Paul Zummo

Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus with a Ph. D in Politics.

Fired for Thoughtcrime: Not Agreeing with the Zeitgeist

Suddenly a CEO getting axed for having been discovered to be an opponent of same-sex marriage is not the most frightening speech-related firing of the year:

Turtle Rock Studios community manager Josh Olin, who has been promoting its upcoming co-op multiplayer game Evolve, has been released from the position following some controversial tweets about embattled L.A. Clipper owner Donald Sterling.

Today, on his Twitter account, Olin wrote the following statements regarding now-banned NBA owner Donald Sterling, who was recorded making racist and inflammatory comments by an ex-girlfriend:

And here is what his former employer had to say:

What values are Turtle Rock Studios pretending to uphold? As Olin clearly explained in later tweets, and which was fairly obvious from the initial tweets, he was not defending Sterling. Olin’s point is that Sterling expressed a truly despicable opinion, but one stated in the privacy of his home and on a call that he was not aware was being taped. Even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar expressed concerns with the manner in which Sterling’s views were made public. Olin merely objects to the media sensationalism.

I think Olin’s only error was calling Sterling a victim, as that could be perceived as a blanket defense of Sterling’s views. But we’ve now reached a point where people are getting fired not even for their own publicly expressed viewpoints, but rather for objecting to the public backlash. Yes, we all take risks when we express our opinions in public, especially those of us who do not hide our identity. Yet this is perhaps the scariest example of intolerance towards viewpoint expression.

Getting back to Jabbar, I think he expresses the ridiculousness of these public spectacles quite nicely:

Moral outrage is exhausting. And dangerous. The whole country has gotten a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome from the newest popular sport of Extreme Finger Wagging. Not to mention the neck strain from Olympic tryouts for Morally Superior Head Shaking.

As Jabbar also points out, it’s a bit hypocritical to scream in outrage about the NSA while casting a blind eye to the secret taping of a private conversation. I guess it’s a good thing Kareem doesn’t work for Turtle Rock Studios, or else he’d undoubtedly be a goner by now, forced to retire in shame and potentially even changing his name to Roger Murdock just to hide his disgrace.

Bingo!

I rarely read Hot Air much these days, though it is fortunate that I decided to take a look this afternoon or else I would have missed this insightful post from Ed Morrissey, as he absolutely nails it on two distinct issues.

First off, Morrissey calls out the Democrats for their attempt to amend the first amendment. Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico has introduced an amendment inspired by recent Supreme Court decisions that curtailed certain campaign finance restrictions. Morrissey notes that not only does this amendment not have a prayer of getting anywhere near the two-thirds vote required, it’s simply not something that very many Americans are clamoring for.

If Democrats think this will allow them to ride a wave of Occupy Wall Street populism, they’d better look again at the polling this week. Despite spending weeks on the Senate Floor ranting about the Koch Brothers, Harry Reid’s McCarthyite campaign of Kochsteria has resulted in … almost nothing. In the NBC/WSJ poll linked earlier, only 31% had an opinion about the Koch Brothers at all, and only 21% thought of them negatively in a poll where 43% of the respondents admit to voting for Obama in 2012. Michael Bloomberg, one of the left’s multibillionaire activists, got a 26% negative score, and the Democratic Party got a 37% negative score. (The GOP got 44%.) Nearly twice as many respondents think of Barack Obama negatively than they do the Koch Brothers, despite weeks of hard-sell demonization from top Democratic Party leaders.

Well, the Democrats are trying just about everything to prevent the electoral thumping that they will undoubtedly receive this Fall, and this is just one more act of desperation that will have absolutely no impact whatsoever. But at least it lets us know the truth about what they think of the first amendment.

But I’m even more impressed with Morrissey’s final paragraph, as he brings up a Supreme Court case that I’ve long contended was the impetus for all of the craziness that the federal government has spewed forth over the past seven decades.

If Democrats (and Republicans) want to act seriously to take billionaires out of the political game, they’re aiming at the wrong Supreme Court decision. They should pass an amendment repealing Wickard v Filburn‘s impact on the interstate commerce clause. That decision shifted massive political power from the states to Washington DC by defining practically everything as interstate commerce — including non-commerce. Killing Wickard would shift most regulatory power back to the states, and take the corruption out of Washington DC as the stakes would become too small for billionaire investment. Don’t expect Senate Democrats to do anything meaningful on crony capitalism, though … or anything meaningful at all, if this stunt is all they have.

Other than Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, Wickard stands out as the absolute worst decision in the history of the Court. As Ed points out, it essentially allowed the federal government to intervene in every nook and cranny of our lives under the justification of “interstate commerce,” even where the action under consideration was neither interstate or commerce.

Ed’s also correct in noting that this expansion of the federal government is the prime reason that so much money is being pumped into federal elections, lobbying, and other activities. Last week I heard Russell Simmons spouting about how all of the evils of our world are due to the corrupting influence of money, and that’s why he supported Occupy Wall Street. Yet Simmons and his ilk are the very ones seeking to augment the powers of the federal government. They don’t see the inherent contradiction in this approach. As the federal government grows and grows and grows, it only increases the avenues for monied interests to wield their influence. It is the massive expansion of the federal government that has inspired this massive spending by outside groups. Of course interested stakeholders are going to want to influence the federal government in areas that affect them. The solution to diminishing their influence is not in curtailing the first amendment, but in restoring the balance of power between the states and the federal government. The Koch brothers (and George Soros for that matter) will immediately lose interest in spreading their wealth around to hammer away at the federal government if the federal government would simply get out of everyone’s business.

Like that will ever happen.

The Inhumanity of Hate Crime Legislation

Frazier Glenn Cross is the former grand dragon of a chapter of the KKK who murdered three people in Kansas City last week. While one would think that murdering three people would be sufficient grounds for, at a minimum, putting Cross away for the rest of his life, the true hammer has fallen: he will also face hate crime charges.

There is something rather off-putting about using hate crime laws as a means of punishing Cross. To most rational souls, murder is the worst crime that any human could be guilty of, yet it is as though simply committing murder is not really sufficient. Oh no, old run of the mill murder may be bad, but when the person is motivated by hate, well, then the federal government is really going to come after you with both guns blazing, so to speak.

It’s an unusual mentality for a number of reasons. When one commits an act of murder, that indicates to me that there is already some level of hate involved. Normally people do not shoot other people in fits of love. Thus charging a murder with a hate crime seems rather redundant.

More importantly, there’s this rather strange psycho-analysis implicitly involved here, as though murder itself is not truly the worst possible crime. Are we suggesting that a person who kills another person for that person’s wallet is somehow less evil, less criminal, and deserving of lesser punishment than the guy who shoots another person because said person is another religion, race, or creed? Is the humanity of the individual murdered in a robbery less than the humanity of the person murdered because of the color of their skin, or in this case because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? This situation is even more bizarre because the actual victims were not in fact Jewish. I suppose we should be relieved that mistaken identity does not mitigate the level of charge being leveled against Cross. One shudders to ponder the potential legal labyrinth we would have to travel down were we to insist that the victims actually be in the assigned category being hated. I’m sure Mr. Cross’s attorneys will attempt to argue that since he does not hate the ethnic and religious groups of his actual victims, the hate crime charge is therefore illegitimate. In which case I suppose Mr. Cross could be charged with some lower level crime, like, I don’t know, first degree murder.

