The Bookworm Beat (11/15/14) — Time warp edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingWhy is this a “time warp edition”? Because even though I’m publishing it on Saturday, I actually wrote it on Friday. The reason delayed publishing is because I’m spending all day Saturday attending part II of my CERT training. I expect the training to be more of the same stuff as last week: really nice, well-informed, generous people inefficiently teaching four hours of useful information over the course of eight hours.

Rather than leaving my blog fallow for that time, I thought I’d prep a post in advance. The only reason I’m mentioning the 14-hour lead time is to explain why, if something dramatic happens in the news tomorrow, you won’t read about it at the Bookworm Room. And now, it’s time for yesterday’s news today!

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In Idaho, gay marriage is in direct conflict with religious rights under the First Amendment

(Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto)

(Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto)

Since the first minute gay marriage appeared on the horizon, I’ve steadfastly argued that gay marriage will inevitably create a clash between newly discovered Constitutional rights that the Founders could never have envisioned and core, explicit Constitutional rights, such as the “free exercise” of religion. I developed this idea most fully back in 2009, so I’ll just quote myself:

As you know, one of my main reasons for supporting Proposition 8, which amended the California constitution to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, was because I believe that the move to redefine marriage has the potential to put the State and religious organizations — especially the Catholic church — into a head-on collision.

Liberals, when confronted with this notion, will often argue that, while the Catholic Church objects to abortion, that’s never created a constitutional crisis. What they ignore is the fact that, while the church is not in the business of providing abortions, it is in the business of providing marriages. It also ignores the fact that abortion is a legal right, not a constitutional one, while gay marriage proponents have been framing their issue in the opposite way: they say gay marriage is a constitutional, rather than a mere legal right.

Keep in mind that, for Catholics, marriage isn’t just a white dress, cake, and Mendelssohn’s wedding march. Instead, it’s a sacrament. A basic tenet of the religion is the joining of man and woman before God.  Marriage is one of the sacraments.

So imagine this scenario: Two men go to the local Catholic parish and demand that it marry them. The priest, sympathetic to their love for each other, nevertheless states that he cannot, at a purely religious level, marry them. The men turn around and sue the Church for violating their Constitutional rights. Suddenly, the judicial system is called upon to examine doctrinal issues to determine whether they mesh with Constitutional issues. It’s a scary scenario for anyone who takes seriously the principle that government may not interfere with religious doctrine.

Whenever Leftists have heard my argument, they’ve essentially told me to stop worrying my pretty little head about complex Constitutional issues, because “it will never come to that.”

Well, as I predicted, it has come to that:

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers who oppose gay marriage, own the Hitching Post wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene. Early in 2014, a federal judge in Idaho ruled that the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, but the ruling was put on hold while the case was appealed. When the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, the ruling stood and went into effect.

The city of Coeur d’Alene has an ordinance that prohibits discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation, in public accommodations. It does have a religious exemption, but the Hitching Post is a for-profit company, not technically a religious organization, in spite of the Knapp’s deeply held personal beliefs.

[snip]

“On Friday, a same-sex couple asked to be married by the Knapps, and the Knapps politely declined. The Knapps now face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.” Note that jail time and the fine is per day, not per offense, The Daily Signal reports.

Most articles I’ve seen have discussed the Knapp’s situation with reference to freedom of speech or Idaho’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I believe that these articles rely on too narrow an interpretation of what happened in Idaho.

The Knapp’s situation is not the same as a Christian photographer being asked to take photographs or a Christian baker being asked to bake a cake. I think it’s unconscionable government bullying to force people to participate peripherally in a ritual that offends their religious sensibilities, but the government can (and invariably does) argue that it has the right to do so because the acts at issue are not central to the ritual itself.  To go back to my Catholic Church analogy, the photographer’s and the baker’s situation is similar to a scenario that sees the government insist that priests must drive girls to Planned Parenthood for an abortion.  That the government would force a priest to act in this way is appalling for any number of reasons, but the government still isn’t dictating what the priest can preach or the acts he can or cannot perform as part of his core ministerial duties (e.g., giving the last rites, administering the sacrament, take confession, or conduct a marriage ceremony).

Those who support Coeur d’Alene’s attack on the Knapps are trying to slot the Knapps case into that same metric as the photographer, baker or hypothetical priest-cum-chauffeur.  They contend that, because the Knapps get paid for offering a package deal of religious service and chapel rental, they are running a business, not engaging in matters of faith, making the town’s ordinance relevant and their own ordination irrelevant.

This is artful misdirection.  The real point is that the state is threatening to imprison ministers who are performing a core religious function — marriage — and who refuse to subordinate their doctrine to a state mandate.  The issue isn’t about whether the Knapps get paid for their services or profit from renting their chapel out along with their ministerial functions.  The real issue is that the Knapps are being told that, in their role as ministers, they must engage in acts that are completely antithetical to their religion’s interpretation of God’s word. Put another way, they’re like priests who are being told to perform an actual abortion.

It’s important to add here that the Knapps, like my hypothetical Catholic priest, aren’t crazy people who came up with their religion yesterday, while shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, and included in their brand new faith core doctrines demanding ritual Barbie doll dismemberment, mandatory bestiality, and 100% tithing. The Knapps, like my hypothetical priest, are interpreting Christian religious doctrine as it has been interpreted for 2,000 years. They are interpreting Christian religious doctrine as it existed when the Founders enacted the First Amendment. They are interpreting Christian religious doctrine in a way that meshes with most religion’s core doctrinal points right up until the last 40 years, when a bunch of churches and synagogues ran off into the far reaches Leftist swamp lands.

Under the First Amendment, those faiths that wish to marry same-sex partners should be allowed to do so.  And those churches that hew to traditional religious interpretations about marriage and do not wish to marry same-sex partners, should be left entirely alone — and that’s true whether they perform the marriage ritual for free or on a fee-for-service basis.  The issue isn’t money; it’s faith.

When Queen Elizabeth I of England came to the throne after decades of religious strife, she famously refused to resume religious inquisitions, saying, instead, “I would not open windows into men’s souls.” What’s happening in Coeur d’Alene isn’t just opening a window into men’s souls, it’s interpretation of its own ordinance is a rock thrown directly through that window in an effort to destroy men’s faith entirely.

Wednesday morning round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesWhether you devour this post in one fell swoop or nibble at it throughout the day, I can guarantee you a lot of food for thought:

The VA scandal is gaining traction, as word comes out that the VA already knew back in 2010 that hospitals were manipulating records. Robert Petzel, the top health official for the Department of Veterans Affairs, has resigned ahead of his previously announced retirement, showing that at least someone understands that part of taking responsibility for a job is that you look like you’re getting fired, or fire yourself, when you fail in that role.

Obama, who has never worked in the private sector, still hasn’t figured out that ordinary people, accustomed to private sector job losses for workplace malfeasance, believe it’s appropriate for heads to roll. How else can one explain that, not only is Obama keeping on VA Secretary Ric Shinseki, he’s praising him for a job well done.

