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Jack Of Clubs

~~ Liberty ~~ Chivalry ~~ Reason ~~ Sacrament ~~

Updated: 2018-03-12T14:43:43.052-07:00


This Year in Jerusalem


At long last, the United States has learned the most elementary geography lesson: the capital of Israel is Jerusalem. Sixty-nine years after the creation of the modern state of Israel and twenty-two years after the US Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act, President Trump has finally recognized this fact and brought the US into compliance with her own law.

I am still not a Trump supporter and this does not change my mind about all the reasons I didn't vote for him. But on the Pro vs Con ledger of the Trump presidency, this is a very solid Pro.

Late Election Insight


This post by Ann Althouse inspired the following insight:

Trump is Obama for white people. This isn't about anger it's about envy. Back in the early Obama years, I thought my fellow Republicans were objecting to the lawlessness and cult of personality. Now I see that many of them just wanted equal time.

Hillary Clinton and the Fall of Libya


Three-part Washington Times article:
Part 1
Top Pentagon officials and a senior Democrat in Congress so distrusted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2011 march to war in Libya that they opened their own diplomatic channels with the Gadhafi regime in an effort to halt the escalating crisis, according to secret audio recordings recovered from Tripoli.

The tapes, reviewed by The Washington Times and authenticated by the participants, chronicle U.S. officials’ unfiltered conversations with Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s son and a top Libyan leader, including criticisms that Mrs. Clinton had developed tunnel vision and led the U.S. into an unnecessary war without adequately weighing the intelligence community’s concerns.

Part 2
The intelligence community gathered no specific evidence of an impending genocide in Libya in spring 2011, undercutting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s primary argument for using the U.S. military to remove Col. Moammar Gadhafi from power, an event that has left his country in chaos, according to officials with direct knowledge of the dispute.

Defense officials, speaking in detail for the first time about their assessments of the Libyan civil war four years ago, told The Washington Times that Mrs. Clinton’s strong advocacy for intervention against the Libyan regime rested more on speculative arguments of what might happen to civilians than on facts reported from the ground.

Part 3
The reports included a 16-page list of weapons that Libyans supposedly tracked to the rebels from Western sources or their allies in the region. The memos were corroborated by a U.S. intelligence asset familiar with the documents as well as former top Gadhafi regime official Mohammed Ismael.

“NATO has given permission to a number of weapons-loaded aircraft to land at Benghazi airport and some Tunisian airports,” the intelligence report said, identifying masses of weapons including tanks and surface-to-air missiles.

That report, which was prepared in English so it could be passed by a U.S. intelligence asset to key members of Congress, identified specific air and sea shipments observed by Libyan intelligence moving weapons to the rebels trying to unseat the Gadhafi regime.

Obama's Bad Trade


Contrary to the demagoguery of some irresponsible commentators on the right, I don't think Bergdahl's release has anything to do with Obama's relationship with Islam. I think the primary motivations for the exchange were, in order:1. It is an election year and he needs some good news to help the country forget about the Benghazi and Obamacare fiascos. Everything I have seen indicates that Obama believed that the country would be thrilled that we were releasing the last POW from Afghanistan, and he evidently thought no one would dig too deeply into the background of Bergdahl. If they did, he could always blame it on right-wing political rhetoric. This is actually a reasonable expectation given the normal tendency of the press to ignore anything that would embarrass a Democratic politician. 2. He has been under pressure from the Left to close Guantanamo as he promised to do in his 2008 campaign. We don't normally follow the far-left and of course the press will not cover their criticisms, but they have been furious with Obama for five years over this. Since it is a really bad idea on several levels, the country would never go for it, but he seems to think that he can appease both sides with a prisoner exchange. He gets to look like a patriot for bringing back our soldier and he gets to look like a champion of justice for closing down Bushitler's torture chamber. Win, win. 3. If you don't look too closely, he gets to prove that negotiation with the Taliban can work. His whole foreign policy is based on the idea that we don't need a strong military if we take the time to understand foreign cultures and show them that we can be reasonable. This is important because he just got completely outclassed by Putin over the Ukraine, and also because of his failures with Syria and the whole Arab Spring fiasco. So he needs to look like a shrewd negotiator, even if the deal wasn't a very good one. Again he is relying on the press to paint everything he does in the best possible light.Here is a good analysis by Allahpundit from HotAir which largely agrees with me, though he puts some of the factors in a different order. Look especially at the last paragraph:The media’s assuming that the White House wanted an American POW back so badly that they’d reluctantly agree to release five very dangerous Taliban to make it happen. In reality, maybe the reasoning went the other way. Maybe, in the name of finally closing Gitmo, they were eager to get rid of the five Taliban but realized that they couldn’t free them without paying a heavy political price. If, however, they could get the last American prisoner in Afghanistan back as part of a trade, that might give them enough cover to make it happen. It wasn’t Bergdahl who drove the deal, in other words, it was springing these guys from Gitmo. Bergdahl was just a bit of political sugar for the White House that’s now suddenly turned sour on them.The rest of the article has some good analysis of how and why this all went wrong for Obama.For some further relevant information look at these stories:Desertion noteFeinstein's reaction Here is an early report from CNN before the trouble started. This is how the story was supposed to play out. Note that there is no suggestion that Bergdahl deserted (even though he was publicly investigated in 2010):Bergdahl was deployed to Afghanistan in May 2009. He was 23 when he was captured by the Taliban after finishing a guard shift at a combat outpost on June 30, 2009, in Paktika province.Note also, this paragraph (near the end of the article):A senior administration official told CNN, "With regard to whether or not we're negotiating with terrorists: Sergeant Bergdahl is a member of the military who was detained during the course of an armed conflict. The transfer of these individuals is not a concession -- it is fully in line with the President's goal of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay."[...]

