Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Oct/12

29

Connecticut Governor: Go pray!

Connecticut Governor Dannel Molloy this morning advised his state’s residents to prepare for Hurricane Sandy and then go “pray.”  What exactly would those prayers look like? 

“Dear God: Even though you’ve sent this hurricane (because nothing happens on earth that is contrary to the Will of the Omnipotent One), do you think you could maybe mitigate its effects just a little bit?  (Such a last minute modification in the predestined unfurling of your simultaneous, omnipresent Will would be theologically problematic, but at this point, who’s counting?)  Just to remind you, human beings don’t like getting mowed down with natural disasters.  Of course, you were content to allow thousands to be wiped out in the big publicity items—the Japanese and Indonesian tsunamis, say—as well as in the unnoticed fires, tree branch fallings, electrocutions, slip and falls, and incurable diseases that take human beings down every day.  But those victims maybe weren’t as deserving as us, who knows, it’s a real puzzle, or maybe they didn’t get a chance to pray before they were killed.  We, however, are still very much alive, and here we are with a VERY big prayer and a VERY big claim on your attention, cuz’ we know WE’RE deserving as all get out. 

We also can’t help observing that it would have been a whole lot easier had you simply averted Hurricane Sandy in the first place, rather than allowing it to proceed, and THEN fiddling with its course—would’ve saved us a whole lot of trouble preparing and would not have disrupted commerce and millions of lives.  But maybe you were distracted with other things, and forgot how inconvenient a hurricane can be.  So we won’t hold it against you, but now that we’ve brought this problem to your attention, do you think that you could maybe call back the winds? 

Rest assured, however, that if you decide not to call the whole thing off and lives are lost, we will still troop to church and thank you for your Divine Mercy  and will pray for you to take care of the still living victims, even though dozens or hundreds of other human beings didn’t get your Mercy BEFORE they lost their lives.  (Though we’re sure that now that they’re dead, you are laying a whole lot of Mercy on them, and we thank you for that.)

In the meantime, however, thousands of selfless emergency workers are preparing to help their fellow humans survive this hurricane, putting their own well-being at risk.  And we are grateful for the millions of engineering geniuses whose labors on behalf of humanity mean that we will weather your storm a million times better than those less fortunate people who lived hundreds of years earlier.  But of course, in working to better their fellow humans, these emergency workers, scientists, entrepreneurs, tinkerers, and builders are merely reflecting YOUR Divine Love, and it is to you, ultimately, that we owe our greatest thanks.

P.S. Could you please make sure that [Obama] [Romney] wins the election?”

 

 

Oct/12

24

Richard Mourdock, the consistent Christian

“I just struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize: Life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Ummm . . . what’s not theologically accurate about that statement?  Whether we construe Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s statement generously and limit it to his obvious intentions—that the life that results from a rape is a gift that God intends to happen—or construe it less favorably to what Mourdock meant to say but faithfully to Christian theology—that God intended the rape that impregnates the victim—either interpretation is required by the idea of an omniscient, omnipotent God.  Given the nonstop stream of prayers that believers send God’s way every second, seeking favorable dispositions of, inter alia, their home foreclosure, their bypass operation, the election, the aftermath of an earthquake and every other natural disaster (belatedly),  it’s clear that believers rightly reason that there is not a single aspect of life invisible to the all-powerful God and over which he fails to exercise utter control (even if he sometimes seems to get a little distracted).  I mean, if he can perform such Iron Age miracles as ventriloquizing through a burning bush , he can sure as heck prevent a rape if he chose to do so.  His will has no option but to be done. 

 

Non-believers are supposed to respect belief as something deeply thought-out.  But it turns out that Christians are actually closet Manicheans, unable to live with the unpalatable consequences of their theology:

 

“As a pro-life Catholic, I’m stunned and ashamed that Richard Mourdock believes God intended rape,” said Dan Parker, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party.

“Victims of rape are victims of an extremely violent act, and mine is not a violent God.”

So if there are aspects of life that God does not control, he is not omnipotent, but just one magical force among many. 

The Mourdock faux pas in airing the ineluctable implications of Christian belief will cost the Republican party.  That belief itself, of course, will escape unscathed.    

 

Oct/12

22

Keeping terror apocalypticism alive

Ueberhawk U.S. Representative Peter King, speaking about the Benghazi attack on WABC radio today, announced that the threat from Al Qaeda was “if anything, greater than before,” now that its central leadership has been dismantled.   Why did I see that coming?