***

The risks from the VA scandal extend beyond any immediate political fallout. Indeed, it may be more damaging than Obama & Co. ever imagined, not because it reflects badly on them but because it reflects badly on their entire world view — namely, Big Government:

Because the Democratic party simply is the party of government. It is the party that insists on the nobility, efficacy and intellectual superiority of government. The VA is at the intersection of all the things liberals insist are wise and good and just about government. It is government-run healthcare. It is the tangible fulfillment of a sacred obligation the government has with those who’ve sacrificed most for our nation. It is also the one institution and/or constituency that enjoys huge bipartisan support. The VA, rhetorically and politically, is more sacrosanct and less controversial than Medicare, Social Security, road building, the NIH, or public schools. We are constantly told that we could get so many wonderful, super-fantastic things done if only both sides would lay down their ideological blah blah blah blah and work together for yada yada yada. Well, welcome to the VA. How’s that working out for you?

***

Many commentators noticed that Jay Carney, when asked about the VA scandal, said the same thing he and the president have said about myriad scandals: “Hey, don’t ask us. We only learned about it on TV, just like the rest of you.”

You can tell that their feral little brains are thinking, “Yes! That should let them know that we had nothing to do with the scandal. It’s somebody else’s fault.”

It hasn’t seemed to occur to Obama or Carney that there’s another, better answer:  “The President was apprised yesterday about this issue and has already taken steps to deal with it.”  That answer would make the President sound like an executive, not an idiot. (Peter Wehner sees “epic incompetence” as the new presidential narrative.)

Jonathan S. Tobin sums up what the President’s chosen scandal tactic implies:

The fact that the White House resorted to what has become its standard second-term excuse for government scandal with a line about the president hearing about it on TV or by reading the newspapers raises serious questions about both his leadership and the intelligence of his staff. After all, surely it must have occurred to someone at the White House that using the same excuse about hearing of it in the media wasn’t likely to work after it had been employed with little success to distance him from the IRS and other scandals. Such intellectual laziness speaks to a West Wing that is both collapsing from intellectual fatigue as well as having acquired an almost complete contempt for both the press and public opinion.

***

While I’m on the subject of Obama’s incompetence, it seems that the intelligence community is pushing back against both that incompetence and the rank political dishonesty that sees that Obama administration falsely claiming that Islamic terrorism is declining, not increasing.

I feel very strongly that you shouldn’t get into pissing matches with the intelligence community because they probably know things about you that you would prefer no one else know. If this fight between the administration and intelligence heats up, I wonder if someone will start leaking interesting revelations about highly placed officials in the administration, including Obama himself.

***

James O’Keefe has an uncanny knack for exposing Leftist hypocrisy, corruption (financial, intellectual, and moral), and gross illegality.  He is back in spectacular style with a video showing three prominent Hollywood types agreeing to take money from an Arab oil sheikh (O’Keefe in disguise) in order to fund an anti-fracking film.

There’s nothing subtle about O’Keefe’s phony pitch, either. In a phone call with director Josh Tickell, O’Keefe explicitly states “My client’s interest is to end American energy independence; your interest is to end fracking. And you guys understand that?” Tickell is okay with that. “Correct. Yes, super clear,” he says.

While many people are shocked about environmentalists getting into bed with big oil in order to stop fracking, I was wondering more about their willingness to send money to Saudi Arabia, rather than to keep it at home.

Of course, O’Keefe just showed three fools in Hollywood. But what about the fact that real, not imaginary, Arab oil influence is huge in Washington, D.C. itself? Jeff Dunetz says that we need to pay attention to this very disturbing reality. Looking at the numbers, Dunetz points out that, not only is the UAE by far the biggest foreign lobby in D.C., the entire pro-Israel contribution (remember the “all powerful Jewish lobby” we keep hearing about?) is just 21% of the UAE’s contribution. Read the whole thing. It’s illuminating.

***

Chad Felix Greene, who is (I believe) gay, says that it’s not unreasonable for people to be wary of transgendered people. It’s not one of his best posts (he’s a very good writer, but this is a bit muddy because he tries to be respectful of all points of view, even as he challenges some of them), but my takeaway is this:

It’s not unreasonable to be dismayed when your chosen sexual partner reveals that he or she started out life as a member of the opposite sex.  This is true regardless of whether you’re homosexual or heterosexual.  Thus, both a man planning to bed a former man, or a gay man planning to bed a former woman, might be upset to learn about the partners gender history.

It is reasonable, however to refuse to deny the biological reality that underlies transgendered self-definition. Just because someone says “I am a woman,” doesn’t mean you have to pretend that the person once had or still has a penis. You can be respectful of that person’s self-identity (no bullying, teasing, or discriminating), but you don’t have to deny biological and historical reality.

***

Gay marriage is a done deal in America, folks. Although the Supreme Court addressed only the federal Defense of Marriage Act, courts across America are viewing that decision as a green light to overturn voters who said that, in their state, marriage is between a man and a woman. One really can’t blame the judges too much now that, years after those votes were originally cast, the same-sex marriage lobby’s endless advocacy means that 55% of Americans support gay marriage.

I’ve made it pretty clear that my opposition to gay marriage arises primarily because I foresee a coming clash between the First Amendment’s explicit guarantee that Americans have the right to exercise their religion freely and the newly created civil right to marry outside of the traditional boundaries of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. We already know that gay couples will sue business people who, for religious reasons, refuse to provide services for same-sex marriage ceremonies, although they are willing to do business with same-sex couples in all other matters. How long will it be before same-sex partners sue the Catholic Church or a Baptist ministry for violating their civil rights?

***

Spain has been Judenrein since 1492. That has done nothing to prevent the oldest hatred. (You can read more about Spain’s apparently atavistic antisemitism here.)

***

How can one resist Jonah Goldberg on “trigger warnings,” which are just the latest insanity to issue from America’s loony academic citadels? After noting that he doesn’t have a problem with obscure, privately run Leftist blog sites catering to every trigger from audio of snapping fingers to pictures of animals in wigs, Goldberg adds:

But as is so often the case, common sense is barely a speed bump for the steamroller of political correctness. Oberlin College’s Office of Equity Concerns advised professors to avoid such triggering subjects as racism, colonialism, and sexism. They soon rescinded it, perhaps because they realized that if such subjects become taboo, much of their faculty would be left with nothing to talk about.

***

While I’m quoting, I was just kvelling with glee over John Hinderaker’s masterful use of imagery and the English language in connection with Howard Dean’s lunatic claim that Republicans are no longer Americans:

A terrible sort of insanity has gripped the Democratic Party. On almost a daily basis, when you see the party’s leaders in action, you want to start edging toward the door, murmuring “Nice doggie. Nice doggie.”

[snip]

This is a very bad thing. We need two functional political parties, and these days the Democrats don’t get over the bar, no matter how low you set it.

[snip]

Reid and Pelosi are so low-rent that you feel embarrassed for them whenever you see them. Screening a video [about Charles and David Koch] that is sheer partisan libel in the United States Capitol–illegally, as best I can tell–is right up their alley.

Read the whole thing, please, both because it’s beautifully written and because it’s substantively informative and important.

