No Impact. Rriiiiggghhhttt

The Pentagon released a report saying repeal of "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" will have minimal impact on the force.

As you peruse that report, realize that this is the conclusion they were ordered to arrive at, so it's no particular surprise that they did. Instead, consider whether or not the conclusion is true.

They said the same thing, you may recall, about women in the military. It has had a significant impact and it is not entirely clear that the benefits outweigh the costs, in part because those costs were carefully and intentionally hidden. How? Well, how do you think? A person who is in the military and aspires to command is not going to let incidents become public in which the received wisdom is shown to be folly. If somebody does, they simply don't make the cut or something is brought to the fore - there are no angels in the military or anywhere else - and the issue is shifted. One or two, and it becomes clear that you don't say certain things if you want to be promoted, so they aren't said. They're dealt with, to the extent they are dealt with, behind the spotlights rather than in front of them. But tell me that having a 3rd class petty officer deciding to augment her income by providing entertainment to some of the guys isn't having an impact. Do they all? No. Do most? No. Do some? Absolutely.

If you think that sort of clear signal has not already gone out from the head office when it comes to gays in the military, then you are naive, aren't you? If you think that openly gay servicemembers won't impact the cohesion, morale, and readiness of the force, you've resigned from the human race. And no survey in which a majority say what the people answering it know they are supposed to say will convince me otherwise.

Disturbing FAQ

The Banner's FAQ is a bit disturbing this time. Is this question really frequent?
I think ministers are told to agree with what the denomination tells you or else you’ll lose your job. Is that correct?
I hope not. The answer is OK, but the tone of that question is rather aggressive, isn't it? I mean, how dare we expect pastors of the church to agree with the church's teaching!

The other question implies that anything and everything done for recreation, relaxation, or entertainment is, by definition, a sin. Instead, we should always be working. The answer gives him far more credibility than the questioner deserves, but again, if this is a frequent question we are in serious - serious - trouble. One wonders how the questioner manages to tolerate comfortable pews.

Letter to Give Pause

Here's an interesting development. You may recall - or you may not - that I wrote something about "Hope Equals" when it showed up in the last issue of The Banner. The organizer, Mariano Avilo, wrote to the Banner in order to officially and forcefully divorce himself from the word "apartheid" used by one of the students on the trip and quoted in the earlier article. He recognizes that the word alienates and "is not in keeping with our ethos."

I'm glad he sees as much. I wish he could see that such words flow naturally from his project and the way it is done, but perhaps that is too much to ask. This, however, is a good thing.

Summaries, But of What?

The Banner has two additional articles on our denominational confessions. In the one, Rev. John Luth cautions us to avoid treating the confessions as Scripture and is worried that they are too restrictive and out-dated. In the other, Mr. Rob Braun looks at them as a kind of foundation, or building bricks upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.

Both of them assert that the primary aim of a Confession is to "summarize what is found in the Bible", to use Braun's phrase.

Sorry. That's not what they're for.

The Apostle's Creed was intended as a summary of the faith, which is something very different. It was intended to highlight what was essential to be believed if one was to be considered Christian. It still serves that function. But it does not summarize the Bible. The Nicene and Athanasian Creeds - the two other so-called "ecumenical" creeds - were intended to settle certain questions that were in dispute within the fellowship of believers at the time they were written. They are the product of councils assembled in order to discuss, reflect, and decide what is Christian. In that sense, too, they summarize the faith. But in summarizing the faith, they are an exposition on the Bible rather than a summary of it.

The three confessional statements that are part of the Christian Reformed Church's core follow in this path. They summarize the Reformed (Calvinist) faith, not the Bible, which is why they are extensively foot-noted with biblical references in their current iterations. In summarizing the Reformed faith, they have three different purposes.

The earliest of them - the Belgic Confession - summarized the Reformed faith in order to place it within the borders drawn by the earlier, ecumenical creeds. It was a statement to the Catholic King of Spain that 1) we're Christians, too; and 2) we're not a political threat if you would just let us be Protestant Christians instead of Catholic.

The Heidelberg Catechism is, of course, a catechism. It is intended to teach new believers, whether by virtue of conversion or youth, the basics of the faith - the Apostle's Creed, the 10 Commandments, and the Lord's Prayer - in a Reformed context.

The last of them, the Canons of Dort, are an attempt to settle a difficult theological question that was roiling the Reformed churches, particularly in the Netherlands, and to lay out the boundaries of the Church's beliefs on the matter of predestination and providence.

So, we summarize the faith in order to affirm that faith, in order to teach it, and in order to preserve unity in the Church. In doing so, we are in effect preaching - expositing on the Bible - something that is germain to these three purposes. Like all sermons, therefore, the creeds are necessarily incomplete and provisional, so it is always necessary to tie them back to the Biblical text from which they are derived and it is always possible to find things in the Bible that aren't mentioned in them. Note that the key thing is to tie them back to the Biblical text, not necessarily to tie them to our present, fleeting circumstances, because the key thing about a sermon isn't whether or not it is contemporary, but whether or not it is true.

Let's Try "Living" Creeds!

The Banner's editor also has another editorial on the Belhar and Contemporary Testimony. He advocates essentially relegating the existing creeds of the Christian Reformed Church - the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort - to history. They are historical documents, he says, and they root us in history. But we should elevate the Contemporary Testimony to the level of a creed. Because we revise it and change it all the time, there's no need to bother with this lengthy and cumbersome process of formal gravamina (official objections to portions of the creeds, either requesting clarification or requesting revision) or other credal statements.

In other words, he wants the Christian Reformed Church to have a "Living Creed" the way activist judges and lawyers claim we have a "Living Constitution" in the United States. Let's consign the actual Creeds to the archives where nobody actually reads the thing and just have a study committee revise, edit, and otherwise muck about with it as suits their fancy. This is working out so well in civil society, we should do it in the Church, too!

Those creeds are not intended to, and do not, root us in history. They root us in the truth. To be sure, we have revised our opinion on some elements of them as God has opened our ears and hearts more fully to his Word. We have accordingly revised those creeds - the infamous Q&A 80 in the Heidelberg Catechism has been edited and revised as we acknowledge our misunderstanding of Catholic teaching on the Mass, and article 36 of the Belgic Confession has been extensively revised. They are not divine documents and we do not claim that they are, but they are supposed to settle things. In other words, they are supposed to be hard to change or revise. What DeMoor is proposing, however, would subject the Church to every wind of doctrine blowing about the world at any given moment. The only advantage to his proposal is, as he says, it would make adopting the Belhar a moot point.

There seems to be this urgency among some in our denominational leadership to be hip, to be contemporary and modern. They are impatient with the truths handed down to us by our ancestors, feeling constrained by them and desirous of something, anything, new. Along with this are certain political proclivities that they wish to cement in the Church and almost all of these come from the political left.

The reason for this effort - though I'll grant you it is not a conscious reason - is that the political and philosophical trend that first took hold in the U.S. with President Wilson is now reaching its zenith. The socialist state is not sustainable, either by democracies or by dictators. People are not what these political doctrines think they are and the world is not ordered as they teach. The leftist fantasies are coming up against the hard wall of reality throughout Europe, in China and North Korea, and in the United States. Many of the dearest nostrums of the folks who came of age in the late '60s and early '70s - the people now leading our denomination - are falling apart and they are desperately trying to cobble something together to build them back up again. The efforts to adopt the Belhar, elevate the Contemporary Testimony, revise the Form of Subscription, adopt various political statements (like the Millenium Development Goals or the Micah Declaration on Climate Change), and so on are all part of this.

