Saturday, January 31, 2009

The True Function of Government... to protecting people and their property, nothing more. The People themselves are charged with settling the remainder.

A quite apt lesson in these days of governmental 'assistance' in our lives (unfortunately to clean up the mess that government itself made) by awarding taxpayer moneies to certain select a politically popular groups of individuals:

Governments have no right to interfere with the pursuits of individuals, as guarantied by those general laws, by offering encouragements and granting privileges to any particular class of industry, or any select bodies of men, inasmuch as all classes of industry and all men are equally important to the general welfare, and equally entitled to protection.

Whenever a Government assumes the power of discriminating between the different classes of the community, it becomes, in effect, the arbiter of their prosperity, and exercises a power not contemplated by any intelligent people in delegating their sovereignty to their rulers. It then becomes the great regulator of the profits of every species of industry, and reduces men from a dependence on their own exertions, to a dependence on the caprices of their Government. Governments possess no delegated right to tamper with individual industry a single hair's-breadth beyond what is essential to protect the rights of person and property.

In the exercise of this power of intermeddling with the private pursuits and individual occupations of the citizen, a Government may at pleasure elevate one class and depress another; it may one day legislate exclusively for the farmer, the next for the mechanic, and the third for the manufacturer, who all thus become the mere puppets of legislative cobbling and tinkering, instead of independent citizens, relying on their own resources for their prosperity. It assumes the functions which belong alone to an overruling Providence, and affects to become the universal dispenser of good and evil.

William Leggett, in an editorial in the Evening Post, November 21, 1834.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Roundup

Only five links this week. Sorry, just haven't seen that much to go apoplectic about, and besides, it's been a killer week with an unusually heavy amount of travel. Enjoy....

Here's an interesting one. Women who do not breastfeed their children are 400% more likely to abuse and/or neglect their child. HT: ChristianJ

As if we needed another reason to homeschool. Teacher allegedly molests 75 boys over the span of 35 years.

Legislators in Washington allocate $400M for STD prevention in new stimulus bill. Question: do we really need $400M to tell people to keep their flies zipped/skirts down/drawers on?

Here's another chunk of evidence that the MSM is in the tank for Democrats. The organization formerly known as the Clinton News Network nakedly shills for the Obamessiah by printing up shirts that read: "Obama raises hand, lifts a nation".

FBI: 80% of US crime committed by gangs like MS-13. And: Mexican crime as the #2 threat to US national security.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Feminist's Cognitive Dissonance

It never ceases to amaze me how men and women who subscribe to feminist political philosophy eventually get around to complaining later about the consequences of said philosophy. Namely, the shift in societal attitudes toward women and women's self-commodification:
That year, they were all dressing in Hooters T-shirts (the uniform of the well-endowed waitresses of a U.S. restaurant chain whose slogan ‘delightfully tacky yet unrefined’ sums up its approach) and buttock-skimming shorts. They looked, as girls so often do, far older than their 13 years and not unlike the Playboy Bunnies who incensed a generation of feminists. (Interestingly, clothing depicting the distinctive Playboy bunny is highly popular now among teenage girls.)

[O]ur children have lost all sense of modesty.
Feminists have taken great pains to dismantle the culture that instills and enforces modesty and sexual self-control among females, and respect and responsibility among males. As a consequence, females let their sexuality run buck wild, and newly equalitarian guys treat them with scorn:
In her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women And The Rise Of Raunch Culture, Ariel Levy writes about the American experience, where many a young girl’s dream seems to be the desire to dance around a pole or cheer while others do. She says that feminist terms such as liberation and empowerment, that used to describe women’s fight for equality, have been perverted. Now the freedom to be sexually provocative or promiscuous is not enough - now it can mean the freedom to be an exhibitionist.

Few would wish a return to the hypocritical constraints of life before the sexual revolution...
What precisely does Ms. Lichtenstein think that feminism 'liberated' women from? The comfortable concentration camp of the home? Or from social controls that kept the self-destructive tendencies of females and males in check? And what does she mean by 'empowerment'? Is it the freedom to dress provocatively and sleep around without anyone saying anything about it? Does it mean the power to behave as one wishes without responsibility or accountability? Or does it mean the power to destroy homes and families willy nilly?

Lichtenstein also wonders how we got here, how it was that children came to be hyper-sexualized by a culture that crown as king the unfettered expression of one's sexuality, what role if any did parents play. She speculates that maybe it was because parents just wanted to appear cool, to not appear prudish, nor to
appear as joyless, men-hating feminists, although many of us remember that we fought hard for the right to do as men have always done. One can’t help but wonder what happened to feminism and its lessons. On the one hand, girls drink like men; on the other they dress in a manner that invites sexual objectification. Do these young girls even know what feminism is?
The problem is that at the core of feminism lays a curious duality: an envious-yet-despising attitude toward the masculine. Feminism envies the masculine's superficial freedom to behave as one wishes, forgetting that with freedom came great responsibility and that males were (are) held to a much higher standard of behavior than women. Moreover, feminism ignores the inconvenient truth that, operationally, freedom necessarily and paradoxically entails self-control and self-restraint, without which freedom will lapse into tyranny.

Feminism then insults the masculine by engaging in Dionysian debauchery, all while crowing that they are acting 'like men'. Tellingly, feminists apparently think that the pinnacle of masculine behavior is to comport oneself like a boorish frat boy. They comfort their consciences by telling themselves that they are doing 'as men have always done'; in reality, they are behaving like self-abasing rakes with no regard for their personal long-term welfare or that of the males they inflict themselves upon. This is not truly masculine is the opposite of is hedonistic selfish childishness.

In her article, Lichtenstein queries 'do these girls even know what feminism is'? I have to wonder if she even knows what feminism is...or does...herself.

PS the picture at the top of this post is from the referenced article. It itself is apparently advert material from the UK television show Skins, which, while I haven't seen it, I understand is quite sexualized.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Quote O' The Day

There are days where I definitely feel like this quote is very much true. And I think that we have more coming our way. Much more.

The white male is the Jew of liberal fascism

Jonah Goldberg, in Liberal Fascism

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Iron Laws of Economics...

...will trump femarxist labor legislation each and every time:

"Every American deserves equal pay for equal work," Hillary sniffs in a link that was removed three days ago. "It is disgraceful that four decades after the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, women in this country still earn only 78 cents on the dollar. The Paycheck Fairness Act is an attempt to right this historic wrong and I am proud to reintroduce it today."

Let's get to the core assumption of this proposed legislation (read it for yourself here)...that women are a victimized class that requires federal assistance into compelling corporate and small-business America to pay them at the same rate as men. Does anyone really believe that male and female business owners both would ever employ a man if a similar woman is available who does equal work for 25% less money? What would happen to a company if their labor costs were 25% higher than their competition? So why aren't workplaces 100% female, if men are so expensive to hire? Something else must be driving the disparity, because such discrimination is economic suicide for a company. So what could it be? Perhaps it is women's very own choices, and not piggish employers are to blame for the pay gap?

Thus, the real reason for economically retarded legislation such as the afore-linked HR 1388 (and note all the places where the fed gov will be tasked to "help" remedy employment discrimination) isn't rectifying the pay gap phenomenon. Rather, the purpose behind such laws is to score easy points with certain key Democratic constituencies; easy points because femarxist women are apparently so grotesquely ignorant of basic economics that they can be successfully pandered to in such a transparent way. And self-defeating too, because such heavy-handed fascist legislation makes hiring a woman more and more expensive relative to hiring a man. Ironically, this could result in fewer jobs for women, not more.* From the same article:

But in Real America where I live – in small towns and rural areas across the country – the quiet, unspoken ripple effect will be a greater wariness and less frequent hiring of women. Naturally, these small businesses can't admit it for legal reasons, but that's reality. I've already been told by at least three small businesses that they won't hire a woman because it's too risky. I agree. Look at a woman wrong and you're accused of sexual harassment. Open a door for her and you'll get hassled into enrolling in a "sensitivity" course. Complain when she needs yet another day off to take care of her sick kid, and you're accused of gender discrimination. It sure is a whole lot easier to hire a man!

