Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Selective Concern

Just in case we forget how monumentally hypocritical and astoundingly selective Megan McArdle is in her concern for her fellow man:

Federal Worker Pay: How Much is Too Much?
By Megan McArdle

[snipped text]

The right question is not "Would these people make less in the private sector?" It is "Are we getting a high enough quality workforce?" And also "Could we get the workforce we need for less?" At any rate, that's the right question if you view government programs as a means to provide services. If you primarily view them as existing for the benefit of the people they employ, then of course, the right question is "how can we employ even more people at ever higher wages?"

My answer to that last question is a resounding "basta!". My answer to the first is, "I don't know". On the middle issue, however, I think the CBO's data suggest that we could probably get workers with a bachelor's or lower for less money than we are now paying, and not suffer much decline in quality.

People who make $20,000 plus benefits per year make too much and we should be finding a way to make them work for less. People who make $350,000 plus benefits are poor suffering souls who deserve our sympathy because they expected to make much more money.

Pity The Poor Rich Man

Recently someone posted a fake restaurant check that supposedly exposed the callous greed of a One-Percenter. There was no concrete evidence of such a check in the story so it is no surprise that the story was a fake or a plant. Sometimes a post or article seems too good to be true, too close a fit to one's preconceived beliefs, to perfect an expression of one's philosophy of life. Therefore let us look at what most assuredly must be a tantalizing bit of troll-bait purportedly written and posted by Mrs. Megan McArdle with a healthy scepticism. There is no way this could possibly be real.

Just look at the title!

Are the Rich Completely Undeserving of Sympathy?

Give me a break! After instigating an unbelievable amount of flack for her ceaseless support for the very rich, especially the bankster class that has done so much to destroy our country's economy due to their massive greed and callous disregard for the rest of humanity, we are supposed to believe that McArdle actually wrote an article begging us to weep for the wealthy who are forced to cut back on private school tuition because of the crises they helped create?

I saw a fair amount of chortling this morning about this Bloomberg piece on wealthy financial-industry types who are having to cut back because of plummeting bonuses. And to be sure, some of the cuts are in the "Call me a Waaaah-mbulance" category: can't go to Aspen any more? Had to cut back that three-bedroom summer rental to only one month? Why yes, that is the sound of the world's smallest violin playing a dirge.

See? McArdle doesn't have sympathy for the rapacious rich. She doesn't care if the 1%, who spent so much time telling the poor that they are poor because they are immoral and lazy, are less rich than they used to be. That would be hypocritical and, frankly, stupid.

And yet,

Oh, crap.

some of the difficulties that people are complaining about are genuinely, well, difficult. Yes, your kids have been absurdly privileged, getting to attend expensive private schools with lots of amenities. On the other hand, all my parent friends seem to think that it's actually really hard on kids to yank them out of school and move them somewhere else, particularly in the middle of a school year. I doubt that it gets any easier because your parents used to be able to afford stratospheric tuition.

You thought you pitied the child who was forced to camp in a tent or in cheap motel  until you met a child who could no longer afford Choate.

Let's not forget that these are kids we're talking about--we shouldn't take joy in uspetting them, even if their parents happen to make a lot more money than we do.

Kids who grew up to be Megan McArdle or Ross Douthat or Luke Russe[r]t, the next generation of arrogant, privileged jerks who look down on the poor. Nobody owes them a seat at the head table. They can just muddle along like the rest of us in public schools. At least they are still very comfortable.

Likewise, when middle class people take out a mortgage that's perfectly affordable on the income they've been enjoying for years, and then lose the house because they suddenly saw that income cut in half, we don't feel a delicious sense of joy because they finally got what was coming to them. We recognize that this it is really terrible to be forced out of a home where you've built loads of happy memories and dreams--and not incidentally, to possibly be forced to yank your kids out of the aforementioned schools.

We warned the upper class a long time ago that they were not the true elite, they were vulnerable to the whims of power just like everyone else, and that when the shit hit the fan, they too would suffer. They didn't listen because they were making too much money and were too arrogant to listen to people with less money.

Why are people supposed to shrug off the exact same thing because they're rich? It's still really awful to lose your house. I hardly think it's whining to worry about this when your income drops and your fixed expenses don't.

She's wrong, but she should be used to that by now.

Of course--like many middle class families--wealthy families have taken on many more fixed expenses than they should. In America, at least, we tend to get this stuff backwards.

Yes, the rich are just like middle class families, who are losing their retirement and home and chance to give their kids a college education.

I believe that Elizabeth Warren has made this point--when people get into financial trouble, they often say, "Well, I didn't take fancy vacations or go to restaurants all the time or buy 17 pairs of Jimmy Choos." But (with the exception of some really compulsive spenders) this isn't the stuff that gets people into trouble. It's the big house with the stretch mortgage that you convinced yourself you had to have because it was in a good school district and you needed a yard and a bedroom apiece for the kids. It's that brand new SUV (or Volvo station wagon) you persuaded yourself to buy because it was important to have a safe car. It's the school activities or travel sports teams that cost thousands of dollars, which you let your kids start in ninth grade because you didn't know that you'd have to break their hearts by pulling them out in their junior year. The divorce decree you signed because you didn't realize your income was going to drop by a third.

It takes a person with balls of brass to use The Two Income Trap to support her argument after famously trashing (one of) its author.

Pricey vacations can be cut back. Mortgage payments can't. It's not the luxuries that usually get people into trouble--it's paying too much for "the basics".

And in New York, it's really, really easy to pay too much. One of the guys in the article makes $350,000 and lives in 1200 square feet with three kids. This is the way the lower rungs of the lower middle class lives in the rest of the country. New Yorkers face an overwhelming temptation to push their housing budget to the limit, because what's available on a conservative budget is really inconvenient unless you either make a whole lot of money, or lucked into a great deal in a down market or a transitional neighborhood.

This, from the woman who tells us that she is not here to pay for others' lifestyle choices, and that living in New York is a lifestyle choice. New York real estate prices are why God created New Jersey.

That's not to excuse the folks who spend too much on housing--apartments in vibrant New York neighborhoods are a consumption good, not an entitlement, and people who find the privations unbearable should move to the suburbs. But I certainly understand it--especially because people tend to take cues on what is "safe" or "reasonable" from the behavior of the people around them. Virtually every single person I know in New York spends well over a third of their income on housing. Which is one of the reasons I no longer live in New York.

Another is her lack of success in breaking into the banking industry and the need to move closer to the DC wingnut welfare infrastructure.

I could understand the laughter if the people in the article had been moaning about how terrible and unjust it is to be forced to suffer along on $350,000 a year. But in fact, none of the affluent people he speaks to hold out their experience as somehow equivalent to that of a famine-stricken child in Somalia--"they aren't asking for sympathy", says one source; "I wouldn't want to whine", says another. The closest we get to a "poor little me" is M. Todd Henderson: "Yes, terminal diseases are worse than getting the flu," he said. "But you suffer when you get the flu."

The fact is that no matter how much you make, seeing your income fall below the expenses you've committed to is difficult. Obviously, people whose expenses are closer to the minimum deserve more of our sympathy, and our help. But I'm not sure that this means we're supposed to be happy when it happens to someone richer than we are.
One of the people mentioned in the article McArdle read actually created CDOs. Another spent $17,000 a year on his dogs. Now they are forced to bargain shop for salmon. One poor rich family has to wash their own dishes--or maybe the maid does; these people seem to have a far different idea of poverty than most people.

But on the up side, at least now they have a lower tax bracket and are much less likely to go Galt. No doubt they will be inspired to work even harder, since all rich people became rich through hard work and clean morals. Practicing austerity will make them better people; sacrifice is good for the character. And we have some final advice for the newly less-wealthy: all they have to do is go to school, work hard, put off having kids, get married, and no doubt they'll be back to skiing in Aspen and renting summer cottages in the Hamptons in no time.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Coming Attractions That Never Come

I have not forgotten Atlas Shrugged and will cover the next chapter very soon. However, I have just picked up Ross Douthat's Privilege and will cover its chunky goodness as well. So far in our story, Ross is eternally shocked to discover that nothing is the way he thinks it should be, and he is deeply disappointed in both it and you, whoever you might be.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Let's Meet In The Middle!

