Means have no meaning

Byline: | Category: Above the Fold, Culture, Ethics, Government, Race | Posted at: Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Jim Geraghty pens a controversial piece wherein he opines that liberals are more tolerant of the hypocrisy of other liberals than are conservatives.  Before I get to that portion of his argument, I’d like to address his conclusion with an historical analogy.  Geraghty writes:

“As long as a particular position or stance lets progressives feel good about themselves, they will embrace it. Thus the measuring stick of Obamacare is not whether it’s actually providing the uninsured with health insurance . . . but whether a liberal feels that it’s a sign that he cares about the uninsured more than other people.

Liberals will deem Obamacare a failure only if it stops making them feel good about themselves.

The original Progressives advanced another misbegotten law that made them “feel good about themselves”, even while it destroyed the country.  That law was Prohibition.  In 1925, H.L. Mencken observed,

“Five years of Prohibition have had, at least, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”

It would be another eight years after what was obvious to Mencken was finally obvious enough to Progressives that Prohibition was repealed.  And even then, it was not the obviousness of the chaos created by Prohibition that turned Progressive minds.  It was the fact that by 1933 Congress finally got around to re-apportioning districts–a decennial requirement that was purposefully (and unconstitutionally) ignored following the 1920 Census, because Progressives knew that if they counted the nation’s newly arrived Catholics and Jews, that their beloved Prohibition would have gone to an earlier grave.

Still, even after Prohibition died with the 21st Amendment, Progressives consoled themselves with the belief that it was a “noble experiment”.

Bullshit.

There was absolutely nothing noble about Prohibition or about its supporters, who employed more dastardly tactics even than just using unconstitutional measures to over-represent the nation’s more rural (dry) areas instead of its burgeoning urban (wet) cities.

Daniel Okrent catalogued just some of the evils that Prohibition’s adherents used to advance their cause.  They actively cultivated the support of both flavors of racists, typified by the overtly bigoted Arkansas congressman John Tillman, as well as soft bigoted paternalists like the United Methodist Church which explained in an official publication that “Under slavery the Negroes were protected from alcohol, consequently they developed no high degree of ability to resist its evil effects.” They encouraged anti-semitism and anti-Catholicism, as both religions were associated with alcohol’s manufacture, sale, and consumption.  They stirred up nativism, specifically directed against Irish, Italians, and Jews.  They not only allied with a resurgent Ku Klux Klan, they made the modern Klan and purposefully harnessed its hatred in order to enjoy the benefits of the fear unleashed by strong arm tactics that closely resembled those of Nazi brownshirts a decade later.

Most unforgivably of all, Progressives attacked all things German as war began on the Continent.  A year after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, President Woodrow Wilson addressed Congress and claimed that those Americans “born under other flags . . . poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national life.”  The metaphor was well-chosen.  While not an avid dry himself, Wilson wanted those supreme executive powers that only war could bestow.  If that meant further stoking nativism to bring those zealots closer to his aims, then so be it.

Yes, what I am saying is that early Progressives supported their cause so fervently that entry into World War I–the single most disastrous American political mistake of the last hundred years–became a desirable means of achieving their Prohibitionist ends.

And all of what I just described is the horror that occurred before Prohibition’s enactment. History tells us full well the terror unleashed as a result.

Those early 20th century Progressives are the intellectual forebears of modern Progressivism.  Therefore, it should surprise us not that a movement which allegedly supported greater democratization in the form of the Nineteenth Amendment’s extension of the franchise to women, also purposefully blocked blacks from the polls and diminished the value of an urban immigrant’s vote. Women supported prohibition; blacks and immigrants did not. Hypocrisy has a long pedigree in progressive politics.

In an answer to his own question “Why [is it] so hard to make progressives live up to their own rules?” Geraghty comes close to the truth when he says that Progressivism is about making progressives “feel good about themselves”.  But even closer to the truth is this oft-quoted observation from C.S. Lewis:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

Progressivism is the belief that they know better than others how others should live their lives.  There is nothing that they won’t do, there is no ally so abhorrent, there is no rule so inflexible, that a Progressive won’t embrace the unthinkable to advance their cause. That is because they do so with the approval of their conscience.  (As an aside, this is why some strands of “Christian” conservativism have far more in common with Progressives than they do with most conservatives.)

