Thursday, December 11, 2008

What is Marriage For? or, The Non-Religious Case Against Gay Marriage

I was blown away by this 2003 essay by Maggie Gallagher. I read it back then and was reminded of it by a link from a recent article on the same subject (Sola scriptura minus the scriptura, rebutting Newsweek's awful article on the supposed religious case for gay marriage). I hereby present extended excerpts but I highly recommend reading the whole thing.
IN ORDERING GAY MARRIAGE on June 10, 2003, the highest court in Ontario, Canada, explicitly endorsed a brand new vision of marriage ... : "Marriage is, without dispute, one of the most significant forms of personal relationships. . . . Through the institution of marriage, individuals can publicly express their love and commitment to each other. Through this institution, society publicly recognizes expressions of love and commitment between individuals, granting them respect and legitimacy as a couple."

The Ontario court views marriage as a kind of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that government stamps on certain registered intimacies because, well, for no particular reason the court can articulate except that society likes to recognize expressions of love and commitment. In this view, endorsement of gay marriage is a no-brainer, for nothing really important rides on whether anyone gets married or stays married. Marriage is merely individual expressive conduct, and there is no obvious reason why some individuals' expression of gay love should hurt other individuals' expressions of non-gay love.

There is, however, a different view--indeed, a view that is radically opposed to this: Marriage is the fundamental, cross-cultural institution for bridging the male-female divide so that children have loving, committed mothers and fathers. Marriage is inherently normative: It is about holding out a certain kind of relationship as a social ideal, especially when there are children involved.

Marriage is not simply an artifact of law; neither is it a mere delivery mechanism for a set of legal benefits that might as well be shared more broadly. The laws of marriage do not create marriage, but in societies ruled by law they help trace the boundaries and sustain the public meanings of marriage.

In other words, while individuals freely choose to enter marriage, society upholds the marriage option, formalizes its definition, and surrounds it with norms and reinforcements, so we can raise boys and girls who aspire to become the kind of men and women who can make successful marriages. Without this shared, public aspect, perpetuated generation after generation, marriage becomes what its critics say it is: a mere contract, a vessel with no particular content, one of a menu of sexual lifestyles, of no fundamental importance to anyone outside a given relationship.

The marriage idea is that children need mothers and fathers, that societies need babies, and that adults have an obligation to shape their sexual behavior so as to give their children stable families in which to grow up.

Which view of marriage is true? We have seen what has happened in our communities where marriage norms have failed. What has happened is not a flowering of libertarian freedom, but a breakdown of social and civic order that can reach frightening proportions. When law and culture retreat from sustaining the marriage idea, individuals cannot create marriage on their own.

In a complex society governed by positive law, social institutions require both social and legal support. To use an analogy, the government does not create private property. But to make a market system a reality requires the assistance of law as well as culture. People have to be raised to respect the property of others, and to value the traits of entrepreneurship, and to be law-abiding generally. The law cannot allow individuals to define for themselves what private property (or law-abiding conduct) means. The boundaries of certain institutions (such as the corporation) also need to be defined legally, and the definitions become socially shared knowledge. We need a shared system of meaning, publicly enforced, if market-based economies are to do their magic and individuals are to maximize their opportunities.

Successful social institutions generally function without people's having to think very much about how they work. But when a social institution is contested--as marriage is today--it becomes critically important to think and speak clearly about its public meanings.

AGAIN, what is marriage for? Marriage is a virtually universal human institution. ... Not all these marriage systems look like our own, which is rooted in a fusion of Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian culture. Yet everywhere, ... people have come up with some version of this thing called marriage. Why?

Because sex between men and women makes babies, that's why. Even today, in our technologically advanced contraceptive culture, half of all pregnancies are unintended: Sex between men and women still makes babies. Most men and women are powerfully drawn to perform a sexual act that can and does generate life. Marriage is our attempt to reconcile and harmonize the erotic, social, sexual, and financial needs of men and women with the needs of their partner and their children.

How to reconcile the needs of children with the sexual desires of adults? Every society has to face that question, and some resolve it in ways that inflict horrendous cruelty on children born outside marriage. Some cultures decide these children don't matter: Men can have all the sex they want, and any children they create outside of marriage will be throwaway kids; marriage is for citizens--slaves and peasants need not apply. You can see a version of this elitist vision of marriage emerging in America under cover of acceptance of family diversity. Marriage will continue to exist as the social advantage of elite communities. The poor and the working class? Who cares whether their kids have dads? We can always import people from abroad to fill our need for disciplined, educated workers.