Shorter Ross Douthat: In honor of President Eisenhower, we need to settle for a president who is less ideological and more, oh, what is that term I am looking for.....  I know! Middle of the road. Perhaps--centrist.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Power And Money

Power begets money and money begets power. If you have enough money you can buy power, rewriting laws  to your advantage that will make you richer. If you have enough power you can stifle dissent, or at the very least drown it out in a cacophony of attacks. All you have to do is pay out a few million to make billions, for there is always an eager horde who will gladly obey anyone with power. Authoritarian followers are most comfortable in a hierarchy, in which they know whom to obey and whom to force to obey them. They want clearly defined lines, detailed laws and rigid rules. They live to obey their authority; follow his commands, fight his enemies, and sacrifice for his good to prove their devotion.

Naturally, authoritarian leaders enjoy this arrangement very much as well. They believe that laws are for the followers, that they are innately superior to the followers, and that their rightful place is in the lead, reaping their rightful awards. Authoritarian followers who are born to a high position in their hierarchy sometimes think that they are actually authoritarian leaders. We call these people libertarians. Deep inside they realize their proper position on the totem pole but they have enough power and wealth to separate themselves physically above the rabble and they have the full force and power of the real leaders behind their backs. Just as long as they continue to support their leaders, the elite followers can wield an inordinate amount of power against the lower castes.

The elite followers are also highly motivated to wield it in an arbitrary and petty manner, since they must constantly be given proof that they are, indeed, leaders and not lowly followers. One way to do that is through petty power plays, such as jerking around women's health care. Another way is to blandly lie to the lower orders, knowing full well that there is nothing they can do about it. If the looters and moochers complain they can be drowned out by the employees and devotees of the rich. If they start to become dangerous they can be forced to back down by the legal and security systems, which are under the ultimate control of the elite. There is nothing the 99% can do to these liars, and they know it.

In fact, they find it highly amusing to watch the rabble struggle against their betters. They gather on balconies, manicured fingers wrapped around glasses of expensive wine, and laugh at the sheep as they bleat their despair. And they mock the feeble attempts of the poor to hold them accountable for their lies, to be so very pathetic as to think the truth matters, instead of power and wealth.

Which brings us, yet again, to Megan McArdle. As I noted before, Megan McArdle has been on a tear lately, attacking a man who had made himself an enemy of her elite. She has written six posts, a couple of them incredibly long, in the defense of Heartland Institute and the Koch brothers, despite the fact that she says she has no interests in common with either. But they are her elite, and when they are attacked she leaps to defend them, a trait that has made her happy and wealthy. She does not need to be told to obey. Obedience in the service of the elites is a way of life for authoritarian followers. She enjoys it. Her critics make her laugh.

Megan McArdle capped her support of the Koch brothers and the Heartland Institute with a very sarcastic post about an Obama fundraising letter capitalizing on the unpopularity of the Koches.

I just received a new mailer from Even before the primaries are finished, Obama is apparently kicking off the campaign against his now-inevitable opponent: the Koch brothers.
Obama - Biden
Friend --

In just about 24 hours, Mitt Romney is headed to a hotel ballroom to give a speech sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, a front group founded and funded by the Koch brothers.

Those are the same Koch brothers whose business model is to make millions by jacking up prices at the pump, and who have bankrolled Tea Party extremism and committed $200 million to try to destroy President Obama before Election Day.
Obviously, the campaign is not yet fully fleshed out. How will Obama distinguish himself from the Kochs on important issues like the Iranian missile program, gay marriage, and national education standards? How will he counter the favorability boost that the Kochs are expected to get from the fact that their name sounds like a popular soft drink (and will people get confused when pollsters ask them if they prefer "Coke, or Obama")? Will he be courting the paleolibertarians whose hatred of the Kochs is second only to that of the Center for American Progress? How will he counter if the Kochs promise to lower gas prices in exchange for the presidency?

I know it's customary to whine about the permanent election, but I confess, I'm excited to see this one unfold. Sure, it was historic to have our first black president--not to mention the first president who was a professor at my alma mater--and I don't mean to take anything away from that. But it would also be a pretty big landmark to have our first joint presidency.

Not that that will influence my vote, mind you. I vote the issues. Which is why I'm not proffering an endorsement until I know how the Kochs feel about soda taxes and those videos of animals being killed. 

Full disclosure: my husband once had a fellowship with the Charles G. Koch foundation.

 I reproduce the entire post so the reader can see the full context and the extent of McArdle's amusement at the presumption of the lower orders to criticize their betters. McArdle, however, did not want to see her amusement  dimmed by any whining and complaining from what she refers to as the "peanut gallery." She did not want to have to fight all those old, embarrassing arguments about her connections to power. She prefers to to think of her self as a witty, intrepid girl reporter, a Hildy Johnson, or perhaps a Dorothy Parker, the feminine shining star of the Algonquin Atlantic Round Table, or a film noir femme fatale, deadly yet seductive. She does not like to think of herself as the willing and sycophantic tool of the elite. So she lied, claiming that "my husband once had a fellowship with the Charles G. Koch foundation" was a full disclosure. Sure, it might piss off a few people to repeat this ellipses twice in one week while excoriating Peter Gleick for lying to the Heartland Institute to trick them into sending him some of their propaganda. But who cares? If they do she'll just go on the attack, if she can stop laughing long enough, and there is nothing they can do about it.

susanoftexas 1 day ago
Full disclosure: my husband once had a fellowship with the Charles G. Koch foundation.

At Reason magazine, where he still works as associate editor.

From Sourcewatch:

The Reason Foundation is a self-described "libertarian" [1] think tank. The Reason Foundation's projects include and, as well as Reason Magazine[2] It is part of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation network.
The Reason Foundation is funded, in part, by what are known as the "Koch Family Foundations,"[3] and David Koch serves as a Reason trustee. [4]

[From the list of Reason funders]
Between 1985 and 2009, the Reason Foundation received funding from the following sources, in the following amounts: [13]
Koch Family Foundations:
Charles G. Koch Foundation $57,000Claude R. Lambe Foundation $857,000David H. Koch Foundation $1,522,212

[Why does anyone care what the Koches do?]

Koch Industries is also a major polluter. During the 1990s, its faulty pipelines were responsible for more than 300 oil spills in five states, prompting a landmark penalty of $35 million from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In Minnesota, it was fined an additional $8 million for discharging oil into streams. During the months leading up to the 2000 presidential elections, the company faced even more liability, in the form of a 97-count federal indictment charging it with concealing illegal releases of 91 metric tons of benzene, a known carcinogen, from its refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. Koch Industries was ranked number 10 on the list of Toxic 100 Air Polluters by the Political Economy Research Institute in March, 2010. [1][2]
In a study released in the spring of 2010, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the United States’ top ten air polluters. [15]
Republican TiesIf convicted, the company faced fines of up to $352 million, plus possible jail time for company executives. After George W. Bush became president, however, the U.S. Justice Department dropped 88 of the charges. Two days before the trial, John Ashcroft settled for a plea bargain, in which Koch pled guilty to falsifying documents. All major charges were dropped, and Koch and Ashcroft settled the lawsuit for a fraction of that amount.
Koch had contributed $800,000 to the Bush election campaign and other Republican candidates.
Alex Beehler, assistant deputy under secretary of defense for Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, previously served at Koch as director of environmental and regulatory affairs and concurrently served at the Charles G. Koch Foundation as vice president for environmental projects. [16] Beehler was later nominated and re-nominated by the Bush White House, to become the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General. [17]

Ms. McArdle also donated her time to the Koch's IHS [Institute For Humane Studies] 50th Anniversary Dinner; Charles Koch is its chairman.

There is no shame in being closely aligned with billionaires, as Ms. McArdle has noted. Everyone has to be paid by someone. Journalists should all be as open as possible when it comes to their actions, as Ms. McArdle has noted repeatedly in reference to Mr. Gleick.
35 people liked this.

McMegan 1 day agoin reply to susanoftexas
I am curious to know what you think that this little section has to do with my decision to donate my time to the Institute for Humane Studies, or how that constitutes my being "paid by someone".
19 people liked this.

susanoftexas 1 day agoin reply to McMegan
You want to know what your donation of your time to the Koch brothers has to do with your ties to the Koch brothers? Do you also want to know what your husband's continuing employment at Reason has to do with his ties to Reason?
13 people liked this.

McMegan 1 day agoin reply to susanoftexas
I didn't donate my time to "the Kochs"; I donated it to the Institute for Humane Studies, an organization whose goals I support. Is anyone who donates time or money to an organization to which George Soros donates also "tied to Soros"? Does that donation somehow constitute getting "paid by" George Soros?
36 people liked this.

Money is fungible on the left, but not on the right, as I pointed out in the comments one of her posts. Any time or money donated to or received from the Koches frees up money to spend on Republican candidates and destroying environmental regulation, or paying fines for wrongful deaths and oil spills.

susanoftexas 1 day agoin reply to McMegan
So you deny that you are affiliated in any way with the Koch brothers.
7 people liked this.

