Monday, March 30, 2015

Odds and ends 3/30/2015

Daniel Greenfield highlights the Obama administration’s preferential treatment of enemies:

Iran’s Supreme Leader just said, “Death to America”, but that won’t impact the negotiations. The White House explained that was “intended for a domestic political audience”. When Netanyahu says something during an election that the White House doesn’t like, the fact that it was intended for a domestic audience doesn’t matter. But when Iran’s leader calls for “Death to America”, we can just ignore that because it surely doesn’t reflect his deeper feelings on destroying America.

Terrorist regimes are treated as untrustworthy when it comes to their rhetoric, but absolutely reliable when they negotiate. The same Ayatollah who calls for “Death to America” is supposedly lying to his own people, but his representatives will be absolutely honest when they pledge not to build a bomb. The Palestinian Authority shouldn’t be paid attention to when it calls for destroying Israel, but should be relied on when it signs on the dotted line no matter how many agreements it broke in the past.

Investor’s Business Daily calls QE a disaster:

The idea behind all these grand experiments was to encourage consumers to buy more on credit and investors to take greater risks with their money.

Did it work? The answer, of course, is no. Japan and Europe are still slumping. The U.S. recovery and expansion are the worst since the Great Depression. And while stock markets and corporate bond markets appear to have benefited from these moves, incomes have lagged and job growth has been slow.

Joseph Calhoun writes at Zero Hedge:

So it appears we will be getting more of the same from the monetary side of the economic growth equation, a mix of zero interest rates (negative real rates) and the hope that the wealth effect is greater than all the research says it is. Not that either policy has worked to date. The euthanasia of the rentier, that Keynesian disdain for those lay about savers, has failed so miserably that one wonders how long it will be before monetary policy takes a Logan’s Run turn and shifts to the real thing. Surely if we just kill all the seniors trying to live off their savings we can get down to the business of spending our way out of this lousy economy. The Fed’s policy of lowering interest rates at any sign of economic weakness over the last few decades has distorted capital allocation so badly that a new theory—secular stagnation—had to be invented to explain the poor performance of the economy.

Secular stagnation is not a discussion topic because we’ve run out of ideas—except maybe at the Fed—but because low interest rates in this cycle accomplished nothing more than allowing corporate insiders to borrow against company assets to line their own pockets and governments to continue avoiding structural reforms that are the real impediment to better growth. Yes, some of the easy money leaked into student and auto loans here in the US and certainly it boosted borrowing outside the US as the weak dollar enticed borrowers from Beijing to Rio, but that has only made the problem worse as the global debt pile has grown even larger in the years since the Great Recession. The now rising dollar has exacerbated the problem for all those non-US borrowers and the Fed can’t get off the zero bound for fear they will prick the debt bubble for which they provided the air.

QE and ZIRP were supposed to work through the two channels of the portfolio balance effect. The twin policies would force investors into riskier securities in a reach for yield, allowing lower rated borrowers to gain funding.

Charles Hugh-Smith writes:

The central banks have manipulated the market for sovereign bonds by creating new money out of thin air and buying bonds. The goal is to suppress interest rates. And since central banks can create as much money as they want, whenever they want, there is no limit to how many bonds they can buy.

Rising yields once acted as a limiting factor on governments' issuing more bonds to fund their fiscal deficits. But since central banks have created trillions of dollars out of thin air to buy as many bonds as the Treasury issues, rates can be suppressed for as long as central banks are free to create trillions out of thin air.

Matt O’Brien writing in the Washington Post exemplifies the thinking that continued monetary easing has a bigger upside than a downside. Over the short term, he’s right.

What’s the Fed to do? Well, it could continue on its plan to raise rates because of low-ish unemployment, and risk killing whatever momentum the recovery has with a strong dollar. Or it could keep rates at zero because of the strong dollar, and risk ... well, it’s not clear what. Not inflation. Overall prices are up an anemic 0.7 percent the past year, core prices just 1.3 percent, and wages are stuck at 2.2 percent. And not a bubble. Household debt ratios are still falling, and while subprime auto loans are worth watching, that’s still a tiny market at only $20 billion.


Christopher Chantrill writes at the American Thinker:

In our age the economic, political, and cultural sectors are nominally separate, and the political class, assisted by the cultural class in the media, relieves the poor without taking on the responsibility of actually paying to feed the poor. The powerful political magnate receives the heads of the poor in his hands, and then pays for the benefits for its bondsmen not from his own estates, as of old, but from tax monies taken from the economic sector, from businesses and wage earners, by force.

Let’s move to Ferguson, a great place to do business and raise a family, no one said in the last 8 months. Ed Driscoll writes:

Fusion, a Website that’s an, err fusion between Univision and ABC/Disney is shocked that Ferguson real estate prices are “Down nearly 50 percent since Michael Brown’s death.” There’s more than a hint of bias in that subhead, as the cause wasn’t Brown’s death after he slugged a convenience store clerk and attempted to steal a police officer’s gun, but the riots and looting that followed—which were another kind of media fusion, ginned up by via the minicams of CNN and fueled further by NBC anchorman Al Sharpton’s corrosive presence.

If “sexual orientation” doesn’t fit the definition of a protected class, then discrimination is constitutionally protected, including in setting the definition of marriage. Ryan T. Anderson writes:

Part of the reason why ENDA creates these threats is that the definition of sexual orientation and gender identity is ambiguous. ENDA makes illegal what it considers to be discrimination based on an “individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

ENDA defines “sexual orientation” as “homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality” but offers no definition of those terms or what principle limits “orientation” to those three. Likewise, ENDA defines “gender identity” as “the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.”