Our better tradition, and the only one consistent with democratic principles, is to hold up a single ideal for all parents, which is ultimately based on our deep cultural commitment to the equal dignity and social worth of all children. All kids need and deserve a married mom and dad. All parents are supposed to at least try to behave in ways that will give their own children this important protection. Privately, religiously, emotionally, individually, marriage may have many meanings. But this is the core of its public, shared meaning: Marriage is the place where having children is not only tolerated but welcomed and encouraged, because it gives children mothers and fathers.

Of course, many couples fail to live up to this ideal. Many of the things men and women have to do to sustain their own marriages, and a culture of marriage, are hard. Few people will do them consistently if the larger culture does not affirm the critical importance of marriage as a social institution. Why stick out a frustrating relationship, turn down a tempting new love, abstain from sex outside marriage, or even take pains not to conceive children out of wedlock if family structure does not matter? If marriage is not a shared norm, and if successful marriage is not socially valued, do not expect it to survive as the generally accepted context for raising children. If marriage is just a way of publicly celebrating private love, then there is no need to encourage couples to stick it out for the sake of the children. If family structure does not matter, why have marriage laws at all? Do adults, or do they not, have a basic obligation to control their desires so that children can have mothers and fathers?

THE PROBLEM with endorsing gay marriage is not that it would allow a handful of people to choose alternative family forms, but that it would require society at large to gut marriage of its central presumptions about family in order to accommodate a few adults' desires.

The debate over same-sex marriage, then, is not some sideline discussion. It is the marriage debate. Either we win--or we lose the central meaning of marriage. The great threat unisex marriage poses to marriage as a social institution is not some distant or nearby slippery slope, it is an abyss at our feet. If we cannot explain why unisex marriage is, in itself, a disaster, we have already lost the marriage ideal.

Same-sex marriage would enshrine in law a public judgment that the desire of adults for families of choice outweighs the need of children for mothers and fathers. It would give sanction and approval to the creation of a motherless or fatherless family as a deliberately chosen "good." It would mean the law was neutral as to whether children had mothers and fathers. Motherless and fatherless families would be deemed just fine.

Same-sex marriage advocates are startlingly clear on this point. Marriage law, they repeatedly claim, has nothing to do with babies or procreation or getting mothers and fathers for children. In forcing the state legislature to create civil unions for gay couples, the high court of Vermont explicitly ruled that marriage in the state of Vermont has nothing to do with procreation. Evan Wolfson made the same point in "Marriage and Same Sex Unions": "[I]sn't having the law pretend that there is only one family model that works (let alone exists) a lie?" He goes on to say that in law, "marriage is not just about procreation--indeed is not necessarily about procreation at all."

Wolfson is right that in the course of the sexual revolution the Supreme Court struck down many legal features designed to reinforce the connection of marriage to babies. The animus of elites (including legal elites) against the marriage idea is not brand new. It stretches back at least thirty years. That is part of the problem we face, part of the reason 40 percent of our children are growing up without their fathers.

It is also true, as gay-marriage advocates note, that we impose no fertility tests for marriage: Infertile and older couples marry, and not every fertile couple chooses procreation. But every marriage between a man and a woman is capable of giving any child they create or adopt a mother and a father. Every marriage between a man and a woman discourages either from creating fatherless children outside the marriage vow. In this sense, neither older married couples nor childless husbands and wives publicly challenge or dilute the core meaning of marriage. Even when a man marries an older woman and they do not adopt, his marriage helps protect children. How? His marriage means, if he keeps his vows, that he will not produce out-of-wedlock children.

Does marriage discriminate against gays and lesbians? Formally speaking, no. There are no sexual-orientation tests for marriage; many gays and lesbians do choose to marry members of the opposite sex, and some of these unions succeed. Our laws do not require a person to marry the individual to whom he or she is most erotically attracted, so long as he or she is willing to promise sexual fidelity, mutual caretaking, and shared parenting of any children of the marriage.

But [traditional] marriage is unsuited to the wants and desires of many gays and lesbians, precisely because it is designed to bridge the male-female divide and sustain the idea that children need mothers and fathers. To make a marriage, what you need is a husband and a wife. Redefining marriage so that it suits gays and lesbians would require fundamentally changing our legal, public, and social conception of what marriage is in ways that threaten its core public purposes.

Some who criticize the refusal to embrace gay marriage liken it to the outlawing of interracial marriage, but the analogy is woefully false. The Supreme Court overturned anti-miscegenation laws because they frustrated the core purpose of marriage in order to sustain a racist legal order. Marriage laws, by contrast, were not invented to express animus toward homosexuals or anyone else. Their purpose is not negative, but positive: They uphold an institution that developed, over thousands of years, in thousands of cultures, to help direct the erotic desires of men and women into a relatively narrow but indispensably fruitful channel. We need men and women to marry and make babies for our society to survive. We have no similar public stake in any other family form--in the union of same-sex couples or the singleness of single moms.

