The Federalist Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:30:49 +0000 hourly 1 The Federalist no The Federalist Big Government Is The Borg, And Resistance Isn’t Futile Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:29:16 +0000 Stella Morabito Checks and balances are definitely not President Obama’s style. So we shouldn’t be surprised when he pulls another executive order out of his well-stocked hip pocket any time Congress or the Supreme Court doesn’t do what he wants. Some recent developments have proved especially insufferable for him, what with Congress refusing to rubber stamp his immigration plans and the Supreme Court declining to do same for his abortifacient mandate. It seems Obama believes that neither Congress nor the Supreme Court count as branches of the government when they don’t follow suit.

This is simply the nature of what we so euphemistically call “big government.” It’s difficult to come up with a more specific term to describe the current phenomenon, especially since so many Americans seem to be on board with Obama’s style. Big government beckons with promises of a more humane future, total equality, a utopian sentimentality-without-faith. But, to borrow the words of Flannery O’Connor—echoed by Walker Percy—such tenderness “leads to the gas chamber.”

One way to get this message across is to explain that really gigantic government is personified in the Borg of “Star Trek” lore. The Borg is a formidable collection of species that function as drones ruled by a collectivist hive mind. It fuels itself by devouring everyone in its path.

Resistance Is Futile

The Borg’s stated goal is to “achieve perfection.” What’s not to like there? And doesn’t it stand to reason that everyone must be sucked into its vacuum? A Borg’s got to do what a Borg’s got to do. So, if you’re in its path, it first greets you by stating: “Resistance is futile.” It then absorbs you and erases your identity. And thus it propels and gorges itself throughout the universe.

Those most attracted to power tend to be control freaks rather than the live-and-let-live types.

The irony, in this era of bloating government, is that the Borg is still considered a villain in popular culture. Why? The Borg acts just like any blob bureaucracy: it comes, it sees, it conquers. And more young people—especially those inclined to follow in the footsteps of the Obama 2012 campaign’s Julia infographic—seem tempted with the idea of womb-to-tomb care by a Borg-like State. The dirty little secret, which they may or may not see, is that being a wholly owned creature of the state means ultimately becoming a tool of the state, which must “help” more individuals, who become tools, etc. Resistance is futile.

The Borg’s goal of perfection is a classic utopian lure: attaining an almost mechanical precision in society in which all beings operate in symphony, kind of like ant colonies. Unfortunately, its methods to achieve utopia are coercive. But this is logical, Captain. The journey of utopian dreams is always—and, as history proves, always has been—paved with brute force.

That’s because, in the words of University of Hawaii political science professor R. J. Rummel, “Power Kills.” No matter what the stated motive is—peace, love, hope, or change. No matter whether the motive is sincere or, more likely, a fake front to accumulate power.

When power is never limited or checked or balanced, it can’t get enough of itself. When it reaches a tipping point at which a power-mongering clique or dictator can further the goal of more power accumulation (in the name of whatever), it will destroy anything that gets in the way. And it will rationalize any use of force in the name of a better tomorrow. That’s the just nature of the beast.

The End Thereof Is Death

All human beings are flawed. All leaders are human beings. All leaders are flawed. So, it’s worth paying some attention to what some leaders do with power when they get too much. In the worst-case scenarios, we all know that some people actually kill to maintain power. Not only that, but they have a tendency to feel justified in doing so, especially after they get more power.

We need to get beyond, ‘This could lead to a European-style socialist system.’

The reality is that those most attracted to power tend to be control freaks rather than the live-and-let-live types. So in a system devoid of checks and balances you’re more likely to end up with a Joseph Stalin as leader than with, say, Saint Francis of Assisi. And once little dictators have the reins of government power, there’s no way they’ll let go.

It’s time to stop dancing around the issue and to stop talking so antiseptically and academically about limiting government in order to “increase fiscal responsibility” or “reduce the debt.” It’s time to stop merely arguing against executive orders because they “just aren’t the way we do things in a Republic.” We need to get beyond “This could lead to a European-style socialist system.”

The primary reason to fight against big government is that its final destination is Death. As in murder. At some point, someone’s got to say it. So there, I said it. (#bansorry)

The late professor Rummel delivered some hard facts during his career compiling statistics on deaths from various forms of institutionalized murder. In his book “Death by Government” (1994,) Rummel’s first lines read:

Power kills; absolute Power kills absolutely. This new Power Principle is the message emerging from my previous work on the causes of war and from this book on genocide and government mass murder—what I call democide—in [the 20th] century. The more power a government has, the more it can act arbitrarily according to the whims and desires of the elite, and the more it will make war on others and murder its foreign and domestic subjects. The more constrained the power of governments, the more power is diffused, checked and balanced, the less it will aggress on others and commit democide. At the extremes of Power, totalitarian communist governments slaughter their people by the tens of millions; in contrast, many democracies can barely bring themselves to execute even serial murderers.

These assertions are extreme and categorical, but so is the evidence . . .

Indeed, the evidence is astonishing. Death by government in the 20th century cost 169 million lives. That’s at least four times more people killed by their own governments than by war. In the 20th century 38 million lives—both military and civilian—were lost in all conflicts combined.

The Link Between Utopia and Terror

First, please note, I’m not saying the administration’s penchant for government by executive fiat, utopian rhetoric, and radical social policy put us on the brink of democide. All I’m trying to say is that those who remain ignorant of history are ill equipped to pass judgment on the wisdom of certain policies and political approaches. Anyone who takes a sober look back at the last century’s big governments would be very motivated to limit government, not grow it.

Every thinking person would do well to listen to the audio course Utopia and Terror in the 20th Century. It was produced in 2003, and the lectures by University of Tennessee professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius are an absolute tour de force that will help you connect the dots and understand patterns in the history of 20th-century human violence. Liulevicius describes the general scope of his course:

A bitter contradiction is revealed between the age’s promises of progress and its bloody record. The twin concepts of utopia and terror are defined and their linkage is examined: The aim of achieving a perfect society was supposed to justify violent means. Utopia refers to the perennial human impulse to imagine a flawless society, free of contradictions and conflicts. Terror designates the deliberate and systematic use of fear and violence to achieve political ends. The 20th century saw the rise of dynamic and brutal ideological regimes that promised total solutions.

Then he asks a chilling question about the past century’s terrors: What if these things are not throwbacks, but signs of things to come?

Naturally, we’d all prefer to see these things as throwbacks. If you live a carefree life in America, you’re possibly offended by this as beyond the pale, tinfoil hat stuff. Nevertheless, insisting on a comfortable aversion to that question does make you susceptible to manipulation by such forces. However, if you have an inkling of history, then you might wonder about the possibilities of some bad history repeating itself. You might even see some troublesome patterns of too much power in the hands of too few people. Your awareness that power kills would make you a more effective resister.

Utopia’s Cruel Responds to Resistance

Utopianism is perennial bait tyrants pitch to the masses. It tends to suck us in because humans want to overcome everything bad everywhere. It’s our deep-seated urge to visualize across-the-board solutions for what ails us socially. But once we’re sold on the pitch, we’re sunk. That’s because elites always use fear to get and keep raw power. In the words of Liulevicius, “Terror seeks to instill fear and panic, aiming at forcing transformation.” He notes that terror and utopia are strongly linked in the 20th century, “because plans for perfection encountered either passive or active resistance. If individuals and society would not willingly submit to being radically remade, compulsion would be used to enforce the planned perfection.”

If you have an inkling of history, then you might wonder about the possibilities of some bad history repeating itself.

This last point is key. Every dictator, from Lenin to Stalin to Mao to Castro to Pol Pot and so on, imposed their visions of a greater tomorrow. This tomorrow could only come for them once the problematic people—the resistors, the “undesirables,” the counter-revolutionaries—were eliminated. Liulevicius speaks of the rise of “political religions”—ideologies that promise “ultimate meaning and a perfect future”—that provide supporters both the confidence and justification to suppress dissent.

In fact, political religion does seem uncomfortably real today, and its practitioners have a knack for using fear of persecution and force to try to shut up dissenters. Think global warming, gay marriage, and the transgender push to redefine all of humanity by claiming sex is merely “assigned” to us at birth.

The list goes on, but suffice it to say that expressing opposition to any tenet of this political religion is considered an act of heresy in the public square today. The media, Hollywood, academia, and sundry politicians serve as defenders of the faith. Resisting can get you burned at the stake, socially and professionally speaking.

Four Key Elements of the Utopia-Terror Dynamic

How can so few end up imposing their iron-fisted rule over so many? Liulevicius identifies four key elements in the road from utopian vision to dystopian reality in the 20th century: Masses, Machines, Mobsters, and Master Plans. The masses and machines provide the means. The mobsters and the master plans provide the motives.

1.) Masses. In order to consolidate support, 20th-century regimes had to mobilize masses of people. They “exploited societies in turmoil, full of uprooted and atomized individuals.” (Does this sound a bit like our borders right now?) “Humans caught up in ideological movements were often uprooted, members of ‘lonely crowds’ seeking escape in promises of belonging, anonymity, and equality.” (The constant media harping on “inequality” certainly foments this sense today, as do speech codes. Other slogans such as “spread the wealth” and the Occupy movement’s “We are the 99 percent” call for mass mobilization.)

Every dictator, from Lenin to Stalin to Mao to Castro to Pol Pot and so on, imposed their visions of a greater tomorrow.

2.) Machines. This would include not only newly devised instruments of war, but also modern technologies and media for propaganda use, to manufacture public opinion “approval,” to bloat bureaucracies and to use police and data collection to gain compliance. A system of surveillance by neighbors was, and still is, standard practice in totalitarian societies. In the 21st century we see the explosion of social media as a means of driving public opinion to grow support for utopian agendas. The invasion of privacy by Big Data looms ever larger.

3.) Mobsters. These would be the elites who drove the 20th century’s mass movements for transformation: “They gathered into organized conspiracies to achieve political power and often using criminal methods, inspired by gangster bosses.” They act as though above the law. One can see this in unsavory alliances between government and big business, abuse of executive orders, codes of silence that include cover-ups for wrongdoing among the elites, but also the silencing of dissenters through threats and fear. Joy Pullmann recently illustrated how an era of “mafia government” is being played out today. 

4.) Master Plans. These are “ideologies championed by mass movements, total blueprints based on ideas, promising utopia as an outcome, with comprehensive visions of a future society.  They could be adapted to changing conditions, while still claiming to be infallible.” It’s not much of a stretch to see Obamacare and Common Core as examples of “master plans.” They are enormous in scope, taking over both the medical and educational sectors of society. There is also a push for the philosophy of communitarianism, which is basically a softer term for communism: both prescribe a relationship of community to individuals that trumps family and any other autonomous relationship.

Liulevicius identifies four key elements in the road from utopian vision to dystopian reality in the 20th century: Masses, Machines, Mobsters, and Master Plans.

The main purpose of mass movements is to create an aura of dynamism that creates an illusion of a juggernaut that helps push the elite’s agenda forward. Utopian visions, whether left or right politically, are all similar in their actions and their structures.  They require centralized power to force a vision of transformation on the whole society. A common theme that runs through these movements is that a “vanguard,” or power clique, is necessary to protect the masses.

But in order to effectively prop up government, or get out of the government’s way, the masses must be made up of isolated individuals, atomized and unable to have independent relationships with one another. This requires sowing a culture of distrust. Dictators, and even utopian democrats, are really good at this. As more and more people fear social punishment for speaking their minds, people become more isolated. The bonds of personal relationships weaken. People are divided as never before. This state of affairs always serves mobsters very well.

Is Resistance Futile?