There are those who might argue that the more you can throw at a monster like Cross in order to send him away, the better. While I am somewhat sympathetic to this point of view, I’m still left bothered by the subtle message that these laws send. Yes, we do have to make certain judgments about a person’s reasoning for killing another – that is why we distinguish between first and second degree murder. That is also why a person who is defending their own life is not charged with the same level of crime, if any, as the person who kills in cold blood. But cold blooded murder is cold blooded murder, and to assign a greater penalty to one who kills out of racial or religious animus strikes me as a sign of placing some sort of greater value on the life of one murdered in a so-called hate crime. If we deem all life to be sacred, then there should be no worse crime than to kill in cold blood, regardless of motive. These laws do not deter anyone and do little more than to serve as some sort of token outrage against a perceived thought-crime. It’s almost as though the real outrage isn’t that Cross (in this case) killed anyone, but that he was a bigot. That shows some terribly skewed priorities.

Who Are We Trying to Evangelize?

In all the recent discussions about the Church drawing converts under the stewardship of Pope Francis (a proposition of dubious merit), it is argued that Pope Francis’s pastoral style is one particularly suited to bring in people who have long been disenchanted with the Church. The underlying assumption seems to be that those whom the Church should be catering to are liberal Protestants, fallen away Catholics, and non-religious people of various stripes. At least this is the impression that I get from reading comments and articles defending the Pope’s, err, temperate pastoral approach.

Yet are these the only groups of non-Catholics that we should be trying to encourage to come into our fold? Not everyone who is a non-Catholic is reflexively suspicious of the Church and her dogmatic teachings. In fact there are many  like Chris Johnson at the Midwest Conservative Journal – a Protestant who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that Don has named him Defender of the Faith – who are better exemplars of the faith than many actual Catholics. In other words, there are many (for lack of a better word) conservative Protestants who are every bit as much in need of evangelization, if only to just nudge them gently over the line towards full conversion. Yet where is our missionary outreach to them?

In fact, these very people are being turned away from conversion. While the likes of Johnson have long been disgusted by the leadership of the Anglican communion, what are they seeing from Rome and elsewhere that is drawing them closer to our side of the Tiber? Why bother going through the pains of throwing off one’s childhood religion, spending hours in RCIA, and accepting the full teaching authority of the Church when they will get the same wishy-washy sermons, the same watered down doctrine, and the same reluctance to combat the culture head on? At least Episcopalians still have a pretty liturgy, so might as well just cling to that.

Three out of every four people are not Catholics, and of the remainder who knows how many take their faith seriously. There are all sorts of individuals who need to be brought the Good News of Christ. There isn’t one “right” way to reach them, yet more and more we seem to be favoring a model of evangelization that runs counter to our purposes. Soft pedaling our core teachings and relaxing the rules might get some people’s attention to start with, but it is not enough to truly convert their hearts. Meanwhile those that might be most inclined to walking through that door are more likely to pause as they witness a pale imitation of what they hope to leave behind.

At the risk of bringing politics into this, it is not altogether unlike the attempt to turn the Republican party into the Democrat party light in some mistaken attempt to draw more votes. But why would voters go for the low calorie version when the real thing is so much more decadent and filling? Similarly, a Protestant-light version of Catholicism will win few converts but turn away those on the threshold of coming home.

 

Abortion Clinics on the Endangered Species List in Texas

It’s time for some good news, and I consider this very good news. As of today, there are 20 abortion clinics open in the entire state of Texas, down from 44 nearly three years ago, and it is estimated that by September that number will be reduced to six. SIX. Now, while that is still six too many, in a state the size of Texas that is cause for some modest celebration. Coming on the heels of Wendy Davis’s relatively pathetic performance in Tuesday’s primary in which she managed to attract fewer voters than the previous guy who lost the general election to Rick Perry, and the fact that early polls show that Davis is cruising to a crushing defeat in November, it is clear that voters in the state are very happy with the law that has helped shut down these murder abortion clinics.

The National Journal article is worth a read for a couple of reasons. First of all, the clear undercurrent of lament in the author’s tone is palpable (“leaving low-income women in rural Texas without nearby access to abortion”). More importantly, it emphasizes the vital role that culture plays with regards to abortion. While we can never discount the role of laws and regulations within the abortion debate, especially since it was the enactment of a law that helped drive these numbers down, the social stigma in the state against abortion also has played a critical role.

Neither clinic has an [ambulatory surgical center] and Hagstrom Miller says she doesn’t have the budget or patients to build a multimillion-dollar center. The Beaumont clinic does currently have a physician that has hospital admitting privileges, but he is 75 years old and trying to retire. Attempting to get hospital admitting privileges has proven a fruitless process; the stigma against abortion is too great in Texas, and Hagstrom Miller has not been able to get responses from any doctors or hospitals, despite calling them all.

“I have trouble getting a vendor for bottled water,” she says.

As though I needed another excuse to love the state of Texas.

Being Pastoral Doesn’t Mean Watering Down the Faith

I owe Oprah Winfrey an apology. For years I have blamed her for what I have termed the “Oprah-ization” of society. We are living in an age where feelings triumph over everything else, and where everybody is a special snowflake whose precious feelings should never be hurt. I have blamed Oprah for perpetuating this with her shlocky television show and through most of the other channels of communication through which she has spread her false gospel. But only now have I realized that Oprah isn’t the villain; rather, she is merely the symptom of a much wider societal affliction that has affected all of western civilization including, sadly, the Catholic Church herself.

This was hammered home reading this article about Cardinal Kasper and the possibility of communion for remarried Catholics. After offering up the usual platitudes about Jesus’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage, Cardinal Kasper than signals his willingness to essentially ignore what Christ had to say.

 However, “after the shipwreck of sin, the shipwrecked person should not have a second boat at his or her disposal, but rather a life raft” in the form of the sacrament of Communion, he said.

Cardinal Kasper, like most men of the cloth who want to change Church teaching, pretends that he is doing anything but.

“One cannot propose a solution different from or contrary to the words of Jesus,” the cardinal said. “The indissolubility of a sacramental marriage and the impossibility of a new marriage while the other partner is still alive is part of the binding tradition of the faith of the church and cannot be abandoned or dissolved by appealing to a superficial understanding of mercy at a discount price.”

At the same time, “there is no human situation absolutely without hope or solution,” he said Catholics profess their belief in the forgiveness of sins in the Creed, he explained. “That means that for one who converts, forgiveness is possible. If that’s true for a murderer, it is also true for an adulterer.”

Well if the murderer is a serial killer who has no intention of stopping his killing spree, then the murder’s contrition is less than authentic. Similarly, a divorced and remarried Catholic’s sin is not in some remote past, but rather is an ongoing sin that cannot simply be shrugged away.