One of These Things is Not Like the Others


I just stumbled across this while looking up the history of the CIA in Wikipedia.  According to the 2013 budget, one of the top goals of the Agency is Counterintelligence, which they define thus:

Counterintelligence (CI). To further safeguard our classified networks, we continue to strengthen insider threat detection capabilities across the Community. In addition, we are investing in target surveillance and offensive CI against key targets, such as China, Russia, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, and Cuba.

I recognize that the Israelis spy on us just as we spy on them. That is just the way the world works. And I also recognize that one of the jobs of the CIA is to try to minimize the leakage as much as possible, no matter who is doing the spying. But is Israel really a "Key Target"? Lumping Israel in with that rogue's gallery of bad players just doesn't sound like a properly ordered set of priorities.

Trampling on the Grapes of Wrath


Charlotte Allen, guest blogging at the LA Times claims Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath is "bad fiction and bad history".  Here is her case, in a nutshell:Bad Fiction:...the insufferable Ma Joad (she's symbolic, so she doesn't have a first name) -- who oscillates between threatening to bash her menfolk with blunt instruments ("knock you belly-up with a bucket," "slap ya with a stick a stove wood") when they don't do what she wants and serving as a mouthpiece for Steinbeck's hick-collectivist platitudes: "Maybe if we was all mad in the same way." [...]The nearly nonexistent story line is a chronicle of lugubrious misery, as the massive Joad family in its overloaded, "Beverly Hillbillies"-style car lurches from one tragic mishap to another on a trek to California that reads as though it takes weeks, if not months -- even though Route 66 was a state-of-the-art highway for its time and the journey could be easily accomplished in from three to six days. The main reason people think that "The Grapes of Wrath" is a good novel is that in 1940, director John Ford managed to turn it into a first-rate movie, with the help of stellar acting (Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, Steinbeck's jailbird hero-on-the-lam), haunting chiaroscuro cinematography and the ditching of the novel's bizarre ending, which features "Rosasharn" breastfeeding a starving man in the spirit of proletarian solidarity.Bad History:Furthermore, Steinbeck got the Okies historically wrong, probably because he himself hailed from an upper-middle-class family in Salinas and his experience with Okies consisted of interviewing a few of them for some newspaper articles. Just for starters, he had the Joads hailing from Sallisaw, in the far eastern part of Oklahoma, even though the Dust Bowl was confined to the state's western panhandle.Second, as University of Washington historian James N. Gregory pointed out in "American Exodus," his magisterial 1989 book about Okie culture in California, many Okies were far from the barely literate rural victims that Steinbeck made them out to be. They were actually part of the huge demographic migration of people from the Southwestern United States to California during the first half of the 20th century in search of better jobs and a better life. Only about half of the Depression-era Okies hailed from rural areas, Gregory pointed out, with the rest coming from towns and cities. Many were white-collar and industrial workers. About half of the Okies, "Arkies" and other Southwesterners settled in Los Angeles, the Bay Area and San Diego and never picked a single crop.And although there was genuine misery in some of the migrant camps, conditions "were not uniformly horrible," Gregory wrote. Most Okies found a better standard of living. Many of them also quickly moved out of farm work into better-paying jobs in the oil industry and, when World War II broke out, in the burgeoning Southern California defense plants. By 1950, most Okies had secured comfortable working-class and lower-middle-class lifestyles, and some had downright prospered.Furthermore -- and here the last laugh is on Steinbeck -- the Okies turned out to be the exact opposite of progressive collectivists, becoming the backbone of California's political and social conservatism. Instead of fomenting a workers revolution, they led the Reagan Revolution. In "The Grapes of Wrath," Steinbeck relentlessly mocks the Okies' Pentecostal Christianity. In fact, their Pentecostal and Baptist churches were a source of moral cohesion. Gregory counted more churches in Bakersfield, where Okie culture influenced everything from spirituality to music, than in San Francisco. To this day, the Okie culture-saturated San Joaquin Valley remains California's only red-state region. I only vaguely remember reading Grapes of Wrath, which, while I was in High School, shared the distinction with Moby Dick of being one of only two books that I started but never finished. [...]