These classifications are problematic. Paul McHugh, MD, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Gerard V. Bradley, Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, explain:

Social science research continues to show that sexual orientation, unlike race, color, and ethnicity, is neither a clearly defined concept nor an immutable characteristic of human beings. Basing federal employment law on a vaguely defined concept such as sexual orientation, especially when our courts have a wise precedent of limiting suspect classes to groups that have a clearly-defined shared characteristic, would undoubtedly cause problems for many well-meaning employers.

McHugh and Bradley caution against elevating sexual orientation and gender identity to the status of protected characteristics because of the lack of clear definition: “There is no scientific consensus on how to define sexual orientation, and the various definitions proposed by experts produce substantially different groups of people.”

Because there is no clear definition, the phrase is inherently elastic. McHugh and Bradley conclude:

Despite the effort of ENDA’s legislative drafters to confine “sexual orientation” to homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality, the logic of self-defined “orientation” is not so easily cabined. ... Even polyamory, “a preference for having multiple romantic relationships simultaneously,” has been defended as “a type of sexual orientation for purposes of anti-discrimination law” in a 2011 law review article.

There is no limiting principle for what will be classified as a sexual orientation or gender identity in the future. Indeed, Wesleyan College has extended the LGBT acronym and created a “safe space” for LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamorous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism. Will ENDA be used to protect these orientations and identities as well? If not, why not?

An excellent question that won’t make a damn’s worth of difference to Anthony Kennedy.

Don’t fall for this libertarian seduction:

In a recent speech at Boston University, University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock observed that America’s sexual revolution seems to be going the way of the French Revolution, in which religion and liberty cannot coexist. Today pro-choice and gay rights groups increasingly view conservative Christians as bigots hell bent on imposing their primitive beliefs on others.

Rather than viewing today’s culture wars as battles between light and darkness, Laycock sees them as principled disagreements. What one side views as “grave evils,” the other side views as “fundamental human rights.” What is needed if we want to preserve liberty in both religion and sexuality is a grand bargain in which the left would agree not to impose its secular morality on religious individuals while the right would agree not to impose its religious rules on society at large.

Any takers? Is it really necessary to pin a scarlet letter on those who believe the Bible prohibits gay marriage? Or might we learn to be satisfied with preserving liberty for ourselves without imposing our ideals (on sex or religion) on others?

Because it’s just too hard to tell someone they’re not supposed to be doing what they’re doing; therefore, let’s pretend all these hedonistic acts are on par with normal, healthy sexual relations between husband and wife and that the mass deviancy this will arouse won’t have negative consequences. Just like liberalizing marriage and abortion and contraception “rights” were a boon for the lower and middle classes.

What a load of trash. This delusion is willful.

I oppose RFRAs because they don’t tackle the root of the problem, which are attacks on the right of ownership, not religion. But if you’re going to enact RFRAs, enact them with gusto. Don’t monkey around with social moderates, quislings, and appeasers like Mitch Daniels, moneyed Republican donors, et al. Tim Swarens writes:

[Indiana Governor Mike Pence] adamantly insisted that RFRA will not open the door to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians. But he did acknowledge that Indiana’s image — and potentially its economic health — has been hurt badly by the controversy.

I spoke with Pence on the same day that thousands of people rallied at the Statehouse in opposition to the law. And the same day that Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle announced that his company will abandon a deal with the state and city to expand the company’s headquarters in Indianapolis because of RFRA’s passage.

Oesterle’s statement is a telling sign that the outrage over RFRA isn’t limited only to the political left. Oesterle directed Republican Mitch Daniel’s 2004 campaign for governor. And it’s a signal that the damage from the RFRA debacle could be extensive.

You can’t satirize some people because they take their absurd ideas to such logical ends that they impugn themselves. For example:

On no less than 15 occasions over the last two weeks, I have been greeted by the military personnel at the gate with the phrase “Have a blessed day.” This greeting has been expressed by at least 10 different Airmen ranging in rank from A1C to SSgt. I found the greeting to be a notion that I, as a non-religious member of the military community should believe a higher power has an influence on how my day should go.

The idea being that atheists are put upon by public religion; therefore, all public references to God must be scrubbed.

In a desperate bid to stay relevant, Presbyterian Church USA becomes irrelevant. What is novel and appealing about being hedonistic culture’s amen corner?

The Christian Post reports:

A small congregation in New York has voted unanimously to leave Presbyterian Church (USA) following the mainline denomination’s recent vote to approve gay marriage.

Brighton Presbyterian Church, a 200-year-old congregation in Rochester, voted Sunday to seek dismissal from its PCUSA regional body, the Presbytery of Genesee Valley.

The vote to disaffiliate came not long after a majority of presbyteries in PCUSA approved an amendment to their Book of Order defining marriage to include same-sex couples.

Kerry E. Luddy, spokeswoman for Brighton Presbyterian and wife of the head pastor, told The Christian Post that the decision to leave "is not a sudden decision.”

“We have been prayerfully considering this for about two years, and officially began the discernment process in mid-2014,” said Luddy.

“Our reason for leaving is centered on the status of biblical interpretation within the PC(USA). We believe that Scripture’s meaning and intent should not be altered to fit a current culture.”