Cardinal Kasper then speaks of possible reforms, and this is where the magic word meant to shut off all debate comes in: pastoral.

A possible avenue for finding those proposals, he said, would be to develop “pastoral and spiritual procedures” for helping couples convinced in conscience that their first union was never a valid marriage. The decision cannot be left only to the couple, he said, because marriage has a public character, but that does not mean that a juridical solution — an annulment granted by a marriage tribunal — is the only way to handle the case.

One is left to wonder what precisely the Cardinal has in mind. Would the couple have to just simply feel that their first marriages were invalid and thus never happened? According to Cardinal Kasper I guess it would be the pastoral solution. In other words, feelings trump 2,000 years of everything the Church has ever taught about marriage.

Cardinal Kasper returns to this term later.

“A pastoral approach of tolerance, clemency and indulgence,” he said, would affirm that “the sacraments are not a prize for those who behave well or for an elite, excluding those who are most in need.”

And that, my friends, gets right to the heart of much that is wrong with the Church. Too many of our shepherds are under the impression that being pastoral means being soft and timid. Cardinal Kasper’s vision of being pastoral is placating the sinner rather than leading the sinner towards righteousness. This is in fact the very opposite of being pastoral. A shepherd of the Catholic Church is charged with leading his flock towards its eternal reward in paradise. There are many tools at the shepherd’s disposal, and I am not suggesting that there is any one right way. Certainly haranguing those of his flock who have strayed may not be the best method of getting them back into the fold. But telling them that they’re just spiffy as they march headlong towards the cliff is also inappropriate.

As is the case with Oprah, I can’t even blame Cardinal Kasper, not when he is an isolated case. Indeed his attitude is all too reflective of where the Church is at this moment in history. Though I am fortunate to be in a parish whose priests are unafraid to speak out about the controversial issues that most other priests avoid, my fellow parishioners and I are the exceptions to the rule. Much more common are generalized, fluffy homilies that don’t dare to touch upon abortion, contraception, gay marriage, etc. That is why when the controversy erupted over Pope Francis saying that we ought not “obsess” over these issues that I almost had to chuckle. Obsessed? Who exactly is obsessed about these topics? Certainly not the priests and Bishops who say nary a peep about them lest they offend someone in the pews.

It’s not as though it is not worthwhile to explore ways in which we can improve upon the situation of remarried Catholics and to examine the procedures we have in place for annulments. Yes, there is room for a “pastoral” approach. But anything that is done must be genuinely loyal to the teachings of our Lord and not merely pay them lip service. Moreover, it time that our shepherds learn how to guide with both compassion and firmness, and to remember that saving souls cannot be done if we are dishonest about our motives and unwilling to gently guide people back onto the right path. 

Pat Archbold’s Controversial Call for Unity

Pat Archbold has written an intriguing post arguing that the Pontificate of Pope Francis is the best opportunity to bring the SSPX back into the fold.

I have great concern that without the all the generosity that faith allows by the leaders of the Church, that this separation, this wound on the Church, will become permanent. In fact, without such generosity, I fully expect it. Such permanent separation and feeling of marginalization will likely separate more souls than just those currently associated with the SSPX.
 

I have also come to believe that Pope Francis’ is exactly the right Pope to do it. In his address to the evangelicals, he makes clear his real concern for unity.
 

So here is what I am asking. I ask the Pope to apply that wide generosity to the SSPX and to normalize relations and their standing within the Church. I am asking the Pope to do this even without the total agreement on the Second Vatican Council. Whatever their disagreements, surely this can be worked out over time with the SSPX firmly implanted in the Church. I think that the Church needs to be more generous toward unity than to insist upon dogmatic adherence to the interpretation of a non-dogmatic council. The issues are real, but they must be worked out with our brothers at home and not with a locked door.
 

Further, Pope Francis’ commitment to the aims of the Second Vatican Council is unquestioned. Were he to be generous in such a way, nobody would ever interpret it to be a rejection of the Council. How could it be? This perception may not have been the case in the last pontificate. Pope Francis is uniquely suited to this magnanimous moment.

You can go here to read the rest.

Now the link goes to Pat’s own blog and not the National Catholic Register, where Pat originally published this piece. And that is why I have called this post controversial, because for reasons that remain unfathomable, NCR has deemed fit to remove this post. Frankly I see nothing remotely objectionable with anything that he has written. Even if one disagrees with the upshot of it, why did NCR feel the need take this post down? It’s a bizarre decision, and frankly it leaves me gravely concerned about where we’re heading in the Catholic blogosphere and what is deemed as “acceptable” opinion.

Evolution

The high priest asked whether the charges were true. To this Stephen replied: “My brothers! Fathers! Listen to me. Our fathers in the desert had the meeting tent as God prescribed it when he spoke to Moses, ordering him to make it according to the pattern he had seen. The next generation of our fathers inherited it. Under Joshua, they brought it into the land during the conquest of those peoples whom God drove out to make room for our fathers. So it was until the time of David, who found favor with God and begged that he might find a dwelling place for the house of Jacob. It was Solomon, however, who constructed the building for that house. Yet the Most High does not dwell in buildings made by human hands, for as the prophet says:

The heavens are my throne, the earth is my footstool;
What kind of house can you build me? asks the Lord.
What is my resting-place to be like? Did not my hand make all these things?’

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always opposing the Holy Spirit just as your fathers did before you. Was there ever any prophet whom your fathers did not persecute? In their day, they put to death those who foretold the coming of the Just One; now you in your turn have become his betrayers and murderers. You who received the law through the ministry of angels have not observed it.”

Those who listened to his words were stung to the heart; they ground their teeth in anger at him. Stephen meanwhile, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked to the sky above and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. “Look!” he exclaimed, “I see an opening in the sky, and the Son of Man standing at God’s right hand.” The onlookers were shouting aloud, holding their hands over their ears as they did so. Then they rushed at him as one man, dragged him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses meanwhile were piling their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.

As Stephen was being stoned he could be heard praying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And with that he died. Saul, for his part, concurred in the act of killing.

 

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Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.

I don’t expect Cardinal Dolan and other prelates to walk into the lion’s den. But perhaps the current “live and let live” strategy isn’t working as effectively as they think.

But then again, who am I to judge?

If We Only Had a King

I guess leftists were right – we truly lived under a tyranny during the presidency of George Bush. After all, just look at how contemptuously he treated the legislative branch of government. In his first cabinet meeting after the Democrats took control of the House, Bush told his top deputies that his “agenda will move forward whether Congress votes for it or not.” Then he added:

“One of the things I’ll be emphasizing in this meeting,” he said, “is the fact that we are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need.”

“I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” the president asserted, “and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”

“And I’ve got a phone,” he continued, “that allows me to convene Americans from every walk of life — nonprofits, businesses, the private sector, universities — to try to bring more and more Americans together around what I think is a unifying theme, making sure that this is a country where if you work hard, you can make it.”