When the Borg begins to suck in a victim, it warns: “Resistance is futile.” As powerful as the Borg is, why would it do that? Two reasons, I think. First, it needs to heighten the sense of inevitability for the victim. Second, it needs to heighten the sense of inevitability for itself.

Resistance is still a nagging challenge for the Borg, even though it prevails. That’s because resistance forces the Borg to see its behavior and existence rejected. And that doesn’t compute. So I wonder: Is the Borg also really using the meme to convince itself, to reinforce its own sense of mission? All autocrats expend vast amounts of resources and energy fighting even the tiniest bits of resistance. And they always expect resistance.

People are divided as never before. This state of affairs always serves mobsters very well.

For example, there is an interesting YouTube interview on this tendency, from an infiltrator of the terrorist organization Weather Underground. Larry Grathwohl is the author of “Bringing Down America,” and was an FBI informant who joined the Weather Underground during the 1960’s. Bill Ayers, the group’s leader, today is a strong supporter of Barack Obama. Although Ayers always likes to claim there is distance between him and Obama, their ideologies are very much in sync, and he is known to have groomed Obama for office.

During a meeting in 1969, Grathwohl asked Weather Underground leaders about the aftermath of taking over the government: What would they do with Americans who resisted the revolution? Grathwohl says they told him such Americans would go into re-education camps in the Southwest. Any who couldn’t be re-educated in the new way of thinking would need to be eliminated (as in killed). When asked for an estimate of how many might need to be killed, Grathwohl reports Ayers and company told him: “about 25 million people.”

Fascinating, Captain.

Do you recall Rummel’s “extreme and categorical evidence?” That evidence is impressively depressing. The 169 million government-sponsored murders in the 20th century indicate unchecked domestic government is lethal. Perhaps resistance is not futile. Perhaps submission is far more futile and far more deadly.

Atomized Versus Healthy Individuals

Whatever you think of Grathwohl’s account of Ayers (which of course Ayers denies,) it’s interesting that Ayers has spent decades as an academic in Chicago, an education reformer dedicated to bringing his radical “social justice” ideas to public education. For at least the past 40 years, he has advocated for politically correct policies and school curricula that essentially cultivate ignorance and stunted thinking. By replacing the study of history—whether Western Civilization or any real survey course—with a disparate package of “relevant” ethnic/gender identity studies, we’ve made it harder for students to develop the ability to think coherently about the past and about patterns of human behavior.

In addition, speech codes and political correctness cause people to fear speaking out. (“Question authority!” used to be a rallying cry of Ayers’ radical Left. We don’t hear that so much when they’re in charge, do we?) This causes a spiral of silence that leads to social isolation. People become distrustful and less able to share their innermost beliefs with others. In short, relationships become weakened throughout society. People become atomized, or disconnected. They become the perfect drones for strongmen.

Submission is futile. Resistance is the only hope, the only way out.

The net effect is a vacuum of knowledge and amnesia of history. That basically removes much of the will to resist whatever transformation might be pushed. People become more at sea mentally, and so more inclined to latch onto big government as though it’s an anchor.

But there are signs of hope. As Liulevicius notes, there is enormous power in human individuality. This individuality, he says, is “embedded in true, everyday human community, rather than given over to loneliness in crowds. . . Genuine individuals resist the ‘marching impulse’ of organized crowds.”

When people hold on to their individuality and resist absorption into group think, they have so much to offer in relationships with those who might feel more isolated. They can reach out with kindness and understanding. They can build trust as they share their knowledge of the wider world. This creates an irresistible ripple effect that injects strength into the bonds of those relationships, which are the building blocks of real community. True individuals offer the polar opposite of the type of “community” now advocated by communitarians who aim to stamp out individuality once they’ve trumped it.

Whenever power seekers talk about “community,” they generally mean masses of atomized individuals whose first loyalty must be to the fount of power, generally the State. It’s not a real community because it doesn’t allow for personal relationships that cannot be controlled by the State. It’s a Borg community, a “hive mind” without distinct individuals. In the end, these systems are really fragile house of cards when exposed to resistance by true individuals. Why else would political correctness be so tirelessly applied to punish dissenters?

The big little secret—and the great truth it represents—is that resistance is not futile. Submission is futile. Resistance is the only hope, the only way out. The Borg knows this very well. So do the likes of Bill Ayers, Incorporated.

Follow Stella on Twitter. She blogs about relationships, power, and freedom at

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The CBO Is Using Enron-Style Accounting On Obamacare Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:28:22 +0000 Ben Domenech One of the ongoing debates about policy formation in Washington which has become far more prominent since the passage of Obamacare is the role of the Congressional Budget Office, and the weight given its estimates and predictions for the ramifications of legislation. CBO has always been at the center of a debate about how much we should trust these estimates and how much legislators should rely on them in crafting policy. The larger the legislation, the more moving parts it has, the more difficult it is to calculate the fiscal and economy-wide impacts.

In the case of Obamacare, the sheer largeness of the measure and its many factors contributed to a higher degree of distrust for the CBO’s assumptions about what would come of Obamacare’s passage. In certain key areas, such as the impact of the long-term care provision known as the CLASS Act, the CBO’s position was laughable – and scores of other steps since then have also attracted pushback. The level of distrust for the validity of CBO’s estimates is growing, and their latest step to game the accounting on Obamacare’s ramifications, which has attracted little notice thus far but represents another step to make the law harder to repeal, is likely to only increase calls for changes and reforms of the office.

In its final cost estimate of Obamacare (released on March 20, 2010), under a section labeled “Key Considerations,” the CBO cautioned that the legislation would “maintain and put into effect a number of policies that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time.” Thus, CBO asserted: “the long-term budgetary impact could be quite different if key provisions… were ultimately changed or not fully implemented” (emphasis added). Specifically, CBO mentioned the sustainable growth rate formula for paying doctors in Medicare that was not addressed in the bill, but—more importantly—here’s what CBO said about Medicare payment rates for other health care providers:

“….the legislation includes a number of provisions that would constrain payment rates for other providers of Medicare services. In particular, increases in payment rates for many providers would be held below the rate of inflation (in expectation of ongoing productivity improvements in the delivery of health care). The projected longer-term savings for the legislation also reflect an assumption that the Independent Payment Advisory Board…would be fairly effective in reducing costs beyond the reductions that would be achieved by other aspects of the legislation.”

“Under the legislation, CBO expects that Medicare spending would increase significantly more slowly during the next two decades than it has increased during the past two decades (per beneficiary, after adjusting for inflation). It is unclear whether such a reduction in the growth rate of spending could be achieved, and if so, whether it would be accomplished through greater efficiencies in the delivery of health care or through reductions in access to care or the quality of care. The long-term budgetary impact could be quite different if key provisions of the legislation were ultimately changed or not fully implemented.”

Just the day before, CBO had released a sensitivity analysis (at Paul Ryan’s request) that illustrated a similar point. Ryan asked what the budget impact of Obamacare would be in its second decade if several provisions were altered. Two of the four provisions he inquired about were IPAB and the additional indexing for exchange subsidies. In that analysis, CBO found that (emphasis added):

“If the changes described above were made to the legislation, CBO would expect that federal budget deficits during the decade beyond 2019 would increase relative to those projected under current law—with a total effect during that decade in a broad range around one-quarter percent of GDP.”

After Obamacare passed, starting with its first long term budget outlook report (released in June 2010), CBO included an important section titled “Questions about Sustainability.” In it CBO again stated that “the recent legislation either left in place or put into effect a number of procedures that may be difficult to sustain over a long period.” See page 37 here, where CBO openly questioned whether the Medicare cuts in Obamacare and the cap on the new exchange subsidies, in particular, could be sustained over time.

“…the legislation includes provisions that will constrain payment rates for other providers of Medicare’s services. In particular, increases in payment rates for many providers will be held below the rate of increase in the average cost of providers’ inputs.”

“Another provision that may be difficult to sustain will slow the growth of federal subsidies for health insurance purchased through the insurance exchanges. For enrollees who receive subsidies, the amount they will have to pay depends primarily on a formula that determines what share of their income they have to contribute to enroll in a relatively low-cost plan (with the subsidy covering the difference between that contribution and the total premium for that plan). Initially, the percentages of income that enrollees must pay are indexed so that the subsidies will cover roughly the same share of the total premium over time. After 2018, however, an additional indexing factor will probably apply; if so, the shares of income that enrollees have to pay will increase more rapidly, and the shares of the premium that the subsidies cover will decline.”

As most observers of the budget process know, CBO produces long-term budget projections under two scenarios: there’s the extended-baseline scenario (current law) and one or more alternative fiscal scenarios (often viewed as a more realistic fiscal trajectory, since they take other factors into account). As a result of questions about their sustainability, CBO assumed that these policies were not effective after the 10-year budget window for purposes of their alternative scenario projections. The 2010 long term outlook report notes:

“Under the extended-baseline scenario, projected federal spending is assumed to be constrained by a number of policies specified in the recent health care legislation—the continuing reductions in updates for Medicare’s payment rates, the constraints on Medicare imposed by the IPAB, and the additional indexing provision that will slow the growth of exchange subsidies after 2018. Because those policies may be difficult to maintain over the long term, in the alternative fiscal scenario it is assumed that they will not continue after 2020.”

Here’s where it gets interesting: every CBO long-term outlook report since Obamacare was enacted included these same assumptions in the alternative scenario—until this year.

Here’s a link to all of CBO’s long term outlook reports. The 2014 long-term outlook included a little-noticed section labeled “Changes in Assumptions Incorporated in the Extended Alternative Fiscal Scenario” on page 117-8 of Appendix B of its report. It reads (emphasis added):

“Under its extended alternative fiscal scenario last year, CBO assumed that lawmakers would not allow various restraints on the growth of Medicare costs and health insurance subsidies to exert their full effect after the first 10 years of the projection period. However, this year, after reassessing the uncertainties involved, CBO no longer projects whether or when those restraints might wane. Instead, for those elements of the alternative fiscal scenario, there are now no differences from the extended baseline. For both, CBO projects that growth rates for Medicare costs will move linearly over 15 years (from 2024 to 2039) to the underlying rate that the agency has projected and that the exchange subsidies will do the same. (One exception to that new approach, though, concerns Medicare’s payment rates for physicians’ services. This year, as in previous years, projected spending under the alternative fiscal scenario reflects the assumption that those payment rates would be held constant at current levels rather than being cut by about a quarter at the beginning of 2015, as scheduled under current law.)”

Beyond that brief mention of the change in its assumptions, there is no other discussion of the rationale behind the exchange subsidy provision. How significant was this unnoticed change in CBO’s assumptions? According to a health care aide on Capitol Hill who has closely followed the scorekeeping of the law, analysis of the CBO data suggests that over the 75-year period, this change in assumptions lowers projected spending by about $6.2 trillion.

This is a pretty big change, to say the least, particularly one for which the CBO hasn’t given any justification at all. Their latest update on health care spending doesn’t even mention it. The only other discussion of the Medicare provider cuts in Obamacare appears on pages 37-8 of the report, where it notes that:

“An important source of uncertainty in projecting health care spending in the long term under current law is how providers would respond to the scheduled restraint in annual updates to Medicare’s payment rates—and whether those responses would lead to offsetting increases or further reductions in spending for Medicare and other health care programs. The scheduled updates in the payment rates for providers other than physicians would generally fall below increases in the prices of inputs (namely, labor and supplies) used to deliver care.  The difference between the changes in payment rates and in input prices reflects an adjustment for economywide increases in productivity. For example, CBO projects that Medicare’s payment rates for most hospitals will grow by 2.2 percent per year over the 2019–2024 period but that prices for hospitals’ inputs will grow by 3.3 percent per year. Overall price inflation as measured by the rate of increase in the GDP price index is projected to be 2.0 percent over that same period…

“Over the long term, how Medicare providers other than physicians will respond to the payment updates specified in current law is unclear; in particular, it is unclear whether their responses will generate offsetting increases in spending or will further reduce spending. Reflecting that uncertainty, CBO has not adjusted its projections of spending in the long term to take such possible responses into account.”