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Aug/12

22

Akin: a man of peculiar principles

It is of course sheer political opportunism to seize on Todd Akin’s use of “legitimate” to qualify “rape” as representing his views. There is not a chance that he meant to signify that rape is ever legitimate, but was rather clumsily trying to distinguish stranger rape from drunken acquaintance rape. And the debate over whether abortion following rape should be permitted is largely theoretical, allowing both sides to get righteously worked up over a principle. Akin’s doctor expert claims that less than 1% of rapes result in pregnancy; the New York Times’ medical experts allege that the data is weak but that the pregnancy rate may be more like 5%, still a pretty low number. But if Akin believes he is following God’s mandate, it shouldn’t matter if every rape resulted in a pregnancy—the principle is the same.

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Aug/12

19

Romney, welfare, and race

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank thinks that criticizing rollbacks in welfare reform shows a suspicious preoccupation with race—to put the most generous interpretation on his words–or, more bluntly, makes one a racist:

Events of the past few days make that happy chatter four years ago about a “post-racial” America seem especially naive. . . . On Tuesday, Mitt Romney began to attack President Obama as soft on welfare, an issue charged with race. On Wednesday, the Romney campaign hosted a conference call in which Newt Gingrich, who once leveled the racially loaded accusation that Obama was the “food-stamp president,” perpetuated the welfare accusations.

Let’s tease out the reasoning here. Romney’s criticism of the Obama Administration’s proposal regarding welfare work requirements was utterly race-neutral. And of course, more whites than blacks are on welfare. But because blacks have a higher welfare and food stamp usage rate than whites, one can’t talk about welfare policy—at least if one is calling for maintaining anything other than wide-open standards of eligibilty. To do so would stir up America’s always simmering racism and reveal one’s own hidden racial biases. Milbank would presumably also accuse Bill Clinton of racial demagoguery for his support of welfare reform. There are numerous other social problems where blacks are disproportionately represented—truancy, dropping out of school, out of wedlock childbearing, and crime, to name just a few. Are those also off the table as legitimate topics of policy debate?

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Another non-Muslim demonstrates how easy it is to inflict mayhem on American civilians.  If we were teeming with home-grown (or immigrant) radicalised Islamists, as U.S. Representative Peter King and his orbiting neocon activists maintain, we should be seeing such attacks on a regular basis.   Yet we’ve been saddled with an entire federal agency dedicated to protecting us against a threat that is even rarer than these occasional outbreaks of purely domestic insanity.  Of course, the punditry class is going to go into overdrive interpreting the Aurora shootings as a symptom of their favorite cause.  Until we see more of a trend in such sporadic shootings, however, I would chaulk the tragic loss of life up to random and meaningless awfulness that is very difficult to prevent.    

I also don’t quite understand why we consider colocated deaths  more noteworthy than serial deaths.  About 80 people a day died in traffic collisions in 2010, yet no one bothers much about such predicatable loss of life.  Do people assume a homicide risk more when they get on the road than when they go to a movie theater?  Perhaps.  But the death is the same.   There were 13,636 homicide victims in 2009, or nearly 40 a day, half of them black, half white or Hispanic.  Many of those victims were as guilty as their killers, but by no means all.  Admittedly, the Aurora shootings comprise a large fraction of that daily average, but again, most of those background killings will go unattended to by the media. 

 

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May/12

7

Francois Hollande’s marketting coup

The presidential victory of socialist Francois Hollande in France is being presented everywhere as a vote for “growth” over stagnation:

[Irish Foreign Minister] Eamon Gilmore last night said the election of Francois Hollande will “accelerate” a growth agenda in Europe.

And:

Mr. Hollande has said that he intends to give “a new direction to Europe,” demanding that a European Union treaty limiting debt be expanded to include measures to produce economic growth.

 

What a brilliant act of branding.  Implication: Those who believe in reining in government debt and spending are “anti-growth.”   Those who believe that the private economy and the free market are the only true sources of economic growth are “anti-growth.” 

The pro-big government stimulus spenders have managed to turn a disagreement over means into a division over ends.  Obviously, there is a lot more work to be done in explaining how an economy works.    The fact that Germany’s is practically the only non-moribund economy in Europe should in theory help make the case for government discipline, but the false promise of the big government Ponzi scheme is apparently too seductive.

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Apr/12

30

Race riots, past and future

The similarities between the build-up to the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the media demagoguery around the Trayvon Martin case are eerie and disturbing, as I write about here:

 

Could it happen again? That is the taboo question on the 20th anniversary of Los Angeles’s murderous Rodney King riots, just as another racially charged prosecution—this time in Florida—captures headlines across the nation. Sadly, the answer is yes. As the Oakland riots in 2009 and 2010 following a transit officer’s fatal shooting of a parolee made clear, the threat of riots . . . still hangs over interracial incidents of violence when the victim is black. And just as the press cynically manipulated the facts in the Rodney King beating in order to increase racial tensions, it has done so again in the Trayvon Martin shooting inSanford,Florida.