Imigration Sanity 2: Scott Walker


Scott Walker is still talking sensibly about immigration:
“See now that’s where they take it out of context,” Walker said in response. “I’ve not said there should be amnesty in this country. I don’t believe that. I don’t support the legislation being kicked around. What I’ve said repeatedly is we need to fix the immigration system, but fix the legal system. So if people want to come in this country we should have a legal immigration system.”
Allahpundit is skeptical but he acknowledges that Walker has been consistent on this point:
I haven’t seen him comment on this subject at length (why would any Republican governor want to handle this grenade when he doesn’t have to?), but twice already this year he’s made remarks that make it sound like he’s more interested in the legalization side of the equation than the security part. Ed wrote about it back in February and I noted it when it came up again in July. In both cases, but especially in the latter (watch the video below), he emphasized that a more permissive legal immigration process would solve, in some large part, America’s illegal immigration process. I … suppose that’s true. If you line up the Border Patrol at the border to hand out visas to people as they stream across, that would indeed technically reduce illegal immigration to zero. 
I don't think Allah is being fair here.  Is the problem simply that we want to punish people for breaking the immigration laws? That may satisfy our sense of fairness, but how does anyone profit by such a scheme?. We need to do three things to solve the illegal immigration problem:
  1. Protect the country from hostile invasion by improving border security. 
  2. Reduce the incentive for malfeasance by eliminating the welfare state.
  3. Encourage productivity and competition by allowing anyone who wants to work to do so.
Walker doesn't talk much about point 2 but both 1 & 2 are aided by point 3.  This is the same principle that makes us support right to work against union activists.  I don't see why more conservatives don't see that parallel.

Ben Carson for President?


I just got an email forwarded by a friend from a Draft Ben Carson for President campaign. For those who don't know, Ben Carson was propelled into the political limelight by a keynot speech he gave at the National Prayer Breakfast. (He may have also become a victim of the ongoing IRS scandal as a result.) Here is my response to the email:He seems like a great guy. I appreciate a plain-spoken man and he clearly has a grip on the conservative talking points. But it takes a bit more than talk to qualify for the Presidency, and there is no way to know much about how he would go about implementing his ideas. I don't, in principle, object to people running for office with no prior political experience, but President is a pretty big deal and we need to have some grasp of how he would design his reforms and how he would manage to get them through Congress. It may be too early to ask that question, but his lack of executive or legislative history is a big question that needs to be answered.Also, I realize the original email is not coming directly from Carson, but things like this make me nervous:Dr. Carson is the only man who can heal and unite Americans - black, white, Hispanic; men, women; employer, employee; young, old.Nonsense! There are plenty of black conservatives who would be good candidates, and there are plenty of non-blacks who have the political skill to unite different ethnic and socio-economic groups. I like what I see of Carson and would vote for him if he were the Republican candidate, but lets leave the Messianic language to the Democrats.National Debt. Cut government spending by 10% each year, across the board, until the budget is balanced! Sounds good, but I need to see the plan. Obamacare. Repeal it! Replace it with a free market health savings account. Just about every Rebulican will be saying something like this. Again, need to see the plan.Taxes. Make it flat and make sure that everyone has skin in the game. Everyone pays. Fair enough. There are other viable options, but this could work if done right. The "everyone pays" part is going to be a tough sell. Even a black guy is going to get skewered by the NAACP and other such groups. If anything, he might get more heat from them as a "race traitor" or the various other kind expressions that left-leaning blacks use against conservatives. Not that that should stop him, but we are kidding ourselves if we think that he will get a pass just because he is black.Abortion. End it now! It is barbaric. As I have said in lots of other places, this isn't the President's job. I realize conservative politicians have to say this sort of thing to prove their cred, but I am always a little uneasy when politicians gloss over the constitutional obstacles to doing this on the Federal level. Illegal Immigration. Listen to the American people, secure our borders. End it. Redistribution of Income. Stop it. It’s un-American. Welfare. It not only encourages self-destructive behavior, it is a trap. Replace it with a truly compassionate, free market approach that enables those on welfare to gain prosperity through employment and entrepreneurship. Again, with all these issues, we need to see the details. These are some of the thorniest issues in current politics and no president is going to be successful at dealing with them if he doesn't acknowledge the great difficulty of the problems.Judges. Appoint judges committed to the US Constitution. This is what I would have liked to hear on the abortion point above. Also, as with everything else, we need more details.Political Correctness. It is dangerous. It hinders progress and divides our nation. Whoa! I totally agree, of course, but why is this in a presidential campaign? He needs to be very careful talking about this. If he means he isn't going to base his policies on politically correct considerations, fine. But if he means he is[...]