Meanwhile, cui bono? To meet the desires of whom would we put our most basic social institution at risk? No good research on the marriage intentions of homosexual people exists. For what it's worth, the Census Bureau reports that 0.5 percent of households now consist of same-sex partners. To get a proxy for how many gay couples would avail themselves of the health insurance benefits marriage can provide, I asked the top 10 companies listed on the Human Rights Campaign's website as providing same-sex insurance benefits how many of their employees use this option. Only one company, General Motors, released its data. Out of 1.3 million employees, 166 claimed benefits for a same-sex partner, one one-hundredth of one percent.

People who argue for creating gay marriage do so in the name of high ideals: justice, compassion, fairness. Their sincerity is not in question. Nevertheless, to take the already troubled institution most responsible for the protection of children and throw out its most basic presumption in order to further adult interests in sexual freedom would not be high-minded. It would be morally callous and socially irresponsible.

[All emphasis was added by me. I wanted to emphasize quite a few more well-turned phrases and cogent arguments, but that would defeat the purpose, since practically the whole article would be emphasized, and none would stand out -- as Dash says in The Incredibles, "If 'everybody is special,' then nobody is."]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Saddened by Allegations

According to John Dickerson writing in Slate,
As New York Sun reporter Josh Gerstein (I think it was he) used to joke: On any given day, you could ask President Clinton, "Mr. President, what about the allegations?"
The same might be said of the incoming administration. Using Obama's usual locutions, on any given day he could reply, "I am saddened by the revelations, which are an unwelcome distraction from our project to bring hope and change to all Americans."

Mystifying? Hardly

From an AP article:

What is mystifying is why Blagojevich spoke so openly and so brazenly. He knew the feds were looking into his administration for the past three years for alleged hiring fraud; one of his top fundraisers has been convicted, another is awaiting trial. He even warned some associates not to use the phone because "everybody's listening ... You hear me?"

Blagojevich also is no neophyte. He was baptized in the nitty gritty of Chicago Machine politics and confirmed in back-room bargaining and big money deals. He spent years climbing the ladder, first as a state representative, then a congressman and finally governor. He was boosted to power by his father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell, a veteran Democratic ward boss and longtime stalwart of the once mighty Machine. The two became estranged in recent years. [emphasis added]

The second paragraph solves the "mystery" of the first paragraph. (And where does the author get "once mighty" machine from? The machine just churned out a president - seems like its might is intact.)


Well, it's true

From the Wikipedia entry on former Illinois governor Otto Kerner, Jr.:
In 1969, Marge Lindheimer Everett, manager of Arlington Park and Washington Park race tracks admitted bribing then Governor Otto Kerner and his Finance Director, Ted Isaacs, to gain choice racing dates and to get two expressway exits for her Arlington Park racetrack. The bribes were in the form of stock. Amazingly, the scandal came to light because Everett had deducted the value of the stock on her federal income tax returns under her own theory that bribery was an ordinary and necessary business expense in Illinois. [emphasis added]

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Way to go, gov

Here you have Chicago-style politics in a nutshell (Illinois state government being a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Chicago machine):

Illinois Governor arrested on corruption charges

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested Tuesday morning in Chicago on two counts each of federal corruption charges stemming from allegations Blagojevich was trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder.

The arrest is part of a three-year probe of "pay-to-play politics" in the governor's administration...
Pay to play, it's the Chicago Way!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The New Conservatism

This blog is turning into a compendium of Mark Steyn quotes, it seems. Here is another.

In a fund-raising pitch for National Review Online, he writes:

... we’re going to be like our leftie brethren and enforce a rigorous ideological orthodoxy. In the year ahead, NRO will be your one-stop shop for a narrow doctrinaire tightly defined brand-new moderate centrist extremist fundamentalist neo-theo paleo-Palin transnational isolationist Beltway-elitist swamp-dwelling country-club oogedy-boogedy RINO-squish redneck girlyboy gun-nut big-tent wide-stance reform conservatism we believe can sweep the nation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Right vs. Left

Mark Steyn writes in The Corner on Nat'l. Review Online:
Right vs. Left

Driving, that is. Over in the Nordlingistan province of the NR caliphate, Jay writes:

Can I tell you something odd about St. Thomas? It’s in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the license plates say “America’s Paradise” — but they drive on the left side of the road. As it did not take me long to discover.

But that's only the half of it: Generally, countries that drive on the left (Britain) have right-hand drive vehicles, just as countries that drive on the right (America) have left-hand drive vehicles. St Thomas drives on the British side of the road but in American vehicles. Whose wacky idea was that? I only noticed when my taxi driver attempted to pass a school bus on a winding mountain road and pulled out with no clue what was oncoming. Fantastic! It's the nearest I've come to the old (and deplorably racist) joke about Ireland switching over to driving on the right but phasing it in initially with east-bound traffic only.