This female WND writer is not alone in citing the dangers inherent in hiring and employing women. Try this op-ed by a small business owner in the UK, also female (thus helping give lie to the men-r-capitalist-pigs argument):

I simply avoid all the upheaval by not employing women of child-bearing age at all.

Or take this article, that cites research conducted on small businesses, also in the UK. It cites the adverse consequences of legislation aimed to benefit women, yet financed on the backs of business owners:

But as well as being perceived as a costly blunt instrument, legislation is also discouraging employers from hiring certain types of people, particularly women. According to the report: "Childcare issues and maternity leave legislation are perceived as barriers to employing women, and some employers (including women) are open about the fact that they do not employ women due to maternity leave issues."

It is evident that so-called fem-friendly legislation only serves to make women more expensive and risky to hire and maintain as employees, thus further corroding a tarnished image of working women already heavily burdened by data that suggests women are less productive and more expensive than male employees. Thus, the irony of feminist interest group agitation is that they are harming their sisters, particularly the ones who don't work for corporate America. But then again, that may be part of the goal from the outset...since large corporations are easier to control and more likely to be controllable (in that they are more responsive to federal interventions), it may very well be that feminists seek to aid the trend toward big-government corporatism by pushing legislation that penalizes small operators in favor of larger ones, who can more easily absorb the higher compliance costs and lower workplace productivity of the forced hiring and retention of women.

HT: Marky Mark

* No doubt leading to more calls for federal intervention to address the underemployment of women by those sexist companies, thus the pay gap issue is the gift that keeps on giving.

PS - while researching this post, I came across this rah-rah you-go-grrl piece of sexist rubbish. The author's final conclusion, after regurgitating a whole slew of cherry-picked generalizations about how women are supposedly superior to men in the workplace: "girls do it better". Demonstrably untrue, but whatever. What I find interesting, from a double-standard POV, is what happens when a man happens to suggest that perhaps there are some arenas in which men's innate qualities result in them outperforming women? The women in the room threaten to faint, and then band together get the man canned.

And if I hear one more time about how women are supposedly better at multi-tasking, I may just have to vomit.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's Good to Be A Man, Part II

Or, evidence that beer and beer companies are really a tool of the matriarchy, by dulling a man's wits enough to shag and then eventually marry stupidly. Much to a man's eventual suffering.

This comment by Jesse got me thinking that yesterday's drinking thought process flowcharts were missing a crucial step. Any why wouldn't they be missing that step? All the beer company wants to do is just get you to drink...not think about the adverse effects upon one's judgement of the demon drink one is consuming.

Thus I've filled in the blanks with the requisite consequences. Enjoy. Or something.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

It's Good To Be A Man

Ever wonder what goes through men's and women's heads when someone asks them "do you want to go out for drinks"? Well, wonder no more, as Emperor Darth Wapiti (A-ha!) brings this PSA to you for your edification:

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Antidote to Effete Churchianity

Myself, other bloggers in my sphere (notably Anakin and Jesse), and many many others have remarked that mainstream Christianity is excessively feminized, with the result that men are an endangered species in many churches. Churches these days seem to be optimized to maximize the female experience: husky, even lusty love songs, emotive and teary worship experiences, and imagery of a soft, cuddly Jesus who will save you and with whom you are to have a relationship. To say that these are not exactly appealing elements for men I think would not be an understatement.

Imagine my pleasant surprise then to read this write-up, in the Gray Lady of all places, about Mars Hill Church in Seattle and its unorthodox pastor and his unorthodox preaching that seems to be effectively capturing one previously underserved demographic--men:

God called Driscoll to preach to men — particularly young men — to save them from an American Protestantism that has emasculated Christ and driven men from church pews with praise music that sounds more like boy-band ballads crooned to Jesus than “Onward Christian Soldiers.” What bothers Driscoll — and the growing number of evangelical pastors who agree with him — is not the trope of Jesus-as-lover. After all, St. Paul tells us that the Church is the bride of Christ. What really grates is the portrayal of Jesus as a wimp, or worse. Paintings depict a gentle man embracing children and cuddling lambs. Hymns celebrate his patience and tenderness. The mainstream church, Driscoll has written, has transformed Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that . . . would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.”

Driscoll disdains the prohibitions of traditional evangelical Christianity. Taboos on alcohol, smoking, swearing and violent movies have done much to shape American Protestant culture — a culture that he has called the domain of “chicks and some chickified dudes with limp wrists.”

There's something to be said for a style that appeals to guys. Gone is the embarassing overt hyper-emotionalism and suffocating poofiness of a seeker-sensitive religion that is more concerned with offending its congregants than preaching the Word. Gone is the feminized theology that allows members of the feminist majority to paper over their idolatry with regular attendance at a feel-good insert-denomination-here church. Gone are the images of a Queer Christ, the androgynous Sky Fairy of Happy Happy Joy Joy land. All that is gone: it is replaced by the Father, the original single dad, who is both loving in His gift of salvation and stern in His rebuke of errant behavior amongst His children.

But style can only go so far. And that is where I think Driscoll is really on to something. For he preaches what only a tiny minority of pastors dare teach--a conservative (in reality, radical, according to the norms of today) message of male headship, female submission, and a fire-and-brimstone God* that will bring the Holy Hammer if you get out of line:

Like many New Calvinists, Driscoll advocates traditional gender roles, called “complementarianism” in theological parlance. Men and women are “equal spiritually, and it’s a difference of functionality, not intrinsic worth,” says Danielle Blazer, a 34-year-old Mars Hill member. Women may work outside the home, but they must submit to their husbands, and they are forbidden from taking on preaching roles in the church.

“It’s only since women have been in church leadership that this backlash has come,” says the Seattle pastor Katie Ladd, a liberal Methodist who holds that declaring Jesus a “masculine dude” subverts the transformative message of the Gospel. But New Calvinists argue that traditional gender roles are true to the Bible, especially the letters of Paul. Moreover, embedded in the notion of Adam as the “federal head” of the human race is the idea of man as head of the home.

It is in this traditional read of Scripture where Driscoll hits the bullseye. I think men instinctively know that there is something terribly wrong with our culture, something terribly wrong with how many of us live our lives. We see it in ourselves. We see it in our brothers. We see it in families all around us. And we see it in our country. Men, I think, have God's calling for them to lead their families and their society written on their hearts. And I think that they know instinctively that attending a church that serves mainly to permit women to feel good about themselves isn't cutting it. Thus a church that boldly teaches the lion with the lamb is attractive. I don't think for a moment that men are scared away at all by the notion of sin or damnation; in fact, I think it gives them focus and a purpose. And it is this focus and purpose that I think men are looking for in a culture that is fundamentally hostile to the masculine.

One last point before I close. I think that this traditional man-friendly climate will be more to the benefit of women than they would in a more feminist-influenced one. For one thing, they would no longer be fighting their own design, trying to be both man and woman simultaneously. They would be free to blossom as God intended them to. For another, they would be in a relationship with a man, accountable to God and God alone. A man who loves them, sacrifices for them, and knows how and where to lead them. A man who is not focused on himself and his own gain. In this environment, I contend, they will suffer less, be less frustrated, be more fulfilled, and as a result, be happier overall.

* I have watched several of Driscoll's sermons on YouTube. It is quite instructive to me that the MSM thinks he is something out of the fire and brimstone tradition.

Friday Roundup

The hormone testosterone is connected with "oat sowing" behavior in men. Seems that estradiol does the same for women, which not only makes them more attractive, but is also positively connected with low satisfaction with their partners and higher rates of cheating.

Military having a much easier time recruiting in these days of the mancession.

Here's one reason why BSG sucks as a show. I mean, come on, a chick playing Starbuck!? (see what Dirk Benedict thinks about that) Or Boomer!?

Do you ever get the feeling that the media just seems to live in an alternate reality? Or why the conservative commentariat seems to have been body-snatched? Blame it on crazy cats.

