I cannot read Marxists — or, why I do not mourn Gabriel García Márquez’s passing

Karl MarxI was so naive when I went to Cal. I didn’t realize that, in my history and English classes, the material we read was either created in the first instance by Marxists or, if it predated Marxists, was first run through a Marxist analytical filter either before or immediately after we read it.  All I knew was that I thought the material was nonsensical and, because of their adulatory prosing about it, that my professors were idiots.

It says a lot about the quality of education at Cal that, simply by parroting the teachers’ stupidity back to them, I managed to graduate from Cal Magna Cum Laude.  I even still have my little Phi Beta Kappa key hanging from a nail on the wall in my office. I offer these snippets of academic accomplishment not to boast, but to denigrate both the material used and the quality of teaching at Cal. My academic accomplishments are an embarrassing symbol of Cal’s deficiencies as an educational institution. To the extent I consider myself an educated person, I attribute that to my being an autodidact, hungry for knowledge, not to being a high level graduate of one of the world’s top universities.

Law school, at least, had the virtue of being nothing more than a fancy trade school. I had decent professors, wonderful peers, and enjoyed myself there. I managed for the most part to avoid indoctrination. Interestingly, in a setting in which I actually had to learn stuff and think, as opposed to just parroting back cant, I was a good, solid graduate, rather than a top one. My sub-stellar performance also resulted from the fact that I was quite ill during part of my time there, which proved to be a drag on my GPA.  (And yes, my ego demands that caveat.)

When I left law school, I vowed never to go back to a formal education system, a promise I’ve kept to this day. I find it exhausting merely to attend Open Houses at my kids very fine public schools. I have to fight against the urge to run out screaming when I hear the nice teachers lecture the nice parents about the topics and methodology they use when lecturing our nice kids during the school day. As the old hippie would say, “That’s not my scene, man.”

A sport of natureAlthough I vowed never to return to school, I have been in a variety of book clubs over the years, purely for social reasons. All of them have been run by nice young or middle-aged women who trust in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and high-end fashion magazines to tell them what they ought to read. That’s how I ended up having to read two authors I’d successfully avoided during my formal education:  Gabriel García Márquez and Nadine Gordimer.

To say that I loathed the Márquez and Gordimer books is to speak in delicate understatement. I hated their writing style; I hated their topics; I hated their values — I hated everything from cover to cover. As my well-intentioned friends struggled to find meaning in the books, I kept saying that the books were poorly written, boring, and unreasonable, and that their principles and conclusions were wrong.

I did not say back then that Márquez and Gordimer were Marxist because, back in the 1980s, I did not know that they were. In any event, as a nicely indoctrinated party-line Democrat, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to criticize anything on that particular ground.

I just knew that I hated reading these much-lauded books in exactly the same way I hated reading Supreme Court opinions (this was back in the late 1980s) by the liberal wing of the Supreme Court. I knew that I ought to admire Marshall and Stevens and Brennan, and that I should hate Rehnquist and Burger, but the fact was that the former group wrote complex, unintelligible, illogical opinions, whereas the latter (as well as all other conservative justices but for the flopsy, wobbly Sandra Day O’Connor) wrote tight, well-reasoned, easy to follow opinions.  I eventually concluded that, because Marxism doesn’t work in the real world, any writing advancing Marxist principles must be muddled, vague, and unreasonable to hide that fact.

Now Márquez is dead and, while an individual’s death must always be a tragedy for his family and close friends, I feel no sense of loss. Instead, I agree entirely with the DiploMad, who has no problem speaking ill of the Marxist dead:

Love in the time of CholeraIn other good news, this time in Latin America, the Nobel-prize winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez is dead.

One of the great phonies and bootlickers of leftist dictators has passed from the scene. Those who love freedom can only be grateful.

I will speak ill of the dead. It is hard to exaggerate the damage that GGM has done to the image of Latin America and Latin Americans, portraying the region and the people as some sort of quasi-magical place, a place filled with ethereal, mystical beings without logic, common sense, and ordinary human emotions and foibles. For all his “magical realist” vision, he could not or would not see, for example, the horrors brought to Cuba and Cubans by the Castro brothers. On the contrary, he had an enormous house in Havana provided by the regime, with servants and cars at his beck-and-call, and a ready chummy access to the bloodstained brothers and their rule of terror. He convinced generations of gringo academic Latin American “specialists” that the region could not be understood in conventional terms; that supply-and-demand economics did not work there; and that ordinary people did not want individual liberty and political democracy. He helped perpetrate and perpetuate a horrid stereotype of Latin America, one in which the atrocities of leftist regimes could be ignored because the region operated on another level of consciousness, one beyond our poor powers to comprehend. Good riddance to this poseur and his unreadable sentences! An enemy of freedom is gone.

Hear! Hear! Yes! Absolutely. The DiploMad is correct in every respect. I knew then that I couldn’t stand Márquez’s loopy, unhinged prose, nor his loopy, unhinged ideas. Thirty years later, I not only understand the problem (Marxism), I have the pleasure of reading someone who gets it and states it better than I ever could.

Watcher’s Council results for April 18, 2014

The Council spoke last week and, being the procrastinator I am, I’m finally letting you know this week.  Sigh.  Also, I’d like you to know about the forum, which asked how council members feel about the GOP’s determination to pass immigration reform this year.

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

Others have noticed that teachers think of themselves as one step removed from coal mine workers

Teacher affirmationI’ve commented before about the way in which America’s teachers paint themselves as the hardest working, most pathetically abused people in America.  In 2011, I noted that today’s teachers work fewer hours and are paid more than my dad’s generation of teachers, but the latter didn’t whine all the time.  Last year, I posited a reason for the unusual deference teachers get, and it’s not because they’re the overworked saints of their own heated imaginations:

At National Review, Jason Richwine points out that this martyrdom shtick benefits them in intangible ways, and is the flip side of the disdain with which doctors are increasingly treated in our society.  This got me thinking about the fact that, in every society that socialized its medicine, doctor’s status instantly degraded.  This is true whether you’re looking at the Soviet Union, Cuba, England, Canada, France, or anywhere else.  This is true even though doctors have the longest education and apprenticeship of any job in America and, once they’re working, they truly hold our lives in their hands.  Likewise, in every socialized society, teachers’ status improves.  This is true despite the fact that their training places a moderate demand on their time and they don’t hold our lives in their hands.

Thinking about it, of course, this socialist inversion makes perfect sense.  Teachers produce the next generation of socialists; doctors cost money by saving the lives of old socialists who no longer contribute to the commune.  The relative values assigned these jobs in a socialist society has nothing to do with their contributions to the individual and everything to do with their contributions to the state.

Richwine and I aren’t the only ones paying attention to this teacher worship phenomenon.  Writing at The Federalist, Daniel Payne, a homeschooling parent, also asks “Why Do Teachers Complain So Much?”  His theory is that teachers lack backbone.  Products themselves of America’s public school system, they have no ability to face adversity.