So the question is: are they outside the mainstream on their new assumptions? Well, in every Medicare Trustees’ reports since the President’s health care law was enacted, the administration’s own non-partisan Chief Actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) used his statement of actuarial opinion at end of the report to warn that these cuts aren’t sustainable:

“…the financial projections shown in this report for Medicare do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations in either the short range (as a result of the unsustainable reductions in physician payment rates) or in the long range (because of the strong likelihood that the statutory reductions in price updates for most categories of Medicare provider services will not be viable).”

The Chief Actuary encourages readers to view his “illustrative alternative” based on “more sustainable assumptions” than the Trustees’ official current law estimates.  The actuary’s alternative scenario assumes the Medicare provider cuts are phased out after the 10-year window:

“it assumes that the productivity adjustments would be applied fully through 2019 but then phased out over the 15 years beginning in 2020. In 2034 and later, Medicare Part A and Part B per capita cost growth rates are assumed to equal the pre-ACA “baseline” growth rates, as determined by the CGE growth model.”

The most recent Trustees’ report notes that “the actual future costs for Medicare may exceed those shown by the projected baseline projections in this report, possibly by substantial amounts.” Therefore, “To help illustrate and quantify the potential magnitude of the cost understatement, the Trustees have asked the Office of the Actuary to prepare an illustrative Medicare trust fund projection under a hypothetical alternative that assumes that, starting in 2020, the economy-wide productivity adjustments gradually phase down to 0.4 percent.” Here’s what that looks like:


So here’s where we are now: the Congressional Budget Office is making sweeping assumptions about the future costs of Obamacare and Medicare, assumptions which are at odds with the projections of the administration’s own Chief Actuary at Medicare and which have no explained basis. The CBO doesn’t show its work, but you should probably just trust them: what’s a difference of about six trillion dollars between friends?

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The July Forecast For November’s U.S. Senate Elections Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:28:11 +0000 Brandon Finnigan With most of the primary drama now out of the way, nearly every competitive seat we are tracking for the 2014 Senate elections has its lineup determined, Alaska being the glaring exception. Polling has begun to roll in at a regular pace, and the New York Times/CBS News/YouGov monster dropped on Sunday was hailed by election junkies everywhere as it provided a rare nonpartisan data point in all of the key races. Going from that data dump alone, Republicans are favored to gain eight seats in the Senate and hold their two vulnerable seats by at least four points. However, it isn’t the only data point, so our own forecast differs slightly.

We recently switched over to a cartogram. An overwhelming number of seats are held by Democrats, but as their fortunes this cycle have crashed, it certainly doesn’t look that way:


North Carolina

Thom Tillis has stumbled substantially against incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, likely due to the drawn-out legislative session. The latest NYT/CBS/YouGov poll gives Tillis a narrow 48 percent-47 percent lead, and Public Policy Polling (with all candidates included) finds Hagan up 42 to 39 percent. With the polls turning against him, the state changes from moderately Republican to toss-up. Hagan is still quite vulnerable: a 42 percent share of the vote with less than 100 days to go is atrocious, but a damaged opponent gives her a way to hang on. If the session finishes soon, Tillis may be able to bring focus back on Hagan, in which case her odds drop yet again.


Republicans have made great progress in an open race, Iowa, since the start of the year. We now favor Joni Ernst over the gaffe-happy Democrat Bruce Braley enough to change the race to “lean Republican.” Braley was favored initially to win this race, but as his gaffe on farmers grew legs, Ernst’s ads went viral, Republicans lined up to endorse her, and the lead in the polls shifted, Democrats have to be kicking themselves. This rating change is more significant for Republicans than the switch back in North Carolina is for Democrats, because Republicans have had a very low rate of success with knocking off incumbents, but have had moderate success with open seats. Now favored in three of the four open Democratic ones, they’re halfway to the six needed to make Sen. Harry Reid a minority leader.

Other Races Worth Watching

The biggest question mark is Alaska, where Republicans Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell are still duking it out for the right to challenge incumbent Sen. Mark Begich. We currently favor the Republicans to win this race narrowly, mostly due to Begich’s narrow win in 2008 and polling, but the state is notoriously difficult to poll, the most recent results (especially the YouGov survey) show big swings between potential matchups, and there is still the question of an Independent Joe Miller bid, although that is looking increasingly unlikely.

Republicans are looking good in Georgia, with the contentious primary out of the way and Rep. Jack Kingston’s rapid endorsement of David Perdue; and Mitch McConnell seems to be holding his own in Kentucky. If these races begin to trend towards their fundamentals, Democrats have nowhere else to go besides protecting their most vulnerable incumbents. Keeping these in play has been an essential part of their strategy up to now. That holds, the question of majority remains up in the air. If that gives, then it is a long way down.

Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia haven’t been interesting lately, and while the news of Sen. John Walsh’s plagiarism raised eyebrows, it won’t affect his already atrocious performance in that race. Republicans have built a foundation for winning a majority that has held firmly for months with no sign of erosion. As mentioned before, Republicans do best in open seats, and are carrying this category well (Walsh is technically filling out the rest of Max Baucus’ term, so we count it as open).

The same cannot be said, however, of their pursuit to knock out incumbents. Bill Cassidy edges Mary Landrieu, Tom Cotton edges Mark Pryor, and we barely give the GOP the benefit of the basics in Alaska, but all of these are still stubbornly close. In addition, no progress has been made by either Scott Brown or Ed Gillespie in closing their races up, and Minnesota and Oregon are in stasis. Republicans would likely be doing better if one more incumbent chose retirement this cycle, but that wasn’t in the cards for 2014.

If we are to see a wave appear, a majority of these races should break, obviously, for the GOP. So far, that has failed to materialize. But election day is still three lifetimes away, so there is plenty of time for that to develop, or for the Republicans to blow yet another round.

The July Forecast For November’s U.S. Senate Elections 0
World War I Reparations Weren’t As Unfair As You Think Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:28:01 +0000 Brendan Hodge One hundred years later, World War I still provokes confusion and controversy. Scholars can’t even agree on who started the war, with major books accusing Russia, France, Britain, and Austria and Germany. If no one knows who started it, everyone agrees how it ended: A vengeful France and Britain imposed massive and unpayable reparations on Germany resulting in the collapse of the German economy and the rise of the Nazi Party.

This view owes its popularity to none other than economist John Maynard Keynes. Before he was duking it out with Friedrich Hayek over questions of recession and economic stimulus, Keynes served as a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference. Frustrated that he failed to find support for his proposals to rebuild the European economy, Keynes resigned halfway through the conference and wrote a book entitled “The Economic Consequences of the Peace,” in which he argued that the Versailles Treaty was a “Carthaginian Peace” which would impoverish Germany and Europe, leading to another war. It rapidly became a bestseller in Europe and America, leading to disillusion with the treaty in the English-speaking world.

It’s a good time to challenge conventional wisdom on the war, and that includes asking: Was the Versailles Treaty really so unfair, and did it actually cause World War II?

Reparations Were Not New

The idea of demanding reparations was not new. When Prussia defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, it appropriated Alsace-Lorraine and imposed war reparations of five billion gold francs to be paid within five years. German troops continued to occupy French territory until the indemnity was paid in full, with the result that France paid off the entire sum early.

German troops continued to occupy French territory until reparations were paid in full, with the result that France paid off the entire sum early.

During the first weeks of World War I, German Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg composed a set of war aims which included significant territorial acquisitions and also cash reparations so heavy that “France is incapable of spending considerable sums on armaments for the next eighteen to twenty years.”

When the Soviets toppled the Tsarist government in Russia and sought a separate peace with Germany, territorial acquisitions and reparations in both cash and commodities were at the top of the German list of demands. Russia lost 90 percent of its coal, 50 percent of its industry and 30 percent of its population. The Central Powers took possession of Ukraine’s grain reserves: one million rail cars of grain destined for Austria alone. They also imposed cash reparations to the tune of nine billion gold marks. With the British naval blockade causing severe shortages of basic commodities in Germany, stripping its defeated adversaries of resources was essential to the war effort.

World War I Was Different

Many in France and Britain would have been happy to follow the German example and impose reparations designed to cripple Germany’s economy and prevent it from pursuing expansionist aims in the future. President Woodrow Wilson, however, insisted that the treaty only seek compensation for damage to civilian property in France and Belgium.

At first blush, even this may sound unfair. Why should only one side see its damage paid for? It’s important to understand, however, the strange asymmetry that the victors in World War I faced.

Constant shelling left the area of the front so scarred that craters and trench lines can still be seen in the French countryside to this day.

The war began with a massive German invasion of Belgium and northern France. France halted the German advance just short of Paris in the Battle of the Marne, and Allied troops regained some lost territory; however, the largely static fighting on the Western Front over the next four years was entirely on French and Belgian territory.

Constant shelling left the area of the front so scarred that craters and trench lines can still be seen in the French countryside to this day. Towns that were swept over by the front were obliterated. This was exacerbated by a German scorched-earth policy. When the German army pulled back to the Hindenburg Line after the battle of the Somme, engineer companies systematically pulled down buildings, cut trees, poisoned wells and set booby traps in the areas being evacuated. In the town of Bapaume, the city hall was one of the few structures left standing by withdrawing German troops, until a massive delayed action bomb in the basement went off several days later, killing a Australian troops and French civilians who had gathered for a ceremony in honor of the town’s liberation.

Damage was not limited to the front itself. Popular propaganda during the war trafficked in lurid tales of German soldiers cutting off the hands of Belgian babies or crucifying Allied soldiers. After the war, the realization that these stories had been false led to an opposite reaction: In the English-speaking world, people discounted all stories of German misbehavior in occupied France and Belgium. However, the German invasion and occupation was needlessly destructive in many ways.

Based on their experience invading France in 1870-71, the German Army was terrified of guerrilla snipers. Officers followed a policy of severe reprisals, putting suspects before firing squads and burning down houses or whole villages in retaliation for alleged shots fired at soldiers. On August 25th, 1914, German soldiers killed 248 residents of the Belgian city of Leuven, expelled the remaining 10,000 citizens, and burned the town, including the university library containing 300,000 irreplaceable medieval manuscripts.

Germans Exploit Occupied Territory

After the invasion this sort of atrocity ceased, though the firing squad remained the standard penalty for a whole range of “crimes,” from sheltering fugitive French soldiers to raising pigeons which might be used for carrying messages. A new sort of exploitation set in, however, as the occupation became long term.

Belgium and northern France were a heavily industrial area, and German occupation forces set about stripping the area of resources, leading to massive food and fuel shortages. Many factories were dismantled and shipped to Germany. Individual towns and cities were assigned indemnities to be collected from civilians’ savings and turned over to the occupation authorities. During July 1915 an indemnity of one million marks was levied on Sedan while the residents of Lille were ordered to pay three million. Basic household goods were extracted from the civilian population—linens, cooking pots, china, and furniture—and civilians were required to quarter soldiers in their homes.

German soldiers killed 248 residents of Leuven, expelled the remaining 10,000 citizens, and burned the town, including the university library containing 300,000 irreplaceable medieval manuscripts.

