt Christians from full participation in the economy when it violates their conscience:

Gay rights advocates say a plurality of Americans support gay marriage so it should be so. An absolute majority of American support religious exceptions relating to providing goods and services to gay marriage. But gay rights advocates oppose that. The Supreme Court will undoubtedly impose gay marriage on the nation by June. State legislatures need to pass RFRA now to protect people of faith.

Rather than empowering judges to figure out what beliefs qualify, let’s just repeal the archaic 1964 Civil Rights Act and restore property rights and the right of free association. Even Rand Paul was for it before he was against it.

Erickson notes sort-of optimistically in another depressing piece:

Christians should, however, take heart. The faith that continued to flourish and spread while its adherents’ bodies were being used to light the streets of Rome will survive this present turmoil. At a minimum, Christians have more children than homosexuals.

He should have stuck with the treasures that await in heaven. The liberal project of obscuring truth in the natural order of the cosmos with technology and central planning is running at full speed. The “old way” of making babies is yielding to a new way, more equal, less binary, and less heteronormative. Everyone has access to billions of gametes to buy and trade and the legal right to use laboratories for extra-uterine gestation. Besides, any advantage in progeny can be undone, as the pink shirts under the auspices of health and safety can take children from their bigoted parents and reassign them to approved, politically correct foster homes.

Brave New World is here.

Read also: “Secularistocracy.”

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Odds and ends 2/17/2015

“In polite society, the mere mention of the Bible often introduces a certain measure of anxiety. A serious discussion on the Bible can bring outright contempt.


A culture can barely begin, let alone sustain, any serious intergenerational attempt to comprehend, interpret, and respond to the riddles of life and the universe unless it has some reasonably comprehensive worldview.” –J. Stanley Mattson, foreword to The Book That Made Your World

Every time I think about evolution, my brain starts to hurt and I end up asking myself: Why is this important? My understanding of the dynamics of the moral, spiritual universe doesn’t rest on the fact, or non-fact, of evolution, not like it rests on God as creator or Jesus as Lord and Savior. Really, who cares? Well, Marxists for starters, Jonah Goldberg writes:

The “Don’t you believe in evolution!?!” people don’t really believe in science qua science, what they’re really after is dethroning God in favor of their own gods of the material world (though I suspect many don’t even realize why they’re so obsessed with this one facet of the disco ball called “science”). “Criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticisms,” quoth Karl Marx, who then proceeded to create his own secular religion.

Speaking of secular religion, Carl R. Trueman channels David Brooks:

David Brooks points out that current forms of secularism need to change. They need to develop a sense of the sacred and the transcendent if they are to inspire passion and have any cultural stamina. The current secularism which he describes is indeed rather bland: Polite middle-class mores, shorn of metaphysical assumptions, where being kind to each other is the whole of the law. This, he argues, cannot continue indefinitely because it does not address humanity as it really is. Human beings are emotional, passionate creatures, and for any creed to survive, it must take this into account. We want—we need—transcendence and the sacred. The current secularism of the trendy urban neighborhoods and the leafy suburbs is simply too prosaic to possess lasting appeal.

Hence, Eric Hoffer’s True Believer. Atheist/Agnostic secularism denotes nothingness, a lack of the sense of the divine in public life. But it connotes a plethora of humanist ideologies, all of them certain to be out of step with God’s divine order.

Kyle Smith transcribes Obama’s remarks on ISIS burning a Jordanian pilot alive:

Aaand it, I think, will redouble [pause] the vigilance aaand determination on the part of our global coalition to, uh, make sure that they are degraded and ultimately defeated. Ummmm. [Adopting a whimsical look] It also just indicates the degree to which whatever ideology they’re operating off of, it’s bankrupt. [Suppressing a smirk, pivoting to a much more important subject.] We’re here to talk about how to make people healthier and make their lives better.

Obama, describing said vigilance last June to George Stephanopoulos:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about Iraq. How serious is the ISIS threat to people in Minnesota and around the country? I was so struck by an article that Ryan Crocker, who served as ambassador under you, wrote. He said, “Make no mistake. This is global jihad. It’s coming our way. They have 2,000 fighters with western passports. Don’t need a visa to get in.” Are we under serious threat right now from ISIS?

