Sunday, July 19, 2015

Odds and ends 7/19/2015

One Cosmos makes a wonderful observation that I think illuminates the difference between righteousness from Jesus and righteousness of works:

I marvel at what a good person my son is. What I mean is, I see evidence of his spontaneous goodness all the time. He is a much better person than I was at 10. I was by no means a bad person, but if I'm really honest, part of this was because I was simply afraid to be bad. That’s what I mean about temptation. I might have been worse if I weren’t such a coward.

Part of me admired the naughty boys, but my son isn't like that at all. Rather, he strikes me as “courageously good.” He would be willing to be mocked for his goodness, whereas I would have been much more likely to cave under peer pressure. In contrast, he is irked and repelled by jerks and pseudo-rebels. There’s no attraction at all.

So far, anyway. For two years running he’s won the “people of faith” award—whatever that is—in his school by simply doing what comes spontaneously. He is not remotely repressed. To the contrary, full of life.

It very much reminds me of something Harvey Mansfield said in his Manliness: that in order to be a gentleman, one must first be a man. Otherwise you’re just a gentlewimp. And the gentlewimp is often just a mask of the barbarian, as in Obama and his ilk. Poke the wimp, and out comes the cloven hoof, as when that reporter spoiled the party by pointing out that Iran is still holding kidnapped Americans.

If I think I must avoid sin to be good enough for God to approve of me, I will be frightened and agonized my whole life. If I think God loves me and forgives me so that I may serve him with all my mind, body, and spirit, I will be free and joyous and unrestrained in my service.


Steve Turley analyzes C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man:

Lewis sees the modern age, in many respects, as wholly unprecedented. The world before the modern age affirmed Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, what Lewis called The Tao, as objective values embedded in a divinely arranged cosmic order. The modern age, however, views the universe as impersonal nature and thus locates all conceptions of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty to culturally conditioned personal preferences. In the pre-modern world, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty were objective to the knower; in the modern age, they are constructed by the knower and superimposed on an impersonal world.

For Lewis, these two worlds are governed by radically different civilizational orientations. For pre-modern man, the fundamental question was how to conform the soul to the objective world and thus be drawn up into divine life, and the answer involved prayer, virtue, and knowledge. However, for modern man, the question is inverted: modern man is not interested in how to conform the soul to reality; rather modern man seeks to conform the world to his own desires and ambitions, and the means involves tapping into those institutions that operate by the mechanisms of power and manipulation, namely, science, technology, and the state.

But this modern project comes at a terrible cost. Lewis recognized that if all conceptions of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are reduced to mere personal preferences, then the only way there can be a moral consensus in society is through some kind of manipulation. If a sense of divine obligation and hence a collective self-government has been erased, then only coercion, compulsion, and extortion can provide a motivation for ethical conformity.

Thus, Lewis sees manipulation as the heart of this brave new world to which we are embarking. And if manipulation is an intrinsic characteristic of modern life, then there must surface by definition two classes of people: manipulators and manipulatees, or, in Lewis’ terms, the ‘conditioners’ and the ‘conditioned.’ The need for coercion and manipulation thus gives rise to the formation of a social elite, a secular aristocracy, with the vast majority of the human population repositioned as objects of manipulation.


Erick Erickson asks what happened to presidential candidate Rand Paul:

Here is the guy who should be doing some cross-party fusion. He rallied a lot of Americans in bipartisan fashion on national security. He seemed to be playing his cards right. And... ? Bernie Sanders is kicking his butt in campaign fundraising. In fact, I dare say Sanders froze Paul's chance at fusion. All the little rich libertine millennials that Paul was counting on, instead got excited for Sanders.

That’s the problem with libertarians. Their individualist creed appeals to base liberal instincts, which dependably regress to the false ideal of autonomy. Freedom from work, freedom from religion, freedom from having children, freedom from responsibility, do you sense a theme here?


Alan Dershowitz analyzes the Iran deal in the Boston Globe:

How did we get ourselves into the situation where there are no good options?