A Virginia court sez divorced lesbian "social mom" gets visitation. I wonder if non-custodial lesbian social mothers will become natural allies of non-custodial bio fathers...both have another woman playing keep away with their child(ren).

We know that feminism is associated with sub-replacement birth rates. But is it just because of an anti-natalist attitude? I think there may be another factor at play here...that feminism tends to raise the cost of living, thereby making children more expensive. Thus, when the economy tanks, birth rates drop.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Education Bubble

I've critiqued the higher ed market many times [1][2][3][4]. It's overpriced and under-delivers. And taking debt and lost income into account, it takes nearly 14 years for the average college grad to pull abeam the high school or trade-school-only grease monkey working at the local auto dealership. And a lot of life can be missed in those 14 fun-filled, debt-servicing years. Just ask women who increasingly find themselves in their late thirties, finally financially solvent, with no beau in sight and cobwebs infesting their wombs if they wish they'd taken a different tack in life. The impact of college on family formation and permanence can not be overstated.

Anyways, seems that there are some out there who think that the education bubble is fixing to pop the same way the housing bubble is. That there is a lot of debt out there that is inflating the cost of college, and that said debt is likely as unserviceable as the garden-variety ARM out there.

There's one problem with this analogy. The housing bubble is being solved, slowly and painfully, by liquidating the bad assets. Can't do that with student loans, which join child support 'debt' as the only kinds of arrearages that can't be discharged in bankruptcy (okay, it can, but it's hard to do). So there is no liquidation of bad loans like in the housing bubble, and therefore the education bubble doesn't burst unless a lot of debtors suddenly die or a lot of judges suddenly become generous.

Note also that this education bubble started getting really inflated at about the same time as the housing bubble. A whole lotta money looking for somewhere to go.

Guess where that money came from?

Quote O' The Day

Courtesy of mroberts, I have a pair of quotes for you today, regarding the role of religion in our public officers:

Think not that your interests will be safe in the hands of the weak and ignorant; or faithfully managed by the impious, the dissolute and the immoral. Think not that men who acknowledge not the providence of God nor regard His laws will be uncorrupt in office

Matthais Burnet, May 12, 1803

There must be religion. When that ligament is torn, society is disjointed and its members perish. The nation is exposed to foreign violence and domestic convulsion. Vicious rulers, chosen by vicious people, turn back the current of corruption to its source. Placed in a situation where they can exercise authority for their own emolument, they betray their trust. They take bribes. They sell statutes and decrees. They sell honor and office. They sell their conscience. They sell their country. By this vile traffic they become odious and contemptible . . . But the most important of all lessons is the denunciation of ruin to every state that rejects the precepts of religion

Goveneur Morris (wiki), September 4, 1816

Vicious rulers, chosen by vicious people, turn back the current of corruption to its source. Wow. If there were ever a call for the people to make themselves virtuous and then vote virtue into office, there it is, right there. Yet we seem to want to elect the person that enriches us the most, rather than one who has integrity or is wise.

Makes you go hmmmm.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Book Review: The Total Money Makeover

The Book: The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey. 223 pages.

The Gist: The book is fairly formulaic. It starts by exploding the myths about debt, the myths about money, the secrets of the rich, the folly of 'keeping up with the Joneses', constructing an emergency fund, 'debt snowballing', funding a college education for the kiddos, paying off the mortgage, and then amassing your nest egg.

For me, the most interesting chapters were the beginning ones, particularly since I spent a whole lotta time in a recent post series attacking usury banking as immoral since it demonstrably and observably leads to poor outcomes. Ramsey attacks the topic from the opposite end of the candle: he seeks to deprogram readers who may have bought into the convenient mythology surrounding going into debt in our society. For instance, right up front, Ramsey attacks the Debt Myth, a myth so powerful that many in our society can't imagine a life without a car and/or a house payment, to say nothing of credit card payments. Contrary to the popular belief that 'debt is a tool that keeps a capitalist economy humming', in fact, a capitalist economy would be better off without debt, as it would be much more stable (in other words, much less layoffs) without the ebb and flow of consumer confidence. Moreover, the Bible strongly warns Believers against debt (Proverbs 22:7) because debt is a quick road to slavery. Our forefathers hated debt for the unnecessary risk that it creates, and the corrosive effect on long-term prosperity that debt has. Even our more recent forebears in the 20th century (i.e. the founder of Sears, James "Cash" Penny, even Henry Ford) despised debt. Says Ramsey:

My contention is that debt brings on enough risk to offset any advantage that could be gained through [the] leverag[ing] of debt.

Debt sucks. Debt is not a tool. Debt keeps poor people poor while rich people--who are smart enough to avoid debt--get richer. Ramsey provides a blueprint for readers to become entirely debt free and never go into debt again...even when purchasing a house.

As much of his book contains practical advice, I will list some of it here:

1) Drive old cars. Automobiles are a huge debt trap, and an easy way for those who try to "keep up with the Joneses" to get into trouble. Don't buy new--even at 0% interest--as the value of a new car plummets 60% in the first four years of ownership. Even at 0% interest, you're guaranteed to have negative equity in your car. And certainly don't lease (Ramsey calls it "fleecing"), as those leases are more expensive in the long run than if you had purchased the vehicle with a loan. Along with cars, Ramsey advises that people avoid purchasing mobile homes new, which plummet in value even faster than cars. He does give his okay if a person buys a used one that has lost most of its value, and lives in that low-cost shelter as a cheaper alternative to paying rent.

2) Avoid loan sharks. There's a reason why cash advance, pay-day loans, rent-to-own, title pawn shops proliferate in the poor sections of town.

3) Avoid 90 days same-as-cash. You'll pay more than if you had just used cash.

4) Avoid credit cards, and ditch the ones you have. Studies have shown that credit card users spend 12-19% more on purchases than debit card users. Instead, get a debit card. Very few companies refuse to take debit cards, and debit cards have the same protections for fraud as a credit card does. Even if you pay off your credit card every month, 60% of card users do not, and the risk that you will become one of them still exists. And don't let your teenager get one either.

5) Don't build your credit. Your FICO score is a bank-sponsored racket. If you need to buy a house, find yourself an agent that knows how to do underwriting. Ramsey claims that even if your FICO score is zero, you can still qualify for a 15-yr fixed rate loan on a house if:

* You have paid your landlord early or on time for two years

* You have held the same job for two years

* You have a good down payment (i.e. not 'nothing down')

* You have no other credit, good or bad

* You are not trying to take too big a loan. Ramsey advises that a payment should not exceed 25% of your take-home pay

6) Be smart about insurance. Avoid the wrong kinds of insurance, like cash value or whole life insurance. Get yourself a level term policy (~10x your annual income) that you won't have to renew when your nest egg is large enough. Also invest in a medical savings account (if self-employed) or purchase health insurance when you are healthy. Have high deductibles on your auto and homeowner insurance. Purchase long-term disability insurance, and if over 60, long-term care insurance.

7) Avoid taxes on the stupid. Like Lotto or Powerball.

8) Don't prepay funerals or for college tuition.

9) Draft a will. Don't die intestate.

10) Create an emergency fund that holds 3 - 6 months living expenses where you can get to it when you need it, but not so easily that you raid it regularly (40$ of Americans could cover less than one month's expenses if they lost their income).

11) Pay down existing debt using a 'debt snowball'.

12) Understand the purpose of college before you fund it. College degrees do not ensure jobs, or success, or wealth. They only prove that someone has passed a series of tests. Ramsey claims that only 15% of his success is attributable to the schooling he received in college.

13a) Save for Junior's college after your other priorities have been taken care of. Including saving for your retirement and getting debt-free.

13b) Avoid student loans like the plague. 19% of those who filed for bankruptcy in 2002 were college students.

13c) Use Education IRAs to fund college, as they grow tax free is the money is used for higher education. Avoid most 529s as you lose significant control over the money, but if you must, use a "flexible plan" 529.

13d) Put Junior to work surfing the 'net to find unused scholarships. $4B worth of scholarships go unclaimed each year. That's a lot of money to let slip away.