In short, the end justifies the means–even if that end is measurably (as in the case of Prohibition and Obamacare) worse than the beginning.  Adherence to means has no meaning in the progressive mind.

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GMA: Is your Obamacare enrollment real?

Byline: | Category: Above the Fold, Ethics, Government, Media | Posted at: Tuesday, 3 December 2013

That’s the question ABC News asks:

Bob Shlora of Alpharetta, Ga., was supposed to be a belated Obamacare success story. After weeks of trying, the 61-year-old told ABC News he fully enrolled in a new health insurance plan through the federal marketplace over the weekend, and received a Humana policy ID number to prove it.

But two days later, his insurer has no record of the transaction, Shlora said, even though his account on the government website indicates that he has a plan. . . 

Obama administration officials acknowledged today that some of the roughly 126,000 Americans who completed the torturous online enrollment process in October and November might not be officially signed up with their selected issuer, even if the website has told them they are.

It obviously is a bad thing to lose health insurance even if the prospect of needing it is just a theoretical abstraction.  It is far worse for that abstraction to become a concrete reality.  If, after January 1st, many thousands of Americans find that they need the health insurance that they think that they signed up for, then the Obama administration is going to be pining for the days when their approval ratings were in the low 40s.

This ABC News report suggests that the “fix” now being touted by the White House is actually a front-end website that isn’t connected to a back-end that can deliver the ordered product.  We’ll know soon enough.  But nothing about Obamacare to this point should give anyone any confidence that we won’t be seeing scores of tragic stories of procedures denied, prescriptions unfilled, and deteriorating medical conditions.

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ProhibitionCare

Byline: | Category: Above the Fold, Culture, Economy, Ethics, Government, wine | Posted at: Monday, 18 November 2013

Prior to the disastrous implementation of Obamacare, has there ever been a law that fell that so far out of disfavor that the American people clamored for wholesale repeal? Yes, it was called Prohibition.

The parallels between Prohibition and Obamacare begin with the fact that both laws were the culmination of decades of “Progressive” ideals.  A century ago Progressives believed that people would be better off if they were able to control what individuals were allowed to buy and sell.  Modern Progressives are no different.  From its first attempt in Maine in the 1850s, Progressives in both parties worked tirelessly to extend anti-alcohol laws to the entire country.  This most recent bout of progressivism began sixty years ago with Democrat Harry Truman, who pushed the idea of socialized medicine.  The movement received considerable advancement from Democrat Lyndon Johnson, who created Medicare, Republican George W. Bush, who added prescription drugs coverage, and Republican Mitt Romney, who built the first Obamacare-like system in Massachusetts.

Many Progressives of an earlier era wanted Prohibition for others, but not for themselves.  The progressive United Methodist Church, which was officially dry but whose membership certainly wasn’t, said that, “Under slavery the Negroes were protected from alcohol, consequently they developed no high degree of ability to resist its evil effects.”  A Collier’s editorial elaborated on this form of racial paternalism, “White men are beginning to see that moral responsibility for the negro rests on them, and that it is a betrayal of responsibility to permit illicit sales of dangerous liquors and drugs.” These were the attitudes of “Wet-Drys,” people who themselves drank, but who didn’t want “others” to drink.  Besides racism, anti-Catholicism was rampant among earlier Progressives.  Germans, Italians, and Irish (and let us not forget anti-Catholicism’s sibling, anti-semitism), flooded America’s cities during this period–and they all drank!  Modern progressives similarly want Obamacare for thee, but not for me.  Most infamous is that Congress specifically exempted itself and its employees from the new Obamacare requirements when it passed the law.  Favored Progressive partners too–especially unions–have asked for, and gained their own Obamacare exemptions.  Hypocrisy enjoys a long pedigree among Progressives.