***

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fact that it was no surprise to me that the poorest of the poor aren’t rushing to sign up for Obamacare. Contrary to our middle class expectations, they don’t mind having the ER serve as their preferred provider. Getting top flight medical care for free on an as-needed basis is a better deal for them than having to pay a monthly fee (no matter how low) for some hard to reach little clinic that makes them jump through hoops just to see a dermatologist.

Thanks to Obamacare, it looks as if a significant number of formerly insured (i.e., people who lost their insurance because of Obamacare) are also finding that the ER is a good option. Some haven’t even tried to get new insurance. Some have gotten trapped in the Obamacare exchange. Some have been told that they’re the wrong sex. Some cannot accept the substandard care in their new, narrow coverage. Whatever the reason, they’re joining the bottom 1% in seeing the ER as first and best when it comes to medical treatment.

***

Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon in Oregon, won the Republican party primary and will now challenge incumbent Democrat Jeff Merkley for Oregon’s Senate seat. No surprise, then, that Democrats have unearthed records showing that, in both a divorce and a contentious break-up with a boyfriend, the men contended that she was stalking, harassing, or even striking them. Neither sought restraining orders and the boyfriend has since become an enthusiastic (i.e., monied) supporter for her political campaign.

I’m dismissing the boyfriend stalking charge since he now supports her campaign. Whatever happened then, he clearly doesn’t think it affects Wehby’s ability to serve the people of Oregon and America.

The ex-husband charge (harassment and striking) intrigues me, because it reminds me very strongly of something that happened to a friend of mine. She and her husband were involved in a contentious divorce. Things came to a head when she went to his house (he owned it before they were married) to pick up some of her stuff. He refused to let her in, and said he would call the cops on her. She responded by yelling at him and swatting his chest.

You have to understand here that her soon-to-be ex stood at 6’2″ and was a burly man. My friend was 5’2″ and one of the physically weakest people I’ve ever met. She needed help lifting big binders. There was no possibility that she hurt or threatened him as she swatted him. Nevertheless, he had someone restrain her until the cops came along and then insisted that they arrest her.

My friend told me later that the cops apologized profusely for having to arrest her, because they recognized that the arrest was a travesty. Nevertheless, California law mandates that if a spouse says he was abused and demands that the alleged abuser gets arrested, then the alleged abuser must be arrested and prosecuted.

When the case went to trial, my friend was triumphantly acquitted and, I believe, the judge fined her ex for abusing both the divorce and criminal law processes.

That story makes me somewhat dubious about the claims from Wehby’s ex. In the context of a divorce, the problem nowadays isn’t just that one partner or another might become violent. It’s that one partner or another might lie about the other becoming violent.

***

She murdered two people and then lied about that fact when she came to America, got citizenship, and became an influential activist for Islamic interests in America. You and I might think that the victims in this case are the two dead men and the American people. Au contraire, my naive friends. She is the victim (of course).

***

The Marines are breathing a sigh of relief that one of their own finally got the recognition he deserved. Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter (ret.) will receive the Medal of Honor for throwing himself on a live grenade to save a comrade’s life. He was terribly injured in the blast.

Carpenter has mixed feelings about the honor:

“There are guys who I was with who didn’t come back, so it’s hard for me to wear this and have the spotlight on me the rest of my life when they lost their life on a hot, dusty field in Afghanistan and most people don’t even know their names,” Carpenter said. “Even at Walter Reed, I recovered with quadruple-amputees. How am I supposed to wear this knowing and seeing all the hardships that are much worse than mine that guys have gone through without any recognition?”

Carpenter sounds like a very worthy recipient for the nation’s highest military honor.  To fully appreciate just how worthy, check out this article and check out this video:

***

And to leave things on an equally uplifting, but somewhat more cheerful-in-a-silly-way note, here’s an adorable dancing two-year old. What I like particularly isn’t actually his dancing but is, instead, his “Vogue-ish” posing between dance moves:

Monday mid-day round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesLooking at the headlines lately, I have the feeling we’re at a tipping point in America. I’ve had this feeling before, and it’s been an icky feeling, because my concern was that the slippery slope we were about to slide down would land America in the ditch. Now, though, I have a sense that what’s going to end up in the ditch, rather than being our whole nation, might just be is the Progressive agenda, as more and more Americans look at Progressivism unmasked and don’t like what they see.

Of course, until we have a strong conservative movement, all that will happen is that America will pull back just a little from the edge; it’s not yet heading in an entirely different direction. Moreover, events that are already in motion are still going to happen, so it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  Still, today, for the first time in a long time, I actually think things might get better.

And now, the interesting stuff:

George Orwell understood that one of the primary ways in which the left works is to pervert language. Case in point:  the demand for same-sex (or gay) marriage. For the entirety of human history, no matter the time, place, government, or religion, “marriage” has been a union of man and woman or, sometimes, man and women. The core nature of the word marriage is the societally-sanctioned coming together of male and female. To extend “marriage” to persons of the same-sex effectively strips the word of meaning. It can now mean anything. Humpty-Dumpty has taken over.

You’ve heard me on this point before, but it seems appropriate to repeat it here, after having read that the first openly gay Episcopalian Bishop is divorcing his husband after only four years:

“My belief in marriage is undiminished by the reality of divorcing someone I have loved for a very long time, and will continue to love even as we separate,” Robinson wrote. “Love can endure, even if a marriage cannot.”

You’ll notice that God and gospel don’t figure anywhere in this ordained bishop’s New Age homage to love.

I don’t think it’s any stretch to say that Robinson fully understood that what he entered into four years ago was not a “marriage.” It was, instead, a Leftist effort to destroy the church from within by leaching the sacraments, including the sacrament of marriage, of any meaning. And without sacraments, you don’t have a church.  And without a church, you have no morality and rules, creating a nice vacuum that the Progressive state can rush to fill.

Let me say again that I don’t have a big problem with civil gay unions, because it’s quite reasonable to extend certain civil benefits to long-term partnerships, regardless of their sexual makeup. I do, however, have a huge problem with the gay marriage movement, which sets out to destroy the meaning behind words as a predicate to destroying the existential meaning necessary to maintain very useful cultural institutions.

(For another example of the linguistic march through institutions, pay attention to the fact that the U.N., which is “investigating” the Vatican regarding it’s truly shameful sex abuse scandals, has included in its mission statement the claim that banning abortion constitutes a form of sexual abuse.)

***

Thomas Lifson explains why Democrats are getting nervous about Benghazi. It seems to me that the Dems’ only hope is that, because the scandal isn’t about sex, the media can run interference by alternating burying it or claiming that it’s nothing but a partisan ploy. I remember back in 1998 the media’s claim (which I, a credulous Democrat, believed) that the Lewinsky scandal was a fake product of the vast right wing conspiracy. Unfortunately for the media, though, the sex factor in the scandal made it impossible to bury.  When the truth behind the little blue dress came out, the best that the media could do was to say that Clinton’s peculiar, immoral sex practices had nothing to do with his being president. That option isn’t open this time around.  Obama’s Benghazi passivity and lies have everything to do with his being president.