McMegan1 day agoin reply to susanoftexas
I have met Charles Koch twice, for about a minute each time. I don't think I have never met David Koch. I receive no personal income from the Kochs, nor, to my knowledge, from any institution with which they are affiliated. I believe that David Koch is still a donor to the Reason Foundation, but I do not know that to be the case, and what I write is certainly not affected by that--except to the extent that the tedious disclosures mean that I spend somewhat less time making fun of the hilarious conspiracy-mongering than I otherwise would. The Kochs had nothing to do with my support of IHS, which predates my learning of their existence.

I'm curious, Susan: who's paying you to troll my blog? Could it be . . . SOROS??? Surely you wouldn't waste all this time to so little effect unless someone was paying you, would you?
43 people liked this. Like Reply

susanoftexas1 day agoin reply to McMegan
Like you, I donate my time.
11 people liked this.

Again, McArdle avoids the truth. DC is a community property "state" and half of her husband's income at Reason magazine is hers. For the purposes of her response she pretends that she receives no personal income from the Koches. She easily convinces herself that a magazine supported in part by the Koches, which pays her husband, is a far enough connection to deny it altogether. McArdle also pretends that people do not donate their time or effort and must be paid to do anything. In her youth she had volunteered for various organizations and of course she donated her time to the Koches for their annual Institute of Humane Studies dinner.

When I wrote that comment I did not realize that her involvement with the IHS was far greater than I knew or she led us to believe. McArdle is an alumni alumnus of the IHS Journalism Internship Program and was on the 2011 faculty for their summer seminar program. For which, I am guessing, she did not donate her time.

Shortly after my comments McArdle changed her disclosure, without noting her changes. The new disclosure:

Full disclosure: my husband once had a fellowship with the Charles G. Koch foundation, and works for Reason Magazine, which has been a recipient of funds from Koch charitable organizations. We also sometimes use Vanity Fair paper napkins and Dixie brand paper products, which are owned by the Kochs.

Tee-hee! There's nothing funnier than the yapping of the little people and their silly demands for accountability and the truth.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

K-Lo. At Large.

Be Healed
by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Last night I happened upon a healing Mass in the District of Columbia. How’s that for Providential? Talk about answering a call. God sure is timely.

“We are all cracked and broken individuals. We are all broken in one way or another,” the main celebrant said during the homily.

That’s not psychobabble when said before exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. More like “wisdom from above.”

And there were college kids from George Washington University, submitting to the power of prayer, on their knees in front of the Lord God. And staying through the end of a much longer than usual Sunday Mass.

“The mind is the battleground: thoughts ideas and suggestions. Pray for the mind of Jesus,” the homilist had advised.

And so they did. And so we must.
That's right, kids. Submit on your knees to the power from your authority, let your authority's love heal your broken heart,  give up your thoughts to your authority.

Power And Obedience

It's about power.

Children have no power. They are utterly at the mercy of their parents, and if their parents refuse to share power with their children, telling the children that only those in authority can have power and those without must submit to those who do, the children will still feel powerless when they become adults. Adults are not powerless but the habit of obedience has become ingrained in their minds. It is the basis for their relationships with everyone else and the rest of the world. There is a power hierarchy that must be maintained, with the Ultimate Authority on top, the Ultimate Authority's representatives below, and everyone else at the bottom. Everyone must know his place and stay in it.

But power is given, not taken. The authoritarian follower must be persuaded to ignore his own wants and obey the wants of the authority. This is easily done with children; they will do anything to gain their parents' love and approval. Children cannot live without it and are terrified of losing it. So children learn to give in, follow and obey, in exchange for love and belonging. But now we have a dilemma: if authoritarian followers have no authority, where does parental authority come from? And this is where God comes into the hierarchy. God gives authority to his men followers, who give authority over children to their women. No matter how weak and powerless one might feel, nobody can refuse to submit to the Ultimate Authority! God wants you to be good because he loves you and knows what is best for you. God wants you to sacrifice your own wants for his wants and in return he will give you perfect love. You might have to suffer to satisfy his wants but nobody said God wanted you to do what you want, think what you want, or believe what you want. You must submit and obey God, or he won't love you anymore and he will take his perfect, eternal love away from you and leave you alone and unprotected against the terrible dangers of the world.

Most people believe this with their entire being.

Rick Santorum is far from alone in professing a belief in Satan. In fact, most Americans believe in the devil too.


While such frank talk about spiritual warfare is uncommon among presidential candidates, surveys over the past few decades have shown that the majority of Americans do believe in Satan.

According to a 2007 Gallup poll, seven in 10 Americans said they believe in “the Devil,” while 8 percent were not sure. Twenty-one percent said they don’t believe in the devil.

Eighty-six percent said they believe in God, while 8 percent were not sure and 6 percent said they don’t believe in God.

A 2009 Harris Interactive survey found 60 percent of American adults believe in the devil, while 82 percent said they believe in God.


Santorum on Tuesday defended his 2008 speech.
“You know, I’m a person of faith. I believe in good and evil,” he told reporters following a rally in Phoenix. “I think if somehow or another, because you’re a person of faith you believe in good and evil [is] a disqualifier for president, we’re going to have a very small pool of candidates who can run for president.”

Snarr said the media is right to dissect the speech.
"Is the media making too much of it? No. He has chosen to make a very public interpretation of the trajectory of the United States (specifically citing an opposition candidate) and his public political theology should be discussed thoroughly," Snarr said in an email response.

She added: "This is not to say, however, that a belief in Satan or even spiritual warfare puts him at the 'extreme' end of Christianity. Belief in Satan and Satan's activity is present in multiple Christian traditions and particularly important for more theologically conservative evangelical believers— of whom there are many in the U.S."

In religion, good and evil mean obedient and disobedient. We are good when we do what God wants, we are bad when we do what we want. Popular myths tell us that Satan was an angel until he disobeyed God. He thought he was "as God." that is, that he could do what he wanted instead of what God wanted.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The devil is a fallen angel who in his fall has drawn multitudes of the heavenly host in his train. Our Lord terms him "the Prince of this world" (John 14:30); he is the tempter of the human race and tries to involve them in his fall (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 11:14; 12:7).

In his pride he thought his wants were equal to to the wants of his authority.  Obedience to authority is intricately interwoven into Christianity because it is intricately interwoven into the first and most dependent relationship of our lives,  our relationship with our parents. We believe in God because we believe in obedience to authority. When we need an ultimate authority we just make one up.

When you are trying to enforce belief in an authority, you must persuade people to obey. If someone else does not want to obey authority there is no way he can be forced to be obedient.  If someone would rather die than obey there is nothing the authority can do, and the authority's power is exposed as the weak thing that it truly is. Death is the ultimate act of defiance and no amount of authority can force it to submit.  If you believe that you have the same rights as the authority then the authority has no power over you. The authority must convince you that it has authority over you, getting you to voluntarily obey.

He tells you that disobedience is evil and obedience is good. He promises you rewards (love/freedom from death) in return for obedience and punishment (withdrawal of love/death) in return for disobedience. Most especially, he claims ownership of death (and therefore life). It belongs to God and God alone, as interpreted by God's obedient servants, the male clergy. No euthanasia. No pulling the plug. No abortion or suicide. No birth control. Only authority can kill; government can send men to war or lethally inject but individuals cannot kill.

The struggle is not between good and evil. It is between obedience and disobedience. Authoritarians do not want to force everyone to be good, they want to force everyone to obey. Therefore they will never be satisfied with anything else but public displays of obedience and they will never be satisfied with any single act of obedience. The process is what counts; the public act of submission is to authority is what they crave. The love-starved obedient child must obey to feel a sense of belonging and the resentful, angry, obedient child must force others to obey as he was forced.

They will never be satisfied.

If authoritarians are able to outlaw abortion they will try to outlaw birth control. If they outlaw birth control they will try to outlaw premarital sex. If they outlaw premarital sex they will try to control women's clothing. If they control women's clothing they will try to control women's movements. And always, they will try to control women's thoughts, to convince them to voluntarily give up their power in a public show of submission and obedience.

They are nothing but voices. They have no power except the power that we give them.

Never give up.  Never submit.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Crimes Against Humanity

Yes, this putz actually picked this picture for his bio.

It's bad enough that The Heartland Institute is a think tank that attempts to kill people slowly through reducing regulations on dangerous industries in exchange for money from oil, tobacco and drug companies. (And are admittedly trying to create propaganda for school children.)   But it's downright evil to employ boy plagiarist Ben Domenech  to edit their "Health Care News." His op-eds are, unsurprisingly, the same kind of boiler-plate, rightwing hysteria that he has cranked out ever since he was a toddler pundit.

