Tag Archives: America Is Doomed

It’s dangerous when religious belief is the only justification for freedom of association and private property rights

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), championed by Congressional Republicans and conservative commentators, represents an important counter-maneuver to the oppression wrought by the cultural left.  Of course, RFRA shouldn’t be necessary, and wouldn’t be if our culture still respected the freedoms enshrined in our constitution and national traditions.  It’s dubious that RFRA carves out liberties defined by religious belief over those that should be protected by the equally fundamental American protections of free speech, free association, and property rights.

RFRA allows a private actor—a citizen or organization—to refuse to comply with a law by complaining that the law substantially burdens his religious belief.  The law requires courts to use a balancing test in weighing the law’s purpose versus the individual’s belief.

The First Amendment is pretty absolute, subject to a few well-defined exceptions and rarely subject to any balancing tests.  It is a profound violation of American notions of liberty to insist that property rights can only be asserted by virtue of religious belief, and subject to a balancing test at that.

In the archetypal scenario that has necessitated RFRA and similar legislative pursuits in the last few years, a baker refuses to decorate a cake for a gay wedding, in violation of a local ordinance or state law barring discrimination against homosexuals.  RFRA would allow the baker to potentially avoid sanction, but would not invalidate the underlying law that he had violated.

Aside from the question of whether refusing to decorate a cake with certain content actually amounts to discrimination against a defined class of people, it seems disastrous for the right to concede the merits of such anti-discrimination laws—or of continually expanding the classes of people covered by them—and leave the private citizen with no recourse other than to grasp onto his religious belief to carve out an exception against the state expropriating his property rights.

That the baker cannot assert a defense of “I don’t like gay people” or “This message doesn’t comport with my taste” or “I don’t want to promote the institution of gay ‘marriage'”—nor apparently “I don’t like your attitude” or “I don’t feel like serving you” or “It’s none of your damn business why I don’t want to make your cake”—represents a profound erosion of freedom.  Moreover, forcing him to publicly assert his religiosity and articulate the details of how that impacts his decisions on how to earn a living–and then subjecting that reasoning to analysis by a court—represents a troubling intrusion into the baker’s freedom of conscience.

Businesses in America used to have signs saying, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,” but now that statement has no practical implication.  Perhaps there is a new market for signs that say, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, except racial or ethnic minorities, women, non-Christians, people with disabilities in some cases, military veterans, and maybe homosexuals or ‘transgendered’ people, depending on which state, county, and city we are located in.”

Although people who value individual liberty have always opposed anti-discrimination litigation on principled grounds, they have been lonely in doing so.  We have essentially lost the argument, beginning with Barry Goldwater’s prescient but futile opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But recent debates leading to such laws as the RFRA have taken us even further in the direction of collectivism.  Both arch-leftist Sally Kohn—via one of the stupidest articles ever written—and supposed conservative John Kasich—in a more folksy appeal to common sense—have made what turn out to be similar arguments to defend laws against discrimination, asserting that simply existing in the public sphere requires one to not discriminate.  Although their arguments advance the same concept of “public accommodation” that has prevailed since the civil rights era, they go further in advancing a profound misconcepti0n of what liberty is.  (Their arguments are little different than defending a law prohibiting people yelling in the public square to criticize the government by saying, We have freedom of speech in this country; you are free to say whatever you want in the privacy of your own home, but once you enter a public space, the state has the right to restrict what you say.)

We get it:  true freedom of association and property rights are basically dead in this country, and have been for decades.  And we get that asserting religious freedom may be good politics as a rear-guard action to restore some freedom of conscience in some circumstances.  But the right is not doing the culture any favor by rushing past some core American values to imply that the only people who deserve liberty are those who can claim a religious basis for it.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Government

UPDATE: NCAA’s treatment of Penn State was a sham

Joe Nocera of the New York Times reports that Penn State knew that it didn’t have any jurisdiction to penalize Penn State’s football program as a whole for the horrific private actions of former coach Jerry Sandusky.

We lamented the punishment at the time as an affront to the “rule of law,” so to speak, and unfair to the team.  Naturally, liberals in the media (including Nocera, as he decently admits in the current column) enjoyed lambasting the university’s “football culture” that supposedly contributed to the abuse.

It is fair to criticize the Penn State administration for enabling Sandusky, but it does not follow that the NCAA should punish the players on the field.  It’s a bit too late for the students, players, and fans, but at least we can hope that the NCAA applies more rational oversight in the future.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture

What’s the real story behind the Bruce Levenson revelation?

