The Bookworm Beat 4/18/16 — the “tax day” edition and open thread

My little writing lady is paying the IRS today, which is why she looks sad.
My little lady is paying the IRS today, which is why she looks so sad.

Yes, it’s tax day, and what better day could there be to talk about all the distressing, expensive, and scary foolishness in the world?

Ripping off taxpayers with climate change craziness.  Today has been a “suffer the climate change” day for me, so it’s appropriate to open with a riff about California’s infamous — and incredibly expensive — high-speed train to nowhere.  The Independent Institute, a great libertarian think-tank located right here in the Bay Area, has this to say:

California’s “bullet train” is nowhere near completion, but already the high-speed rail system is taking the state’s voters and taxpayers for a ride. The gulf between the glowing promise and the gloomy reality is gargantuan. For this reason, the agency that manages the voter-approved project, which lacks transparency but not arrogance, has just won the California Golden Fleece Award, a prize Independent Institute gives each quarter to a state or local agency, official, or program guilty of egregiously fleecing taxpayers, consumers, and/or businesses.


When voters approved a $9.95 billion bond measure in 2008 to help fund a high-speed bullet train connecting the San Francisco Bay Area with Southern California, they were promised nonstop service from S.F. to L.A. in 2 hours and 40 minutes, at a total cost of $45 billion—all without taxpayer subsidies. Since then the California High-Speed Rail Authority has planned on dropping nonstop service, changing to non-dedicated tracks, and raising the travel time to almost four hours—changes that would cut ridership and revenue while raising total costs, now estimated at $64 billion.

Read more here and do think about subscribing to the Independent Institute’s newsletter.

And while I’m on the subject of climate change.  A federal judge in Oregon has ruled that a bunch of kids can continue their climate change lawsuit against the United States government and the Fossil Fuel Industry.  If this insanity is not nipped in the bud, the Fossil Fuel Industry will be bankrupted, and all of us will be re-living the wonders of the pre-industrial era, complete with windmill power, Hobbesian mass starvation, and life expectancies in the 30s.

The gift of an “imperfect” child.  This segment probably deserves its own post, but I’ll try to pack it in here.  I was in a restaurant the other day and saw something one never sees any more in Marin, or anywhere in the Bay Area for that matter:  a young child who had clearly been born with Down Syndrome.

There are certainly older people around with Down Syndrome. That the young people are missing isn’t because they’re being cured; it’s because, thanks to amniocentesis testing, they’re being destroyed in utero.

It deeply embarrasses me to admit this, but twenty years ago, had I been told that I was going to have a genetically disabled child, I would have opted for an abortion without a second’s thought.  I would have said that I was sparing the child from a lifetime of suffering, but I can say here and now that this would have been a lie:  I would have been sparing myself from what I imagined would be a lifetime of inconvenience.

The abortion industry is certainly correct that there are women who have abortions because they’re in an abusive relationship, or because the pregnancy puts them at risk, or because they’ve been raped, but let’s be honest:  the vast majority of women have abortions because they didn’t intend to get pregnant (and this is true whether or not they used birth control) and the child resulting from this unintended pregnancy will be an inconvenience.  It will interfere with the woman’s education or employment opportunities or carefree lifestyle.  All of those inconveniences are dramatically multiplied if the baby is genetically imperfect, either physically or mentally.

But as I said, we tell ourselves lies.  Few of us will admit to convenience.  Instead, following that amniocentesis result, we’ll sadly say the abortion decision is about the child’s suffering.  And sociologists and academics will remind us that it’s for the good of society to have these therapeutic, necessary abortions.

Preventing “imperfect” people is what well-intentioned eugenicists were doing in the 20th century when they set about sterilizing “imperfect” adults lest they have equally “imperfect” children. Indeed, up until 1933, this procedure was performed more in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world, resulting in 30,000 or so forced sterilizations.

This nice, thoughtful, altruistic impulse towards societal perfection culminated in the Nazis taking the whole notion to its logical conclusion:  They began by upping the ante on sterilizations, performing between 300,000 to 500,000 on those Germans the Nazis concluded might be responsible for delivering “imperfect” children into the Nazis “perfect” world.