Some 150 years later their descendants stood shoulder to shoulder in defiance of a distant, tyrannical regime, paying dearly to establish that our rights come from our Creator, not from government, and that no government can take them away.

Obama, Pelosi, Sebelius and their allies clearly think otherwise. But it’s possible they have crossed a line here that is without national precedent. And some lines, once crossed, set in motion changes in the course of human events. In the end, free people either allow their nations to slide into full acceptance of the denial of human liberty, or gather in uprisings against tyranny around such dangerous ideas as “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

He's talking about contraception coverage but he could be discussing anything. That's the sort of crap you can crank out in your spare time between loading up your Amazon cart and wandering your neighborhood in search of hipster pubs. It's enough to make you feel sorry for billionaire industrialists. They had to cheat and steal to get their money. Their pundits have to do little more than fart out some well-worn copy and light up a celebratory cigar.


Nothing disturbs Megan McArdle more than dishonesty, especially in professional circumstances. She was just devastated about the Heartland Institute document leak, and simply cannot believe that Peter Gleick lied to get them. She has written five posts on the matter and promises us more, as she is utterly fascinated by fakery in the media. In her latest post, McArdle wonders how anyone could ever be so unprofessional as to lie.

[...] I am not surprised by leaks--but I was very surprised that a man of Gleick's stature would take this sort of risk, on such flimsy evidence.

It is, on the other hand, perfectly acceptable to pass on propaganda when a drug company employee tells you that 80% of drug company profits come from the US, and therefore health insurance reform will kill innovation. It is also acceptable to believe whatever you are told from company flacks without question--and without proof.
Scientists and journalists are held to higher standards than, say, your average computer hacker. Trust in our work product is dependent on our personal integrity, because it can't always be verified independently.
Which is why an Ivy League reputation is so very useful. People assume you know more than you actually do. And when you lie to your readers they can't verify the information, which you are at pains to point out.*
Impersonating an actual person is well over the line that any reputable journalist needs to maintain. I might try to get a job at a Food Lion to expose unsafe food handling. I would not represent myself as a health inspector, or the regional VP. I don't do things that are illegal--at least, not things that are illegal in the stable western democracy in which I live.

McArdle is far too careful for that. She also would never be so foolish as to admit that she had done anything wrong; she makes up new lies every time an old lie is exposed.
Nor would I ever, ever claim that a document came from Heartland unless I had personally received it from them, gotten them to confirm its provenance, or authenticated it with multiple independent sources.
Instead she would accept a fake statistic and lie that she had seen corroborating evidence on financial statements.
Or perhaps she would read a grossly wrong blog post, not bother to check any sources, and tell her audience that the Black Panthers carried guns at a Bush rally.
Or lie about Goldman, Sachs to a television audience.

But she would never break the law.
McArdle is so distraught by the Heartland deception that she goes on to insinuate, without actually accusing him, that Gleick himself wrote the allegedly fake memo. But even if he did not write it, there must be something terribly wrong with a person who would lie to further his agenda.
And ethics aside, what Gleick did is insane for someone in his position--so crazy that I confess to wondering whether he doesn't have some sort of underlying medical condition that requires urgent treatment. The reason he did it was even crazier. I would probably have thrown that memo away. I might have spent a few hours idly checking it out. I would definitely not have risked jail or personal ruin over something so questionable, and which provided evidence of . . . what? That Heartland exists? That it has a budget? That it spends that budget promoting views which Gleick finds reprehensible?

Jail? Personal ruin? Why would he worry about those? It's perfectly okay to lie to further your agenda. As long as you never admit you it and your agenda is backed by right-wing billionaires, that is. Otherwise you will find yourself in serious trouble, when the liars on the right toss you into the churning machinery of their propaganda machine.

*McArdle: "But they were not speaking on the record, and financial statements are not necessarily a very good guide to allocating the net profitability of a drug, because of various tedious pricing strategies involving market timing that you can read about in an exhaustive volume from the OECD that I have on my desk, if you want to come to my office, or spend $100 to buy it yourself."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

K-Lo A Go Go

Sweet joy in the morning, Kathryn Jean Lopez has her very own little blog!

Oh, honey. Are you sure about that title?

Title aside, K-Lo is a busy little bee. There are fetuses to save and priest to praise, and K-Lo gets right to work. K-Lo qutoes Timothy Dolan on the even of his promotion to cardianl.

“As grateful as I am for being a Cardinal, I really want to be a saint,”Cardinal Dolan said to the media after the Feb. 18 ceremony. “I mean that, and I’ve got a long way to go but it is all about holiness, it is all about friendship with Jesus and it is all about being a saint. And that’s what I want to be.”

Cardinal Dolan said he was particularly moved by the announcement of two new American saints at the conclusion of the consistory.

In total, Pope Benedict announced seven new saints who will be canonized on Oct. 21. The group includes Blesseds Marianne Cope and Kateri Tekakwitha, who will become the first Native American to be declared a saint.

Cardinal Dolan said he recognized this week that his elevation means having to resist the unholy lure of power and prestige.

“I said, ‘Dolan you got temptations.’ I’ve always had them, but now I’ve got one that could go to my head – literally,” he said, pointing to his new red biretta hat. He told himself,” ‘you can’t (let that happen) because it is all about humility and it is all about service and love and staying close to God and his people. That’s what it’s about it’s not about power and prestige.’”

Bless his humble heart. It's all about God's people. Well, some of God's people.

As an auxiliary Roman Catholic bishop, Dolan was criticized for his handling of Roman Catholic priests accused of sexual misconduct, accused of being on a "witch hunt" to dismiss abusive priests.[6] He spoke with parishes, victims, and the media about the scandals, and invited victims of clerical abuse to come forward.[6] Commenting on his meetings with them, Dolan said, "...[i]t is impossible to exaggerate the gravity of the situation, and the suffering that victims feel, because I've spent the last four months being with them, crying with them, having them express their anger to me."[51] In 2011, Dolan thanked Bill Donohue for a press release, reproduced on the Archdiocese of New York website, in which Donahue referred to the non-profit support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests a "phony victims' group".[52]

The little whiners.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Voice Of God: Hear And Obey

It was a dark and stormy night and Ross Douthat tossed fitfully in his sleep, his soft damp hands clinging to Nursie Bear and his soft, damp whimpering following the lightning strikes like a particularly annoying type of thunder.

In his dream, God's voice rolled through Ross's mind.


"Yes, God? It's me, Ross," dream Ross answered.

"I know that, Ross. That's why I called your name. Ross, I have a mission for you. It's come to my attention, being omniscient as you know, that women are still having sex without my permission. This must stop."

"I'm trying, God! I tried to tell women to stop having abortions but they ignored me. Then I tried to get them to stop taking birth control but they ignored me again. Why does everyone ignore me?" Ross mumbled.

"Ross, you need to tell women to stop having abortions and using birth control. If that doesn't work, try to get on their good side. Find something that both sides can agree on, something moderate. Women want to get married, right? They read wedding magazines and go to romantic comedies and wear pink dresses and have babies. Tell them that birth control kills babies, Ross! Save the eggs, Ross, and save the world!" God thundered in unconscious imitation of Heroes, which He was currently watching on Netflix.

"I'll do it, God! I'll tell those women to submit to my, I mean your, will!"

You almost have to admire the stupid son of a bitch. He just doesn't give up. When the anti-contraception attack on women's freedom backfired, Ross Douthat decided that "safe, legal and rare" had to be winning argument. At last! The magic words that will bring the right and left together to control all those sluts who are having sex without holding God in between their legs like the proverbial aspirin!

The ‘Safe, Legal, Rare’ Illusion
By ROSS ["Every Egg Is Sacred"] DOUTHAT

AMID the sound and fury of the latest culture-war battles — first over breast cancer dollars and Planned Parenthood, and then over the White House’s attempt to require that religious employers cover contraception and potential abortifacients — it’s easy to forget that there is at least some common ground in American politics on sex, pregnancy, marriage and abortion.

And we all know that sound and fury signify nothing, don't we? So let's watch Douthat set up a convenient straw man to put in between clean, sex-free Ross Douthat and all those harlots who want to have sex.

Even the most pro-choice politicians, for instance, usually emphasize that they want to reduce the need for abortion, and make the practice rare as well as safe and legal.

Oh Ross. We are so disappointed in you.  Guess what is missing from your missive? Gone from your Goliad? Vacant from your Vitae? Women. The people who are actually affected by Douthat's distaste for sex. We don't care what politicians think or say as long as they leave these decisions to the individual.