Electoral chicanery is another similarity.  There was a rush to enact the Eighteenth Amendment before the 1920 Census resulted in redistricting that would give more House seats to the cities and the immigrant Catholics who lived there.  Following the census, which recorded a 21% population increase largely as a result of immigration, there was so much concern that “Wets” would gain the upper hand in Congress as well as in state legislatures, that Congress was never redistricted in accordance with the Constitution.  Until 1933 when Prohibition was finally overturned, the House was stuck with the same district lines that were drawn back in 1910.  A century later, modern Progressives played similar games after Republican Scott Walker  Brown’s surprise election to the Senate from Massachusetts meant that the House bill enacting Obamacare could not be ratified.  Instead, an earlier Senate bill, that was nowhere near to ready for implementation and which had not gone through a conference committee, was accepted without modification in the House, and in defiance of the Constitutional provision that revenue bills had to originate in the House.

In 1925 H.L. Mencken observed:

“Five years of Prohibition have had, at least, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”

More than three years after the passage of Obamacare, one could make similar observations:  there is not greater health insurance coverage but less;  there is not lower health care costs, but more; and certainly, respect for the law–even from the law’s namesake and executor–has not increased, but diminished.

There is a final similarity which I am afraid might also come to pass.  While it is popularly believed that the 18th Amendment was repealed, that was actually not exactly true.  The 21st Amendment did not return things to the way they had been.  Instead of repeal, the modfication to the Constitution gave the States special power to legislate alcohol.  Because the Amendment gives the States jurisdiction, alcohol is not afforded protection under the interstate commerce clause.  Each state can, and does, tax interstate sales, while they prevent residents from acquiring alcohol across state lines.  This, and a whole host of other state restrictions, has created a hodge podge of laws that makes life difficult for wine-makers, retailers, and consumers alike.  The only beneficiaries of such legal confusion are the descendants of Prohibition’s bootleggers who are now ensconced in legally mandated monopolies.

Similarly, when Obamacare meets its demise, it is unfortunately likely to die in such a way that the successor system will leave Americans worse off than they were before Obamacare ever became law.  I hope that on this latter prediction, I am proved wrong.

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The end of logic

Byline: | Category: Above the Fold, Culture, Economy, Education, Ethics, Government, Taxes & Spending | Posted at: Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is in a bit of trouble for making this statement in his Monday column:

People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.

While there is some, surprisingly, the bulk of the criticism does not come from the Right for having been portrayed as knuckle-dragging dinosaurs whose acceptance of Justice Clarence Thomas’ biracial marriage and former VP Dick Cheney’s lesbian daughter belie Cohen’s stereotype un-updated since the Archie Bunker era.

No, it’s actually the Left that has most criticized Cohen.  The Huffington Post said, “Dear Washington Post:  Please fire this man.”  Esquire put Cohen in the “Newspaper Stupid Top 40.”  Paul Farhi catalogues some of the others who voice umbrage at Cohen’s remarks, including Gawker, Slate, Salon, and MSNBC.  All this “venom-spewing” as Farhi said, from ”people who should be [Cohen's] allies.”

Sadly, this is normal for the Left.  Who could forget their outrage directed toward radio host Bill Bennett when he was asked about a statistic from the then recently-published Freakonomics that said that crime has gone down because of abortion:

BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don’t know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don’t know. I mean, it cuts both – you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well –

CALLER: Well, I don’t think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don’t think it is either, I don’t think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don’t know. But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

The Leftists at Media Matters had a field day with Bennett’s comments even when their excerpts clearly exhonerated (highlighted above) him of the thought-crime of advocating the racial infanticide that they say Bennett advocated.

Bennett was engaging in the logical device known as reductio ad absurdum, whereby an argument is reduced to an absurdity so as to demonstrate the fallacy of the premise.  It just so happens that last night I mentioned to my seventh-grade son the classic reductio ad absurdum:  A Modest Proposal, wherein Jonathan Swift argues that to eliminate the surplus population of beggars, the Irish should be allowed to sell their unweaned children to be used as stew meat.