Vox Day said: “Society cannot destroy the Church, but the Church can destroy itself by making societal approval its priority.”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cut back the self-justification in YA

There’s no better way to lose an audience than to tell them they’re the problem. That’s why I think Jesus spoke in parables to illustrate the hard truths, and never directly gave questioners what they wanted to hear, but always indirectly what they needed to hear—especially if they were self-righteous. The Pharisees, who tried to entrap Jesus by having Him rule one way or the other, logically reduced his responses considering the kingdom of heaven so as to be self-explanatory and irrefutable (e.g., “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”). If, however, Jesus had told everyone what they wanted to hear, satisfying a soaring market demand for self-justification, He would have been the richest, most popular figure in Israel, as opposed to the most divisive and most instructive.

This is true for young adult (YA) fiction writers, whose audience also yearns for self-justification. Those writers who deliver it in spades are multimillionaires by offering stories of anxious teens unexpectedly ridding the world of violent oppressors who are keeping them from living out the truest expression of themselves. That’s how every teen imagines his struggle against his parents and teachers is like. Disillusioned with the world, they just want to be left alone, and they value freedom even though they don’t know what to do with it. The notion that the greatest danger is the self doesn’t register in YA, unless you delve into C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia or Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, of a half-century ago. YA protagonists are much too self-assured and focused in their quest to destroy unoriginal permutations of Big Brother than to bother identifying how decent people go bad by being led gradually into darkness by their sin.

That is a shame, considering YA is training tomorrow’s adults to see someone “imposing” order by threat of force as evil, instead of examining that order and the degree to which reality informs it, and the degree to which seemingly harsh or unnecessary punishments exist to teach. No man in his life was ever not subject to some order. Teens are missing out on developing the tools to recognize the temptations within, the pull of radical egalitarianism and the nihilism of the will. The more likely tyranny is the one we blindly impose on ourselves, the one we fall into easily enough on our own because it’s popular and cool, because it’s the zeitgeist.

Gracy Olmstead writes at the American Conservative:

Why we haven’t seen more diversity in the dystopian genre as of late? It would be one thing if these were just films: we’re used to seeing the same underdog sports story, the same superhero films, over and over again. But these are book adaptations, plots created by authors who are regurgitating up the same tired stories at a ceaseless rate.

It could be that Hollywood has not discovered some unknown gems that may lace the dystopian genre—and if so, hopefully such works will begin to surface. But we still need some new novels—if not for our own sakes, at least for the young adults who more consistently read them. They needn’t be entirely new and brilliant; but couldn’t we at least write something more along the lines of Brave New World than 1984? It would feature a contrasting world, a diverse yet interesting array of characters. It would look at the consequences of hedonism, rather than the consequences of authoritarianism.

But perhaps the reason Huxley’s dystopia is the less popular of the two, is because it hits too close to home. It’s more fun watching domineering bad guys get crushed by upstart teenagers than it is to see a pleasure-centric society killing itself with ignorance and lust.

Related: “Unweaned masses.”

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reasoning towards grace

Samuel James wades into the middle of an apologetics dispute between Eric Metaxas and Francis Beckwith, and makes a great point about Romans, which I am coteaching to my small Sunday morning Bible class. We actually covered this in class March 8:

Admittedly, when it comes to Christianity and faith, adopting the vocabulary of the Enlightenment is usually not the best course. However, any discussion about this should carefully consider Romans 1. In that familiar passage, Paul, discussing the scope of mankind’s rebellion against its Creator, intensifies the cosmic treason of unbelief by magnifying the imprint that God has left on Creation:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. [ESV]

“So they are without excuse” is a significant sentence. Whatever else Paul might mean by declaring that God’s attributes are “clearly perceived” in the created world, he plainly teaches that this knowledge, this natural revelation, serves an epistemologically judicial function: It renders unbelief inexcusable. Paul believes that the natural world is an unalterably persuasive evidence of God, so much so that to persist in unbelief (as human beings do) is nothing less than “suppressing the truth.”

Apropos of natural law, Doug Mainwaring reasoned his way to God. He writes in Public Discourse:

Where and when should I draw the line with reason? With examining my conscience? With looking at the facts and making decisions based not simply on what I want or what I think is good for me, but based on absolute truths? My thoughts needed to result in actions. Eventually, I chose to lead a chaste life. In view of the facts, in view of the constant testimony of nature all around me, it was the only reasonable thing to do.

Reason led me to acknowledge natural law, which led me to begin rejecting some of my former ways of thinking and acting. Reason alone was enough to lead me to change the direction of my life. Then quite amazingly, natural law and reason working together led me to recognize and acknowledge God’s existence. And once I acknowledged God’s existence, again there was only one reasonable thing to do: I asked Jesus Christ to take the throne of my life, and I began to reject the emptiness of my self-centered ways.

Life experience and reason taught him there was a right and a wrong. They also taught him that he fell short, and continues to fall short, and he needs continuous grace.

Probably his observations also taught him not to expect an accounting of sin in this world, the world being demonstrably fallen and capricious towards righteous and unrighteous alike. Where the rubber hits the road is answering the question: To whom are we accountable? Who judges us by the law we know we fall short of? If the answer is “self” or any earthly judge, we are stuck in the same fix. The world is fallen and cannot sort these matters out justly.