The effort is doomed to fail - not because of me, but because it's not true. My prayer is that this inevitable failure does not also take down the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

You Say That Like It's a Good Thing

Good morning, kiddies. It's time for our monthly look at that exciting Christian Reformed Church publication that flies by the name The Banner. Our denominational leaders continue to push the Belhar Confession on us. We get an article by Bryan Berghoef that opens with a morality tale.
As we discussed the Belhar in our local church community, an older, wiser member made an interesting comment. He noted that the three confessions we Christian Reformed folks already have (the Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort, and Belgic Confession) in large part tell us how to think or what to believe, whereas the Belhar tells us how to live. He noted that we seem uncomfortable adopting it because it will have some say in how we act day to day.
Cute. And untrue. Take, for instance, Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 99:
Q. What is God's will for us in the third commandment?

A. That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders. In a word, it requires that we use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess him, pray to him, and praise him in everything we do and say.
I'd call that a pretty direct statement on how we should live. The Belhar equally has statements about what we are to believe.

And yet, the old guy is on to something. When Professors Cooper and Bolt at Calvin Theological Seminary object to the Belhar as leaving the door open to Liberation Theology, they're addressing the same feel in the document.

Liberation Theology essentially elevates "orthopraxis", which is to say right doing, over against "orthodoxy" - right teaching. This orthopraxis sets the church as primarily concerned with ethical and political behavior, irrespective of doctrine and liturgy. In doing so, it pulls the church's attention away from the Kingdom of God even while it attempts to usher in that same kingdom now. It doesn't help, of course, that the primary definition of orthopraxis is derived not from Scripture, but from Marx, but even if it were derived from Luther, Calvin, and Wesley, it would be problematic.

Pope Benedict XVI, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote a book entitled Truth and Tolerance. I recommend it on multiple grounds, but in that book he notes that right teaching and right action are always together. It is only through right teaching that we can know what right action is, and it is through right action that we fully comprehend right teaching. In this, though, it is faith that is primary - it is truth, specifically the truth of Jesus Christ that must guide.

The Belhar does not have to be read as a document of Liberation Theology, but it leaves the door open to such a reading and, in many ways, invites it. Like I said, the older member is on to something, but it's not a good thing.


New Jersey Atheists Practicing Their Religion

A group of atheists in New Jersey has decided to rain on the Christmas parade. They've put up a billboard with a nativity scene in sillouhette and the words: "You know it's a myth. This season, celebrate reason."

It will persuade no one, but that's OK. It's a free country, so let them have at it.

Let's apply reason to the billboard, though.

1. You do not know it's a myth. Saying it is simply assumes the conclusion. What I mean is, it begins with the assumption there is no God who is involved in the world and, from that, concludes that there is no God who is involved in the world. That, however, is the very question under review.

2. Setting up reason as opposed to Christianity also assumes the conclusion. Reason, however, is not a thing of itself but a process by which data is coordinated, hypotheses formed, and conclusions drawn. These atheists simply reject certain data out of hand, and then conclude that only they are reasonable. Christians order the data differently, and therefore reasonably come to different conclusions. This does not render one more, or less, reasonable than the other. In other words, it is possible to celebrate reason and the virgin birth of Jesus. But the atheists assume that's not possible in order to conclude that it's not possible.

It seems that both of the assertions made on this billboard are, uh, unreasonable.

Foreign Policy Miscellany

Wikileaks is at it again. Usual torrent of words in retaliation. Words are not going to stop this guy or his organization. He has declared himself an enemy of the United States and is in support of terrorists and others who wish to do this country harm. He needs to be treated as an enemy. He has acted in a way that has already endangered the lives of Americans and our allies and some deaths may be already attributable to him. A couple well-placed bullets and let the world howl. It will be a long time before somebody else pulls this kind of crap. But it's not going to happen - not with Obama at the helm.

No. It's not murder. It is counter-espionage. This guy is playing a deadly game and he should be made to feel the price. He should not be allowed to arrange the killing of others while hiding behind some "free speech" mantra.


North Korea launched their artillery again during US/South Korean wargames. China is calling for high-level talks. Those talks should consist of the U.S. team telling the Chinese: "You better jerk the chain on your Nork puppy and jerk it hard. Tomorrow we begin discussions with South Korea, Japan and Taiwan concerning the deployment of nationally controlled nuclear deterrent forces. The progress of those talks will, in large measure, be determined by how short a leash you keep on North Korea."

They'll object, hem, haw, threaten, and everything else, to which the American team should say nothing. This should be our first, last and only word on the subject. And then begin those conversations with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan the following day. Heck - might as well start talking to the Philippines, too.

FoxNews is reporting that Americans in a convoy shot and killed an Iraqi civilian who did not heed repeated warnings to back off. That happened to Marines in my unit in 2004 with some regularity. It says something about the change in Iraq since then that this is the leading news item. All the more significant and deadly strikes have tapered off, so now we get a story about somebody who was a bit stupid in the vicinity of people who are well-armed and jittery.

Come a long way, we have.


Lady Janet Doubles, Holds

Fresh from catching grief over the enhanced pat-downs & naked scanners, Homeland Security Diva, Lady Janet, is suggesting we should put these in subways and bus stations.

This is misguided. It is closing the door after the horse is out of the barn, to use an old metaphor. Instead of trying to predict the methods that terrorists will use, we should focus on identifying and restricting terrorists.

They put the bomb in the guy's shoes, so then we all had to take our shoes off at the airport, but they haven't tried it in the shoes again, have they? No. They put it in some guy's underwear. So now we all have to show off our drawers at the airport, either electronically or "in a private room". So they won't put it in their shorts any more. They'll develop a rectal insert that will blow up the plane - all he has to do is drop it in the toilet once the plane is airborne and kaboom. What will TSA do then? Make everybody take an enema before boarding? Assign a proctologist to every airport to administer proctoscopies before boarding?

"Nothing in the luggage, the shoes, or the shorts, so if you could please bend over Johnny and drop your pants..."

"He's only SIX YEARS OLD!!"

"Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to step over here." CLICK

"You're handcuffing me!?!?"

Nonsense on stilts, not only because it's invasive and ridiculous, but also because it will do nothing to stop terrorists from coming up with a different method after that. The better way to do it is to identify, isolate, and take out - either with prison or with bullets - the people who want to blow up airplanes. Then it doesn't matter what method they're thinking about using.

But Lady Janet and her folks at TSA are not so much interested in passenger safety as they are in bureaucratic control mechanisms to cover their ample posteriors when the next explosion happens. This isn't safety. It's just bureaucracy.

American Sprint

So, Black Friday, that paean to America's core pursuit, is under way. Like other things American, it is done to excess, but passes quickly. It is a mixture of what is best and worst in us - the desire for efficiency, for good bargains, for making available to everyone the luxuries of life and its necessities, salesmanship, capitalism, a grasping consumerism, competitiveness, a focus on material possessions, family (a lot of families make an event of this day), selflessness (within the bounds of that family), combativeness (fights routinely happen), fair play (I'm amazed at how many respect others' place in line), straight talk that borders and often crosses into rudeness. It's all there as the crowd pours into WalMart on Friday morning before breakfast.