14) Put 15% of your gross income away. Take full advantage of employer matching and tax advantaged vehicles, like a Roth IRA. Remember that the objective is to give you financial security, which translates to choices as to what you want to do.

15) Pay off the mortgage. Better yet, pay cash for the house in the first place. In addition, mortgage interest deductions are no bargain. They cost you more in the end than if you had just paid cash for the house. Furthermore, get yourself a 15-yr fixed, and avoid the 30-year loan "to give yourself wiggle room". You just gave yourself an excuse not to pay off the loan early. And shun ARMs and balloon mortgages.

16) If you can't pay it off in 18-20 months, sell it. You'd be better off not underneath that debt.

17) When your money makes more than you do, then you are officially wealthy. Enjoy the ride, live life, and give some money away. Remember that the love of money is the root of all evil.

The Quote: "It's easy to become wealthy if you don't have payments". Also: "I don't borrow money. Ever".

The Good: Quick read. I blazed through this book in a single evening. Lots of practical advice, checklists, planning templates, budgeting forms, etc. The book is written at the 5th grade level, is easy to understand, and will definitely help those whom the book is targeted toward: those who have found themselves as roadkill on the usury-banking highway.

The Bad: Written in 2003. Well before the bubble burst, so it's a bit dated. That said, those who followed his advice then and made themselves debt-free are probably doing pretty well right now.

Ramsey also had some not-so-charitable things to say about gold in his book, stating that it has performed poorly over time, and that when the economy collapses, skills or commodities are what becomes valuable in the resultant black market. He advised his readers to avoid gold. I disagree with Ramsey on this point, in that when inflationary bubbles burst, the flight to quality means a flight to hard currency. And if things get really bad, those skills may not be enough. But gold is universal.

The Recommendation: Recommended for folks in dire financial straits.

A Math Question

A Backhoe weighing 8 tons is on top of a flatbed trailer and heading east on Interstate 70 near Hays, Kansas.

The extended shovel arm is made of hardened refined steel and the approaching overpass is made of commercial-grade concrete, reinforced with 1 1/2 inch steel re-bar spaced at 6 inch intervals in a criss-cross pattern layered at 1 foot vertical spacing.

When the shovel arm hits the overpass, how fast do you have to be going to slice the bridge in half?? (Assume no effect for headwind and no braking by the driver...)

Extra Credit: Solve for the time and distance
required for the entire rig to come to a complete stop after hitting the overpass at the speed calculated above (yes, you can neglect friction)?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A-Ha! Just Another Concerned Dad...

...or what would have happened had Darth Vader starred opposite Eddy Murphy in Coming to America.

Pretty funny in a sick, sad kindof way...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Quote O' The Day

I'm no MLK fetishist. Among other things, he was a plagiarist, a social gospeller, and, IIRC, a philanderer. In other words, he was a human, not a saint. But he nailed this one about the dangers of material plenty and spiritual bereftness:

The richer we have become materially, the poorer we become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers...enlarged material powers spell enlarged peril if there is not proportionate growth of the soul. When the 'without' of man's nature subjugates the 'within,' dark storm clouds begin to form in the world

And in an unrelated yet quite relevant post to the quote above, blogger mroberts cites a U Miami study about the beneficial effects of religion* on a person's--and by scalar extension, the People's--self control and self-regulation. As we gradually banish religion and faith from the domain of acceptable behavior, the poorer we become spiritually, eventually reaching the point where we are not only hazards to others but ourselves too.

* Not the new-agey kind of diluted spirituality, but the disciplined participation in, and commitment to, prayer, worship, and service attendance.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Burn Baby, Burn

There's a special place in Hell reserved I think for thieves.

Particularly the human turd that stole my credit card number and charged $1600 on it at a Wal Mart store in Asheville, North Carolina yesterday.

Hope you like the stuff you bought. I hope also that they got you on video. Via BoA fraud alert, I was on to you in about two hours and shut you down forthrightly.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book Review: Liberal Fascism

The Book: Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg. 409 pages, plus another 70-some pages of endnotes.

The Gist: Goldberg aims to do one thing with this book: to present an alternative to the usual left-wing historical narrative that casts fascism as a right-wing phenomenon, and make explicit the genetic debt that modern-day liberalism owes to its indubitably left-wing forebears.* He argues

...that modern liberalism is the offspring of twentieth-century progressivism, which in turn shares intellectual roots with European fascism...that fascism was an international movement, or happening, expressing itself differenty in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture.

As such, the vast majority of the book is largely a game of connect-the-dots between the philosophical forerunners of liberalism--Marx, Engels, Sorel, Rousseau, Hegel, Nietzche, Robespierre, and others that I haven't named--with the fruits of their scribblings that live on today. Goldberg draws a common thread between the philosophy and methodologies of the first totalitarian** revolution that gave birth to Jacobin France, the first modern welfare state run by von Bismarck, to the Progressivism of Teddy Roosevelt that resulted first fascist government of the twentieth century run by Wilson, to the Leninist and Stalinist Communists in Russia, to the Classical Fascist Mussolini, to the National Socialists in Germany, to the New Dealers led by FDR, to the social upheavals in America in the 1960s, and finally to the smiley-face fascists on the American Left today.

Definition of Fascism

Goldberg starts this exercise by attempting to take the word fascist away from the liberals, who abuse the word as an all-purpose epithet meant to denote anything not desirable or anyone who opposes their agenda as "bad" and therefore not worthy of being taken seriously. In doing so, he defines fascism, an inherently difficult task since there are so many variants, not so much by what it is, but by what features it is likely to contain: Populist ultra-nationalism. A divinized totalitarian State which is the ultimate source of power as well as morality. An ever-present state of war. A quest for holistic, unified community, brotherhood, or nation that elevates the group while subordinating the individual. A cult of youth, emphasizing action. Spiritual rebirth. A utopian faith in the perfectability of men. A politicized culture where nothing is outside the sphere of political influence. Rule by an infallible papacy of "experts", "whiz kids", or "policy wonks" whose mission is to impose progress on the masses for their own good. "Otherizing" opponents. Partial or total nationalization of industries. Blurring of the lines between public and private in a "state capitalism", aka "corporatism" or "mercantilism".

Using this definition, he delves into the histories of various fascist governments the early 20th Century, starting with Il Duce's Italy and der Fuhrer's Germany, showing how the slide toward totalitarianism progressed in each country, each with its particularly Italian and German character, eventually resulting in Fascism in Italy and National Socialism in Germany (not reviewed in detail by Goldberg was the totalitarian revolution in Russia that resulted in Marxist-Leninism there).

Fascism in America, 1860 - 1950

What I found particularly interesting was the latter half of the book dedicated to fascism in America, starting with a chapter on Progressivism. For it may come as a shock to some that not only did fascism, Americanized as it was via Progressivism, happen here in America, it just so happened to occur first here. That's right--the United States, the country that takes pride in itself as being the land of the free and home of the brave, was the first country in the world to manifest fully realized political fascism. Goldberg cites that the United States under Wilson had the first propaganda minister, that the political opposition was harangued, harassed, spied and beat upon, and 175,000 were imprisoned for being insufficiently loyal. That more dissidents were jailed or arrested during the Wilson administration than under Mussolini during the entire decade of the 1920s. That Wilson loosed hundreds of thousands of badge-wearing agents on Americans for the purpose of ensuring loyalty to the government (examples: Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918), and prosecuted a campaign of intimidation and control and censorship of the media. That a national leader accused foreigners and immigrants of injecting treasonous poison into the political discourse. That the United States under Wilson administered loyalty oaths, and whipped the nation's industries into the fetid embrace of the state long before the Hitler or Mussolini conceived their first iota of corporatist/mercantilist thought. In short, Wilson was the twentieth century's first fascist dictator, and the Progressives gave it to us.