Reading his post, it also occurred to me that today’s teachers, unlike teachers of yore and homeschooling parents today, have an infinitely harder time teaching, not because students are inherently worse behaved than they were 50 years ago, but because their pedagogical tools are so poor.  Whole language is sneaking its way back into the classroom, despite a thirty year run of failures that saw the pendulum swing, way too briefly, back to phonics teaching.  Since we have a phonetic alphabet, the latter is the only teaching methodology that makes sense.  And those countries, such as China, that do not have phonetic alphabets, spend way more than 45 minutes per day, 5 days a week, making sure their students master “whole word” recognition.

Math too is becoming increasingly impossible because Common Core has also abandoned common sense.  In addition, where teachers once taught English classes that focused on language and composition and history classes that spoke admiringly of our own country, their English classes are now Left value propaganda and their history classes are deeply depressing diatribes about how evil we are.  Kids don’t want to learn this stuff, and no wonder.

English teachers

My conclusion would be that today’s teachers whine partly because they’re not as tough as past generations were, and partly because they teach in a socialized system that simultaneously elevates their status even as it makes teaching an impossible, demoralizing, and depressing job.  The cognitive dissonance this forces on the teachers is an uncomfortable mental realm to inhabit.

Any computer game designers out there? We’ve got some core values to sell

do-smartphones-smart-kidsI had the pleasure today of having lunch with Dennis Koller and his quite lovely wife. (And since she’s not a published author, I’ll keep her name out of here to preserve her privacy.) You may recognize Dennis’s name, since he wrote The Oath, a book I enjoyed a great deal and reviewed here. It didn’t come as any surprise to me that I liked Dennis. He was as I expected him to be: the best kind of native San Francisco Catholic. What that means is that he is extremely well-educated (parochial schools all the way, when that still meant something), has classical liberal values (raised in a family that fought for real civil rights, when that still meant something), and is a delightful conversationalist (I think it’s the nun thing again).

One of the things we spent a lot of time talking about was messaging. How, we asked each other, can conservatives sell themselves in the next 2.5 years? We concluded that today’s generation lacks intellectual curiosity and any analytic skills. For the past 40 years, they’ve been taught to think by using their navel as a guide. Small wonder, then, that the avatar of their generation announces that his definition of sin is “Being out of alignment with my values.” Despite knowing this, we conservatives keep thinking that we can convince people through evidence — including the evidence of their own eyes — and analysis that conservativism works in the real world.

Looking at the teenagers in my world, they get most of the data that they value through their smart phones. Unlike adults who use Facebook to share ideas (shallow, but still ideas), the kids use Facebook for gossip about each other. They also like to visit sites such as Buzzfeed and Gizmodo. But most of all, they like to play what I call “thumb games,” in which they zip objects around in a frantic effort to best other players out in cyberspace.

If I had any imagination at all, and even the slightest inkling about how to design a game app, I would design games that look like ordinary games, but that sell ideas such as free market competition. Here’s what I mean:  Years ago, I was able to turn my daughter against Obamacare when I asked her to imagine a world with only one clothing store. What would happen, I asked her, if it didn’t have her size or her style or if it had really horrible sales staff? She shuddered in revulsion. Remember, I said, it’s the only store there is. What’s your recourse? When she realized she was trapped in a fashion shopping nightmare, it clicked. She recognized then and, seemingly, forever, the value of a free marketplace.

Wouldn’t it be great to create a game app that starts with the player (presumably a girl) in a place with there’s only one lousy store selling gross clothes, and then makes them figure out ways to increase their shopping options? It wouldn’t be a game called “Socialism versus Capitalism,” or “Communist Fashion Nightmare,” or anything else so obvious. Instead, it would be an innocuous-sounding game (“Fashion Race” or something like that) and it would be presented entirely as a fun competitive game. However, while the girl is thinking she’s competing against other girls in cyberspace, what she’s really doing is learning about the value of real competition.  One could do exactly the same for boys, with the open market competition element in the game having to do with cool weapons or sports activities or anything else where the point of the game is for the kid to engage in market-based competition — offering more of a better product — in order to win the game.

Games such as that are going to resonate with kids a lot more than some documentary about what shopping used to be like in the Soviet Union.  Kids simply aren’t interested in some abstruse discussion about the sort of free medical insurance market we once had (ignoring all the government interference that already existed) versus the whacked out world of Obamacare, which is being sold as something good, but actually functions badly.

If conservatives really want to know what we should do, we should all go re-read Ben Shapiro’s Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV. There, Shapiro relays in their own words the techniques used by Hollywood’s movers and shakers in the 1960s through 1980s to turn our popular culture sharply left. It’s like a primer for taking over the unthinking mind.

Also — and this is totally unrelated to the above post — did you take a minute to read and listen to Canardvark’s Reagan 180 : Peace Through Strength? Not only is it really good, but I’m just thrilled that my site now offers original multimedia content. And Reagan’s words truly are as appropriate now as they were then. Facts may change, but values remain the same.

And thinking about those last words, I realize that the Canardvark’s post is in fact entirely related to what I’ve written here: It’s not the facts that matter; it’s our ability to sell the up and coming generation on core values and eternal truths. We need to use facts that resonate with them to make this sale, and we need sell these facts through their favorite media.

Strange day Open Thread

Thought-Bubble-White-Board_8296556

This has been a very strange day, starting at about 3 am when I awoke to find that the power had gone out. By the time I’d notified PG&E, I was wide awake and suspected that my day had begun early. Then, one of the dogs came down, which she only does when she needs that rare night-time walk. By the time I finished with that, I was certain that sleep had fled. Except that my dog cuddled up next to me and I was able to sleep again until my back-up alarm went off. The day has continued in that mode since then — something’s happened that shouldn’t have happened, that should have disrupted things but, instead, it actually made things flow more easily.

We often complain about Murphy’s Law days and the negative impact they have on our lives. As of now, I’m in awe about a Murphy’s Law day — everything going wrong — and the way each wrong thing has paved the way for something that’s actually better than the status quo would have been.

Anyway, what with one thing and another (including that power outage), I haven’t had a chance even to read the news. I’m heading off for a couple of hours now, but hope to write more upon my return. Until then, please enjoy this open thread. Also, I cannot guarantee that my friend the Canardvark will be able to post today, but if he does, I can guarantee that it’s really good and worth the three minutes of your time that it will take.

Oh, also, because this is the Tuesday after Dancing With The Stars, here’s another Amy Purdy moment. She wasn’t the best dancer of the evening, but I continue to be deeply impressed by her abilities:

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: A petition to denounce and condemn billionaire Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer:  greedy capitalist and pollution-creating hypocrite.

Tom Steyer: greedy capitalist and pollution-creating hypocrite.

I don’t usually play the part of provocateur, but there are occasions when I make an exception.  Two entirely separate events came together in my mind and demanded a little satirical activism.

The first event was the fact that former Labor Secretary Robert Reich used MoveOn.org, which has a vast reach among Progressive activists, to publicly “denounce” and “condemn” the Koch brothers for making perfectly legal political donations, and to invite other Americans to join with him in this little exercise in socialist shaming.