And I devoutly skip it every year. I went once with my mother when I was in my first year or so of college. She wanted somebody to drive and somebody to haul the soda. Coke was on sale - yes, Coke. That was before my wife made me switch to diet Pepsi. The crowds, the press, the noise, the scramble, the lines, the flaring tempers - I never did it again, and won't if I have any say about it. I'd rather pay more and shop when it's peaceful. The calmer attitude of the days that aren't Black Friday are worth the extra money to me. When I was in high school I worked at a produce store and often worked that Friday. It was all of that, but I didn't mind the busy atmosphere when I worked it. Our customers were typically polite and the pace made the day go by quickly - and we got time and half for the whole day, too. I don't think I'd like working at Shopko or K-mart, though. Different atmosphere. A person shopping for food is different from that same person shopping for stuff.

But the thing is, at the end of the day, it's over. Saturday comes and people will regale each other with their Black Friday stories, both recent and from years past. They'll crow over their triumphs and bemoan the guy who got there first and took the last one. They'll put the presents in the parental closet and get around to wrapping them later, or they'll try to figure out how to hook up the new electronics without reading the manual. Then they'll be back to normal.

Emotionally, psychologically, America is a sprinter - a very good sprinter, but a sprinter. We see the goal a little ways up, we focus all our energy and efforts on it, run our hearts out for 200 meters, and then collapse on the grass in the middle of the oval to watch the rest of the track meet. That has its place.

I love this country.


Taking Care of Children

Since it seems to have struck a chord with at least one person, let's look a bit at head start and early childhood development programs - without the sneering this time, just the facts. I doubt I can disabuse that particular commenter of the things she knows that aren't so, but let's have a go.

There's the famous "Perry Program" from the 1960s that seems to have made an appreciable dent in the subsequent lives of its participants. It cost about $12,000 per child per year (in year 2000 dollars). According to
this study, that translated into significantly less criminal activity among males who went through the program as opposed to those who did not. Whether the Perry Program is solely responsible for that is unlikely, but the correlation is there in the study. I do not think it is a reliable indicator of the effectiveness of such a program on the Rosebud reservation, or in a moderate to small city like Sioux Falls or Brookings, SD (the original program was in New York). Be that as it may, the program referred to in our recent Argus Leader is not the Perry Program. We can't afford it (SD spends an average of $8,500 per child per year in grades K-12).

What we're looking at is a slightly modified form of Head Start. The Federal government spent between $25 and 40 billion on Head Start and other Early Childhood Development programs in 2009 and again in 2010. The Department of Health and Human Services released a report earlier this year indicating that these programs had no - repeat that, zip, zero, nada, NO - impact on "...cognitive, socio-emotional, health, and parenting outcomes of participating children." (The HHS report is analyzed by the
Heritage Foundation here.) By the end of a child's 1st grade year, you can't tell the difference.

The Argus Leader
report on a program here does not address the long-term impact of the program in question, because it can't. The thing's only been going for 3 years. But nothing in the report, or the description of the program labelled a "success", indicates any reason to expect it will deviate from the typical Head Start program's non-effectiveness over time, in spite of the United Way's confidence (which seems to be based on reports like the study done on the Perry Program). It is also reasonable to question the objectiveness of those assessing the program when they have both a professional and personal interest in finding it to be successful. Instead, you get such things as this from the Argus Leader:
Ninety-six percent of parents who were interviewed at the beginning and end of the program reported changes in their child's knowledge of letters, ability to count and speaking and listening skills.

Sorry, I said I wouldn't sneer. But seriously, the child in question is 2 years older at the end of the program than at the beginning. Of course the child is better with letters and counting. But that would have been the case had the parents simply read to their children or played simple math and counting games with them at home.

The program costs $270,000 per year and affects 60 kids enrolled - $4,500 per child - which is significantly less than the 1960s Perry Program that kicked off the whole Head Start craze, and even less than the average K-12 per pupil expenditure in South Dakota. But from everything I can find about it, it's $4,500 that doesn't really change anything over the long term. That means the whole thing is a waste of time and money.

If you really want to help young children develop, make it easier for a family to survive with a single wage-earner, lower marginal tax rates, encourage married couples to stay married, and encourage parents to be involved in their children's lives throughout their schooling - and one way to do that is to empower parents to choose the schools their children attend while also introducing real differentiation and competition into education (and breaking the monopolistic hold of teachers' unions).

That's hard. That's complicated. But it will be a heck of a lot more effective than another Head Start look-alike.

UN to NK - We'll Cut You a Check

Should've figured. Here North Korea attacks South Korea, killing two South Korean Marines, and the answer from the UN is to scold them and give them money.

Remind me again as to why we bother with the United Nations?

We should be looking at air and missile strikes, re-inforcing US troops on the ground with an armored brigade or two, putting a carrier strike group and a MEU off the Korean coast, and then discussing the possibility of developing an internal nuclear deterrent for South Korea and Japan (in other words, arming them with nukes). In fact, I'd tell China that if they don't get their little pug in line, we'll provide nuclear weapons to Taiwan.

Instead, we're saying, "Bad boy! Now, if you promise to be good, we'll give you another $50 billion." Idiots.

Pre-K Boondoggle

Gosh golly gee whiz. The folks who planned, obtained funding, and implemented a pre-kindergarten program have concluded that the program was a success. Naturally, that means they should continue to receive funding for it, right? The children in the program showed marked improvement in reading, spelling, and "expressive language" skills - that last sounds like they taught the little tykes to swear properly.

These 3-4 year olds had been diagnosed with "developmental delays". What the heck is that?

The article begins with this bit about a little kiddie that wants to be a doctor when she grows up. It's quite a stretch, however, to say that her chances of doing that are higher because of participation in this program. While there are some indicators that kids in Head Start type programs tend to be a bit more faithful in school attendance, the difference in test scores and school performance between head start kids and non head start kids tends to evaporate by the time they're out of elementary school. In other words, this kid's leg-up is merely a greater willingness to accept the regimentation and brain-washing of your typical school a bit more readily than kids who did not participate in the program.

Second, the whole concept of "developmentally delayed" is of questionable merit. People do these studies, come up with these bell curves, and then create all sorts of worry and anxiety in parents when their little Johnny or Janey isn't at the peak of the curve that these sociologists have labeled "normal". A child's linguistic skills at 3 or 4 are not determinative of their linguistic skills at 10 or 15 or 25. This program is not a success if your objective is long-term improvement in scholastic or academic ability. It is only a success in the sense that it eases the parental anxieties its sponsors have labored so hard to create.

Look, if you are really concerned about your kid's linguistic skills, turn the TV off and read. Read stories out loud to your kids, read other books and periodicals in their presence, discuss what you read with your spouse or your kids, and don't worry about reading things to them that they might not grasp. You think that 2-year-old grasps The Cat in the Hat? Probably not, but read it to the little ankle-biter anyway.

There are real developmental impediments - dyslexia, mental retardation (I know we don't call it that anymore, but I can't remember what we do call it), and so on. There are real learning disabilities, too. But quite a bit of what we call "disability" or "developmental delay" is just the normal variation in humanity. Relax. If your kid's doing what he normally does, he's normal.