Goldberg contends that the Progressives were the American branch of the same political movement that spawned collectivist revolutions in countries around the world: Classical Fascists in Italy, National Socialists in Germany, and Communism in Russia. In fact, it was fascinating to read about the concurrent development of fascism and its related movements on both sides of the Atlantic, and how each variant of fascism both admired and cross-pollinated the others. All shared the same core philosophies: social Darwinism, eugenics, noblesse oblige imperialism, hostility to individualism, religion as a political tool, politics as religion, and the worship of the exercise of power for its own ends. Fascism was an idea whose time had come across the globe; the evil twin as it were of the the radical Enlightenment idea of individual freedom coupled with religious faith and a limited, distributed government. Thus, just 14 years after the American Revolution, history's first fascist movement roiled France in a bloody terroristic dictatorship. Quickly and mercifully, Jacobin fascism burned itself out, but not before infecting other politicians with utopian dreams of national unity and totalitarian glory.

It took time for representative republicanism to die in America. One could say that it died during the War of Southern Independence, and Lincoln was the undertaker that hammered the final nail in the coffin at Appomattox. A relentless centralizer, he and his Republican cohorts suspended habeus corpus and stamped out dissent in a drive for national unity at the point of a gun. Forty years later, Roosevelt would take Manifest Destiny a bit further, aggressively expanding both the size of the American empire through wars of conquest abroad, as well as the size scope and influence of government at home. And why not? Under Progressivism, which melded the totalitarian aspects mentioned above with Social Gospelism and holds that the State is the right arm of God, the messianic God-State would redeem not only Americans, but the entire world at the point of a sword in some sort of holy war, if given half a chance. Furthermore, it became the duty of all to supplicate to this new civic religion that stressed a pious duty to the god-state. Wilson was the heir to this philosophy, which had reached a fever-pitch worldwide in the early 20th century; it was his administration that used the pretext of the Great War to midwifed the fascist baby in America. Despite retreating somewhat during the post-war inflationary boom of the 1920s, Progressivism came back guns blazing in 1928 with the election of Hoover, another fascist aspirant in the style and manner of Wilson who laid the ground work for what Goldberg asserts is the blatantly fascist New Deal. Progressivist Hoover was followed immediately by a Progressivist FDR, elected in 1933 (coincidentally--or not--the same time as Hitler), and who stayed the fascist course the Hoover had laid out for him for him.

(It is interesting to note here that both political parties shared the same basic philosophy in the interwar period through the end of WWII; both rejected Classical Liberalism for the more Progressive variety. It was only after WWII that the conservatives started to recover their Classical Liberal heritage and become an opposition party once again).

Anyway, it is this Progressivist heritage that Goldberg claims modern-day liberalism inherited and continues to inspire their governance today. Yet American Progressivism--liberal fascism--was not yet self-sustaining, it was a movement that once it achieved governmental power, it stopped and dissipated. What it needed was a mechanism of renewal, of regeneration. It found that mechanism in the American schooling system, itself a collectivist and totalitarian institution seemingly designed to teach submission to authority and suppress independent thought. With the schools, the secular humanist majority making up the Progressives could shed the social gospellers it needed to gain power and relevancy when their movement was embryonic. They had their new church, a church funded by the State and which the State enforced attendance, and through which liberal fascists could teach their religious dogma in a five-days-a-week Sunday School to millions of new acolytes each year.

The Fascism of the 60s and the Great Society

After chronicling the liberal purges and retrenchment of the 1950s--including the very public fight for political supremacy between the staunchly Progressive liberal Joseph McCarthy and the Communists in American government, a fight in which McCarthy's image (and that of any who dared question liberal theology) is transmogrified from that of a Progressive in good standing to a hateful right-wing fascist all but responsible for the Holocaust--Goldberg addresses the 1960s in America, a decade which he considers the third fascist moment in the 20th Century. At that time, American university students, in a striking parallel with their German forebears in the 1930s, rebelled against the stodgy conservatism of their parents and educators. Once again, a radical youth cult was agitating for power and control, seeking to replace the pre-existing Liberal culture with another imbued with mysticism, paganism, and collectivist idealism. Also accompanying the youthful insurgents, as in the 1930s in Germany, was a resurgence of racism and racial identity politics masquerading as authentic scholarship that eventually spilled out into the streets and igniting domestic unrest, domestic terrorism, and riots. When it was all said and done, young liberal fascists had successfully wrested control of the educational institutions in a blatant power grab. They were convinced that might was right, and that whomever won the battle of ideas by force of arms had earned the right to dictate morality to the masses. In this manner, the liberals forcibly converted college campuses into factories where the receptive and compliant products of compulsory public schooling would be imbued with liberal fascist philosophy. The chief lesson of which is all that matters is a Nietzchean will to power and the choice to wield that power toward one's own ends. Gone was the Classical Liberalism that birthed America. Forgotten was its focus on individual liberty and minarchism. It was replaced by a totalitarian, utopian, overtly racist, messianic governance philosophy convinced that it knew best and believed it had a right to impose its views on the remainder of a backward society. It was nearly a verbatim repeat of history thirty years earlier; the only thing missing was the overt militarism that characterized the fascist collectivist movements of the early twentieth century. These young fascists had gone to school on the failures of their more abrasive predecessors and realized a more subtle militarism would avoid the political opposition that a more overt style would attract. But militarism it still was, only the militant coercion of a suffocating nanny state that would first ask you nicely to submit, with a truncheon in plain view for encouragement. Thus Progressivism became liberalism, and replaced the existing Liberal cultural hegemony established by the Founding Fathers with one more to a liberal's liking in a Gramscian kulturkampf, and poised itself to assume control of the levers of power of government once again.

Goldberg also documents the fascism of LBJ who hijacked Kennedy's cult of personality and the hero worship that JFK cultivated to promote his Great Society programs, themselves a re-warming of the very same fascist program that gave us the New Deal. In fact, LBJ is quoted as considering FDR to be his "political daddy". No surprise then that the fascism of the New Deal would be warmed over and given a new face: the Great Society, a term itself coined by Fabian socialists in the UK. Consider how the great society has all the fascist elements: A crisis through which a war mentality would be maintained (via a War on Poverty, and end to racism, and eventually a war in Vietnam). It was totalitarian, in that it sought to satisfy all wants and needs; the State would grant legitimate happiness in her caring embrace. It was unifying, in that the masses were exhorted to reject the climate of hate (sladerously misattributed of course, to big-l Liberals like Goldwater). It leveraged a cult of restless youth. It was utopian in that it believed that with enough love and enough resources, all would be happy. And it was religious in character: it had its martyr in JFK, it featured waves of spiritual awakenings toward implementing a postmillenialist kingdom of god on earth, and it had it apocalyptic vision of a cold and harsh Hell marked by capitalist depredation. But it was also a state religion, as the line between formal religion and politics was blurred nearly beyond all recognition, as many white mainline churches and most black churches--both groups striving to be "authentic" to their "true selves"--agitated to use governmental force to effect their visions of social change. Furthermore, religious-style guilt could be assuaged by purchasing indulgences through welfare state spending. In fact, about the only fascist requisite that appears to be missing from the Great Society complexion was an overt nationalization of capital industries. Yet when one looks hard enough, one realizes that the Great Society endeavored to further blur the lines between public and private via increased regulation and direct interference with, and influence upon, corporate affairs. Administered of course by the quasi-judicial powers of a burgeoning administrative bureaucratic state. (I wonder if people realize in that calling for more regulation, they are essentially acting fascistically).

The Fascism of Today's Liberals, or How We're All Fascists Now

Goldberg concludes his book by demonstrating how today's liberals inherited the psychological freight of Progressive-fascist thought. For instance, Goldberg highlights how liberals have never really fully exorcised the eugenic deus ex machina from their psyche--as evinced by their enthusiastic support for abortion and the social Darwinism of the welfare state. Another holdover from a Progressive past, abortion is obviously eugenic in nature, as it was conceived (no pun intended) as a eugenic tool against the darker, feebler races. The welfare state joins abortion as a eugenic measure, too. The narcotic of the dole serves as a subtle form of social control that keeps its victims mentally and socially enfeebled and therefore little threat to the better races at the top of the social Darwinist pile.