In 2014, with Trey Gowdy in charge of the House’s Benghazi investigation committee, and with the internet there to expose things the media wants to hide, Democrats may find it a bit harder to bury this scandal than when they tried, unsuccessfully, to do the same thing with Clinton’s erotic escapades.

I expect Gowdy to make good hay out of the White House’s threatened refusal to cooperate. The lawyer in me knows that when the other side refuses to play, it’s got something to hide.

Or maybe, per Michael Ramirez, there really was a video — a very specific video — driving what happened before, during, and after the Benghazi massacre.

***

Today is Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli version of Memorial Day, on which Israel remembers the many men and women who have died in the service of that brave and beleaguered country. Today is also the day that something peculiar happened:  Britain’s hard left Guardian newspaper ran a long article sympathetically retelling the story of the massacre Kfar Etzion, when Jordanian troops killed 127 civilians on May 13, 1948. Writing at Commentary, Tom Wilson points out how peculiar the Guardian’s article is:

“Massacre that Marred the Birth of Israel” reads a headline in theGuardian, and your heart sinks. This is the last thing one feels like reading as Israel enters into forty-eight hours of commemoration, celebration, mourning, and remembrance; today is Israel’s memorial day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, tomorrow Israel’s independence day marking sixty-six years since the reestablishment of the Jewish state. Yet, on closer inspection the headline might be thought a little misleading.

This column by the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont turns out not to be just another hit piece laden with the usual allegations of Zionist crimes against forlorn Palestinians. In a newspaper typically more inclined to give over its pages to stories about what Israel’s opponents call the Nakba—the catastrophe of Israel’s creation—it is rather disorienting, if refreshing, to find a piece so sympathetically recounting the macabre events of the Kfar Etzion massacre.

The Guardian’s uncharacteristic behavior goes back to that “tipping point” feeling I mentioned.  I’m wondering if some of the saner Leftists, peering into the abyss towards which they led us, are realizing that the West won’t tumble into some socialist paradise but will, instead, find itself in a poverty-stricken, sharia-compliant world.  And while the hard-core Leftists might not mind this, or are continuing to deny it, others may be troubled by that vision and may attempt to put the brakes on.

***

A long time ago, I did a post called “Remembering when Jews were popular.” I’m not well-informed about Jewish culture, but I’ve definitely noticed how American popular culture has changed since I was a child, in the 1960s, when so much of the entertainment world was composed of Jews or was friendly to Jews. James Loeffler, more informed and erudite than I, sees the same changes, not at the overall cultural level (which was what I noticed), but amongst the Jews themselves.

***

Yet another moment of tipping in the right direction? The head of a local teacher’s union is embarrassed to have been involved in administering Common Core tests to the students at his school.

***

Read and enjoy Nigel Lawson’s splendid, truly humanist, take down of climate alarmism.

And while we’re on the subject of biased, bad “science,” it is absolutely fascinating to read how Ancel Benjamin Keys, the man who made us afraid of saturated fat, deliberately set up a biased study and then compounded that bias with ignorance and flawed research techniques. I love meat, and eat way too little of it since Mr. Bookworm, in thrall to “science,” gets agitated when meat enters our house. Just know that, if you ever come to town and want to join me for lunch or dinner, I’ll suggest a burger or other type of meat place, since those are my go-to dining out options.

***

Considering that the Constitution gives Congress the sole authority to pass laws, it would seem to me that Congress has standing to sue when the chief executive usurps that power by unilaterally changing those laws. But then again, I’m not a constitutional scholar, nor am I a Progressive federal court judge, so my opinion doesn’t matter, does it?

***

And a song I like, which expresses my feeling on a day when the tipping point might finally be tipping in the right direction:

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.

***

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

***

Sultan Knish on the moral vacuum of Progressive morality.

***

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.

***

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?”

***

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?

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.

We don’t have a “gay mafia,” we have a “gay Soviet”

Gay StalinI’m not a Bill Maher fan, but he occasionally shows an intellectual honesty that makes it worthwhile to keep an eye on him.  Last week, he exposed Leftist hypocrisy about racism, when he got Leftist guests to denounce “racist” pronouncements from Paul Ryan, only to reveal that he was quoting Michelle Obama.

On Friday, in the wake of the Mozilla scandal (firing its brilliant and effective CEO for the fact that, in 2008, he supported the same view of marriage that Obama and the Clintons claimed to support), Maher once again went off the reservation.  In discussing the furor against Eich, he came out with what must be, to the Left, an unpleasant truth about the strain of thuggery that runs through the gay professional class:

During the online-only post-show segment, Maher, 58, asked his panel of contributors about their thoughts on the tech wizard’s decision to step down as Mozilla’s CEO after facing backlash for supporting a California same-sex marriage ban effort in 2008.

“I think there is a gay mafia,” Maher said. “I think if you cross them, you do get whacked. I really do.”

Let me add some specificity to Maher’s thought.  We already know that organized ideological thuggery took Eich down, but I’d like to focus on the mentality that drove the anti-heretic hunt.  CNET, which covers the tech world, has a post about the Eich resignation.  What struck me about the CNET article was a comment from the man who started it all — a man who said that, if only Eich had announced that the re-education had been successful and then kept his mouth shut, then everything would have been okay (emphasis mine):

The wildfire that brought Eich down was sparked in part by Rarebit developers Hampton Catlin and Michael Lintorn Catlin, who as married gay men took Eich’s politics very personally, removed their app from the Mozilla Marketplace, and called for Eich to apologize or resign.

Hampton Catlin on Thursday, though, called Eich’s resignation “the worst kind of victory.”

“We never expected this to get as big as it has, and we never expected that Brendan wouldn’t make a simple statement. I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration [sic] and say that he never intended to cause people problems,” Catlin said in a blog post Thursday. “It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.”

Translated:  If only Eich had recanted, publicly apologized for all gay suffering throughout America (because up until a decade ago, no one had even thought of gay marriage), and then kept his mouth shut , our kapos would have released him from the gulag and given him tacit permission to hold his beliefs, as long as he never acts on them in any way in the future.

Keep Catlin in mind as I walk you back about 70 years in time, to the mid-20th century in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.  Boris Pasternak, a truly courageous intellectual (unlike America’s modern “intellectuals” who march in lockstep with the powers that be), lived his life with incredible bravery under Soviet tyranny.  That bravery included writing Dr. Zhivagoan indictment of the Soviet system.  The Soviets, naturally, refused to publish the book, but it did get published in Italy and, from there, spread throughout the West.

The CIA, in one of its more intelligent moves, decided to smuggle the book right back into the Soviet Union believing, correctly, that it would enable Soviet citizens to see what their government withheld from them, both in terms of reading material and in terms of a free society centered on the individual, not the state.

That’s a fascinating piece of Cold War history, isn’t it?  I know about it because the WaPo has written an article about the CIA’s Zhivago operation.  And in the WaPo article, I found this (emphasis mine):

In Washington, Soviet experts quickly saw why Moscow loathed “Doctor Zhivago.”

In a memo in July 1958, John Maury, the Soviet Russia Division chief, wrote that the book was a clear threat to the worldview the Kremlin was determined to present.

“Pasternak’s humanistic message — that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of his political loyalty or contribution to the state — poses a fundamental challenge to the Soviet ethic of sacrifice of the individual to the Communist system,” he wrote.