This leads to two deductions:

  1. God waits to judge us in the heavenly realms.
  2. God must forgive us by grace if we are to be accounted righteous.

Indeed God’s forbearance in putting up with our sins, not accounting them against us during our lifetimes, is a feature of His grace. Without it, no one would have an opportunity to repent and join Jesus, the first fruits, in heaven. We’d all be zapped before we knew what we were doing.

So by God’s grace we lead an imperfect life circumcised to God. Any other way leads to damnation.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:6-10)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bulls’ Fed

Over the last year, between the Federal Reserve “taper” and the European Central Bank launching their own QE misadventure in February, the euro had lost a quarter of its value against the dollar—until Wednesday. The dollar lost 2.4 percent of its value against the euro Wednesday, bucking the year-long trend. So what gives?

For weeks people’s expectations have been that the Fed will move closer to raising interest rates for the first time in 10 years. The reality was sinking in that the free money pump was being turned off as it couldn’t stay opened forever. American stocks reacted accordingly, like they had actually hit their peak and had nowhere to go but down.

Those expectations of tightening Fed policy abruptly changed with the Federal Reserve downgrading its economic outlook on Wednesday. Surprise, surprise, the “longest period of job growth in American history” is a phony boom, fueled by wage stagnation, fascist demand-side stimulus, and low cash velocity.

Because this is opposite world, the Fed’s revised forecast means the more determinative force in this weak socialist economy, monetary policy, will continue to be loose for the foreseeable future to stimulate demand, which is all Keynesians know how to do. That is, there is no imminent, mid-summer interest rate hike. Thus, the $4 trillion bandwagon stayed to yoked equities where they are assured to earn better than zero interest. Stocks responded accordingly, jumping 2 percent, and currency traders dumped their dollars for euros, among other currencies.

Investors are bullish again, but savers don’t have the luxury of betting their savings on equities. The safest bet has always been low-risk interest-earning accounts, which in normal circumstances outearn inflation. These aren’t normal circumstances, though. Who knows when things will return to normal?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Helpless little darlings

The helpless little darlings don’t know what’s best for them, Big Mother says. They need a benevolent dictatorship to protect them from themselves.

Eric Posner agrees:

Lately, a moral panic about speech and sexual activity in universities has reached a crescendo. Universities have strengthened rules prohibiting offensive speech typically targeted at racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities; taken it upon themselves to issue “trigger warnings” to students when courses offer content that might upset them; banned sexual acts that fall short of rape under criminal law but are on the borderline of coercion; and limited due process protections of students accused of violating these rules.

Most liberals celebrate these developments, yet with a certain uneasiness. Few of them want to apply these protections to society at large. Conservatives and libertarians are up in arms. They see these rules as an assault on free speech and individual liberty. They think universities are treating students like children. And they are right. But they have also not considered that the justification for these policies may lie hidden in plain sight: that students are children. Not in terms of age, but in terms of maturity. Even in college, they must be protected like children while being prepared to be adults.

It was liberals, the free-love cultural revolutionaries of the ’60s and ’70s, who made immaturity cool. They’re realizing a little late that relativism and depravity create victims and that judgment was good insofar as it at least communicated discernment of better from bad. It’s past due for those raised in such an environment (i.e., Posner [b. 1965]), who are parents and grandparents now, to advocate paternalistic government to pull tight the disciplinary slack left over by their excess and permissiveness.

Post-bourgeois liberals—usually conservative in temperament and well-educated—don’t understand how beneficial the social, religious order is to the proletariat, or how enslavement to sin can undo a person. Some are deluded in thinking the technocratically empowered super state can render obsolete the deleterious effects of mistakes that derail life from its plotted course, like how getting pregnant out of wedlock hurts a woman’s ability to find financial support outside her family or the government, like how gambling ruins a family’s self-sufficiency and marital peace, like how smoking weed hinders the mind from applying knowledge and wisdom to work and life. “Managing” these problems with the resources of the state is impossible due to the sheer size of the population and the variability of individuals.

Posner the progressive does realize this. What he doesn’t realize is no force can tame a man better than the gentle pressures of those closest to him and an active conscience—not a distant, heavy hand (that has a lot of trouble itself discerning better from bad).

Tyranny becomes more acceptable the further we fall from the vision of American character the Founders had in mind when they set up a government of limited powers.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Remember the Rainy Day Fund!

The Alamo is the most recognizable icon in the state of Texas, and it’s tucked away on a crowded street lined with garish businesses like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Corner preachers, percussion bands, and street merchants are in abundance. The downtown hubbub distracts from the dignity of the garrison and its special place in Texas history.

All things being equal, should the street be closed? Should the buildings across the street be leveled? Should ordinances be passed to forbid vendors and noisemakers? Yes, yes, yes! But at what cost?

A Texas beat reporter on 1200 WOAI was very excited Friday morning about a proposed revolutionary funding measure to renovate Alamo Plaza: the Rainy Day Fund. Eureka! Yes, the same Rainy Day Fund that Texas taxpayers abused twice in the last two elections to fund water infrastructure projects and tollroads will be siphoned off yet again, to the tune of $250 million, if lawmakers get their way.

This is not how you treat the Texas Constitution. This is not how you treat people who put money away with the promise that it wouldn’t be spent like this. Alas, Texas voters have demonstrated they have no compunction risking the state’s financial security to avoid paying for something themselves.