We did so by beginning the negotiations with three important concessions. First, we took the military option off the table by publicly declaring that we were not militarily capable of permanently ending Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Second, we took the current tough sanction regimen off the table by acknowledging that if we did not accept a deal, many of our most important partners would begin to reduce or even eliminate sanctions. Third, and most important, we took off the table the option of rejecting the deal by publicly acknowledging that if we do so, we will be worse off than if we accept even a questionable deal. Yes, the president said he would not accept a “bad” deal, but by repeatedly watering down the definition of a bad deal, and by repeatedly stating that the alternative to a deal would be disastrous, he led the Iranians to conclude we needed the deal more than they did.

These three concessions left our negotiators with little leverage and provided their Iranian counterparts with every incentive to demand more compromises from us. The result is that we pinned ourselves into a corner. As Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute put it: “The deal itself became more important than what was in it.” President Obama seems to have confirmed that assessment when he said: “Put simply, no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East.”

Only time will tell whether this deal decreases or increases the likelihood of more war. But one thing is clear: By conveying those stark alternatives to Iranian negotiators, we weakened our bargaining position.


Kim Holmes writes at the Daily Signal about the putrid King v. Burwell decision:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s lament last week that “words no longer have meaning” got me to thinking. I don’t claim to know Chief Justice John Roberts’ motivations in deciding in favor of Obamacare, but I do know that his deconstruction of the meaning of language is increasingly commonplace in our culture. Could his willingness to bend the meaning of the word “states” indicate something larger than what’s happening to the law? Could it actually be a sign of a major cultural shift in the country?

Welcome to postmodern America. For decades now, we have been living in a culture where the meaning of words is stretched almost beyond recognition. “Metanarratives” ring truer than actual facts. Self-prescribed identities trump everything, including nature. A white woman can blithely claim she is black, but when challenged, the only thing she can muster in her defense is irritable confusion and a declaration of how she “identifies.” A man announces he’s a woman and is celebrated as a hero.

Sounds about right. I took a critical theory class to complete my English degree that was the worst class in the world. Basically the point of critical theory is to undermine the plain, direct meaning of a text.

For example, take the phrase “We hold these truths to be self-evident” from the Declaration of Independence. If “these truths” were self-evident, why is it necessary to say so? A self-evident truth needs no announcement, does it not? It can be observed by anyone who looks into it.

If something were not self-evident, and I wanted you to believe me, I would say just what Jefferson wrote. Because what I am claiming are self-evident truths aren’t self-evident or true at all. I claim they’re self-evident because the actual evidence points to the contrary. Jefferson intends us to not verify the evidence supporting these so-called “truths.” The Declaration is actually lies masquerading as truth as those men “held” at that time.

Whee!

Meanwhile, Obamacare continues to rape people’s healthcare. The Daily Signal reports:

Only 18 percent of enrollees subject to the Affordable Care Act’s cost-increasing insurance requirements received subsidies last year to offset those higher premiums. Put another way, for each person who got a subsidy last year, there were four more individuals whose coverage was also subjected to the Affordable Care Act’s costly new insurance requirements, but who received no offsetting subsidy.

David Azerrad has an article up at Public Discourse on Anthony Kennedy’s Obergefell ruling that I want to quote nearly in full:

Woven throughout his musings on the dynamic synergies between the various clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment is the central premise of modern liberalism: individual autonomy. It is the very first argument that the Court offers on behalf of the newfound constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

Indeed, in the opening sentence of the decision, Kennedy proclaims all individuals free “to define and express their identity,” thereby echoing his even more grandiloquent pronouncement in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that 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.”

On this foundation, the edifice of modern liberalism is built. We are all sovereign individuals, radically free to fashion and refashion ourselves into anything we so please at any point in our lives. Man is the undefined animal. He is auto nomos—self-legislating. Neither God, nor nature, nor tradition, nor the obligations he previously contracted may hem him in. Bruce Jenner may become Caitlyn whenever she so pleases—and then become Bruce again if he wants.