So far, 202,240 people have signed a document that could easily have come from the revolutionaries in China during Mao’s deadly Cultural Revolution (Nien Cheng’s Life and Death in Shanghai vividly illustrates that terrible time); or from the Kremlin during the height of Soviet Kangaroo trials; or from East Germany’s Stasi state (see, e.g, the harrowing film “The Lives of Others“); or from Cambodia when the killing fields ran red with blood; or from Maduro’s Venezuela; or from any other totalitarian political organization that maintains power by targeting and denouncing individual citizens so as to sow fear in and gain control over the general population.

The second event was an article at PowerLine about Progressive billionaire Tom Steyer.  Steyer recently announced that, in a single year, he plans to spend $100 million of his own money to fund political candidates who will vote against the Keystone pipeline.  The sweet song Steyer sings is environmental protection, but the reality is that the pipeline will compete with his huge investments in the “green energy” sector.  Additionally, during the first decade of the 21st century, Steyer turned his hedge fund, Farallon Capital Management L.L.C., into one of the largest coal project investors in the world.  The fact that Steyer has since stepped down from Farallon and that Steyer kept all these investments offshore (in Asia and Australia) seems to have blinded the Gaia crowd to his environmental depredations.

It seems to me that, using the Reich algoritm (buying elections is bad), Steyer should also be denounced and condemned.  So I started a petition to do just that.  You can find and sign the petition here.  Or if you don’t feel so inclined, you can still read the petition’s text:

MoveOn.org is hosting a petition that Robert Reich authored urging the American people to denounce the Koch brothers “for using [their] vast wealth — more than the combined wealth of the bottom 40 percent of Americans — to corrupt our democracy.”  The petition tells the Koch brothers that their legal political contributions are such that “You are thereby undermining the most precious gift we possess, our democratic system of government. You deserve to be shamed and condemned by all Americans.” *

Reich and MoveOn.org, however, have not mounted a similar petition to denounce, shame, and condemn Tom Steyer for using his vast fortune to pervert the political process and, by destroying competition for his American-based “green” energy projects, to enrich himself at the expense of the American people.  Clearly, this was an oversight on their part.  Thankfully, it’s not too late to object to Steyer’s undemocratic conduct.

Based upon the facts set forth below, this petition asks that the American people denounce Tom Steyer for using his vast wealth – estimated at $1.6 billion – to corrupt our democracy.  He is undermining the most precious gift we possess, our democratic system of government.  He deserves to be shamed and condemned by all Americans.  It also asks that Steyer be denounced and condemned for destroying potential competition for his profitable “green” energy projects and for pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars in profits acquired by funding massive coal production projects in Asia and Australia.

And now for the facts behind this deserved denouncement and condemnation:**

Tom Steyer founded Farallon Capital Management, L.L.C. (“Farallon”), one of the world’s largest hedge funds.  He withdrew from Farallon only at the end of October 2012.

Steyer’s personal net worth is estimated at $1.6 billion, making him a 1 percenter among 1 percenters.  He recently made news when he pledged to use this vast personal fortune to fund Democrat candidates to the tune of $100 million in 2014 in exchange for their efforts to oppose the Keystone pipeline.

The proposed Keystone pipeline will bring oil from Canada, a stable democracy that protects its workers and its environment, to America.  The oil flowing from the pipeline will lower fuel prices, increase job opportunities, and decrease American dependence on oil produced in countries that exploit their workforce and the environment, and that use oil monies to pursue policies hostile to the United States.

Unsurprisingly, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 82 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of independents, and even 51 percent of Democrats support the pipeline.  Steyer, however, opposes the pipeline and is willing to use his vast personal financial resources to pervert the process by buying access to politicians.

Steyer’s proposed $100 million injection into Democrat politics in 2014 not only perverts the political process but, if Steyer is successful in putting his candidates into office, will also destroy potential competition for the myriad businesses in which Steyer invests.  As matters now stand, the Keystone pipeline, when built, will cut into Steyer’s profits from myriad investments, including Kinder Morgan, which is building a competitor to the pipeline; Greener Capital, Steyer’s newest “green energy” hedge fund; and even BP, in which Steyer holds (or has held) millions of dollars in investments.

Even worse than Steyer’s undemocratic behavior is the fact that his newly green persona provides a cover for his own vast contributions to CO2 production.  Publicly available information reveals that Steyer made his fortune in significant part by financing some of the world’s largest coal projects.  None of these projects was in America, however, which may explain why the American media hasn’t commented on Steyer’s past involvement in CO2 production and overall pollution.

Beginning in 2003, Farallon, while under Steyer’s direct management, was actively involved in coal transactions taking place in Asia and Australia.  Although Farallon does not disclose the details or scope of its investments, publicly available information makes it reasonable to believe that, since 2003, Farallon has spent between $1 billion and $2 billion to fund international coal mining projects.

On average, coal output on projects that Farallon funded has almost doubled thanks to Farallon’s (and, therefore, Steyer’s) contributions.  It’s worth noting here that many of these projects occurred in countries that do not enforce strict emission controls on the coal industry.

Thanks to these investments, Farallon may well be the single largest private coal investor in the world.  The Koch brothers, by contrast, own a now defunct coal mine that, at its peak, produced .04% of the production from the coal mines in Farallon’s portfolio.  It’s therefore reasonable to believe that Farallon has profited to the tune of around $400 million thanks to his company’s overseas investments in coal production.

Like any good 19th century robber baron, Steyer doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty abroad, but likes to keep his image clean at home.  There is no evidence that he has remorse for the coal his money has produced overseas, or for the land and lives despoiled, or for the CO2 emission that coal created.  He has not confessed and repented; nor has he used his vast wealth to remediate the damage to both people and the environment that his profitable investments caused.

Steyer seeks to earn a halo from environmentalists here at home, as well as to increase his profits in the green energy sector, by using his coal money to deny Americans the jobs and lower energy costs that would result from the Keystone pipeline.  He should be denounced and condemned in the strongest terms by the greatest number of people.

* http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/we-denounce-the-koch.fb40?source=s.fb&r_by=1472247

** http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2014/04/the-epic-hypocrisy-of-tom-steyer.php

Again, if you believe that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, or if you’re in as mischievous a mood as I am, you can sign the petition here.

Monday morning round-up and Open Thread *UPDATED*

Victorian posy of pansiesSpring break is over and real life resumes. The kids weren’t thrilled to return to school, but I’m pretty pleased to have my life back on schedule. As you could probably tell from last week’s lethargic blogging, I don’t do well without some boundaries to my days. I’m off to exercise soon (Yay, me!), but first a few quick links:

One of my running themes since Obama started to run for President is that he lies, and lies, and lies some more. The rest of America is finally — finally! — figuring this out for itself.

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I love Commentary Magazine, which helped me transition from Democrat to conservative. Nevertheless, I’ve been consistently dismayed by its East Coast, Ivy League, snotty attitude towards Sarah Palin. In that, it perfectly echoes the liberals who surround me who, when unable to challenge Palin’s accomplishments in 2008, especially when compared to Obama’s much lesser list of accomplishments in the same year, fell back on the line “She’s not one of us.” It’s painful to see that Obama’s failures (and he is “one of them”) still haven’t changed the classist mindset over at Commentary.