Fun While It Lasted

Well, the spluttering leftists can untwist their panties now that the professional dancer has indeed come out on top in Dancing with the Stars. I can't say I'm heartbroken at that, but it sure would have been a hoot to read their blogs and editorials if Bristol had won - at least, the blogs and editorials of those who hadn't succumbed to heart attacks, strokes, and other ailments associated with high blood pressure. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

Not that these guys will be happy. Liberals are worse than ascetic monks when it comes to a seemingly religious aversion to joy.


Benedict XVI and Catholic Sexual Teaching

The Pope has said a few things about condoms. He did not materially alter the Catholic Church's position on birth control and sexual morality. All he said is that, if people are going to behave in an immoral fashion, using a condom might at least prevent additional sin such as, for instance, adding murder to adultery because you're HIV positive and infect your partner.

This is pretty standard Catholic thought regarding morals and ethics, namely that sin be minimized and contained where it cannot be outright eliminated. That's really the source of Just War Theory, too, and social welfare teachings, and a bunch of other things the Catholic Church has commented upon..

Some folks who want it to be a wholesale repudiation of Catholic teaching on sex are getting a bit carried away with themselves by all this, making the Pope out to be saying what they want to hear instead of what he actually said. So, to all you Catholics heading to the pharmacy, cool your jets. Benedict XVI did not just give you permission to use condoms.

In a way, it's like the Emancipation Proclamation. It only "freed" slaves in places where the authority of President Lincoln to do anything was already rejected. The only folks the Pope has given permission to are those who don't care what the Pope thinks anyway.

Too Easy to Fool

Sometimes I think we are an incredibly gullible people. Supposedly, we've got all this "street" smarts because we're used to dealing with hucksters and sales people, but I don't see it. We joke about dishonest politicians, but still vote for those who we think will be able to give us more freebies and lower taxes. We know the only real way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than we burn, but constantly buy the next snake-oil miracle diet plan. We know we should verify and test and check before we give anything away. But then somebody comes to us, claiming to be Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour and we so want to believe him, so we do. We negotiate with him, give him seed money (quite a bit of it, actually), think we're making progress, only to find out we've been had.

The thing is, all it takes is a bit of effort to find out what we want to hear, followed by a bit of boldly saying that or something that sounds like it, and we're taken in. It's how Obama got elected. It's how infomercials stay around. It's how quite a few car dealers manage to stay in business, too. And lawyers, accountants, chiropractors, boutique shops, clothiers, and on down the line. And we have no shortage of pollsters, interviewers, and social scientists out there looking hard at what we want to believe so somebody else can promise it to us.

The folks at the top, however, are supposed to be suspicious, look behind the curtain, so to speak, and catch these liars before too much harm is done.

Oh well. Maybe next time the incredible Ronco Terrorist Slicer will be real.

The Deadly Price of a Presidential Education

Our Dear Leader's wonderful foreign policy is falling apart. Two South Korean Marines are dead as a result of his "reset", displaying nothing but weakness and deference to our enemies.

This is serious. The Korean peninsula is about to explode in war because of the posturing and appeasement Obama's administration has made the centerpiece of its foreign policy. Iran is going to have a nuclear weapon within a year. China is flexing its muscle in threats towards nations bordering the South China Sea (Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines), Taiwan and Japan. Under Obama's regime, the U.S. Navy - our first line of defense in protecting our interests there - has been underfunded and its striking power reduced. Russia is extending its reach back into former republics and bullying its western neighbors (the Baltic states, Poland, Romania).

Obama is dangerously ignorant of history, of human nature, and of economics. He has been largely mis-educated his entire life and, while I'll grant you he's smart, he's working off of bad programming. The world simply does not work the way he thinks it does and it's going to get more people killed before he is either replaced or learns.

And where is Lady Hillary in all this?

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson is of a similar view.

Give John Pistole a New York Salute

The head of the TSA, having royally screwed the pooch with these "pat-downs", is now begging the public to comply with this ridiculous, unnecessary and intrusive procedure.


Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, had it right the other day when he noted that it is more than a little disconcerting to see our government all in a lather over the possibility we might not mirandize terrorists caught on the battlefield, but not at all worried about groping U.S. citizens as a matter of routine. Where are the civil libertarians who screamed for 8 years while Bush was president? Nothing he did came close to this.

I know we are told by some not to take it out on the TSA bureaucrat who is simply doing his (or her) duty, but I disagree. It would be nice if we could bypass the minions and simply grope John Pistole and Janet Napolitano every time they leave their offices - well, it wouldn't be nice, exactly. Have you seen Lady Janet? But you get the point. We can't do that, however, so the only way to get at them is through their lackeys. Make it difficult and uncomfortable for them, even if it drives them to quit. I also recommend that as many TSA bureaucrats as possible call in sick on Thursday. That way, only the true believers are catching the public's ire.

If most of the TSA guys "strike" and the rest of them catch nothing but grief from the travelling public, maybe we can make a dent in idiocy. But the last thing to do in the face of this is meekly take it because we don't want to be rude. Having some stranger stick his hand in my pants has already crossed the boundaries of polite society and I feel no compulsion to restrain myself in the face of such outrage. Throw the T into the harbor.


Stupid Rich

Apparently intelligence is not a prerequisite for wealth. Here's a group of 40 millionaires who have signed a letter to Obama asking him to tax them more.

Two points:

#1. While it may be true these 40 are so stupid that the federal government might spend their money more wisely than they would themselves, they are not the sum total of millionaires in this country. Historically, in the vast majority of cases, people who earn and/or create wealth do a better job of spending it, saving it, or investing it.

#2. The IRS will take donations. If you think you should contribute more to the government's coffers, do so. It does not require fleecing everybody else.

#3. Taxing and borrowing will not - cannot - end the recession. Every dollar the government spends is a dollar it has taken from those who actually create wealth. It costs money to process it through government bureaucrats, financial tracking mechanisms, and so on before the government actually gets around to spending it on something productive. That means there is not a 1-for-1 exchange (a dollar in, a dollar out). If welfare overhead is any example, it's more like a 1-for-.3 exchange (a dollar in, 30 cents out). In other words, if you really want to put money in the economy, including helping poor people, it is far more efficient to do it through your own purchasing choices or donations to private charities directly.

This attempt to seem all noble and giving is b.s. They're being noble with other people's money, like all good leftists. It won't accomplish their stated purpose, but it will accomplish their actual goal. They feel good about themselves even though they've done nothing but give political cover to a would-be fascist.


Better Right Than Right

Another recount that's gone our way. I'm glad my initial impression of these legislative recounts all going left is turning out to be wrong. In a choice between election results and my opinions, I much prefer the former be right.

Sputtering Incoherence

Now this is absolutely hilarious. Really. Some guy with his knickers in a twist over Bristol Palin on DWtS is saying her success "threatens the survival of the show."

Yeah. That's what he says. His reasoning? Well, the show's core audience likes Palin's mother, so they like Bristol, so they're voting in overwhelming numbers for what they like. And the fact that they're voting for what they like means the show's credibility is in jeopardy.

So, the people who like the show and watch it and are voting for what they like are threatening the ability of the show to attract people who like the show and watch it and vote for what they like because they won't believe that what they like is really getting the most votes, even though it's winning the weekly voting contest hands down. Even though the show's ratings are through the roof, which is just proof that they're ruining the show.

To quote the Dread Pirate Roberts, "Truly you have a dizzying intellect."

I have never watched more than part of one dance on the show, but this sputtering rage by leftists over the popularity of a 20-year-old single mother whom they dragged into the limelight over the objections of her parents and herself - it's just the most entertaining thing on TV.