Another scalp for the faux-outrage crowd.  We see nothing wrong with the e-mail that Atlanta Hawks’ owner Bruce Levenson sent to his colleagues:  he was calling for more diversity in the cheerleading team and arena music selection; citing the need to attract more affluent whites to the season ticket ranks; advancing a theory that perhaps some presumably racist white people are afraid to come to games and that the team should address their perception, while being careful to add that he didn’t personally share that perception (this second clause in his statement scurrilously left out of the Washington Post‘s coverage); and benchmarking other teams’ fan bases and marketing approaches.  Seems like normal business.

Cue the moronic template statement from the NBA commissioner:  “As Mr. Levenson acknowledged, the views he expressed are entirely unacceptable and are in stark contrast to the core principles of the National Basketball Association.”  This mechanical pablum with utterly no context could have been issued at any time, in any of these phony “scandals.”  If one didn’t know better, one would doubt its sincerity.

The interesting question is how the information came out.  He sent the e-mail in August 2012 and reportedly “voluntarily reported the email to the NBA” in July 2014, triggering an “independent investigation” by the league.  One wonders the circumstances of this reporting.  Why would Levenson report it?  Did he learn that some news was about to leak, and/or the NBA’s “investigation” was about to crucify him, prompting him to try to get out in front of it?  Presumably, during the Donald Sterling fracas, Silver put the other owners on notice that a witch-hunt was coming.  (Of course, the witch-hunt would be coming from the NBA itself, even though the commissioner is supposed to actually represent the owners not sell them out.)  Did Silver offer the owners some type of amnesty, in asking them to get anything potentially damaging out there, and then renege?

(As hackneyed as it is, we can play the usual thought experiment and switch the races in Levenson’s message, and realize that, had he said that the team needs to add more black-oriented music and black cheerleaders, attract more upscale blacks, and otherwise address blacks’ perceptions of the brand to make the environment more comfortable for them, he’d probably receive an award for promoting racial harmony.)

These are all troubling questions, coming soon, no doubt, to your employer too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture

Adrift trying to navigate the false equivalencies and hierarchy of victimhood

Attractive Tacoma teacher Meredith Powell, age 24, pled guilty to having sex with a couple of male students, ages 15-16.  Everyone has played their dutiful part in the aftermath:  the mainstream media reported on the “rape”; commenters everywhere decried the “double standard,” as a male teacher certainly would (and has) received much harsher punishment for a similar offense; and the 99% that comprise of the rest of us snickered, with some subset of that group envious that they never had teachers like that in high school.

Perhaps, genders aside, one could argue that the teacher abused her power position, but, judging by the sexts the fornicators sent each other, it appears that it was the alpha-men-in-training who had the psychological power over their lonely paramour.

Some on the right have also toed the “double standard” line, including a disappointingly tame Greg Gutfeld.  Polite conservative society seems unable to point out the illogic in the false equivalency between a woman “perpetrator” and a man in such circumstances.  Our polity moves on awaiting the next spectacle.

Where’s the outrage at the outrage?  Channeling Whoopi Goldberg and Todd Akin, this was not rape in any rational sense.  This was not forcible rape.  This was not coercive or even manipulative rape.  This was not date rape because-I-was-drunk-no-I-mean-drugged-actually-I-changed-my-mind-the-next-morning.  The “victims” were postpubescent males who gladly consented and certainly high-fived all their friends afterward.  As would any teenager after bonking a 24-year-old teacher who looks like that.

Meanwhile, following the release on the internet of private naked pictures of 100 starlets (and one dude) allegedly stolen from the iCloud, Time myopically asks, “Where Are All the Hacked Pics of Men?”  The article doesn’t really attempt to answer, which is more indicative of the author’s worldview than would be any attempt to analyze this profound question.  It’s self-evident sexism, of course—make that rape culture.  And, by the way, woman have a hard time working in technology.   And female video-game developers are routinely harassed.  Etc.

The Time author’s title is a rhetorical question, but not for the reason that most people assume.  Sure, one explanation is that there is little demand for such content.  Still, in the era of abundant internet niches to fulfill every imaginable prurient interest (and many that we can’t imagine), we can assume that there is someone out there purveying photos of naked famous men, presumably for the homosexual audience (Google “male celebrities naked pictures” and you’ll find plenty of on-point hits).  The main constraint is on the supply side:  because the “selfie” is largely a feminine phenomenon.  Facebook, Instagram, the “selfie stick,” the dual-camera iPhone, and the other culture-rotting diversions of our time exist because of female narcissism.  You won’t find many men taking pictures of their naked bodies in the bathroom mirror, much less feeling compelled to upload them to the internet.