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Political advertisers (i.e., heavily funded Leftist interest groups) own the content at Politico. And Soros’ own Media Matters out-and-out wrote content at CBS. The problem is that, while you and I care about this confluence between news that sold as “objective” and hard-line Leftist partisan organizations, ordinary people cannot be made to care. Instead of reacting with outrage and a desire for “clean” information, they continue to respond to dishonest emotional appeals from the Left.  No wonder John Fund can credibly suggest that Democrats will tell any lies, no matter how inflammatory and slanderous (and, therefore, destructive of the American political and social scene) in order to get out that vote.

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I wrote about the outrage on the Left because the Koch brothers have the temerity to donate to libertarian political causes. How dare rich people buy political influence? Funnily enough (sarcasm), they’ve been completely silent about Tom Steyer’s massive payment for political influence. After my work-out, I think I’ll write up a petition, paralleling the MoveOn one, asking people to “denounce” Steyer.

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Thomas Piketty, an economist, is the newest darling among the Leftist intelligentsia and faux intelligentsia (but I repeat myself), because he claims that capitalism is inherently unfair since it’s entirely predicated on income inequality. Clive Crook explains that even the meanest intelligence should see that Piketty’s conclusions don’t match his data. I’ll add something that Crook didn’t say and that I’m sure Piketty ignored: Capitalism is not a still photograph; it’s a moving picture. In any specific frame, there will be rich people and poor people who are separated by a wide gap. However, the dynamic of capitalism is that the poor in one still photo are not the same as the poor in the next.  Socialism, by contrast, is a still photograph: Except for the coddled nomenklatura, everyone else stays firmly mired at the bottom forever.

UPDATE: Of all sources, the New York Times backs up my statement that the problem with socialist economists is that they understand the economy in static, not dynamic terms:

It turns out that 12 percent of the population will find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution for at least one year. What’s more, 39 percent of Americans will spend a year in the top 5 percent of the income distribution, 56 percent will find themselves in the top 10 percent, and a whopping 73 percent will spend a year in the top 20 percent of the income distribution.

Yet while many Americans will experience some level of affluence during their lives, a much smaller percentage of them will do so for an extended period of time. Although 12 percent of the population will experience a year in which they find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution, a mere 0.6 percent will do so in 10 consecutive years.

It is clear that the image of a static 1 and 99 percent is largely incorrect. The majority of Americans will experience at least one year of affluence at some point during their working careers. (This is just as true at the bottom of the income distribution scale, where 54 percent of Americans will experience poverty or near poverty at least once between the ages of 25 and 60).

Hat tip: Tom Elia

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Anthropogenic climate change is a con. Even if one assumes solely for the sake of argument that our carbon output exceeds the sun’s control over the earth’s atmosphere, science, history, and common sense all show that a minimal rise in CO2 levels provides more food and water around the world, not less.

Sleepy Easter round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesI thought my day would be busier, but it’s settled into a relaxing mode that makes enticing just a wee bit of blogging.  So that’s what I’m doing here — a wee bit of blogging.

First on the agenda is a freaky “pigs flying” moment from MSNBC.  NewsBusters caught a panel on the Chris Hayes show, including a writer from the far-Left Nationexpressing some queasiness about the way in which gay rights activists have been targeting individuals.  I’m sure the MSNBC/Nation crew will recover quickly from this brief lapse into sanity, but it sure does make for interesting reading.

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Pat Sajak has his own subtle comment about pressure from gay right’s activists.

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Sultan Knish on the moral vacuum of Progressive morality.

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I cited David Archibald this morning for his chilling look at the potential famine dogging Egypt’s heels.  I’m citing him this afternoon because of his trenchant post about solar activity and the scientific community’s resolute refusal to acknowledge the data lest it clash with their anthropogenic global warming narrative.

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I think there are few students of Tudor history who don’t prefer Queen Elizabeth I to Mary I.  Elizabeth was charismatic, beautiful, witty, and one of the first people in history to hold that a person’s religious beliefs should be private.  By contrast, Mary, although personally kind and warm, was lumpy, unattractive, often pitiable, and religiously fanatic.  It was she who brought auto de fe to England in her effort to turn back the Protestant reformation.  She succeeded only in creating martyrs and died knowing that her attempts to reinstate Catholicism had failed.  For her sake, though, I hope that there is a conscience afterlife and that she is enjoying the spectacle of a liberal Church of England denuding itself of parishioners even as the more stringent Catholic church witnesses an increase in its numbers.

My personal history helps me understand why the C of E is failing, despite abasing itself ever more before every Leftist social and political trend.  Although I grew up in a non-religious household, when it came to Passover, my family went all out.  We did the entire Passover in both Hebrew and English, complete with every ritual.  Even as children, we were expected to participate fully.  When I was an adult and far from home, a friend invited me to her family’s Passover.  They were reform.  The ritual was conducted in English, although the language wouldn’t have mattered, because no one was paying attention.  There was no reverence for this ancient celebration of the world’s first slave revolt.  I was bored and dismayed.  My feeling then, as it is now, is “If you’re going to be religious, be religious.  Unless you invest religion with meaning, why bother?”

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Occasionally, the New York Times shows why people still respect its writing.  At the very bottom of a movie review, where it sums up the reason the movie is given a specific rating (e.g., PG or R), the Times has this to say about Make Your Move:  ”‘Make Your Move’ is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Language, drug and sexual references, brief violence and prurient tap dancing.” “Prurient tap dancing?” Is that Fred Astaire I hear rolling in his grave?

A short, sweet Easter afternoon round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesIt’s Easter Sunday, and that means all family all the time.  No complaints here, though.  It’s been a lovely day so far and I anticipate an equally pleasant afternoon and evening.  Full blogging will not happen today, but here are a few (a very few) links that intrigued me:

I’ve long known in a vague sort of way that Egypt is one grain of wheat away from a famine.  Having read David Archibald’s article, though, I now know in a very specific way precisely what kind of famine may be facing the world’s most populous Muslim nation.  While the Western world seems to have managed to stay one step ahead of Malthus, that’s not the case in Egypt, where bad things — overpopulation, underproduction, lack of diversification, political upheaval, and probable drought — are coming together to create a Perfect Storm of advanced hunger.

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One of my favorite non-fiction books is Thomas Cahill’s The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. In authoring the book, Cahill has no ego. To the extent that he’s vastly well-informed, he wants to share his knowledge with people, not overwhelm them with his erudition. The result is a book that is simultaneously scholarly and accessible. I mentioned it here because Shmuley Boteach has written what could be the short version of that same book, describing how the Jews have contributed to the world’s well-being.

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Two very specific things in the early 1980s taught me that socialism cannot work. The first was the fact that, when my father visited his sister in East Germany, shortly after she retired from her decade’s long career as a high level Communist Party functionary, he discovered that she had lived for nine years with a broken and unusable kitchen sink. Not to worry, this true believer told my father.  She was “on the list” and was confident that the glorious Communist Party would one day get around to fixing her sink.  I suspect that it was still broken when the wall came down.