Rat Jumps Sinking Ship

It's tough being a Democrat in the South Dakota Senate these days. There are a total of 35 state senators and, after the election earlier this month, 29 of them are Republican. Now it's 30. One of those lonely 6 Democrats decided to switch parties.

The guy in question, one Eldon Nygaard, is from district 17, which includes that hotbed of academic liberalism that is University of South Dakota. He narrowly defeated Republican, Terri Jorgenson, on November 7 (the margin was 500 votes out of almost 7,300 cast) and was vying for a leadership position among the paltry remaining Democrats in the state senate. When he didn't get it, he switched parties.

Of course, he claims it has to do with principles and such like. I suppose if you consider self-interest, grand-standing, and publicly pouting to be principles, that makes sense. If he really had principles, he'd resign, ask the governor to appoint Jorgenson, and run against her in the primary in 2012. Or he'd stick it out with the Democrats in spite of their small numbers and not getting "leadership" perks.

Sure, he's a Republican now, but the state GOP certainly doesn't need him in the senate. It would be dangerous to reward such shamelessness, both for the GOP as a party and for the message it sends to loyal supporters and stalwarts in District 17. He should prove he means it, or the next time the wind shifts, you could find yourself with the same knife protruding from your back that he used on the Democrats.

Feds Want In...

South Dakota War College points to efforts by the National Transportation Safety Board to mimic the wonderful Public Relations practices of the TSA. They want to further tighten seat-belt laws, put 8-year-olds in car seats, and force helmets on to our motorcycle riders. SDWC merely comments on which are more likely to come up in the legislature.

Me, I have a different question, one I've been asking repeatedly this election season: Are they advisors, or masters? Are they servants, or tyrants?

I appreciate the NTSB's advice. It has merit. I heed it most of the time - I wear my seatbelt and require my passengers to do the same, I put the little tykes in car seats (when my kids were little tykes), and so on. But if we are to remain a free country, the decision - and the responsibility for that decision - must be mine. True, that means sometimes I will make a foolish decision, and I may get caught by it. It is a small price to pay for freedom.



Constant Conservative has some appropriate remarks on TSA's over (or should I say, "under"?) reach. In other TSA news, a passenger punched a TSA officer in the chest (apparently not that hard), but it is increasingly the case that the TSA is coming to be seen more as a passenger's jailer and enemy than protector and friend.

South Dakota War College notes that the government is planning yet further intrusion into our freedoms.

Bristol Palin's continuance on Dancing with the Stars continues to irk leftists, including one Wisconsin man who got his shotgun and destroyed his television. We're told that alcohol was involved and the guy was being treated for mental illness. I was not aware that they had designated liberalism as a mental illness already.

An F-22 went down in Alaska yesterday. They've found the wreckage. They're searching for the pilot. God grant that they find him and that he is alive. Pray for the family as they wait and wonder.

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center says 4 in 10 believe marriage is becoming obsolete. Other than showing that 4 in 10 people are morons, it also shows that the gay marriage lobby is having some effect in their real objective - to destroy marriage and the traditional family. These same sorts of social scientists conducting this survey have also shown repeatedly and demonstrably that children fare better when raised by two - a male and a female - parents who are committed to each other and their family, that is, who are married. Liberals who want to restructure the family, or dismiss it all together, are in fact wanting to destroy civilized society entirely. They've succeeded with Black Americans already.

Some ongoing research into anti-matter being conducted in Switzerland is intriguing. Before it's useful, however, they'll have to figure out a way to keep anti-matter around for longer than 172 milliseconds.

Obama's decision to try terrorists in civilian courts has yielded predictable results. I would advise Michelle to make sure Obama does not have access to shotguns while watching Dancing with the Stars.

Harry Reid wants to make sure gay people have an opportunity to die for their country, although, as with the gay marriage thing, the real objective is more sinister.

Idaho police arrested a woman who claimed to be a plastic surgeon and conducted breast exams on a couple women in bars. She should've applied to the TSA and instead of being arrested, she'd be promoted.

Those paragons of free speech, our leftist friends, advocate once again for silencing opposing views. Al Sharpton wants the FCC to shut down Rush Limbaugh, and Senator Rockefeller wants FoxNews (and MSNBC) kicked off the airwaves in favor of his beloved CNN. He says it's about "quality news", but what he means by that is resurrecting the old liberal news monopoly of Walter Cronkite, NY Times, and Washington Post.

A bit of a contratemps ensued at a Naval Academy Alumni event when a professor noted that there is a two-track admission system at the Naval Academy in favor of minority students. RADM Caesar did not take issue with that claim, but challenged the professor's assessment of this as negative. He (the professor) also said that the Academy does not necessarily produce better officers. The Academy says they do not have a two-track admission system. But then, they would, wouldn't they? I think it speaks well of the Naval Academy that Professor Fleming is free to say such things, and at a Naval Academy Alumni event no less.

UPDATE: Added parenthetical comment re: who said the Academy doesn't produce better officers - the antecedent was not clear in the original. My apologies to RADM Caesar (not that he knows or cares what I write, but still...).


Advice - or Command?

The Federal government thinks motorcycle riders should wear helmets.

I agree.

Where we differ is whether or not government (at any level) should require them to do so. I would accept a requirement that all motorcycle riders under the age of 18 be required to wear a helmet. But once we acknowledge them as adults, we should treat them as adults and let them decide that for themselves. After all, it's their funeral.

Airlines Take It in the Shorts

It's been buzzing about the internets, this whole TSA policy of groping airline passengers. Most folks are upset about it, but Janet Napolitano - the Big Ugly - thinks it's a great idea. In order to reassure the sensible public that her agency's idiotic policy is really OK, she went to get groped herself.

Why, my confidence in the rectitude of TSA bureaucrats and paid harrassment specialists is restored!

I also note that they say religion will not grant you an exemption from their probing fingers. One wonders how long that will last. Sure, it won't be a Christian or a Jew's religion that impedes their examinations, but wait until a muslim objects to his burqa-draped wife being searched in such a fashion. Then what will the multi-culti appeasers do?

Sadly, the people who will suffer most for this outrage are those who work the airlines. It might, however, be a good time to open up a gas station along the interstate somewhere - anywhere.

Recounts Not All Bad

Here's a recount that went our way. Illinois' 8th Congressional District will be seeing Republican Joe Walsh heading to Congress in January. I still think a lot of leftist vote-stealing happens in recounts, especially since they lost the one in 2000 in spite of their best efforts to create new votes for Algore, but we'll take wins where we can get 'em.

Murkowski - Part of the Problem Returning

Lisa Murkowski doesn't think too much of Jim DeMint - says he's only out for his own agenda and not concerned about the Republican Party as a whole.

That's rather rich coming from a woman who lost the GOP primary in Alaska and, after promising to abide by the result, launched a write-in campaign to overturn the verdict of her own party.

But it is increasingly apparent that she did win the election in Alaska. Just goes to prove that the process of weaning America off the government teat will be long and painful, but then, we knew that.


Whatever Is Lovely...

Saw a bit of an episode of The Closer last night - as much of it as I could stand. The plot involved a rape-murder in which a jilted ex-boyfriend posted a twisted ad on "the Jone's List" (a thinly veiled slam at Craig's List with its "adult" section). The fake ad had the victim asking to be raped, so somebody did it and, in the process, ended up killing her.