After that, it really didn’t take much effort to think that society would be even better served if the Nazis hastened their society’s imminent perfection by removing those imperfect creatures who had already been born, rather than enduring the endless wait until death claimed those societal misfits and parasites naturally.  And so it was that the Nazis murdered 200,000 to 250,000 “imperfect” human beings, all of whom suffered from a variety of physical or mental handicaps, ranging from developmental disabilities to depression.  (One of my goyish uncles, a depressed, closeted homosexual, was among that number.)

Naturally, all of us are appalled by what the Nazis did.  But here’s my question for those people aborting “imperfect” babies (and, let me be honest, to my younger self):  Aren’t you doing precisely what the Nazis did, the only difference being that you’re terminating the life before it’s had a chance to mature?

And here’s my other question:  Are you entirely sure that, in your quest for perfection, you’re not missing something very important?

Maybe you’re missing someone very special like a relative of mine who, because he’s Jewish and differently abled, would have been one of the first in the gas chambers.  Had that happened, the world would have missed out on a brilliant person with unique insights — and his family would never have had an adored child whose care can by time-consuming, but whose presence is infinitely rewarding.

Or maybe you’re missing out on Nick Vujicic, one of the most popular inspirational speakers in the world . . . who was born without limbs.

Or maybe Jordan Spieth might never have been one of the best golfers in the world, an honor he earns in part because of his gracious sportsmanship:

After his crushing loss, Jordan gave credit to the patrons who encouraged him and to his team for their support. He congratulated Willett and thanked “everyone who makes this great tournament possible.” He was a model of character and decorum. And he is only twenty-two years old.

What is the secret to such maturity?

When asked that question, Jordan points immediately to his sister. Ellie was born prematurely with a still-undiagnosed neurological disorder that left her developmentally challenged. Jordan calls her “the best thing that ever happened to our family.” As a high school senior, he volunteered at her special needs school each week. He says, “With Ellie and how we grew up with her and her struggles and her triumphs, I think it just put life a little more in perspective.” (For more, see Janet Denison’s Jordan Spieth and the Family that Cheered Him On.)

And tonight, I’m going to delight in watching Nyle DiMarco’s incredible, beat-perfect dancing on Dancing With The Stars.  Oh, did I mention that he’s completely deaf, so much so that he can’t even hear the beat?  This is what that looks like:

We assume that so-called “perfection” is a gift.  Sometimes the real gift is imperfection.

Speaking of character, let’s speak of Cruz.  I grew up with a European mother whose early years were spent enjoying tremendous pre-War II European wealth.  (Sadly for her, that wealth vanished from her life in 1933, never to return.)  One of the things Mom taught me is that you can alway tell a gentleman or a lady by the courtesy he or she extends to servants and others who cannot talk back. Keep that in mind as you read about Ted Cruz and his bodyguards:

They turn to me and walk in front of me and look me in the eye, and one of them — the first one said, “I have done this for a long time. I’ve protected all of them. I have never seen a man like him. No matter where he is, no matter what shape he’s in, no matter how tired, how pissed off, no matter what the scenario, I’ve never seen a man as consistently true as him. He says the same thing to your face as to your back. I’ve never seen him inconsistent.” And the other guy just kept shaking his head and said, “This guy is the real deal. He’s the real deal.”

It’s not how you act when everyone’s looking, it’s how you act when no one is looking, or when the only people look are paid to serve you.

There would be no Democrats if there were an in utero test for stupidity.  Looking at Democrat looniness lately, it occurred to me that, if there were a test for stupidity, Democrats, with their enthusiastic love for abortion, especially aborting “imperfect” fetuses, would instantly cull the next generation of Democrats.  If you want to know just how stupid they are, you need only look at the recent impulse to pass massive minimum wage increases, something that happened most recently in California.  Even Governor Jerry Brown, clinging to some semblance of the educated brains he learned in a Jesuit seminary,

If you want to know just how stupid they are, you need only look at the recent impulse to pass massive minimum wage increases, something that happened most recently in California.  Even Governor Jerry Brown, clinging to some semblance of the educated brains he learned in a Jesuit seminary, conceded, “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense.”

That momentary blast of intelligence, however, didn’t stop him from signing the bill.  As he said with masterful incoherence, “Morally and socially and politically, they (minimum wages) make every sense because it binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way.”

Just how bad is the whole notion of a sky-high minimum wage?  This bad.

Incidentally, the unions knew this all along.  The moment the law was signed, they asked that their members be exempted from its enforcement — which would make them the most desirable employees around.  (“Let’s see — do I hire those smart kids who need a lot of training and will cost me $15 an hour from Day One, or do I hire those union workers, who are sort-of slackers, but who need no training and will cost only $8 an hour?”)