Even the fiercest conservative critics of the White House’s contraception mandate — yes, Rick Santorum included — agree that artificial birth control should be legal and available.

Douthat can't write two paragraphs about women's naughty parts without lying. Rick Santorum does not want birth control to be legal and available.

Candidates often say things when polling in the single digits that come back to haunt them when they start leading the polls. Last October, Rick Santorum gave an interview with an Evangelical blog called Caffeinated Thoughts, in which he said contraception is “not okay,” and that this would be a public policy issue he would tackle as President. In particular, he said he would “get rid of any idea that you have to have abortion coverage or contraceptive coverage” as a government policy.

Heck, let's let him speak for himself.

 One of the things I will talk about that no President has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, “Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.”

It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also [inaudible], but also procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that’s not for purposes of procreation, that’s not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can’t you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure. And that’s certainly a part of it—and it’s an important part of it, don’t get me wrong—but there’s a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special.

Again, I know most Presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These how profound impact on the health of our society.
Fortunately His Frothyness will never be president. Back  to Douthat:

And both Democrats and Republicans generally agree that the country would be better off with fewer pregnant teenagers, fewer unwanted children, fewer absent fathers, fewer out-of-wedlock births.

We also think the country would be better off with fewer wars, fewer give-aways to banks, fewer broken laws and fewer bombings, but sadly we don't seem to have any choice in those matters.

Where cultural liberals and social conservatives differ is on the means that will achieve these ends. The liberal vision tends to emphasize access to contraception as the surest path to stable families, wanted children and low abortion rates.

No, the liberal vision is a world in which celibate or nearly celibate men are not crouching between our legs, terrified that women will get to control their own lives instead of letting men control them.

The more direct control that women have over when and whether sex makes babies, liberals argue, the less likely they’ll be to get pregnant at the wrong time and with the wrong partner — and the less likely they’ll be to even consider having an abortion. (Slate’s Will Saletan has memorably termed this “the pro-life case for Planned Parenthood.”)

No, liberals argue that our sexuality is nobody's business but our own.

The conservative narrative, by contrast, argues that it’s more important to promote chastity, monogamy and fidelity than to worry about whether there’s a prophylactic in every bedroom drawer or bathroom cabinet.

To the extent that contraceptive use has a significant role in the conservative vision (and obviously there’s some Catholic-Protestant disagreement), it’s in the context of already stable, already committed relationships.

Here we can see the creaky wheels of Douthat's head turn as he tries to avoid saying anything that might turn off his audience while also trying to convince his audience to support his sexual hang-ups. Douthat hopes to tell everyone that the Catholic Church doesn't really care all that much about condoms because the Church said that it's a worse sin to infect a sexual partner with a disease than to use a condom. That would not fool a small child, if Douthat happened to lecture a small child about contraception, which he probably has. Douthat gives the men in the audience a wink and a nudge, saying that it's kind of okay for men to use condoms but those sluts women can just forget about any birth control and do when the men tell them to do.

Monogamy, not chemicals or latex, is the main line of defense against unwanted pregnancies.

Married women don't want to be breeders either. Married women use birth control and have abortions. Poor Douthat; he is fated to eternally flounder around in the hope of finding the magic word that will stop all that screwing around.  "Monogamy" seems like a winner, right? Who could knock that?

The problem with the conservative story is that it doesn’t map particularly well onto contemporary mores and life patterns. A successful chastity-centric culture seems to depend on a level of social cohesion, religious intensity and shared values that exists only in small pockets of the country. Mormon Utah, for instance, largely lives up to the conservative ideal, with some of America’s lowest rates of teenage pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births and abortions. But many other socially conservative regions (particularly in the South) feature higher rates of unwed and teenage parenthood than in the country as a whole.

Mormons are sure are conservative!   (Say, isn't that Mitt Romney feller a Mormon? ) But married Mormon women use birth control too.

Early church leaders took strong stances against the use of birth control, but that position has progressively softened until now the membership is counseled to make its own decisions (Heaton& Calkins,1 983). Members have been encouraged to control fertility only for "unselfish reasons," such a s the health o f the mother, and to avoid the more worldly excuses, such as finances ( Burr, Yorgason, & Baker, 1982). The most recent official pronouncement from the First Presidency of the church was sent to the local church  leaders in April, 1969. It said in part:

Where husband and wife enjoy health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity, it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children. We believe that those who practice birth control w ill reap disappointment by and by.

However, Mormons are just as likely as the national population to use birth control to space their children, though they use it less frequently and start later (Heaton & Calkins, 1-983).

Now that Douthat has set up his strawman, he lets it fight his mighty battle against screwing.

Liberals love to cite these numbers as proof that social conservatism is a flop. But the liberal narrative has glaring problems as well. To begin with, a lack of contraceptive access simply doesn’t seem to be a significant factor in unplanned pregnancy in the United States. When the Alan Guttmacher Institute surveyed more than 10,000 women who had procured abortions in 2000 and 2001, it found that only 12 percent cited problems obtaining birth control as a reason for their pregnancies. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of teenage mothers found similar results: Only 13 percent of the teens reported having had trouble getting contraception.

At the same time, if liberal social policies really led inexorably to fewer unplanned pregnancies and thus fewer abortions, you would expect “blue” regions of the country to have lower teen pregnancy rates and fewer abortions per capita than demographically similar “red” regions.

But that isn’t what the data show. Instead, abortion rates are frequently higher in more liberal states, where access is often largely unrestricted, than in more conservative states, which are more likely to have parental consent laws, waiting periods, and so on. “Safe, legal and rare” is a nice slogan, but liberal policies don’t always seem to deliver the “rare” part.

What’s more, another Guttmacher Institute study suggests that liberal states don’t necessarily do better than conservative ones at preventing teenagers from getting pregnant in the first place. Instead, the lower teenage birth rates in many blue states are mostly just a consequence of (again) their higher abortion rates. Liberal California, for instance, has a higher teen pregnancy rate than socially conservative Alabama; the Californian teenage birth rate is only lower because the Californian abortion rate is more than twice as high.

That's one powerful strawman, Ross! It's just too bad that Douthat's imaginary argument is an irrelevant issue that has nothing to do with individual choice and freedom from religious control.

These are realities liberals should keep in mind when tempted to rail against conservatives for rejecting the intuitive-seeming promise of “more condoms, fewer abortions.” What’s intuitive isn’t always true, and if social conservatives haven’t figured out how to make all good things go together in post-sexual-revolution America, neither have social liberals.

And since nobody is perfect and Douthat has convinced the world that the Catholic Church never wanted to eradicate birth control, those liberals better be a little more humble towards their conservative brethren, and let the Pope tell them what they are and are not permitted to do.

At the very least, American conservatives are hardly crazy to reject a model for sex, marriage and family that seems to depend heavily on higher-than-average abortion rates. They’ve seen that future in places like liberal, cosmopolitan New York, where two in five pregnancies end in abortion. And it isn’t a pretty sight.

(How can Douthat bear to live in that den of sin, with women aborting their babies right and left before his very eyes? Or rather in the privacy of their doctor's office after making their very personal decision?)
By golly, as long as even one woman has an abortion, the left had better shut up and do what it's told. And by the left, Ross Douthat means the women.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Some People Are More Equal Than Others

Megan McArdle, who faked health care statistics to prevent the passage of health insurance company reforms, is deeply concerned about a memo supposedly from the Heartland Institute that seems to be a fake.

The foundation of journalism is accurate sources. Anyone who considers themselves to be in the business of informing the public about the truth should care very deeply when faked documents make it into the public record. They should especially care if their own work has been the vehicle.

Dismissing the possibility of fakery--and the obvious questions about who might have perpetrated it--does not help us focus on the "real issues". Instead, the stubborn willingness to ignore obvious problems becomes the story--something that Dan Rather learned to his dismay in 2004.

Unless you're Megan McArdle.

Choice And Consent

TBogg gives us a good look at exactly what our authoritarian leaders want to do to force women to submit to their anti-abortion authority. If those little sluts are willing to let a man in their vaginas, then obviously it's perfectly fine to force something into that vagina.

You know who agrees with them? That's right, our Princess of Painful Penetration, our Pro-Vaginal Violation Virago, our Libertarian Lemming, Megan McArdle.

In the comments of McArdle's post Why Did Susan G. Komen Pull the Plug on Planned Parenthood? I and others pointed out the incoherency  of her irresponsible abortion "moderation."