Beyond the rudimentary demands of refraining from harming others, nothing may constrain the choices we make in defining and redefining our identity. This is democratized, domesticated Nietzscheanism. Prometheus not fully unbound—just mindful of the rights of others. This, it should be pointed out, is also the starting-point of libertarianism—but also its end point. Not so for liberalism.

Liberalism’s exalted view of man’s limitless possibilities, paradoxically enough, is not accompanied by an equally exalted view of his inner strength and resolve. One might think that liberalism would encourage individuals to trust in themselves and to be scornful of society’s staid bourgeois conventions in defining and expressing their identity.

It doesn’t. For all his purported god-like powers of self-creation, liberal promethean man is actually a weak, insecure, and isolated individual. It is not enough that he define and express his identity. He needs others to recognize it, embrace it, and celebrate it. He needs the state to confer dignity upon it.

Otherwise, he may find himself marginalized by his peers, crippled by their disapproving looks, and insecure in his choice of an identity. After all, a particular lifestyle or living arrangement may not be illegal, but it can still be viewed as dishonorable by some. Even before the Court’s ruling, gay couples could marry in a house of worship or banquet hall in any of the states that still defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. But they carried the lack of state recognition for their marriages like the mark of Cain.

“Outlaw to outcast may be a step forward, but it does not achieve the full promise of liberty, ” explains Kennedy. The Court’s opinion is replete with references to stigma, hurt, and humiliation. “It demeans gays and lesbians for the State to lock them out of a central institution of the Nation’s society.” It is therefore incumbent upon the state to dignify them. As Matthew Franck wrote in Public Discourse last week: “In Kennedy’s mind, the Constitution has been converted into a great Dignity Document.”

An earlier generation of liberals would have told the man to go to hell with his marriage certificate. “We don't need no thought control,” they would have yelled. “All in all you're just another brick in the wall!” To have the suits recognize your alternative lifestyle would have defeated the whole purpose of embracing it in the first place.

Contemporary liberalism, by contrast, views man as a weak and fragile creature. Adversity doesn’t forge character. It stigmatizes and demeans. Unless others affirm our choices, they are worthless. We have no unshakable inner convictions or faith. We are all insecure.

Promethean man, it turns out, is a pathetic creature. He thinks himself the measure of all things, but must in fact have his solipsistic existence be publicly affirmed and dignified by the state. He is simultaneously everything and nothing.

Liberalism’s celebration of human autonomy is obviously incompatible with any conception of an unchosen nature that restricts our scope of action. Nevertheless, Kennedy twice appeals to the idea of a permanent nature in the decision. Homosexuals have an “immutable nature,” he asserts. They are born gay and cannot change. So are heterosexuals, bisexuals, and all other flavor-du-jour-sexuals for that matter: “sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.”

The essence of liberty is the freedom to define and express one’s identity, just not when it comes to sexual orientation, which is innate and immutable. We can choose our gender—that is not fixed at birth—but our sexual orientation is handed down to us by the gods and must be accepted with passive resignation (for a contrasting view, see this Public Discourse essay by Paul McHugh and Gerard Bradley).

Turning to marriage, Kennedy implicitly carves out another exception to the realm of autonomy. Marriage, though clearly not possessing a permanent nature, is nevertheless “essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.” This implies that happiness outside of marriage is not possible. No one will be forced to get married—but all who aspire to be happy (and who doesn’t?) will want to. Marriage is no longer what earlier liberals called an “obscene bourgeois institution” or “a comfortable concentration camp.”

Only marriage can respond “to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there,” writes Kennedy. Not to marry is to “be condemned to live in loneliness.” Lovers, friends, parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, neighbors, coreligionists, brothers-in-arm, colleagues—none of them can be counted on to respond to our lonely cries of anguish. All bachelors are not only unmarried—they’re also unhappy.