It was a common lament during the Bush presidency that we were living under something resembling an imperial presidency. We were told that Bush’s advocacy of a unitary executive, as well as his penchant for issuing signing statements that added his gloss to duly enacted legislation, as well as his mere existence on planet Earth all signaled the end of democracy as we know it. Never mind that the executive branch was specifically designed to be unitary in nature, the Framers having decided against all alternative arrangements. And never mind that the signing statements were nothing more than inocuous expressions of how the executive bureaucracy would carry out legislation passed by Congress. No, we were truly living in Stalin’s Russia.

Thankfully Americans came to their senses and elected the wise and beneficent Barack Obama. Truly he was the change we were looking for. He promised us all a return to a more open administration that didn’t keep secrets, would restore competency to the White House, would be completely honest, and most importantly, wouldn’t disregard the other branches of government.

Alas, if wishes were trees, the trees would be falling.

You see, the above of course was not spoken by George W. Bush, but rather by President Obama on Tuesday.

Checks? Balances? Looks like the constitutional scholar residing in the White House is unfamiliar with such terms.

Do We Have Free Speech?

I dislike mentioning the First Amendment when controversies like the Phil Robertson versus A&E brewhaha break out. After all, the First Amendment applies only to Congress (and the Supreme Court has ruled [incorrectly, if you ask me] that it applies to state governments via the 14th Amendment), and the actions of a cable network don’t really implicate the First Amendment. On the other hand, Ace of Spades makes a fairly compelling argument that this is too narrow an interpretation of what the First Amendment is all about.

It’s also untrue. Yes, the First Amendment, strictly speaking, applies only to the government. But there is a spirit of the First Amendment too, not just a restriction on government action.

 

And that spirit is this:

 

That we should have, to the extent compatible with ordered liberty, the maximum possible right to think and say and believe what we choose, and anyone who attempts to use force to coerce someone to think and say and believe something that is alien to them is acting contrary to the spirt of the First Amendment.

 

I’ve said this a dozen times:

 

The real, tangible threat to our right to think and speak as we will, as conscience, faith, or reason (or all three together) might impel us, is not from the government, but from our employers, and from the massively corporate media institutions that impose real penalties on people — fines, really, imposed by firings, suspensions, mandatory Thought Rehab and so forth — for daring to utter words other than the Officially Approved Institutional Corporate Slogans.

 

Yes, A&E has the right to suspend Phil Robinson. A&E also has the right to stand up for a broad and generous principle of Freedom of Thought and Expression.

 

Why does no one speak of that right? Sure, they have the right to act hostilely towards the spirit of the First Amendment and use coercive power to hammer people into only speaking the Officially Approved Institutional Corporate Slogans.

As I said, this is a very compelling argument, though I’m not sure I completely buy into it. In the case of employers firing people for expressing their free speech rights, true government coercion, it could be argued, would be actively prohibiting employers from firing employees for expressing unpopular opinions. Now, I personally think employers should give their employees wide latitude when it comes to expressing their opinions, and there are few examples I can think of where it would be acceptable to fire people for their political opinions.*

Which leads me to one of the most outrageous examples of over-reaction I’ve ever seen. Justine Sacco was a communications director for a firm called IAC – I say was because she was fired after tweeting the following:

Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!

The tweet was obviously a (really bad) attempt at mocking the concept of white privilege. It did not sit well with many of the purveyors of decency on the left, and within hours there was a social media firestorm. This woman with barely over 100 followers had become the locus of hate throughout the twitterverse, and soon her employers were compelled first to issue a statement of regret, and then to sack Sacco (sorry).

What was particularly heinous about the incident was how it revealed the true ugliness of social media, and I’m not referring to Sacco’s tweet. Her tweet was dumb, but clearly an example of poor humor and not racism or maliciousness. Yet this woman was hounded by the likes of Buzzfeed and other media outlets, and her tweet drew far, far, far more attention than it really merited. Like a pack of ravenous wolves, they descended on the metaphoric body of the tweet and made sure that not even a bone was left on the carcass. And why? Because of a really bad joke.

Now Sacco certainly deserves some share of the blame. After all, she was a communications director, and as such should have known better. And there’s something to be said about taking a more careful approach with social media. But are we really comfortable with getting a woman fired for a poor joke? Was her company’s bottom line really imperiled by Sacco’s crack? And of the millions of dumb tweets sent every day, why was hers one that merited such attention?

Sacco’s firing troubles me much more than Robertson’s suspension, which is not to say I wasn’t troubled by the latter. Robertson is a public figure, and he’ll be okay in the end. On the other hand, Sacco was fired because she tweeted something that offended certain people’s sensibilities. It had no bearing on her actual work with IAC, and it’s doubtful that her company’s reputation would have been damaged had they retained her. The social media pack mentality also does not speak well for our society as how many individuals mindlessly joined the herd without giving a second thought to what they were doing?

Most importantly I am just concerned about where we are headed culturally when we can’t make a public utterance without fearing the loss of our livelihoods. As Dale Price said, “If you say you believe in free speech but are routinely demanding “consequences” for speech you disagree with…you really don’t believe in free speech.” Sure we should be responsible for what we utter in public, but we need to have some perspective. I do not want to live in a country where it is acceptable to be easily fired for the flimsiest of comments.

For example, if the Chief of Public Relations for the Democratic National Committee suddenly took to twitter to rip into Harry Reid and Barack Obama, then it would most certainly not be inappropriate for the DNC to take action against that person. More seriously, I’m also thinking of teachers at Catholic schools who publicly dissent against Church teaching.

Being Annoyed by Something Doesn’t Justify Banning It

After years of study, the FCC has come to a conclusion regarding cell phones and airplanes that pretty much the rest of humanity had come to already: cell phone use poses no significant risk. As such, the the Commission voted 3-2 to consider removing the ban on cell phone use on flights.

Alas the potential of having passengers yacking into their phones during flights has spooked others in Washington. The Department of Transportation and some members of Congress have started to take action to ban cell phone use on airplanes. Is it because they have some greater understanding of the true safety risks involved with cell phone usage on airplanes? Of course not. No, you see, cell phone use on airplanes might annoy people. Representative Pete DeFazio (D-Ore.) represents a line of thinking typical for those leading the charge.

Rep. Pete DeFazio, D-Ore., the ranking Democrat on the Aviation Subcommittee, cheered Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s statement last week that his agency would consider regulations to ban cell phone chats on planes. “As I’ve been saying for years, allowing passengers to make in-flight phone calls would not only show a complete disregard for an American public that overwhelmingly opposes them, but would also pose serious safety issues for everyone in the cabin,” DeFazio said.

Safety issues, sure. Expect those who insist on a cell phone ban to cling to the safety talking point in much the same way that politicians who vote to install speed cameras do. In both cases, safety has nothing to do with why politicians back a proposed policy.

Look, I really don’t want to sit next to someone who chats away on their phone for the entire duration of a flight. I also don’t want to sit next to a crying baby, but my wife insists. And the people who sit behind my little hellions probably don’t appreciate it – I know, I see their looks of abject scorn and fear when we board – but should Congress ban us from flying? And a shrieking kid is a lot more annoying than someone carrying on a conversation.