In addition to requisitions of material goods, German occupation authorities increasingly requisitioned the time and labor of the occupied population. A common punishment for minor infractions was being shipped to Germany to perform forced labor. Young men of military age were drafted into labor battalions and assigned work, including repairing trenches and burying the dead at the front. Sometimes this forced labor was combined with additional humiliations. When 20,000 women and girls were shipped out of Lille in April 1916, they were all forced to undergo the same gynecological examination by German army doctors usually inflicted on registered army prostitutes.

After four years of economic and social exploitation of occupied areas, the victorious Allies found themselves in a strange position. Germany had clearly lost the war. Their civilian population was in revolution, the navy in mutiny, and the army in retreat. Allied troops were rapidly liberating territory held by Germany since 1914. But when the German government agreed to armistice terms, Allied troops had yet to make any significant advances onto German soil. The Allies had won, but nearly all of the war’s destruction had fallen upon the victors.

Given all this, the demand for some degree of reparations becomes more understandable. The Allied commitment to help rebuild Germany after World War II wasn’t just the result of less anger towards Germany than in the prior war. It was a realistic response to the fact that German cities and the German economy had been utterly destroyed. In World War I, it was France and Belgium which had suffered that level of destruction, while Germany had benefitted from stripping away their resources during four years of occupation. Reparations were simply a way to try to right the injustices of the occupation and help the more injured party recover from the war.

Keynes Was Wrong About This, Too

All this serves to explain why the Allies wanted some form of reparations. But were the actual reparations imposed (132 billion gold marks to be paid over 30 years) so massive that they destroyed the German economy and led to the rise of the Nazi Party? The evidence suggests that they were not.

During World War II, French economist Étienne Mantoux wrote a book critiquing Keynes’ more famous volume: “The Carthaginian Peace, or the Economic Consequences of Mr. Keynes.” Mantoux pointed out that while Keynes had been right about the outbreak of another war, his actual economic predictions about the consequences of the reparations had almost all been wrong. Keynes predicted that coal and iron production would be driven down, but instead they increased. He predicted that the German savings rate would remain very low, but instead it grew rapidly.

What reparations did do was provide a focus for the resentments of a portion of German society which refused to admit that they had lost the war.

Most certainly, the reparations were wildly unpopular in Germany, and the Weimar Republic made efforts to have their liability reduced. The Allies made repeated concessions, reducing the amount of reparations owed and finally cancelling them altogether shortly before Hitler came to power and repudiated further reparations unilaterally. All told, Germany paid roughly 20 billion gold marks worth of reparations between 1921 and 1932, roughly 2.4 percent of Germany’s national income during that period. As Mantoux pointed out, immediately after repudiating the reparations, the new Nazi government began a re-armament program which consumed a significantly larger percentage of national income than reparations ever had.

Reparations did not cripple the German economy, nor did they directly lead to the ascendency of the Nazi Party. The economy suffered hyperinflation in 1923, but hyperinflation was a problem faced by Austria as well, even though it had been excused from reparations payments because of its inability to pay. The monetary collapse was primarily a result of fiscal indiscipline and the massive debts racked up during the war to pay for armaments. What reparations did do was provide a focus for the resentments of a portion of German society which refused to admit that they had lost the war.

This “stab in the back” faction, which blamed Jews and socialists for Germany’s humiliation, was active in German politics even before the ink was dry on the peace treaty. It had particular appeal to returned soldiers, many of whom sought a continuation of the camaraderie they had found in the army by joining political paramilitary groups known as freikorps. Although the Weimar Republic sought to integrate itself back into Europe, it had opened the door to nationalist violence at its very inception by seeking the aid of the freikorps in crushing communist revolutions in various parts of Germany.

Reparations did not help to diffuse the resentment which simmered in German nationalist circles, but given that those resentments were at having lost the war, virtually nothing the Allies could have done would have resolved them—except perhaps the bloody process of pushing all the way to Berlin, which the Allies performed 25 years later.

World War I Reparations Weren’t As Unfair As You Think 0
Halbig Shows How We Legislate Now Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:48:34 +0000 Robert Tracinski Do we pass laws any more?

I ask because of the reaction to the federal appeals court decision in Halbig v. Burwell, in which the court enforced what the Affordable Care Act actually says—namely, that federal subsidies for health insurance are available only through state-run exchanges and not through exchanges set up by the federal government.

This is important because the majority of states declined to set up those exchanges—deciding to reject a system and a set of obligations foisted on them by Washington. And ObamaCare is just a big, complicated mechanism for delivering subsidies. Without that, all it does is cancel everyone’s insurance policies and force them into more expensive plans they didn’t want. So you can see why ObamaCare’s defenders really need to keep those subsidies.

So they screamed that the court’s decision was totally ridiculous and implausible—and then up pops a two-year-old video from one of the Affordable Care Act’s architects, Jonathan Gruber, in which he clearly explains that this is exactly what the law says—that denying subsidies on the federal exchanges was a way of pressuring the states to get on board. More recently, Gruber has been telling everyone that this provision was just a typo and was never intended at all. He even claims his 2012 statement was also a mistake, a “speak-o.” Except that he said the same thing on at least one other occasion. So that gives you a good idea of the honesty of ObamaCare’s supporters.

But the big question is: why do they think they can get away with this? Why do they think they can write something into the law, go around for a couple of years explaining that provision to audiences, and then pretend later that it wasn’t there at all and it’s patently ridiculous for anyone to think it ever was?

Partly this a measure of crass partisanship, and partly it’s a measure of desperation. Without the subsidies, what happens to ObamaCare? And without ObamaCare, what does their messiah have to show for his presidency?

But this also fits into a larger context. They think they can get away with rewriting the law on the fly because of the way we legislate now. For more than a century, it has become increasingly common for Congress to write laws that declare a broad, vague goal without clearly defining the specifics of its implementation—and then leave it to bureaucrats in federal agencies to fill in the blanks.

This began with the antitrust laws, which banned “restraint of trade” without defining what that meant, leaving it to the courts to make the law as they went along—or, more often, leaving it to the arbitrary prosecutorial discretion of the Department of Justice and the FTC.

We’ve seen it more recently with the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling allowing the EPA to control carbon dioxide emissions under the 1990 Clean Air Act, despite the fact that Congress had the opportunity to add such an authorization and declined to do so. The court’s reasoning was that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA power over everything in the air, and how it uses that power is up to the agency, not Congress, to decide.

This is also why ObamaCare was filled with exemptions and waivers and created a vast bureaucracy whose jobs were to write thousands of more pages of rulings about what ObamaCare would do. And this is why we had to pass the law to find out what’s in it.

With previous regulations, the abdication of power from Congress to the executive branch agencies was a way of evading responsibility for unpopular decisions. When executive agencies promulgate some outrageously costly or intrusive regulation, elected politicians can tsk-tsk and pretend it has nothing to do with them.

In this case, the ad hoc rewrites are driven by an implicit admission that Capitol Hill’s super-genius central planners could not actually project the law’s results or design a workable system. So when major parts of the law don’t work out the way they thought they would—one after another—they’re scrambling to save the system by reinventing it ad hoc. And they don’t want any fussy ideas about the letter of the law to get in their way.

The mentality behind this is on perfect display in the mental gyrations of one defender of ObamaCare, who goes so far as to claim that the definition of “state”—as in the 50 states—is unclear in the law, despite being explicitly defined multiple times. As ridiculous as this is, notice what use he makes of this alleged ambiguity.

What matters is that whether the wording was sloppy or deliberate doesn’t change the fact that it’s ambiguously written, which means you have to look at the context in the other thousand-plus pages of the law to figure out what the intent was…and the name of the law itself is the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”. “Affordable” is right there in the name…and screwing over people in 2/3 of the country by making them pay 3-4x as much for their insurance as people in the other 1/3 of the country isn’t exactly “Affordable.”

Another defender chimes in with a similar argument:

Congress’s inconsistent use of the phrase “established by the State” gives rise to an ambiguity as to its meaning. And when you’ve got an ambiguity, it’s up to the agencies charged with interpreting the ACA to resolve that ambiguity. The tie goes to the government.

Get that? No matter how many impenetrable pages of verbiage were contained in the original law, it’s all equivocal and meaningless and can be endlessly reinterpreted by executive bureaucrats, so long as they believe they are working toward the aspiration named in the law’s title: “affordable care.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how we legislate now. What used to be a “law” is now just an open-ended grant of power coupled with a vague aspiration. Nothing in between, none of the actual concrete provisions of the law, has any meaning or makes any difference.

If you understand that context and that mentality, then you can see why ObamaCare’s defenders were so confident—and in many cases remain confident—that they get to skate on following the actual letter of the law. They believe no one will hold them to it, not the courts, not the press, not the public, because that’s the system they’re already living in.

It’s the way we legislate now, which is to say that we don’t pass any real legislation at all.

Follow Robert on Twitter.

Halbig Shows How We Legislate Now 1
Goldwater 2.0? Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:38:37 +0000 David Corbin and Matt Parks The last Republican presidential candidate to win California was George H.W. Bush, back in 1988. Last week, George Will suggested that a new sort of “Goldwater 2.0” conservatism, represented by the state’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Neel Kashkari, might at least color the state purple and force Democrats to fight, once again, for its 55 electoral college votes.

What is Goldwater 2.0? A mixture of an immigrant upbringing, a job at Goldman Sachs, a first-hand view of bailing out banks ‘too big to fail’ while working under Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a non-threatening pro-choice and pro-same sex marriage social libertarianism, and apparently, an orientation in Will’s words toward “discerning silver linings on black clouds.”

While Goldwater’s own brand of conservatism certainly evolved after the 1964 presidential race, Kashkari’s 21st century conservative operating system is plenty different from the one that prompted Goldwater to proclaim in his (in)famous 1964 Republican acceptance speech: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is not a virtue.”

Such bold words spoken today by a conservative candidate might provoke a MSM-led 21st century Salem Witch Trial with Senator Harry Reid playing the part of chief inquisitor. But that’s just the point, some on the right argue: even a less radical conservatism, at least taken out of context, is a political liability. And as there’s no preventing those covering politics from taking it out of context, better to blend in with the political culture of the day (a very un-Goldwater sentiment) with a more libertarian conservatism, marketable to 21st century Americans.

It is unlikely Friedrick Hayek, godfather of contemporary libertarianism, would have been impressed. Appended to the end of his 1960 treatise The Constitution of Liberty is an essay entitled “Why I am Not a Conservative,” distinguishing his (classically) liberal alternative to progressive ideologies from a simple resistance to change, the fundamental mark, in his view, of “any conservatism which deserve to be called such.”

The problem with conservatism, according to Hayek, is that

by its very nature it cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance. It has, for this reason, invariably been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing. The tug of war between conservatives and progressives can only affect the speed, not the direction, of contemporary developments.

By this description, the Establishment Republican is a model conservative, offering to run the welfare state for ninety-seven waste-cutting cents on the dollar, tempering hyper-regulation with responsible cost-benefit analysis, and posing as the clear-eyed adult in every political room.

But so, in its own way, is the Goldwater 2.0 conservative, following a pace and a half behind Progressive libertines on the one hand, while reconciling himself to the entrenched safety-first corporatism of the Wall Street-Washington ruling class, on the other.

Hayek notes that his analysis applies somewhat differently in describing the American political scene. Resistance to change in the United States can still mean resistance to departures from a liberal tradition–and, therefore, a defense (at least implicitly) of the principles Hayek himself advocates. He nevertheless concludes that the

difference between liberalism and conservatism must not be obscured by the fact that in the United States it is still possible to defend individual liberty by defending long-established institutions. To the liberal they are valuable not mainly because they are long established or because they are American but because they correspond to the ideals which he cherishes.