Once, we were a country that used its government to advance the notion that “that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of his political loyalty or contribution to the state.”  Now, we’re a Soviet nation, in which private citizens are told that they must publicly recant their heresies or be destroyed.

So, while Maher’s on the right track, he picked the wrong organization.  Yes, there’s thuggery involved, which is a mafia tactic.  But unlike the mafia, which was just in it for the money, the new Soviet is in it to subordinate the individual and his beliefs entirely to the will of the Leftist state.

Nor is this thuggery a fringe movement.  While I am very honored here at the Bookworm Room to have gay readers who understand that the safest place for all individuals (regardless of race, color, creed, gender indentification, sexual orientation, etc.) is in a nation that leaves the individual alone, I can tell you that every one of my Leftist friends on my “real me” Facebook, gay or straight, applauds the gay Soviet’s successful thuggery against Eich.  These Facebook friends are, without exception, affluent, educated, successful, and vocal, and they think it’s a great thing that a productive man who has never once been accused of fomenting any discrimination in the workplace was the target of an attack aimed at destroying his livelihood.

This time, it was the non-governmental Leftist collective that acted, but you know they were thinking how much better it would be if they could just outlaw opposing thought. Why convince someone that your position has merit when you can more easily destroy them, which has the useful feature of sending a strong message to any other heretics out there?

Let me end this post as I always do:  I think the state should get out of the marriage business, leaving it for religious and private organizations to determine what meshes with their doctrine and values.  The state should recognize civil unions in whatever way the state believes will best suit its ends.  And when I speak of the state, I don’t speak of a grand Soviet, centralized state, run by Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, and Eric Holder.  I mean the state speaking through the ballot box, both in direct citizen initiatives and through elected representatives.

Traditionally, the state’s ends included children and economic stability.  In a greenie run world, where humans are the devil, maybe the state would do best to encourage only those unions that are incapable of producing even more environmentally destructive children.  Then, it’ll be the heterosexuals struggling for legal recognition of their evil child-producing mating.

Considering how meaningless marriage has become, I hereby withdraw any opposition I’ve ever had to gay marriage

Playland at the Beach fun houseFor an almost 80 year run that ended only in 1972, Playland at the Beach was San Francisco’s Coney Island.  Beginning in 1928, and subject to a few minor changes over the decades, Playland settled into the form known to City residents through its final days:  it had roller coasters, the camera obscura, a merry-go-round, and the famous Fun House, home of Laughing Sal (who now lives at the Musee Mecanique).

At its peak, Playland was a vital entertainment hub. It was bright and shiny and fun and funny. The roller coasters and the Fun House were state-of-the-art entertainment. The latter boasted a giant barrel roll; rocking, moving floors; air vents to blow up girls’ skirts; long, wavy slides; spinning floors; wavy, distorted mirrors, and all the other accoutrements of 20th century amusement park culture. You can get a sense of Playland’s attractions from this clip from 1973’s Damsel in Distress, featuring Fred Astaire, George Burns, and Grace Allen:

I went to the Fun House several times in the late 1960s and very, very early 1970s. There was still a musty magic to the slides, mirrors, vented floors, and, of course, Laughing Sal, but mostly the Fun House was a drab, depressing place. For starters, it was filthy, clotted with five decades worth of grime, made sticky from a nice Pacific Ocean salt overlay. All of the attractions were rickety. I always had the lowering suspicion that the moving, rocking sidewalk would suddenly buckle, either throwing me into the air or dropping me into some damp, spider-ridden basement.

playlandfunhouse620x618The Fun House’s clientele was no longer made up of a cheerful amalgam of families, young couples, and children old enough to go there on their on. Instead, it was overrun by screaming, usually overwrought children. It wasn’t bright and shiny. It was less Disney and more Lord of the Flies. We children ran around frantically, evidencing a grim determination to have fun in this hallowed San Francisco amusement park, a bleakness captured nicely in the picture to the right, which was taken shortly before the Fun House closed for good.

I was always delighted with the offer of a trip to the Fun House (I really liked the idea of Playland at the Beach), but I was even happier when it was finally time to go home. I invariably left there tired, dirty, overwhelmed, and both depressed and demoralized. The only magic left was the patina of age, which I was too young then to appreciate.

Sara Gilbert And Linda PerryPerhaps because my brain is wired a bit differently, I thought of Playland at the Beach when I saw this headline: “‘Roseanne’ Alum Sara Gilbert, Rocker Linda Perry Wed.” I have no idea who Sara Gilbert and Linda Perry are, so I was unexcited by their wedding (although I naturally wish them many happy years together).

Thinking about it, it occurred to me that, even if I had known who they are, I probably still would have found the headline uninteresting. Looking at the state of modern marriage, I can no longer articulate a good reason to care about other people’s weddings and subsequent married life.

Just as the Playland I knew was a faded, dirty, broken-down relic of its past, barely hinting at its former grandeur, so too is marriage today leached of the meaning that once gave it such preeminence in Western society. Historically, marriage has been an extremely important event, both at the individual and the societal level, controlling as it did sexuality, paternity, and property.

Up until our very modern era, before a girl got married, she was (in theory, at least) a sexually uninitiated child under her parents’ care. Marriage was her entry into the adult world: she left her parents; her faith and her state both encouraged her to have sex (with her husband); and she began producing and raising the next generation. For centuries, even millennia, the wedding was the single most transformative event in every woman’s life. It marked a profound change in her standing in society, from child to woman.

Victorian wedding photoWhile men weren’t necessarily the sexual innocents their wives were supposed to be, marriage was an equally life-changing event for them. They might not have been virgins, but their previous sexual relations were illicit, carried out with prostitutes or lusty widows. Any children that resulted from these relationships were not supposed to be acknowledged. They were bastards without legal rights, and the man’s obligation to care for these children was a personal decision, rather than something mandated by law or religion.

By marrying, the man got unfettered access to sex, with his church’s and his state’s approving imprimatur, and he got children that were presumptively his, with all the legal and moral responsibilities that entailed. The man’s carefree bachelor days were over, and his days of maturity and responsibility began. If he wanted to be assured that his wife’s progeny were indeed his, he’d better be a good husband.

Marriage’s centrality in pre-21st century society wasn’t just about questions of sexuality and paternity unique to heterosexual relationships. It was also an important economic relationship. For rich people, it meant the blending of fortunes or even of nations. For poor people, it meant that the man and woman formed an economic unit, with the man laboring outside of the house to bring in food or goods, and the woman laboring inside the house (and in the garden), to enable the man to work and to do whatever it took to stretch his earnings as far as possible.

In America’s past, a healthy society depended on the marriage partnership. It regularized sexual relations (and paternity issues), creating social stability and slowing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It also increased men’s economic opportunities, thereby enhancing America’s potential economic growth, which operated to everyone’s benefit.

No wonder marriages were celebrated, not just by the participants, but by society at large. Add in the fact that traditional religions sanctify marriage, elevating it from a social and economic relationship into a covenant before God, and it’s easy to understand marriage’s preeminent position throughout Western history, generally, and American history, specifically.