The reporter on 1200 WOAI suggested San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor could secure a political legacy by campaigning for this $250 million Alamo Preservation Fund. It was a pitiful appeal to political self-interest. Legacies are gratuitous monuments to self. They’re a big log on a small fire, smothering it. Social Security is a legacy (insolvent). The Great Society is a legacy (total failure). A good leader does what’s best for her city, not what gets her name written in the history books.

Wouldn’t a better legacy be preserving the integrity of the public fisc and guarding the public against bad laws? Ivy Taylor already has a legacy in that regard. As far as I know, she’s the only mayoral candidate who took the correct positions on the horrible nondiscrimination ordinance and the horrible streetcar plan.

There’s a better way to clean up the Alamo than throwing money at it from the Rainy Day Fund.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Odds and ends 3/13/2015

“One criterion by which a culture’s civilizational attainments are often assessed has been the extent to which it gives scope to man’s capacity for reason. National Socialism’s Nietzschean glorification of an untrammeled Will of the Volk and the State, not to mention the regime’s efforts to exterminate entire categories of people, reflected a thoroughgoing irrationality; thus the absurdity of the Third Reich’s claims to be promoting European civilization. Less appreciated, however, is the extent to which a society’s capacity to embrace full-bodied conceptions of reason depends heavily upon the dominant understanding of the Divine prevailing in that community. In that regard, modern Western civilization may be more at risk of cultural decline than many presently realize.” –Samuel Gregg

Tolerance is the buzz word nowadays. What it means now is not what it meant 300 years ago, when scumbags like Dan Savage didn’t set terms. Jeremy Neill writes at Public Discourse:

For John Rawls, a representative political liberal, toleration is a trait of citizens who are accepting of each other and who are willing to cooperate amicably with each other in conditions of reasonable pluralism. It involves an effort to refrain from an untoward interference in the lifestyles of others. Usually, it is also manifested in the willingness of the citizens to allow each other to pursue their comprehensive conceptions of the good without the threat of discrimination or coercion.

For Rawls, the free exercise of reason generates a variety of different comprehensive doctrines. Since it is not possible—in Rawls’s view—for persons to achieve agreement on these comprehensive doctrines in conditions of freedom, they must tolerate each other. Rawlsian toleration is thus, at most, undertaken for the sake of fair terms of social cooperation.


Early modern theologians—thinkers in the era between John Calvin and Roger Williams—saw the laws of the state as protecting persons from the most egregious vices, and as placing them in a position to succeed in the heavenly kingdom. But they also believed that faith is ultimately a matter of internal conviction, and thus is non-coercible. Thus they believed that the different ways in which persons pursue God ought to be tolerated.

The purpose of early modern Christian toleration was to free persons to rise, via religious aspiration, to a more exalted level of flourishing. Its animating force was the Christian worldview and the belief that spiritual truth is achievable in one kingdom in a way that is simply outside the authority of the other.

Human sacrifices have been abhorrent to God since Abraham almost burned Isaac to God. Liberals have regressed 4,000 years.

The SAE chapter was closed and kicked off campus this week after a student group published a video depicting some of the frat’s members participating in a racist chant. Two of its members were also expelled for what university president David Boren called their “leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant.”


The university responded severely to the racist video. SAE students had two days to remove their belongings from the now-closed SAE house on campus this week. “We don’t provide student services for bigots,” Boren declared.

It will be interesting to watch how far OU and SAE go towards cleansing their memberships of thoughtcrime, and how swiftly their memberships dwindle as a result.

Catholic schoolteacher fails the religious test:

Patricia Januzzi, the teacher in question, recently posted some remarks on same-sex marriage and homosexuality on her publicly accessible Facebook page. After remarking on the dubious proposition that protection of gays and lesbians as a class can be brought within the ambit of the Fourteenth Amendment, Januzzi wrote: “In other words they [advocates of same-sex marriage] want to reeingineer western civ into a slow extinction. We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of the children and humanity!!!!”

Of course—of course—a firestorm erupted over this. Even (whatever happened to) Susan Sarandon weighed in with self-righteous condemnation (it seems her nephew once attended Immaculata). The principal of the school told Januzzi to take down her public Facebook page, which she did, and the school issued a statement a couple of days ago assuring the public that its “investigation” had “determined that the information posted on this social media page has not been reflected in the curriculum content of the classes [Januzzi] teaches.” Then followed the rote recitation of the gospel of “respect and sensitivity.” As stilted and impenetrable as all this was—Januzzi had not posted “information” but opinion, and what, after all, was the school telling us was not “reflected” in the classes it offers?—at least it seemed for one brief shining moment that this little flap would go away.

No such luck. Now it is reliably reported that Patricia Januzzi is under pressure to resign, and threatened with dismissal if she utters a peep about the matter. This is rapidly becoming an outrageous assault against a person whose worst offense was to speak with what some (but by no means all) would call an intemperate passion, in favor of the Church’s teaching.

This phony posturing surely is the work of the father of lies.

“We are centralizing power in practice because we are erasing the alternatives from our minds. We have forgotten that the regulation of human societies can come from communities, from states, and from civil society—and so, increasingly, it can’t. The world of the Affordable Care Act begins in our own conceptions. The growing centralization of American political power is a product of our decision to forget. Can we sustain federalism and a robust civil society if no one notices they exist?” –Chris Bray

At VDARE, James Kirkpatrick goes after the libertarian Students for Liberty:

The truth is that the libertarianism—especially the “millennial libertarianism” or “second wave libertarianism” that Students for Liberty is determined to promote—privileges cultural liberalism above restricting the state. You can’t take concepts like Leftist buzzwords like “privilege” and “normativity” seriously and still defend limited government. Once you accept these kinds of concepts, the inevitable performance gaps between racial groups, nations, and sexes become evidence of “oppression” rather than of objectively existing inequalities.