Immigration Sanity


Emily McClintock Ekins at Cato has one of the few intelligent analyses of the immigration issue. Unfotunately it is in podcast form, and there doesn't appear to be a transcript:

Really the debate should not just be on unauthorized immigration and how we deal with those who are currently in the country without authorization, but how to deal with future immigration; to make it easier to come to this country; to help businesses grow and thrive; and just have a saner immigration system. And that, people aren't getting behind that yet, because we are not talking about it. 4:22

I wholeheartedly agree. If we made it easier for people of good will to immigrate or at least to obtain work visas, there would be two immediate benefits. One, it would drastically reduce the amount of illegal border crossing and free up police resources that are currently tied up chasing people who are basically harmless. And, two, it would virtually guarantee that everyone who did cross illegally was up to no good, and so would justify more severe enforcement. Clarity is a great benefit to justice.

Update (7/3/13): Evidently Scott Walker has similar thoughts (via Hot Air).

IRS Whistleblower Site


In contrast the many conspiracy theories surrounding the Obama administration, this story is actually based on solid research and documentation. But there are still many facts to be uncovered. The House Ways and Means Committee has established an anonymous, secure website for victims of IRS discrimination to add to the growing body of evidence:

Following repeated congressional inquiries, [...] a senior IRS official acknowledged that the agency had been targeting conservative-leaning political organizations. On May 14, the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) released a report detailing a TIGTA audit of IRS activities and confirmed that, “the IRS used inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status.” The TIGTA audit confirms that targeting of conservative groups began in 2010. The report also confirms that, despite repeated denials to the contrary, IRS officials had knowledge of such activities as early as 2011. During a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee the TIGTA Inspector General testified that U.S. Treasury officials were notified of the audit in 2012.

Those are the facts, but many more questions remain, including how individuals and organizations were affected by the actions of the IRS. As the Committee continues to pursue this investigation, this website allows those affected by the IRS scandal to share their story. Your story is critical to moving the investigation forward. Taking a few minutes to fill out the form below and share your story will allow the Committee to identify key facts and take action to deal with the failures of the IRS.
The IRS Political Discrimination Investigation

CORRECTION: The site is not anonymous, since you have to leave a name, but the option exists to allow disclosure or not.

Welcome to NICE


According to FOX News, a university student has been suspended for complaining about an assignment to trample the name "Jesus":Rotela, who is a devout Mormon, said the instructor in his Intercultural Communications class told the students to write the name “Jesus” on a sheet of paper. Then, they were told to put the paper on the floor.“He had us all stand up and he said ‘Stomp on it,’” Rotela said. “I picked up the paper from the floor and put it right back on the table.The young college student told the instructor, Deandre Poole, that the assignment was insulting and offensive.“I said to the professor, ‘With all due respect to your authority as a professor, I do not believe what you told us to do was appropriate,’” Rotela said. ‘I believe it was unprofessional and I was deeply offended by what you told me to do.’”Rotela took his concerns to Poole’s supervisor – where he was promptly suspended from the class.[...]A university spokesperson told they could not comment about Rotela’s case due to student privacy laws.However, the university is defending the instructor’s assignment to stomp on the name of Jesus.“As with any academic lesson, the exercise was meant to encourage students to view issues from many perspectives, in direct relation with the course objectives,” said Noemi Marin, the university’s director of the school of communication and multimedia studies.So the activity is justified on the grounds that it is an exercise in objectivity. It is hard not to think of a similar scene in C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength:On the floor lay a large crucifix, almost life size, a work of art in the Spanish tradition, ghastly and realistic. "We have half an hour to pursue our exercises," said Frost looking at his watch. Then he instructed Mark to trample on it and insult it in other ways. Now whereas Jane had abandoned Christianity in early childhood, along with her belief in fairies and Santa Claus, Mark had never believed in it at all. At this moment, therefore, it crossed his mind for the very first time that there might conceivably be something in it. [...]"This," said Mark, pointing with an undefined reluctance to the horrible white figure on the cross. "This is all surely a pure superstition." [...]"Of course, it is a superstition; but it is that particular superstition which has pressed upon our society for a great many centuries. It can be experimentally shown that it still forms a dominant system in the subconscious of many individuals whose conscious thought appears to be wholly liberated. An explicit action in the reverse direction is therefore a necessary step towards complete objectivity. It is not a question for 'a priori' discussion. We find it in practice that it cannot be dispensed with."This is an instructive case of ideological over-reach having the opposite of its intended effect. Note that Mark Studdock is an atheistwho has never had even the slightest religious instruction. But his reaction to the specific attack, not on religion generally, but on the person of Christ, raises uncomfortable questions about the objectivity of his indoctrination:Mark was well aware of the rising danger. Obviously, if he disobeyed, his last chance of getting out of Belbury alive might be gone. Even of getting out of this room. The smothering sensation once again attacked him. He was himself, he felt, as helpless as the wooden Christ. As he thought this, he found himself looking at the crucifix in a new way - neither as a piece of wood nor a monument of superstition but as a bit of history. Christianity was nonsense, but one did not doubt that the man had lived and had been executed thus by the Belbury of those days. And that, as he suddenly saw, explained why this image, though not itself an image of the Straight[...]