Nowadays, every one of those reasons for marriage is gone. Sex is unrelated to marriage. Childbearing is controlled by birth control, abortions, and fertility rituals . . . er, fertility treatments. Paternity is determined by genetic tests. Economically, marriage is a good thing, but the state will step in and help the mother and children out if the father decides that all the responsibilities that flow from impregnating a woman are just too burdensome and too little fun. Only people who have a middle class aversion to poverty and welfare enter into marriage for economic reasons. Religions still support marriage’s importance, but many congregants seem more interested in the party than the sacrament.

Sexy wedding dressAnd of course, there’s modern divorce. Marriage isn’t a permanent commitment; it’s a relationship experiment that is easily shucked. It’s a very good thing that we no longer live in a time when only death would part a couple, leaving married people (usually women) at the mercy of abusive, insane, or absent spouses. It’s not so good a thing that we now live in a time when people divorce simply because they’re bored and want the thrill of a new relationship. (And yes, I have known people to divorce for just that reason.)

Modern marriage no longer serves any of its necessary societal functions. It’s a relic, just like the Fun House I knew as a child was a relic. What once was shiny and central to American life has become a peripheral excuse for a frenetic party. The couple standing at the altar have already had sex (with lots of people), they (with financial help from taxpayers and employers) are controlling the woman’s fertility, and they’re making financial decisions irrespective of their marital status. Societal changes, mass media, and the vast wedding industry have ensured that modern American wedding is primarily about the right dress, the beautiful cake, and the most viral wedding video.

All this means that the LGBTQ crowd is arriving at the party when the party’s already over. Looking back on my Fun House experience — high expectations in advance, followed by a disappointing reality when faced with a dusty ghost from the past — I actually feel sorry for those same-sex couples rushing to take part in an event that’s long past its heyday. As a society, we haven’t quite reached the point of Miss Havisham presiding over her long-gone wedding feast, but the decay is setting in.

The end of Playland at the Beach

The end of Playland at the Beach

Modern American marriage has become a form without substance . . . a Fun House without the fun. Given that reality, why should we care that the LGBTQ crowd is flocking to catch the tail-end of the party? Let them have their last dance as the lights dim and the tables are littered with dirty plates and half-filled glasses.

For those Americans who have a religious commitment to marriage, they should go and have that religious ceremony and live their married life in accordance with God’s commandments. And for those Americans who subscribe to the belief that the children’s well-being is best served in a stable, heterosexual relationship, they should get married (in a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque, or before a registrar) and they should stay married for the children’s sake. For everyone else, the caravan has already passed on and it’s probably long past time for the dogs to stop barking.

Friday afternoon round up (and Open Thread)

Victorian posy of pansiesLots of good stuff today, so I’m going to dive right in.  As always, these aren’t in any particular order, so you may find interesting things buried halfway down the list.

I’ve made the same point before, but I still like to see it come from Daniel Hannan and Jonah Goldberg:  Nazis came from the Left, not from the right.  Incidentally, I still like the way I phrased it, which was that we should get rid of the archaic Left/Right or Fascist/Communist/Capitalist language and, instead, look at political systems in terms of Statist versus Individualist forms of government.  The world’s most famous bad guys, no matter the name they gave themselves, land on the statist side.  America, before Obama, was more individualists, as she was when she went around the world freeing people from statists calling themselves Communists, Fascists, Nazis, Military Juntas, Muslim Fundamentalists, etc.

***

One of the things that distinguished George Bush was that he was a good manager — proving that he got something useful out of his stint in Harvard Business School. He surrounded himself by efficient, knowledgeable people who reflected well on this country’s competence, even if one didn’t agree with its policies. The opposite is true for Obama. He is a terrible manager who surrounds himself with people who know as little as he does.

Obama’s conduct is typical for an insecure person. He needs to surround himself with ineffective sycophants who say nice things to him and who don’t threaten him with their greater talents and skills. Obama gave the game away a long time ago when he announced, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.” Genuinely smart — and mentally healthy — people don’t actually say things like that.

***

One of the things that drives me crazy about the Left’s insistence on bypassing parents to give young girls access to the birth control pill is the fact that it’s not just about sex (and the Left uses sex to bribe girls away from the nuclear family). It’s also about how high risk pills are. California kids can’t get their ears pierced without permission, but girls can easily get pills that are associated with strokes, blood clots, breast cancer and, now, multiple sclerosis. The Pill is a very dangerous medicine, but it’s so wrapped up in Leftist feminist politics, no one is willing to say “no” simply on safety grounds.  The fight about the Pill on moral grounds is a good fight.  The fight about the Pill on health grounds should be a winning fight — but nobody’s doing battle there.

***

Two excellent views about Putin’s escapades: Terresa, at Noisy Room, harks back to the Nazi notion of Lebensraum.  Paul Rahe, at Ricochet, thinks Putin is a fool, trying to relive the glory days of the Cold War but, in fact, reaching far beyond Russia’s actual, very limited, economic abilities, not to mention exposing Russia to the very real risk of a Chinese takeover. Fool or madman, the one thing we know with certainty is that Putin’s policies will destroy many lives, both inside and outside of Russia.

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My sister lives in Oregon. After the millions it spent on its Obamacare exchange, she ended up signing up the old-fashioned way: by paper. The only question is how long the media can keep the prestidigitation going, so that people don’t realize that they’re on the losing end of a shell game.

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Colleges across America: “Due process? We ain’t got no due process. We don’t need no due process! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ due process!”

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Jonah Goldberg nicely analyzes something that we’ve been talking about here, which is the speed with which the gay marriage debate has gone from the fringe to “you’d better accept it or else.” As many famous people have learned to their cost, one of the most effective techniques for moving the debate forward without regard to the merits is the GLAAD & Friends tactic of “nice little place/career/life you’ve got here. . . . Shame if something happened to it.”

***

Roger L. Simon issues a call to arms: Take back Hollywood. It drives culture and, to the extent conservatives jumped off the entertainment bus, we’ve left the lunatics in the driver’s seat.

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The IRS scandal continues unabated. Those who think it’s been addressed and repaired have been flim-flammed yet again. Moreover, if you follow the money to public servant corruption, that may go a long way to explaining why our bureaucracy, which is supposed to be studiously apolitical, has thrown its immense power to the Democrats, the political party owned by the government workers’ unions.

***

I really, really like Allen West. Here he is with a vivid, but emotion-free, summation about both Common Core’s academic weaknesses and the madness of Obamacare mathematics.

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My bet without doing any research is that, if you studied political identity in the military, you’d see that the military is still more conservative than the population as a whole. What you’d also see, though, is that every subsequent new batch of enlistees is more liberal than the one that came before. Remember, the new enlistees are young and Democrats have marketed themselves successfully to the young.

We know that young people in the general population are souring on Obama as job prospects dim.  Military enlistees have a job, but there’s still the possibility that they too will sour.  To the extent that Senate Democrats refused to increase veteran’s benefits, the very minimal chatter I’ve seen amongst the few young enlistees who are Facebook friends is that they are feeling hostile to the Dems right about now.