I'd always assumed driving on the right was some federal thing. But, if St Thomas can drive on the left, I might get it introduced in New Hampshire just to mess with Massachusetts heads.

Brings back memories of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"The War on Christmas"

As my long-suffering family knows, I have a perennial gripe about the secularization of Christmas - somewhat odd for a member of a church which does not formally acknowledge the Christmas holiday, the small-c church of Christ. (More on that below.)

Possibly the silliest politically-correct excision of Christ from Christmas of all time was the decision by my beloved Chicago city government (said with tongue planted firmly in cheek) to ban a loop from the movie "The Nativity Story" from being shown at the annual Christkindlmarket on the grounds that it might offend non-Christians. I guess these touchy folks were undeterred by the festival being named for the Christ child (in German, it's true, but the name is still kinda prominent there), and managed to swallow the life sized Nativity scene, but the movie was just too much.

My main complaint has been the lack of actual Christmas carols in the Christmas music/muzak tapes in stores and on the "Holiday Favorites" radio stations. One time I actually bothered to keep track for a while - I quit counting at 22 consecutive secular Christmas songs. I guess "Silent Night" was worn out from overuse while "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is still fresh and new?

Well, the worm may have turned. I have noticed a recent trend, or so it seems to me, back towards religious Christmas music and use of the word "Christmas". Last year the "Holiday Favorites" radio station included noticeably more carols in their rotation, including my favorite of all, "What Child Is This?", and it seems like the word Christmas is more prominent than it has been for some time in the stores -- I've seen signs for "Christmas" where in the past they had "Holiday" or "Seasonal".

About the church of Christ and religious holidays: the pattern for worship in the bible neither commands nor implies a special annual celebration of any of the events of Christ's life. This is significant in that the old law of Moses did have a roster of annual observances; it is therefore logical to believe that if the new pattern of worship instituted by Christ was to have annual observances, this would be specifically commanded. Another problem is that December 25th is not the date of Christ's birth, by all the evidence: the details of the story, with the flocks in the field, etc., seem to point to a date in March or April. In the case of Easter we do know the date is correct since Christ was crucified during the Passover; but in the church, Christ's crucifiction, burial, and resurrection is remembered every first day of the week, not especially at Easter.
Therefore, many members of the church are strange bedfellows with the secular PC crowd on keeping their "holiday" activities strictly non-religious.

Needless to say, I am not of the keep Christ out of Christmas crowd. I think since there is no prohibition on celebrating/remembering Jesus' birth outside of formal worship, then there is nothing wrong with it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Accurate Prediction

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I0QN-FYkpw

This analyst, Peter Schiff, was right on the money predicting the economic meltdown two years before the fact. Quite amazing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cal Thomas: RELIGIOUS RIGHT R.I.P.

My dad sent along a recommendation for this Cal Thomas essay (click here). Thomas's theme is one seen frequently, especially since the election, and I guess I would summarize it thus: "Christian conservatives, give it up. You tried to influence society through politics, and you failed. Acknowledge defeat and move on. Go back to church, practice what you preach, re-learn humility, and quit trying to impose your views on society; preach by example, and you will have much more success in winning converts to your point of view."

It is a powerful argument, and absolutely correct, as far as it goes. Far too many Christian conservatives have become enmeshed in the worldly struggle for political power and forgotten the example of Christ. I share Thomas's distaste for "radio and TV preachers and activists". I am in full agreement that "Scripture teaches that God’s power ... is made perfect in weakness. He speaks of the tiny mustard seed, the seemingly worthless widow’s mite, of taking the last place at the table and the humbling of one’s self, the washing of feet and similar acts and attitudes; the still, small voice."
I am as disgusted and appalled as anyone at marchers with signs reading "God Hates Fags" or scenes of screaming protesters verbally assaulting staff and patients at abortion clinics.

And yet I feel that Thomas and other commentators who take this line are fundamentally mistaken in a couple of important ways. In the first place, it is not an either/or situation: either try to influence society through political means or set an example by living out your Christian ideals. In logic, this is known as the fallacy of the false dichotomy. The two avenues of action are presented as being mutually exclusive, but they are not. Why may not I demonstrate love for my gay friends and yet oppose legalization of same-sex marriage? Is the only way to show love by acquiescing in sin? Scripture has a lot to say on that score, too. Christ's example was not just meekness. He never failed to call sin by its right name and He became very angry when, for instance, he saw the corruption of the money-changers in the temple.

But a bigger flaw in this argument is found in passages such as these:

"... sought moral improvement through legislation and court rulings ..."
"... relied mainly on political power to enforce ..."
"... trying to use government to ... transform culture ..."
"... mistake political power for influence ..."
"... imposing a moral code ... on others ..."