Of course, the writers will tell you that they do not favor rape, S&M, twisted ads, and that the whole thing was intended to show how things like that Craig's List "adult" section lead to pain, suffering, rape and death. (If I'm not mistaken, Craig's List has since discontinued that portion of their site, but don't quote me on that - I never use Craig's List.) The episode went into some detail in the ad, the acts, and the result - no nudity, of course. This is a television show, not an R-rated movie (remember when nudity got you an X rating?).

It made me think of the
Meese Report, one of the most thorough, and thoroughly disgusting, looks at pornography in America ever to be published. There are similar books out there that - insisting on how horrible and disgusting it is - describe child porn and pedophelia in intimate, painful detail. Of course, the Meese Report was a government document, so it had a lot of fine print, dense writing, and obtuse vocabulary, but a lot of people got it for the same reason a lot of people get Playboy, and it is most definitely not for the articles.

Anyway, I've noticed a lot of cop shows these days get fairly grisley and detailed in their descriptions of crime scenes and criminal acts. In the same moment that these shows are condemning it, they are giving in to a sick voyeurism. In the name of "realism", these shows make sure you get an up-close look at the train-wreck without ever having to hit the brakes or cran your neck from the car. Yes, they say the rape is evil and shouldn't happen - but they show you the rape (They didn't on this episode of The Closer. I'm speaking generally now.) in order to give us the vicarious thrill while maintaining the moral superiority of condemning the act. The Meese Report, after all, pretty soundly condemned the pornography they so meticulously catalogued. In fairness to Edwin Meese, under whose authority as Attorney General, the report was compiled, he did say that it made him feel somewhat sullied, a bit dirty.

When I was a kid, after reading a few too many war stories in a row, my father would take me aside and read Philippians 4:8 to me - "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things..." And then he'd hand me a novel or biography that had nothing of fighting and death in it at all. At the time, I complained they were boring, but my father was right. In our diet of entertainment and art, it is past time to celebrate truth, nobility, purity, beauty and excellence. Such things are hardly dull.


Reading Round-Up

A few articles worth noting, some with comment, some without:

Byron York takes on the claim by Democrats that they're guided by reason, science and facts.

Senator Inhofe agrees with me regarding earmarks, while Congressman Flake does not.

President Obama got stiff-armed by the G20. All that garbage about America being liked again because that uncouth cowboy was replaced by the suave, sophisticated Chicagoan is being shown up for what it was - wishful thinking. The reason foreign powers like Obama over Bush is because Obama is easier to roll.

And Obama is trying to back-pedal on Axelrod's indication that he'd accept an extension of all Bush tax rates. This is the guy who essentially told Senator McCain to shut up during a meeting on health care reform because "I won, you lost." Well, Obama, the shoe's on the other foot now and we won, so maybe you should shut up?

It's not looking good for Miller in Alaska. It really would be a shame if Murkowski were returned to Washington, but then, she'd have good company with like-minded folks like Harry Reid, Chris Coons, Olympia Snowe and Barbara Boxer. Someone was asking why it is that seemingly every close election that goes to a recount these past few years, suddenly somebody discovers a bunch of "lost" ballots that give the liberal the majority. Granted, that doesn't seem to be what's happening in Alaska, but it is part of a general impression that, whenever there's a dispute, the liberal party to the dispute seems to win. Maybe nothing going on. But it does give one pause.

Arizona's law (SB1070) - the one the federal government is suing them for on the grounds that if the feds don't enforce the law, no one can - seems to have resulted in 100,000 fewer illegals in the state. That's a start. Mexico is unhappy, as some 23,000 of their own citizens came home. It's an encouragement to Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas to consider it, too.


Mixed Feelings

This is the first year I've taken advantage of some of the freebies area businesses offer veterans on Veterans' Day. I must say, I have mixed feelings about it.

You know, there's that old saw that gets a fair bit of sarcastic treatment: "My salary is pay enough." (If you're not sure what I mean, go here, and then go to about 1:50:00.) But the truth is, my salary, and the benefits that went along with it, was pay enough. I knew what I was doing and I loved the doing of it. I am honored that I had the privilege of serving.

Then there's the fact that, while I did get shot at and certainly saw enough incoming mortar and rocket fire to satisfy my taste for it, others endured and did so much more. In the first place, all the people who shot at me missed. In the second place, I was the chaplain. What that means is, I had 1,000 guardian angels wearing desert digital camouflage and keeping a sharp eye out. I never once worried about myself, because there were 1,000 strong men, well-armed (to use a book title) who were worried about my safety. Marines take care of their chaplains and docs, let me tell you. Serving such men is all the honor I could ever want. It is not I who need to be thanked, but them.

And yet, I am also proud to be able to say that I did my duty. I've mentioned it before and it is true. I volunteered, and then volunteered again for deployments into combat theaters whenever I could - because that's where they need a chaplain, not at home where clergy are a dime-a-dozen. I earned no bronze or silver stars, no combat V, no Navy Cross. I simply did my duty, to my family, my country, and my God. A free lunch at Applebee's is not too much gratitude for that, is it?

So I went, and saw this old man eating by himself with a ball cap indicating service in World War II, Korea and VietNam. My daughter commented on how frequently the call went out for somebody, "Party of one". "Sad," she said, and it is. By all means, give the old man his free lunch on Veterans' Day and say thanks, but what about the other 364 days of the year? Does he eat alone then, too? I pray not.

I was humbled all over again, looking at that ball cap. What have I really done that I have the right to be honored in the same way he is? But the steak was good.

Earmarks, Priorities, and Limits

Constant Conservative responds to my post on earmarks and asks,
If someone only does what is right when bribed, then he/she will be very likely to do that which is wrong in all other instances. How about getting rid of the unscrupulous rather than plowing through our principles to placate them?
Absolutely. That would be ideal. Unfortunately, I only get to vote for the representative in my district (unless I live in Chicago or New York where I might be encouraged to vote in several districts, but there's that whole "unscrupulous" thing again). Given, for instance, the results of voting in California and Massachusetts last week, how, precisely, am I to get rid of Barbara Boxer, Barney Frank, Henry Waxman, John Dingell, and so on? Impeached federal judge Alcee Hastings manages to continue getting elected in Florida, too, and even with a 30% approval rating, Harry Reid is going back to the Senate. There are dozens of such men and women in office, and they frequently have sufficient power to block vital, principled measures.

Pray, tell me. What method would you use to get over, around, or through them?

I'm all for standing on principle, and it is why I only comment on politics rather than participate in that world as a politician. It leaves me free to remind those politicians of the north star, the principles which should guide them while in office. But we err if we think there is always a direct route to the implementation of those principles. Sadly, we live in a world where often our choice is not between good and bad, but between bad and less bad (the 2008 presidential election comes to mind). I am not averse to letting another crooked Harry Reid land deal go through if it gets him out of the way of repealing Obamacare, or building a bridge to Barney Frank's pot-growing, brothel-running partners if it silences him for a few critical moments.

My first priority is a return to a Constitutionally limited federal government, which means undoing much of the last 80 years of federal expansion and interference. Will getting rid of earmarks at this point in time help that goal, or hurt it? I am not convinced that it helps.


Long-Term Demographics Favor Conservatives?

California went back to the beginning - the beginning of their financial mess - and re-elected one of the main architects of that looming catastrophe, one Jerry Brown. A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal called California the "Lindsey Lohan" of states.