The second thing that taught me that socialism cannot work was the story of two hip replacements. Back in 1974, my father got his hip replacement two months or so after he was told that it was the only way to keep him from spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He walked, albeit with pain for the next twenty years of his life, until his death.

Meanwhile, in 1981, while I was living in England, I met a woman who had been told back in 1979 that a hip replacement was the only thing that would keep her out of a wheelchair. When I met her, she’d been barely functioning for two years, although she’d avoided the wheelchair. After I left, she went into the wheelchair. I lost contact with her about two years after a left England (i.e., four years after the referral for hip surgery), at which time she was still in that wheelchair. I don’t know whether she ever got that hip.

Keep those realities in mind when you read about Sweden’s socialized medicine, which works wonderfully only if you live long enough to benefit from it.

***

The DiploMad may not be in the State Department any more, but he has friends who are. He’s learned from these friends that the State Department has a new initiative to ensure that something like Benghazi never happens again. Let me just say that I’m with the DiploMad in thinking that the movers and shakers in State are delusional — and to despair that they’re pursuing their delusions using our dollars and American lives.

***

A lawyer friend of mine is brilliant, informed, and an incredibly good writer.  I hope those are adequate reasons for you to check out his post about the Free Speech (and Association) implications of the attack on Brendan Eich.

Does Progressive atheism drive the hostility to guns and self-defense?

Sistine-Creation-DetailHqMike McDaniel is one of the best and most knowledgeable thinkers and writers when it comes to guns and the Second Amendment.  That’s why it’s worth sitting up and taking notice when he revisits one of his own posts to discuss reader objections.  I’ll run you through what Mike has to say and then tell you why I agree with him.  This is a long post, but I hope it’s engaging enough to sustain your interest all the way through, so that you’ll take the time to weigh in with your own opinions.

It all started with a post entitled “Why It’s So Hard To Discuss Guns Rationally With Some People,” which Mike published at The Truth About Guns (“TTAG”), one of the internet’s premier Second Amendment sites.  Mike’s starting point is the same problem I had when discussing guns with liberal friends in the wake of Sandy Hook: Progressives cannot move beyond emotions and get to actual facts.

Mike, though, didn’t stop with my facile conclusion about how frustrating it is to talk about guns with Progressives.  Instead, he looked beyond the emotional drivel and honed in on the core ideologies driving Progressive or, more accurately, statist thinking.  These ideologies are

(1) the Progressive’s belief in the state’s ability to solve every problem and its corollary,  which is that every individual other than the Progressive holding this thought is incapable of knowing what’s best for him;

(2) the Progressive’s refusal to acknowledge that there is a Higher Power or Being, reinforcing the belief in the all powerful state and further diminishing an individual’s standing; and

(3) the Progressive’s belief that the state is both infallible and unfalsifiable.  This belief allows Progressives to argue that, if a specific law fails — say, that a law specific guns fails to stop or even slow gun crime — the answer is to pass the same law, only to make it more far-reaching and consequential.

Mike’s article garnered 355 comments.  To Mike’s surprise, the point in his article that got the harshest criticism was his second argument, the one holding that rejecting a Higher Being is what allows Progressives to deny the right to armed-self defense.   Here’s Mike’s argument in that regard:

The second factor: a refusal to acknowledge the existence of any power higher than themselves. In essence, they refuse to acknowledge the existence of God. For some, this lack of belief is nothing more than being made uncomfortable by the idea that there is One greater than themselves, than their current maximum, cult-of-personality leader, than the state itself. For others, progressivism/statism takes on all of the characteristics of a religion; it become a matter of unquestionable faith. For such people, believing in God is essentially apostasy.

As it relates to the Second Amendment, these two factors make it not only possible, indeed, mandatory for the progressive/statist to deny the unalienable right to self-defense. If there is no God, the individual human life has only the value recognized by the state at any given moment. The individual exists only in service to the state, and the value of their life is measured by the individual’s adherence to the state’s goals and their usefulness to the elite ruling class. That being the case, there’s nothing particularly unique or precious about any individual, therefore an unalienable right to self-defense is nothing but an annoying impediment to the larger, more important goals of the state.

Indeed, God need not even be involved for the committed statist to deny the existence of any right of self-defense. Any unalienable right is an inherent limitation on the power of the state, and no such limitation can be acknowledged. Whether such rights are bestowed by God or invented as a result of human philosophy matters not. The power of the state cannot be diminished, and if the individual is allowed control over their own existence — if that control is bestowed by God which is far more powerful than the state — the power of the state becomes illegitimate and unquestionably hampered.

In any case, if there is no unalienable right to self-defense, there can be no right to keep and bear arms, or as progressives/statists often argue, such “right” guarantees nothing more than the privilege to carry arms in the military—in the service of the state and its ruling elite—and perhaps for hunting or sport shooting under highly restrictive circumstances.

To such arguments, conservatives and others commonly point to the Constitution and particularly, to the Bill of Rights. This is why progressives/statists argue for a “living Constitution,” which is another way of saying that the Constitution says what they want it to say and means what they want it to mean at any given moment. The better to legitimize whichever progressive/statist policy they wish to implement. This is also why progressives/statists labor to install judges who reflect the “living Constitution” frame of mind. Politics are too fickle; better to have true believers legislating from the bench when it’s not, for the moment, possible to impose progressive orthodoxy through the legislative process when the masses are temporarily rebelling against the elite.

To summarize:  For varying reasons, true Progressives cannot simultaneously hold a belief in God and state, so God goes out the window.  Without God, the individual has neither innate dignity nor inherent rights.  He is, instead, just a cog in the state’s workings and his value can never be greater than that which the state assigns to him.  Indeed, inalienable rights are antithetical to an all-powerful state.  They cannot exist simultaneously.  The moment that the individual is subordinate to the state, the state can make whatever rules it wants regarding arms and self-defense.  Usually, these rules benefit the ruling class to the detriment of everyone else.  To the extent the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights indicate otherwise, they must be ignored, interpreted out of existence, or amended to make explicit the state’s control over guns and, by extension, self-defense.

To Mike’s surprise, several TTAG readers took umbrage when he argued that Progressives’s elevation of the state over God (or denial of God altogether) is inextricably intertwined with their rejection of guns and the inherent right to self-defense.

Take, for example, “joleme’s” objection:

I was with him until the god comment.

I’m not sure why some pro-gun people need to split pro-gun supporters by making such statements.  It’s one of the reason’s [sic] I tend to feel uncomfortable around some large groups of gun supporters.  I myself am very pro-gun.  I see no reason to limit the 2nd amendment.  Inevitably however, it seems like someone always has to start a religion talk and ends up being a “only us god fearing men are in the right”.

I think you need to assess your own religious discriminating views.

Mike was quite disturbed that he could be considered as someone who would discriminate against fellow Second Amendment supporters on religious grounds.  He went back through his original TTAG post to see if he came across as a Fire and Brimstone preacher.  I can assure him that he did not.  And since he’s my friend, I want to assure him further that (a) he didn’t insult atheist gun owners and (b) he was right about the “godly aspect” of America’s constitutional right to self-defense.