The common theme in these phrases is that evangelicals are engaged in attempting to force changes in morality on others by law. They imply an offensive effort to change what is in place, when in truth social conservatives are engaged in a defensive action to preserve understandings already codified in law and informed by 2000 years of Western civilization. Take marriage. Our language and structure of society are predicated on the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage is the new thing that is being attempted to be foisted on the rest of us. Jerry Falwell did not come along in 1979 with a newly invented right to "opposite-sex marriage" and try to impose it on an unwilling public.

Liberalism is engaged in a constant struggle to tear down the institutions of society and replace them with new ones (a struggle which cannot ultimately be successful, since as soon as an institution becomes established, it too becomes a target). Very often this is a good thing. Where injustice and oppression have become insitutionalized, as with slavery, then it is right and good for those institutions to be torn down. And it is always good to maintain an open mind towards change and new solutions.

But not all established institutions are bad. The ill effects on society of the erosion of traditional concepts of marriage and the family are plain to see all around in the high dropout rates and crime rates among the underclass where two-parent families are almost non-existent.

The founders of our nation devised a political system in which changes and ideas could be debated and tried out without destroying the fabric of society. Not even the Civil War, a time of far greater partisan division than today, could ultimately bring down the Constitution. The legislatures, executive offices, and courts are where the structure and shape of our society are formed. Conservative Christian ideals have every bit as much of a place in that process as any others. We should not unilaterally withdraw from participation just because we don't always prevail.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Three Forms of Leftist Religion

The secular left disdains the "superstition" of organized religion, yet there is a powerful human drive for religious observations. So they have replaced traditional religion with some new forms of their own. For example:

1. Evangelical Atheism --
Objects of Worship: Random Mutation and Natural Selection, the twin gods of creation
Sacred texts: On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
Prophet: Charles Darwin
Saints: John Scopes, Stephen Gould
High priests: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, PZ Myers, Sam Harris.
Holy relics: Bones of Australopithecus afarensis
Rites: Setting up and knocking down straw men, branding believers child abusers, competing to produce the most profane and juvenile mockery of religion.
A strong emphasis is placed on martyrdom for the cause (see Mirecki, Paul)

2. Environmentalism --
Objects of Worship: Gaia
High Priest: Al Gore
Prophet: Paul Ehrlich
Sacred texts: Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
Holy relics: The hockey-stick graph
Rites: Cherry-picking data, extrapolating trends, foretelling the end times, strict dietary rules, ritual recycling
Notable sects: Greenpeace, PETA

3. Obamaism --
Objects of Worship: Hope and Change
Prophet: the Obamassiah
High Priests: The DNC, the "Mainstream" Media, Jeremiah Wright (excommunicated), Bill Ayers (excommunicated), Tony Rezko (excommunicated)
Sacred texts: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope, by the Obamassiah
Rites: Redistributing the wealth, healing the planet
The Obamassiah is said to have the power to turn back the seas

Monday, November 3, 2008

The 2008 Campaign

The big events of the 2007-2008 campaign season:

1. John McCain clinches the Repuplican nomination. In November of 2007, McCain was in last place and had been all but written off. Two months later, he was in the lead. In rapid succession, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney dropped out, leaving McCain and Mike Huckabee in the race until McCain won Super Tuesday.

2. The Democratic primaries turned out to be among the hardest-fought ever, with two history-making candidates slugging it out - Hillary Clinton, who would be the first female major-party nominee, and Barack Obama, who would be the first African-American major party nominee. In the end, Hillary staged a late rally but came up just short of the nomination. Much of the speculation and punditry centered around the Democrats excessively complicated nomination process, with proportionally allocated delegates keeping the delegate race tight and the unelected "super delegates" (party big-shots) waiting in the wings. In theory, the super delegates could have stepped in and overruled the primary voters and caucus goers if they nominated a candidate too far outside the mainstream. In practice, had the super delegates actually overruled the rank-and-file, there is no telling what kind of of fratracidal war might have resulted, but it would have been bloody.

3. Press bias - as it happened, in spite of the super-delegate safety fuse, the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, was and is very far from the mainstream of American politics. But you would never know this from the coverage of any of the major TV networks, large daily newspapers, or two of the three cable news outlets. Only cable TV's Fox News regularly featured critical reports on Obama.

[to be continued]

Friday, October 24, 2008

Turn of the (previous) century London

Very cool clip of London in 1904:

Krauthammer: McCain for President

This may be Krauthammer's finest column ever.

McCain for President

By Charles Krauthammer

[...]

McCain's critics are offended that he raised the issue of William Ayers. What's astonishing is that Obama was himself not offended by William Ayers.

[...]