There would be no Democrats if there were an in utero test for a lack of compassion or common sense.  Looking at the Middle East objectively, on one side you have a small Jewish nation surrounded by 250 million hostile Muslims.  The nation has continuous ties to the land going back more than 5,000 years.  The nation is a representative democracy, with all citizens, regardless of race, color, creed, country of national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, etc., entitled to full civil rights.  It fights wars with a decency that seasoned military men the world over admit they’ve never seen and could never expect from their own troops.  It’s contributed more per capita to the world’s advances (medical, technological, moral, etc.) than any other nation.

On the other side. you have theocratic tyrannies that deny full rights to women, gays, children, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and the mentally ill — with this denial often extending to torture, imprisonment, exile, or death.  These nations keep their citizens illiterate and in a perpetual state of genocidal fury.  They have contributed nothing to the world in the last centuries but death and fear.

Now, ask yourself which side the leading Democrat primary candidate (that would be Bernie) supports?  If you answered “not Israel,” you would be correct, and the same goes for his fellow Vermont Senator, Patrick Leahy.  Richard Baehr explains.  You can tell a lot about a person by the side they support in an existential fight, and these guys are on the wrong side.  If Obama had any sense of decency, rather than supporting their anti-Israel views, he’d see that his favored “arc of history,” cannot support them in the long run.  There is no justice there.

I’m having fun watching the Leftist victims fight for their place in the hierarchy.  I’ve commented here about the fact that women are being thrown under the bus in favor of the Leftists’ new victims de jour — transgender people (so let’s have any man who wants have free run of women’s bathrooms and changing rooms) and Muslims (because Muslim men can’t help it if they rape).  Disgustingly, feminists are coming down hard, not on the side of women, but on the side of those exploiting and ignoring women’s safety.

Some gay men, though, are not willing to risk their lives to pander to the Leftist victim hierarchy.  That’s why gay Air France stewards are not playing the appropriate victim game with Iran.  Instead of seeing Iran as a pathetic Muslim nation that America has victimized for decades, the stewards are pointing out that, when it comes to homosexuals, there’s something genocidal about Iran, and the air stewards want nothing to do with that.  Good for them.

Cruel to be kind; kind to be cruel.  If you’re of my generation, you remember Nick Lowe’s hit Cruel to be Kind:

You’ve gotta be cruel to be kind, in the right measure
Cruel to be kind, it’s a very good sign
Cruel to be kind, means that I love you, baby
(You’ve gotta be cruel)
You gotta be cruel to be kind

David P. Goldman reminds us that, when it comes to the Muslim war on the West, we’d better be cruel to be kind. As it is, Europe’s misplaced compassion is a weak, passive kindness that provides a pathway to the cruelty only the sickest culture can come up with:

Just after the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, I warned that radical Islam would horrify the West into submission. In Europe, it has taken a giant step towards success. Europe’s horror at the prospect of human suffering has made it supine. Sadly, the more the Europeans indulge in their humanitarian impulses, the more Muslims will suffer. To be kind is to be cruel.


What kind of people threaten to murder their own babies? The normal response would be to arrest them and put them in prison for endangering children. Instead, the British newspaper reported, “The Archbishop of Catania, Luigi Bommarito, was at the dockside to greet the Monica in what he called ‘a gesture of solidarity’. He said: ‘I’m here to appeal to people not to close their hearts and doors to people trying to survive. We mustn’t forget that in the last century many immigrants also left Italy.’”


The leader of a prominent Muslim country who claims to speak for the Muslim world threatened the Europeans with 10,000 or 15,000 Muslim deaths. When in world history has one side in negotiations threaten to kill its own people in order to gain leverage?


This is the first time in the entire history of warfare that a combatant intentionally set out to maximize civilian casualties on its own side, the better to gain diplomatic leverage.


The more the West indulges its humanitarian sentiments–that is, its squeamishness in the face of absolute evil–the more calamities will befall Muslim civilians, because Muslim leaders from Raqqa to Ankara have learned to weaponize horror. Staging humanitarian catastrophes in order to blackmail the West has succeeded for the most part.

This is getting to be too long a post, isn’t it?  I’ll do another one tomorrow with all of the articles I still have left over.