As to the first point (that he wasn’t insulting atheist gun-rights supporters), Mike needn’t worry.  He definitely wasn’t waiving a discriminatory Bible at people who support the Second Amendment but don’t believe in God.  Those readers who took offense seem to have missed the fact that Mike was entirely unconcerned with pro-Second Amendment people.  Instead, he was trying to understand how America’s self-defined Progressives can deny an individual’s right to self-defense.

It was in that context — why true Progressives cannot accept self-defense, armed or otherwise — that Mike advanced his theory that rejecting a Higher Being’s existence inevitably means living and dying at the state’s whim.  Significantly, that conclusion does not imply its corollary.  That is, while Progressives’ collective atheism drives the hives’ hostility to self-defense, one doesn’t need to believe in God as a predicate to believing in self-defense.  They are not mutually exclusive ideas.

I can easily believe in armed self-defense for non-theistic reasons:  (1) the lesson of history, which is that the greatest number of deaths in the last 150 years have invariably followed a government’s move to disarm its citizens; (2) the fact that mass shootings always happen in “gun free” zones; or (3) the fact that crime goes up when gun control goes up and crime goes down when concealed carry goes up.  All three of these are inarguable facts and it’s impossible to maintain a reasonable gun control stand when faced with these facts.

Since the above facts are the arena in which most gun control discussion are carried out, arguing with gun control fanatics invariably ends with them calling you names.  Indeed, calling Second Amendment supporters blood-crazed, murderous, child-killing Nazis is the only appropriate response when the facts show that, within the confines of a free society (as opposed to, say, Yemen), guns advance individual safety, rather than destroy it.

None of the above facts rely on God.  Both theistic and atheistic individuals can cite them to justify gun rights.

But let’s be honest:  Mike wasn’t talking about a specific individual’s understanding of facts or rights.  Instead — and this is the second issue Mike raised — he was asking a fundamental question:  Why, in America, unlike all other nations, do we have a Constitutional right to bear arms?  Answering this question, at a societal rather than an individual level, requires looking at rights inherent in all men, rather than preference among both theistic and atheistic individuals.  In this larger context, Mike is absolutely right that the Founders’ belief in God was a prerequisite to their drafting the Second Amendment and the Progressive’s collective belief in the State is the overarching justification for their denying the Second Amendment.

Many of the Founders disdained traditional religious worship, but all were theists.  They believed that there was a higher power that created man and elevated him over all other beings on earth, complete with inherent rights that flowed from God, not the state.  That belief is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The state is subordinate to these rights, as the Declaration makes clear in the sentence immediately following that affirmative of rights inherent in all men, irrespective of the state:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

The hierarchy is clear:  First, God; second, His creation (man); and, third, man’s creation (the state).  To ensure that the state retains it’s place at the bottom of the hierarchy, the Founders enacted the Bill of Rights.  As I’ve argued (often), the entire purpose behind the Bill of Rights is to ensure that government is subordinate to each individual, and not vice versa.  It is within this context that the Second Amendment makes sense:  First, it exists to ensure that the state cannot become tyrannical as to the collective of all; and second, it exists to ensure that each individual is protected from the state and that each individual has the right to defend the sanctity of his own life, separate from the state’s needs or power.

On the pro-gun side, incidentally, you can also say that you only need the second and third elements of the above hierarchy to justify guns:  man comes first, the state second, and men get guns to keep the state in place.  That’s a valid, non-theistic, pro-gun argument too.

But now look at it the other way, from the Progressive’s point of view, which was Mike’s point.  The Progressives also have an ideological hierarchy underpinning their conception of man’s relationship to government:  First comes the state.  Then comes man.  There can be no God, because God would, by definition, have to supersede the state in the hierarchy.  Man must therefore be subordinate to the state.  This means that the state gets to make all the rules and rule number one is:  NOTHING CAN THREATEN THE STATE.  Moreover, statists fully understand that nothing threatens the state more (as we see on this, the 71st anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising or as we saw with the Bundy & Co. stand against the BLM) than an individual with a gun.

So Mike is right:  both the godly and the godless (and yes, that last is said with a light laugh and not meant as an insult) can support an individual’s right to bear arms.  However, the only way to deny an individual’s right to bear arms is to deny man’s inherent value vis a vis the state — and that requires a world in which there is no God.  The Progressive hive (as opposed to the individual Progressive who attends his leftist church or synagogue) must deny God both as man’s creator and as a counterweight to the state’s absolute primacy in order to justify denying the Founder’s conclusion that each of us is endowed with an inherent right to self-defense through arms.

And think about it:  Back in the day, Americans didn’t just call communists “communists.”  They called them “Godless communists,” understanding that the Godless part was an intrinsic aspect of the state’s absolute, unfettered power, a power that was and still is invariably accompanied by gun control and the refusal to recognize self-defense as a valid individual right.

My own personal Cloward-Piven breakdown — and request for your ideas about uniting the base

System overloadI haven’t written much in the last two days.  It’s certainly not because there’s been an absence of material, both serious (just about everything) and ridiculous (“Oh, my gawd!  Hillary’s going to be a grandmother!”).  Instead, my problem is that there’s too much to write about.  I’m overwhelmed, and all I can think of is the Cloward-Piven strategy.

I know that you all know what I’m talking about but, to keep the record clean, here’s the Wikipedia summary:

The Cloward–Piven strategy is a political strategy outlined in 1966 by American sociologists and political activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven that called for overloading the U.S. public welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would lead to a replacement of the welfare system with a national system of “a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty”.

While those delightful Leftists were focused solely on destroying the American economy, I’ve always seen the strategy as one that has much larger implications:  if you overload the circuits of anything, the system will blow.

Five years into the Obama administration, the headlines indicate that all the chickens are suddenly coming home to roost.  America and the world are balancing on the knife’s edge.  The checks and balances have broken, the very same checks and balances that kept stability both at home and abroad.

We’re looking into the abyss and I have no idea what to say.

More than that, when I look at what conservatives have to offer, I’m not sanguine about our ability to walk America delicately back from the edge on which it’s poised and bring it to firm ground.  For decades, conservatives have been keeping their heads down and doing the economic work that’s been channeled into filling Leftist coffers and funding Leftist policies.  Now that we’re finally raising our heads from our desks, we’re shattered by the damage strewn about, but don’t have the faintest idea how to regroup . . . no, not regroup, but group in the first place.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Trevor Loudon’s proposal to have conservatives come together immediately to present a united front to appeal to all conservative bases.  As you know, it appealed to me strongly.  But a lot of people whom I respect (yourselves included), immediately pointed out profound flaws with the idea.  Right off the bat, there were profound flaws with each of the people named (Ted Cruz’s Canadian birthplace; Rand Paul’s peculiar ideas about money and Iran, not to mention his father’s icky affiliations; Allen West’s problems while in the military, and so on).  People also disliked the un-democratic smell behind preparing an entire slate without the necessity of primaries, although primaries in California and in other “open primary” blue states are officially a joke.  Some people were worried that naming a full slate early would give the MSM a head-start on digging up dirt, destroying lives, and preparing campaigns.  And those are just some of the problems people had with Trevor’s out-of-the-box idea for getting the base excited before the GOP vacuums up the big money to promote another almost-certain-to-lose RINO.