The case for McCain is straightforward. The financial crisis has made us forget, or just blindly deny, how dangerous the world out there is. We have a generations-long struggle with Islamic jihadism. An apocalyptic soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. A nuclear-armed Pakistan in danger of fragmentation. A rising Russia pushing the limits of revanchism. Plus the sure-to-come Falklands-like surprise popping out of nowhere.

Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? A man who's been cramming on these issues for the last year, who's never had to make an executive decision affecting so much as a city, let alone the world? A foreign policy novice instinctively inclined to the flabbiest, most vaporous multilateralism ... and who refers to the most deliberate act of war since Pearl Harbor as "the tragedy of 9/11," a term more appropriate for a bus accident?

Or do you want a man who ... not only has the best instincts, but has the honor and the courage to, yes, put country first, as when he carried the lonely fight for the surge that turned Iraq from catastrophic defeat into achievable strategic victory?

There's just no comparison. Obama's own running mate warned this week that Obama's youth and inexperience will invite a crisis -- indeed a crisis "generated" precisely to test him. Can you be serious about national security and vote on Nov. 4 to invite that test?

And how will he pass it? Well, how has he fared on the only two significant foreign policy tests he has faced since he's been in the Senate? The first was the surge. Obama failed spectacularly. He not only opposed it. He tried to denigrate it, stop it and, finally, deny its success.

The second test was Georgia, to which Obama responded instinctively with evenhanded moral equivalence, urging restraint on both sides. McCain did not have to consult his advisers to instantly identify the aggressor.

Today's economic crisis, like every other in our history, will in time pass. But the barbarians will still be at the gates. Whom do you want on the parapet? I'm for the guy who can tell the lion from the lamb.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Agenda masquerading as analysis

Froma Harrop's column "Palin Drove Stake Into Centrist Hearts" (here) is a fine example of a superficial analysis cooked up to justify a pre-formed conclusion. In this case Ms. Harrop does not care for Gov. Palin's social conservatism and so sets out to prove that picking Palin destroyed McCain's chances.

Just look at the RealClearPolitics poll averages dating back to early September. The McCain-Palin numbers started cratering about a week after the convention, which was two weeks before the stock market did.
Except they didn't.

McCain did not "crater" until Sept. 24th through 26th, and the economic crisis really began to dominate the headlines beginning Sept. 15th with Lehman Brother's bankruptcy filing.

This is clearly evident if you look at the post-convention detail chart below.

I have plotted the mean of the Rasmussen and Gallup daily tracking polls over the period in question (using a couple of reliable tracking polls instead of the RCP average gives a better indication of responses to specific events because the methodology is consistent throughout the time period). Note that the McCain line jumps dramatically during the GOP convention (Sept. 2 through Sept. 4) and stays higher than the pre-convention level thereafter, taking a small hit around the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and AIG rescue but stabilizing again before falling off sharply on Sept. 24-26. This corresponds exactly to the announcement of the "bailout" proposal, McCain's suspension of his campaign to go back to Washington, and the off-again on-again first debate.

Clearly, voters were not impressed with McCain's reaction. Governor Palin was not the cause, however much Froma Harrop wants to blame McCain's problems on picking a pro-life running mate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Post-Convention detail view



(Click on chart to enlarge) Chart shows the mean of the Rasmussen and Gallup daily tracking polls, with each datum plotted at the mid-point date of the sample. In other words the lag time between the actual polling and when the data was reported has been removed. The salient features of this plot are:
  • The Democratic National Convention Aug. 25-28 - Obama's gets a five point bounce.
  • The Republican National Convention Sept. 2-4. McCain wipes out Obama's bounce and gets a 5 point bounce of his own, a 9 point relative gain.
  • Lehman Brother's bankruptcy and ensuing credit crisis dominate the headlines. Obama gains 2 points and McCain loses 2, then race stabilizes again.
  • The economic rescue ("bailout") bill is proposed and McCain suspends his campaign, then unsuspends it again for the first debate.
  • The market crash following the passage of the bailout bill did not depress McCain's numbers any further.

The Race





Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The "Tsesis thesis" deconstructed

One of the blogs I follow is Blazing Cat Fur, which does a great job of sleuthing stuff pertaining to the freedom of speech brouhaha going on in our northern neighbor, ignited by various Islamic groups' complaints to the Canadian federal, and various provincial, Human Rights Commissions.

A recent find was this article by Anuj C. Desai, which does a superb job of exposing the flawed reasoning of Alexander Tsesis, author of Destructive Messages: How Hate Speech Paves the Way for Harmful Social Movements, in advocating for hate speech legislation. So why should we care about an obscure book by an unknown law professor? Because Mr. Tsesis's work provides the underpinnings for legislative proposals by Ted Kennedy to criminalize "hate speech" right here in the U. S. of A. Ted is, of course, a supporter of one of Mr. Tsesis's fellow Chicagoans, one Barack Obama.