Pope Francis


The Roman Catholic Church has elected the first New World pope! (Also, the first Jesuit, the firs pope from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first non-European in over a millenium.)

There is already a Wikipedia page (though admittedly rudimentary).

Pro-life Hollywood


Huffington Post (of all places) has a remarkable slide-show of 11 celebrities who are pro-life. Some of them, like Mel Gibson and Ben Stein, are well-known. But others are rather surprising, at least to me. Truth be told, I don't know who some of these folks are, but it is always encouraging to see the cracks in the left-wing hegemony. (Note: the slide-show doesn't work well under Internet Explorer. I had to switch to Firefox to get it to load properly.)Jack NicholsonJack Nicholson has said his pro-life stance stems from being born out of wedlock himself. His mother, a showgirl, became pregnant with him as a teenager and was encouraged to have an abortion but did not.Kenny ChesneyIt would be no surprise to see any number of country stars on this list, but Kenny Chesney may have taken his pro-life stance an extra step. His 2003 single "There Goes My Life," about a teenager preparing to become a father, has been lauded as an anti-abortion, pro-fatherhood anthem.Mel GibsonMel Gibson told Barbara Walters in 1990 that he is opposed to birth control and abortion, saying, "God is the only one who knows how many children we should have, and we should be ready to accept them. One can't decide for oneself who comes into this world and who doesn't. That decision doesn't belong to us." Patricia HeatonThe Emmy-winning "Everybody Loves Raymond" actress has long been known as an outspoken Republican. In 1998 she became the honorary co-chair of Feminists for Life, a pro-life organization that aims to steer women away from choosing abortion. Martin SheenMartin Sheen, who portrayed Democratic president Jed Bartlet on "The West Wing," discussed his devout Catholic upbringing and conservative viewpoints on an Irish talk show in 2011. He specifically mentioned being pro-life, but that didn't stop him from telling HuffPo that Mitt Romney is "stupid" and "arrogant."Ben SteinBefore becoming an actor, Ben Stein was a speechwriter for presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He's remained a well-known political and economic commentator and in 2003 was honored at the Tenth Annual Proudly Pro-Life Awards Dinner, hosted by the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund.Kathy IrelandKathy Ireland rose to fame in the 1980s as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, but, like her political beliefs, much of her work has since been comparatively conservative. In 2011, Ireland was the keynote speaker at the Council for Life's annual luncheon, where she professed her religious beliefs and detailed her journey to becoming a pro-life supporter.Kirk CameronA former atheist, Kirk Cameron famously became a born-again Christian at 17 while starring on "Growing Pains," which he then insisted had plots that were too inappropriate. He's since been an incredibly outspoken Republican, receiving intense backlash from the the Hollywood community in 2012 when he told Piers Morgan that homosexuality is "unnatural ... and ultimately destructive to foundations of civilization." He is currently a member of the evangelical Christian movement and has espoused anti-abortion ideology. Justin Bieber"I really don't believe in abortion," Justin Bieber told Rolling Stone in 2011. "It's like killing a baby." When asked about cases of rape, the pop star said, "Um. Well, I think that's really sad, but everything happens for a reason. I don't know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven't been in that position, so I wouldn't be able to judge that."Jim CaviezelHaving portrayed Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," it seems only appropriate that Jim Caviezel has proclaimed himself to be a devout Catholic. The actor told Catholic Digest in 2009 that being pro-life is more important to him than his career. Andrea BocelliAndrea Bocelli firs[...]