The one thing that everyone agreed on, though, was that there needs to be some grand strategy to unite the conservative base in 2016, or else we may as well go home now, stock up on our survivalist supplies, and wait for Armageddon.

So here’s a challenge for you, given that my circuits are fried:  What grand strategy will unite the base?

Computer restored Open Thread

Thought-Bubble-White-Board_8296556

My computer was giving me problems all this week, which slowed me down and, eventually, stopped me altogether.  The computer finally is back up and running now, thanks to an old friend who’s a very good tech guru.  Now, though, I have to run, since my Mom has a doctor’s appointment.  I’ll be back in a few hours and  I hope that, by then,  I have something interesting to say.  If not, well . . . I guess we all get our mental “down” days.

Watcher’s Council nominations for April 17, 2014

Watcher's Council logoGood stuff.  Very, very good stuff.  Dangerous times make for good writing, I guess.  Also, please check out the forum, which asks if ethnic or religious sensibilities should limit free speech?

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

IRS correspondence seems to reveal conspiracy to criminalize conservative speech

Obama-IrsThe IRS’s job is to collect the taxes that Congress demands the American people pay. Under Lois Lerner’s guidance, though, the IRS’s job, apparently, was to identify potential conservative targets for Department of Justice criminal investigations. Hmmm.

PJMedia currently has running two excellent posts on the subject. The first is J. Christian Adams’ “A new, more sinister IRS scandal.” The second is Bryan Preston’s “The terrifying implications of the IRS Abuse-DOJ connection.”

Preston opens his post with this compelling paragraph:

Thank God for Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. His investigation of what turned out to be the IRS abuse scandal may well have saved the Constitution and the nation.

I hope Preston is correct.

Adams closes his post by saying, “Just wait until the American people learn more about the modern American version of history’s speech regulators.”

Sadly, I think Adams is wrong. The ones who never pay attention will continue not to pay attention. As for the man-in-the-street Democrats, the ones who are unthinking, not activist, Leftists, I’m sorry to say that they won’t suddenly think, “Oh, my God! What have we become? This has to stop.”

Instead, when you try to convince knee-jerk, unthinking Democrats that their party is using the most powerful government agency in America to shut down political debate and imprison political dissent, you’ll get a shrug, along with mumbled remarks about “conservative wackos are paranoid,” and “these people were obviously breaking the law,” and “the IRS saved us from turning into a Christian Fundamentalist Nation, kind of like Iran.”

Government is the last place in which the war is fought.  The initial battles are for people’s hearts and minds, and the Left started fighting and winning those battles in the 1960s.  Now, as the old saying goes, “it’s all over but for the shouting.”

Barack Obama, in his own words, on Islam and Christianity

obama-churchBarack Obama self-identifies as a Christian.  He seems, though, to find Christianity troubling.  Meanwhile, although he denies being a Muslim, he obviously finds it an emotionally and aesthetically attractive belief system.  Why do I say this?  Because someone was good enough to assemble a list of his statements about both religions, and to put them side-by-side:

Obama on Islam:

1. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”

2. “The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer”

3. “We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.”

4. “As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.”

5. “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.”

6. “Islam has always been part of America”

7. “we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities”

8. “These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”

9. “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

10. “I made it clear that America is not – and will never be – at war with Islam.”

11. “Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.”

12. “So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed”

13. “In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.”

14. “Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

15. “Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality”

16. “The Holy Koran tells us, ‘O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’”

17. “I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.”

18. “We’ve seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants – farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities, the Muslim innovators who helped build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped unlock the secrets of our universe.”

19. “That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

20. “I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”

Obama on Christianity:

1. “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation”

2. “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”

3. “Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?”

4. “Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.”

5. “The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.”

6. From Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope: “I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights on such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex—nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.”

7. Obama’s response when asked what his definition of sin is: “Being out of alignment with my values.”

8. “If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn’t have to keep coming to church, would they.”

9. “This is something that I’m sure I’d have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell.”

10. “I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup.”

11. “I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.”

12. “I’ve said this before, and I know this raises questions in the minds of some evangelicals. I do not believe that my mother, who never formally embraced Christianity as far as I know … I do not believe she went to hell.”

13. “Those opposed to abortion cannot simply invoke God’s will–they have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths.”

14. On his support for civil unions for gay couples: “If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount.”

15. “You got into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

16. “In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology”

17. “On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.”

18. “We have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own”

19. “All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra— (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)”

20. “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”

The list doesn’t mean that Obama isn’t a troubled, doubting Christian, or that he’s a closet Muslim.  As Queen Elizabeth I said, it’s not up to us to make windows into men’s souls. But the list of those statements, all of which I remember him making in real-time, strongly indicate that, whatever his actual beliefs, Obama’s affinity (which is different from his faith) seems to hew towards Islam, rather than to the Judeo-Christianity that has for so long underpinned our nation.

Currently, you can find the list here and here.  I found it at American Thinker.

 

Gay marriage, taxes, and the law of unintended consequences

Gay-flowerLast year was a triumphant year for gay marriage in California.  That means that this year, for many newly wed gay couples, April 15 was the first time they filed their taxes as married couples.  I have it on very good authority that many of these newly nuptialed couples are extremely unhappy now that they’re dealing with the infamous marriage penalty.

Considering how politically powerful gay men have become, could gay marriage lead to lower taxes?

And while we’re talking about taxes, Bill Whittle offers a sensible tax policy, one that would give all citizens a stake in America, while ending the current policy of taxing the producers right out of existence:

Flat taxes, once I understood how they worked, were one of the stepping stones on my way to conservativism. Twenty years ago, a brilliant conservative managed to explain to me how an across the board 10% sales tax would work. When he first told me about it, I got ruffled, pointing out that this was regressive tax that would hurt poor people. He shook his head sadly at my ignorance and explained that the most that poor people would get taxed, if they spent every penny they had, would be 10%, which is a reasonable amount to pay to have a stake in this country. (This was 20 years ago, before 51% of Americans paid nothing at all.) Moreover, he said, the bulk of taxes would come from those who aren’t poor, because middle class and rich people buy more. Everyone buys staples, but it’s the classes above the poverty line who have always — as a practical matter — bought into the American dream.

A 10% tax wouldn’t be high enough to deter high income spending, especially if there were no other taxes, so middle and upper class Americans would have an incentive to invest in the economy through purchasing goods. In the meantime, a 10% sales tax might be high enough to encourage a poor person to save more, rather than to buy inessential products, helping the poor person to stay solvent.

Certainly, a flat sales tax (or any flat tax) would be cheaper to administer than our current tax system. If it unleashed a rising tide of prosperity, it would bring in more revenue. On the other hand, if it brought in less revenue, it would stop rampant government spending (this was also before debt ceiling wars).

Bottom line:  Anything more simple and more fair than what we have now is a better tax system.