In 1729 Swift’s reader’s quickly recognized the essay as satire.  Sadly, I don’t think that American Leftists today would be able to understand the argument.  If their umbrage toward Cohen–who clearly was not advocating discrimination against biracial and gay couples—is any indicator, were Swift to write his classic today, MSNBC would surely charge him with cannibalism.

Prior to this week I could have dismissed Leftist outrage directed at Bennett as political fanaticism akin to the fanatic football fan who, even upon seeing the slow-motion replay, yells at the referee for blowing a call that he clearly called correctly.  Heretofore, I could have accepted that Bennett’s detractors understood his argument but purposefully misconstrued it so as to appeal to Low-Information Voters who might have heard only an edited version of the exchange.  Now as a result of the outrage that the Left directs against its own Richard Cohen, it is obvious that the Left isn’t trying to appeal to Low-Information Voters, but is instead made up of a large swath of Low-Intelligence Voters.

How else could one explain Obamacare?  Many of the people who are incapable of understanding Cohen’s argument are the same ones who are logically incapable of understanding that Obamacare could not work the way the President promised.  Unless you believed, as one commenter noted, that Obamacare was powered by “unicorn farts and pixie dust,” it was always completely illogical to believe that more people could get more health coverage without some people paying higher prices or being kicked off of their existing plans.

Another Cohen, Michael Cohen (I don’t know if he is a relation), buttresses that point (hat tip: David Henderson).

But, of course, this means that some Americans would not only lose their plans and access to their doctor, but in the case of particularly healthy individuals, reform could yield higher premiums. Beyond that, reforming such a huge chunk of the U.S. economy necessarily leads to often unanticipated changes for millions of Americans.

Acknowledging that reality would have been the honest thing to do. So would asking healthier and wealthier Americans to sacrifice for the greater good of ensuring every American have health-care coverage.

But doing so would have opened Obama and his democratic allies up to the charge that Obamacare would lead to widespread dislocations — and made the path to reform that much politically harder to traverse.

Indeed, this is precisely the argument that was made by Republicans  . . . 

In other words:  Everything Republicans told you about Obamacare was true, but–and these are Michael Cohen’s words–you “can’t handle the truth.”  What he didn’t say but is clearly implied and could have appended: “And we know that you are too stupid and too illogical to figure out the truth on your own.”  Logical fallacy abounds on the Left, and this Cohen actually celebrates it.

This is where the modern Left is today: at the head of an easily manipulable cadre of useful idiots.  To be sure, the Right has its share of blind adherents as well.  To some, the words “abortion” and “homosexual” are like red herrings to a dog:  they quickly distract.  But I’m hard-pressed to find so glaring an example as Obamacare to demonstrate how easy it was to dupe millions of people who should have been smart enough to know otherwise.

For years it has been fashionable in some segments of the Right to complain that America’s public schools are engaged in indoctrination instead of education.  But the Left’s slander of Richard Cohen might point at a reality far worse.  It’s not that millions of Americans have been taught the wrong things–bad lessons can be unlearned.  Much worse is the possibility that many millions of Americans have never been taught how to critically read and to logically think.  If this is true, it does not bode well for the nation’s future.

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Why is slavery wrong?

Byline: | Category: Above the Fold, Culture, Economy, Ethics, Government, Taxes & Spending | Posted at: Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Over at the Daily Beast Jamelle Bouie accuses Sarah Palin  of rhetorical overreach by recently likening the national debt to slavery.

It just so happens that the introductory chapter of a book I’ve been working on doesn’t just employ slavery as a simile, but actually asserts that a central feature of modern government is slavery.  Undoubtedly, Mr. Bouie will take umbrage at the equivalence.  But I challenge him and you to refute the assertion on logical grounds.  I look forward to critiques and encourage discussion if you dare to proceed . . .