Abolishing the Southern Strategy


Originally the "Southern Strategy" was adopted by Richard Nixon to motivate the solidly Democrat states in the South to switch to the Republican party. This proved politically successful, but at great cost to the moral integrity of the party. In the 1980s Lee Atwater, working for Ronald Reagan attempted, with moderate success to push the party back to a more principled conservatism. Since that time, the Southern Strategy has been more useful to the Left, in both the political and media professions, as a way to keep blacks from voting Republican. The Republican party, and conservatives in general, have deplored this situation, but have generally conceded the battle as a lost cause.

If conservatism is ever going to reclaim its rightful moral high ground, we are going to have to permanently reject the short-term, unprincipled, and frankly desperate appeal to our constiuent's baser instincts and do so publicly and unambiguously. This makes many conservatives uncomfortable because it sounds like political correctness and/or tokenism. But we need to remember that the battle for public opinion is often fought at a low level of intellectual substance. Symbolism matters and if we try to make this a fight of substance versus symbolism, we will lose every time. Instead we need to find examples of substance that also have the correct symbolism.

Case in point: the recent appointment of Tim Scott to represent South Carolina, replacing the invaluable Jim Demint in the Senate. Front Page Magazine has a good introductory article:

Scott’s public record and ability to attract support from across racial lines paints a picture of Scott as one whose political career was built upon steering clear of, and rejecting, racial stereotypes or identification. His election, as well as the success of other Republican politicos such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, reflects a Republican Party which is beginning to move back towards the multi-racial identity it held after the Civil War, leaving the post-Civil Rights “Southern Strategy” Nixon era behind.

National Debt Clock


I have added a link to in the News Sources section of the blogroll. I have also added a widget that shows a running total below the Personal Links section. I am not really happy with the widget, but it is more attractive than others that I have seen.

Interesting fact: My household's share of the national debt is now greater than our mortgage.

Update: 02/15/13 Deleted the widget because it was interfering with my browser history. The link is still there in News Sources.

Election Predictions


I am not completely sure about Wisconsin versus Ohio. If Romney gets either of them, he still wins: 271 Electoral votes with Wisconsin, 279 with Ohio (as above), 289 with both. In the above scenario, Romaney can afford to lose Colorado and still have 270.

For what it is worth, Karl Rove has eseentially the same electoral map, except he gives Iowa to Romney and I think Obama will squeek by with those 6 votes. Won't make much difference, either way.

Joshua Project Removed


I have temporarily removed the Joshua Project Unreached People of the Day gadget from my sidebar. The site that sponsors it is evidently having trouble with their security system, causing the gadget to display a login prompt. I tried contacting the site directly but I get the same prompt followed by a Not Authorized screen. Hopefully this is just a temporary glitch. I will restore the link if/when they get their problem sorted.

Millenial Generation


We have heard for the past decade that the generation following Gen X (usually called the Millenials or the We Generation) exhibits a turn toward conservatism and civic-mindedness. Jean Twenge has an article in the Atlantic suggesting that this is not the case: In the years that followed, numerous books and news reports emphasized Millennials' desire to help others, become involved in politics and government, and work toward improving the environment. "People born between 1982 and 2000 are the most civic-minded since the generation of the 1930s and 1940s," claimed USA Today. "Generation We is noncynical and civic-minded. They believe in the value of political engagement and are convinced that government can be a powerful force for good," wrote Eric Greenberg and Karl Weber in their 2008 book Generation We. "By comparison with past generations, Generation We is highly politically engaged." Both of these sources mentioned the rise in volunteering and interviewed Millennials, but didn't compare those responses to data from previous generations. In my 2006 book Generation Me, I presented data showing generational increases in self-esteem, assertiveness, self-importance, narcissism, and high expectations, based on surveys of 1.2 million young people, some dating back to the 1920s. These analyses indicated a clear cultural shift toward individualism and focusing on the self. But perhaps both views were correct -- maybe Millennials' greater self-importance found expression in helping others and caring about larger social causes. [...] So we dug into the data. The results for civic engagement were clear: Millennials were less likely than Boomers and even GenXers to say they thought about social problems, to be interested in politics and government, to contact public officials, or to work for a political campaign. They were less likely to say they trusted the government to do what's right, and less likely to say they were interested in government and current events. It was a far cry from Howe and Strauss' prediction of Millennials as "The Next Great Generation" in civic involvement. Millennials were also less likely to say they did things in their daily lives to conserve energy and help the environment, and less likely to agree that government should take action on environmental issues. With all of the talk about Millennials being "green," I expected these items to be the exception. Instead, they showed some of the largest declines. Three times as many Millennials as Boomers said they made no personal effort to help the environment. Millennials were slightly less likely to say they wanted a job that was helpful to others or was worthwhile to society. This is directly counter to the Generation We view predicting that Millennials would be much more concerned for others. Volunteering rates did increase, the only item out of 30 measuring concern for others that did. However, this rise occurred at the same time that high schools increasingly required volunteer service to graduate. I think many people hoped that the failure of the Baby Boom generation would automatically produce a backlash, but there is nothing automatic about virtue. It requires work and education to transmit the values of the past to future generations. This doesn't necessarily prove that conservative hopes are dashed; there is still time to persuade this future generation of the value of traditional values. But it does demonstrate that conservatism is not a naturally occurring phenomenon.[...]