As much as we hate cell phones, part of the reason is a weird psychological aversion to hearing one-sided conversations. Would we dream of banning conversations between two or more people on a plane? I recognize that people do tend to talk louder on phones, and there is that one-sided conversation factor, but the fact remains that it’s a tad irrational to pinpoint a behavior that has no safety concerns and yet say that it is perfectly acceptable for the federal government to ban the behavior simply because people find it annoying.

I have mixed feelings about cell phone bans on the road. At last in those cases there is a legitimate safety issue with people talking on phones while driving (though there are other dangerous driving behaviors that are as bad or even worse that we wouldn’t dream of prohibiting). Yet we’ve pretty conclusively determined that there are no safety concerns with people talking on their phones while flying – well, unless they happen to be the pilot, in which case we might want to insist that they put the phone down. Otherwise, those who support the ban are signalling that they are okay with government prohibiting something simply because they find it irritating.

As I commented on facebook, I am annoyed or irritated by other people roughly every five minutes. If I got Congress to ban behavior that I found irritating, there wouldn’t be a person in America not behind bars. That perfectly healthy person who gets on the elevator to go up one flight? One month in the slammer. Standing on the left on the subway escalator? In the slammer. Didn’t clear off all the snow on your car . . . wait, that actually is illegal, police just don’t enforce it. Maybe we just need to install snow-cameras that automatically give people tickets for that.

Even though this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, it is these petty tyrannies that are the most troublesome, mainly because large segments of the population support them almost uncritically. But do we really want a federal government so big that it gets to outlaw being annoying?

 

Clowns to the Left of Me (The Conscience of a Conservative, Part One)

Note: I broke this out into a couple of parts because I didn’t want to overwhelm you all in one sitting, but I am publishing the posts together if you just can’t bare the suspense of waiting for the other parts).

The developments on the other side of the Potomac from me tonight have only helped to dampen what was already something of a political depression. Though I am one of the most ardent defenders of the Union cause and believe that neoconfederate revisionism about the causes of the Civil War and the supposed centralizing desires of Abraham Lincoln are a lot of hooey, it’s hard not to at least sympathize with would-be secessionist as it appears yet another state is about to be engulfed in a sea of blue thanks to happy carpetbaggers that have infested the state like a virus – carpetbaggers who have arrived because the central government grows larger by the nanosecond.

This depression only deepens upon reflection that there seems to be no way to halt this momentum. Despite the occasional fleeting political victories by Team R, the reality is that for a constitutional conservative, there really is no light at the end of the tunnel.

The recent government shutdown and its aftermath crystallized the problem. All the talk about the “Establishment” wing of the Republican party, for whatever merit it did have, meant that the larger point was being missed. The establishment versus non-establishment narrative downplayed the very real ideological rift between different camps within the GOP, and made the battle seem to be little more than a disagreement about tactics.

During the previous administration, one term was used, overused, and plain ole misused. The term neoconservative, or neocon, become the fancy way to basically describe anyone who supported the Iraq War. Pat Buchanan and the American Conservative came down with a weird form of Tourette’s in which they just couldn’t seem to help themselves from muttering the word every few seconds.

Despite this overuse, the term is a legitimate descriptor of a certain strain of right-wing thought. There really isn’t a single definition of what it means to be a neoconservative. If anything, Bush’s foreign policy was less of a reflection of neoconservative thinking than his domestic policy. You see the original neocons were former leftists who rejected socialism and embraced capitalism. Though they may have rejected absolute statism, they were generally more receptive to the welfare state than traditional conservatives. This is also true of the second and third generation of neocons.

Though neocons may have abandoned full-throttled leftism, they still have a statist mindset. It would not be a stretch to say that what separates neoconservatives from leftists is merely the degree to which they seek to use the machinery of the state to foster change.

Andrew McCarthy, in a brilliant piece, gets to the heart of this divide without ever mentioning the word neocon. But I believe he is making the same basic point. Discussing Charles Krauthammer’s political philosophy, McCarthy writes:

This week, Dr. Krauthammer, Washington’s most influential expositor of mainstream GOP thought, obligingly spared me the need to prove my point. He gave as clear an account of the modern Republican conception of “conservatism” as you will find. Fittingly, he did it on the program of progressive commentator and comedian Jon Stewart. Today’s smartest Republicans, self-aware enough to know their core views deviate significantly from those of conservatives in the tradition of Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan, are more likely to say what they think to Jon Stewart. His audience is apt to be receptive, maybe even won over, by a mature progressivism portrayed as what conservatives really think. It is not likely to go over as well with, say, readers of National Review.

Stewart claimed that conservatives are anti-government. Initially, Krauthammer appeared to reject this caricature, replying, “The conservative idea is not that government has no role.” But, alas, when he got around to what the proper role of government is, Krauthammer sounded more like Stewart than Buckley.

To begin with, he largely buys the caricature. It would have been credible, he told Stewart, to have argued that conservatives were anti-government “in the Thirties, when conservatives opposed the New Deal.”

That’s just wrong. Conservatives who opposed the New Deal were not anti-government. They believed, as they believe today, in constitutionally defined, limited government. And “limited” does not mean “small” — where the Constitution assigns the central government an authority, such as national security, it must be as big and strong as necessary to execute that authority.

Having accepted Stewart’s central premise — namely, that what Stewart called the “responsibility of governance” embraces the massive, centralized welfare state — Krauthammer pronounced that today’s conservatives unquestionably accepted

the great achievements of liberalism — the achievements of the New Deal, of Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare. The idea that you rescue the elderly and don’t allow the elderly to enter into destitution is a consensual idea [accepted by] conservatives, at least the mainstream of conservatives.

With due respect to Charles, no, the New Deal and the centralized welfare state that is its progeny is accepted by the mainstream of Republicans. What Charles describes, moreover, is as fanciful a portrayal of what the New Deal did as it is of what conservatives believe.

McCarthy continues, noting that conservatives do not actually hate the poor nor do we seek to see them wither on the vine.

But there’s a more important point that McCarthy raises. It’s one thing for a state or group of states to embrace big government. But when the federal government exceeds its authority, then it impacts all states. There is less of a point of moving between states since the federal government is equally impactful on all of them. As McCarthy puts it:

 If welfare policy is made at the state level, there are important disciplines in the equation that can prevent the programs from bankrupting the state and unduly punishing productivity. Economic conditions vary widely in a nation of our size, so welfare programs are best designed and run at the local level, by elected officials directly accountable to the people who live with the consequences — officials who can easily alter the programs if conditions change. States know they are in competition with each other, and if wealth redistribution is too onerous in one state, people and businesses can move to others. States and localities also may not print money, and they have incentives (and often constitutional requirements) to balance their budgets that do not exist at the federal level. At the state level, there can be a sensible balancing of “internal order, improvement, and prosperity.”

This is not so at the federal level, as the last 80 years have affirmed. Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare are not, as Krauthammer contends, “great achievements of liberalism.” They are prosperity killers — and inevitably so. In part, this is because they have little if anything to do with what Krauthammer describes as the “consensual idea” that “you rescue the elderly and don’t allow the elderly to enter into destitution.” If that were the idea that we all agreed on — and assuming for argument’s sake that we similarly agreed that destitution was a concern of the central government — we would establish a transparent welfare program. That is, we would define what “destitute” is and enact a tax commensurate with what was necessary to provide reasonable relief — structured in a manner that gave people incentives to avoid or escape destitution.