Of course, libertarians like Murray Rothbard recognized this, which is why he openly defended concepts like racial differences in average intelligence. Whatever name-dropping contemporary libertarians practice, it’s doubtful that the author of Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature would even be allowed on the stage at something like Students for Liberty.

I find this quote from the increasingly unstable vice president synchronous with the above:

What happened is not only did we move toward freeing black Americans but also the conscience of white Americans.

What a revelation! Emancipation’s goal was to cleanse white guilt, same as the progressive income tax. As if anything but the blood of the Son of God in the flesh could do that.

Libertarians lose their minds in defending the zeitgeist. Not only does Stephanie Slade misrepresent what Ben Carson said to Chris Cuomo, she claims the truth escapes the peons who didn’t go to college.

Ben Carson, the apparent 2016 hopeful, thinks being gay is “absolutely” a choice. He made that clear in an appearance on CNN last week. That may or may not be enough to disqualify him from being president, as some commentators have suggested. It certainly led to a lot of facepalming from election watchers inside the Beltway, myself included. But it’s always worth being reminded that things sometimes look different outside the confines of Washington, D.C.

A report from Pew, released on Friday, shows that Americans as a whole are as likely to think that being gay or lesbian “is just the way some people choose to live” (42 percent) as they are to think that “people are born gay or lesbian” (41 percent). Admittedly, the percent agreeing with Lady Gaga that gay people were born that way has doubled over the last three decades—but it’s still nowhere near a majority.

The even divide among all Americans masks a noteworthy trend, however: The more educated a person, the less likely she is to think homosexuality is a choice. Individuals with postgraduate degrees are twice as likely to say gay people are born that way than to say it’s simply how they choose to live. Meanwhile, those with a high school diploma or less see homosexuality as a choice by a 13 percentage point margin.

Sexuality isn’t fixed. It’s not genetic, it’s behavioral. Given those two options, I’d say it’s a choice, too.

Is there a political actor more obtuse than the cool, reactionary libertarian?

Carl R. Trueman summarizes the tyranny of sexual identity:

There are surely grounds for congratulating folks at Wesleyan on their consistent honesty in the cause of sexual liberation. Liberation, that is, of sex from any intrinsic moral significance. As Luther said to Erasmus in very different circumstances: You and you alone have placed your finger on the hinge on which everything turns.

If very few of the sexual acts of today’s identity politics are procreative, that has certainly not inhibited their proponents’ impressive ability to give birth to endless categories of sexual preference. This is the result of more than a mere lack of conceptual contraception. It also indicates the loss of any sense that sex in itself might carry some kind of larger moral significance. Indeed, the plethora of sexual identities now available witness to the fact that there is no longer any basis for rejecting any kind of sexual act, considered in itself, as intrinsically wrong. The multiplication of such categories is part of rendering sex amoral: When everything is legitimate, then nothing has particular moral significance.

This endless expansion of sexual categories is a necessary consequence of what is now the fundamental tenet of modern sexual politics, and perhaps a key element of modern politics in general: That a person’s attitude to sex is the primary criterion for assessing their moral standing in the public square. If you say that sex has intrinsic moral significance, then you set it within a larger moral framework and set limits to the legitimate use of sex. In doing so, you declare certain sexual acts illegitimate, something which is now considered hate speech. This constant coining of new categories of sexual identity serves both to demonstrate this and to facilitate its policing.

David T. Koyzis considers the Supreme Court precedent that set in motion the madness:

However, I would contend that the principal issue raised by this and similar rulings in both of our countries’ supreme courts is whether the quest for personal autonomy is a feasible goal for either legislatures or courts to advance. Does justice consist of giving everyone the maximum ability to fulfill their desires, whatever they might be? Do constraints on the ability to choose constitute oppression? Is it the task of our political institutions to liberate us from such constraints?

This would appear to be the accepted orthodoxy in this latest stage in the centuries-long development of liberalism, as I have described elsewhere. The U.S. Supreme Court’s judgment in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) claims to grant citizens an impossibly expansive right to autonomy in this oft-quoted passage: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Here the human will seems to be sacrosanct and is limited only by the requirement not to inflict harm on others. Yet attempts to flesh out the legal implications of this statement can only run aground because it ascribes to mere human beings godlike powers, which is, of course, the spurious promise given to our first parents. No society can long endure whose members think themselves gods, no matter how many courts rule differently.

Commenter “DN” at the American Conservative is strangely optimistic:

I personally see plenty of room for a reversal of this trend. The LGBT movement has been quite effective in shifting the narrative of sexuality from one of actions/behavior to personal identity. Most Americans are decent people, and when the question is posed of whether to condemn a person or not, we choose not to do so.

Most LGBT never really believed the “born this way” narrative, and some even found it offensive that they had no control over their sexual behavior. However, the narrative reached sufficient consensus to be used as a rhetorical and legal strategy for a few decades. Dividing people into discrete groups of “sexual orientation” and declaring these to be immutable was an important basis for a civil rights claim. At one point, progressives argued that Science proved a genetic predisposition for gayness, but this line was eventually dropped.