All this adds up to a really interesting coincidence. In deliberating on the question of gay marriage, Justice Kennedy proclaims that we are absolutely free to be who we want to be—except when it comes to gayness and marriage. Only Kennedy’s syllogism trumps autonomy:

  1. Everyone has a right to pursue happiness.
  2. No happiness is possible outside of marriage.
  3. Sexual orientation being immutable, gay marriage is therefore a right.

I wrote the same thing 2 weeks ago:

Anthony Esolen destroys Kennedy:

Dignity—the reverence that it rightly demands—springs from the reality of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God. Reality, not fantasy, not social convention. When Jefferson wrote that certain rights were “inalienable,” using the term in its most precise signification, he meant that even we cannot divest ourselves of them. We have those rights whether we like them or not. Therefore there is a givenness in man; he is at the least the sort of creature who possesses rights which he cannot sign away, or wish away. He may recognize them and honor them. He cannot annihilate them, because he has not created them to begin with.

Frank Sheed, in Society and Sanity, cites the philosopher Seneca, Homo sacra res homini: “Man should be an object of reverence for man.” But why, unless the being of man rightly calls forth that reverence? “It would be a highly mystical position,” says Sheed, “to maintain that man has these rights, no matter what he is—that if he is a chemical formula, he has a right to life and liberty; if he is an animal, different only in degree of development from the other animals, he has a right to life and liberty.” Poetaster Kennedy has now elevated that “highly mystical position” to the status of immutable constitutional law. We have an individual right to determine what in the sexual sphere is good and evil, because there are no such things, really. Therefore the right also is a mere fiction.

I do not believe that Kennedy himself is aware that that is what he has done. But there it is, in the nihilistic verses from Planned Parenthood v. Casey, verses writ with the blood of the innocents whose murder it justified. If the meaning of the universe depends upon my opinion, then the universe has no meaning, because I can change my mind at any moment, and—ping! the galaxies spell out a new word, and the very quarks shall speak. Yet is that not what freedom is all about, asks the freshman?

No, dear freshman, that is not what freedom is all about. Liberty is not a permission slip, but a power, a power that respects the reality of the creatures upon which it works, including the self. The sculptor, says Sheed, loves the marble he works with, not because it is what he fantasizes it to be, but because it is what it is, plain and simple, in all its resistance. If I love children, I love them for what they are, and do not corral them into inhumanly large herds, for the sake of efficiency in the twelve-year-long paralyzing of their brains, otherwise known as schooling. Freedom is emphatically not my assigning to them what “meaning” I wish, but rather my submitting to the goodness of what they are, as children. The principle that Kennedy puts forth is no principle at all, but the betrayal of all principle: for a principle presumes reality, and Kennedy has located our supposed freedom in unreality. Another way to put it is that, like the eternal teenager, he fails to see that liberty and law are twins.

He has also founded our social life upon the antisocial. He might as well have written, “Every man is an island unto himself,” a dreamer on an island, ignoring all the other dreamers on their other islands, and yet asserting that his dream on his island must be respected, just because he has dreamed it. What that ultimately means is that we are no society at all. For society, says Sheed, citing Augustine, is defined by the greatest love that unites us. The universal solvent of Planned Parenthood v. Casey is that no love shall unite us, because there is no reality in man’s life which we must all honor, whether we like it or not, and very often we will not like it—why, if I am the determiner of meaning, should I revere people who are cruel or lazy or stupid or dishonest or ugly or vulgar?

Kennedy has gotten everything wrong, as ambitious sentimentalists are wont to do. Man is worthy of our reverence as man. But his thoughts are worthy of our reverence only insofar as they are true. His deeds are worthy of our reverence only insofar as they are virtuous; and virtue is grounded in truth. I must revere the thief as man; I must not revere him as a thief, because he would be a better man, and more the man he was made to be, were he not a thief. I must revere the sodomite as man, not as sodomite, because he would be a better man if he could integrate his desires and his deeds with the reality of his body. The truth of the sexes, male and female, is stamped upon their bodies, so clearly that even children understand it. To treat a man with reverence is to honor that manhood, what is given to him in the structure of his mind and body; it is not something he has chosen. To treat a man as if he were a woman is to do violence to that manhood and that body. Need we spell this out?