Goldberg also documents how it is liberals and not conservatives who are the modern day haters, racists, sexists, and bigots. He claims that they are the chief exponents of racism and sexism, and it is they who aspire to organize the state according to racial and sexual identity politics and divvying up spoils along the same along racial and sexual lines. He also shows that they didn't come by inclination by accident; no, they inherited said racial animus from the American Progressives of the early twentieth century. It is interesting to me that these same policies are not materially unlike the same as those promulgated by German National Socialists, the same group whose label liberals love to tar their opponents with.

Switching to matters of economics, Goldberg highlights the sweet irony of liberal posturing on economic matters. For while they rail against "right-wing" corporate fat cats who want to predate upon the consumer and spout populist rhetoric about soaking the rich in favor of the little guy, it is they themselves who create the fat cats in the first place. Goldberg writes:

...the more government regulates business, the more business is going to take an interest in regulating government

And take an interest it does. Not only do corporations lobby the government to keep from being hurt by government, they also lobby government to oppress their competitors. Thus while corporate support for costly legislation such as meat-packing plant inspections, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Leave and Medical Act, and affirmative action may seem counter to their interests, it is actually beneficial for them times two. For not only does their support for such "kindness" garner them public goodwill, the economic effect of said legislation is to squeeze out smaller competitors who can't keep up with the onerous compliance costs such legislation imposes. In the end, the net effect of such legislation is to make big corporations bigger; another effect is that with greater size, some corporations become 'too big for government to let fail'. Thus the phenomenon we're currently seeing today, as companies scramble to make the case for taxpayer bailout money lest they go under, or in the past when companies lobbied Washington for protection from "unfair" overseas competitors, was in some way created by supposedly anti big-business liberals themselves.

Goldberg also discusses how some businesses are so heavily regulated that they cannot make a decision without a by-your-leave from (again) a quasi-judicial executive branch bureaucrat (who may have their own agenda to work), clearly an example of the blurring of the lines between public and private. This leaves open the possibility that government agents could use Big Business to push their own social agendas--say, for instance, promoting employer-provided day care, green technology, recycling, minority hiring preferences, etc--and a fewer number of bigger companies are much easier to control and influence than many smaller ones. Taken far enough, heavy regulation actually creates government-sponsored and -enforced cartels, as is the case with Big Tobacco, which bought protection from the government in the form of billions paid to government in exchange for a protected market in which they are free to set prices at will. As a result, we have the interesting situation where liberal politicians' calls to rein in and control business "to protect the little guy" or some such trope actually promotes the collusion of government and corporations to the disadvantage of the common man.

Thus, if the Far Left defined by outright socialism, and the Far Right by laissez-faire, it is liberal fascists who occupy the third-way center that acts to blends the public and private together. This blurring and blending is a defining characteristic Classical Fascism of the sort that Mussolini himself promoted, and it characterizes our supposedly "free market" today.

The penultimate topic that Goldberg tackles is the kulturkampf, the liberal guerrilla war intended to bring about communitarianism, toward a fascist bundling, and away from Liberal indvidualism. He asserts that there is no denying that liberals are waging a war to impose their collectivist values on us, to replace the present hegemony with one of their own liking. For instance, liberals promulgate the Hegelian idea that freedom is only realized by living in harmony with the State, and that individuals only find identity and meaning relative to the group or the collective. But in order to effect this conversion, liberals have to undermine the existing religious beliefs of the people. Which helps explain liberals' hostility toward the Christian religion (which defines the individual by his relationship to God) and toward the Faithful in general; liberals want to push traditional religion out of civil society--where their religion without a god can fill the vacuum left behind--and plant the seed that independent sources of Faith not derived from the collective are divisive and therefore bad. They want to position the State in such a way that the State solves your problems, thus leading the people to depend on it instead of on a heavenly Being.

Besides religion, liberals have to undermine the other power center that existed prior to and competes with the State for authority over the individual, particularly the children, the influence over whom liberals covet terribly. But they have to compromise the family to do this, and one way in which the family is weakened is through compulsory public schooling. Another way in which the family is purposefully undermined by liberal fascists is through the availability of easy, usually one-way divorce which typically exiles the father and makes mother and child dependent on the god-State for their sustenance. This phenomenon is promoted by liberal cultural and legal measures wrt to marriage that invert the power structure in the family so as to coronate the mother the queen of the castle, and demote the father to, at best, a figurehead, and at worse, a house nigger. A third method is by creating an army of busy-body social workers with police powers, "for the protection of the children", the effect being that a parent's rights to his/her children are contingent upon the mother-may-I of the State. And fourth is the phenomenon of female paid employment, which creates a cohort of stressed-out mothers dependent on day care; as in compulsory schooling, once again families turn over their children to what is effectively an agent of the State for indoctrination. The necessity of paid is promoted by the one-two punch of deliberately suppressed wages that all but require a second wage earner, and feminist Brownshirt "encouragement" for women to work and shun the homemaker lifestyle.

Lastly, Goldberg illustrates how we all live in an "unconscious civilization of fascism". Whether through vaguely or overtly fascist themes in Hollywood movies; or through cultural exhortations to live a live of "authentic" passion, not of the head or the heart, but of the crotch; or through a decoupling of sexuality from procreation and returning it to the pagan view of sex for gratification; or through viewing debates of right or wrong not through the lenses of objective morality, but through the prism of empirical evidence; or through allowing ourselves be ruled by experts who know better than we; or through tolerating "health Nazis" in our midst who attempt to ban smoking and fatty foods and force us to wear seat belts and get immunizations all in the name of better public health, we live and breathe fascist residue each and every day. So much so that even those citizens naturally predisposed to opposing fascism, large-c Conservatives, must be on their guard so as to not absentmindedly promote fascism themselves. For just as strong is the temptation to use the machinery of the State to impose a sort of small-c "conservative" fascism, like, say, compassionate conservatism, to use an example.

Mechanisms of Fascism

In his book, Goldberg highlighted some mechanisms by which fascism operates, which I found interesting enough to highlight. The first is a constant state of war or crisis, which is meant to keep the population focused and unified in purpose. War in fascist theory is the source of moral values, of moral imperatives. It is also meant to create an "industrial army" of sorts out of the population by instilling a type of martial discipline in thought, word, and deed. Since war is a good, those that object become automatically bad, and are labelled unpatriotic or castigated for disturbing the harmony of the group or beaten, imprisoned, or worse. Martial language is often used, usually by declaring a war on this-or-that. We see this today with our various wars-on-a-concept, such as the "War on Drugs", the "War on Poverty", "Global War on Terrorism", etc.

A second mechanism that Goldberg discussed is the need for a good story or narrative to motivate the masses. In the United States in the early twentieth century, the story was a religious crusade to rid the world of evil, such as alcohol, the infirm or stupid, or, in the case of World War I and II, the Hun and the Jap. In modern times, it is an equally religious crusade to rid the world of evils such as "hate", unhealthy foods, religious superstition, "racism" and "sexism". If a sufficiently compelling story wasn't available, simply invent one, as Hitler did by merging ancient fables about a glorious pagan Aryan past with scapegoating of various peoples who have conspired to keep the Aryan down. Or as modern liberals do by pinning all of America's evils on proto-fascist conservatives, thus making their enemy evil obstructionists of a glorious future, if only conservatives would get out of the way.

Third is the coupling of demagoguery to the truism that humans respond to ideas and to symbols, and not necessarily to reason. Thus, a fascist leader must recognize and play to the fact that people want to rally to an idea or a cause that makes them fill with pride or a sense of satisfaction. An effective fascist leader must almost always be a skillful demagogue and orator, so much better to stir the passions of the masses. Even better if he is able to construct a cult of personality or mythological narrative around himself, to make him the central priest or messiah figure in the idolatry of the state.

The fourth technique is an appeal to tribalism, be it the supposed call of a nation, culture, race, or ethnicity. Totalitarians like Mussolini and Hitler recognized that allegiance to family, kin, and ethnicity is stronger than an allegiance to an abstract political system or a distant leader or a system of government. That is, unless the political system or the government is comprised of, and defined by, the nation, culture, ethnicity, or race, in which case that allegiance will be very strong indeed.