Here Hayek demonstrates the limits to his own vision: the alternative to defending “long-established” institutions because they are old or because they are ours is defending them because they are mine–i.e. they correspond to the “ideals” I cherish–ironically substituting one form of subjectivism for another.

Is there no better alternative to Progressivism?

Richard Weaver, a contemporary of Hayek, noted the sort of conservatism Hayek found in the me-too politician. But he argued (in The Ethics of Rhetoric) that “the true conservative is one who sees the universe as a paradigm of essences, of which the phenomenology of the world is a sort of continuing approximation.” In other words, the conservative is committed first to truth, not tradition–to the ideal because it is the ideal, not because it is something he cherishes.

While the Progressive wishes to reconstitute nature, the Weaver’s conservative submits to it. His political program, depending upon circumstances and the dictates of prudence, may be more or less consonant with the status quo, but its ultimate aim is always a fuller expression of human self-government within the God-given order of things.

Such conservatives offer a true, root-and-branch alternative to Progressivism– and can also give a better defense of the American founding than either Hayek’s liberal or his conservative, in part because the leading American founders were, themselves, just such conservatives.

This is evident, ironically, in the most troubling task executed by Publius in The Federalist: a defense of the three-fifths clause, which assigned representatives in the House to the states based upon the sum of “the Whole number of Free Persons” and “three fifths of all other Persons [i.e. slaves].”

James Madison’s Federalist 54 case for the three-fifths clause is complicated by the fact that the defense is presented in the voice of a hypothetical southerner, rather than that of Publius. Of course, Madison in actual fact was a southerner, who had voted in favor of the three-fifths clause in the Convention (albeit as a compromise), not the common citizen of New York that Publius pretended to be.

What is most striking in the essay, however, is how Madison’s southerner demonstrates the unnaturalness of slavery even while defending the clause. He speaks of the “pretext” that “the laws have transformed” the slaves “into subjects of property” as the only grounds for excluding their full number from the population count. The slaves have been “debased by servitude” and the law “which regards” them as “divested” of two-fifths of their manhood by partially considering them “in the unnatural light of property.”

One cannot be “debased” by slavery or “divested” of part of one’s manhood unless, in the light of nature, one is rightfully free and as equally a man as any counted fully in the population computation. The rule of the founding, Madison suggests even here, is the natural one: freedom and equality; slavery is but the aberrant exception, though one the founders were prepared to tolerate for a time. That temporary compromise came with the danger that some might move further away rather than closer to the natural standard–as indeed happened in antebellum America.

Recognizing this, Abraham Lincoln fought to reestablish the original meaning and implications of the  founders’ most famous claim: “all men are created equal.” When the majority of the Supreme Court said that these words could have only been intended to apply to whites, Lincoln argued that their reach was universal, despite the obvious inconsistency between the founders’ “proposition” and their practice:

They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth, that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet, that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.

The conservative case for the principles of the American founding is neither that they are old, nor that they American, nor that they are congenial to our prejudices, but that they are right and, in their implications, good, a reliable rallying point for reformation toward a better common life, challenging our (and their) compromises with justice.

The corollary, however, is this: a conservatism that redefines fundamentals like marriage or the scope of the human family (to justify abortion)–is no conservatism at all. The great political danger is that “Goldwater 2.0” will lead quickly to a Goldwater 3.0, 4.0, etc., discovering new implications of social libertarianism in the next refinement of polite (progressive) opinion.

Goldwater, as Will notes, won a victory in defeat in 1964, reshaping his party and, in part, the politics of the nation for a generation to come. Following Goldwater 2.0 is much more likely to lead to a defeat in victory, saving perhaps the Republican Party, but doing little to revitalize the American republic.

David Corbin is a Professor of Politics and Matthew Parks an Assistant Professor of Politics at The King’s College, New York City. They are co-authors of “Keeping Our Republic: Principles for a Political Reformation” (2011). You can follow their work on Twitter or Facebook.

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Irony, Thy Name Is Feminism Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:38:29 +0000 Leslie Loftis If you Google “I’m not a feminist, but…,” you will find many articles with lists of famous disavowals of feminism, ranging from Katy Perry (who later recanted after her divorce) to Sandra Day O’Connor. But Google doesn’t do the longevity of the phrase justice. I’ve come across it in research back to the 80s when feminists were just as exasperated with movement defections as they are now.

For decades, this “but” has annoyed feminists because they see wildly successful women, who obviously benefited from feminist achievements in the workplace, shun the label. As the list of famous not-a-feminists grows, popular feminist reaction has moved from incredulity to anger to where it currently rests: instruction.

In the latest high-profile disavowal back in April, Shailene Woodley, the lead actress in the “Divergent” franchise and “The Fault in Our Stars,” declared feminists shamed her for not knowing what feminism is about. (See, for example, “Shailene Woodley’s Definition of Feminism is Really, Really Problematic” or the subtitle for another article: P.S. Feminists don’t hate men.) But the actresses are better-informed than the scolds, who usually quote one of the many versions of “feminism is the radical notion that women are people and people are equal.” Rachel Held Evans opened a recent post, “We Need Feminism…” with this inaccuracy. This is lovely sentiment, but actions speak louder than words.

In practice—and practice is what the refusers pick up on—contemporary feminism neither is nor was about simple equality. In practice, it is anti-domestic, anti-men, and frankly anti-woman. And if declared feminists bothered to look back and examine their own movement as critically as they do young starlets’ statements, they would find a history radically different from the notion that “women are people, too.”

Who Read ‘The Feminine Mystique’?

I will start with anti-domesticity, because the story about how feminists can believe feminism isn’t anti-domesticity provides some illuminating background for other feminist confusion.

No professor ever assigned “The Feminine Mystique” to me, but I read it in my mid-20’s when I realized how poorly a BA had prepared me for American intellectual debate. (Some of that was my fault. I wasn’t always a motivated student.) The anti-domestic language of Friedan’s book turned me off so that I slammed it shut before reading the one decent chapter, the epilogue, “A New Life Plan for Women.” I reached for Simone de Beauvoir, which was worse.  To be a feminist, it seemed, one couldn’t be a traditional woman and one had to act like man. Those did not appeal to me. (I spent the next few years as an Objectivist, but that is another story.)

For years afterward, I got incredulous and defensive every time someone claimed feminism was about choosing the life we wanted, even if it was a traditional life. Eventually, I honed my rebuttals, adding references to modern anti-domesticity scholars like Linda Hirshman of “Get Back to Work” fame, but I did not discover the source of the problem until feminist blogs celebrated the 50th anniversary of “The Feminine Mystique” in early 2013.

I was reading Slate in bed, as one does. (No? Just me?) They ran a series by some of their more prolific female writers who admitted they had never read “The Feminine Mystique.” My husband noticed my agitation—it was hard to miss—and when I explained he asked, “Isn’t Friedan one of the foundational writers of modern feminism?” I sputtered, “One of?! Try THE foundational writer!”

Even if Friedan fell out of favor later—and she did, for arguing against the anti-motherhood and anti-male mood of the movement in the 70s, in fact—her book had such an impact on the women’s movement in the early 60s, the Second Wave, it should be required reading just to understand the mood and motivations of the movement. Surely some feminists were students of history and knew to study popular contemporaneous works to understand Something Past. I thought the Slate series had to be an anomaly. It wasn’t.

The Network of Enlightened Women hosted a book blog, but NeW is an organization of conservative co-eds. I expected that they would read the book. The Guardian was having a reading book club because few of their writers—not students, professionals—had read it. I began to wonder if anyone but conservatives read the book after about 1970. So I looked to the big thinkers such as Stephanie Coontz, who wrote the retrospective on Friedan’s book. From the intro of that retrospective, “A Strange Stirring”:

I was certain that rereading this groundbreaking book would be an educational and inspiring experience…. After only a few pages I realized that in fact I had never read The Feminine Mystique, and after a few chapters I began to find much of it boring and dated…. It made claims about women’s history that I knew were oversimplified, exaggerating both the feminist victories of the 1920s and the antifeminist backlash of the 1940s and 1950s.

The Amazon reviews were almost as “good.” The first one at the time:

I am a young professor of sociology teaching classes on gender, marriage and social change — and I have never read Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique. Like many women of my generation, I thought I had. I must have, I told myself. Perhaps in college? No. And it turns out that very few of my well-educated feminist-leaning friends have either.

They didn’t read the source material.

All the arguments that feminism isn’t against domesticity—they are false assumptions, wishful thinking. And until recently, when delayed motherhood collided with aging parents and a little caregiving became unavoidable, did these feminists begin to feel the forces of anti-domesticity, often with little curiosity about how the forces arose or how they themselves cultivated them. If something isn’t working well for women, then reflexively and uncritically, they blame the patriarchy.

Everything is sexism, when it isn’t. And pop feminists assume they only need defend the label from anti-domesticity, when they really need to take it back.

The Sexist Question: ‘Can Women Have It All?’

In 2012, Gloria Steinem complained that the Have It All question was a “bullshit” question because no one ever asked that question of men. It’s true. Society doesn’t often ask that question of men, but not because of sexism.

In practice, contemporary feminism neither is nor was about simple equality.

Women ask about having it all because they were told they could have it all…by women like Steinem. The old glossy women’s magazines are full of have-it-all glamour, declaring that women could easily have it all without men. “Steinem did not actually coin the “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” quip, but she got the credit for it because it succinctly represented her preaching and the mood of the time. Women didn’t need anything but the old rules and the old men to get out of their way. Each woman was an island unto herself, a self-contained unit of success. Eventually, all of those things we told women back in the 60s to boost their confidence and get them out in the world became the standard by which we now demand singular performance from women.

Check the commentary in many of the lauded feminist pop culture franchises, most recently “Divergent,” “Frozen,” “Maleficent,” etc. Characters get the feminist seal of approval when they are separated from any sort of partnership with men. Having it all doesn’t count unless we are doing it without men.

Women ask about having it all because they were told they could have it all…by women like Gloria Steinem.

Men, on the other hand, didn’t have some masculinist movement telling them that they could have it all, much less that they had to do it all on their own. Nor would they have been as receptive if they had. Unlike girls who tend to engage in pretend play in which they are the princess, then the chef, then the teacher or the pupil, all in the space of an afternoon, boys tend to also play games with rules, even if they’ve made them up by consensus. The boy who isn’t fast learns to hit the ball harder or to catch. They train each other in tradeoffs. The rules don’t bend. The boys adapt to the world the way it is. (I host large parties and play dates often. This plays out in my yard, every time.)

Asking women if they can have it all isn’t sexism. It is an aspiration that women who should know better foist upon women who don’t.

‘Better Late Than Ever’

Earlier this year, Tanya Selvaratnam published “The Big Lie,” a book about her personal experience with infertility and how prevalent it is. While lamenting that a sex education hyper-focused on avoiding pregnancy left her, an Ivy grad, with little idea how to get pregnant, she does not blame feminism. She mentions how feminist insistence on delayed childbearing might account for the contraception-focused sex ed that ultimately failed her, but she claims “No one told us not to become mothers while pursuing our ambitions. Rather they focused on telling us what else we could do.”

No one told women not to become mothers while perusing our ambitions? Here’s a tiny sampling of feminist thought from The Washington Post, November 1979:

Summers is one of an increasing number of women who are becoming first-time mothers after age 30. The proportion of women ages 30 to 34 having a first child increased by nearly 36 percent from 1970 to 1977, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

‘Last year alone, about 80,000 women between the ages of 30 and 49 gave birth for the first time,’ writes Terri Schultz in ‘Women Can Wait: The Pleasures of Motherhood After Thirty.’ ‘Many women are increasingly aware that, for them, motherhood is better late than ever.’

