The Federalist http://thefederalist.com Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:36:00 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6.1 The Federalist no The Federalist http://thefederalist.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://thefederalist.com How Vodka Conquered America http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/how-vodka-conquered-america/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/how-vodka-conquered-america/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:30:47 +0000 Neal Dewing http://thefederalist.com/?p=21097 Regular readers of this column may remember that I have confessed to being insufficiently appreciative of vodka. They may also recall that I have embarked on a course of Vodka Appreciation, a concerted effort to remedy this blind spot of mine. Difficult for a bourbon guy, but I’m committed. Lest you think my efforts insincere, consider this something of a progress report.

Vodka has always bored me. Even when I would enjoy the occasional tipple in my misspent youth, it was but a nigh-indetectable means to an end.  However, I recently had the distinct pleasure of reading through a new book by Victorino Matus, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard.  I think it’s safe to say that a deficiency in my character may well have been remedied.

Vodka: How a Colorless, Odorless, Flavorless Spirit Conquered America, is one part intriguing history lesson, one part reporting, and one part percipient marketing study. Suffusing his book with an easy charm and engaging wit, Matus draws the reader in as he charts vodka’s origins and its rise to become America’s top-selling spirit.

Peter the Great would force those who were late to his feasts to take a 1.5 liter penalty shot.

As consumption of alcohol ought to be a social affair, so Vodka is in part a social history. While the invention of vodka can’t be definitively pinned down, the author snappily tracks it from early Arab references to distilled alcohol, then to medieval Russia, where in its earliest form vodka was recommended for strictly topical use rather than ingestion. Along the way to the modern era Matus drops fascinating bits of information – for instance, that Peter the Great would force those who were late to his feasts to take a 1.5 liter penalty shot from a goblet called the “Big Eagle.” He may well have been the absolute worst person in history to drink with.

Later, Russia’s poisonous dependency on vodka manifested as both physical alcoholism and a significant source of tax revenue the state could simply not forego.  Various attempts at state control of vodka only increased the pace of a societal decay that even now plagues Russian society. When vodka reached American shores, it was in no way poised to compete with the dominant spirits of whiskey and rum.

Yet over time, things shifted. Through a combination of a changed drinking culture, savvy marketing, and some luck, vodka began its ascent. Thus the stage is set for a series of in-depth interviews with some of the major players in vodka, and a  keen study of the market they helped shape.

Here is the real meat of the book. Matus approaches his subjects as a diligent reporter, telling us who they are, how they got there, and trying to answer why they were able to turn humble, unassuming vodka into what it is today: at once the most-imbibed spirit in America and a status symbol.

What does it mean that vodka has been distilled (x) times?

We learn about the unprecedented success of Grey Goose and its founder  – who was also responsible for Jägermeister’s entre to the American gullet. We visit with Dan Aykroyd (yes, that one) and his partners at Crystal Head (they of the skull-shaped bottle) to explore the role of celebrity in vodka’s popularity. He drops in on Tito Beveridge of Tito’s Vodka, one of the small but dedicated craft distillers to make his mark, discussing what goes into the bottle and revealing some of what it means to label a vodka as (x) number of times distilled. Matus makes a study of SKYY, Ketel-One, and Swedish company Absolut, whose gorgeous ads adorned many a dorm room wall once upon a time.

Speaking of visual appeal, the book itself is a delight. Vodka’s clear, uncluttered typeface makes it easy to read for hours at a time, and full-color photos give it a vibrancy to match the prose within. It’s a very handsome tome, perfect for a coffee table or pride of place on a shelf next to the hooch.   For the data-heads among us, Matus even throws in a few charts in the appendix.

I truly enjoyed getting acquainted with vodka through this book. It could have been dry as Judge Bork’s Martini (though the Judge would never have used vodka), but Vic Matus has mixed it all together into an engaging, entertaining, informative, accessible, and indispensable resource for anyone – from the distiller, to the professional mixologist, to the home bartender. I give it my strongest recommendation. Whether for yourself or as a gift to the boozehound in your life, you would be well-served to buy a copy of Vodka and soak it in.

After reading the book, I reached out to Matus with a few questions. He was gracious enough to provide some illuminating answers and flesh out some of the ideas in the book, as well as suggest a vodka cocktail for you fine folks to try at home. We even touched on that bane of alcohol snobs everywhere: flavored vodka.

FEDERALIST: Connoisseurs may talk of scotch whisky and bourbon, or even craft gin, but the numbers in your book make it clear: America votes vodka and has since the 1970s. Just how much vodka are we drinking?

VICTORINO MATUS: Last year Americans went through more than 66 million cases of vodka—that comes to more than 157 million gallons. Compare that to the whiskey category (including Scotch, Irish whiskey, American and Canadian whiskey, and bourbon), which combined totaled 53 million cases. The brown spirits category made truly impressive gains last year, but we’re still a vodka nation. I mean, it’s 32 percent of the liquor market—basically one out of every three liquor drinks ordered up at the bar is vodka-based.

FDRLST: My understanding is that historically, this country went in for rum and whiskey. How did vodka take the lead?

VM: Part of the answer is Prohibition. When the ban ended in 1934, you saw a whole new bar crowd—a young group of drinkers that didn’t care at all for flavor or character. They just wanted to get that buzz. Think about it: If you were 18 when Prohibition ended, that means you were 4 when it began. You basically have no drinking knowledge, no speakeasy experience. Suddenly it’s all for the taking.

Vodka appealed to women who no longer wanted those cloying, overly sugared drinks but weren’t ready for whiskey.

And vodka just happened to be the perfect delivery system, the most mixable of spirits (by the end of the 1930s you had the Bloody Mary and the Screwdriver). But vodka didn’t really take off until the 1940s and 1950s. That’s when the Moscow Mule was invented, and Smirnoff came up with the clever tagline, “Smirnoff Leaves You Breathless.” The company garnered celebrity endorsements and it became very cool to drink vodka—so that’s the other part of the answer: clever marketing. It also appealed to women who no longer wanted those cloying, overly sugared drinks (Pink Lady) but weren’t ready for whiskey (a drink for burly men, as one bartender told me). Vodka is clean and simple and sophisticated all at the same time.

FDRLST: Why do people choose vodka? Does it say something about what people want from a cocktail that they choose the “colorless, odorless, flavorless spirit?”

VM: It turns out there are a lot of people who don’t like to taste booze in their booze. I bet you enjoy a fine single-malt Speyside, as do I. But there are still many other drinkers who do not—and who prefer not to have it on their breath. Vodka is for them. What does it say about them? A.J. Liebling cynically remarked that “it is the ideal intoxicant for the drinker who wants no reminder of how hurt Mother would be if she knew what he was doing.” I wouldn’t go that far. Hey, some of my best friends are vodka drinkers!

FDRLST: The book goes into fascinating detail about the history of the spirit, and the stories of some of the different vodka brands. In your research, what was the most amusing or surprising thing you uncovered?

VM: It doesn’t really matter how many times a vodka is distilled, so long as it is distilled once at 190 proof before getting watered down to 80 proof. As Bob Nolet of Ketel One observed, if your distillery cannot house a tall column still, and you break it down into six shorter stills, do you claim it’s distilled six times? Some people count each copper plate inside a still as distillation—so now it’s a hundred times distilled?

A majority of American vodkas originate from ethanol plants in the Midwest.

You’ll notice the big players in vodka (and true craft distillers) don’t play up distillation—they know it’s marketing. Also, a majority of American vodkas originate from ethanol plants in the Midwest. These contract manufacturers can distill the neutral spirit five times, then ship it to you. You run it through your still once and presto! Your vodka is now officially six times distilled and bottled at your facility, without mention of the contract manufacturer. And finally, as one prominent ad exec told me, you can distill anything into vodka, including the chair I’m sitting on. Once you get it to 190 proof, does it matter? And does it matter you got the water from ancient glaciers and filtered it through diamonds. No. A good water filtration system (allowing for reverse osmosis) is all you need. And charcoal filters better than diamonds.

FDRLST: You interviewed several vodka producers in the course of the book, big and small. Do you think the craft distillers have something over the large companies? Do the consumers care, or is it all a matter of marketing?