(more…)

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It’s not business; it’s strictly personal

Byline: | Category: Above the Fold, Ethics, Government, Regulations, Taxes & Spending | Posted at: Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Republicans want a delay in Obamacare.  Because of the many significant problems with the rollout of Obamacare, and because he has delayed parts of the law himself some 19 times, President Obama should want a delay in Obamacare too.  One year gives Democrats an opportunity to fix systemic errors in the software, the regulations, and the law.  One year gives nothing at all to the Republicans–nothing–except the opportunity to crow a little bit.

That the President can’t compromise in a way that gives him everything he wants, plus the extra time he needs, is not about business.  It’s strictly personal.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Glenn for the link.  While you’re here, take a look around.

MORE:  Allahpundit  and Evan McMurray dissect Wolf Blitzer’s wonderment that it isn’t the Democrats who are the ones begging for a year’s delay.

Exit question:  Do national Democrats hate the Tea Party so much that they would take all the (well-deserved) negative reaction over the Obamacare Follies rather than to give in on just the delay even while it benefits them more than Republicans in the long run?

ALSO:  Thanks to Ed and Moe.

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Shit happens

Byline: | Category: 2nd Amendment, Above the Fold, Culture, Ethics, Government, Regulations | Posted at: Monday, 17 December 2012

With a weekend to digest recent events, I have concluded that Newtown is really just the continuation of that timeless discussion regarding the correct balance of individual rights and responsiblities against the ability and wisdom of government to control events.

An obviously mentally unstable man steals some firearms and kills more than two dozen of the most defenseless victims.  Immediately, as after all such events, there goes up a cry for more restrictions on the individual ownership of guns.  However, even if that were the right course of action, as John Fund points out, in a country that contains over 200 million privately owned firearms, prohibition is not possible.  To outlaw gun ownership would be as futile (not to mention damaging to the cause of limiting violence) as would be an attempt to return 11 million illegal aliens to their homelands or a second attempt at the prohibition of alcohol.  Some things are just too entrenched to ever completely end.

Another group has argued for a greater ability of the government to diagnose and detain mentally ill individuals.  While certainly there is great merit in having a serious adult conversation about the role of mental illness in violent crime, proposals to return to an era of committing people to the Cuckoo’s Nest, are as fraught with societal danger as are proposals to ban guns.  Granting to government the power to forcibly hospitalize the mentally ill who might perform violent acts is as anathema to the American way, as giving government the power to imprison those who might commit a crime.  Just how many scores of thousands of imprisoned innocently insane is the right number to save the lives of the next score of innocent children?

If phrasing the trade-off that way doesn’t make you uncomfortable, then I suggest that you don’t have an appreciation for what the American ideal of freedom means.  Our system was purposefully designed to default to government inaction and individual freedom.  While it is understandably frustrating to victims and their families, our rules prefer that the guilty  go free rather than to wrongfully imprison an innocent man.  That is no less true for the criminally insane than it is for the just plain criminal.

Shit happens.  Sorry to so crassly phrase it, but that’s just the way life is.  As we grow more technologically advanced, we have had great success in controlling–even eliminating–some of that shit.  Smallpox is completely gone.  Polio is rare.  Malaria is almost non-existent outside of the third world.  The same is true of hunger–the real, dying of starvation kind.  We have even the ability to screen out telemarketers without ever touching the phone.

While shit still happens, less of it happens than happened before.  So it is not surprising that we look around for other shit to stop.  But sometimes in our zeal to stop it all, we lose sight of the trade-offs.  How many millions of man-hours of economic productivity, for example, are lost every day in airport security lines in an effort to stop a hijacking that takes place less often than once-a-year?