McCarthy continues.

 There is, furthermore, an equally destructive corollary. Once one accepts the premise of federal control over these matters of social welfare, there is no principled case against federal control over any matters of social welfare. Every aspect of life becomes potentially subject to central-government regulation. And so it has, through a metastasizing federal code and bureaucracy that regulates everything from cradles to graves.

In the Framers’ construct, the states would experiment and compete, developing best practices — or at least practices that best suited the conditions and sensibilities of the local communities. By contrast, there is no disciplining or escaping Leviathan. And if, as is inevitable, federal officials expand their outlandish schemes and promise favored constituencies more than they can deliver, they just borrow or print ever more money: Government borrows from its tapped-out self, monetizing its debts, degrading our currency to reward sloth and punish thrift even as it steals from future generations.

What Dr. Krauthammer calls “the great achievements of liberalism” have undermined the Burkean intergenerational trust at the core of conservatism. As I argued a couple of years ago, in jousting with Pete Wehner, another very smart, mainstream Republican who seeks to redefine conservatism to accommodate the modern welfare state, conservatives revere an enriching cultural inheritance that binds generations past, present, and future. It obliges us to honor our traditions and our Constitution, preserve liberty, live within our means, and enhance the prosperity of those who come after us. The welfare state is a betrayal of our constitutional traditions: It is redistributionist gluttony run amok, impoverishing future generations to satisfy our insatiable contemporaries.

Ultimately neoconservatives like big government. They just like it a little less big than lefists.

Jokers to the Right (The Conscience of a Conservative, Part Deux)

Unfortunately, there is another element of the right that is at odds with traditional conservatives. The libertarian strand of the right, while understanding the destructiveness of statism, aid and abet the continued marginalization of conservatives as “extremists.” This was brought home in the Virginia governor’s race. During the past few weeks I had to sit through an endless stream of commercials that painted Ken Cuccinelli as some kind of deranged, woman-hating psycho who wanted to forcibly impregnate women and force them to carry their babies to term, all the while suffering physical and emotional abuse from their alcoholic husbands whom he will not allow the women to divorce. Instead of fighting these ridiculous mischaracterizations, bloggers like Ace of Spades and some of his dutiful Randians insist that, yeah, Cuccinelli is kind of a nut who does want to take away women’s birth control.

Despite the libertarian wing’s fundamental misunderstanding of conservative policy aims, and their general mockery of us Church ninnies, there is oddly more potential for conservatives and libertarians to work together than for conservatives and neocons to do so. Ultimately the policy aims of libertarians and conservatives are not so radically different. This is not to minimize the very real differences in our approach to social issues, but at least libertarians suffer no illusions about how the machinery of the state can be used to bring us a little bit closer to utopia. I think this is a bridgeable gap, though I am pessimistic about the chances for a revived fusionism on the right between these two camps.

Which brings me to the results tonight. It is sickening that someone as truly loathsome as Terry McAuliffe has been elevated to the highest position in the fine state of Virginia. I’m sure he’s not the worst person to be elected to high office, and even not in the state of Virginia, but he’s got to be near the top of slimiest creeps to attain a governorship. What is truly ominous about McAuliffe’s election is that it represents a perfect storm of all the worst elements of modern politics. First, you have the infiltration of leftists in the northern part of the state, seeking to bring the bad ideas that ruined the northeastern part of the country to this part of the world. Then you have Cuccinelli being betrayed both by the neocon Establishment, specifically the sitting Lieutenant Governor and his minions who petulantly refused to endorse Cuccinelli, and the libertarians who believed every bogeyman myth about Cuccinelli, going so far as to vote for the fake libertarian candidate who is basically just another left-winger.

With states like Virginia appearing more and more to be lost causes, what hope is there?

So that is why this Union loving guy is starting to see the logic in secession. After all, even though the Confederates may have fought for the wrong cause, does that mean that secession is itself a completely bad idea? I’ve long said yes, now I’m not so sure. Of course I’ve always believed in the right to revolution (it’s there in the Catechism, too), but secession is a bit of a different idea as it permits states to simply leave the federal union. You don’t necessarily have to have suffered a “long train of abuses,” but rather you just have to not like the current policies of your federal government.

Even if states can’t walk away from the Union, can’t parts of states walk away from the rest of the state? Well, we have justification for that, ironically from the Civil War itself. West Virginia was permitted to detach itself from the rest of the state. (I’ll let you all ponder that had that separation not happened, Cuccinelli would likely be the governor-elect right now.)

The reason that my secessionist bones are tingling is that I really have to wonder if we can truly continue to exist as a behemoth federal Union. The Federalist Papers are chock full of arguments against confederation, and the need to have an extensive Union. But would Madison have countenanced a nation of 300 million souls all governed under one umbrella, especially when that umbrella government takes on more and more powers? It’s at least something worth pondering.

As I mentioned in the first post, federalism only truly works if the central government is limited in scope (not size, as discussed by McCarthy). The Hamiltonian vision was one of a strong central government that was limited in the extent of its powers, but fairly strong within the scope of said powers. Once the federal government takes on more and more authority, then individual states lose more of their own authority and even identity. Is a Texan or a Tennessean truly as free and independent as they think? Will they be in 30 years?

One may counter that conservatives must simply do better at winning national elections. While this is partly true, all even a roundly conservative federal government can do is merely halt the tide of federal intervention in state affairs, biding time for the next statist administration. Also, what’s a nation to do when a simple majority have roundly rejected the ideals of limited government? At what point do the outnumbered citizens just throw their hands in the air and surrender?

Perhaps we haven’t reached that point, and God willing we never will. But I tremble at the thought of what’s to come.

Various & Sundry, 9/26/13

Little Sisters of the Poor v. HHS

It could be the title of a Supreme Court Case down the line.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finalized a contraception mandate that ignores the fact groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor are religious organizations, according to a lawsuit filed to protect them against fines for refusing to comply with an Obamacare mandate.

“We cannot violate our vows by participating in the government’s program to provide access to abortion-inducing drugs,” Sister Loraine Marie said of a class-action lawsuit filed against the mandate on behalf of multiple religious organizations that provide health benefits.

McCain the Traitor

Eh, so the government is cracking down on nuns. John McCain knows who the real bad guy is – that whacky Ted Cruz. This has inspired some righteous Jeff Goldstein indignation.

Lacking the courage to hold a colloquy with Cruz during his twenty hours of filibustering (yes, filibustering — as it was intended, remember?), Republican Senator John McCain — in collusion with Democrat Majority Leader Reid and the execrable Chuck Schumer (both of whom fearing intellectual embarrassment, also lacked the stones to go head to head with Cruz, who had previously shredded the hapless demagoguing of Dick Durbin and turned Tim Kaine into a feckless foil) — took to the floor afterwards and made the case for surrender and “settled law”,  his pitch being that, because Obama won the 2012 election, the issue of ObamaCare had been decided.