John Dolan 2 weeks ago
When will Megan move to Fox? Because this "I'm a moderate" thing is a joke. Every column has the same structure: "Although I'm a reasonable, moderate person, I just happen, by chance as it were, to agree with the far right on this issue." It's as if the weather reporter in Bangkok started every broadcast by saying, "Oddly enough, by pure chance, it was hot again today."

McMegan 2 weeks ago
So the only way I'm allowed to be pro choice is to think that PEOPLE WHO ARE PRO-LIFE HATE WOMEN AND ARE EVIL!!!, is that it?

Being pro-choice is not being "moderate" as you put it. I think I'm an abortion moderate, because I'm in between the "always legal" and "always illegal" poles that dominate the respective movements. As it happens, the majority of Americans seem to share my squishiness. So I'd say the moderate opinion is the one that I've outlined: Susan G. Komen has a right to do this, and people who support Planned Parenthood have a right to open their wallets to the organization.

susanoftexas 2 weeks agoin reply to McMegan
You are pro-choice. You think women should be able to kill their babies. How is that moderate? The child will not be half dead, or kind of dead, or moderately dead. Just like abortion in the case of rape (dead baby) or incest (another dead baby).

There is no moderate here. This isn't tax policy. Either it's murder and should be outlawed or we pass a law saying that abortion is a private matter of individual conscience, which we did. The middle ground is not "abortion should be legal but the mother should feel really really bad about it."

McArdle:" I think that abortion should be legal, but I also think that it should be a last resort, and I'm all for the government using any non-coercive methods it can to encourage women to carry their pregnancy to term, including things that will make them feel bad about aborting. I think, for example, that sonograms should be mandatory before termination, I'm in favor of waiting periods and parental notification laws, and I'm agnostic on spousal notification."

McMegan2 weeks agoin reply to susanoftexas

I think there's a gray area, that almost no one on either end of the spectrum actually believes what they claim to (that fetuses somehow become babies at the will of the mother, or, alternatively, that abortion is actually morally equivalent to murder.) I'm sorry that makes you uncomfortable, but there you are; it's an uncomfortable topic, on which there is never a happy answer.

just julie2 weeks agoin reply to McMegan
Seriously, you think that women are so stupid about what is in their wombs that they should be forced to have an invasive vaginal ultrasound before they can get their legal abortion?

Ever had one?

I have, 19 years ago, worst experience in an OBs office I ever had. Think sex toy but of terrifying proportions.

SPQR92 weeks agoin reply to just julie
Where the heck did you get that from her comment?

McMegan2 weeks agoin reply to just julie
Ever had an abortion? Considerably more invasive than a trans-vaginal ultrasound. In fact, there are lots of worse things that happen in women's health clinics; be glad you haven't experienced any of them.

moonshadowkati2 weeks agoin reply to McMegan
I'm sorry Megan, but making someone feel bad about getting an abortion is not the answer. You should be fully supported no matter what you choose. Making a patient wait and trying to rob her of the ownership of her decision is a firm step backwards in any situation.

jackson932 weeks agoin reply to McMegan
I think it's interesting that you don't think the government should require Catholic hospitals to buy health insurance that covers contraception, but you do think the government should be allowed to require women to pay for and submit to any number of procedures or counseling to discourage them from having an abortion.

Also, are you okay with making a rape "feel bad" about aborting? What about a woman whose life or health is threatened by the pregnancy?

I am pro-choice, but I would like to see as few abortions as possible. I just have concerns that a legally mandated "guilt" approach to discouraging abortion could be quite damaging to some women who are already in a very difficult and heartbreaking situation.

ajwpip2 weeks agoin reply to just julie
For most people who have had kids and are under 50 they or their spouse have. My wife didn't enjoy it but it looked more pleasant than a colonoscopy.

You don't have to make everything associated with pregnancy scary and fearful to defend pro-choice positions.

susanoftexas2 weeks agoin reply to McMegan

Isn't the definition of an extremist his depth of belief? Do any people believe fetuses become babies at the will of the mother? And yes, many many people sincerely believe that ending a fetus's life is killing a child. The extremities of the spectrum are extreme because of what they are driven to do by those beliefs.

I am not at all uncomfortable with others' decisions and beliefs because I believe that each person has the right to freely make her own choices rather than having them imposed on her by government or religion.

McMegan2 weeks agoin reply to susanoftexas
Well, I don't think it's precisely the same as killing a baby; if I did, then I'd be pro-life, obviously. I also don't think it's the same thing as removing a melanoma.

When my pro-choice friend lost her pregnancy at 5 months, she didn't say, "the fetus spontaneously aborted", she sobbed "I lost the baby". Similarly, any of my pro-choice friends would be extra-horrified if a pregnant woman they knew was mugged and beaten in a way that caused her to lose the pregnancy--horrified over and above the fact of the beating.

Yet all also support the right to have an abortion at 5 months. What that implies is that you think it is a baby only as long as the mother wants it to be a baby. I don't think that they actually think this--I think that they resolve the contradictions by not thinking about them, just as pro-lifers who allegedly believe that abortion is murder to not, in general, actually support jailing the mothers.

moronuki2 weeks agoin reply to McMegan
Well, once I was having this argument with a staunch pro-choicer (I am much of a mind on this topic with you), and I brought up these same kinds of examples (I miscarried once at 8 weeks, and I still said, "I lost my baby" and grieved about it), and she said, "well, that's because you felt like it was a baby, but if other mothers don't, then it isn't." So, at least one person literally thinks this and yet sees no need to resolve that issue in her mind.

Did I mention she was a vegan, too? I have never figured out how pro-choice vegans reconcile what, to me, seems like an awful lot of cognitive dissonance, but I guess they manage somehow.

moonshadowkati2 weeks agoin reply to moronuki
The difference here is that we are sad because the woman wanted to give birth, have a baby, become a mother. In that situation, when someone is in grief, they say they have lost their baby because they have just lost their chance of successfully having a baby, that growing sperm-egg combo that would have developed into the baby they already knew they wanted. When a woman wants an abortion, it's because she doesn't want to give birth, have a baby, and become a mother. In that situation, it is comforting to know that the lump of sex cells which has been steadily dividing and growing is not yet at a stage where it contains the essentials of what we would call human life, and that in getting the abortion they were able to prevent said lump from growing into a baby that would be born into a world they did not intend for them. There is a time for both sentiments, they are not mutually exclusive.

SPQR92 weeks agoin reply to McMegan
There is an extraordinary amount of depth in the way you've expressed that dichotomy. One of the reasons you are a better writer than I.

JoshINHB2 weeks agoin reply to McMegan
Well said,
That's about how I see this issue too.

susanoftexas2 weeks agoin reply to McMegan
Well, I don't think it's precisely the same as killing a baby; if I did, then I'd be pro-life, obviously.

Not necessarily. Some people realize abortion is ending a life but choose to leave that decision to the individual instead of the government or religion. I thought some of these people were called libertarians.

What this implies is that we have agreed to not prosecute abortions no matter what we personally feel about abortions, not that "a baby is a baby only as long as the mother wants it to be a baby."

texan991 week agoin reply to susanoftexas
Even libertarians don't necessarily advocate leaving it to a murderer to make the personal decision whether to murder someone else. A libertarian who believes a fetus is a person may well oppose abortion as vehemently as she opposes any other kind of murder. A libertarian who believes a fetus is an unimportant clump of cells probably will object to the government getting involved in the issue. Someone who believes it's scarcely possible to resolve the issue whether a fetus is a person or a clump of cells may think the best response is to let each person deal with his own conscience on the issue, and therefore perhaps be labeled a libertarian.

susanoftexas1 week agoin reply to texan99
Megan McArdle: "Abortion is something done for the benefit of the mother, for which the child who will not be born pays the ultimate price. Trying to elide, sugarcoat, or invert this is morally bankrupt. It seems to me not only reasonable, but fundamentally right that society should force women to confront the tragic cost they are asking someone else (even if only a legally hypothetical someone) to pay for their freedom, and evaluate whether the benefit they are gaining is really worth that cost."

So she does think that abortion is murder. But she has also said that one can't tell if it's a fetus or clump of cells. But she is pro-choice. So she thinks that abortion is a matter of individual conscience. But she wants the mother to feel bad about having an abortion, which is not leaving it up to the individual conscience. You can't make sense out of incoherence, or someone who tries to take both positions at the same time.

texan991 week agoin reply to susanoftexas
Your point seemed to be that it was a failure of libertarian principles not to leave the decision whether to end a life via abortion to the individual instead of to government or religion. My response is that a libertarian will approach the appropriate role of government in this issue differently depending on whether she believes a fetus is a human being, because if so, abortion appears to be murder, and libertarians often are quite comfortable with government intervention to prevent or punish murder. Megan is unsure enough of the answer that she will decide only for herself and not interfere in the decision of others. That is an equally libertarian stance.