VM: Just as consumers have been drawn to craft brewing, they are also paying more attention to craft distilling. It’s the idea that more care and attention is being paid at the small artisanal distillery than at the industrial-sized plant. So that gives the small guy an edge (and most of these small guys do craft whiskeys and gins as well—they do vodka because it’s relatively cheap and ships almost immediately). At the same time, the giant distillers have an edge when it comes to budget. They can market (Ketel One ran commercials directed by David O. Russell of “American Hustle” fame). And they can get to more bars in more states than the small guy (and each state and sometimes individual counties require separate liquor licenses). Yes, some consumers care the way they care about locally sourced, farm-to-table food. Others care about the price. I’m a little of both, and SKYY, Tito’s, and Smirnoff all give you bang for your buck.

FDRLST: Will vodka continue to hold onto its market share, or do you think that the interest in pre-Prohibition cocktails (with vanishingly few vodka drinks) will diminish it?

VM: Certainly there’s been a rising interest in the retro cocktails. Imagine 10 years ago if you asked for a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned, let alone a Corpse Reviver #2 or Blood and Sand? People would look at you strangely. Now it’s very fashionable (thanks in part to Don Draper). And along these lines, I’d strongly recommend the history/recipe book “Imbibe!” by David Wondrich, which is an homage to bartender legend Jerry Thomas. All that said, 66 million cases of vodka is hard to beat. And I just don’t think we’ll reach that point where a majority of drinkers out there will seek out the smokiness of a Lagavulin Scotch or fully embrace the botanicals of gin (a lot of folks have bad associations with gin, not to mention tequila).

FDRLST: Do you have a favorite vodka, at the moment?

VM: I have always liked SKYY, which is based in San Francisco but distilled somewhere in Kentucky. After I told Derek Brown, the bartender, that I preferred it, he gave me a blind taste test of four vodkas, and I picked out SKYY as my favorite. I don’t know if I could do that again, but it really did happen. I also liked Tito’s, tasting it neat at room temperature. That says a lot—and I don’t care even that it originates from a contract manufacturer in the Midwest. It tasted good. On rare occasions I tried my friend’s vodka, Americana, based in New Jersey. It had a great flavor to it, despite technically being flavorless. Only problem is it’s hard to find around here. Distribution is killer.

FDRLST: Flavored vodka: abomination, exploitative cash grab, or benign response to the market?

VM: Well, it’s an abomination to some of us, but it’s also a response to the market (though I wouldn’t say “benign”). We sophisticates hate it—how could anyone love vodka flavored like peanut butter and jelly or salmon? And yet, as another drinks writer, Jason Wilson, points out, these companies wouldn’t be making all these flavors if no one was buying them. The flavored vodkas seem to be geared toward women—it’s a massive market segment. Likewise, you’re seeing this with the cherry-flavored bourbon Red Stag or Jack Daniel’s Honey.

FDRLST: Seeing as we’re well into the season, could you share a recipe for your favorite summertime vodka drink?

VM: I used to only drink vodka and club soda with a twist of lime. But if you’ve got ginger beer around, make it a Moscow Mule:

  • Fill a glass with ice
  • 3 ounces vodka
  • Fill the rest of the glass with ginger beer
  • Squeeze of lime
  • Stir and serve (preferably in a copper mug)

It’s embarrassingly simple, but vodka isn’t meant to be complicated.

Follow Neal on Twitter.

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Why I Don’t Use Contraception http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/why-i-dont-use-contraception/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/why-i-dont-use-contraception/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:48:41 +0000 Rachel Lu http://thefederalist.com/?p=20961 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.

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Why We Shouldn’t Raise Teacher Pay http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/why-we-shouldnt-raise-teacher-pay/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/why-we-shouldnt-raise-teacher-pay/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:47:14 +0000 Jason Richwine http://thefederalist.com/?p=20155 When a California court struck down the state’s teacher tenure system last month, it sparked a renewed interest in how to hire the best teachers. If it’s finally possible to pry the least-effective teachers from their sinecures, as reformers see it, new and better teachers can take their spots. So how should we go about recruiting, selecting, and retaining this new wave of all-stars?

It’s not so easy. Even without the tenure obstacle, putting the best teachers in the classroom is a more challenging problem than many reformers will admit. One of the most common reformist prescriptions is raising teacher pay to attract stronger applicants. The logic seems simple, even obvious. But raising teacher pay will not work. In fact, it could be counter-productive. The reason lies not just with the well-known difficulty in predicting who will be a good teacher, but also with the entrenched hiring system of public schools.

Teachers Already Earn Too Much

Everyone from Laura Bush to former Washington DC Superintendent Michelle Rhee to teachers union president Randi Weingarten has called for raising pay. They never mention that we’ve tried it already. Contrary to public perception, the average public school teacher already receives total compensation that is greater than what he or she could earn in the private sector.

Contrary to public perception, the average public school teacher already receives total compensation that is greater than what he or she could earn in the private sector.

But don’t teachers earn lower average wages than college graduates in most other professions? Yes, but four-year degrees are not all created equal. For example, education—the degree held by around half of public school teachers—is among the least challenging fields of study. As measures of ability go, a degree in education cannot be equated with a degree in, say, computer science or engineering. That’s part of the reason why teachers typically receive a lower wage both before they enter teaching and after they leave for another field. Combine decent wages with a generous benefits package—guaranteed pensions, retiree health care, and job security—and teacher compensation is, on average, above market levels.

So the public is already paying for more highly-qualified teachers than it is getting. If the skills of the teacher workforce have yet to match the level of current compensation, it is not clear how an additional raise would produce better results.

Schools Turn Down the Brightest Applicants

Why has increasing teacher pay not led to a corresponding increase in teacher skills? Vanderbilt University economist Dale Ballou has an answer. Simply put, even when schools are offered highly-skilled teachers, they don’t seem to want them. Writing in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Ballou demonstrated that many of the most attractive teaching applicants—those who graduate from more competitive colleges, earn higher GPAs, or hold degrees in specialized areas such as math or science—schools often reject them in favor of less-impressive candidates who took the traditional route of majoring in education. An education degree was generally preferred even for applicants preparing for a secondary-school position.

Even when schools are offered highly-skilled teachers, they don’t seem to want them.

No one knows for sure why this happens, but perhaps it’s the institutional culture of public schools. The principals and superintendents who do the hiring are themselves the product of standard teacher training—attending a large, middling university and majoring in education. These administrators tend to hire teaching applicants whose training resembles their own. By contrast, principals who have unusually strong academic records tend to choose higher-skilled teacher applicants.

In any case, the naively dismissive reaction to Ballou’s findings would go something like this: Sure, the public-school hiring bureaucracy operates inefficiently, but raising teacher pay will at least add more skilled people to the applicant pool. Even if public schools hire applicants randomly, the higher-quality pool necessarily means higher-quality teachers will eventually find their way into the classrooms, right?

Probably not.

Higher Pay Could Lower Teacher Quality

Ballou and fellow economist Michael Podgursky of the University of Missouri have shown that higher pay without reforms could actually lower teacher quality. Their argument starts with the observation that increasing pay reduces the number of job openings (because fewer teachers will quit or retire), and increases the number of new applicants (because the salary is more attractive). This necessarily lowers the chance that any given teaching applicant will receive a job offer.

That reduced probability may discourage certain would-be applicants from making the costly investment of time and money in becoming certified for teaching, especially if they do not perceive that schools favor them in the hiring process. And, unfortunately, the best-qualified applicants are probably most discouraged.

The most common non-education job held by education majors is administrative assistant, according to Census Bureau data.

How so? Well, imagine two young people who are thinking about going into teaching. Ken is a brilliant college student who may pursue engineering if he cannot land a job as a high school science teacher. Sandy is a cheerful and energetic undergrad, but she is not the strongest student, especially when it comes to math. She will most likely work as an administrative assistant if she does not become an elementary school teacher. (The most common non-education job education majors hold is indeed administrative assistant, according to Census Bureau data.)

Now imagine that public schools raise teacher pay across the board. Both Ken and Sandy are initially thrilled about the prospect of earning more as teachers. But then both begin to think about their reduced chances of landing a teaching job, as a flood of new teaching applicants compete for a smaller number of openings. To Sandy, this is not a big concern. Even if she is ultimately unsuccessful with her teaching application, her time spent preparing will not have been wasted. Whether Sandy majored in education or sociology, she will likely get her admin job.