Rare tragic events sharpen the focus more clearly than does the every day cost of preventing them.  I remember a couple dozen years ago the sad story of an airplane lap child who died when he struck the bulkhead during turbulence.  Immediately a cry went out to require infant seats on aircraft.  In one of those uncommon examples of when Washington considers the whole issue–that which is unseen as well as that which is seen–Congress wisely chose not to act.  I say wisely, not because I wish for infants on airplanes to die, but because a serious analysis of ALL of the facts indicated that the solution would lead to more deaths than it would save.  That was because if parents were forced to buy an extra ticket for their infant, some significant percentage of them would opt to drive rather than to fly.  And by driving, they would make their infant child far more susceptible to accidental death.  Shit happens.  And sometimes we just have to let it happen, because in trying to stop it, we inadvertently add to the pile of shit.

So what should we do to mitigate the risk of shit?  Confiscation, as Ed Schultz suggests?  Only if you want criminals to act with less caution, not to mention the real risk of igniting a civil war.  Outlaw automatic weapons as Rupert Murcoch demands?  It wouldn’t have helped as they were already outlawed in 1934 and Mr. Lanza’s weapons were not automatic.  Reinstituting the “assault weapons” ban that limits the size of magazines as Senator Schumer wants?  That wouldn’t have helped either; as Mr. Lanza reportedly overcame that limitation by having “hundreds of rounds of ammunition in multiple magazines.”  Enforce tighter restriction on gun possession by the mentally ill?  That might be worth analyzing, but it still wouldn’t have helped here, as apparently Mr. Lanza shot his own mother dead and then stole her guns.  More cops in schools?  There are 132,000 schools in the nation; even ignoring the $13 billion additional cost, is 132,000 new police really going to stop the violence?  In a mall in Clackamas it apparently only limited, but did not stop, the bloodshed.  Add to the list of places where guns are illegal?  They are already illegal in schools; perhaps that is why schools and other gun-free zones are such a target-rich environment.

In epidemiology there is a concept known as “herd immunity.”  If enough of the population is vaccinated, epidemics can’t occur.  Even the uninnoculated benefit because their vaccinated neighbors prevent a disease’s spread from getting out of control.  Herd immunity doesn’t stop the disease, but it does stop its spread.  The evidence of recent gun violence suggests that if enough law abiding citizens are armed, the death toll of mass murder events may similarly be limited by a form of herd immunity.  It is worth considering that the answer to gun violence is the counter-intuitive:  more guns.

But what I would even more strongly suggest is that more restrictions on individuals is a worse response than doing nothing.  Whether it is to leave a hundred million citizens more susceptible to everyday violent acts because, unarmed, they are at the mercy of armed criminals, or to add to the already swollen number of Americans forcibly detained, any heavy-handed governmental reaction to events such as what occurred in Newtown is likely to be worse than the problem it is meant to cure.

Government was never meant to be the last line of defense against evil.  We individuals are.  We are the militia.  That is the meaning of the Second Amendment.  Shit happens.  And when it does, hopefully enough of our herd is ready to deal with it before shit gets out of control.

UPDATE:

Guy Benson echoes a similar theme:

I’m skeptical that proposing more grief-fueled laws is a meaningful solution.  And even if one could accurately project that passing Gun Law X would save Y number of lives, where do Constitutional rights come into play, and who gets to weigh those factors?  If curtailing the First Amendment could also be scientifically proven to save some quantifiable number of lives, would we tolerate additional government limits on those core, specifically-enumerated freedoms?  These are extraordinarily difficult questions.

Megan McArdle does too:

 What Lanza shows us is the limits of the obvious policy responses.  He had all the mental health resources he needed–and he did it anyway.  The law stopped him from buying a gun–and he did it anyway.  The school had an intercom system aimed at stopping unauthorized entry–and he did it anyway.  Any practical, easy-to-implement solution to school shootings that you could propose, along with several that were not at all easy to implement, was already in place.  Somehow, Lanza blew through them all.

. . . It would certainly be more comfortable for me to endorse doing something symbolic–bring back the “assault weapons ban”–in order to signal that I care.  But I would rather do nothing than do something stupid because it makes us feel better.  We shouldn’t have laws on the books unless we think there’s a good chance they’ll work: they add regulatory complexity and sap law-enforcement resources from more needed tasks.  This is not because I don’t care about dead children; my heart, like yours, broke about a thousand times this weekend.  But they will not breathe again because we pass a law.  A law would make us feel better, because it would make us feel as if we’d “done something”, as if we’d made it less likely that more children would die.  But I think that would be false security. And false security is more dangerous than none.