Forget for a moment that the GOP establishment, who had previously given us an awful McCain candidacy, gave us as a candidate the one man who could not fight Obama on ObamaCare, he and his staff, in conjunction with Ted Kennedy, having been the architects of the state usurpation of private healthcare; instead, pay attention to the underlying assertion McCain is making, which comes down to this:  rather than a system of checks and balances (the people also elected, for instance, a GOP House), McCain believes the US to have a set of revolving kings whose agendas are set once they win elections.  That is, he’s both pro-authoritarian and pro-majoritarian — though only when it suits his purposes.

And he’s just getting started.

I can’t imagine why Jeff would have cause to distrust McCain.

A Citizen Journalist Responds to the Critics of Ted Cruz

Goldstein was truly on fire today.

If you don’t mind a tiny bit of constructive criticism, let me remind you that the McCain / Romney presidencies never really went as planned.  Similarly, the decision to balk at the very constituency that brought you to power in the House has, as you know, not given you the kind of positive press from the left-leaning legacy media that you expected it might.

Which is all just a very short way of saying you really aren’t nearly as smart as you think you are — and in fact, on the scale of political smarts, your nuance has perpetually pushed you leftward, which, while on the powerful authoritarian end of the political spectrum, nevertheless suffers from  being on the dumbest and most dangerous end, as well.

As someone who initially didn’t feel very strongly about the Defund Obamacare approach, it’s getting harder and harder to stomach the fecklessness of large segments of the GOP. Certainly Cruz, Lee, et al. had a rather difficult hill to climb, but the Brutus treatment offered them by their fellow “Republicans” has made any attempt at change impossible.

SHOCKING NEWS!

To the surprise of no one with functioning brain cells, it turns out red light cameras may not be about safety after all.

Schools Are Not Parents

Charles Cooke has this crazy notion that what children do in the privacy of their own homes shouldn’t lead them to getting suspended at school.

Justify My Time

I watched 30 seconds of Madonna’s 17 minute video and wanted to scratch my eyes out with a dull screwdriver. Fortunately Ace and others had enough patience to sit through it all and offer some hilarious commentary.

First World Tears

Great insight from Simcha Fisher. You know what – just because you’re not a starving African child doesn’t mean you don’t get to have a bad day.

But does that mean we need to go around with a cheerful grin pasted on our mugs all day long, no matter what?  I don’t know about you, but that would not help me in the slightest (and yes, I have tried!).  If we find ourselves in a situation that tries our patience, exhausts us, makes us angry or helpless, it really doesn’t help to say, “Yes, but at least I’m not starving in a lice infested mud hut!”  All I get from that is deeper in my funk:  not only am I better off than 90% of the women in the world, I’m an ungrateful, whiny brat!  Somehow, this thought does not catapult me into good cheer.

Here’s the key: there’s a big difference between admitting we’re suffering, and constantly complaining about it.   it’s perfectly fine to admit that we’re suffering — yes, even if someone else somewhere in the world is suffering more.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with saying, “This stinks.”  But what matters is what you do next, once you look suffering in the face and call it for what it is.

10 Travel Tips

Frankly, number two on the list has always worked for me.

Various & Sundry

Poking the Pope

Fr. Dwight Longenecker provides not only a good analysis of the Papal interview that was republished in America, but offers one of the most clear-headed commentaries about Pope Francis’s approach that I’ve read everywhere. Long story short, we need to remember that Pope Francis comes from a much different cultural setting.

All this is well and good, but I have some worries. Every pope is both empowered and limited by his own history and culture. Pope Francis is from a generation and a culture which is Catholic. For the most part everyone is Catholic. They understand the basics of Christian morality and the fundamentals of the Christian story and the basic elements of the Catholic faith. Too often, however, that Catholic culture was impeded by a Church that had become overly clericalized, legalistic, condemnatory and hide bound.

Francis’ message to that kind of Catholic culture and that kind of Catholic Church is sharp and necessary. It’s fresh, creative and powerful. He’s basically saying, “Get out of your churchiness and get into the streets. Be with the people and share your faith together and bring Christ to those who have forgotten how to find him in the church.” As such his message is relevant and vital for the Church in South America and Central America where Catholics are being wooed away by Evangelicals who do present a vital, relevant and compassionately involved message.”

Francis’ message of forgiveness, acceptance and embrace of all works well enough in a Catholic culture where people know they are sinners and have a basic understanding of confession, reconciliation, forgiveness and healing. The problem in translating Francis’ message to post-Christian Europe, Liberal Protestant America and other developed countries is that most of the population either have no concept of sin in their lives or they deny the idea completely. Therefore Francis’ message of forgiveness, acceptance and embrace simply comes across as condoning whatever lifestyle people happen to have chosen. Catholics might make the distinction between loving the sinner and hating the sin…non Catholics both don’t and won’t make that distinction. Consequently, the Pope’s message simply comes across as him being a real nice guy who doesn’t judge anybody–like everybody else in our relativistic society.

Much more at the link.

Sinking Deeper

Just in case the article I linked to yesterday about the debt wasn’t depressing enough, here’s Kevin Williamson.

The CBO, to its credit, has attempted to get a handle on how heavily that growing debt will weigh upon economic activity in the next 25 years, and the answer is worrisome: Taking into account the economic effect of those deficits, instead of our debt hitting 100 percent of GDP in 25 years, CBO estimates that it will hit something closer to 200 percent of GDP — or 250 percent under the least sunny scenario. (There are even less-sunny scenarios, but the CBO does not believe that it can model them reliably.) Note here that these estimates also assume that the sequester and other deficit-control measures remain in place, which would consequently mean that spending on everything outside of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and debt service — everything else the government does — will be reduced far below current levels, in fact reverting to pre–World War II levels as a share of GDP. That is unlikely to be the case. Assume, then, that those spending and debt numbers look worse to the extent that the ladies and gentlemen in Washington lack the brass to resist demands for more domestic spending — and more military spending, too. The loudest and most insistent critics of the sequester have been defense contractors and the cluster of politicians in Maryland and Northern Virginia most sensitive to their complaints.

Archbishop Broglio Statement on Gay Marriage

An important statement from the Archbishop for the Military Services.

Irony Can Be So Ironic

Indeed Catholic apologists ought to really be careful about how they persuade people. Tone is just so important.

Putin May Seek Fourth Term

Truly the collapse of the Communist government was a marvelous thing. Imagine if Russians were still ruled by an autocratic regime that never relinquished power.

About Those #%^$skins

Rick Reilly has this insane notion that actual Native Americans’ views on the name of the Washington football team might be more relevant than those of rich white liberals. Silly Rick.

Of course this controversy could really heat up when the Redskins reach the Super Bowl again. So look to hear plenty about this in another decade or two.

Various & Sundry, 9/18/13

Gun Control’s Dead End

Charles Cooke is a particularly incisive writer on any topic, but especially so when it comes to gun control – which is probably why Piers Morgan wants no part of a debate with him.