Thursday round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesFor reasons that make no sense to me, in the past week my daily readership has almost trebled. I suspect a bot has targeted my site but, when I allow myself to pretend that it’s actual people checking out my site, I feel really quite good. And now let’s see if I can make all of my real and robotic readers feel good with some interesting links:

It turns out that I’m not the only one who has noticed that the only thing exciting the Left right now, from Obama on down to the most insignificant Facebook user, is gay marriage. Syria? Sad, but boring. Ukraine? A little scary, so best ignored. North Korea? Really scary, so best ignored. Economy? We have a Democrat president, so we pretend it’s good. But gay marriage? Wow! That’s a hot issue, so hot that it should be the administration’s most pressing issue, the states’ most pressing issue, and social media’s most pressing issue.

***

Putting gay marriage aside, what sensible people should be excited about is the fact that the current administration has deliberately chosen to subvert the law and to use supposedly non-partisan administrative agencies (most notably the IRS) to destroy the current administration’s political opponents. Bradley A. Smith spells it out, and there are smoking guns everywhere. Unfortunately, true believers on the Left are just going to look at that evidence and say, “Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.” They’d do that even if Lois Lerner got her immunity and spilled the beans.

Few on the Left have Democrat Prof. Jonathan Turley’s insight or integrity:

And what we’ve been seeing is the shift of gravity within that system in a very dangerous way that makes it unstable, and I think that’s what the president is doing. I think that we’ve become a nation of enablers. We are turning a blind eye to a fundamental change in our system. I think many people will come to loathe that they remained silent during this period.

Incidentally, I wonder if Mr. Smith has been reading my blog. To conclude his masterful summary demonstrating administration complicity with the IRS, he wrote this:

In 1170, King Henry II is said to have cried out, on hearing of the latest actions of the Archbishop of Canterbury, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Four knights then murdered the archbishop. Many in the U.S. media still willfully refuse to see anything connecting the murder of the archbishop to any actions or abuse of power by the king.

If that seems familiar to some of you, I wrote the same thing (although at greater length) back in May 2013.

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Hillary Clinton spoke in Florida yesterday to defend Obamacare. For a good analysis, go here. The short version is that she’s adopting the Democrat party line, which is that Obamacare is slightly flawed, but should be fixed, not undone. I’ll just chime in quickly with a little extra info that may explain why many people will be inclined to save, not jettison it: the venue at which she spoke was a massive annual medical technology convention. The wealth concentrated there — wealth created because Obamacare has mandated computerizing all medical records — probably equals the wealth of several small and mid-sized countries. Exhibitors weren’t just giving away pens and mouse pads. They were giving away Kindle Fires and other fancy swag. Follow the money….

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I love it when my politics and my dieting efforts converge: No Girl Scout cookies for me this year. The Girl Scouts are absolutely free to continue their leftward drift. I just don’t have to help fund it. If I had my own personal Marine Sergeant Major monitoring my diet, none of this would be an issue.

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Just a reminder that if you want a bird’s eye view of probable election results, check out Scott Elliott’s Election Projection. Working on a state-by-state basis, he has amassed a vast and highly accurate database of predicted election outcomes.

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North Korea is one seriously scary place. It’s scary inside, because it is a vast, brutal concentration camp. I mean, think about it: It’s so bad that the UN has actually taken time off from persecuting Israel to castigate North Korea for a few days.

It’s also scary outside because it’s got a vast armory of conventional weapons aimed at South Korea, and a probable armory of nuclear weapons aimed at God knows where. Andrew Keller recommends actually enforcing sanctions against it, so that the West is no longer complicit in propping up this government. (Our excuse for propping it up, starting with Madeleine Albright, is always that we’re preventing mass starvation. We haven’t done anything of the sort.  The NoKo government just takes the money, buys caviar, and lets the people starve anyway.) My only worry with Keller’s recommendation is that North Korea is not the kind of country that will go down easy. It seems to me that one of its last gasp efforts will be to take large parts of the world, or Asia, down with it.

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I don’t understand why people are so fussed about reliably Left-leaning Ronan Farrow winning a journalism award after only two days on air at MSNBC. After all, Barack Obama won the once-prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, not because he actually did anything on the job, but simply because he got hired. Eric Wemple illustrates that in the modern journalism world, everyone is good enough, smart enough and, gosh darn it, entitled to endless accolades and awards.

***

Eric Holder was briefly hospitalized for chest pains, but seems to be okay. I wonder if he had a panic attack, which can mimic a heart attack. He’s got a lot of balls in the air now, and it must be nerve-wracking to keep them spinning. You know what I mean: Urging state Attorney General’s to refuse to enforce their own state laws regarding gay marriage; arranging for gun-running into Mexico, and then having to cover it all up; hiding administration documents about everything from the IRS to Benghazi; working to turn felons and illegal aliens into registered voters; and so on. I’d be stressed too with all of that on my plate.

***

In a typically thoughtful, detailed post, Daniel Greenfield examines Obama’s decision to put America into a forced retreat from the world stage. His last paragraph reads like the final epitaph for a once great nation:

Post-American America exists to destroy itself. Until that changes, it has nothing to offer the world except membership in a suicide pact.

Obama’s despicable role in the Ukraine (or, rather, his absence of any role, other than some meaningless Kabuki theater) perfectly illustrates how he’s got America crawling away on her hands and knees, with her national butt nicely poised in the air for some final kicking.

The Left assured us in 2008 that the world would be a better place without all that nasty American influence. The world’s citizens are discovering what you and I already knew: The world is a much less nice, stable, safe place without an American influence. Moreover, the Left’s talk of compassion was a fake.  For example, even as apocalyptic scenes play out in Syria, the Left manifestly doesn’t care.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, the Civil Rights Act cannot trump the First Amendment *UPDATED*

Gay-flowerI find irritating gay marriage supporters’ reliance on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to justify their contention that religious individuals cannot opt out of actively participating in gay marriage ceremonies.  They contend that the Act mandates that (1) a Christian baker, who welcomes gays seeking all other baked goods, must bake a gay-themed wedding cake; (2) a Christian photographer, who would happily take pictures of a gay birthday party, must photograph a gay wedding; (3) a Muslim florist, who would be delighted to sell bouquets to a gay couple, must bedeck a church with flower arrangements for a gay wedding; and (4) an orthodox Jew who owns a small hotel, and who doesn’t quibble at all when same-sex couples check into a room where they have privacy, must host a gay wedding in his reception hall.

I contend that these activists are dead wrong about the scope of the Civil Rights Act.  While, the Civil Rights Act s a virtuous law, it cannot trump the First Amendment.  I’ve made a handy-dandy chart outlining why I believe this to be the case (click on image to enlarge):

Bill of Rights versus Civil Rights Act 1

My usual disclaimer about my views regarding same-sex unions:  It is not semantic quibbling to say that I support civil unions but do not support same-sex marriage. While a religious organization can perform a marriage, it cannot perform a civil union. Civil unions are solely the state’s provenance. Leaving civil unions to the state and marriage to religion perfectly preserves the separation of church and state. (And as always, irony abounds here, because it is the Left that routinely sets up a hullabaloo about even the most minute intersection between church and state.)