But consider Ken’s perspective. If he pursues education, he is potentially wasting valuable time and money, either by displacing his engineering studies or by delaying his entry into the workforce. In economic terms, Ken’s opportunity cost is much higher than Sandy’s. If teacher pay is raised, Ken’s expected payoff from pursuing teaching—the higher teaching salary multiplied by the lower probability of getting a teaching job—may actually decline. So Ken focuses on engineering instead. At the end of this story, raising teacher pay has increased the size of the applicant pool but lowered its quality at the same time.

Now, if Ken knew that public schools would jump at the chance to hire bright students with strong academic backgrounds, he may not be discouraged from investing in a teaching career at all. But as we have seen, Ken is perfectly justified in fearing that school administrators do not value high-ability candidates like himself. And even if Ken possessed non-academic traits that might make him a good teacher—patience, empathy, dedication, et cetera—it would be risky to count on proving these hard-to-measure qualities on a job application, especially for someone without much prior work experience.

So, What’s the Answer?

So if pay increases are not the answer, what is? Only root-and-branch reform. In a recent paper, economists Douglas Staiger and Jonah Rockoff noted that public schools structure their hiring exactly backwards. Potential teachers must obtain certifications and licenses—a process that discourages some workers like Ken from applying in the first place—before being hired. Once hired, however, teachers quickly earn tenure almost as a matter of course.

Most hiring managers in other fields are under no illusion that they can foretell employee performance based on credentials alone, which is one reason tenure barely exists in the private sector.

A more rational hiring system would feature reduced entrance requirements—perhaps just a college degree in any area, with no certification requirements except for upper-level courses—then very strict standards for earning tenure based on actual classroom performance over a few years. This is not exactly a revolutionary idea. Most hiring managers in other fields are under no illusion that they can foretell employee performance based on credentials alone, which is one reason why tenure barely exists in the private sector. Even the most famously tenured profession—academia—has a “publish or perish” system for winnowing talent after the initial hiring process.

Public school systems need fundamental changes in how they operate to improve teacher quality, and abolishing tenure just scratches the surface. The creeping emphasis on credentials must be reversed. School administrators must be willing to hire promising applicants who never received the standard education-school training. Objective evaluation systems must be adopted and refined. All parties must become comfortable with a process that will increase teacher turnover. And, finally, the public must maintain sober expectations about the value of high-quality teachers, understanding that their effectiveness is naturally limited by the abilities and family situations of the students themselves. To effect all these changes, pundits and policymakers must move beyond their “pay teachers more” mantra. The idea is attractive for its simplicity, but in reality it is no solution at all.

Jason Richwine is a public policy analyst in Washington, DC.

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26 Moments At The Fair That Will Restore Your Faith In America http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/26-moments-at-the-fair-that-will-restore-your-faith-in-america/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/26-moments-at-the-fair-that-will-restore-your-faith-in-america/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:46:05 +0000 Rebecca Cusey http://thefederalist.com/?p=20023 If you’re starting to think America is all narcissistic selfies and contentious Internet comments, there’s a cure for that. Pack up the family, slip on your cowboy boots, and head on down to the county or state fair. You’ll see that there are plenty of people who still know how to work hard, make things, and have fun. Here are 26 steps to get your very own injection of American exceptionalism.

1. Mosey through the crafts pavilion and see that people do, indeed, still make things. Beautiful things. Hard things.

David Amsler / Creative Commons

David Amsler / Creative Commons

2. Head over to the farming pavilion with the whopping big pumpkin and see that people do, indeed, still grow things.

Ryan Somma CC

Ryan Somma CC

3. Notice the pride ordinary Americans pump into their oversized pumpkins, plum jelly, and peach pie. There’s no swagger like a first place ribbon at the state fair swagger.

Danya Bateman / Creative Commons

Danya Bateman / Creative Commons

4. Those pumpkins are really big. Like American hearts.

Danya Bateman / Creative Commons

Brian Magee / Creative Commons

5. Scoot through the animal pavilions and let the kids learn where their milk and burgers come from. Show them how American farmers have created abundance and fed the world.

Steve Tatum / Creative Commons

Steve Tatum / Creative Commons

6. Notice the hard work and pride the 4-H kids put into raising sheep, cattle, and even turkeys.

Thomas Hawk / Creative Commons

Thomas Hawk / Creative Commons

7. So many bunnies. So cute.

Dave Pape / CC

Dave Pape / CC

8. Take a moment to appreciate the majesty that is Butter Elvis.

Leia Scofield / CC

Leia Scofield / CC

9. Funnel cake.

churl / Creative Commons

churl / Creative Commons

10. There is no feeling better than strapping on an all-day wristband for rides at the fair. That’s freedom right there, folks.

Brittany Randolph / Creative Commons

Brittany Randolph / Creative Commons

11. They go by many names. The Zipper. The Vortex. Cliff Hanger. Orbiter. The Tornado. They all mean spinning until you’re dizzy. MORE PLEASE.

Chad Fust / Creative Commons

Chad Fust / Creative Commons

12. Stagger away from the rides to the lumberjills demonstration, from logrolls to tree-felling. Those axes are sharp and those women know how to use them!

13. Four words: Foot-long chili hot dog.

Lisa Bunchofpants / CC

Lisa Bunchofpants / CC

14. Watch the shepherd dog competition for a perfect blend of man and beast creating teamwork on a primal level.

Hotash / Creative Commons

Hotash / Creative Commons

15. For something completely different, head over to the racing pigs. Laugh as their little tails wiggle!

Brent Moore / Creative Commons

Brent Moore / Creative Commons

16. Spend some time with the greasemonkeys in the tractor section. Pick their brains about what those old machines did and how basic machines work, and hear how they maintain them just for the love of machinery. Let your little boy wander to his heart’s content as things whir and chug and thump and patapatapata around him.

Curtis Anderson / Common Core

Curtis Anderson / Common Core

17. Go full circle from old machines to new as you take in the robotics competition. Try to get the number of the nerd on the winning team so your daughter can date him. He’ll probably rule the world one day.

18. Pulled pork sandwich with beer and a deep-fried Twinkie chaser. There are no calories in food bought at a fair.

stab at sleep / Creative Commons

stab at sleep / Creative Commons

19. Join the stream of people headed into the arena. Notice how Americans come in all different shapes and styles, but we have more in common than we realize.

Brian Magee / Creative Commons

Brian Magee / Creative Commons

20. Stand with your fellow Americans, put your hat over your heart, and sing the national anthem like you mean it, without a trace of irony.

Al_HikesAZ / Creative Commons

Al_HikesAZ / Creative Commons

21. Extra points if you also sing “Proud to Be an American” and know all the words.

Kentucky National Guard / Creative Commons

Kentucky National Guard / Creative Commons

22. Cent for cent, there is no better bang for your buck than a demolition derby. It has all the drama of a gladiator fight, the thrill of victory, the pain of defeat, plus big crashes and gas fumes.

AllieKF / Creative Commons

AllieKF / Creative Commons

23. Or maybe some faded but still-great band rocks the night with treasured tunes.

Nick Ares / Creative Commons

Nick Ares / Creative Commons

24. Or perhaps take in a rodeo. Amazing young women race their horse through barrels and brave young men defy gravity on the back of a bull.

Baker County Tourism / Creative Commons

Baker County Tourism / Creative Commons

25. Take that wristband and take some more rides after dark, when the fairway is all twinkling lights and flirting youth.

Victoria Pickering / Creative Commons

Victoria Pickering / Creative Commons

26. There is nothing better than the top of a Ferris wheel at night, the lights around you, the breeze ruffling your hair, the sound of laughter coming from below. It’s good to be an American. Still. Now. Always.

ElizabethHudy / Creative Commons

ElizabethHudy / Creative Commons

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26 Moments At The Fair That Will Restore Your Faith In America http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/26-moments-at-the-fair-that-will-restore-your-faith-in-america/feed/ 0
Vin Scully And The Soul Of The Crowd http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/24/vin-scully-and-the-soul-of-the-crowd/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/24/vin-scully-and-the-soul-of-the-crowd/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:31:37 +0000 Stella Morabito http://thefederalist.com/?p=20753 Baseball had nothing really to do with Vin Scully’s drive to become a sports announcer. At first, this seems incomprehensible because 2014 is the living legend’s sixty-fifth straight year at the microphone for the Dodgers. But if you grew up with the sound of Vin Scully’s voice through all of your childhood summers, as did I, you might come to realize that his motivation was probably never really about baseball, per se. It couldn’t have been. Something far larger and deeper is at the root of such devotion.