For McArdle’s crime of pointing out the obvious truth–nothing that gun control advocates have proposed would have stopped Mr. Lanza’s murderous spree–New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait awards her the “Worst Newtown Reaction Award.”  I urge you to read his column, and then, if you can stomach it, read the comments.  There really are two Americas.  And Chait and his readers apparently have never stepped foot in the America west of the Hudson River.

Daniel Greenfield offers his thoughts on individual rights and responsibilities versus the government’s ability to control events:

The clash that will define the future of America is this collision between the individual and the state, between disorganized freedom and organized compassion, between a self-directed experiment in self-government and an experiment conducted by trained experts on a lab monkey population. And the defining idea of this conflict is accountability.

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Run, don’t walk

Byline: | Category: Economy, Ethics, Government, Military, Taxes & Spending | Posted at: Thursday, 29 November 2012

If the deal is $1.2 T in new taxes and new spending now in exchange for $400 B in cuts ten or more years away, then Republicans shouldn’t walk away from “fiscal cliff” negotiations.  They should run.

The alternative is to just let sequestration take effect. The biggest hit is to the Department of Defense.  And I can tell you that the hit won’t be nearly deep enough.*

*Usual caveat about this being my view and not DoD’s, blah, and blah.

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She deserves pity, not a punch in the throat

Byline: | Category: Culture, Ethics, Taxes & Spending | Posted at: Thursday, 10 May 2012

I’m not Mitt Romney, so I don’t have to focus solely on jobs, jobs, jobs.  (But fear not; if you stay with me to the end, there’s a jobs angle to this story too.)

To mark this historic occasion–the 24 hour anniversary of Barack Obama’s evolution wherein he catches up to the position where Dick Cheney was two years ago–let’s talk about people who hate people who aren’t like them.

No, I’m not talking about these people.  I’m talking about mommy bloggers who want to punch people in the throat.  That’s actually the name of the blog “People I want to Punch in the throat.”  And just in case that was too nuanced for you, she adds in a subtitle:  “I think the title sums it up. If you can’t figure it out, then go away before I punch you in the throat.”

The homophobic rants at this site are the work of  the pseudonymous mommy blogger Jen Fisher, who advises her readers that she is a “funny, negative, bitchy type of person,” and adds that “If you can’t handle that . . . don’t waste your time flaming me for being a grouch.”  While she is unlike another mommy blogger I know and like, who is funny without being negative and bitchy, I can see how that persona could be humorous . . . if your idea of funny is a female Archie Bunker with a blog.

Actually her rants aren’t homophobic.  At least none that I’ve read.  But they might as well be, because they heap scorn, ridicule, and virtual violence on “people not like me.” 

Let me give you an example from the post that I found via a link from an old friend.  Jen wants to punch “Douchey Dads” in the throat.  She never quite defines ”Douchey Dad,” but apparently it is a young, well-dressed member of a country club.  They are guilty of taking Tuesdays off to golf, wearing expensive shirts, and “yukking”–whatever that is.  In short they are “people not like me.”

Jen met the DDs when she was setting up at a country club for a charity auction and immediately took a dislike to them, those people not like her.  Why?   I don’t know. Apparently being affluent, well-dressed, and comfortable is somehow wrong.  (Methinks I detect jealousy.)  Why do people take an instant disliking to someone, lump them all into a category and pillory them on the web for others to mock?

Here’s a little exercise I like to engage in:  turn the story around 180-degrees and see if it’s still the same.  If instead of making fun of idle white wealthy fathers, this was a post advocating a punch in the throat for unemployed black impoverished mothers, would we act the same?  No.  At the very least it would be labeled “hate speech.”  And it wouldn’t be funny to anyone . . . anyone except Archie Bunker, perhaps.  (When did Meathead turn into Archie?  That’s a subject for another day.)  So why is this funny to Jen and her hundreds of commenters?