OBAMA: You know, we’ve been under serious threat my entire presidency. And we were under serious threat predating 9/11, from those who embrace this ideology.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they’re gaining strength, aren’t they?

OBAMA: They’re gaining strength in some places. But we’ve also got a lot better at protecting ourselves.

I bet the bad guys are quaking in their boots.

Mark Steyn reflects:

For many of its beneficiaries, modern western life is bland, undemanding and vaguely unsatisfying. Some seek a greater cause, and turn to climate change or LGBTQWERTY rights. But others want something with a little more red meat to it. Jihad is primal in a way that the stodgy multiculti relativist mush peddled by Obama isn’t. And what the Islamic State is offering is Jihad 2.0, cranking up the blood-lust and rape and sex slavery and head-chopping and depravity in ways that make Osama-era al-Qaeda look like a bunch of pantywaists.

Success breeds success. The success of evil breeds darker evil. And the glamorization of evil breeds ever more of those “recent Muslim converts” and “lone wolves” and “self-radicalized extremists” in the news. That’s a Big Idea—a bigger idea, indeed, than Communism or Nazism. Islam, as we know, means “submission.” But Xtreme-Sports Hyper-Islam, blood-soaked and baying, is also wonderfully liberating, offering the chance for dull-witted, repressed young men to slip free of even the most basic societal restraints. And, when the charms of the open road in Headchoppistan wear thin, your British and Canadian and Australian and European welfare checks will still be waiting for you on the doormat back home.

By contrast, civilization is a fragile and unnatural state of affairs. Droning on about the Crusades and Jim Crow, Obama offers the foreign policy of Oscar Wilde’s cynic: He knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. And so, as the world burns, he, uh, redoubles his, uh, vigilance, uh uh uh... Whatever.

Matt Barber on the president’s National Prayer Breakfast speech:

Like the Pharisees who alleged that Christ’s miracles were the work of Satan, Obama slyly insinuated that atrocities committed hundreds of years ago during the Crusades or the Inquisition were done in the name of Jesus Christ. By this logic horrors performed by quacks pretending to be doctors should rightly be ascribed to the medical profession. But as Socrates pointed out ages ago, even someone with a medical degree is not accurately said to be acting as a doctor when his actions depart from the knowledge that properly justifies that claim.

In response to Obama’s sly slander against Christ, people acting in defense of Jesus’ name have justly pointed out that nowhere in Christ’s life, as reported in the New Testament Scriptures, does he himself example the kind of atrocious mayhem the ISIS terrorists perpetrate against their victims, pursuant to the words and example of their prophet Muhammad as reported in the Islamic Scriptures. The impulse to defend against anti-Christ slanders in this way is understandable in human terms. But what Christ actually did and said is a far more powerful answer.

Albert Mohler:

Intellectual honesty also demands that we recognize that going back centuries to the era of the Crusades is not really helpful when looking at the fact that the current threat is a resurgent Islam, which understands full well that the modern secular West lacks a worldview that can lead to an adequate response. Secularism and Islam are not evenly matched.

Theological honesty further demands that we acknowledge the vast difference between a theological system centered in Jesus Christ, who told Peter to put away his sword, and one that takes as its central example Mohammed, whose status as a mighty warrior is an issue of enduring Muslim pride. The strategic fact of our current times is that the terrorism feared by the West is deeply rooted in a theological worldview, and that worldview is Islam.

The president likes to invoke “vast majorities” to support his counterfactual claims, like the science of global warming and the supposed peacefulness of Islam. France, which has the highest proportion of Muslims, has the highest proportion of Muslims who would justify suicide bombers. D’oh! Via Investor’s Business Daily:

Liberals will find Islam is one lie they can’t make peace with.

A big government-cheering liberal would cheer tax revenue from marijuana sales, which not coincidentally is what libertarians cheer as well. Robert Purcell writes at the Daily Caller:

Fears about potential negative effects of legalized recreational marijuana seem to have been exaggerated at the announcement Colorado’s final haul in tax revenue after it’s first fiscal year of sales: $44 million.