What’s happening now, even in advance of a SCOTUS ruling, is that the sexual libertarians are feeling more confident to abandon the “born this way” narrative, and embrace fluidity of sexual expression. This is much more aligned with the overall philosophical basis and actual personal experiences, and it allows people who embrace other taboo forms of sexuality to join the coalition. The sadist who declares, “I was born to inflict pain on others” strains credulity, but he will be right at home in an ethic of pure sexual libertarianism.

It remains to be seen how Americans will react once the personal identity narrative is supplanted by the notion of sexual fluidity and liberation.

Investor’s Business Daily lets world citizen Obama have it:

Obama had plenty of compliments for Islam Wednesday at his “Summit on Countering Violent Extremism,” even declaring, “Here in America, Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding,” and noting that the first American mosque was in, of all places, North Dakota.

But two days earlier, he wouldn’t support Egyptian and Emirates’ airstrikes against Islamist militias in Libya in retaliation for the videotaped beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. How about some support for our Islamic friends as they bomb our Islamic enemies?


“They are not religious leaders” but “have perverted Islam,” Obama claims. It’s like Franklin D. Roosevelt saying the Nazis gave German expansionism a bad name.


But the worst moment in Obama’s speech was when he evoked memories of Jimmy Carter confiding that he got advice on nuclear weaponry from his 12-year-old daughter, Amy. “I’m thinking of a little girl named Sabrina, who last month sent me a Valentine’s Day card in the shape of a heart,” Obama said. The 11-year-old Muslim told the president, “If some Muslims do bad things, that doesn't mean all of them do.”

“That’s how we discredit violent ideologies, by making sure her voice is lifted up,” Obama said, adding, “There will be a military component to this.” No kidding.

“Doing our part to reject the narratives of violent extremists” won’t defeat Islamist terrorism. And neither will denying their religious nature.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Power knows not shame

Thucydides wrote: “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” An imbalance of power is preferable to equality to negotiate favorable terms. It’s incumbent on moral authority to use its power as a force for good, not denigrate it as President Obama does in the vain pursuit of the equality of nations.

Five years after the president said this in Prague, Putin took eastern Ukraine by force, understanding fully the West’s unwillingness to fight, and ISIS stormed across an Iraq that had known peace for a little while before the U.S. Army pulled out:

We are here today because of the Prague Spring—because the simple and principled pursuit of liberty and opportunity shamed those who relied on the power of tanks and arms to put down the will of a people.

We are here today because 20 years ago, the people of this city took to the streets to claim the promise of a new day, and the fundamental human rights that had been denied them for far too long. Sametová Revoluce—(applause)—the Velvet Revolution taught us many things. It showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology. It showed us that small countries can play a pivotal role in world events, and that young people can lead the way in overcoming old conflicts. (Applause.) And it proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.

Tell that to the 80 million Chinese Mao murdered, or the 6 million Jews the Nazis killed, or the millions of Ukrainians Stalin starved. A lot of good their ideals did for them in resisting evil. They could not very well fight for what they believed, for good or ill, unfed and unarmed.

Ideals are nothing without determination and sacrifice. Ideals must be powerful enough to inspire lack of self-regard in the use of force. Without force, ideals get crushed, because power knows not shame.

There are bad ideals that bad people act on, with nationalist and religious fervor. They have to be defeated. Obama thinks he can defeat them in a debate among equals in standing, that people naturally choose peace, love, and understanding when they’re given the choice. The Arab Spring proved that notion wrong, once and for all.

Obama understands the usefulness of power. You can tell what is important to him from reading what he actually uses his power to do. For example, Conn Carroll writes:

[Bernie] Sanders sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Friday identifying a number of executive actions he believes the IRS could take, without any input from Congress, that would close loopholes currently used by corporations. In the past, IRS lawyers have been hesitant to use executive actions to raise significant amounts of revenue, but that same calculation has change in other federal agencies since Obama became president.

Obama’s preferred option would be for Congress to pass a corporate tax hike that would fund liberal infrastructure projects like mass transit. But if Congress fails to do as Obama wishes, just as Congress has failed to pass the immigration reforms that Obama prefers, Obama could take actions unilaterally instead. This past November, for example, Obama gave work permits, Social Security Numbers, and drivers licenses to approximately 4 million illegal immigrants.

So, he knows how to fight for what he believes. Pointy-headed idealism is just a cover for his powerlessness against evil. Liberalism is bloodless and weak. Because liberalism puts stock in worldly comfort at truth’s expense, as a civilizational cornerstone it cannot make sacrifices to face down an enemy, for it lacks selflessness and a claim to ultimate truth.

Friday, March 6, 2015

King v. Burwell

I have full faith in John Roberts to keep Obamacare alive. USA Today reports:

The principal argument advanced by the law’s opponents—that four words in the 906-page statute permit the use of tax credits only in states that set up their own health insurance exchanges—appeared to please the court’s most conservative members.


In combative terms, the court’s four more liberal justices argued that limiting tax credits used by millions of Americans to pay insurance premiums, as the challengers said the law requires, would throw the insurance markets in 34 states into a “death spiral.”

“We’re going to have the death spiral that this system was created to avoid,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. “Tell me how that is not coercive in an unconstitutional way.”