None of this excuses the hackers’ invasion of privacy, but it is telling that Ricky Gervais was met with nearly universal opprobrium for repeating the obvious advice that we have all received at some point:  don’t publish something that you wouldn’t want to see broadcast across the internet.  Seasoned male pick-up artists (as well as anyone with any common sense) know that when you send an illicit pic to a chick, you make sure that it doesn’t contain any personally identifiable body parts.  But today’s women can’t seem to help themselves.

So, on the one hand, our intellectual elites tell us, there is no biological basis to our quaint notions of gender, so it would follow that there should be no difference between how society reacts to Meredith Powell versus a man similarly situated, and, by the same token, that we should be dumbfounded and outraged (dumraged?) why hackers sought out a nude Jennifer Lawrence but not a nude Joey Lawrence.  (OK, a bad example perhaps.)

On the other hand, in case you haven’t heard, there’s a war on women, not to mention a “deadly epidemic of violence against women.”  In fact, society cares more about endangered ex-pets than about battered women.  So we should come down hard on the patriarchy.  It’s unclear where violence against men is deemed to fall in this hierarchy of worry:  no one seems to care about prison rape, because, well, it’s men who are victimized, plus it’s part of the scourge of American exceptionalism and hence concern about it would place one on the wrong side of the social-justice-enlightenment see-saw.

Since the most noble status one can have in our society is that of victim, and the most righteous pursuit of our intelligentsia is to identify those hapless martyrs and their wrongdoers, it is becoming increasingly complicated to figure out which causes we are supposed to prioritize.  Approaching this puzzle with a basic understanding of the differences between males and females would be a good place to start, but, alas, that ship has sailed—when it suits the narrative.

It gets even harder to decipher the zeitgeist when you add sexual orientation as a dimension.  Civilized society (not to include the authorities in Rotherham) seems to be reacting with appropriate horror at abuse perpetrated by Muslims against young girls in England, as well as that against young boys by Catholic priests worldwide—though the politically-correct media has reduced the sociological sting of the latter crisis by almost universally obscuring its homosexual nature.  One suspects that the secular-progressives’ interest in the case is due mostly to their hatred of religion and their love of lawsuits (with the tort bar chomping at the legs of the table to get its supper).  It becomes complicated trying to patch together our perturbation across so many overlapping grievance groups and boogeymen.

We’ve been trying to come up with a formula to predict the level of contemporary outrage at sexually-based offenses controlling for the gender and sexual orientation of the putative victims and those of the perpetrators.  It’s only getting harder as the number of permutations grows exponentially with all of these new sexual identities.  We give up.

1 Comment

Filed under Culture

Conservatives calling for a Constitutional convention: Be careful what you wish for

Instapundit has been discussing the calls for a constitutional convention called by the states under Article V.  As a thought experiment, put aside all of the speculation about how the delegates for such a convention might be chosen, and assume that, however it comes together, the result of the convention—an amendments package or a rewrite of the whole constitution—accurately reflects the opinions of a majority of the population.  That is a scary thought for people who value liberty.

There seems to be little doubt that Americans like their big government, as we seemed to learn in 2012.  How can anyone think that a new constitution, if it accurately reflected the will of the majority, would be better than the one we have now?  The right to bear arms would be toast, and the freedom of speech that resulted from new wordsmithing would surely be less absolute than the First Amendment.  No other country protects speech as fully as the U.S.; it is very likely that, taking the lead of other Western countries, some provision excepting “hate speech” or “racism” or “denying historical facts such as the Holocaust” or “corporations contributing money to political campaigns” would end up in the constitution.  Such a provision, which a large majority of the low-information (and low-principles) populace would see as innocuous, would of course be used by the government to persecute conservative and pro-liberty elements of the population from day one after its enactment.

Less perniciously, but still with disastrous effect, a new constitution would, no doubt, include more “positive” rights like the “right” to health care, education, or a job—just like supposedly “progressive” constitutions of other countries include.  The beauty of the U.S. constitution is that it includes almost only “negative” rights—rights to be free from certain forms of government interference—as opposed to positive rights bestowed upon citizens.  This makes the current constitution a libertarian’s dream:  pretty much the only positive individual rights covered in the original text and its amendments are the right to Privileges and Immunities, right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and the right to vote.

The country’s balance of power could be altered.  The need to secure ratification by three-quarters of states would prevent small-population states from being totally left behind, but a clever majority could build in mechanisms—in the name of “fairness”—to increase the proportion of representation allocated to larger-population states and cities.  In an extreme scenario, delegates from 45 states could gang up on, for example, tiny red Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota to dilute their power without much regard for the long-term consequences.  No doubt the left would try this.