It is not, however, too late to set the record straight in the public square and with lawmakers, who will be predictably pressured to “do something.” Here, the truth is vital, for it demonstrates neatly the reality that, in a country with 350-million-plus privately owned firearms, the state is utterly powerless to stop evil with the law. President Obama, Senator Feinstein, Senator Schumer et al. could have pushed through Congress every single gun-control provision that they coveted earlier this year — an “assault weapons” ban, a limit on the size of magazines, and a requirement that background checks be conducted for all private sales — and yesterday would nonetheless have happened exactly as it did. Indeed, in preparing for his spree, Aaron Alexis quite literally followed Joe Biden’s advice: He went out and bought an uncontroversial shotgun from a reputable, licensed dealer and subjected himself successfully to a federal background check. So routine was this purchase, it should be noted, that it could have been made legally in England or in France.

Maybe It Was the Video Games

Instead of blaming guns for the mass shooting on Monday, let’s blame video games.

Friends said the length of time he spent glued to the “shoot ‘em up” games on his computer, including the popular Call of Duty, triggered his dark side that had previously landed him in trouble with the police on gun crimes.

Another possibility is that there is simply just evil in this world, and try as we might, we simply won’t be able to eradicate it.

The Food Police

Columnist Frank Bruni doesn’t seem to understand how grocery stores work.

There’s no more to Bruni’s column than this; it’s a tumefied argument against big portion sizes:

America is lousy with such vessels: the Big Gulp, the economy pack, the party size, two-for-one pizza deals, the Whopper, the Double Whopper, the Triple Whopper, Costco in all its bloated grandeur. They’ve taught us that volume equals value and established a dangerous baseline for what we consider a sane amount of food.Come to think of it, the Costco complaint is a non sequitur. After all, those massive packages of nuts or chicken aren’t portions but ingredients, sold in bulk for storage and subsequent gradual use.

Bruni must not cook, or he’d understand how this works. This columnist, for example, typically buys several pounds of beef or pork or lamb, or a whole duck, at one time. We divide the meat into individual servings, cook them in the sous vide, and freeze them to thaw and consume later, one at a time. Buying and preparing multiple servings at once allows us to economize on both money and time.

About that National Debt

As Chris Johnson writes, we’re pretty much screwed.

Almost all media reports about the Congressional Budget Office’s new long-term budget analysis will highlight its forecast that the federal public debt, now about 73% of GDP, is on track to reach 100% of GDP in 2038. Now that’s scary enough. As Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget puts it: “Today’s report confirms exactly what we have been warning — that the debt is on an unsustainable long-term trajectory.”

So over the next 25 years, Americans will be taxed more to pay for a federal government that will more purely become a redistribution, wealth-transfer mechanism. Taxes and spending at record highs. America as a nuclear-armed insurance company.

But here’s the thing: that forecast, as the CBO notes, does not factor in “the harm that growing debt would cause to the economy.”  Hey, that would be a good thing to know, right? Well, you have to dig deeper into the CBO study to find those numbers.

And when you take into account stuff like how deficits might “crowd out” investment in  factories and computers and how people might respond to changes in after-tax wages, you find the debt is much, much larger, closer to 200% of GDP.

The World’s Worst Police Department

With Grand Theft Auto V’s sales approaching a billion, I thought I’d go into the vaults for this Onion classic.

Many blame the LCPD directly for the increase in criminal activity, citing the department’s lax procedure for arresting criminals, which involves taking 10 percent of the suspect’s money, confiscating his weapons, and simply releasing him from custody later that day. Outraged citizens say this is not enough, especially in a city where assault rifles can be found on factory roofs and grenade caches are located under the globe at the old World’s Fair site.

“The police just let them go, and 20 minutes later they’re shooting at the very same criminals from helicopters,” veteran crime reporter Mike Whiteley said. “That is not proper law enforcement. We may be seeing a return to the bad old days of 2002, when the police, the FIB, and even Army tank battalions would leave countless bodies on the streets while attempting to capture just one man on some sort of joyful mass-destruction spree.”

Perhaps even more alarming, city records indicate that more than 75 percent of perpetrators in mass-murder or vehicular-manslaughter cases escape, usually by simple methods such as driving into a car-repainting facility. Criminals have even eluded pursuit by walking into their apartment and going to bed for six hours, after which the search has been called off.

Various & Sundry, 9/16/13

Abortion Clinics Closing at Record Pace

On a horrible day such as this one I thought I’d start with some moderately happy news.

For Abby Johnson, the closing of a single Planned Parenthood center demonstrated her dramatic reversal from abortion clinic director to leading pro-life advocate.

But for pro-lifers throughout the United States, it marked another exhibit in a hopeful trend—abortion centers are shutting down at an unprecedented rate. The total so far this year is 44, according to a pro-life organization that tracks clinic operations.

I say it’s moderately happy for as long as one clinic remains open, we can’t truly celebrate.

A Conservative Foreign Policy Vision

Fantastic piece from Andrew McCarthy that will be the focus of my Catholic Stand post tomorrow, though from a slightly different perspective. Basically we need to find some common ground between John McCain’s knee-jerk “bomb it all” foreign policy and the Paulite “Blame America first” isolationist wing.

The Matthew Shepard Narrative

On a day when people tried valiantly to score political points off of murdered human beings, here’s another story where a brutal murder was used as a political football – only the narrative proved false.

The Myth of Live and Let Live Liberalism

Another National Review writer knocks one out.

Social liberalism is the foremost, predominant, and in many instances sole impulse for zealous regulation in this country, particularly in big cities. I love it when liberals complain about a ridiculous bit of PC nanny-statism coming out of New York, L.A., Chicago, D.C., Seattle, etc. — “What will they do next?”

Uh, sorry to tell you, but you are “they.” Outside of a Law and Order script — or an equally implausible MSNBC diatribe about who ruined Detroit — conservatives have as much influence on big-city liberalism as the Knights of Malta do.

Seriously, who else do people think are behind efforts to ban big sodas or sue hairdressers for charging women more than men? Who harasses little kids for making toy guns out of sticks, Pop Tarts, or their own fingers? Who wants to regulate the air you breathe, the food you eat, and the beverages you drink? Who wants to control your thermostat? Take your guns? Your cigarettes? Heck, your candy cigarettes? Who’s in favor of speech codes on campuses and “hate crime” laws everywhere? Who’s in favor of free speech when it comes to taxpayer-subsidized “art” and pornography (so long as you use a condom, if liberals get their way) but then bang their spoons on their high chairs for strict regulations when it comes to political speech? Who loves meddling, finger-wagging billionaires like Michael Bloomberg when they use state power and taxpayer money to herd, bully, and nudge people but thinks billionaires like the Koch brothers who want to shrink government are the root of all tyranny?

I’m always amused by liberals and libertarians accusing social conservatives of being for big government on social issues when it is the left that is so desperately eager to involve the government in all aspects of our daily lives.

The Ultimate Civil War Chart

A very cool and useful chart – if you can read it.

Foreign Parenting Practices Americans Would Call Neglect

Personally I find number three intriguing. It might be too late for our first two, but with a third due any minute, we’ll need to get our whistles ready.

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