Here finally I hear a soft and simpering voice, the last gasp of the lie. “But what harm will it do to pretend that the two men are married, even if, strictly speaking, they aren’t? Can’t we simply shrug and go about our business?” No, we can’t. Justice Kennedy is a kindly sentimentalist, but kindliness divorced from truth is no real virtue; that sort of thing is often the result of having a good digestive system, and a comfortable bed to sleep in. Other sentimentalists are not so kindly. They have names like Kinsey, Sanger, Stalin, Kevorkian, and Mao. Ignoring reality, ignoring the law of our being, ignoring the peculiar goodness of the sexes, is always foolish, even when it is not downright evil. You may pretend that such truths do not exist, just as you may pretend that you can suspend the law of gravity as you step off the edge of a cliff. Nature, and Nature’s God, are not required to oblige your fantasy.

George Weigel wrote two great Obergefell post mortems. One:

The marriage battle was lost in the culture long before it was lost in the courts. The foundations of our culture have eroded; now, the New Normal insists that literally everything is plastic, malleable, and subject to acts of human will. The result is a moment of profound moral incoherence in which understandings of human nature and human happiness that have stood the test of experience for millennia are being discarded as mere rubbish—and those who resist trashing the moral patrimony of humanity are dismissed as irrational bigots, religious fanatics, or both. This New Normal is willfulness-on-steroids, especially when that willfulness involves human sexuality. Nothing, it seems, constitutes aberrant behavior—except the public defense of traditional virtue.

Two:

The consensus that sustained the American experiment included the truth that there are moral truths inscribed in the world and in us, truths that we can know by reason. Thus Jefferson, penning the Declaration we commemorate on Saturday, may have thought that he was acting as a simon-pure son of the Enlightenment by enunciating “self-evident” truths. In fact, in the long view of Western cultural and intellectual history, he was channeling his inner Aristotle, his inner Thomas Aquinas, and his inner Robert Bellarmine during those steamy summer days in Philadelphia in 1776. The American consensus included the truth that society exists prior to the state, which meant that the state exists to serve society, not the other way around. [John Courtney] Murray’s fondness for Anglo-American constitutionalism (which he carefully distinguished from Jacobinism and other Continental psychoses with grave political consequences) was influenced in no small part by his passionate commitment to limited, constitutionally constrained government—which in turn reflected his heroic intellectual efforts to disentangle his Church from the fondness for close altar-and-throne alignments that he regarded as a temporary aberration from the authentic Catholic political tradition (a claim vindicated, I might add, by the social doctrine of St. John Paul II). On this understanding, true government—government that had the moral authority to command, not simply the raw power to coerce—was by definition limited government; a robust civil society was essential to the democratic health of the republic; and government should not usurp the proper functions of civil society.

I’m not Catholic, but it’s telling that the best Obergefell commentary, from Clarence Thomas’s dissent to Weigel to Esolen, comes from Catholics.


Ralph Hancock, also at Public Discourse:

The anthropological view is so called because it appeals to biological facts and to a closely associated social reality. Ryan Anderson lucidly lays out the argument for this view in a recent article:

For marriage policy to serve the common good it must reflect the truth that marriage unites a man and a woman as husband and wife so that children will have both a mother and a father. Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and woman are distinct and complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father.

The government is not in the marriage business because it’s a sucker for adult romance. No, marriage isn’t just a private affair; marriage is a matter of public policy because marriage is society’s best way to ensure the well-being of children. State recognition of marriage acts as a powerful social norm that encourages men and women to commit to each other so they will take responsibility for any children that follow.

Redefining marriage to make a genderless institution fundamentally changes marriage: It makes the relationship more about the desires of adults than about the needs—or rights—of children. It teaches the lie that mothers and fathers are interchangeable.