But a document that reflects the will of the majority is probably the best-case scenario.  More likely, a constitutional convention would be hijacked by enemies of liberty, like, oh, every other lever in our national politics and culture has been over the past century.

Even if we accept arguendo that a majority of citizens, who for example do not have any interest in owning a firearm, would nonetheless understand the value of the Second Amendment both for the positive externality that it creates and for the check on government power that it ensures, there is little reason for optimism that they would be able to act on this principle at a constitutional convention.  The left is always better at mobilizing its foot soldiers than the right, and at shaming the crowd with cries of “what about the children,” “you are racist,” “evil corporations control our politics,” and similar emotionally-charged harangues that have dominated our popular discourse for the last 20 years.

No doubt the attendees at any constitutional convention would be composed disproportionately of union activists, government bureaucrats, college professors and students, and other special interest groups that the left could marshal.  When it came time for the result to be ratified by the states, we would see the same mobilization by the left, egged on by the media, to bring its voters, alive and dead, to vote early and often for what would no doubt be a dastardly document.

Of course the need to attain ratification by three-quarters of the states would be a challenge, but, since there is no time limit for this to be achieved, one could easily imagine the left picking off one state at a time, taking over state legislatures through Soros-funded electioneering, bullying, state court packing, voter fraud, media takeovers, changing the rules, and whatever other means are necessary to get to 38.  Our culture wars over the past half-century suggest that the leftist forces seeking to fundamentally transform our country are better funded, organized, and motivated—even if they don’t represent a majority—than those who seek to maintain liberty.

Whether our institutions are failures because of their lack of fidelity to the constitution or the constitution itself is a failure because it hasn’t been strong enough to hold up is a moot debate, so it’s tempting to try to rectify the problem at the putative source.  But this thinking is a fallacy because we’d be left with the same culture—and a far less liberty-minded constitution to boot.

2 Comments

Filed under Big Government

I only have one question

So all ultra-leftist Bill de Blasio has to do is trot out his afro-haired son in a shamefully contrived stunt to get blacks and white liberals eating out of his hand. How long after January 1 will it be until New Yorkers are longing for the past 20 years of law and order and (relative, by New York standards) fiscal sanity? If de Blasio wins, we’ll not be able to think of any truer example of citizens getting the government they deserve.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Time for D.C. Republicans to pack it in

Please forgive us for stating the obvious, but it’s time for the District of Columbia Republican Party to pack it in. Desist. Give up. Go home. Don’t waste a single additional dollar or minute attempting to be part of the political process. The party should literally close its office, cancel its bank account, deactivate its web page, and resign its place on the Republican National Committee; activists should focus their resources elsewhere. We say this as a former member of the D.C. Republican Committee, ward officer, campaign worker, and unsuccessful candidate for minor local office. We took our own advice years ago but remained a semi-believer until now.

Patrick Mara had all of the ingredients for the best Republican chance to win a city council seat: a special election with low turnout (it ended up being around 10%); a divided field (four Democrats and six candidates overall) and no elected incumbent opponent (the victorious Anita Bonds was appointed to the vacant seat about five months ago); and appeal as a candidate by D.C. standards (he trumpeted his left-wing social views and received the endorsements of the Washington Post, Sierra Club, police union, and prominent mainstream media and interest groups) with good name recognition (he was previously elected to the [non-partisan] school board and had run twice before for the council). With all of this effort, he lost comfortably, obtaining a projected 23% of the vote to finish third.

It is depressing. In the best opportunity in years for a Republican to get elected, a good candidate mustered about 2.3% of the electorate. As usual, the race was about political party, bacon for the local neighborhood, and race. District of Columbia law requires that at least two of the 13 council members be from a minority party, yet the Republicans still haven’t won an election since 2004, after which David Catania left the party to become an independent and Carol Schwartz (who played the Washington Generals to the Democrats’ Harlem Globetrotters in several mayoral elections) lost her council re-election bid.

Republicans should say to District residents, fine, you have repeatedly and unequivocally stated your preference for the venal, petty, corrupt, inept one-party governance that has made the District a national laughingstock (see summaries here and here). You own it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Romney lost because Americans like their big government

In looking for a silver lining, conservatives seem to be spinning the election result as follows:  the electorate still supports small government (as in exit polls reported all night by Fox News and cited, for example, by Investors Business Daily) and believes that the country is going in the wrong direction (same exit poll results).