Scully has spoken of his celebrated career in numerous speeches, interviews, and tributes. A few of the more recent and comprehensive are his amazing speech at the Reagan Forum last month, his radio interview with Hugh Hewitt on the eve of the Fourth of July, 2012, and an extensive feature in SB Nation last month by baseball writer Cee Angi. In all of these he enchants us with vintage Vin stories.

But to try to uncover exactly what this great esteem and wonder for Vin Scully represents for us, I think we have to try to understand what we mean to him as well. It’s a relationship both ordinary and extraordinary. It’s about long-term loyalty, a sense of family and, above all, a sense of community. He may be a celebrity, but it seems he has always wanted to be a part of us, a part of the “roar of the crowd.”

Love at First Sound

Scully often tells the story of what triggered his desire to become a sports announcer. It goes something like this: An eight-year-old boy at home on a Saturday in a New York City apartment would get some snacks—in the 1930s that meant plain saltine crackers and a glass of milk—and listen to college football on the radio. The radio was built into a large cabinet standing on four legs with cross beams underneath for support. He would take a pillow and crawl underneath so that the speaker was right above his face.

It was the ‘roar of the crowd’ from the radio that captured his imagination forever.

The interesting part is that little Vin wasn’t really all that interested in the football games. It was the “roar of the crowd” from the radio that captured his imagination forever. As Scully recently explained in  an interview with Dan Patrick,  it “absolutely intoxicated” him. It was through his sense of intrigue with the roar of the crowd that the epiphany of his career path came to him. Scully often uses rushing water imagery, somewhat akin to baptism, to describe it. In an interview with Michael Kay, he said effusively: “the crowd noise would come out of there like water from a showerhead. . . . and I would suddenly be covered with goose bumps . . . oh, how I wish I were there.”In every interview Scully seems to describe in some way how the roar would “wash” over him, like an awesome energy enveloping him.

We might call what happened to Scully “love at first sound.” From the moment he heard it, he knew somehow he would spend his life pursuing it, listening for it, absorbing it, respecting it, and always shutting up for it. Scully’s story-punctuated narrations of Dodger games and the roar of the crowd has been an ongoing conversation for generations. He explained it this way in his speech at the Reagan Library:

. . . if I have a trademark, it would be to call the play as quickly and as accurately as I possibly can, and then shut up—and listen to the roar of the crowd. And even to this day, when that crowd roars, I’m that little 8-year-old kid curled underneath the radio back in New York City.

I think what happened to Scully in childhood happens to all of us, but many of us lose this sense of wonder and discovery over time. It’s a sudden inspiration—often with a numinous quality—that fuels the yearning to create, to connect, and to share with others. C.S. Lewis described it as being “surprised by joy.” And Lewis’s essay “The Weight of Glory,” seems to express it as a universal human longing to “bathe” in a glory we can hardly put into words. Wordsworth may have identified it when he defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”

A Feeling of Family

I confess I’m pretty much a bystander to baseball. I feel tied to the Dodgers in spirit, and from birth, even though I can’t tell you anything about the team today—or even yesterday—in terms of their records or statistics. Nevertheless, the voice of Vin Scully is in my blood. It came through a virtual transfusion from my father. From childhood I’ve retained an auditory collage of memories of Scully’s voice on the radio: narrating the game, doing ads for the sponsors, and filling the quieter moments with stories, mostly about the players.

It’s a sudden inspiration—often with a numinous quality—that fuels the yearning to create, to connect, and to share with others.

These impressionistic sound bites go something like this: “Koufax, on the mound . . . the wind up . . . and the pitch . . . The Spirit of 76 lives at Union Oil . . . he was born in a small town . . . . line drive to center field . . . Farmer John bacon is ‘Easternmost in Quality. Westernmost in Flavor’ . . . Drysdale . . . . sliding into home, and he’s . . . SAFE!” [crowd then roars and my father joins them]

But to get to the heart of what Scully’s conversation with the crowd means, I must describe a bit of the life of my father. I’ll do it as Vin Scully might tell it, without the play by play punctuation.

In my imagination, Scully says: “Dominic Morabito was born in Brooklyn in nineteen hundred and four, firstborn son of immigrants from Calabria, Italy. Dominic got to be wild crazy about baseball in Brooklyn. His godfather took him to Ebbetts Field. Dominic could even remember the team being called the ‘Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers,’ so he goes waaayyy back in Dodger baseball history.

“In those days, children of immigrants often left school to go to work. From the age of 12 Dominic labored in suitcase and garment factories. He’d later come down with tuberculosis, and spend years curing in sanatoriums of the Adirondack Mountains. Then, in the 1940’s he moved to Los Angeles where he worked in the kitchen at the City of Hope, and later sold real estate.

When my Dad listened with transistor radio to his ear, it sometimes looked like he was on the phone with Scully.

“Dominic said he had given up on his lifelong dream of marriage and family until he was 46 years old and met his soon-to-be wife, Mary. Well, it was a whirlwind romance and they wed in March 1951, just before the baseball season. So Mary wasn’t prepared at all for the extent of her husband’s love of Dodger baseball. She could not comprehend just how heartbreaking it was for Dominic – well, for ALL of us — when the Dodgers lost the pennant to the Giants later that year. So when the Dodgers moved to L.A. in nineteen hundred and fifty-eight Mary said they actually ‘followed’ Dominic there! So, how’s that for a whole new ballgame?”

I heard Scully’s voice so many hundreds of times as a kid that the sound of it never fails to bring to mind my hard-working father in his stolen moments of relaxation. He rarely got to go to Dodger Stadium. But, as with so many other listeners, Scully’s announcing gave him a lot of joy as well as solace from some hard times and the ongoing disappointments in life. When my Dad listened with transistor radio to his ear, it sometimes looked like he was on the phone with Scully who was informing him personally of exactly what was going on at the ballpark.

It’s largely through relating stories that Scully has shown us his natural curiosity and appreciation for the lives of others. I imagine that’s one indicator why the roar of the crowd has so captivated him. He doesn’t hear it as just a “mass” of humanity, but he has the ability to feel it as a rich and complex multitude of unique individuals.

It’s amazing how seemingly ordinary people can leave deep impressions that create billions of tiny ripple effects across both time and space.

The Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Lots of books and movies and even college courses are about baseball as a metaphor for life, even as a religion. Maybe I wouldn’t go quite that far. But at some level it’s tied into a quest for harmonious connection with others, fair play, and wishing to feel part of something greater than ourselves.

I think my father’s love for the Dodgers and for baseball was tied into those things that the game represents and that the team played out for him.

I think my father’s love for the Dodgers and for baseball was tied into those things that the game represents and that the team played out for him. He had big dreams, always with little means. And as a boy wishing he could read books by Dumas instead of work in a factory, he developed a larger-than-life love for opera and Shakespeare and all things grand and beautiful. But despite his hardships, he remained drawn to the glory of those things and he loved to spread good cheer.

Life goes on, play by play, until we get to those glory moments we live for, as in the roar of the crowd. And yet there’s so much to live for within each play. Ordinary memories can embed themselves in extraordinary ways. For example, I associate Vin Scully’s voice with my first sip of beer, when I was maybe five or six years old. I begged my father for a taste of what he had just opened (probably Lucky Lager) on a blistering hot day. He held it out tentatively and it was so cold and frothy—and curiously unsweet—that I went for more and more, and he had to pull the can away from me.

But everything was a copacetic blur with Scully narrating those games in the background: the perfect modulation, the silvery cadences, kindly, and confidential. It was always a piece of contentment—whether by black and white TV, 1960s clock radio, transistor radio, or in the car.

Longevity and Loyalty

The illusion of transcending time always feels reassuring to mortals, so longevity is an obvious part of the Scully mystique. But I think it’s more Scully’s True Blue loyalty to the Dodgers over all those years that made him an inspiration to sports fans of all stripes. He’s loyal to the ideal of loyalty itself. For example, during the sign off to the interview with Hugh Hewitt on the eve of the Fourth of July 2012, Scully made a point of saying this: “I join you and all of us in saying a prayer on the Fourth of July that we’ll continue to have our independence—so many died for it—and our prayers that the United States of America will remain and not change dramatically, which I fear.”

Hearing him unabashedly speak for those who fought and died for our freedom—then express a fear of losing it—well, that’s a beam of light in a world that seems to be dimming.

