Culture & Family RSS feed for this section

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 40 (Public Funding of Art)

Justin and Bob Plain discuss the morality and economics of funding art through the government.

Don’t Abort a Constitutional Convention Over Scare Tactics

Government insiders want to do to the constitutional convention what they do to any opposition that comes their way — kill it before it can be born.

Making a Stand Far from the Cliff

Why stand our ground in Rhode Island? Because somewhere in the world, the easier decision is to throw your children to their merciful death.

Americans in Different Worlds

Peggy Noonan gets it right with the general sentiment of her latest column:

My fear is that the issues mount, increase and are experienced as a daily harassment by more and more people who, public education being the spotty thing it’s been, are less held together than in the past by a unified patriotic theory of America, and consequently less keen on—and protective of—our political traditions. And things begin to fray very badly, even, down the road, to breaking points.

I think she misidentifies the cause, though, or at least stops too short, with the effect amounting to the same thing:

… I had always assumed that America was uniquely able to tolerate division. Shared patriotic feeling and respect for our political traditions left us, as a nation, with a lot of give. We could tug this way or that, correct and overcorrect, and do fine.

My concern the past few decades has been that we’ve lost or are losing some of that give, that divisions are sharper and deeper now in part because many of the issues that separate us are so piercing and personal. Vietnam and Watergate were outer issues. Many questions now speak of our essence as human beings.

The implication is that the slot machine of socio-politics has spun and given us a challenging collection of issues.  To the contrary, the underlying problem is one that virtually ensures that such issues will come to the fore:  Government’s growth and centralization is what’s made “our essence as human beings” a matter that must be settled at the federal level.

Our “tug” as a nation was allowed by the fact that knotty questions weren’t considered the purview of government, and to the extent that they were, we pushed them down locally.  Over the past century-plus, progressives and other statists have been erasing that critical feature of our civic system.

One thing on which I think Noonan’s absolutely correct is this, which might be the defining hubris of our era:

… people grow up in a certain environment and tend to think that environment, and its assumptions, are continuing and will always continue.

This applies not just to the ability of America’s “financial strength” to “absorb any blow,” but to culture, too.  People assume the principles supporting and reinforced by marriage will simply remain in place if we change the nature of the institution.  People assume entrepreneurs will simply continue to work and produce no matter how much disincentive we layer on top of them, as if the fancy name indicates a genetic driver.

In a nutshell, our social system used to leave space for people to accommodate their own beliefs about life and reality.  In the name of equality, we’ve moved to implement one worldview as truth, and calling it “objective,” we treat it as natural to impose it on everybody else.

Wait, what? (Freedom of Religion)

Religious Americans need to start paying attention to the intolerance that’s sneaking in with the progressive ideology that now defines liberalism and is almost entirely directing the policies supported by the Democrat Party.  Consider:

A lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) asserted that the Internal Revenue Service ignored complaints about churches’ violating their tax-exempt status by routinely promoting political issues, legislation and candidates from the pulpit.

The FFRF has temporarily withdrawn its suit in return for the IRS’s agreement to monitor sermons and homilies for proscribed speech that the foundation believes includes things like condemnation of gay marriage and criticism of ObamaCare for its contraceptive mandate.

In the perverted definition of “separation of church and state” currently being promoted as tolerance, churches are forbidden from trying to protect themselves from encroachment by the state, or else they’ll be discriminated against in such things as eligibility for tax exemptions, licensing (e.g., for adoption services), and awards of contracts (for such things as humanitarian activities).  On the other side, “separation” is said to allow (even to require) the government to dictate employee benefits and enforce redefined social mores for religious groups.

The saddest part is that religious people, and especially religious organizations, have brought this on themselves by going along with the ideology that insists that government’s fingers belong in everybody’s business as the ultimate supporter and hub of charitable activity.

The Resonance of Rape and Prostitution Findings

A story on an academic study finding a decrease in rape corresponding with a period of decriminalized prostitution in Rhode Island received a news report on the second page of the Providence Journal on July 15.  Folks who comb the Internet for news on a daily basis have seen the study mentioned with some frequency in the weeks since.

A critical response suggesting that the study misused data pretty dramatically has thus far been relegated to the opinion pages.

First, their claim that the sex industry didn’t start expanding until 2003 is incorrect. …

Second, Cunningham and Shah claim that the rate of reported rapes in Rhode Island decreased from 2003 until 2009. Yet statistics from the FBI Uniform Crime Report show there had already been a general decline in the rate of rape at the national level since the early 1990s, with continuing declines until 2012, the last year for which data is available.