Why Bundy’s legal position vis a vis the federal government probably doesn’t matter

Charles C.W. Cooke is almost certainly correct that Bundy doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on when it comes to his fight with the feds.  While its disgraceful that the feds own most of Nevada, the fact is that they do, and they get to right the ownership rules for that land.  Nevertheless, Cooke acknowledges why Bundy’s plight makes him a sympathetic figure and these posters (h/t Caped Crusader) pithily sum up what really has people outraged:

America

compare Bundy and Sharpton

When it comes to selling Obamacare, Democrats are certain that it’s not the steak, it’s the sizzle

juicy-steakThe old advertising adage holds that “It’s not the sizzle, it’s the steak.”  Rightly or wrongly, I’ve understood this to mean that, even if a brilliant advertising campaign gets a product into consumer’s homes, if the first purchasers end up not liking the product, you’re not going to get a second wave of purchasers.  Instead, you’ll get a second little swell, followed by a trickle, followed by nothing but a dead-in-the-water product.

Eugene Robinson, however, who has been one of Obamacare’s most stalwart cheerleaders, thinks sizzle is all one needs when it comes to evaluating Obamacare’s merits and popularity.  In a rah-rah column celebrating Obamacare’s triumph, Robinson boasts about how the numbers of uninsured have decreased by millions.  (For purposes of this post, we’ll ignore that when it comes to Obamacare most of the millions who bought Obamacare on the exchanges were the previously insured who were kicked off their beloved policies by . . . Obamacare.  We’ll also ignore the fact that people didn’t voluntarily step up to buy this sizzling new government product; they were forced to do so.  And lastly, we’ll also ignore that the largest number of new insureds are now covered under Medicaid, which isn’t real insurance.  Picayune details, right?):

new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that, despite all the problems with the HealthCare.gov Web site launch, 12 million people who previously lacked insurance will obtain coverage this year. By 2017, the year Obama leaves office, the CBO predicts that an additional 14 million uninsured will have managed to get coverage .

And so it goes for another 14 boastful paragraphs:  The numbers don’t lie!  More people have insurance!  Republicans are mean-spirited idiots!  (Robinson is writing for the WaPo, so his language is more refined than that, but the point is the same.)  What I didn’t see anywhere in Robinson’s victory dance was a discussion about the steak behind the sizzle.

Yes, people have dug deep into their pockets to buy mandatory sizzle.  But by pretty significant numbers, these purchasers don’t seem thrilled with the product.  The previously insured, having been forced into the system as official subsidizers, have come face-to-face with the Obamacare steak behind the sizzle and learned that Obamacare is a maggot-ridden, rotten piece of gristly meat.  Their insurance premiums and deductibles have sky-rocketed and their doctors have waved them goodbye.  The really sick ones, the ones who used to survive thanks to a carefully-built, delicate infrastructure of special doctors and hospitals, have found themselves flung, communist-style, back into the general ward.

Nor is there any indication that America’s poverty-stricken sick people are benefitting from the middle-class subsidizers’ downgrade to Castro-style medical care.  I pointed out a few weeks ago that the word from the trenches is that the really poor have no intention of changing their ways.  They like that they pay nothing per month (as opposed to a low, subsidized fee), and they’d rather get the best doc at the ER instead of the worst doc at the regular clinic.  In other words, nobody wins, but the middle class loses.

Robinson seems quite convinced that the American people will be so happy that they have insurance that they won’t care that they don’t have the health insurance to go with it.  The Obama administration, having forced upon them the sizzle, can go home happy without providing the steak.

Is Robinson right?  Have our American expectations become so low that we’re happy merely to own a product, never mind that it doesn’t work as promised?  Are we so desperately afraid of being castigated as some sort of “ist” or “phobic” (racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic) that we will no longer protest when our representatives provide us with fraud and bad service?

Currently, the greatest threat to small government is the rising numbers of illegal immigrants who Democrats hope will create a permanent lock in the Democrat vote.  (And the RINOs go along because the Chamber of Commerce wants cheap labor.)  The current guesstimate seems to be that, if amnesty passes, Democrats will get about 8 million newly-minted, locked-in-Democrat formerly illegal alien voters.  This 8 million number works, though, only if other Americans continue to stay home.

Think about it:  As of 2012, America had around 313 million people, of whom about 126.5 million turned out in 2012, a presidential election year.  In 2008, best estimates were that there were about 227 million Americans who could have voted.  (I couldn’t find 2012 numbers on potential voters, but I assume they’re similar.)  In other words, around 100 million people stayed home in 2012.

Are all of these “stay at homes” Democrat voters?  Or are there tens of millions of latent Republican voters staying home?  (We know Evangelicals retreated to their homes on election days after the 80s ended.)

If the majority of non-voters like our country as it was (individual freedom, not government servitude), and wish that it could be that way again, are the events we’re facing sufficient to rouse them?  If that giant can be awakened, the 8 million “bought and paid for” illegal immigrant votes will be as nothing.

Or more cruelly, are the 100 million silent Americans silent because they truly don’t care?  Are they are so sedated with their  continuous pop culture diet (a la the proles in 1984), that nothing can rouse them.

When I heard Trevor Loudon speak, he correctly said that Republicans don’t win votes by trying to convince Independents to side with them.  Instead, they win votes by exciting their base, because an excited base becomes a parade, and others want to join in.  That’s why he suggested that whoever wins the Republican primaries, or — even better — whoever’s even thinking of entering the primaries, boast a full ticket, from president down to the last cabinet member, that offers something to everyone in the base.

I continue to think that’s a brilliant idea, although I’m not invested in the ticket he proposes.  It’s enough that we offer a package, not a lone man whom the drive-by media will savage.  I do wonder, though, whether an exciting package, coupled with a hunk of fetid, rotten, maggoty Obamasteak, will rouse the sleeping 100 million Americans who can’t usually be bothered to get to the polling booth.  And if those two things — a dynamic ticket and a horrifying “fundamental change to America” — are enough only to sway the malleable independents, rather than to reach the stay-at-homes, will the independents’ numbers be sufficient to beat back, not just the 8 million illegals, but the predictable votes from dead people and those with multiple personalities.

All of which gets me back to Robinson’s article:  Is his confidence that sizzle is enough to declare Obamacare a success the result of cognitive dissonance and denial, or does Robinson have a much more accurate reading of the American people than conservatives do?

 

These feet were made for dancing: Charlie and Jackie, still doing the “Shag” after 30 years

Clearly, I’m in a video mood today, as well as a dance mood.  It therefore seemed entirely appropriate when this video appeared on my Facebook feed.  Before you watch, you might want to know what you’re seeing:

The type of dance they are performing is called Shag. This phenomenon was found in the 1950s by Billy Jeffers and “Chicken” Hicks in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Shag clubs have sprung up from Baltimore to Miami totaling in over 100 clubs. ShagAtlanta, the club Charlie and Jackie belong to, was established in 1989 with the merger of two metropolitan Atlanta shag clubs, the North Atlanta Beach Club and the Atlanta Beach Club. Each year thousands of shaggers get together for the Shag Festival to celebrate Shag.