In other words, as Mr. Desai astutely pointed out, Tsesis's thesis is "... one that Americans will increasingly have to grapple with ..."

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hey, I like lattés too

Somehow or other liberalism (or liberal elitism, anyway) and lattés have become inextricably connected. Every critique of Obama nowadays is required to mention latté-sipping (and, increasingly, arugula, whatever that is).

I try not to be a snob, but darn it, I really like lattés! A venti honey latté, with whip, at 140° Fahrenheit, to be precise.

A Succinct Summation

This excerpt from an interview with author Howard Rotberg on FrontPage Magazine gives the history of the last 14 years of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in a nutshell:

My somewhat bizarre story started during the after-effects of the Oslo Process in the Middle East. Many observers with some sympathy to Israel's predicament as the only non-Muslim, liberal democracy in a sea of extremism, totalitarianism and backwardness, began to notice a sad fact. Israel's concessions to Yasser Arafat and his "Palestinian Authority", in terms of vesting a graduated sovereignty and even weapons to be used by its security apparatus, did not bring peace, but seemed to embolden the Palestinians, including militias reporting to Arafat, into ever more warlike and self-destructive behaviours, evidencing a fundamental rejection of a two-state solution. With uncritical and unconditional support from the United Nations, major NGOs, self-described "progressives" and "intellectuals", the Palestinians turned to a policy of encouraging their young people to become suicide bombers, with incitement through the controlled media and education system, to perfect a long-term policy to drive out what they saw as a Jewish "cancer" within lands believed to be wholly and rightfully Muslim.

I was concerned that terrorism, primarily, but not limited to, suicide bombings was having a very successful effect, one I would later conceptualize as a "Cultural Stockholm Syndrome". Rather than having the Western World recoil in horror at such barbarian behaviour, the suicide bombers were in fact increasing the support for the so-called "plight" of the Palestinians, in particular in the United Nations and on university campuses throughout the West.

At the same time, the West began to adopt a moral and cultural relativism, which meant we were encouraged (aided by the Critical Theorists in the universities) to critique every aspect of our own societies, but any critiques of other societies or cultures were damned as constituting "racism". The very concept of "racism" was re-defined so that it could only apply in the case of words or actions by more powerful groups against less powerful groups. The rise of "political correctness" meant that reasoned discourse was difficult in the face of a subversion of language and a "closing of the American mind". Any discourse on Israel was met with discussion-ending use of improper terms such as "cycle of violence", "occupation", "apartheid", and "peace process" (which of course was anything but).

To make matters worse, I began to note a serious failure to educate our young people about the nature of ideology as a series of viewpoints, values, and assumptions through which every society at every time must necessarily view the world. The Politically Correct, over-represented in the teaching profession, were taking the absurd position that they alone, being beacons of tolerance and pacifism, were ideologically neutral and free of ideology, and that only the Right Wing, Bush, the evangelicals, and supporters of Israel were ideological in their militarism, lack of tolerance and racism. Alarmingly, even a large portion of educated American Jews were agreeing with that position.


Friday, April 4, 2008

"There are more Nazis in the average Hogan's Heroes rerun than in all of Canada"

A couple of side-splittingly hilarious articles on the Canadian Human Rights Commission 's war on free speech:

Mark Steyn: That poor woman down the street

... in the entire history of the CHRC, not a single defendant charged with a federal Section 13 "hate messages" crime has ever been acquitted. The sole exception was the "Canadian Nazi Party," which got off scot-free on the technicality that it did not, in fact, exist. But, if you do have the misfortune to exist, Section 13 has a 100 per cent conviction rate that the justice systems of Kim Jong Il and the Burmese junta can only envy, ...


Kathy Shaidle: Canada’s Human Rights Kangaroo Court

That there are more Nazis in the average Hogan’s Heroes rerun than in all of Canada didn’t deter the HRC from investigating Lemire, without warrants, and employing those other dubious “drive-by Wi-Fi” techniques... [CHRC investigators themselves posted on Lemire's site, using an innocent third party's unsecured wireless Internet hub to do so]


Both quotes highlight the miserable cravenness of the CHRC in chasing phantom menaces while ignoring the real threat to Jews (and to the whole concept of Western liberal democracy) -- namely, radical Islamism...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Common Sense

Found an article by Heather MacDonald that demolishes the myth that "1 in 4 women are raped in college".