Why is it that society feels comfortable mocking one group, when we would never tolerate the same treatment of another?  Why is it that those very people who dislike people they don’t even know (church-goers, rednecks, Kansans) often think of themselves as being so tolerant?  Just how little introspection does it take to have such a bipolar view of the world?

I’m probably too hard on Jen.  I’m sure that she’s a nice person in real life and is mean only as a means to amuse.  But then again, maybe I’m not too hard on her.  “Mean only as a means to amuse” is pretty much the definition of a bully.  (Or at least that’s what we’d call it if Jen was ridiculing a protected class.)  Maybe it just takes having the contrast exposed for her to see the point.  Plus, it’s hard to heap too much blame on a mere blogger, when we have a President who likes to divide people, label them, and engage in ridicule.  So much for unity.

Finally, since I promised a jobs angle to the story . . . it isn’t clear from Jen’s post whether she was at the country club as an employee, vendor, or to help the charity hosting the auction there.  It doesn’t matter, because in some small way the presence of the “douchey dads” she found so objectionable, contributed to her cause.  Even if they weren’t at the charity auction themselves, they help fund the country club so that it can offer reasonable prices to charities wishing to host an event.  It amazes me how often I hear scorn from employees, clients, and benificiaries directed at those who provide them cash.  People might want to keep that in mind lest they again make the mistake of engaging in covetous tax policies that put a bunch of shipyard workers out of work.

Tax the rich, feed the poor
Till there are no rich no more

P.S. Don’t misconstrue this post as advocacy for a world free from mockery.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  It’s more fun to live in a Blazing Saddles world:

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Pudd’nhead Warren

Byline: | Category: Culture, Ethics, Race | Posted at: Tuesday, 1 May 2012

I’m one-sixteenth Bastard.  Those who know me well would probably claim that it’s a higher percentage.  But technically, I’m only one-sixteenth. 

That’s because my grandfather’s grandfather was born just a couple short months after his mother’s 1832 wedding to a man who may or may not have been his biological father and shortly before the couple and their infant child beat a hasty exit to the New World.

Why is my lineage relevant?  It’s not.  Or at least it shouldn’t be.  Except that, apparently, if you can trace 1/32nd of your ancestry to somebody who today would enjoy protected status, you too can enjoy that same protection.   At least that’s what Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat running for US Senate in Massachusetts, claims.  She used her 1/32nd drop of Cherokee Indian blood to bolster her resume so that she could advance through law schools all the way to a tenured post at Harvard as a minority applicant.   (Sadly for me, bastards are not a minority.)

Now if this all seems preposterous to you, you’re right. If Elizabeth Warren, by virtue of her great-great-great-grandmother is entitled to protected status, are my children also minorities as a result of their Powhatan Indian ancestry that dates to the 17th century?  As my eldest is applying for colleges next year, that would be awesome news!  And if her 1/512th Indian ancestry doesn’t qualify, where  is the breakpoint?  Is it 1/64th?  Or 1/128th?  Or 1/256th?  Exactly how many drops of minority blood makes one a minority?

Mark Twain exposed the folly of this system of racial discrimination in Pudd’nhead Wilson way back in 1893.  The story is set in the antebellum South and involves a baby, born (coincidentally) 1/32nd black, but who was white enough that his mother switched the infant with a white baby so that her son could be raised free from the stain of her race.  Twain originally started the story as a comedic interpretation of the mixed up social mores of his day, but as his writing continued the story evolved into a tragedy. 

That’s how I view the Elizabeth Warren story too:  farce that obscures tragedy.  The real issue is not Elizabeth Warren’s gaming of the system to her advantage; it is that this system of racial discrimination even exists.  Here we are in the 21st century arguing about how many drops of blood makes a white man black.  That’s a tragedy. 

Mark Twain is mocking us from the grave.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Glenn for the link.  While you’re here, please take a look around.

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