(image) 07/04/1776 - 06/19/1865 : 32,491 days. It shouldn't have taken so long.
How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me. (Ps 13:1-6)

Atlas Shrugged Part 2 Trailer


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Too catholic to be Catholic - Leithart


Back in 1993, when half of my church decided to leave Anglicanism and unite with the Orthodox church, I found in necessary to examine very closely issues of church history and ecclesiology in order to properly evaluate the rival claims of both traditions. The fact is, I was more than half inclined to go along with the Orthodox faction, but in the end I couldn't get over the fact that I would have to be repudiating my former church and, to some degree, all of my friends who had stayed behind. Obviously, I am oversimpiflying, but the issue is not a minor one. I remained Anglican because, though I mourn the fragmentation of the church, I could not see how it would help to jump from one fragment to a slightly larger one. Peter J. Leithart comes to similar conclusions in this blog post from yesterday: Here’s the question I would ask to any Protestant considering a move: What are you saying about your past Christian experience by moving to Rome or Constantinople? Are you willing to start going to a Eucharistic table where your Protestant friends are no longer welcome? How is that different from Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with Gentiles? Are you willing to say that every faithful saint you have known is living a sub-Christian existence because they are not in churches that claim apostolic succession, no matter how fruitful their lives have been in faith, hope, and love? For myself, I would have to agree that my ordination is invalid, and that I have never presided over an actual Eucharist. To become Catholic, I would have to begin regarding my Protestant brothers as ambiguously situated “separated brothers,” rather than full brothers in the divine Brother, Jesus. To become Orthodox, I would likely have to go through the whole process of initiation again, as if I were never baptized. And what is that saying about all my Protestant brothers who have been “inadequately” baptized? Why should I distance myself from other Christians like that? I’m too catholic to do that. This is a very concise description of my own feelings, and I am happy to see them expressed by such a prominent voice as Leithart. I need to point out that I don't endorse all of his objections to Roman Catholicism: I agree with the standard Protestant objections to Catholicism and Orthodoxy: Certain Catholic teachings and practices obscure the free grace of God in Jesus Christ; prayers through Mary and the saints are not encouraged or permitted by Scripture, and they distract from the one Mediator, Jesus; I do not accept the Papal claims of Vatican I; I believe iconodules violate the second commandment by engaging in liturgical idolatry; venerating the Host is also liturgical idolatry; in both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, tradition muzzles the word of God. I’m encouraged by many of the developments in Catholicism before and since Vatican II, but Vatican II created issues of its own (cf. the treatment of Islam in Lumen Gentium). I don't object to prayer to Mary, provided they are properly understood and the theology of icons in both Roman and Eastern traditions is acceptable to me, though I object to the suggestion that such practices are obligatory. Of course, these things can lead to the sort of idolatry that Leithart describes, especially among the less theologically educated, but there are plenty of idolatries within the folk traditions of Protestantism as well. Ignorance and superstition are ugly in all of their many guises. Since my Anglcan church has recently folded after 25 ye[...]

The Obama Campaign's Two-Minute Hate


Yuval Levin points to this heavy-handed attempt by the Obama campaign to defend the increasingly unpopular (and probably unconstitutional) health-care plan:
I don’t think I have ever seen a cultural artifact that so desperately begs to be parodied and ridiculed, and is so ill-suited to the audience it is intended to reach, as the Obama campaign’s “Life of Julia.” If you haven’t seen it yet, you really need to. From the overarching narrative of drab dependency to the comically blunt and clumsy contrasts with Romney, the utterly unironic pseudo-edginess (“Julia starts her own web business”), the self-caricaturing lifestyle liberalism (“this allows her to volunteer at a community garden”), the un-self-conscious intermixing of the vocabularies of liberty and entitlement (“thanks to Obamacare, her health insurance is required to cover birth control”), the imagery of studied nonchalance, and the whole look and feel of the enterprise, it appears to have been created by people deeply immersed in the culture of overeducated twenty-something hipster self-effacement but unaware that it is all intended sarcastically.
This is tone-deafness on an epic scale. Can it truly have escaped the attention of everyone on the development staff of this Orwellian propaganda project that Julia is the name of the anti-heroine in Nineteen-Eighty Four? Any attempt at parody should surely be called "The Life of Winston", or maybe "The Two-Minute Hate".