Your quoted passage doesn't suggest to me that Megan believes abortion is murder. I'm considerably more anti-abortion than she is, and even I am not sure abortion is murder. I do believe it's wrong, and that approaches to abortion that attempts to sugarcoat the reality of the life that's being ended are adding cowardice to wrongness. I don't believe there's any inconsistency between obligating people to face facts, on the one hand, and leaving issues up to the individual conscience, on the other. In fact, I have great difficulty understanding why drawing attention to facts that other people consider to be morally neutral can in any way be construed as interfering with their individual conscience. If it's jump a clump of cells, why wince and shy at pictures of it? How is that "trying to make people feel bad"? That's where I believe the real incoherence lies. "It's meaningless! Don't make me look!"

What really amazes me is doctors who believe that being required to show women ultrasounds of their fetuses is a violation of their free speech. It's a picture. Where's the speech? The doctor isn't being required to interpret the picture as a person. The mother isn't being required to interpret the picture as a person. They can both gaze at it and tell each other, "What an unimportant clump of cells; this is going to be the moral equivalent of blowing my nose," and the law will be fully satisfied. And yet there's an explosion of outrage over this attempted mind control, as if the only way to preserve the opinion that a fetus is a clump of cells were never, on any account, actually to look at it. [my bold]

This woman is not pro-choice. She doesn't have the faintest idea of the meaning of consent. Authoritarian children seldom do. They were forced to obey then and they are still obeying now. All these libertarian children play at politics, telling themselves that they are principled, that they are socialy liberal but fiscally conservative. They are neither; they are obedient children who refuse to accept repsonsibility for their own choices. They will elect leaders who destroy the economy they so cherish and take away all the freedoms they constantly demand. They are frightened, angry and resentful, and they are determined to make others suffer as they think they suffer.

The sight of someone free to make his or her own choice makes them livid. How dare the left reject the one true God, the absolute authority of the father, the social mores imposed by the priests! Liberals are bad, bad people--we read it over and over in rightwing sites. Liberals do not respect the authority of God or men. They are all weak women whether male or female, they are bad and dirty and they must be punished. So while we try to defend individual freedom they try to eliminate it--and us. God is love, obedience is freedom, dogma is truth. Megan McArdle, a supposed libertarian, believer in absolute personal freedom, cannot even begin to understand the concepts of choice and consent. She is a child and should be treated as one; patted on the head and sent home to Mother.

By showing libertarians and conservatives respect we are only encouraging them. They think they are winning the battle for control over the disobedient because we give in, submit to their authority. Every time anyone accomadates the right they give them hope and encouragement and support, spurring them on even harder than before.

ADDED (via Charles Pierce):

Virginia Democrat Del. David Englin, who opposes the bill, has said Gilbert's statement "is in line with previous Republican comments on the issue," recalling one conversation with a GOP lawmaker who told him that women had already made the decision to be "vaginally penetrated when they got pregnant." (I confirmed with Englin that this quote was accurate.)

Therefore any man who's ever had a rectal exam has agreed to be raped.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sooner Or Later

This is a map of US military bases in the Persian Gulf area. They just happen to encircle Iran.

This is the Persian Gulf. Wikipedia says:

The Persian Gulf and its coastal areas are the world's largest single source of crude oil and related industries dominate the region. Safaniya Oil Field, the world's largest offshore oilfield, is located in the Persian Gulf. Large gas finds have also been made with Qatar and Iran sharing a giant field across the territorial median line (North Field in the Qatari sector; South Pars Field in the Iranian sector). Using this gas, Qatar has built up a substantial liquified natural gas (LNG) and petrochemical industry.

In 2002, the Persian Gulf nations of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, produced about 25% of the world's oil, held nearly two-thirds of the world's crude oil reserves, and about 35% of the world natural gas reserves.[7][8] The oil-rich countries (excluding Iraq) that have a coastline on the Persian Gulf are referred to as the Persian Gulf States. Iraq's egress to the gulf is narrow and easily blockaded consisting of the marshy river delta of the Shatt al-Arab, which carries the waters of the Uphrates and the Tigris rivers, where the east bank is held by Iran.

The New York Times informs us that Iran could hit us in the pocketbook if they decided to block access to and from the Persian Gulf.

HOUSTON — If Iran were to follow through with its threat to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit route for almost one-fifth of the oil traded globally, the impact would be immediate: Energy analysts say the price of oil would start to soar and could rise 50 percent or more within days.

An Iranian blockade by means of mining, airstrikes or sabotage is logistically well within Tehran’s military capabilities. But despite rising tensions with the West, including a tentative ban on European imports of Iranian oil announced Wednesday, Iran is unlikely to take such hostile action, according to most Middle East political experts.

United States officials say the Navy’s Fifth Fleet, based in nearby Bahrain, stands ready to defend the shipping route and, if necessary, retaliate militarily against Iran.

Iran’s own shaky economy relies on exporting at least two million barrels of oil a day through the strait, which is the only sea route from the Persian Gulf and “the world’s most important oil choke point,” according to Energy Department analysts.

Our wealth depends on our military power. Our military power and the corporations that profit from it depend on a reliable supply of affordable oil.

We are the world's largest superpower and we take what we want. When we act, we will be told that we are defending ourselves from terrorists. If this happens under a conservative president, the left will object. If this happens under a liberal president, 35% of the left will protest and everyone else will not.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Far More Than You Wanted To Know About Birth Control

Image from here.

Poor Ross Douthat is deeply distressed, as those nasty fornicators keep dissing his Church.

Kevin Drum’s blog continues to be the place to turn for emblematic liberal defenses of the Obama White House’s contraception-sterilization-Plan B-ella mandate. In a recent post, he argues that forcing Catholic institutions to purchase contraception is totally fine because 98 percent of Catholics have used birth control, the issue is “a matter of conscience only for a tiny number of men in the formal hierarchy of the Catholic church,” and the federal government only needs to respect the liberties of private institutions and communities “in areas where there’s substantial, highly-charged controversy,” not in areas where only very small minorities differ from the consensus (i.e. enlightened) view.

I would make three points in response. First, most studies do show that only 2-3 percent of Catholic couples never use artificial means of birth control. However, there are between 70 and 80 million Catholics in the United States, which means that even if only 2 percent of couples are trying to live by the Church’s teaching we’re still talking about hundreds of thousands of people rather than just “a tiny number of men.” (And I can promise Drum, from my experience in Catholic circles, that there’s more enthusiasm for Natural Family Planning among many of the people who practice it than there is among many bishops.)

Oh really, Ross? Let's do the math. Fist, let's note that masturbation is a big no-no among Catholics, and if someone is a Two-Percenter he probably will not masturbate as well. Next, let's knock a week off the Sex Calendar for a woman's time to menstruate, because women's bodily fluids are yucky and sinful. Then we have to take into account the fact that sperm can possibly--dare we say conceivably?--live six or seven days inside the womb, longer if the conditions are right. Naturally you will have to avoid sex during a woman's fertile period, which can be several days and occurs 14 days before the first day of her period. Six or seven days or even more before her fertile time, three or four days during her fertile time, and six days for her period. Let's say say a woman starts her period on Feb. 22.

Feb 1-7 Not Fertile--Party time!
Feb. 8-14  Sperm can live in womb--no sex  Sorry, guys. You spent $60 on roses for nothing.
Feb. 15-18 Fertile--no sex
Feb 19-21 Not fertile. Woo hoo!
Feb. 22-29 Menstruation--no sex

That's about 11 days a month when there is a possibility that the woman might not get knocked up. And rremember, everyone does not ovulate regularly. It is almost impossible to be certain that a woman will not get pregnant from unprotected sex. You are playing Russian Roulette with your family's lives, so that your imaginary god will not send you to Hell for taking care of your and your family's needs. I'm sure that every married Catholic man will be perfectly happy to not relieve the pressure of his needs for two thirds of his life, or not want to make love with his wife. And what if she is tired or out of town during that ten days? Too bad, Mr. Catholic! Maybe next month. Or the one after that. Patriarchal men are so happy to be told that they can't exercise their marital rights.

Unstated most of the time is the contradiction regarding natural planning. The Church says that every act of sex must be open to God's gift of life, yet natural planning is actively avoiding God's gift of life. If the Church  cannot even follow its own dogma, why should anyone else?