So Romney lost, the explanation goes, because the Obama campaign did a better job turning out its supporters, boosted by demographic trends over the past decade that are unfavorable to the Republicans.  Maybe a few voters held their noses and stayed home or voted Obama anyway for a variety of reasons ranging from evangelical anti-Mormon bias (VA and CO) to long lines at the polls (FL) to memories of George W. Bush (OH and MI and PA).

These issues are fixable by [somehow] redoubling focus on the ground game (see the comments by the “sick” Florida campaign), by [somehow] increasing appeal to Hispanic voters, and [somehow] taking advantage of different demographic trends that fracture the Democrat coalition (such as insatiable appetites of over-65s to appropriate more of their children’s, grandchildren’s, and future descendants’ money, e.g., as cited by Taranto).  Yet these solutions are analogous to running a tight draw play as if it were fourth-and-goal from the one, when it’s actually more like fourth-and-twenty from the Republicans’ own territory.

Our take is that respondents who tell pollsters that they favor small government are lying, perhaps even to themselves.  Democrats’ electoral strategy has always been to assemble coalitions of people who depend on government in one way or another, but 2012 is perhaps unprecedented in the nakedness of this approach.  Maybe they favor small government in the abstract, but voters—from those whose jobs were saved by the auto bailout in Michigan and Ohio, to upper-middle-class women in Colorado and Virginia who want free birth control pills, to young slackers who can now stay on their parents’ health insurance—apparently responded to the campaign’s explicit appeal to their greed for other people’s money.  Obama has been laying this groundwork since he was inaugurated.  Of course Democrats’ ideology drives them toward redistribution anyway, but this administration has concentrated the largesse on swing constituencies with an expert focus (which, sadly and perhaps reassuringly, no Republican administration could know how to achieve).

The incumbent might have won the turnout battle, but it’s not because of demographics per se, but rather that enough Americans were afraid of losing their government-provided goodies.  Even worse, we are losing the aspirationalism that has been perhaps America’s most exceptional cultural trait:  most Americans, especially young people, don’t even have a favorable view of capitalism anymore.  This problem is only going to get worse as the strain on entitlements grows, as Ron Paul points out.  It is now certain that our government will pay for them with taxes on the upper-middle-class and wealthy and with more debt, probably until such time as the dollar collapses, inflation explodes, and the economy is in depression.

This election proves the grotesque poignancy of Mitt Romney’s “47%” remark.  Democrats have now succeeded in their 80-year effort to increase that percentage high enough to institutionalize the government-centered society.

1 Comment

Filed under Big Government

Could Huma Abedin get a security clearance?

Some sanity from Jeffrey Lord and Andrew McCarthy over the perfectly legitimate questions that Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Louis Gohmert (Tex.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Thomas Rooney (Fla.), and Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.) are asking about the latest liberal pin-up girl Huma Abedin.  Male Republican members of Congress were too busy falling over themselves in showing how chivalrous they are in sucking up to Abedin to consider the actual facts raised.  We do not have proof that her ties to Islamist opponents of America, combined with her access to sensitive information and influence on the secretary of state, represent a risk to our national security, but we certainly have probable cause to ask questions.

Abedin checks the boxes to be untouchably politically correct—pretty, exotic, female, liberal, and glamorous (OMG!  She’s been featured in  Vogue!).  If she weren’t, could she get a U.S. government security clearance?

(Neither could her boss’s boss, President Obama, what with his admitted drug use, foreign ties, and association with radicals, if he were a mere bureaucrat and not an elected or politically appointed official.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

Obamacare will lead inevitably to single-payor

Speaking of Obamacare, not enough commentators are picking up on what seems to us as clear logic:  Obamacare will eventually lead to a so-called single-payor system, i.e., government provision of all health care.  Call it an intended consequence and probably a shrewd strategy for the socialists who know that single-payor is not politically viable yet.

The chain of events will go something like this:  Mandates on insurance companies to cover anyone at prices that the insurers don’t control will turn health insurers essentially into public utilities—with all of the responsiveness and innovation that we have come to expect from such enterprises.  Meanwhile, increasing costs, the “Cadillac tax,” and other burdens will cause more and more employers to drop their health insurance coverage.  A few years after the law is fully implemented, and most Americans despise the system, politicians will do what they do best:  throw more money at the beast.  When that doesn’t work, politicians will adopt another of their favorite tactics:  blame evil corporations.  The big health insurers and big employers have heartlessly failed to take care of their customers and employees, the argument will go, so only benevolent government can step in and provide for the hapless citizenry.  Americans, as we will have done for nearly a century by then, will accept this logic as the only solution.

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Government