Rhode Island’s decrease in the rate of reported rape is similar to that seen at the national level. …

Also, for an unknown reason, Rhode Island had an exceptionally high rate of reported rape for 2003 (46.9 rapes per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to 36.9 in 2002 and 29.6 in 2004).

In brief, the national-news-headlining finding may have been based entirely on an arbitrarily chosen comparison year that happened to make the trend look substantial.

Unfortunately, it’s in the nature of news and cultural commentary that the response won’t get nearly the splash that the initial story received.  Consequently, thousands of people will simply file away the truism that legalized prostitution reduces rape.

Whether any of them will even try to reconcile that belief with the long-trumpeted alternate truism that rape is not about sex, but about control and violence, is impossible to know.

Rule of Law as Guarantor of Freedom

The other day, I noted Dinesh D’Souza’s suggestion that freedom is a mechanism to guarantee justice.  Admittedly, the text of the post drifted a bit from the intention for which I crafted the title.  The bottom-line point that might have gotten lost was that a free nation, in which the government’s role is constrained, limits the opportunity of the government to manipulate the public.  (It also limits the incentive, since gaining control of government doesn’t gain one as much.)  It’s furthermore incompatible with a free nation for the government to be spying on its people or for the chief executive’s campaign to be setting up secretive organizations to manipulate the electorate.

Kevin Williamson brings in a consideration that is interwoven with the topic.  Writing about the Supreme Court’s Halbig decision, “that the law says what the law says” when it comes to ObamaCare subsidies, Williamson goes on:

The Hammurabic Code, along with its presumptive predecessors, represented something radical and new in human history. With the law written down — with the law fixed — a man who had committed no transgression no longer had reason to tremble before princes and potentates. If the driver of oxen had been paid his statutory wage, if a man’s contractual obligations had been satisfied, and if his life was unsullied by violations of the law, handily carved upon slabs of igneous rock for all to see and ingest, then that man was, within the limits of his law, free. …

… We write laws down in order that citizens may know what is permissible under the generally promulgated rules of the polity. The writing down of laws was the first step on the road from subject to citizen, and to reverse that is to do violence to more than grammatical propriety …

As I noted imperfectly the other day, freedom from tyranny is a guarantor of justice, and we cannot have freedom if the tyrant is able to change the rules and laws on a whim.  If the ground might dissolve beneath you once you’ve stepped off the tyrant’s path, you aren’t actually free to step from the path.  In other words, the rule of law is a guarantor of freedom and a prerequisite if freedom is to guarantee justice.

That’s why Americans must insist on the rules, and that the language of the law means what it says.  Rhode Island is an excellent example of the insider-dominated wasteland to which a failure to do so inevitably leads, and even we in the Ocean State have much farther to fall.

Gender Distractions in Leadership

Per Jessica Sparks, in the Wall Street Journal, reporting on Gallup poll results, Americans believe the country would be better governed with more women in office.  The first thing to note is the distance between the poll question and the headline.  Here’s the question:

Do you think this country would be governed better or governed worse if more [women] were in political office?

And here’s the headline (with ellipses excluding other categories of answers):

Americans Think Women… Govern Better

That’s not an accurate summary of the results.  One could believe that having more women in government office at this point in history (when they are underrepresented) would take advantage of the sexes’ complementary qualities and bring broader perspective to government. If the dominance simply flipped from men to women, then that would decrease the advantage of diversity.

I do think, however, that a question asked the way the headline implies would still find a large number of people saying “better,” rather than “worse.”

Before the summer began, and I was doubling as daytime caretaker of our newest child, I’d sometimes watch the Fox News show Outnumbered while feeding her.  (Put it in the category of simply not having interest in seeking out some other source of background noise.)

On one episode, the four women and one man (Geraldo, I think, that day) discussed exactly this question, with unanimous belief that, yes, women would govern better if they dominated our politics.  I thought then, as I think now, that such a belief is mainly a testament to the success of cultural propaganda.  From every commercial and sitcom in which the woman is a calm, collected mastermind while the man is a bumbling doofus (especially if he’s a husband) to the monomaniacal focus of variations-of-Marx college curricula, tarring “the patriarchy” with every problem in human history (and sometimes in quantum physics, too), it’d be surprising if the poll results were any different.

The increasing tilt of the propagandists helps to explain this curve, from the Gallup poll:

The size of the gaps is telling, with dramatic drops in the “govern better” category as one’s education and cultural formation was during periods of lighter progressive hegemony.  It’s also interesting that the “govern worse” percentage doesn’t go up in kind.  The real growth is in “no difference” and/or “no opinion,” which were the other two options.  This isn’t a fading patriarchy; it’s a fading of true tolerance and rationality.