I find this image from the Census bureau's web site interesting.

Granted, this data is from 1993-94, so it's a bit dated. I decided to check for more recent stats, which you can find here. According to these figures, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Georgia all saw population increase over 20% between 2000 and 2009. Idaho, Texas, Colorado, Florida, and North Carolina all saw growth over 15%. In other words, the relative population growth of the various states still seems to be following this same pattern. In the mid-west, population is steady to declining, and declining fastest in the so-called rust-belt (Michigan saw a .3% population growth over that period, the lowest of all 50 states).

It is not uniformly the case, but it is also a general trend that those states which typically go Republican (so-called "red states") and those that seem to favor Republicans on the margins, but are "swing" states (or "purple") are those with the fastest growing populations. I would not be surprised to see states like California actually lose seats in the House of Representatives once the census figures are in. Michigan and other states that are heavily Democrat will most certainly do so. With Republicans in control of the state legislatures in many of these states, the seats they will lose will be Democrat ones.

As states like California, New York, Massachussetts, and others continue to drive out producers with odious regulations, high taxes, and failing schools, these states will lose influence on the national level. It will be a while yet - California is still our most populous state - but already in 2012 California will have fewer electoral votes, I suspect, as they will follow much of California's population into Arizona and Texas.


A Conservative Case for Earmarks

There's been a lot of stuff prior to and since the election regarding the process of "earmarks". There are a couple things to point out about them, though, that I think are missing.

There is no doubt that earmarks are abused. Limbaugh, on his program yesterday, said they are just a way Congressmen and Senators have of bribing each other with the taxpayer's money. To be sure, this is true. It is also true that some people will not go along with what is right and true and holy unless they are bribed to do it. If we are to secure the votes of the unscrupulous, we must be prepared to use methods that will influence them - unscrupulous methods. I've recommended it before, but the musical 1776 is a classic portrayal of this. We must prioritize, and if building a bridge to nowhere is what it takes to get me judges that abide by the Constitution, I'll build a hundred bridges to nowhere.

The other thing about earmarks is that they effectively curtail executive power. Getting rid of the earmarks so that the agency - a branch of the Executive - decides entirely how to spend the money is simply taking the decision from one set of unscrupulous cads and giving the power to a different set of unscrupulous cads with one key difference. The head of that bureaucracy isn't going to be facing the voters in 2 years or 6 years or ever. The legislator will. Do you want a cad who has to answer to you, or a cad who can safely ignore you? Ending earmarks all together may well have the unintended consequence of greatly strengthening the hand of unelected bureaucrats at a time when their power - and the power of the judiciary - need to be seriously curtailed. On the other hand, I do agree with those who insist that earmarks be relevant to the issue being addressed in the legislation, and I think the process by which they are established needs to be open and transparent.

One of the things that has gotten us into the mess we're currently in is that the Congress has abdicated its primary function. Instead of legislating, it creates boards, commissions, agencies and the like who do the actual legislating by way of adding, amending, or subtracting federal regulations. Ending earmarks will continue this trend by shoving the spending power over to the executive as well. This is already done with entitlements - spending that is required whenever somebody meets certain requirements. Who decides whether Citizen X meets the requirements? Why, it's executive branch bureaucrats. They therefore control the spending concerning those entitlements and are not answerable to the people. It is this trend that has pushed government bureaucrats into thinking and acting like Public Masters rather than Public Servants. We will simply be fiddling about the edges until we reverse this trend and Congress reasserts its proper role in the federal government.

NPR's Audience Smarter?

The president of NPR thinks their audience is "smarter" than other audiences. She says this is proven by the folks who comment on their web site - they tend to stay on topic more than others and when one of them gets his math wrong, another will correct him.

Wow. I'm convinced.

What that proves is that trolls stay away from NPR and that NPR's audience is rather narrow, but this is nothing new. Their ratings already tell us that. Those ratings also tell us that NPR's audience tends to have a higher percentage of people with some college than does Fox or ESPN. This, too, is not surprising. The latter two aim for a broad cross-section of the country and seek to garner as many as possible. NPR aims for the hyper-educated.

A lot of people, both those with advanced degrees and those without them, assume that having a Ph.D. is proof that one is smarter, but is it? What, exactly, does it mean to be "smarter" than someone else? Somebody may be able to do rapid algebraic calculations in his head, retain vast quantities of information, and express ideas well in writing or speaking, but is he smart? Maybe. Maybe not. I've known quite a few people like this - I have a son like this, as did my father before me - who nevertheless do a lot of stupid things.

What is "smart"? I think there are at least three components. The first is the ability to retain and recall data. It is hard to reason if you cannot remember the propositions from which you are reasoning. You must be able to retain, recall, and consider multiple data streams. Education is premised on exercising and developing this skill.

The second part of "smart" is the ability to identify what of this data is significant. This is not cut and dried, but an art. Almost every time you find a "smart" person doing something dumb it is because they mis-identified what was and what was not significant. Our recent financial crisis came about in large part because quite a few "smart" people did not correctly identify the significant data and instead based their decisions on what turned out to be insignificant. This, I think, is the critical factor and there is no degree for it. This is more commonly referred to as "wisdom", and it explains why a 75-year-old with an 8th grade education can more consistently come to correct conclusions than a 30-year-old with a Ph.D. from Yale. Practice, experience - these are what develop this. It's one of the reasons we require physicians and surgeons to get a lot of supervised practice and experience before we turn them loose to work on their own.

The third part of "smart" is the skill of manipulating that data to come to correct conclusions. That is, if one is going to be truly smart, there must be an significant element of truth in the result. Rapid calculations that consistently give wrong answers are not proof of intelligence, no matter how correct the data or the identification of significance might be. One must arrive at the truth when one is done with all this reasoning or it is all for naught. This, really, is the bottom line. Your method of reasoning may be convoluted, extended, concise, direct, or anything else under the sun, but did you get the right answer? And there is a right answer. There are also answers that may be closer or farther from the truth. Education is not a very significant indicator of this skill, either.

On this basis, I wouldn't say NPR's audience is smarter than Fox's. More educated, yes, but I don't think they show any greater propensity for correctly identifying what data is significant or for arriving at truth. In fact, on this last point, they seem to get there far less often than Fox's audience.

Black-Robed Tyrants At It Again

So, here we have again the voters of a particular state making a perfectly reasonable, sane judgment - overwhelmingly - and some black-robed tyrant chooses to interfere.

In California, nearly 2/3 of its citizens voted a while back to restrict marriage to male and female unions. They allowed for civil unions of same-sex couples, but "marriage" they said, means "man and woman." This was struck down by a judge in a travesty of a trial in which he openly mocked this view, restricted the evidence and arguments defending it, and then ruled as he had determined he would before the case even came before him.

Now, in
Oklahoma, the voters have said they do not want judges considering international law or shari'a law in deciding cases that come before them.

This is what the voters of Oklahoma saw on their ballots:
This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.

International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes. It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.

The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.

Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teaching of Mohammed.
Then followed the question, "Should this be approved?" Some seventy percent of Oklahomans said yes to that question. It is only natural that people would want to be governed by laws they themselves (through their elected representatives) enact. It is only because courts are considering shari'a and this vague "law of nations" garbage that such a measure was deemed necessary. Federal District Tyrant Vicki Miles-LaGrange ordered a temporary injunction and scheduled a hearing for 22 November.