The Quote: "If there is ever a fascist takeover of America, it will not come in the form of stormtroopers kicking down doors but with lawyers and social workers saying, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help'"

The Good: I found this book to be an excellent dose of counter-theory that ably deflates the liberal myth that fascism is a right-wing phenomenon, and that all the ills associated with fascism are also right wing.

The Bad: I found Goldberg's frequent "I'm not accusing such-and-such of being a Nazi by ascribing such-and-such fascistic tendencies to them" distracting. I realize that he is simply pre-empting the liberal ad hominem riposte to his arguments--knowing that the first thing they'll seize on is that he is accusing them of being Nazis--but it happens so frequently that it becomes clear that he is worried about how the angry reactions that his iconoclastic argument will be received by those on the left (it would be ironic that a book that rightly accuses the left of being heirs to the fascism of the past garnered a fascistic response).

I also thought that he let the Enlightenment off the hook as a causal factor in the development of fascism, particularly in his discussion of the first fascist movement, the French Revolution. He contends that the French Revolution was not a product of rationalism; rather that it was a Romantic spiritual revolt that rejected the Christian God in favor of a Jacobin one. In other words it was anti-intellectualism that gave us the French Revolution. I contend, however, that it was the God-is-dead nihilist atheists in the post-Enlightenment and post-Reformation era that germinated secular humanist philosophy uninformed by Biblical morality. It was the vacuum of Belief created by these nihilists that permitted aesthetic Romanticism to gain sufficient power as to generate a revolution.

Furthermore, while I thought that Goldberg did an excellent job tracing the roots of fascism from the French Revolution forward, once he finished discussing the 60s and LBJ's Great Society, he started to fizzle.

Lastly, I thought that Goldberg's text wandered from time to time, which makes his argument sometimes hard to follow. This is particularly true toward the end of the book.

The Recommendation: Good read. I found myself having several "a-ha" moments as niggling uneasiness about the usual historical narrative suddenly snapped into focus. If you have the time, pick this book up. You won't regret it.

* I use the word "liberalism", with a small-l, to denote a governing philosophy that promotes a strong, centralized, totalitarian, and mercantilist government. This is quite different from Classical Liberalism, which is a governing philosophy that promotes individual freedom, a limited and decentralized government, and natural and property rights.

** Totalitarian (as Mussolini himself described it): not a tyrannical but a humane system of government that takes care of everyone equally and everyone contributes equally. An organic concept where every person was part of the greater whole.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Roundup

Yikes. The now-deceased Gotti apparently killed neighbor who hit his son with a car back in 1980 by dropping him in a barrel of acid.

This makes me warm all over. Gotta love it when a 6 or 7 yo girl lets it rip with what looks like a .30 cal. Has sound, so turn down at first, then turn up slowly. HT: Amir

Eugenics never left. It just has donned a brave new (and friendlier for now) face. First designer baby born in the UK without the gene that triggers breast cancer. Remember the movie Gattaca? How much longer do faith-births have left? Apparently not much.

Here's a rhetorical question: Why is it that Democrat politicians seem to get into more trouble more often than Republican ones? Yet all we hear about are the Republican missteps? Baltimore mayor in accused of perjury, theft, and misconduct.

The media’s worship of The One is disturbing.  Obama lands himself in a Spider-Man comic. And then on the cover of Time Magazine for the 13th time in a single year.

Teacher allegedly rapes 13 yo boy. For two years. Even used alcohol. And even while her husband was sleeping upstairs. What are the odds that she'll probably get off with community service because it was the the boy's fault for being just too irresistable? Or that her husband will stick by her?

Natalie Dylan is back in the news. Apparently bidding for her virginity has reached $3.7M. Quoth her: "It's shocking that men will pay so much for someone's virginity, which isn't even prized so highly anymore." I'm surprised too. A whole lotta her sisters are giving it away for free.

Woman too big and heavy for an MRI machine. The tech's recommendation: maybe the KC Zoo has one big enough. Ouch.

Lotsa kids getting busted for trafficking in kiddie porn in what is apparently a hot new trend: sexting, or texting friends or potential love interests with nude photos of themselves.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Quote O' The Day

When all government, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the Center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.

Thomas Jefferson, 1821

Car Mishap Pictures

Drive safe out there!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A More Moral Banking System, Part III

Part III: A More Moral Alternative to Interest Lending

So, having discussed the Biblical strictures against usury in Part I, and having examined the few mishaps that may befall a people for permitting usury-banking in their midst in Part II, this post is where I contrast the immorality of interest lending against that which I think is a more moral alternative.

Consider the following moral issues with usury banking discussed in the previous two parts:

It is a practice that appears to be proscribed in Scripture between Believers, suggesting that it is unhealthy for a community,

It is a practice that the Ancients, having observed its effects on their fellow man, hated with a passion,

The Church itself prohibited usury lending until the sixteenth century (after which it relented, for reasons open to debate),

It produces, by mechanism of action, inflation, which is theft,

Benefit from the usurious transaction is not apportioned according to the risk borne by each party,

Through default, it serves to transfer wealth over time from the less powerful--borrowers--to the more powerful, the lenders, and

It increases intra-society conflict and engenders inter-society warfare.

Now add to these considerations the events of the last decade, with inflationary bubbles bursting, and people everywhere losing significant amounts of wealth in the aftermath. Surely there is a better way that allows capital to flow with less instability and much less risk.

As one can see from the evidence I present above, usury banking has some troublesome aspects to it that should give one pause before either (a) engaging in usury lending, but especially before (b) accepting a usury loan. I believe it to be a moral, if not a spiritual issue, to knowingly engage in a practice that will bring suffering to your brothers and community over time. Religious sources and secular evidence both warn us against this practice, yet the entirety of the Western economic system employs it. I think it is well past time to re-connect morality and concern for the common weal to topics of money and economics, and to shun ways known (and shown) to be predatory and harmful in favor of ways that promote the common good.

So what to do? Well, I think that the example of Islamic banking is instructive for us, containing as it does vestigial remnants of an older, and I contend better, economic wisdom abandoned in the West some 500 years ago when Christian Europe adopted the predatory banking ways of the Jews in their midst. For instance, the old ways:

Disallowed gains made when there was no exchange of value or services, as is the case when money is made off of money,

Disallowed gambling, which is essentially what fractional reserve banking, long- and short-selling, margin trading, and money games with no link to tangible goods and services are,

Disallowed the practice of usury, which, as seen above and in Part II, transfers wealth from poor to rich and destabilize the economy through introduction of inflation and subsequent business cycles,

Required a banking system that pooled and invested wealth in such a manner that shared risk between borrower and lender and linked their fortunes together for the duration of the loan, thus serving to reduce risk overall and encouraging financial transparency,

Engendered a banking system that kept the financial and the real sectors linked together at the lowest levels and were thus more stable, and

Encouraged economic activity in rich and poor areas alike, instead of the present case where economic attention is rarely paid to undeveloped or poor areas.

It is not hard to perceive the wisdom of the old ways, and easy to imagine a better world free--in every sense of the word--of the scourges of usury, gambling and other money games, and the grievous effects of inflation-generated business cycles. And while there are many things to be wary of regarding Islamic banking, it has positive features that could easily be adopted by a Christian or secular bank that wished to reap the benefits from a more moral way of conducting financial transactions. For if the Christian is commanded to love his brother, what better way to show that love than to institute and promote a monetary system that works to the benefit of his brother, rather than serving to enslave him?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Marriage and Crime

In which conservative commentator Heather MacDonald correctly highlights the equation no dads == no peace:

...the number of homicides committed by black males under the age of 18 rose 43 percent between 2002 and 2007, while the number of gun homicides by this same group rose 47 percent. Homicides by white youth during that period decreased slightly. But more significant were the different homicide rates that the report calculated, which no news story dared to divulge. Whereas the report’s graph for white homicides over the last 30 years plots the rate in increments of 10, the black rate is demarcated at intervals of 100. The highest homicide rate for whites over the last three decades was 32 homicides committed per 100,000 males between the ages of 18 and 24 (reached in 1991), whereas the highest homicide rate for blacks was approximately 320 homicides per 100,000 males between the ages of 18 and 24 (reached in 1993).