In other words, marriage is an institution intelligible only by reference to enduring truths: Children are produced by the union of man and woman and flourish best with their biological parents. Marriage interests the state because the state cares about children. According to this anthropological view, the truth about marriage is fully responsive to, and therefore restrained by, truths about man. Apart from those truths, the institution doesn’t make sense.

Now, to be sure, no argument concerning human existence and the good life achieves the level of a mathematical demonstration. It’s unavoidable: No vision of the good life can be absolutely demonstrated to everyone’s satisfaction, but we still have to choose between the alternatives, and we should do so based on the quality of reasoning in the respective arguments. This argument for marriage, even if one disagrees with it, is reasonable and comprehensible. Supporters of the anthropological view would find slight but welcome consolation if the culture war’s current winners could bring themselves to acknowledge the existence of reasonable argument and evidence on the other side.

But the slogan “Love wins” bespeaks a definite triumphalism, rooted in the conviction that the opposing view has always been baseless. “Love wins”—that’s all there is to it. No nice and reasonable person would stand against “love.” Why oppose “progress,” unless you’re motivated by “bigotry”?

The love-wins view of marriage is not just about the love of same-sex couples, but also about the love (read: approval) of fellow citizens. To love, on this view, means always to accept another person’s own conception of his own good. The rainbow-faced advocate of pure and simple “love” enjoys at once the thrill of moral sincerity and the prestige of intellectual superiority. To count as a great lover of humankind, all I have to do is to let my neighbor do as he or she likes—and assure him that I respect his right to express himself as he likes. To impose any view of human nature would be to stand in the way of self-definition, and that’s bad. To be enlightened is to be on “the right side of history,” to show contempt for inherited moral structures insofar as they hold us back.

At the same time, from the anthropological point of view, the love-wins conception seems lighter than air, strangely oblivious to the human condition. The concentration on a wide-open “love” appears to be doubly seductive to persons grounded either in revealed law or in reason understood anthropologically. Revealed principles, history, and philosophy are all necessary to inform the concrete meaning of “love,” for a human being is a certain kind of being (a child of God, part of an orderly and lawful creation, a fallen creature with great potential for evil as well as good).

In order to identify Christian charity with the “all you need is love” mentality, one’s warm emotions must be impeded neither by definite, non-negotiable religious covenant nor by belief in a permanent human nature. But from the anthropological point of view, to show love to a person requires respecting that person as he or she is. The content of love depends on truths of revelation and nature.

As with the love-wins view, this has implications for the citizen as well as the lover. For the anthropological view, love is not just about romance, nor is it about affirming others’ desires. It might require telling the loved one something he or she doesn’t want to hear—about consequences, or about repentance, for example.

The anthropological view accords moral and intellectual authority to an order seen as God’s creation. On this view, freedom or agency requires limits and consequences; freedom is not only limited by but informed by responsibility to eternal truth. Only moral agency (freedom limited and informed by covenants with God and by the structure of reality) is truly agency. Freedom is inseparable from the recognition of limits and consequences and, indeed, demands gratitude toward a moral order that we did not invent. While all actual political and social orders will fall far short of the eternal truth of moral agency in some respects (and should be held to account as far as possible), it is good to be subject to flawed but reasonable authority because we all need practice accepting limits on our freedom, bonds that make us free.

The love-wins view cannot even see the point of this authority, because it does not believe we need to pay any attention to “the laws of nature and Nature’s God.” We no longer need a guiding political philosophy or theology, for these concern only supposed permanent features of the human condition with their limits, constraints, and consequences. (Emphasis added)


J. Robert Smith writes at the American Thinker:

Government is a much better weapon if unrestrained by traditional American cultural and societal norms. Marx aimed to destroy marriage, family, and religion. Not transform them, update them or, in the cases of marriage and family, make them more “inclusive,” but destroy them. All three are bulwarks against tyranny. Weaken and then shatter the three and either tyranny or chaos and dissolution follow (and since tyranny loves to fill voids…).