Her concern, apparently, is that by specifically excluding shari'a, we're being mean to Muslims. Aren't these the same people that talk about a "wall of separation" between church and state? So wouldn't a ban on consideration of shari'a - which is religious law - be automatic?

You'd think so. But remember, the only concern of our "masters" is to oppress, insult, and exclude Christianity. Other religions are perfectly all right. Well, except for those pesky Jews. Our "masters" aren't too keen on Jews right now, either.


Why Can't a Man Be More Like a Woman?

One of the things missing for many in our society is effective male role models. This is touted in literature academic and journalistic, religious and political, across the spectrum.

Along with this is the feminization of our culture. We discourage boys from being boys, affirm repeatedly feminine traits, and generally sissify them. One of the things I had to do while my sons were in middle-school and elementary school was counteract the foolish trends of their teachers so they might one day learn to be men.

But Joan C. Williams - a woman, obviously - thinks manly men should be womanly. She cites a couple of studies that found men were scorned for taking family leave. Why! That's illegal! It's Federal Law! It's not fair to men!

Right. So what? Men still expect other men to "man up". "Duty. Honor. Country." "When life gets tough, the tough get going." "Suck it up and do your job." "Save the tears for the funeral - right now we've got work to do." These kinds of things men have been saying to men for centuries. There is honor and pride in going through hell - whatever the particular "hell" might be - to get the job done even if it kills me. But Joan C. Williams thinks this is unfair. Instead, when life gets tough, we should lie down on our fainting couches and take a powder. Or rather, we should take a couple weeks of "family leave" and we need to help men be able to do this without being looked down on.

Hmmph. That ain't the way my mama raised me and it ain't the way I raised my sons (or daughter, for that matter). If feminism really wants to get anywhere, it's going to push women to step up and get the job done, too. Male or female, you aren't getting paid to stay home. You're getting paid to do something. The doing is rewarded, the not-doing is scorned. This is natural and as it should be.

Joan C. Williams is just singing the feminist version of Professor Henry Higgins song from My Fair Lady. The latter asked why a woman can't be more like a man, the former asks why a man can't be more like a woman.

Uh, because a woman isn't a man and a man isn't a woman. But I suppose that's too obvious for a distinguished professor of law at the University of California's Hastings College of Law.

Content Content Content

Here's an interesting piece about cable TV companies losing customers. The various cable companies claim to have no real idea as to why this is happening and offer several possibilities - hulu, netflix, and other streaming internet providers are beating them out and the current state of our economy are the two primary reasons suggested.

Let me offer a third - content. The guy they quote, a Mr. Clancy of Long Island, flat out says that the sports he watched didn't justify the $100/month cost and the rest of what he cares to watch can be had either over the air or over the internet.

We have not had cable television since 2005, although we have had cable internet. When I stay in motels, I surf the channels to see what's on and uniformly come away feeling justified in not having it at home. I like some country music, but CMT has less and less actual music on and more and more other junk that interests me not at all. It's hit-or-miss with the classic movies on TCM as to whether it's one I want to watch or not. I like Mythbusters, but it's not like I have to watch their latest episode so I can wait until the season is out on DVD and buy that. Folks who like other Discovery Channel shows can do the same.

Think about that. I can essentially get the shows I want a la carte for about $30-$40 per season (less if I'm patient) or I can pay three times that amount every month to get this vast wasteland of cable television. When times are good, a lot of people just have it and don't think about the expense. As times have gotten less good, people are making this cost/benefit analysis and finding that they're spending $1,200-$2,400 a year for something they don't need, don't use, and don't want.

I've said it to people who complain about TV before. The thing has an "off" button. Using it is the most powerful way available to the average customer to influence content. People are using it. The folks providing the content aren't listening. This is a recipe for bankruptcy, and bankruptcy you will soon see. Meanwhile, I'm quite content with the DVD library I've got. I think I'll go watch an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway.


Sarah Palin's Opinion

Sarah Palin has a piece up at National Review Online giving her take on the recent election. It makes a lot of sense to me. Go read it. I don't think this contradicts anything I said earlier as to reasons why we didn't get the Senate or what needs to happen moving forward and, more to the point, it highlights the fact that neither she, nor the Tea Party folks in general, are quite as clueless as some of the establishment GOP and media elites would have us believe. They knew full well what they were doing when they pushed O'Donnell over Castle in Delaware.

To the extent O'Donnell and others helped move the GOP, the national debate, and the country as a whole towards the right, good for them. I wish they had been able to move the country sufficiently far to the right as to win their elections, but even in losing, they were part of the shift right.

That's not a bad thing.

Uncle Fun-Killer Says: No Toys for You

I don't know how liberals ever got the reputation of being freedom-loving, live-and-let-live types. Most of the liberals I know are sanctimonious snobs, convinced that they know better than anyone else and that everybody else ought to look like them, think like them, and act like them. They vote to restrict speech (Campaign Finance Reform? "Fairness" Doctrine? "Hate" speech? Political Correctness?), they vote to restrict private property rights, they vote to restrict assembling, and they vote to restrict your options for food, beverages, and vehicles. They are nags of the first order. About the only thing they want "free" are sex and drugs. Rape a 13-year-old (like Roman Polanski) and it's just the artistic temperament. Drop several lines of crack and it's nobody's business but yours. Buy a hamburger, however, and these paragons of justice, righteousness, and truth will move swiftly to strike you down!

San Francisco has passed an ordinance banning the inclusion of toys with meals that have high levels of "calories, sugar and fat." Sorry, kids. Uncle Fun-Killer at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has decided to take away your toys - unless you buy a salad. A really small salad. Without dressing. And no bacon or cheese on it, either.
"We're part of a movement that is moving forward an agenda of food justice," said Supervisor Eric Mar, who sponsored the measure. "From San Francisco to New York City, the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country is making our kids sick, particularly kids from low income neighborhoods, at an alarming rate. It's a survival issue and a day-to-day issue."
"Food justice"??? Toys in a Happy Meal are the cause of this supposed "epidemic of childhood obesity"??? It's a survival issue??? How can he say this and not be laughed off the planet? Well. It is San Francisco. They already are on a different planet. He says he's part of a "movement". Not hardly, but if he took some ex-lax, perhaps he would be.

I hope it doesn't come here to South Dakota, but given the apparent willingness to surrender our freedoms evidenced by the vote on referred law 12 a couple days ago, I'm not so sure. I remember talking to a parent here who thought it was a terrible injustice for supermarkets to have candy opposite bread or cereal - there ought to be some law or regulation forbidding such practices. Why? Because he didn't like having to be the one to tell his kid "no" and deal with the resulting hissy-fit. Sooner or later you're going to have to deal with it. I know a couple times my wife simply pushed the cart up to the customer service window, apologized, and left with screaming kid in tow to be locked down in a car seat. One thing my kids learned really early was that throwing a fit was a sure fire way to not get whatever it was they wanted. But that was our responsibility as parents, not the store's responsibility to make sure nothing on their shelves appealed to children. By the time they were four or five, such fits in stores were a distant memory.

But the gut reaction is still there, and I can see some group of parents wanting the Mommy State to take over and tell their kid he can't have a Happy Meal because they are too cowardly to do it themselves.

God spare us.

HAT TIP: Jonah Goldberg & Andrew Stuttaford over at National Review's Corner