It starts, of course, with being true to oneself and not imitating others. That’s one lesson given to Scully by his mentor, Brooklyn Dodgers announcer Red Barber. Scully explained in his recent interview with Dan Patrick:

Red said to me: ‘You know young man, you bring something into the booth that no one else in the world can bring. . . . Yourself. There’s no one else in the world quite like you.’ . . . The hardest advice you can give to a young fellow at the beginning is to say: ‘be yourself.’ And of course, the greatest lesson in life is to know thyself.

A Sense of True Community

Vin Scully has another difficult-to-describe quality that makes him so appealing and iconic. His fascination with the “roar of the crowd” represents something I think we all want and which is unattainable on earth: the chance to converse with all of humanity at the same time. It represents a desire to be in community—or in communion—with others. It’s like being in a grand conversation in which no one can predict what will happen next. A community like that is held together through mutual respect and the anticipation of joy.

The illusion of transcending time always feels reassuring to mortals, so longevity is an obvious part of the Scully mystique.

Whether we know it or not, I think Scully’s relationship with the Dodgers and fans is a reflection of what true community should feel like. It means reaching out to all in good will. Being honorable, loyal, and dependable. Playing by one set of rules, rules that everyone agrees upon in advance and in good faith. Recognizing that everybody brings something of value to the community. Giving our best to one another and respecting the dignity of each and every human being. It means speaking truth, in love. And, of course, it means listening.

But this community, this crowd, is not simply about living in harmony together, but living at the same time autonomously as unique individuals. This is the real goal of community for which our countrymen died. Individuality must trump the community, and not the other way around.

Today a different idea of community is being hawked in some political circles. It’s the notion that the collective trumps the individual. That kind of “community” always ends up being dominated by a power elite with no respect for individuality. This elite, time and again throughout history, ends up making the rules as they go along. It’s not what baseball or freedom is about, and I’m sure it’s not the spirit Scully felt in the energy of the crowd’s roar.

Scully captured a sense of the uniqueness of the individuals within the crowd when he reminisced with Hugh Hewitt about the intimacy of Ebbets Field. He identified a Brooklyn Dodger fan by the name of Hilda Chester, who engaged Scully directly:

Ebbets Field was intimate. . . . I remember, bless her heart, there was a woman in Brooklyn named Hilda Chester. And anyone old enough to remember Hilda knows exactly what I’m talking about. She carried a big cowbell, believe it or not, and she moved sometimes from the bleachers to the grandstand .. . . And one quiet afternoon, there must have been about five or six thousand people in the ballpark, and I was sitting rather primly alongside Red Barber, and he was doing the game. And all of a sudden, I heard this deep, almost basso profundo voice coming out of a woman, and she said ‘Vin Scully, I love you.’ And the crowd roared, and I got red-faced and dropped my head. And when the crowd roar stopped, she said, ‘Look at me when I’m talking to you.’ And that broke everybody up. So that was Ebbets Field, the individuals as opposed to the large stadium.

Indeed, it is the relationships Scully says he will miss most when he retires. He explains in the interview in SB Nation what his bond with the crowd has meant to him: “. . . it will be very difficult for me to just suddenly walk away. It’s the human relationships I will miss when the time comes. Like everyone in life, I’ve had my tragic moments, and the crowd has always got me through those moments. That’s why I’ve said ‘I needed you far more than you needed me.’”

To paraphrase Hilda Chester: Vin Scully, we love you. And we know you’re listening when we talk to you.

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

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Vin Scully And The Soul Of The Crowd http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/24/vin-scully-and-the-soul-of-the-crowd/feed/ 1
The New Social Divide Within The Pink Police State http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/23/the-new-social-divide-within-the-pink-police-state/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/23/the-new-social-divide-within-the-pink-police-state/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:16:15 +0000 James Poulos http://thefederalist.com/?p=20652 Read part one of this series here. 

Americans dimly grasp that the new American regime has jettisoned the venerable public-private divide at the heart of classical liberalism. But most of us remain in the dark about what exactly is taking its place.

Despite the avalanche of regulations, rules, and guidance issued by our state and federal governments, no official—elected or otherwise—has done for Americans what President Dwight Eisenhower did in his farewell remarks on the military-industrial complex. Eisenhower was the last president to speak to us (much less warn us!) about the changing character of the American regime.

Today, it is perhaps too much to ask a president to do the same. Eisenhower was intimately familiar with America’s military and civilian bureaucracy. He recognized how a “scientific technological elite” could use both branches of federal organization to make “public policy” its “captive.” Which presumptive occupant of the White House has such a sweeping, personal grasp of the new officialdom—yet opposes it enough to bear witness?

From Making Things to Making Emotions

Today, the public policy elite has captured the very idea of public policy. Far exceeding the bounds of the old regime—the industrial, managerial, and male-yet-sterile form of rule portrayed by The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit—today’s elite has superseded the 21st-century logics of industry, management, and, perhaps most importantly, of the neutral or neutered male intellect first attributed to proper social science by Max Weber.

The logic of industry required men to fill factories and work in linear fashion to construct machines. The new logic of officialdom requires men and women—or boys and girls, depending on where we date the onset of maturity—to work in hive fashion to deconstruct, and sometimes rearrange, knowledge.

The logic of management required men with seniority to train, supervise, mentor, reward, and promote younger men, adopting a system patterned on the military. The new logic of officialdom requires men and women—or, again, boys and girls—to organize “human resources” around setting and meeting corporate goals, which are as likely to prioritize the symbolic performance of identity as they are the pursuit of profit.

As Matthew Crawford explained in Shop Class as Soulcraft, the touchy-feely panopticon of the “knowledge work” industry is equally in the business of emotion work:

in the last thirty years American businesses have shifted their focus from the production of goods (now done elsewhere) to the production of brands, that is, states of mind of the consumer, and the shift finds its correlate in the production of mentalities in workers. Process becomes more important that product, and is to be optimized by management techniques that work on a deeper level than the curses of a foreman. Further, though the demands made on workers are invariably justified in terms of their contributions to the bottom line, in fact such calculations are difficult to make; the chain of means-ends reasoning becomes opaque, and this opens the way for work to become a rather moralistic place. […] In the contemporary office, the whole person is at issue, rather than a narrow set of competencies.

From Sexless Male Rationality to Sexless Female Therapy

The logic of neutral male rationality, gendered but sexless, has given way to the logic of therapeutic administration—prefigured by Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Big Nurse, as she’s otherwise known, is a transitional figure between the old American regime and the new. A former Army nurse, Ratched is machine-like, robotic, bent on total control and orthogonal order. In that sense, she still inhabits the world of unsexed, male-gendered rationalism. But that should not mask the sea change that Ken Kesey detected. Goethe, as Philip Rieff reminds us, considered it “a fact that humanity will ultimately triumph”; he only feared, however, “that at the same time the world will become one great hospital in which one man will be the other’s humane nurse.” Social order, Goethe predicted, would become more female in gender; but in its rationalization and universalization, it would become female in an unsexed way. In place of the old regime’s male-gendered rule, defined by its figurative sterility, the new officialdom gives us female-gendered rule—defined by its figurative barrenness.

Nurse Ratched is a transitional figure between the old American regime and the new.

That is in stark contrast to the political maternalism that arose in America to reform the abuses and excesses of the sterile, male industrial age. As Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam put it in a pivotal passage within Grand New Party, “a small clique of highly educated women, which included pioneers in the social sciences and social work,” refused to surrender their moral identity to industrial rationality. These so-called maternalists “saw the slow, steady disintegration of the American family under radically new economic conditions as the central challenge of their time. They condemned Big Business’s efforts to efface and undermine the value of domestic work as the entering wedge of a broader campaign to reduce self-reliant citizens to mere consumers and clients.”

Today, in the new officialdom, this position is completely reversed. The most forceful strain of female-gendered political thought embraces postindustrial corporatism and condemns the economics of domesticity. To be sure, the ardent appreciation for birth control in the sick-dangerous realm, outside the precincts of health-and-safety regulation, betokens a mischievous sort of fearful admiration for the ultimate in deranged risk: conceiving a child not only out of wedlock but outside of love and even out of “like.”

Within the realm of health and safety, however, the mania for birth control is of a strikingly different quality. Rather than demanding consumption, it demands production; rather than a license to access the realm of transgression in which nothing is ever completely supervised or completely predictable, it is an ideological mandate to enforce healthy and safe conduct among the ruled, right down to the most intimate details and choices of their lives.