Even this apparent ten-to-one disparity between black and white homicide rates doesn’t tell the full story. Fox and Swatt include Hispanic homicides in the white rate, though they do not disclose that they are doing so (both the inclusion and the silence about it follow FBI practice). Hispanic crime rates are between three and four times that of whites—meaning that if one excluded the Hispanic homicides from the white rate, the black-white differential would be even larger than ten to one.

Liberal policymakers and pundits have spilled buckets of ink over the years promoting social-service programs as the solution to crime, yet—like the Times’s recent editorial—those opinion-setters cannot squeeze out one word about the most effective anticrime (and antipoverty) strategy: marriage. The marriage imperative civilizes boys. By contrast, in a world where it is unusual for a man to marry the mother of his children, boys fail to learn the most basic lesson of personal responsibility: you are responsible for your children. Freed of the social expectation that they will have to provide a stable home for their offspring, boys have little incentive to restrain their impulses and develop bourgeois habits. In 2005, the national black illegitimacy rate was 70 percent, and it approached 90 percent in many inner cities (compared with a white illegitimacy rate of 25 percent, and as low as 6 percent in some urban areas, like the District of Columbia). The disappearance of marriage from the black community is a social cataclysm.

In noting that MacDonald is a conservative commentator, and a prolific one at that, it is also important to mention that she is an atheist who has claimed in the past that religion is no requisite for conservatism.* And while I admire her call-a-spade-a-spade forthrightness, her lack of Faith does a disservice to her already stunted worldview regarding the the interaction of marriage wrt both males and females.

The first example of this blind spot is in her constricted opinion that "marriage civilizes boys". While true, it would be more accurate to say that marriage civilizes boys and girls,** as the institution grants each sex sex-specific social capital that has proven quite useful over the millennia for propagating civilized society. For boys, marriage provides them a model of how men best invest their energies constructively in a family and society. For girls, marriage imparts sexual self control and teaches them how to have healthy, stable relationships with men. I think MacDonald misses the boat in her discussion of marriage when she completely fails to address the non-trivial, even dominant, role that girls and women play in the decline of that institution, particularly in non-Caucasian communities. She'd rather club boys and men with the "responsibility" cudgel--in this she is painfully and regretfully mainstream--while completely blinding herself to the fact that responsibility and duty and fidelity goes both ways.

Yet the concept of marriage is incomplete I think without Faith, and this is another place where atheist MacDonald's missive is incomplete. For Faith provides a purpose to marriage other than economic convenience, which is a very shifty foundation indeed for a permanent monogamous coupling. For Abrahamic faith provides structure and order to a relationship that would otherwise be adrift in a sea of equalitarianism. It gives men and women both a purpose, and more importantly holds both sexes accountable to something other than their own egoism and selfish tendencies toward self-gratification. While it is possible to have marriage outside of Faith, I contend that it is not as successful in the aggregate without it.

My third critique of MacDonald's piece is probably the most disenheartening for me. For I would hope that someone of such evident intellectual horsepower could have more imagination about the corrupted nature of our so-called justice system than to write something like this:

In the Times’s view, prison is something that just happens to black males in our society. “Once these young men become entangled in the criminal justice system,” the Times writes, “they are typically marginalized and shut out of the job market for life.” Never mind that you actually have to commit a crime before the criminal justice system “entangles” you.

Really? You have to commit a crime to become entangled in the justice system?*** Apparently MacDonald is completely unawares of how extra-constitutional family law operates. Or if she is, she fails to mention it. But rather than spell out for her precisely how the divorce industry labors to put innocents in jail or worse, I will let the excellent Stephen Baskerville connect the dots:

Invariably the first action of a divorce court, once a divorce is filed, is to separate the children from one of their parents, usually the father. Until this happens, no one in the machinery acquires any power or earnings. The first principle and first action of divorce court therefore: Remove the father. This happens even if the father is innocent of any legal wrongdoing and is simply sitting in his own home minding his own business. The state seizes control of his children with no burden of proof to justify why. The burden of proof (and the financial burden) falls on the father to demonstrate why they should be returned.

...what this means is that a legally unimpeachable parent can suddenly be arrested for seeing his own children without government authorization. Following from this, he can be arrested for failure or inability to conform to a variety of additional judicial directives that apply to no one but him. He can be arrested for domestic violence or child abuse, even if no evidence is presented that he has committed any. He can be arrested for not paying child support, even if the amount exceeds his means (and which may amount to most of his salary). He can even be arrested for not paying an attorney or a psychotherapist [neither of which he contracted to hire. Even] the New York Times has reported on how easily “the divorce court leads to a jail cell.”

Both child abuse and domestic violence have no precise definitions. Legally they are not adjudicated as violent assault, and accused parents do not enjoy the constitutional protections of criminal defendants. Allegations are “confirmed” not by jury trials but by judges or social workers. Domestic violence is any conflict within an “intimate relationship” and need not be actually violent or even physical. Official definitions include “extreme jealousy and possessiveness,” “name calling and constant criticizing,” and “ignoring, dismissing, or ridiculing the victim’s needs.” For such “crimes” fathers lose their children and can be jailed. “Protective orders” separating parents from their children are readily issued during divorce proceedings, usually without any evidence of wrongdoing. “Restraining orders and orders to vacate are granted to virtually all who apply,” and “the facts have become irrelevant,” writes Epstein. “In virtually all cases, no notice, meaningful hearing, or impartial weighing of evidence is to be had.”

So, yes, MacDonald is absolutely correct, more than she apparently realizes, that the lack of marriage is inextricably linked to crime, either the violent kind, or the kind that government had to invent in order to ensnare and control more people. For perspective, let me mention that in 2005, there were 1.4M violent crimes. Those were at least 1.4M opportunities to induct a person(s) (usually a man) into the justice system. However, that same year, there were over 3.6 divorces per thousand across the 46 states that reported divorce statistics. That was 1.7M more opportunities to induct a person--also usually a man--into the justice system. How many innocent parents were converted into criminals by those 1.7M divorces? How many otherwise normal kids would grow up to be violent criminals from the breakup of those marriages?

MacDonald is right by half. Crime doesn't just happen. It's the choices of people that make it so. And she rightly skewers the misguided leftist calls for more government economic intervention in the lives of the criminal underclass when the lack of marriage is the real root cause. Yet she erred by pinning the entire burden of responsibility for crime on those who are deemed criminals and who (and whose parents) choose not to marry. She failed to consider the fully predictable consequence of a set of governmental social policies that subvert marriage, criminalize the legally umimpeachable, subsidize divorce, and therefore perpetuate cycles of violence, early childbirth, relationship failure, and single parenthood.

HT: Weasel

* Actually, I agree. Conservatism needs no tie to religion to retain either its truth or its power.

** I would also say that marriage domesticates men while it civilizes women, for without marriage, women's breeding patterns degenerate into that of the matriarchal ghetto. I further contend that it is women who suffer the most when the civilizing influence of marriage fails to take hold within them.

*** Yes, I know, MacDonald said "criminal" justice system. But her wider point is that you have to commit a crime before you are incarcerated. Moreover, in the criminal system, you have rights that must be respected. Not so for the civil or family law side. And either way the Man has his boot on your neck for the rest of your life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hitler Hates "Font Wilding" In PowerPoint

For those of us corporate drones out there, dontcha hate it when people go all crazy with animations and Word Art? Talk about losing a whole heap of credibility instantly with one fell stroke.

Well another one of these too-much-artistic-license crimes is going all crazy with fonts. Like it was third grade art class or something. Hate it. With a passion. What's better, mein Furher did too, which makes me feel so much better:

They post the most bizarre stuff on YouTube, don't they? And either my German is getting really bad, or the German in use in that video was more like drunken Turkish.