The total, which came Tuesday on the heels of the release of Colorado’s December sales taxes, were lower than some original estimates that guessed Colorado could stand to bring in as much as $70 million in tax revenue. While the final tally has come in a bit lower than some may have expected, the $44 million has already been put to various uses, including the funding of substance-abuse treatment to additional training for police officers, the number also represents a strong support factor for those arguing for the legalization and taxation of marijuana.

How much human capital was lost to people numbing their minds to the wasteland of their earthly lot? Is there an accounting of that anywhere?

I wrote last year:

The government of Colorado expects to reap a windfall of $184 million dollars from marijuana sales through June 2015. The Joint Budget Committee’s requests that the bulk of this money fund “prevention,” “treatment,” and “public health” programs, but the wages of sin will ultimately go towards increasing the size and scope of government. Anyone who thinks Colorado is going to spend money to effectively starve their cash cow is nuts. When the human toll is tallied, calls for repeal of marijuana legalization will bring out the firefighters and schoolteachers, whose salaries will be said to depend on the populace’s moral degradation.

So 12 months into this experiment they’re about $100 million behind. I wonder how much of that expected tax revenue has already been spent.

Good for them. Investor’s Business Daily wants Congress to audit the Federal Reserve:

The problem is, going back to the Employment Act of 1946, the Fed already operates under a political mandate to control things such as GDP, jobs, housing, the unemployment rate, and inflation. And it can’t. That’s a Keynesian fallacy. The Fed only controls the amount of money in the economy—and with it, inflation. That’s it. Nor has its “apolitical” judgment been anything to bank on. Since World War II, virtually all 12 U.S. recessions were caused by Fed errors—usually, going too far in hiking interest rates after first going too far in cutting them.

The recent zero-interest-rate policy — known as ZIRP — didn’t come from a politician’s mind. Nor did quantitative easing. Those both came from the Fed.

And neither worked. This has been the worst recovery from a recession ever.

Moreover, the Fed’s “innovative” policies come at a cost, as former OMB Director David Stockman noted this week: “By chopping upwards of 300 basis points off the historic after-tax and after-inflation return on liquid savings, the Fed annually pilfers $250 billion from the nation’s $8 trillion” of deposits and savings.

In short, ZIRP has become little more than a punishment machine for savers, most of them elderly.

It is Congress’ duty to make sure the Fed is doing its job. The Fed’s purchase of $4 trillion in government assets since the 2007-08 financial crisis, a money-creation scheme unparalleled in our nation’s history, at minimum raises serious questions about how the central bank’s decisions are made.

A technocrat’s dream:

President Obama has made the creation of a huge, technically challenging database the centerpiece of his precision medicine proposal. The initiative will draw on existing resources and new studies to gather data on the biology, behavior and health of more than 1 million people.

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the directors of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) outlined their vision for the database. Researchers will take a deep dive into the biology of each participant, characterizing their cell populations, proteins, metabolites, RNA and DNA, performing whole-genome sequencing when money permits. These data will be paired with behavioral details and linked to electronic health records. While some have doubts about the utility of such a database, many view it as having huge potential to improve drug discovery.

Robert Stacy McCain quotes Communist Alexandra Kollonta at length:

The communist economy does away with the family. In the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat there is a transition to the single production plan and collective social consumption, and the family loses its significance as an economic unit. The external economic functions of the family disappear... In the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat the family economic unit should be recognised as being, from the point of view of the national economy, not only useless but harmful. The family economic unit involves (a) the uneconomic expenditure of products and fuel on the part of small domestic economies, and (b) unproductive labour, especially by women, in the home—and is therefore in conflict with the interest of the workers’ republic in a single economic plan and the expedient use of the labour force (including women).

Under the dictatorship of the proletariat then, the material and economic considerations in which the family was grounded cease to exist. The economic dependence of women on men and the role of the family in the care of the younger generation also disappear, as the communist elements in the workers’ republic grow stronger. With the introduction of the obligation of all citizens to work, woman has a value in the national economy which is independent of her family and marital status. The economic subjugation of women in marriage and the family is done away with, and responsibility for the care of the children and their physical and spiritual education is assumed by the social collective...