Effective contraception, longer lifespan, smaller family size, the feminist movement and affirmative action in employment for women have contributed to the trend, according to Wellesley College psychologists Pamela Daniels and Kathy Weingarten, who are compiling their research into a book, ‘Sooner or Later?’

‘Today, increasing numbers of middle-class women are graduating from college fully intending to combine parenthood with work of their own,’ they write. ‘So that they can have both, and in order to make some kind of career commitment first, many are planning to postpone parenthood.’

“Better late than ever.” That’s a catchy little phrase used so glibly then and likely not well received today by women hopped up on hormones and hopeful for a good harvest. (That’s what egg retrieval is called, “harvesting.”) Our elders knew exactly what they were telling us to risk. Now, waiting until after 30 seems almost quaint.

If something isn’t working well for women, then reflexively and uncritically, they blame the patriarchy.

Many have tried to tell the truth, but the contraception-focused sex ed that Selvaratnam blames for failing her and many others results directly from feminist worry that telling women about biological clocks pressures them into motherhood. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine faced effective backlash from feminist groups over a decade ago for a fertility public awareness campaign precisely because feminists saw it as sexist pressure. And I assume Selvaratnam knows of, but just doesn’t mention, the biological clock book that came before hers, Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s “Creating a Life,” the 2002 talk of the book world that didn’t sell. Like that book, despite extensive coverage, Selvaratnam’s book didn’t sell very well, either. Women engage in some serious willful blindness about fertility.

Find more recent admonitions to delay motherhood in these IUD ads currently appearing in women’s magazines.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 10.32.10 AM Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 10.34.47 AM

Most of the young women I know now were told by mothers, teachers, and other women not to even consider marriage in their 20s, much less motherhood. Younger wives and mothers form support groups to deal with the stigma. In practice, motherhood is for your late 30s. Better late than ever.

Feminism And Men

Of all the little lies feminists tell themselves about the movement, that feminism isn’t anti-male has to be the most difficult to sustain. There are just so many examples of anti-male practices, I find it difficult to choose one to highlight. Historical: Pop back up to the section on Steinem and her fishes and bicycles and ponder how that phrase ever became popular. Typical: Treating men as unmotivated dunces? I’ve covered that, twice. Treating husbands as children in the hands of a smarter, more competent woman? Matt Walsh had a great post on that. Internal: Karen DeCrow, first president of the National Organization of Women, was ostracized by the movement for advocating for men. Legal: Lack of basic defendants’ rights on college campuses and unequal enforcement of Title IX? The Wall Street Journal has done some great work covering those. Popular: Feminist tendency to overlook a lot of contradictory evidence to praise any movie that pits women against men (up to and including movies that end in joint suicide of the women)? Those I’ll write more about another day.

Boys disproportionally face treatments that will stunt their development.

Illustrative stories all, but as a mother of a 10-year-old son, the current travesty commanding my attention is school and drugs. By lessening adults’ patience for children through discouraging experience with children, by destroying the communal structure that used to support childrearing, and by tailoring school to bolster young girls, feminism has led the way toward medicating children, or really boys, into submission.

“At least” 75 percent of ADHD prescriptions are to boys. Actually, the 75 percent floor is a Canadian statistic. It is difficult to find recent and straightforward sex comparison statistics in the United States. It is as if we want to avoid seeing exactly how lopsided our drug practices are. The Centers for Disease Control reported last year that ADHD diagnoses are rising and that boys are diagnosed at about twice the rate of girls. And it gets worse. A CDC official announced recently that doctors are prescribing the drugs to toddlers, well outside of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. If the CDC announcement included data breakdown by sex, the New York Times did not mention it, instead blogging about the class implications of the study. (Most of the off-label prescriptions were to children on Medicaid.) But if the proportions hold, then boys disproportionally face treatments that will stunt their development.

Feminist can talk all they want about how the movement is about freedom, equality, and choice.  But everyday experience molded by what feminism does feels more like naiveté, loneliness, and cruelty. The young and powerful women who reject the title “feminist,” that’s what they notice. Feminists say one thing, but do another.

Irony, Thy Name Is Feminism 1
Why I Don’t Use Contraception Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:48:41 +0000 Rachel Lu I converted to Roman Catholicism almost a decade ago. At the time, nobody was talking about wars on women, so when I read about Catholic prohibitions on birth control, I naively supposed that most Catholic women actually followed the Church’s teachings on birth control. It’s right there in the Catechism, after all. Reading some books on the subject, I decided there was a lot of merit in this idea about the contraceptive-free life. My husband and I (both Catholic converts) gave it a go.

Imagine how pious I felt when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services demanded that employers pay for employees’ contraception, and the media clued me in to the fact that I was part of an elite squad. The 2 percent. The Catholic Mom Marine Corps. The Barefoot and Pregnant Dream Team.

Now that everyone is talking about contraceptives, I get lots of chances to out myself as a Catholic freak. Many people are quite amazed to meet a pants-wearing, educated woman who actually favors the contraceptive-free life. I get lots of amusing questions. And it’s National NFP Awareness Week, so an opportune time to talk about chemical-free contraception. Here then, for our readers’ benefit, are the FAQ.

1. Are there really Catholics who take this contraceptive rule seriously? Including ones who can read?

Sure. Among committed and orthodox Catholics, the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics are taken very seriously. Of course, we don’t go around searching one another’s medicine cabinets, but in social circles of serious Catholics I find it’s generally taken for granted that married couples will adhere to this teaching. I know many highly educated and accomplished Catholic women who live contraceptive-free. It’s not just a rule for us. It’s a whole different approach to life and sex and marriage.

Of course, there are also lots of lukewarm Catholics who can’t be bothered about what the Church says. Still others think of themselves as faithful Catholics, but get most of their cues from the popular culture, which convinced them that the whole no-contraceptives rule was effectively dead letter. For a long time the clergy mostly went along with this, and lots of people have told me their priest or deacon told them back in the day that artificial contraceptives were “no big deal.”

Those people have recently gotten a bit of a rude awakening. It didn’t come from Rome. It came from progressive liberals who insisted on pressing the point. People who thought they were (mostly) on the side of the angels were suddenly shocked themselves in bed with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. By picking a fight with the Church, progressives inadvertently taught many Catholics, yes, the Church does still care about contraceptives.

2. Do natural methods of delaying pregnancy really work? Or are contraceptive-free couples liable to end up with 15 kids?

The rationale behind natural fertility methods is fairly straightforward. A man’s fertility tends to stay fairly constant from one day to the next, but a woman is typically fertile for just a few days each month. The trick, then, is to figure out which days those are by observing external physiological signs. That information can be used either to achieve a pregnancy or to delay it.

Does this “work” for everyone? As a practicing Catholic I feel honor-bound to say it can, and I think that’s technically true. Realistically though, some people’s physiology reads like an article in The Federalist (Clear prose! Incisive logic!), and others more like an Egyptian hieroglyph or at least a column in the Huffington Post. If you fit into the former category, natural family planning (NFP) is a wonderful tool, and may well save you from years’ worth of artificial hormones and other unpleasant things. If you’re in the latter set, that’s a tougher row to hoe.

One particular frustration relates to the fact that major physiological events (like pregnancy or childbirth) understandably interrupt the body’s natural rhythms. That makes it especially difficult to judge when you might be fertile. The upshot is that it’s hardest to employ the method at precisely the times you most want it.

As someone firmly in the Egyptian-hieroglyph category, I understand how stressful it can be to be constantly wondering whether you are or might be pregnant. Still, nobody’s physiology is a completely closed book. Pretty much any woman can learn to identify at least occasional periods in which she almost certainly is not fertile. After that, it’s your call how much you want to trust to probability (or, if you prefer, Divine Providence).

Let’s not forget, though, that artificial birth control is also less than 100 percent effective. At least we Catholics know when we’re cracking the door for another possible family addition.

3. Doesn’t it bother you to feel that your Church and Catholic community regard you as a “breeder”?

My Church and community see my natural capacity for fostering new life as a wonderful thing. So no, that doesn’t bother me.

I find that most non-contracepting women have similar feelings. They call the contraceptive-free life “empowering” and “freeing.” It pleases them that their womb is regarded as a feature of their body and not a bug. They like it when their pregnancies occasion celebration rather than criticism.

The term “breeder” implies that a fertile woman should be valued (like livestock) more for her physical capacities than for her virtue or rationality or other human excellences. That is indeed offensive. But of course, nobody actually uses that word except progressive liberals. No conservative friend has ever confused me for my reproductive system.

I understand why some women are afraid that a perpetual proclivity to pregnancy might be used as an excuse to prevent them from pursuing other goals. But some of us (call us dreamers!) think it’s possible to stay committed to personal excellence without suppressing our body’s natural rhythms. We can breed without being “breeders,” just as we can eat without being “eaters” and sleep without being fundamentally dormant. All of the body’s natural capacities can be incorporated into a well-lived life.

I would also note that we “breeders” employ our rational faculties quite a lot in understanding and appreciating our fertility, and in using that information for our own and our family’s benefit. Many other people just try to medicate their natural fertility away. I’m not sure we’re the ones who are slave to our physiology.

4. Do friends and family think you’re crazy?

I imagine some of them do. They’re pretty tactful. When we had two babies 15 months apart, we did get some reactions, and that interval once precipitated a hilarious conversation in which an acquaintance told me how well I was handling my “crisis pregnancy.” Oh, modern world.

Once kids are born and named and flashing adorable grins, most people decide it’s all right for them to stay. I don’t lose any sleep over whether people secretly think my husband and I are weird.

5. Doesn’t it stress your marriage to live contraceptive-free?

Of course. Kids will always stress a marriage. So will practically any other worthwhile project that you and your spouse undertake.

However, it’s also true that living without contraceptives constantly underscores our fundamental belief that our married life has a purpose. We didn’t get hitched just in order to make the world stand around cooing over our shared passion for football, Thai food and philosophy. As we see it, we’ve been commissioned as family-builders and transmitters of human life. All the other joys and sorrows and headaches and heartaches that our shared life brings us must be understood in that context.

Contraceptive-free life has its challenges, but it constantly reminds spouses of their mutual commitment to the project. And couples who do it very rarely call it quits.

6. Are you hoping to end up with 15 kids?

As God wills. But also, no.

7. Don’t you sometimes wonder whether you could do something more interesting with your life, rather than having all these babies?

All right, so nobody ever asks me that point-blank.  But it’s sometimes implied in other gently probing questions that people ask, about whether I’m fulfilled, or “really doing what I want” or “adequately using my education”. That sort of thing.

It could be taken as an insult. I’m generally not too bothered. I understand how it might seem like motherhood has taken me off the fast track. Also, I’m not above feeling flattered when people imply that’s where I belong.

However, I don’t feel like I waste very much time. As demanding commitments go, I see the contraceptive-free life as a great value. I’m surprised how rarely people appreciate this. When I reflect on the lives of other people I know, I note how many there are who pour enormous resources into getting degrees they don’t use, or agonizing over that next little promotion, or weathering the heartache of multiple failed relationships as they search relentlessly for their soulmate. What do these people have to show for all their trouble?

I have three healthy children. A happy marriage. A supportive community. Fulfilling outlets as a writer and teacher. I also bake fresh bread, grow lovely tomatoes, and know by name multiple volunteers at our local children’s museum, and I still manage to play Fantasy Football and keep up with the news. Apart from that, I suppose my life is kind of a waste, but I don’t have time to worry about it when dinner’s on the stove and the azaleas need pruning. Check back in 20 years and I’m sure I’ll be more remorseful.