She presents the following story as fairly typical:
What can I tell you about being raped? Very little. I remember drinking with some girlfriends and then heading to a party in the house that some seniors were throwing. I’m told that I walked in and within 5 minutes was making out with one of the guys who lived there, who I’d talked to some in the dining hall but never really hung out with. I may have initiated it. I don’t remember arriving at the party; I dimly remember waking up at some point in the early morning in this guy’s room. I remember him walking me back to my room. I couldn’t have made it alone; I still had too much alcohol in my system to even stand up straight. I made myself vulnerable and even now it’s hard to think that someone here who I have talked and laughed with could be cold-hearted enough to take advantage of that vulnerability. I’d rather, sometimes, take half the blame than believe that a profound evil can exist in mankind. But it’s easy for me to say, that, of the two of us, I’m the only one who still has nightmares, found myself panicking and detaching during sex for many months afterwards, and spent more time looking into the abyss than any one person should.
The inequalities of the consequences of the night, the actions taken unintentionally or not, have changed the course of only one of our lives, irrevocably and profoundly.

Remarks MacDonald, "Even if the Harvard victim’s drunkenness cancels any responsibility that she might share for the interaction’s finale, is she equally without responsibility for all of her behavior up to that point, including getting so drunk that she can’t remember anything? Campus rape ideology holds that inebriation strips women of responsibility for their actions but preserves male responsibility not only for their own actions but for their partners’ as well. Thus do men again become the guardians of female well-being.

As for the story’s maudlin melodrama, perhaps the narrator’s life really has been 'irrevocably' changed, for which one sympathizes. One can’t help observing, however, that the effect of this 'profound evil' on at least her sex life appears to have been minimal—she 'detached' during sex for 'many months afterwards,' but sex she most certainly had."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Friday, March 7, 2008

There's that "lightening rod" again

I've blogged before on my pet peeves with some of the common mistakes in professional writing.

Today, Jonathan Chait in The New Republic quotes a Clinton memo: "Democrats may have a nominee who will be a lightening rod of controversy."

Enough with the enlightenment! Here's another memo: "lightening" is reducing the weight of something. "Lightning", on the other hand, is a spontaneous discharge of built up static electricity in the atmosphere. The rod is meant to attract lightning, not reduce weight.

While we're at it, you "toe" the line, not "tow" it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Obama's First 100 Days

Michael Gerson in the Washington Post proposes a "thought experiment": considering the foreign-policy "achievements" of Obama's first 100 days, based on his campaign promises.

First up is Obama's pledge to meet with America's enemies without any conditions. Gerson quotes Kissinger: "When talks become their own objective, they are at the mercy of the party most prepared to break them off." Gerson paints a picture of Obama's, and America's, Chamberlainesque humiliation at the hands of Ahmadinejad as the press "... notes another of Obama's historic firsts: the first American president to meet with a Holocaust denier."

Gerson continues in the same vein, detailing Obama's disastrous meeting with Raul Castro as Hugo Chavez crows about Obama's "public apology for generations of American imperialism and militarism." Mexico and Canada, meanwhile, are incensed at being pressured to renegotiate NAFTA: "Why is the new president courting his enemies ... while insulting his closest friends?"

In Gerson's vision, the US military is outraged and demoralized as he yanks troops out of Iraq, undoing years of hard fought gains on the verge of success. Iraq devolves into renewed sectarian violence as a reprieved al Qaeda celebrates its "unexpected victory."

The conclusion:
Obama's 100-day agenda would be designed, in part, to improve America's global image. But there is something worse than being unpopular in the world -- and that is being a pleading, panting joke. By simultaneously embracing appeasement, protectionism and retreat, President Obama would manage to make Jimmy Carter look like Teddy Roosevelt.

Friday, February 29, 2008

"Hope": Nice slogan, bad policy

Steve Huntley writing in the Chicago Sun-Times says
So what is Obama's Iraq strategy? It seems to be that he knows al-Qaida is in Iraq but he's going to pull out anyway. But if al-Qaida establishes a base in Iraq, he will go back in. Does that sound confused to you? Me, too.

His policy, in a nutshell, seems to be this: Pull troops out of Iraq and hope for the best...


Huntley goes on to point out, echoing President Bush, the negative effects of meeting, without any conditions or specific goals (such as recognizing Israel, renouncing terror, and ceasing to meddle in Iraq) with the thuggish theocrat of Iran, Ahmadinejad: the oppressive regime is legitimized, internal dissent in Iran demoralized, American allies double-crossed.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

They're working on it, Dave; give 'em time

Comment by David Beverage about the NYT smear piece on McCain: "The New York Times is not the National Enquirer."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Assault on free speech in Canada

The continuing saga of the Canadian Islamic Congress vs. Maclean's, Mark Steyn, and Ezra Levant. Canada's "Human Rights Commissions" provide the perfect forum for silencing opinions you don't like through "lawfare", but it looks like the perpetually offended hit a snag this time around. The feeble defenses (defences?) of censorship offered up by the complainants and their fellow-travelers are pathetic -- you almost feel sorry for the poor guys until you remember what it is they're trying to do.