Our founders got it. Wrote Scott E. Yenor, PhD, for The Heritage Foundation back in 2013:

The Founders’ occasional statements and their actions generally show that they held marriage and family life to be, in James Wilson’s words, “the true origin of society” or the first and most vital foundation on which civil society rests. Many states undertook modest reforms in family law during the Revolutionary period and the early republic. These reforms reveal how, for the Founders, the principles of natural rights affect marriage and family life and how marriage and family life support a republic based on the idea of natural rights.

The left, with Marxist cunning, has been corrupting the culture and society for decades. This corruption has been bearing fruit long before the high court’s homosexual marriage ruling, which was the handiwork of a Reagan appointee, Anthony Kennedy (a quisling).


San Antonio has been negotiating, or trying to negotiate, a deal with the police and firefighters unions for a year and a half now. With retired cops’ and firefighters’ healthcare costs rising, their current contracts will crowd out all other spending in the city budget by 2031.

I want them to take a cut. The times are changing. You can’t expect the city to take care of you the rest of your life. Thank you for your service, but please stop reaching into my pocket.

Gavin McInnes wrote 5 years ago at Taki:

Now, I realize they saved thousands of lives on 9-11. That was a phenomenally heroic day in their history and they should be proud. I didn’t even cringe when I saw them in every bar in New York for the rest of September clad head-to-toe in their fancy uniforms and French kissing all the horny women who wanted to show their gratitude. This is what men do. But how long do we have to drop to our knees and say thank you? New York City is 40 billion dollars short on this imminent pension explosion. Civil servants bankrupted California and they’re about to do the same to New York. It’s our children who are really going to be hit by this debt. Stop sitting on my kid fatso!

All these bills force you to ask yourself: do we really need all these firemen? 70 percent of the firehouses in America are volunteer and there’s no evidence they are any worse than the ones putting us in the poor house. I’ve lived in New York for ten years now and have witnessed a total of three fires. During these ten years I have heard at least two or three deafening sirens a day. That’s almost four thousand alarms per fire. About a month ago I said, “screw this,” and ran outside to chase one of these gigantic red beasts. They were storming up Lafayette Street like the sky was falling and were one of about seven city vehicles. (By the way, it’s not unusual in New York to get ten firefighters, five cops, and three EMT for every teen who faints on a field trip to the museum—seriously, my wife works there.)

Eventually, we all ended up on Spring Street where a dozen firemen blocked off the street and some EMT workers from the two ambulances on the scene casually walked into a nearby restaurant. I held in my rage and cheerily asked the fireman what was going on. He told me a guy choked on a sandwich but was fine now. I asked why you need a fire truck for that, and all he said was “First response.” He was referring, of course, to the law that says anyone who hears an emergency call and is qualified to handle it has to get the hell over there. Firemen know CPR so, if they hear of a lodged piece of bread, they all pile into the truck on the off chance one of the ambulances doesn’t make it. The firefighters love it because the sirens say, “Whoooop Whooooop—We’re here—We’re doing stuff—you need us” and we love it because, wait, we don’t love it. We hate its guts. Here’s an idea: How about one of the half-dozen vehicles headed to the call says to the dispatcher, “It’s cool guys, I got this,” and we all save a few million dollars a year?

I can see one of these huge goombahs look up from the steak dinner he’s making for the guys (for $50 an hour) and say, “Let’s see how much he hates us when his house is on fire. Who’s he gonna call then, the Ghostbusters?” Yes, wiseass, I do concede we need firemen. My beef is you have taken that basic truth, and milked it and milked it until it can be milked no more. Nobody’s saying firefighters shouldn’t exist. They’re saying, firefighters, as they exist today, are an unsustainable scam we can no longer afford to fall for. So, New York’s Bravest, get out of my apartment, get off my kids, and don’t come back unless there’s a fire. An actual fire. Like, with flames and shit.

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