You see, the law can’t mean what it plainly says because without socialism there would just be too much pain in the world. The ends justify the means.

During the second half of the oral argument, Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito said the law clearly does not include tax credits in federal exchanges—and that if the court rules that way, states or Congress can step in and fix it.

“How can the federal government establish a state exchange?” Scalia said. “That is gobbledygook.”

The lawyer for the challengers, Michael Carvin, returned repeatedly to the wording of the law itself. “This is a straightforward case of statutory construction, where the plain language of the statute dictates the result,” he said.


During the second half of the argument, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli—who successfully defended the health care law in 2012—argued that it would make no sense if essential tax credits were excluded from two-thirds of the states, as the challengers suggest was either Congress’s intent or error.

“Their reading produces an incoherent statute that doesn’t work,” Verrilli said. “That cannot be the statute that Congress intended.”

It wouldn’t be the first time a major branch of government failed internal consistency. Verrilli seems incredulous that Congress would do something so stupid. Is it because progressives are too smart to make one mistake in 906 pages of incoherent socialist utopian lawmaking? My Bible is about 900 pages and it’s not as dense or as moralistic as Obamacare.

Michael F. Cannon writes at Forbes:

The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell claim the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act only offers premium subsidies, as the statute says, “through an Exchange established by the State.” Members of Congress who voted for the PPACA—most recently Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)—now swear it was never their intent to condition Exchange subsidies on state cooperation.


Ironically, Casey’s and Nelson’s decision to wade into the King debate demonstrates why, when a statute is clear, courts traditionally assign no weight to what members of Congress claim they intended a law to say—especially if, as here, those claims come after a clear provision has proven problematic. While he claims he never intended to condition subsidies on states establishing Exchanges, Casey repeatedly voted to condition Exchange subsidies on state cooperation, has misrepresented what Congress intended the PPACA to do, and continues to misrepresent the PPACA on his Senate web site. Nelson’s claims about what Congress intended should likewise be taken with a grain of salt. In an unguarded moment in 2013, Nelson admitted that in 2009 he paid no attention to “details” such as whether the PPACA authorized subsidies in federal Exchanges.


Conditioning Exchange subsidies on state cooperation is hardly a foreign concept to Casey. In 2009, he supported and voted for another health care bill that even the Obama administration and congressional Democrats acknowledge conditioned Exchange subsidies on state cooperation. That bill was S. 1697, reported by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

As Jonathan Adler and I explained in a brief we filed before the district court in King, every Democrat on the Senate’s HELP Committee voted in favor of S. 1697, and therefore in favor of conditioning Exchange subsidies on state cooperation.

In Casey’s words, then, he himself voted for a bill that “included the threat” that residents of uncooperative states “would lose access to premium... credits intended to ensure that those residents could afford health insurance.”

If you were a judge, what would you consider a better indicator of what Casey actually intended: what he repeatedly voted to enact, or what now he says to influence the courts after the clear language he voted to enact has proved problematic?

These men are so smart they made healthcare decisions for millions of patients they don’t know for health conditions even the patients themselves don’t know they have. Sic semper tyrannis.

How is it that the mythically “disfunctional” Congress of the last 4 years has sacrificed Congress’s credibility? The worst they’ve done is go along with the idiocy that came before. Remember, the temporary liberal supermajority of 2009-2010 passed this horrible law.

[Scalia] and Alito also asked why the states or Congress couldn’t fix what the court breaks if it rules that 34 states should not be offering tax credits. Alito said “it’s not too late” for the states to set up exchanges, while Scalia intoned, “What about Congress?”

“You really think Congress is just going to sit there while all of these disastrous consequences ensue?” Scalia said. That brought knowing smiles and chuckles from the lawmakers seated adjacent to the news media section.

As if the do-anything-to-pad-the-federal-register-with-rationalizations-to-do-whatever-our-socialist-hearts-desire Congress that created this mess is any better than the one we have today.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tip of the spear

Ben Carson may as well have been speaking Klingon to the CNN host:

“A lot of people who go into prison—go into prison straight, and when they come out they’re gay. So did something happen while they were in there?”


“A lot of people go into jail as a drug addict and they come out as a criminal,” Cuomo responded. “Does that mean that all drug addicts are criminals?”

In Chris Cuomo’s defense, it was probably the first time he’d heard sexuality is fluid over one’s lifetime. Liberals have lost all perspective of the concepts of flawed humanity and free will, the “born this way” fallacy is so deeply ingrained in their minds.

When Carson apologized for telling the truth, he did himself nor the truth any favors. He similarly came up short against the LGBT identity cult at John Hopkins University.

The argument is available. It just needs a champion. It takes but one act of defiance to pierce the armor, one selfless person to sacrifice his popularity. Then it’s a matter of following through. The Supreme Court especially desperately needs to hear about the indefiniteness of sexual attraction and its dubious status under the equal protection clause. At least Anthony Kennedy’s conscience will convict him when he writes the majority opinion federalizing same-sex marriage.

Not to suggest a favorable ruling would protect states and cities from gay insurrectionists. Not even Alabama can resist the gravity of this madness, in the long run. Those polities are too big, too cosmopolitan, too attractive a target to be left alone by truth’s enemies.

But it would be encouraging if people could still form their own communities and practice what those homophobes Moses, Jesus, George Washington, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama circa 2008 believed about marriage, without worrying about the Feds laying siege to them like the Feds sieged the Branch Dividians in Waco.