Once the family has been stripped of its economic functions and its responsibilities towards the younger generation and is no longer central to the existence of the woman, it has ceased to be a family. The family unit shrinks to a union of two people based on mutual agreement.

Or three, or four. However many you want. Welcome to the hedonistic expediency that is modern “marriage.” It’s not liberal. It’s totalitarian.

Listen to McCain himself:

If we recognize how feminist theory applies to the current “rape culture” discourse focused on college and university campuses, we also recognize this: Feminists are attempting to criminalize male sexuality, so that every sexual interaction between men and women occurs under the threat of prosecution if at any point, for any reason, the woman becomes unhappy with the interaction. Feminists now vehemently insist that males must be presumed guilty of rape if any woman ever accuses them of rape. No evidence is necessary beyond the accusation, and anyone who does not accept this no-evidence-needed standard is angrily condemned by feminists as a “rape apologist.”

This is anti-male terrorism, creating on university campuses a climate of fear in which “ordinary heterosexual initiation,” to borrow Professor MacKinnon’s phrase, becomes extraordinarily difficult due to the pervasive danger to males that their female partners might accuse them of a felony sex offense, the mere accusation being a de facto conviction.

Feminists are attempting to outlaw heterosexuality on college campuses. And when heterosexuality is outlawed, only outlaws will be heterosexual. Therefore, bad boys win, and nice guys...

What they’re trying to do is reduce men to second-class status to correct centuries of “patriarchy.” What drives them is the idol of sole authorship of their sexual destiny.

Gerald Warner draws battle lines at Breitbart:

In recent days we have seen a sequence of events—establishment endorsement of Islamic groups post-Charlie Hebdo, harassment of Christian schools by Ofperv inspectors, legalisation of eugenic experimentation via the creation of three-parent children, etc.—that have highlighted the exponential advance of Cultural Marxism.

Society’s most fundamental building blocks—the family, relations between men and women, inherited culture—are being systematically demolished. Uniquely in history, those who call themselves conservatives are in the forefront of this cultural revolution.

Before any effective resistance can be mounted against this onslaught, it is a prerequisite that we should understand our enemy: intelligence is the most powerful weapon in any war. What is the Frankfurt School? What is Cultural Marxism? The facts, though unadvertised for obvious reasons, are accessible. To trace this iniquity it is necessary to go back to 1919 and the murderous communist dictatorship of Bela Kun in Hungary.

The deputy “People’s Commissar for Culture and Education” in that short-lived regime was Georg Lukacs. Under his programme of “cultural terrorism”, Lukacs imposed a system of pornographic sex education on Hungarian school pupils, promoted promiscuity, denounced the family and encouraged children to mock their parents and religion (does any of this ring a bell?).

Andrew T. Walker and Glenn Stanton write in Public Discourse:

The narrative goes like this: Bible-believing Christians don’t like gays. Some Christians’ kids come out as gay to their parents. When they do, at best they get scolded. At worst, they’re kicked out of the house and told never to come back. This makes kids with Christian parents feel worthless, hopeless, and rejected. Suicide becomes their only option.

Clearly, we are told, the solution is for Christian parents to get over their old-time religion and create a welcoming and affirming environment for the child. They should enable their child to securely explore his or her sexual identity in a safe and loving environment in which tolerance is the only virtue. In this scenario, the terms are either complete affirmation or complete abandonment—but the gospel recognizes neither of these as viable options. This false dichotomy is a straw man based on an ideology that sees sexual liberation and parental affirmation as the road to healthy self-actualization.

In a culture where this narrative is accepted as gospel, how should we respond?

The Christian gospel offers a third possibility to parents whose children are struggling with their sexuality—as it does to all people. Christianity, while never promising complete liberation from one’s battles with sin, liberates individuals to experience their truest self, as made in the image of God. The gospel also promises unending love toward the other.