If I had my way, I would remove marriage from the government’s vocabulary and make all unions — whether they are heterosexual or same-sex relationships — “civil unions.” States can then promote whatever unions they deem most beneficial for individuals, for children, and for society as a whole, while religious individuals and institutions need not worry that they will be targeted because they hew to the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman (or women).

People running the entire gamut of the gender-orientation spectrum — as recently defined by Facebook — manifestly believe that it’s important to get the state’s imprimatur on their relationships.  (This makes sense, since most of them are Left-leaning statists, who worship at the Big Government shrine.)  Civil unions joining together various sexual identity configurations (opposite sex, same sex, etc.) would give every American equal access to the benefits and burdens (economic, legal, and social) of a state-sanctioned relationship.  What civil unions would not do is force a direct confrontation between church and state.

The recent Obamacare abortion kerfuffle should warn people that a Progressive government won’t have second thoughts about forcing such a confrontation.  In 2008, when California had its Prop. 8 gay marriage referendum, I first raised my concern that gay marriage would result in a head-on collision between church and state.  A Progressive scoffed at this, telling me that, even though abortions are legal, the government has never gone toe-to-toe with the Catholic Church.  He was taken aback, and had no response, when I pointed out that the Catholic Church doesn’t provide, or withhold, abortions; it simply speaks against them doctrinally.  The Church does, however, marry people, and that leaves open the possibility that a gay couple will sue the church for refusing to perform a marriage service.

Mine was a good argument then, and it’s a better argument now.  With Obamacare, our Progressive-run federal government is forcing religious institutions and organizations be actively complicit in abortion by mandating that they fund abortifacients (and birth control) through “health” insurance.  (It’s “health” insurance, of course, only if the very act of becoming pregnant is a disease — which is funny when you think about it, because feminists in the 1960s and 1970s were outraged at a male patriarchy that treated pregnant women as if they were fragile and sick.)

I welcome your comments regarding this post.

UPDATE:  A lawyer I know commented that the Commerce Clause gives the federal government the power to legislate any type of commerce related activities.  (Sounds like a familiar argument, right?)  My response was a simple one:  The Commerce Clause represents a power that the People granted to the federal government.  The First Amendment represents an right inherent in each individual that the federal government (in theory) may not touch.  It seems to me that, especially when a law is narrowly drawn, the First Amendment, which states the People’s inherent rights, must trump the Commerce Clause, which merely reflects a power the People granted the government under contract.

 

Wednesday afternoon quick hits (and Open Thread)

Victorian posy of pansiesIt’s raining!!!  In California, that’s cause for celebration.  Rain in Marin doesn’t mean it’s raining elsewhere, but it certainly matters to use Marin-ites — we have our own reservoir system, so we’re wholly dependent on local rainfall.  Ironically, the rain is slowing down our major yard renovation, and we have to get that renovation down before April 1, when rationing kicks in (and rationing will happen unless we get enormous amounts of rain).  Sigh.  To ever silver lining, there seems to be a cloud.

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Since I’m on the subject of weather, here’s a two-fer about the grand hoax that is climate change. The first, from American Thinker, provides compelling evidence that every single carbon centered computer model about the climate has proven to be wrong. Not just sort of wrong, mind you, but absolutely, completely, super-duper wrong. Climate theorists are now blaming volcanoes for the warming failure, but they’ll blame anything, won’t they? If you have a non-falsifiable doctrine, you can always blame external forces for your doctrine’s inevitable failure.

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I’ve also got three great articles about Israel. The first looks as all the wonderful things going on in Israel despite the world’s efforts to squash that tiny, brilliant nation. The second looks at the grotesque hypocrisy that sees gay rights advocates champion Palestinians at the expense of Israel. The third looks as the fact that Israel stands poised to save Syrians, the rest of the Middle East, and perhaps the whole world, from the unfathomable danger of a nuclear Syria.

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Traditionally in America, a state attorney general is sworn to uphold the laws of the state. After all, if the AG doesn’t do that, what’s his purpose? He’s there to represent and ensure the stability, reliability, and credibility of the law.  If he doesn’t carry out that task, he just becomes another functionary in a banana republic. And that banana republic status is precisely what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder dreams of, for he has instructed state AG’s to ignore any law that supports traditional marriage.

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I’ve written here frequently about the lunacy that is the modern American college or university. This is a subject that exercises me a great deal because I have two children heading towards college in the next few years. As many Americans do, I’m deeply offended by the cost of college, especially the cost of the once prestigious liberal arts colleges back East. It’s insane to spend or borrow $250,000 so that your child can move into your basement and become a barista. In a changing world, colleges have actually changed in the wrong direction.  They’ve turned away entirely from educating young people to become useful and productive citizens.

What colleges have done, instead, is train youngsters to become lunatics, which is my second reason for being upset about modern American higher education. Last week, Bruce Bawer warned about a lunatic Leftist at Harvard. This week, Chicks on the Right warns about a whole cadre of potentially violent lunatic Leftists as Dartmouth. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this collection of young people expensively unmoored from reality comes from deep within the fever swamps of the gay rights movement.

I’ll say here what I always say: I believe that the government should stay out of people’s bedrooms. I believe that gay people should be free from discrimination, harassment, violence, etc. I believe that the heart loves where it will. But let’s get real here: These loony-toonz aren’t about gay rights.  They are about using the gay agenda as a wedge issue to destroy America as a free-market, individual-centered society, and to replace it with a hard-core centralized government and a socialized economy. I wonder if these “idealists” have any inkling that, when/if they’ve finally achieved their agenda they’ll meet the same fate that leading-edge revolutionaries always experience, whether in 18th Century France, or Russia, or China:  The new statist government identifies them as troublemakers and kills them first.

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My sister lives in Oregon, a state that has as its primary goal the creation of happiness. We’ve talked before about the fact that a state can impose “happiness” only if it first has the right to define “happiness.”  The reality, is that there’s only a slender likelihood that the state bureaucrat’s idea of what constitutes “happiness” is the same as your idea.  Moreover, if not everyone is happy — and no one can ever be — the situation is ripe for constant revolution. Still, Oregon tries. The libertarians on the Eastern side are constantly besieged by the statists on the Western, coastal side, who have turned Oregon into one of the most heavily regulated, and least economically successful, states in America. (For more on happiness, at a deep, philosophical level, rather than at a pop-culture, “everything is free” level, check out Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual.)

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And finally, knowledge that I gleaned in my youth catches up with the present. I’ve written before about my years at Berkeley, when I socialized with ultra-Leftist professors who lived in lavish houses in the Berkeley hillside, all of which seemed to be tended by Hispanic maids and Japanese gardeners. These effete, armchair revolutionaries enjoyed their Marxism because they lived on the straining back of the servant class.

That was a long time ago, but one modern-day Leftist has finally admitted that, yes, needing servants is precisely why the Leftist idle rich are so gung-ho about illegal immigrants:

As a friend of mine said after watching that, “If a conservative of any stripe were to insinuate undocumented workers were all gardeners, landscapers, and hotel workers the race card would have been played before he could even finish the sentence.”