Now for Something Completely Different

The point is not that the mainstream Democratic stance on birth control is a sin of partisanship, but that in the new regime, two separate logics and cultures rule two separate, but co-dependent, realms of life. This state of affairs transcends “partisan ideologies” as we know them. The shared neoconservative and neoliberal affinity for enforced health and safety, and their shared fear and loathing of the realm of illness and unquantified risk, plainly shows that one need not identify as a Democrat, liberal, or Progressive in order to champion the new officialdom. The issue is not, as it was with the military-industrial complex, what the elites think policy should be; it is what the elites instinctively think politics is.

One need not identify as a Democrat, liberal, or Progressive in order to champion the new officialdom.

Sticking with this line of inquiry allows us to get beyond the many interesting but contending and partial definitions of the relevant elite in America—the “new class,” the “ruling class,” the “country club,” the “crony capitalists,” the “1 percent,” the “east-coast power corridor,” and so on. These are all manifestations or avatars of the only elite that, analytically speaking, suffices as a unit of analysis, because only this analysis indicates what everyone is struggling to surmise, namely, the character of the new American regime.

The new regime is not totalitarian, fascist, socialist, capitalist, conservative, or liberal, according to the accepted and common definitions of those terms. It is not even adequately described as corporatist, although corporatism is very much at home within it. The “pink police state” is not a police state in the sense that George Orwell would be familiar with, but one in which a militarized, national policing apparatus is woven into the fabric of trillions of transactions online and off. Nor is it a “pinko commie” regime in the sense of enforcing “political correctness” out of total allegiance to Party; rather, it enforces the restrictions and permissions doled out by its sense of “clean living.” To invoke Michel Foucault again, ours is an age when governance is inseparable from hygiene in the minds of the elite that rules over both the private and public sector. To them, everything is theoretically a health issue.

This is why the attempt at a national health care program was an utterly predictable development—a veritable precondition of our new regime’s full development. Although we like to think national health is the consequence of our extreme distaste for the suffering of some and not others, it is more the product of the categories of thought that define our regime. Health and safety is what the state does.

The industrial, mechanical logic of the old regime approached the concept of governance instrumentally. It led us to define governance by answering the question, What is the state for? The therapeutic, existential logic of the pink police state rejects such a purpose-based approach. Health and safety is not what the state is for; the practice of health and safety is literally the practice of justice.

Why We Can’t Stop Obsessing Over Sex

The prerogative thus belongs to the state, on the contemporary view, to define what is and is not healthy, and what is and is not safe. So we should not be surprised that the state has been sucked so extensively into matters of sexuality. The most socially significant conflict over sexual identity is not a lurid Manichean struggle between “traditional” and “progressive” morality. Rather, it’s an incessant struggle of attrition between realms: the realm the regime controls, with its comprehensively administered ethic of health and safety, abuts—but can never conquer—the unregulated realm of dirty danger. Adjudicating the healthfulness and safety of our myriad sexual practices, affinities, choices, and identities is a task so monumental it can keep the largest bureaucratic government busy.

In the new regime, two separate logics and cultures rule two separate, but co-dependent, realms of life.

To that, however, the new regime must add the chore of therapeutically processing that psycho-sexual activity. To prevent itself from being overwhelmed by a proliferation of dirty, dangerous sexual phenomena, the regime must always domesticate and incorporate new choices, new practices, and new identities, sublimating once-transgressive lifestyles into cosmetic virtues understood to aid the health and safety of the regime—whether in the “public” or “private” sector.

Here, there is no better example than the sea change in the status of LGBTQ individuals and the whole concept of diverse sexual identities. Big government and big business elites have more or less rushed with open arms to wave the rainbow flag—increasingly, in a literal sense. Today it does not really count as news that a Bank of America branch in the heart of West Hollywood has decorated its lobby with lots of festive little rainbow flags. There was, however, a minor stir when the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv recently hoisted the rainbow flag just below the Stars and Stripes itself.

For some, the event was a sensational reminder of the difference between the progressive, post-Judeo-Christian world and the world of reactionary Islam. Be that as it may, the official admission of queer culture into the realm of health and safety illustrates the challenges the new regime poses to our old Constitutional order. Although the First Amendment is “biased” in favor of religion—extending special protections to religious speech and practices that irreligious conduct simply does not receive—the First Amendment is also quaintly blind to the state’s current interest in establishing a secular, not religious, creed.

The new regime is not totalitarian, fascist, socialist, capitalist, conservative, or liberal, according to the accepted and common definitions of those terms.

This is key to understanding the absolute importance of “diversity and inclusion.” These foundational ideas are not best seen as “ideological values.” They are sociological practices essential to the functioning of the new regime. And lest we imagine that the new regime is itself an ideological value in action—merely the product of a revolutionary cultural and political vanguard—it is essential for us to realize that the new regime is inherently unable to become totalitarian in the sense, say, that Leo Strauss envisioned in his legendary argument with Alexandre Kojeve.

At the midpoint of the last century, these two preeminent political theorists entered into an extended debate about the possibility of tyranny in our time. To make a long story short, Strauss worried that it would become impossible to practice philosophy in what Kojeve claimed was a just regime. That regime, said Strauss, would successfully persecute philosophers out of existence, just as ancient Athens sentenced Socrates to death. The Athenians, of course, charged Socrates with corrupting the city’s youth. Though Strauss does not come right out and say it, his defense of philosophy raises the arresting prospect of a deep connection between free thinking, wisdom, and—from the standpoint of an unjust regime—sickness and danger. Strauss, however, seemed really to believe that modern political science had made universal tyranny—the eradication of philosophy—conceivable for the first time.

The rise of the pink police state should disabuse us of that notion. The new social divide that defines our new regime will always propagate zones of transgression against health and safety as defined by officialdom. This is not just because the horizon of transgression always recedes from the reach of officialdom, however unprecedented in its scope—although it is certainly true that the Internet, and the patterns of thought and action it allows us to carry into “real life,” have created a topography of transgressive space so protean that the National Security Agency, for instance, must vacuum up all the data in the world just to hope that it can find some transgressions. That may be good news for terrorists. It is great news for philosophers.

Ours is an age when governance is inseparable from hygiene in the minds of the elite that rules over both the private and public sector.

The rise of the Internet, in fact, is emblematic of the strange conceptual character of the new regime. Although the state is implicated in the rise of the Internet, and although the state is dogged in perpetually intervening in the Internet, the Internet has a life of its own. It can never be fully integrated into the regime. The Internet is a symbol of how partial is the responsibility of the pink police state for its own dawning triumph. Our new regime is so deeply therapeutic because it is, viewed in psychoanalytic terms, a coping mechanism for the disintegration of the public-private divide. Although Rieff declared that “the rot starts at the top, always,” he acknowledged that in America there never was an “officer class” to abdicate its commanding culture caste. The innovation of our age is a new officialdom that does not owe its power to its position atop the hierarchy of cultural authority. That vertical of social order is gone; in its place, our movement within social space and time is horizontal.

That is typical of democratic ages, when things are always getting better and worse. We are always becoming more like Eloi and more like Morlocks. The “rot”—in Rieff’s terms, the choice to violate boundaries set down by cultural authorities, starts everywhere, in every soul or psyche. The collapse of the public-private divide is not the “fault” of America’s decadent elites, its debased underclass, or its neurotic middle class. It is the fault of everything and everyone in contemporary life. As Augustine said: Such as we are, such are the times.

Three Things to Expect From This Regime

Although government health care opponents fear our regulatory state will decree ever broader swaths of life “public,” the reality is that the whole language of “public” and “private” is passing away as the “pink police state” comes into being.

To return to the question we began with, what, then, replaces that primary social divide? The new divide, we recognize, has to do with a sick-dangerous realm on the one hand and a healthy-safe one on the other. We can now start to see that the safe-and-healthy realm is the official realm, which makes the sick-and-dangerous realm the unofficial realm.

Because interpersonal, hedonic freedom is so privileged, resistance may completely break down to government actions that get involved in the intimate details of our lives.

In the new regime, the regulatory state asserts control over those areas of “public” and “private” life that it chooses to control, while leaving other areas relatively (sometimes completely) out of control. Life in the official realm is characterized by the pursuit of health and security—the clean, safe, but coercively sterile world—while life in the unofficial realm is characterized by the pursuit of harms and risks—the dirty, dangerous, but ultimately and inexorably fertile world.