We understand how Christian teaching on sexuality can seem limiting or restrictive to the expression of a person’s sexual identity. Christianity makes normative claims, which means it directs our sexuality toward certain purposes and chastens us from embracing certain sexual desires. But a crucial caveat must be noted here: not all desires are equal. There are disordered or sinful desires that should not be acted on or embraced, because they thwart God’s plan for human flourishing. Good desires can themselves act as a way of helping us grow closer to God, as in the vocation of marriage.

What we often overlook is that our turn toward sin causes us to rebel not only against God, but against our own createdness. When we abandon sound ethics, we not only harm our relationship with God; we also harm ourselves. Sin harms us spiritually, in that it deadens us to heavenly obligation. It is also physically and mentally destructive. A person who acts on every sensual desire or psychological perception is not a free person. Instead, he becomes enslaved to disordered impulses.

The cult of the inviolate self, safe from God’s call to be born again cleansed of fallenness, is the epitomal turn towards sin.

R. R. Reno gives a first-hand example of political correctness:

During the discussion I made some points about how a Sixties-inspired deconstruction of middle-class manners and morals contributes significantly to the disorientation and dysfunction of today’s working class. Ehrenreich tends to speak as if there’s a coordinated effort to “criminalize” poverty, which seemed to me simple-minded. But I admire her genuine concern about what’s undoubtedly one of the fundamental challenges we face in America today.

Then another panelist, Traci West, a professor of Ethics and African American Studies at Drew University, intervened to denounce the entire thrust of Ehrenreich’s presentation and the discussion. Her charge: We were ignoring women of color, transgendered homeless youth, and others. My own statements about the way in which the decline of marriage contributes to the difficulties facing the working class were singled out as suggesting that unmarried women with children were somehow responsible—blaming the victim.

I’m used to being denounced in this way. In any event, I don’t think West was interested in addressing me. Her real concern seemed to be to reprimand the liberal audience and prevent them from being distracted from what really matters, which is race, gender, sexual identity, and so forth. Ehrenreich’s response was what West expected. Ehrenreich accepted the public spanking and offered the usual apologies. “What I said in no way was meant to exclude...”

If I were Reno in that situation, I would say: “Forgive me for pointing out what single mothers know in their hearts about their children needing a father to love and protect them, and needing a husband to love and support her.”

Monday, February 16, 2015

Wonder Cyswoman

Milo Yiannopoulos remarks on Marvel’s rebranding of Thor as a woman at Breitbart:

What sticks in the craw of the fans I’ve spoken to about female Thor is how utterly transparent the political posturing is behind the change. There is no good literary justification for making Thor a woman, they say—and the results have been execrable. You can write intelligent satire about masculinity without making a classic masculine icon into a girl, an observation that seems to have escaped Marvel’s writers.

As well as Tobias Buckell, creator of the 6-foot Nigerian lesbian action hero. That would defeat the purpose, though. The intent is not to satirize masculinity but to encourage leveling of all categorical discernment in readers in the name of equality. It’s not entertainment; it’s “art,” however ugly, with an agenda.

Someone in my Bible class said Wonder Woman played by Lynda Carter was her favorite character growing up. Because of Carter, who combined iconic beauty and strength, Wonder Woman may be second only to Superman in terms of legacy in American culture. How disappointed boys and girls would be if she were rebranded in the movies as a transgendered male. Considering the hundreds of millions of dollars they put into producing and marketing these movies, she’s probably safe from some social justice warrior’s revisionist pen. Miss Israel 2004 Gal Gadot looks positively cysfemale as Wonder Woman in this photo from the upcoming Batman v Superman.

As for Marvel, I suspect they’re forsaking their comics universe with female Thor et al. because they’re basically a movie production company that does comics on the side. They wouldn’t risk $1 billion-plus in ticket sales to queer Iron Man or Hulk in the next Avengers, but they would throw the LGBT mafia a bone, corrupting a comics division whose success is now ancillary to Marvel’s financial future. It’s a good strategy to keep activists busy and satisfied while reaping billions from the knuckle-dragging, heteronormative moviegoing public.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One true faith

The president asked a question at the National Prayer Breakfast:

How do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities, the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religions for their own murderous ends?