Another Reason to Dislike Farrakhan


Anyone who has been paying attention to the invectives and pollemics of Louis Farrakhan (and I don't necessarily recommend doing so) will know that he is committed to anti-semitism in a way that would embarrass Archie Bunker. But I don't think most people know (I certainly didn't) that Farrakhan is also a defender of African slavery by Arab Muslims. This piece by Charles Jacobs on the iAbolish website has eye-opening details:

PBS’s Tony Brown Journal, the most popular Black news program at the time, invited Mohammed and me to speak about slavery. Immediately after our appearance, we were attacked by Farrakhan’s spokesman who denied that Blacks served Arab masters in Sudan or – worse from NOI’s point of view, that Black Muslims served Arab Muslim masters in Mauritania. Farrakhan’s “calling,” after all, funded in part by Arab dictator Muammar Khadafy, was to break the Black/Jewish civil rights alliance while teaching American Blacks that Islam was their path to freedom. Not in Sudan and Mauritania it wasn’t!

NOI was serious about shutting us up. Samuel Cotton, a black reporter for the City Sun, NY’s second largest black paper conducted a thorough investigation that resulted in a five part series. “Arab Masters, Black Slaves” screamed across the front page in NYC’s news kiosks. NOI warned Sam. They followed and menaced him when he spoke in Chicago, not far from their headquarters.


Farrakhan has always said that slavery in Sudan and Mauritania was a Zionist lie. Last week, South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, demanded the liberation of 30,000 slaves still held by Arabs in the North. Minister Farrakhan, South Sudan is not a Jewish nation. You met with South Sudanese leaders in the Spring of 1994. They begged you for support – and to help free the slaves. They wrote that you told them "When it comes to a choice between religion or the dignity of the black man I will choose my skin." You betrayed them. Why?

Read the whole article for more background and supporting links.

Perry's Term Limit Proposal


Ann Althouse highlights Rick Perry's judicial term limits proposal from this longer piece. (Note that Perry, in proposing to "overhaul Washington DC" is not talking like a conservative, but I will leave that discussion for another time.)

Too many federal judges rule with impunity from the bench, and those who legislate from the bench should not be entitled to lifetime abuse of their judicial authority.” He proposed 18-year terms, staggered every two years, for new Supreme Court justices, and suggested similar limits on federal appellate and district court judges...

I like judicial term limits in principle, but the practical effects wouldn't be apparent for decades. The average Supreme Court term is 16.71 years. In the modern era (since Earl Warren, and excluding the incumbent justices) that average has trended up to 20.32, so there might be some slight advantage, but not much.

Another problem is that the effects presumably would have to be phased in. Even if we assume that Perry gets his amendment in early 2013, it is not reasonable to suppose that he would get a judge through the nominating/confiramtion process before 2014 -- a mid-term election year. Each term limit after that would also fall on an election year which would put quite a bit of political pressure on the Senate.

Also, note the unfortunate order in which the current justices would rotate off:
Scalia 2014 (Mid-term)
Kennedy 2016 (Presidential)
Thomas 2018 (Mid-term)
Ginsburg 2020 Presidential)

So Perry's crusade against judicial activism would have the following results:
1. In the two easiest nominations, he would be forced to replace the two strongest conservatives. Hopefully he could find suitable candidates, but the benefits to the overall state of the court would be at best neutral.

2. His battle to replace moderate Kennedy with a conservative would certainly be a factor in his re-election bid in 2016. Lot of down-side there for very little improvement.

3. He would have to wait until the last year of his second term (assuming he survives the 2016 election) to replace his first liberal. That nomination fight would occur in his lame-duck year and would substantially impact his successor's chances.

4. That successor would be replacing Steven Breyer, which would certainly be a factor in the election.

On the whole, I don't see much upside in the political dimension and a lot of downside. Maybe the principle is worth the risk. I do like the fact that we would know when justices are up for replacement, and could decide whom to vote for accordingly. But that benefit would be more of a side-effect and isn't really the point of Perry's proposal.