The best hope for avoiding a repeat of the L.A.mayhem, should blacks not be satisfied with the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, is that police forces across the country have learned the lesson of the Rodney King riots: that outbreaks of civil anarchy must be immediately and unapologetically suppressed.

Anniversary coverage of the LA riots has sanitized the violence and spun out a narrative that holds individuals blameless for their sadistic and homicidal destruction, placing responsibility instead on the usual suspects: the racism of the police and of society.  Los Angeles Times reporter and editor Jim Newton provides a classic version of the “we are all guilty” topos:

 

The Los Angeles riots represented the culmination of many failures: the failure to provide hope for young people; the failure to supply education and jobs in the numbers that would stabilize communities; the failure to engage those communities in their own protection instead of relying on harsh and coercive law enforcement.

 

 

But even more remarkably, the Los Angeles Police Chief Charles Beck follows suit, using the nauseatingly PC term for the riots, “civil unrest,” and issuing a mea culpa for the police role in them:

 

The result [of aggressive LAPD tactics] was a city that was increasingly alienated from the police who were supposed to serve them. That alienation culminated in the worst civil unrest in Los Angeles history.

Oh, really?  As I write in City Journal:

 

If LAPD oppression was both the cause and the target of that violence, why did the mobs assault the following civilians, among many others, in the first two hours of violence alone? There were the son of the Korean owner of Tom’s Liquor Store at Normandy and Florence, beaten by gangbangers while the store was being torched; the white driver of a gray Volvo, who was dragged from his car and kicked in the head by assailants yelling “It’s a black thing,” and who barely escaped in his car (minus his camera and briefcase, naturally); the white driver of a brown Jeep Wrangler who was hit by a rock thrown through the front windshield, then smashed in the face with a bottle when he got out of the jeep . . .

 

Interestingly, Latinos constituted a majority of the arrests during the riots, as photos of the looting would predict.   The riots began as a “black thing,” but ended up as much a Hispanic thing.  So much for the Ron Unzian view of Latinos as pacific saviors of California.  On the other hand, Hispanics were overwhelmingly the victims, not the instigators, of the most vicious crimes of violence.    While it is hard to imagine a Hispanic-initiated riot, certainly of the fury and personal predation of the LA riots, Hispanics’ eager participation suggests how fragile are the constraints of social order and how essential it is to enforce law and order with unflagging vigilance.

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Apr/12

29

California’s insufficient bite of the Apple

The New York Times is shocked that Apple seeks to minimize its liability under California’s exorbitant tax rates by moving profits to lower taxing states and countries.  The paper melodramatically suggests in a front page “expose” today that the economic woes of a local community college, attended in the early 1970s by Apple founder Steve Wozniak, are directly related to Apple’s stinginess. 

I wonder if Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., and other Times executives employ tax attorneys for their personal finances or for those of the paper.   And if Apple paid more taxes in California, how much would reach the classrooms of Cupertino’s De Anza College, as opposed to bankrolling the thousands of diversity bureaucrats throughout the state’s university and college systems, not to mention funding astronomical public employee union benefits or bloated
government agencies and their ineffective social uplift programs. 

The Times can’t contemplate that the solution to tax avoidance is to lower taxes and reduce the magnitude of government spending.   It’s too bad that the titans of Silicon Valley don’t have the guts to speak out about the economic realities that drive business decisions.

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Apr/12

29

The limits of rational thought

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has eloquently opposed two local living wage bills championed by New York’s left-wing City Council:

 “Government cannot bend the laws of the labor market,” he said, arguing that the bills would destroy jobs, and that taxpayers would ultimately pay for the increased wages.

This month, on his weekly radio show, he compared the living-wage bill to Soviet economic policies, saying, “The last time you really had a big managed economy was the U.S.S.R., and that didn’t work out so well.”

And yet, Bloomberg urged the Supreme Court not to hear a case challenging New York’s hoary rent regulations, defending them

as a necessary response to a housing shortage and as a way to prevent “rent profiteering.”
Last month, [he] certified that there was still a state of housing emergency, defined as a vacancy rate of less than 5 percent, which is a requirement for the regulations to be in effect.

The emergency has been in effect for more than 40 years.

There is actually a stronger case to be made for living wage  bills as they apply to government-funded projects than for rent regulations, an insane, demonstrably counterproductive policy far more akin to Soviet-style central planning, one which inevitably produces the very “housing emergency” which Bloomberg cites as justification for it.  Apparently, Bloomberg does understand the workings of supply and demand, except when it comes to New York’s  sacrosanct rent controls, virtually the last in the country.  A very depressing demonstration of the power of politics over principle. 

 

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