Moreover, these hundreds of thousands aren’t all just part of some lunatic fringe disconnected from the everyday life of parishes and communities. In more conservative dioceses, especially, they’re often the active core of parish life, fundraising, community service and so on. They teach marriage prep courses, their children are altar servers … you get the idea. Even if Catholics who followed the Church’s teaching to the letter were the only Catholics who objected to the new regulations, it’s still a small but influential segment of the Church.

I went to a Catholic Church like this for many years. There was a small core of devoted families who did most of the work. They had two or three kids, maybe four, not ten or twelve. The parish is unusual; it is about one half wealthy whites and one half poor Hispanics, with a few Bohemians thrown in. The Hispanic families have many kids. The white ones don't. Do that math.

But of course they aren’t the only Catholics who have objected. Here Drum glosses over the complexities of religious faith and practice, which ensure that many Catholics’ relationship to the teachings of their Church is more complicated than a simple “agree or disagree.” There are Catholics who accept the Church’s view on contraception but simply don’t live up to it. There are Catholics who respect the general point of the teaching while questioning its application to every individual case. (My sense, elaborated here, is that the current pope has some sympathy for this perspective.)

No, he doesn't. If you read the link you will see Douthat engages in wishful thinking and hand-waving to gloss over Catholic birth control use and the hierarchy's views on it.

There are many American Catholics, as Daniel McCarthy noted in a perceptive interview recently, who are neither devout nor dissidents — Catholics who practice their faith intermittently, drifting away and then being tugged back, without having any particular desire to see its teachings changed to suit their lifestyles.

Because they ignore those teachings to have the lifestyle they want: don't go to mass, don't give up meat during lent, don't give up birth control.

 And then there are Catholics (and this is a large category) who do explicitly dissent from Church teaching, but who also don’t want to see secular governments set the rules for what Catholic institutions can and cannot do. These are people who have been particularly vocal in the current debate (to their great credit), and their voices undercut the entire Drum thesis. If this issue a matter of conscience only for the “formal hierarchy of the Catholic Church,” then why is the White House taking so much criticism from Catholics with a reputation for disagreeing with the hierarchy — from Commonweal Catholics and National Catholic Reporter Catholics, from famous Catholic liberals like E.J. Dionne and Chris Matthews, Catholic Democrats like Tim Kaine and Bob Casey, Jr., and so on? The answer can’t be that they’re all afraid of the bishops, since we’ve just established that most Catholics don’t agree with the bishops on this issue. Something else is going on here.

Dionne has three children. So do Matthews and Kaine. Casey supports many pro-choice opinions. And all of these people are men. Weak, Ross. Very weak.

That “something else” has a lot to do with the complexities of religious loyalty, as I’ve said. But it also has to do with a basic commitment to the kind of institutional pluralism and tolerance of principled dissent that the United States has always wisely tried to cultivate. And here I find Drum’s overall perspective simply appalling. The idea that the state should only “tread carefully” on issues of liberty, conscience and freedom of religion in areas where polling data shows significant support for the position or community in question is a recipe for majoritarian tyranny and government overreach. The logic that he’s applying to orthodox Catholics could be applied just as easily to the Amish, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox Jews, and a host of other groups that don’t have the kind of institutional resources that Roman Catholicism can muster in its own defense. Yes, sometimes state interests are compelling enough to trump religious liberties, and defenders of this mandate have every right to make that case. But the argument that the state’s interests can trump religious liberties so long as the group of people being asked to violate their consciences is small enough is not an argument at all. It’s just a raw appeal to power.

You can have as much religious liberty as the law allows. Nobody is telling any religious person that they will be forced to violate their conscience. They just can't get federal funds if they violate federal laws.  All the Catholic Church has to do is give up money--you know, that thing that belongs to Caesar, not God? This is all about money. It is almost always about money. Donations from Catholics, fines from the IRS, tax exemptions--it's all about money.
Now, what was it that Jesus said about money?
19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures

upon earth, where moth and rust destroy,

and where thieves break in and steal.

20 "But lay up for yourselves treasures in

heaven, where neither moth nor rust

destroys, and where thieves do not break in

or steal;

21 for where your treasure is, there will

your heart be also.

22 "The lamp of the body is the eye; if

therefore your eye is clear, your whole

body will be full of light.

23 "But if your eye is bad, your whole

body will be full of darkness. If therefore

the light that is in you is darkness, how

great is the darkness!

24 "No one can serve two masters; for

either he will hate the one and love the

other, or he will hold to one and despise

the other. You cannot serve God and


25 "For this reason I say to you, do not be

anxious for your life, [as to] what you shall

eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your

body, [as to] what you shall put on. Is not

life more than food, and the body than


26 "Look at the birds of the air, that they

do not sow, neither do they reap, nor

gather into barns, and [yet] your heavenly

Father feeds them. Are you not worth much

more than they?

27 "And which of you by being anxious can

add a [single] cubit to his life's span?

28 "And why are you anxious about

clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field

grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,

29 yet I say to you that even Solomon in

all his glory did not clothe himself like one

of these.

30 "But if God so arrays the grass of the

field, which is [alive] today and tomorrow is

thrown into the furnace, [will He] not much

more [do so for] you, O men of little faith?

31 "Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What

shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or

'With what shall we clothe ourselves?'

32 "For all these things the Gentiles

eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father

knows that you need all these things.

33 "But seek first His kingdom and His

righteousness; and all these things shall be

added to you.

34 "Therefore do not be anxious for

tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.

[Each] day has enough trouble of its own.
And how much money does the Catholic Church already have?
In his [Prof. Thomas J. Reese, Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University] book, "Inside the Vatican" (Harvard University Press, 1996 highly recommended if you're interested in Church history and politics), he examines the finances of the Vatican (For the Chapter on Vatican finances see pp. 202-229).

The first thing you may want to know is that the Holy See ran a deficit from 1970 until 1993. Reese examines first the IOR (Instituto per le Opere di Religione), known better as "the Vatican Bank". The IOR was founded in 1887 to help the Pope manage his finances after the fall of the Papal States. In 1994, for the first time in its history, the bank was audited by an outside element - Price Waterhouse (today PriceWaterhouseCoopers - In that year, the bank had deposits of $40 billion, and annual profits of $4 million.

Reese notes, after an interview with the head of the bank, that "it is unclear how much working capital the bank has beyond its deposits", and that some estimated it as high as $1 billion, before 1984 payments to creditors of a collapsing Italian Bank (a scandal known as "Banco Amrosiano" Scandal). The budget of the Vatican City itself is $130 million annually.

In 1994, the audit listed:

- 1,483 billion lire in assets [About $848 million]: -

- 732 billion lire [about $419 million] in liabilities (in the

"Consolidated Financial Statements of the Holy See" (410 billion in

cash, 479 billion in stocks and bonds, 29 billion in gold, and 470

billion in fixed assets - investments and real-estate) . 269 billion

lire are in deposits and accounts of Vatican entities, 96 billion for

employees' severance indemnities and 262 billion at the value of

pensions to present employees;

- 750 billion are in net assets [$430 million].

These figures are without the bank and the Vatican City, each of them was mentioned earlier, and Reese estimates that it would add up to $500 million to $1 billion. However, deducting the Vatican City's budget and the $270 million reported as "fixed assets", the sum is lower than $1 billion, maybe even less than quarter billion dollars. Although Reese's information is only an estimation, it is probably the closer you'll get, with the complex structure of the Vatican and the Church. You can find other estimations online, including from this site, which tries to assert retributions from the Vatican bank on property looted by the Nazis. they claim the bank has manages £2bn (British Pounds) of assets, and that The Vatican had a balance of 2.5bn lira in 1998, then worth about £1m.

In an interview published in Money Week, Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka, the Vatican's "finance minister", claims that The Vatican's assets are $5 billion. he adds that " Income to the Holy See from bishops' dioceses has more than tripled from 1990 levels, to $22 million in 2000." he also says, "That [$5 billion] doesn't include the Vatican City, which has a separate financial statement. If property is used for Church purposes and could never be sold, the value of it is considered 1 lire, or nearly zero." The City's assets are "The revenues in 2000 were $180 million. The net surplus was $22 million, but that fluctuates greatly since we're responsible for the maintenance of all buildings, and it's extremely costly. One year we have a profit of $1 million and the next year $10 million. We put the surplus in a reserve, so we have it when the next work is needed" (Szoka refuses to refer directly to the Vatican Bank's assets).

Many of us are a great deal poorer than we were a few years ago. Many of us can't risk having another child. Ross Douthat can go to Hell and take his Catholic clergy with him.
Birth control now. Birth control forever!