The Mission of Government Labor Unions

When Rhode Island’s government-sector labor unions — organizations that engage in politics to elect people who will negotiate employees’ contracts with kid gloves so that more taxpayer dollars can be funneled to the unions and then back into politics — came out against a constitutional convention in Rhode Island, many observers thought it might be out of concern that a surprise wave of good-government interest in the Ocean State would usher in policies that make it harder for their racket to continue.  Now, an activist group has emerged, funded almost exclusively with government-sector labor money (which is to say, with taxpayer money), and its emphasis does not fit those observers’ assumption at all:

The group has warned that such a gathering will open the door to actions that could impede women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights and rights for minorities and immigrants.

In brief: social issues, not labor issues.  The organization’s Web site lists more labor unions and also a broader array of groups, but they have a particular bent, such as the Economic Progress Institute (aka the Poverty Institute), Humanists of RI, Jobs with Justice, RI NOW, RI Pride, RI Progressive Democrats, and the Secular Coalition for Rhode Island.

It’s possible that the unions are carrying the financial weight of this organization because they don’t want a convention based on their own self interest and just feel that trumpeting the social-issues angle will stoke the public’s fears more effectively.  If that’s the case, then Rhode Islanders should question whether it’s appropriate for the labor organizations representing taxpayers’ employees to be using their money to carry far-left free riders.  Even the most strident believer in the right of workers to organize can admit that the process shouldn’t distort our system of government on so many issues that have nothing to do with contracts and working conditions.

After years of observation, however, I’d suggest that the real lesson is that labor services are just the way in which the unions raise money for themselves.  Their real mission is far-left progressive politics.  If that’s the case, union members should ask themselves whether they really to gain such tremendous benefits that it’s worth so much destruction of our rights and our society.

Profit as Theft from the Collective

Disdain for “for profit” companies is an indication that progressives believe all property actually belongs to the government, and taking extra is a type of theft.

Steve Ahlquist, the Oppressors’ Heir

In attacking Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, Steve Ahlquist gives reason to believe he’d have been a different kind of oppressor in a different time.

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 36 (Hobby Lobby, Freedom, & Health Care)

Justin and Bob Plain discuss the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and the underlying issues of freedom and health care.

Hobby Lobby and the Lack of Church-State Separation

With progressives across the country in a delusional tizzy over the implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal government (through administrative action) can’t force a company to provide abortifacients (i.e., drugs that kill early-stage human beings in the womb), Jennifer Roback Morse takes a step back and looks at the context in the United States’ current practice of “separation of church and state” (italics in original):

Only after the program was over, did the pattern become fully clear to me: the caller (and the State) will allow the Church to be independent of the State, but only for things they think don’t matter.

We the State, allow you the Church, to have jurisdiction over who gets to receive Communion and Christian burial. That is because we consider those things unimportant.

But we the State, intend to have full authority over everything we consider important, like property settlements and child custody. And, as a matter of fact, if there is anything else we come to believe is important, we will take jurisdiction over that too.

And so here we are, with a relatively favorable ruling from the Supreme Court on the Hobby Lobby case. The Supreme Court has restrained the Administration from imposing upon the Mennonite Hahn family, owners of Conestoga Wood, or the Evangelical Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, in as catastrophic way as they might have. But the State has certainly not given up its authority over religious institutions and religious people, when they deem the subject matter sufficiently important.

We don’t have separation of church and state, in the United States.  We have a thumb on the scale on behalf of statists and the non-religious, who often look to the government as a moral arbiter.  The government is their mechanism for avoiding the necessity of persuading their neighbors to a different position, which can be hard work.  (One suspects the anti-religion statists think it’s impossible work, inasmuch as they see religious people as constitutionally irrational.)

It’s all legerdemain.  As with progressives’ selective adulation of science, they present their opponents’ morality as derived from subjective, superstitious sources, while their morality derives from simple truths about the universe.

To the extent that they succeed in their use of the government toward (what they see as) moral ends, it’s nothing other than an establishment of religion.

Electing Cianci to Capitalize on the Image of Corruption

On his own blog, frequent commenter Dan has the novel idea that Providence should elect Buddy Cianci as mayor again in order “to follow the uber-successful sex-tape stars of reality television by leveraging its source of embarrassment into a cause celebre and tourism boon.”  I’d be interested in details about how a city could monetize such a thing… at least if the broader society is the reference point, not just insiders and a filmmaker or two.