Establishing this framework allows us to trace a chain of three causal mechanisms that show us what to expect from the new regime in action.

First, in a culture where social or interpersonal freedom is valued much more than political freedom, government becomes assertive in restricting “unhealthy” and “risky” activity, but assertive in broadening the ability of individuals to pursue pleasure in “healthy” and “secure” ways. That means both more permissiveness and more intervention in sexual life: a bigger portion of society is “sexualized,” and a bigger portion of society falls within the official sphere of life. (For a long time, that has certainly not been the case. Now it is. Such are the hallmarks of a revolution, the ending of one regime and the beginning of another.)

Second, government’s active interest in partnering intimately with individuals to help them achieve safe, secure pleasure and satisfaction leads strangely to a culture of greater transgression outside the reach of the government, in the unofficial sphere it doesn’t control. This is ironic. Katherine Frank wants to show that the Iranian regime’s oppressive moralism pushes Iranian youth to explore orgies as forms of rebellion not just in mores but in politics too. But in a pattern repeated literally around the clock on college campuses, the American regime’s sex-positive official moralism seems to inspire individuals to also seek unregulated, unofficial, and officially disapproved-of hedonic experiences—in addition to, or even instead of, what’s officially endorsed.

What’s more, sex-positive government moralism can and sometimes does look down on those who would have “too much” reproductive sex—whether “irresponsibly” or not. The realm of officialdom is a realm, as William Voegeli has written in Never Enough, of a limitless appetite for resources. But officialdom is perpetually anxiety-ridden about the possibility of exhausting its resources—whether it is figuratively sterile or figuratively barren. That is because its controlling opposition to the unclean, unhealthy, and unsafe always arouses a fear of contamination. (Psychologically, the insinuation of that fear into the otherwise-expert confidence of officialdom quietly demonstrates how vulnerable the official realm really is to being contaminated!)

Indeed, in the official realm, the possibilities of productive effort are sharply narrowed by rejecting the fecundity of the unclean, unsafe realm. In the unofficial sphere, by dramatic contrast, those concerns and fears are absent. Instead, the habit is to squander its characteristic creative and generative resources.[1]

Paradoxically, and problematically, the official and unofficial realms that construct our new regime are co-dependent yet limitless in their appetites.

Returning to our three causal mechanisms: Lastly, and most troublingly, the political and cultural relationship defining the pink police state seems to not be a stable system. There is no logical limit to how intrusive the new regime will get. Because political freedom is disvalued, once-“public-” and once-“private-”sector surveillance and monitoring may become completely comprehensive and permanent. This result is encouraged by a culture which feels increasingly fated to do what it is apt to do anyway by choice: put interpersonal, hedonic freedom far above political freedom in our relations with the state. Because interpersonal, hedonic freedom is so privileged, resistance may completely break down to government actions that get involved in the intimate details of our lives in ways that agents of the state believe properly promote and advance that freedom.

At the same time, because official forms of pleasurable freedom never seem to be enough (that is, never capable of actually satisfying the human appetites toward which they are aimed) there is no logical limit to the degree of boundary-crossing, risk-indulging, and pleasure-seeking transgression within the unofficial sphere of life—which, in the “pink police state,” is a built-in, ineradicable, and necessary sphere.

Paradoxically, and problematically, the official and unofficial realms that construct our new regime are co-dependent yet limitless in their appetites. That relationship raises the arresting prospect that our souls or psyches do indeed mirror the structure and pattern of the pink police state. To fully articulate an anthropological view of the new regime, however, we stand to benefit from an exploration of its recent origins.

Follow James Poulos on Twitter.


[1] For a glimpse at the psychological and philosophical pitfalls, facing Nietzsche, Emerson, and others, that surround squandering, selfhood, religion, commerce, and fear, see Mark Manolopoulos, If Creation Is A Gift, p. 47.

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No, Halbig Did Not Gut Obamacare Because Of A “Drafting Error” http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/23/no-halbig-did-not-gut-obamacare-because-of-a-drafting-error/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/23/no-halbig-did-not-gut-obamacare-because-of-a-drafting-error/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:15:55 +0000 Sean Davis http://thefederalist.com/?p=20802 Words mean things.

That was the message delivered by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in yesterday’s Halbig opinion. At issue was whether Obamacare required federal health insurance subsidies to be limited only to plans purchased via a state-based health exchange. To date, only 14 states (plus Washington, DC) have established state exchanges; the federal government established and is operating the exchange used by residents of the other 36 states. In May of 2012, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a rule stating that the subsidies would be available even if they would be applied to a plan purchased via the federal health exchange.

The panel that issued yesterday’s Halbig decision ruled that the text of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was unambiguous: subsidies in the form of tax credits could only be provided to offset the costs of plans purchased via a state exchange. Obamacare’s supporters immediately reacted with outrage, but they couldn’t quite settle on what, exactly, was outrageous. Some argued that the text of the law clearly permitted subsidies to flow to those who purchased plans on the federal exchange—this was the argument offered by the government in court. Others argued that while the text didn’t technically permit those subsidies, that was clearly the intent of the the law, and any textual omission was surely due to a “drafting error.”

That’s right: a drafting error.

Let’s take a step back to see how plausible that explanation is. There are two types of exchanges: state-established, and federally established. The statutory authority for state-based exchanges comes in section 1311 of Obamacare. The statutory authority for a federal exchange in the event that a state chose not to establish one comes from section 1321(c) of Obamacare. Right off the bat, we have two discrete sections pertaining to two discrete types of health exchange. Was that a “drafting error”?

Then we have the specific construction of section 1321(c), which allows for the creation of a federal exchange. Nowhere does this section say that an exchange created under its authority will have the same treatment as a state-based exchange created under section 1311. At no point does it say that section 1321 plans are equivalent. Why, it’s almost as though the exchanges and the plans offered by them were not intended to receive the same treatment. Was that another “drafting error”?

Most important, we have the sections of the law providing for tax credits to help offset the cost of Obamacare’s health care plans: sections 1401, 1402, 1411, 1412, 1413, 1414, and 1415. And how do those sections establish authority to provide those tax credits? Why, they specifically state ten separate times that tax credits are available to offset the costs of state health exchange plans authorized by section 1311. And how many times are section 1321 federal exchange plans mentioned? Zero. Was that yet another “drafting error”?

The specific phrase “established by the State under section 1311″ can be found twice in the tax credit title of Obamacare. The first instances relates to the size and the second to the scope of the tax credit subsidy. How many times is the phrase “established by the Federal government/Secretary under section 1321″ found? Zero. Was that also a “drafting error”?

When I worked in the Senate, I spent countless hours reading through various appropriation and spending bills. I also drafted hundreds of amendments, as well as a standalone public law. During the years I spent reading through proposed legislation, it was not uncommon to find obvious errors in bills and amendments. Sometimes you would see a date written as 3015 instead of 2015. Sometimes a non-existent section would be referenced, or a section number in a table of contents might be wrong. Other times, you might see a dollar figure that had too few or too many zeroes (seriously, that happened). You might even find a misspelled word or an incorrect line number every now and again. Those were true “drafting errors,” the typos of the legislative world.

The deliberate creation of a separate section to authorize a separate federal entity is not a drafting error. The repeated and deliberate reference to one section but not another is not a drafting error. The refusal to grant equal authority to two programs authorized by two separate sections is not a drafting error. The decision to specifically reference section X but not section Y in a portion of a law that grants spending or tax authority is not a drafting error.

The clear text of the law repeatedly demonstrates that plans purchased via federal exchanges were never meant to be treated the same as plans purchased by state-based exchanges. Despite its assertions, the IRS was never granted the statutory authority to hand out tax credits related to plans purchased via a federal health exchange.

All of that of course begs the question: if the law’s authors originally intended to constrain subsidies to state plans, what was the rationale for the IRS about-face in 2011? That’s actually an easy one to answer: the administration never imagined that so many states would refuse to establish Obamacare exchanges. The subsidies for state exchange plans were meant to be pot sweeteners—incentives for states to set up their own exchanges. If fines for mandate non-compliance were Obamacare’s stick, the subsidies for state exchange health plans were the carrot. To the law’s backers, that plan made sense: the White House didn’t really want to have to manage 51 separate exchanges. They wanted the states to do all the heavy lifting. Unfortunately, several dozen legislatures and governors had different plans.