The answer lies in how the question is framed. We know what is good, we hail compassion and love, and we abhor murder and violence because:

  1. It harmonizes with what we know to be true of the natural order of the created universe.
  2. We know the true nature of God from His prophets and disciples and the teacher and perfecter of our faith, His son, Jesus.

The answer is simple albeit extremely difficult in a fallen world. We recognize the true nature of God as revealed by His Word and by nature—His mercy, His benevolence, His power, His divine order—and preach it to the world, all the while recognizing our personal and corporate inability to measure up to it because of our corruptible flesh.

While many prophets claim to speak for God, “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13). It’s true compassion and love can, and does, flow from practitioners of all faiths (Islam, Judaism, secular humanism, etc.), but none but Jesus repairs the humanly irreparable breach between man and God. None but Jesus redeems man from the pride and the nihilism of following his will to depravity and destruction.

So when someone murders in the name of Allah, as is overwhelmingly the case today with religiously motivated violence around the world, the rebuke should not be: “He needs to be a better Muslim.” Allah is not the god of forgiveness of sins and restoration of his created people to sonship. He is the god of worldly conquest and heavenly rewards for reaping death. Jesus washed people’s feet. Mohammed cut people’s feet off.

“Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.’” (John 18:36)

The rebuke should be: “He needs Jesus.” Because God took human form and took our place on the judgment seat. When Christians carry the Lord’s name in vain, it’s not because they’re Christian. It’s because they’re human, and like everyone they need Jesus to rescue them from their fallen nature.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Raise the gas tax

Or stop building roads to support infinite growth into the suburbs. I’d prefer the latter, but if we’re not going to muster the political will to guard the general funds from TXDOT’s $5 billion-a-year designs, let’s fund them with gas taxes. Raise the penalty for living so far from where you work that doesn’t also hurt people who live close to where they work. That’s done better by taxing gas miles than highways.

Toll roads target heavily used roads like I-10 and SH 1604 that suburban commuters and city dwellers share. And they incidentally push highway traffic onto surface streets, clogging them up and reducing toll revenue. Which defeats the purpose.

Stephen Moore, who recommends toll roads, lays out the case against a gas tax hike at the Daily Signal:

The politicians like to point to studies by road builders and civil engineers that insist America’s infrastructure is crumbling and we must spend hundreds of billions of dollars to fix our roads, highways, bridges and airports. Now there’s an impartial jury. Who do you think is going to get all this money?

Bob Corker adds that we are “just stealing from future generations out of the general funds to pay for infrastructure because Congress is going to fund infrastructure but not in the appropriate way.”

Corker is right that America needs more roads and needs to fix the ones we have to reduce congestion and potholes. But this isn’t because the 18.4-cents-a-gallon gas tax raises too little money—$34 billion a year should be plenty and infrastructure spending is near an all-time high.

The “stealing” that is going on is from the trust fund. Congress siphons tax dollars away from roads to worthless mass transit systems with tiny ridership.

Why should motorists see their gas tax dollars go to transit projects they don’t use?

If Washington would simply devote all gas tax dollars to roads, we wouldn’t need a tax hike.

Don’t be surprised if gas tax hike dollars help fund California’s $68 billion high-speed rail white elephant. The program has been so riddled with cost overruns, it may go down in history as one of the most absurd transportation projects in U.S. history.

There’s no bigger hypocrite when it comes to infrastructure than President Obama. He wants $300 billion for a federal infrastructure fund even as he announces he will veto a bill to create needed pipeline infrastructure and some 42,000 jobs at virtually no cost to taxpayers. Pelosi and Durbin are against Keystone, too.

If they weren’t such unabashed demand-siders, I’d trust them to spend money marked for infrastructure on actual infrastructure. But demand-siders believe in spending money on anything because, whatever it is, spending money on it drives up demand for services and creates jobs. In other words, spending money is their ends, as opposed to a means to building something.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The French Devolution

“During the Enlightenment, God, truth, being, and the laws of nature were rejected as irrational limits on human desires; they were replaced by a deified Reason subject to the vagaries of the human will.” –David G. Bonagura, Jr.