Truthfully, I know that I’m greatly blessed. I couldn’t have such a wonderful life without a supportive husband, family, community, and Church.  If people suggest that I’m unusually blessed, I’ll happily concur. Why then do people imply instead that I’m unusually repressed? These are the mysteries.

Why I Don’t Use Contraception 3
A Spreadsheet’s Not Going To Spread Her Legs, And More Marriage Advice Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:03:12 +0000 Mollie Hemingway A Redditor posted a spreadsheet that her husband made and sent to her along with an angry note. In it, he catalogued a month’s worth of times he had asked for sex with her, the result, and the very specific explanation of why his wife declined:

Yesterday morning, while in a taxi on the way to the airport, Husband sends a message to my work email which is connected to my phone. He’s never done this, we always communicate in person or by text. I open it up, and it’s a sarcastic diatribe basically saying he won’t miss me for the 10 days I’m gone. Attached is a SPREADSHEET of all the times he has tried to initiate sex since June 1st, with a column for my “excuses”, using verbatim quotes of why I didn’t feel like having sex at that very moment. According to his ‘document’, we’ve only had sex 3 times in the last 7 weeks, out of 27 “attempts” on his part.

I don’t typically hand out marriage advice to people, particularly those I don’t know, but I have some tips here for both man and wife. And before we begin, we should note some important information about the sex lives of married people vs. single people:

One of the most comprehensive studies on the subject, which was released in 2010 by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, confirmed this, compiling statistics on sexual attitudes and habits of 5,865 people between ages 14 and 94. An average of 61 percent of singles reported that they hadn’t had sex within the past year, compared with 18 percent of married people. Looking specifically at those between the ages of 25 and 59, 25 percent of married people reported that they were still having sex two to three times per week versus less than five percent of singles.

Badgering Is Not Seductive

First up, let’s talk about the man, who is clearly failing in his husband duties. It’s not just that being whiny about sex is about the worst way to go about getting it, although that is part of it. When I talked to my better half about this story, he admitted there have been times when he wanted to document something to prove some point or another. He says he’s pretty sure he could catch me being illogical or contradictory in the long run “but at some point I realized that in order to actually prove any big point it would require lots of effort and documentation and my effort would be much better spent either trying to improve myself or address your concerns.”

Exactly. Any time invested in Excel—and I spent a lot of time in Excel in college and early in my career—is better spent on actually working to improve the situation rather than record your grievances so as to become even more resentful and bitter than you already are.

Also, let’s look at the spreadsheet here:


We’ll get to my advice to Mrs. Sexcel shortly, but if this master accountant had more personal reflection, he would have used the data gathering and analysis operation not to berate his wife but to improve his game. And his game is in serious need of improvement. As a happily married father of three said to me regarding this debacle, “A spouse is not a fancy masturbation tool”:

Being a man means being a man and leading. It’s like dancing. Don’t whine about it. Take time to kiss your woman. Realize foreplay can be an all day activity. Make her feel sexy instead of asking if you can have sex. We can talk about spousal duty, but it shouldn’t be a duty. You’re our wives, not prostitutes whom we should expect to just lay down and spread ‘em when the mood strike us. Especially since it’s more fun when both parties are enjoying themselves.

I mean, the fact that this lady-killer didn’t think that he needed to record any information about what led to his “request” for sex is the most telling part of all. It’s not just that asking for sex is kind of clumsy and can be a major turn-off, it’s that the overt or covert request is part of a much larger context called “the entire marriage” that needs to be kept healthy for the dancing in the sheets to be occurring as much as both parties can hope for. The big problem with the Sex-Spreadsheet is that it exists. But if it is going to exist, we need to see much more information about Mr. Smoove’s appearance, hygiene, work ethic, contributions around the house, joke-telling ability, etc. Sex doesn’t happen in a vacuum, buddy (though I’m sure many of you have tried just that).

The Wifely Duty

Redditor throwwwwaway29 should not be posting private emails from her husband on social media and she should almost certainly be having more sex with him.

In 2006′s To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife, Caitlin Flanagan writes about “The Wifely Duty.” The chapter in question actually first appeared in The Atlantic in 2003. She begins by noting that “sexless marriages” were getting a bit of media coverage. “It has become impossible not to suspect that a large number of relatively young and otherwise healthy married people are forgoing sex for long periods of time and that many have given it up altogether,” she writes.

It’s fascinating that our over-sexed culture is so under-sexed at the same time. The ubiquity of porn use is one problem. Men are wanking off to fantasy women and it’s destroying their desire to have sex with a real one. For women, the lack of interest in sex is probably far less related to porn. Not that they’re not sexual. I’m going to disagree with the late great comedian Bill Hicks here:

You know what causes sexual thoughts? I’m gonna clear the air for you tonight. I’m gonna end this debate, hopefully once and for all while on this planet, ’cause outer space awaits our presence, we are better and more unique creatures than this and all eternity is our playground, so let me go ahead and clear this one issue up once and for all and let’s move on to real issues. Can we? Great. Here’s what causes sexual thoughts. Ready, drumroll: having a d**k.

There’s this belief that men are crude, rudimentary creatures. I used to believe that, too, before I got married. They’re actually insanely complex, or at least my husband is (love you, babes!). They just seem simple if you’re not paying attention. But whereas men tend to be more easily aroused, women require a bit more from sexual partners. (For more on this, see reality, history, all literature, everything.)

But waiting to be ready-to-go is not a good path to sexual happiness. I get that not everyone has a libido perfectly matched with his her partner’s. Flanagan quotes Michele Weiner Davis, author of The Sex-Starved Marriage:

Davis asks, ‘Have you ever noticed that although you might not have been thinking sexual thoughts or feeling particularly sexy, if you push yourself to “get started” when your spouse approaches you, it feels good, and you find yourself getting into it?’ Many of her clients have received this counsel with enthusiasm. ‘I really wasn’t in the mood for sex at all,’ reports one of her advisees after just such a night, ‘but once we got started, it was fun. I really enjoyed it.’

In comments over at Reddit, throwwwwaway29 remarked that she was in a busy time at work and that this was just a temporary problem. Perhaps, although one suspects that the spreadsheet wasn’t developed on a lark but after a period of frustration. But it does speak to how being too busy can keep you from getting busy. I know that feminist discourse is all about the importance of being paid the same for your office job instead of seeking fulfillment in anything domestic, but they forget to tell you that it might mean you and your husband are losing out in the doing-the-nah-nah department. A happy sex life requires cultivation. Having a home that’s a sanctuary from the attacks of the outside world, including overwork, requires effort. Or as Flanagan puts it:

All of this makes me reflect that those repressed and much pitied 1950s wives—their sexless college years! their boorish husbands, who couldn’t locate the clitoris with a flashlight and a copy of Gray’s Anatomy!—were apparently getting a lot more action than many of today’s most liberated and sexually experienced married women. In the old days, of course, there was the wifely duty. A housewife understood that in addition to ironing her husband’s shirts and cooking the Sunday roast, she was—with some regularity—going to have relations with the man of the house. Perhaps, as some feminists would have us believe, these were grimly efficient interludes during which the poor humped-upon wife stared at the ceiling and silently composed the grocery list. Or perhaps not. Maybe, as Davis and her ‘new’ findings suggest, once you get the canoe out in the water, everybody starts happily paddling. The notion that female sexuality was unleashed forty years ago, after lying dormant lo these uncountable millennia, is silly; more recent is the sexual shutdown that apparently takes place in many marriages soon after they have been legalized.

Feminism: ruining erryone’s sex lives one relationship at a time. Just kidding. I think.

Serving each other

Throwwwwaway29 and her husband are missing out by putting their own needs above each other’s. Yes, we are selfishly motivated to have or not have sex. But when we’re not thinking about how to please our spouse, we end up having much less fulfilling sex lives.

You know how most Christian weddings you’ve been to have the same reading from I Corinthians 13? Yes, I find it overused, too. But think about this portion:

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

In some versions, that “thinks no evil” is rendered “it keeps no record of wrongs.” Hard to jibe that one with a Grievance Spreadsheet. But every part of this chapter would be good for the couple to revisit. Love is not about seeking our own, but about serving others. And we find that when we follow this countercultural teaching, our perspective changes from resentment to gratitude.

I hope that the couple can set aside their mutual resentments and turn the relationship in a new direction built on sacrificial love for each other. And no matter what, get that canoe in the water and start paddling happily. Life’s too short to put work—or most other things—ahead of sexual union with your spouse.

Follow Mollie on Twitter.

A Spreadsheet’s Not Going To Spread Her Legs, And More Marriage Advice 1
Seriously. What Is John Kerry Doing? Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:27:40 +0000 David Harsanyi Let’s concede for a moment that most of us do not want the United States refereeing conflicts between nations or warring factions abroad. Even so, most Americans would probably agree that at a minimum our diplomatic efforts should not cause unnecessary harm. Which brings me to John Kerry’s recent misadventure in the Middle East.

It seems like a rather big deal when Egypt, Israel, Fatah, Jordan, Saudi Arabia – ostensibly, all allies of ours – agree on anything. This development, one imagines, would be something the United States would be interested in fostering rather than destroying. Certainly, the idea that Hamas’ power should be neutralized and the influence of the “moderate” Palestinian authority expanded, sounds like a plan worth pursuing.

You would think. But instead, Kerry basically ignored an Egyptian-led ceasefire effort to do just that, and handed Israelis a document that offered them this:

  •  Rather than empowering Fatah, it recognizes Hamas as the legitimate authority in the Gaza Strip, though it is considered a terrorist organization by the Justice Department and an entity that’s founding principle and driving purpose is to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state.
  • Rather than choking off this organization’s lifeline, it allowed them to collect billions in ‘charity’ that would be been able to use to rearm, retrench and reengage in hostilities.
  • And all the while, it would not have made any demands on Hamas to get rid of its rockets, or its tunnels and other weaponry used to instigate war – but limits Israel’s ability to take them out.

Hamas would have conceded nothing. No nation would have accepted such terms, not after what’s transpired, and naturally it was rejected unanimously by an Israeli cabinet that includes the ideological left, center and right. Not only did the proposal irritate Israel —  a nation often accused of warmongering for kicks — but it also upset Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

All of which, one presumes, a seasoned statesman like John Kerry should have foreseen. So why did Kerry offer a proposal driven by Qatar and Turkey, two of Hamas’ allies and Israel’s antagonists? Qatar not only funds one of the leading anti-Israel propaganda outfits on the planet, Al Jazeera, but it is also, according to Simon Peres – hardly a warmongering Likudnik –  the “world’s largest funder of terror due to its financial support for Hamas in Gaza.” And Turkey’s anti-Semitic governments recently accused the Jews of committing genocide, called Israel a “terror state,” compared Netanyahu to Hitler, and has provoked Israel on a number of occasions over the past few years – all of which, to be fair, sounds a lot like some well-known progressive twitter accounts these days.

Though we’ve often pressured Israel to shorten these kinds of operations, only a historian would be able to come up with an instances of the United States pressuring Israel to accept such a lousy agreement. So naturally, the Israeli press, including left-wing newspapers like Haaretz, went after Kerry pretty hard. The US, according to reports, believes that Israeli officials had misrepresented the deal. And the Obama administration pushed back yesterday. “It’s simply not the way partners and allies treat each other,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psak (and I suppose Israel agrees).