It’s the basis for Dan’s suggestion, though, that merits serious conversation:

Reputations are fragile things, to the extent where a single bad act can overshadow a lifetime of otherwise laudable behavior. Like the perpetually struggling economies of former Soviet-bloc states, Providence has, for all practical purposes, passed the point of no return. It has missed the mark so consistently and in so many respects, that it could take generations to fill in the hole it has dug before building something positive in the space would even be possible. In the face of such an intractable position, the only rational course of action is to keep digging in the hope of striking oil.

As I’ve been saying, the possibility of a Cianci comeback is nothing so much as an indictment of Rhode Island’s political class and broader civic society, and their inability to produce leaders who don’t make voters feel as if they’re rolling the dice.  Partly, that’s a consequence of the speed at which politicians feel like they should climb the ladder:  From the current mayor of Providence, Angel Taveras, to every Republican candidate for Congress, Rhode Islanders run for the highest office that doesn’t threaten laughter, not the one in which they have the most knowledge and likelihood of accomplishing good things.

Perhaps more, however, it’s yet another indication of the state’s decline.  Most of the people who would run for office with the intention of setting things right have given up.  Either they leave, or they calculate that they’re better off staying out of the political fight.

In that regard, members of the local establishment and media who lament Cianci’s history of corruption should look in the mirror.  The state wouldn’t be in this condition if they weren’t in on it.

Staley and Hayden’s Representation

In their passing, Harry Staley and Robert Hayden leave behind an explanation and an example for civic participation.

Humanities and the Decline of the West

An example at Providence College illustrates how radical politics are stripping the humanities of both their practical and moral utility, and undermining Western civilization along the way.

UPDATED: Losing Iraq and Progressive Assumptions

It might not be much less tenuous than a mere metaphor, but I can’t help but see recent events in Iraq as a lesson in one of the fundamental assumptions behind progressivism. Glenn Reynolds writes that President Obama “didn’t lose Iraq, he gave it away,” and then quotes this, from The Hill:

The White House on Wednesday expressed concerns that Islamic militants had regained a foothold in Iraq after an al Qaeda-affiliated group seized control of a second major city. …

Earnest said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” the instability could create a humanitarian crisis, with reports saying Iraqi security forces had fled both cities and thousands of refugees were seeking shelter.

To the extent that Nobel Peace Prize winning Obama actually cares at all about humanitarian crises around the world, it seems likely that he considered Iraq to have reached a stage in its development and thought that, if it didn’t march toward Western-style governance, at least it would hold steady at the level of civic enlightenment that it had achieved under American tutelage.  Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way.  Regression is possible — maybe even probable, where a society’s supports have been eroded.

In Iraq, the supports were easy to see, mainly consisting of the presence of U.S. military forces, but the principle appears wherever progressives have placed their destructive hands.  One can see it in the apparent belief that business-type people will continue to produce no matter the taxes  and regulations that government imposes… because that’s just what business-type people do.

One can also see it in social policy, where the only explanation for progressive policies (if they aren’t simply evil) is that their advocates don’t realize that a community doesn’t advance in a constant, progressive evolution, but rather each individual must develop into each advancing stage from the raw stuff of human nature.  The human race doesn’t achieve the stage of liberté, egalité, fraternité like it reached the stage of opposable thumbs.  We need the supports of traditions and institutions that shape the individual according to lessons learned from the past.

Update (11:27 a.m., 6/12/14):

Here’s Vice President Biden in 2010, as if to illustrate the point.

Self-Improvement for the Entitled

The latest atrocity committed by a maladjusted loser raises questions about the entitlement state and the questions that we’re teaching kids not to ask.

UPDATED: East Greenwich Doesn’t Get That Clearing a Bar Isn’t Barring People

Emails an out-of-state friend, when he came across this story, “What is going on up there in the Ocean State?”

Honors Night at Cole Middle School is no more.

Parents got an email from Principal Alexis Meyer over the weekend saying some members of the school community “have long expressed concerns related to the exclusive nature of Honors Night.” The email goes on to say students will be recognized in other ways.

One student whom ABC6 goes on to quote illustrates the truth that too many people are apparently unable to understand, these days:  It’s not “exclusive” in the sense that it bars anybody from every participating.  Rather, it sets a bar, and students who want to be included can work toward the achievement, at which point, attendance will really mean something.

Something tells me this isn’t a good omen for the East Greenwich school district.


UPDATE (5/20/14 3:54 p.m.):

Well, that was fast.  John DeLuca tweets: “just found out from @MikeLaCrosse that EG School Administrators r reversing the decision on honors night. Will be held in June.”

I guess the people of East Greenwich also didn’t think it was a good omen for their much-lauded school district.