Not necessarily, but that’s the direction the French revolutionaries of the 1780s and ’90s took it. They made the classic human mistake of confusing the means for ends. Instead of using the discoveries of the Enlightenment as a how to better their lives, they used its rationalist foundations to restructure their why of living, their raison d'être, leading to predictable catastrophic results.

@LibertySeeds links to this 1993 New York Times article about 20th century prophet Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:

The writer and former Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called the French Revolution a mistake as he joined 30,000 people marking the 200th anniversary of political massacres that accompanied the upheaval in France.

“It would be vain to hope that revolution can regenerate human nature,” Mr. Solzhenitsyn, the 1970 Nobel laureate for literature, told a crowd Saturday night in this town in western France. “It’s what your revolution, and particularly the Russian revolution, had hoped for so much.”

Liberty, equality and fraternity—the motto of the Revolution and of the French Republic today—“are intrinsically contradictory and unfeasible,” he said. “Liberty destroys social equality. Equality restrains liberty.”

Support for the disastrous French Revolution revealed some fools among the Founders, including Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, who was ambassador to France during the Constitutional Convention. The former, contrary to his famous political pamphlet, lacked quite a bit of sense. Paine was acerbic in his espousal of a body politic radically separated from existing civil and social institutions, subjected to a destructive rationalism that lays man bare like an animal, naked in the wilderness. Nowadays liberals refer to biological and social realities within whose framework men work and thrive as “constraints,” it being their mission to break them to free mankind from the tyranny of nature.

This utopian enthusiasm was answered by more sober analysis in the writings of Edmund Burke and Alexander Hamilton, who recognized the chaos and suffering a mortal dose of freedom would have on the body politic. Fortunately their view was true about the American people. The 13 British colonies’ was a conservative revolution, a national determination to self-govern. France’s turned the country upside-down, embracing Machiavellian and hedonistic license.

The French Revolution turned bloody repeatedly after the French exchanged the Catholic Church for the cult of reason. The revolutionaries sought a radical break with the past. They even implemented a new calendar starting at year 1 to indicate the new epoch they were inaugurating. They held orgies in Notre Dame cathedral in honor of the goddess Reason. Without “proof” of a divine creator, one logically follows his own will wherever it leads him. Applied to the body, the strongest, most popular impulses hold sway. This means anything goes, and did, to France’s detriment.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Limits of satire

We were talking about Stephen’s sermon in Jerusalem before he was martyred (Acts 7) in Bible class the other day. I said that, from the Jewish perspective, Stephen had insulted the Sanhedrin, basically claiming it was Jesus’ followers who were the true inheritors of God’s covenant with Israel, not the Jewish authorities who denied the messiah and the prophets. The Sanhedrin dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death.

The teacher quipped that the Sanhedrin must have been deeply insulted like the Muslims were insulted by the Mohammed cartoons. It was a throwaway comparison, and I understood his meaning that in both instances men were killed for what their killers considered blasphemy.

But I take exception that the unvarnished truth that sorely needed to be heard in the very early days of the church is similar to the sophomoric roasting of Mohammed by Charlie Hebdo. Charlie Hebdo’s attack on Islam was in the spirit of roasting sacred cows for the sake of roasting sacred cows, regardless of their merits with respect to truth and justice. Stephen had a nobler purpose: to spread the gospel of salvation.

The problem with satire outlets like Charlie Hebdo, who take pride in being “equal opportunity offenders,” is they are at bottom empty. They mock others who have overbearing spiritual stakes with relentless merriment because they themselves have no spiritual stake in anything. In a modern world, this is virtuous, to have and to hold dear nothing. Attachments are passé, because they supposedly make people irrational. Cold, sick rationalism should be our faith, not Jesus, not Mohammed.

This nihilist, post-human ugliness has steered Europe since World War II, resulting in marked declines in religious observance and birthrates, a literal and spiritual sterilization. Charlie Hebdo needs a patriotic, faithful nation to defend it, but they specialize in sapping its vitality by belittling it.

Who then will die for Charlie Hebdo? Who will die for nothing?

Further reading: “To die for Charlie Hebdo by Pat Buchanan.