But, according to nearly every news report, Kerry was the one who brought Turkey and Qatar into the mix. And it is undeniable that Kerry went to Paris immediately after negotiations collapsed and met with officials from Turkey and Qatar to discuss a potential cease-fire in the Gaza. Kerry did not meet with Egypt, nor the Palestinian Authority nor Israel. That seems odd – inexplicable, even – but it certainly lends credence to Israeli media accounts.

David Ignatius at the Washington Post argues that “Kerry’s mistake isn’t any bias against Israel but rather a bias in favor of an executable, short-term deal.” But it’s conceivable that both of those factors played a part. As a political consideration, the administration would have benefitted from a short-term deal. Perhaps because of tragic loss of life, the United States would rather see a ceasefire than Hamas dealt a mortal blow. And that is almost certainly one of the reasons Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields.

It is worth remembering that Kerry, who is rightly considered a longtime ally of Israel, has changed his tone considerably since joining the administration. He’s accused Israel of veing a few short steps removed from “apartheid,” he peddled the myth of Israel’s imminent demographic demise, and he was conveniently caught on a hot mic sarcastically dismissing Israel’s pinpoint strikes, and insinuating that he, John Kerry, was not invited to embark on a ceasefire talks because Israel was buying time to finish off Hamas. (If that’s Israel’s goal, they should have invited Kerry earlier.)

But maybe the United States doesn’t want to take sides anymore. Maybe the Obama Administration’s recent dealings in the Middle East reflect this attitude.  Maybe Kerry’s actions weren’t a mistake but an attempt to show Israel’s enemies that we can be even-handed. Because we either have an incompetent Secretary of State or a momentous shift in Middle East policy. Either way, Kerry’s actions have created a bigger mess.

Follow David Harsanyi on Twitter.

Seriously. What Is John Kerry Doing? 0
Israel’s Live-Action Hamas Horror Show Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:27:30 +0000 Robert Tracinski The under-reported news of the Gaza war is Israel’s discovery of an extensive network of tunnels built by Hamas. These are not the tunnels from southern Gaza, built for smuggling food and weapons from Egypt. These tunnels are in northern Gaza going into Israel, and they were built so that Hamas terrorists could infiltrate Israel and commit mass killings and kidnappings.

A thorough report in the Washington Post describes the tunnel network and how Hamas goons who popped out of one of the tunnels were carrying restraints and tranquilizers to subdue their captives. Another report claims that Hamas was planning a massive operation for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, sending hundreds of Hamas terrorists to overrun Israeli kibbutzes, murdering and kidnapping their residents.

An Israeli spokesman vividly describes the extent of this tunnel network. “There are two Gazas, one above ground and one below ground: an underground terrorist city.” Hamas has invested enormously more resources in the underground Gaza—including special escape tunnels for Hamas leaders and their families—than in the above-ground one. Let there be no more doubt that Hamas leaders regard their own people as cannon fodder whose job is to be killed to provide anti-Israel photo ops.

More to the point, let there be no more doubt about Hamas’s intention toward Israelis.

You may recall that when President Obama traded the Taliban Five for Bowe Bergdahl, a lot of people offered the excuse that Israel regularly trades terrorists for hostages. Now we see where that gets them. Hamas has been sealed off from Israel by a wall, and their rockets are blocked by the Iron Dome defense system, so they have adjusted their tactics toward the one thing that works: taking hostages.

Any discussion about cease-fires or about the proportionality of the Israeli response should take into account the horror-movie monstrosity of this threat. Israelis live in a walled enclave surrounded by people who regard them with implacable hatred, and now they have to fear the prospect of humanoid creatures emerging from underground to drag them into the darkness, where they will be bound, drugged, beaten, tortured, starved, and abused, possibly for years. Hollywood could not make it more blood-curdling.

Keep that in mind when you think about Israel. The Jews live in a live-action horror movie, and the Palestinian bogeyman really is out to get them.

I will only add that it was after this news broke that Barack Obama called on Israel to adopt a new cease-fire with Hamas. Obama is driven by “humanitarian” concerns—for the Palestinians. But this is actually the worst, most callous response he could offer. The only proper response is to let Israel take as long as it needs to destroy and disarm Hamas and to find and destroy its tunnels.

After all, everyone knows, in a horror film, what happens if you turn your back on the monster too early.

Follow Robert on Twitter.

Israel’s Live-Action Hamas Horror Show 0
Let Me Google ‘England’ For You, Matt Yglesias Tue, 29 Jul 2014 01:11:29 +0000 Mollie Hemingway Matt Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox, known around the world for having the “smartest thinkers” asking the “toughest questions.”

Yglesias posted a map from Reddit and then added four sentences of his own. These sentences were wrong.

Here’s the map designed by redditor phillybdizzle. He says it shows which surname was most popular by county in an 1881 census of England and Wales:

surname map

Yglesias writes that “Phillybdizzle at Reddit made this map based on the 1881 Census of England and Wales showing the most common surname in each province.”

Which would be a great example of the smartest thinkers doing the toughest commentary and all that … if only England or Wales had provinces.

But you know what? Some wonks transcend geography. My colleague David Harsanyi wrote “He reminds me of the anchor in Die Hard who confidently interrupts to tell everyone Helsinki is in Sweden,” which is a pretty good comparison. Sound clip of that here:

Yglesias also tough-splains:

Any American will be familiar with the two most popular choices — Smith and Jones — but what’s remarkable is how nearly perfectly the Smith/Jones divide lines up with the political boundary between England and Wales. In the United States, both Smith and Jones play as super-generic Anglo names. But in reality they seem to show pretty distinctively what part of the British Isles your male line hails from.

Yes, this is the sum total of the article and I’m sure we’re all blown away by the staggering wisdom on display in the four total sentences.

I do want to point out that this — “But in reality they seem to show pretty distinctively what part of the British Isles your male line hails from” — is somewhere between meaningless and wrong. The map simply shows what the most common name in a given county is. Without knowing population figures for each county, it’s entirely possible that there are more Smiths or Jones in a county where the name isn’t the most popular than in a county where it is. It’s also possible that emigration patterns in the decades preceding this census might have affected which surname came out on top in 1881.

For that matter, I should note that while I’m sure phillybdizzle is an awesome guy whose work is beyond reproach, I didn’t go over 1881 Census data to check that work. I’m not sure I’d repost that work and draw conclusions from it without having checked it out, but I’m not one of the smartest thinkers asking the toughest questions.

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Ira Glass Has Opinions About Shakespeare Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:01:49 +0000 Ben Domenech This American Life host Ira Glass has seen King Lear, and here are his thoughts:


As a longtime listener, I’m flabbergasted. What in the world is Ira Glass, a public radio host, thinking in bashing anyone as unrelatable? Glass works to essentially create an act-based drama with all sorts of themes running through it – and he has no ability to relate to the guy who kind of owned that whole thing? Julius Caesar, Henry V, Macbeth, Richard III, Hamlet, Coriolanus, Merchant of Venice, Othello – these plays last for a reason. And as for King Lear: it’s so relateable it is the basis for all sorts of remakes in other genres! I’m sure Akira Kurosawa has a thought or two about the timelessness of King Lear’s themes.

Of course, something good can come out of this. I think this could serve as the basis for a good This American Life episode:

“Hello, I’m Ira Glass. Today on our show: The Boring Bard. What is it about William Shakespeare that makes someone so obviously untalented, treacly, and dull stick around for centuries? Why do we find it so hard to admit that something isn’t great when so many people around us insist it’s great? We’ll hear from a chef on why bacon is terrible, an environmentalist who hates the outdoors, a sex therapist who thinks people should just give it up, and, of course, the brilliant English majors who are finally re-assessing our glorification of that dead white guy from Stratford-on-Avon. Act 1: Dude, Wherefore Art Thou. Here’s Sarah Vowell.”

And if that doesn’t convince you to read Shakespeare, you can just listen to Anthony Jeselnik.

Ira Glass Has Opinions About Shakespeare 0
On Energy Prices, The Working Class Blames Washington Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:25:38 +0000 Ben Domenech This Molly Ball piece on the metric which best determines the outcome of elections makes for a fascinating read: essentially, it demonstrates that when Republicans don’t lose the working class by a wide margin, they do well, and when they lose it by 20 points, they don’t. Throw out all the other measures of race and religion – and Republicans even spot the Democrats the ten points! – and the share of the working class vote determines the outcome:

Republicans consistently win voters making $50,000 or more, approximately the U.S. median income. The margin doesn’t vary too much: In 2012, Mitt Romney got 53 percent of this group’s vote; in 2010, Republican House candidates got 55 percent. And Democrats consistently win voters making less than the median—but the margin varies widely. In fact, whether Democrats win these voters by a 10-point or a 20-point margin tells you who won every national election for the past decade.

In 2004, Democrats won the working-class vote by 11 points; George W. Bush was reelected. In 2006, Democrats won the working-class vote by 22 points and took the House and Senate. In 2008, Democrats won by 22 points again, and President Obama was elected. In 2010, the margin narrowed to 11 points, and Republicans took the House back. In 2012, Obama was reelected—on the strength of another 22-point margin among voters making under $50,000.

One of the central arguments that I and those who share my view that the future of the right ought to be more populist, as both a matter of policy and politics, is that Washington has largely ignored the increased burdens faced by the middle and working class in a time of wage stagnation. The interests of big business and large established players, sometimes working in tandem with government policy and other times simply bent to the will of regulators, have burdened families with higher costs than they ought to be paying for goods and services. It’s a simple thesis: health care, higher education, energy, and groceries cost more than they should; government policy is a not insignificant factor, but Washington largely doesn’t care; therefore, limited government advocates should seize the opportunity to take on the government policies that factor into this and make the case to eliminate or reform them.

You can see a good example of that in this Gallup poll from last year, which illustrates how gas, food, and healthcare costs are as bad or worse than tax issues in the minds of most Americans:

pricesOf course, global supply and demand issues affect energy prices – but what do people think of government policy on the subject? Not much. Check out this Morning Consult poll, released last week, which reflects a marked skepticism of government policy helping people on the subject of energy affordability. And the working class has strong opinions: people with incomes under 50k gave the government the worst grade in keeping energy costs affordable (and by a much wider margin than those making $100k+).


Unfortunately for Republicans, the working class doesn’t trust them on energy issues. Voters may blame Washington as a whole, but for those earning under 50k, they see the left’s message as more appealing.


This shouldn’t be the case, and the fact that it is just illustrates the need for Republicans to stop thinking about board room table issues and start talking about kitchen table issues. The energy portion of a “gas and groceries” agenda is full of politically vulnerable targets. Republicans ought to favor ending the massive subsidies for big conglomerates that drive up gas prices; streamline or eliminate burdensome regulations on energy, such as oil/gas export licensing; eliminate prohibitions on the ability of companies to drill and explore for fuel and other regulations which needlessly drive up prices, inhibit competition, and destabilize the market; eliminating all taxpayer-funded energy subsidies and letting the best product win; and, of course, eliminating subsidies and tax incentives for energy companies to turn food into gas, such as the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Most conservatives already oppose the RFS, the Jones Act, duties on oil pipe imports, pipeline delays, export restrictions, and drilling bans both offshore and on public land. They need to do more to reframe this issue into one with a more explicit appeal to working class concerns. Gas prices rose 3.3 percent in June, and the index for energy is up 3.2 percent over the course of the year.The political advantage here should be obvious: by attacking an issue the working class cares about and where it believes government policy is failing, this presents a golden opportunity to break the left’s coalition in half – between the Tom Steyers of the world who don’t want energy to be cheap and don’t care about the pricing ramifications of their policies, and for the working class that does.

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On Energy Prices, The Working Class Blames Washington 0