When I witnessed drafting errors that went uncorrected and ended up being codified in law, I saw the same behavior over and over again: recognition of the error, followed by an immediate attempt to correct it. Usually the corrections were done via an uncontroversial “technical corrections” bill. They were almost always drafted and passed within a couple of days or weeks of the original law’s passage. But that’s not what we saw with this alleged “drafting error.” No attempt was made to rectify the alleged “error.”

The timeline tells it all. Obamacare was signed into law in March of 2010. It wasn’t until August of 2011 that the IRS decided to make tax credit subsidies available to plans purchased on federal exchanges. That’s a span of 16 months—an awfully long time to recognize and address a “drafting error.” Furthermore, actual “drafting errors” have to be corrected by new laws, not by executive fiat. Even when they are plainly obvious to everyone who sees them, that 3015 that should’ve been 2015 still has to be amended via a new law: passed by both Houses, and signed by the president. Yet, that’s not what this administration did.

In its May 2012 announcement of its official new rule which suddenly allowed subsidies to flow to federal exchange plans, the IRS never claimed it was a drafting error. It claimed the opposite: that the text clearly endorsed the IRS interpretation:

The statutory language of section 36B and other provisions of the Affordable Care Act support the interpretation that credits are available to taxpayers who obtain coverage through a State Exchange, regional Exchange, subsidiary Exchange, and the Federally-facilitated Exchange.

Moreover, the relevant legislative history does not demonstrate that Congress intended to limit the premium tax credit to State Exchanges.

Accordingly, the final regulations maintain the rule in the proposed regulations because it is consistent with the language, purpose, and structure of section 36B and the Affordable Care Act as a whole.

So why did the IRS wait nearly 16 months to spring this new interpretation on the public? That’s also an easy one. As of August 17, 2011, when its rule was first proposed, only ten states had passed laws establishing their own exchanges. Seventeen had outright rejected the Obamacare exchanges. All told, 40 states had by that point failed to do the administration’s bidding and set up state-based Obamacare exchanges.

Without exchanges in every state, Obamacare would surely fail as a policy matter. And without massive subsidies to offset the costs of Obamacare’s health plans, Obamacare would fail as a political matter. The IRS maneuver was a last-ditch attempt to paper over the law’s serious structural flaws.

The Halbig case changed all that and ripped off the facade to expose a structure ready to collapse under its own weight. And it wasn’t due to a “drafting error,” the uninformed opinions of know-nothing bloviators who’ve spent exactly zero time drafting federal legislation notwithstanding.

In 2010, Nancy Pelosi famously claimed that Congress needed to pass Obamacare in order to find out what’s in it. Well, a federal court just read Obamacare and found out what wasn’t in it: tax credit subsidies for federal exchange health plans.

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Why We Need Pretty Heroines http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/23/why-we-need-pretty-heroines/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/23/why-we-need-pretty-heroines/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:15:46 +0000 Elise Walters http://thefederalist.com/?p=20767 Is there a place in fantasy fiction for physical beauty? For old-fashioned romance? Or have we reached an age when even in the most escapist of literary genres the beautiful heroine who falls in love is deemed passé in the best-case scenario, and in the worst case downright misogynist with a “trigger warning” slapped on the cover?

Debut author Erika Johansen, who made headlines in 2013 for landing a seven-figure advance from HarperCollins to publish her first book called The Queen of the Tearling, would like us to question the very place where beauty and romance abound. Her book, out this month, has been billed by her publisher as a “female-version of Game of Thrones” and is being made into a major motion picture starring Emma Watson. In a piece at Buzzfeed entitled “Why We Need Ugly Heroines,” Johansen argues that “the predominance of romance in women’s literature is stunningly unrealistic.”

She takes issue with two main themes in fantasy fiction: first, their heroines are just too darn pretty; and second, they have plot lines overly reliant on romance, and therefore men. In conclusion, Johansen urges audiences to demand more from their books and for heroines to reflect “real women with their priorities in order, to whom both male and female readers can relate.”

Books with pretty heroines and love lives reflect aspirations that we don’t need to be ashamed of or reject in books.

That last point, who can argue with that? Wouldn’t books where women demonstrate they get how the real world works and with whom readers can relate be a success? Yes, and they are. So why are we acting like these books are few and far between? These books in the fantasy genre, and even in “chick lit,” are a dime a dozen. Paula Brackston, Diana Gabaldon, Cassandra Clare, and Richelle Mead are just some of the bestselling authors who portray women as more than their sexual urges. Their commercial success and literary merit has very little to do with the physical attractiveness (or lack thereof) of the central female figures or if they have a main love. They are successful because the authors tell a compelling story.

The fact is, books with pretty heroines and love lives reflect aspirations that we don’t need to be ashamed of or reject in books. And when they are coupled with a captivating story, we should celebrate those books, not shun them as outdated and oppressive tools of some secret plot in the literary world to advance a patriarchal agenda.

Consider Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennett

When I think of fiction with strong female heroines I automatically go to Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. I love these books, and they are often held up as paragons of literary success. Additionally, the central female figures are not pretty. Let’s do a quick breakdown of the heroines, shall we?

Jane Eyre: 18, plain, independent, quiet, rejected by her family, school teacher/governess, refuses marriage to a man she doesn’t love, ultimately marries Edward Rochester (after abandoning him when she finds out the truth about his first wife). Jane marries Rochester after his wife dies, he is badly burned, and she realizes she cannot live without him.

Is it really escapism to want to read books that revel in love and romance and beauty?

Elizabeth Bennett: 20, plain, independent, outspoken, essential to the fabric of her family’s life, bucks social convention, refuses marriage to a man she doesn’t love, accepts marriage to Fitzwilliam Darcy (after an initial rejection) once she realizes that he would put her family’s interests above his own and that her love is paramount to his pride.

There are some parallels between these two heroines, but let’s currently focus on the obvious. They are not exceptional beauties (true, they are not disfigured, either) and they initially reject the men they love to uphold the principles they hold dear, such as loyalty and honesty. These are real women, not cookie-cutter females who need to fall in love to justify their own self-worth. A question to ask, though, is: Would these books today be lauded any less if Austen and Brontё had made the heroines a little bit prettier? I doubt it.

You could argue that these characters are so insightful and interesting to read about because they are not pretty and they’ve compensated for their lack of appearance through wit and understanding of human emotion. But I call bullshit. Austen and Brontё were exceptional writers, and their books succeed because of the depth of character they convey, which could be achieved if the women were plain or even labeled “pretty.”

Beauty Is Interesting, Too

Pretty girls or—dare I say it?—beautiful girls can be interesting too. Katniss Everdeen, Daenerys Targaryen, Susan Pevensie, Dominique Francon, Anna Karenina, and Scarlett O’Hara are just a few of the popular heroines we love not because of their beauty but because they are interesting and exquisitely rendered as complex characters with emotions that seem all too familiar to the rest of us.

When it comes time to pull myself together, I put in an effort because I want to feel pretty and not like the disaster I sometimes am.

While romance is essential to the plot lines of both Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, does it define these women’s personalities? Absolutely not. They are both independent and prepared to face the challenges of their lives without a man. At the time when both of these books were written, most of the critics thought they were garbage, equating them to what we call “chick lit” today. But lo and behold, they are now some of the most frequently taught books in high school, resonating with male and female audiences and reflecting nuanced messages about character and morals of real women. They may not fall in the genre of contemporary “fantasy” like Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, but when they were written in the early to mid 1800s they might as well have been—as they shattered the predominantly male mold of fiction at the time.

Now that we’ve established what could be considered acclaimed literature with realistic heroines—how do modern-day fantasy books with pretty heroines who fall in love compare? Well, they can’t, because the comparison isn’t possible. How can we understand how books of today will be viewed 150 years from now, when novels such as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice were initially brushed off as smut?

The most fundamental human expectations and dreams remain what they’ve always been. We are attracted to beauty. We believe in love. We think romance is something to be cherished if we have it; something we want if we don’t. This is the “happily ever after.” All of this comprises what it means to be a human being. So naturally these themes find their way into our books. Is it really escapism to want to read books that revel in love and romance and beauty? Maybe, but it feels more like human nature to me, and not so far from reality.

Love and Beauty Are Human

I didn’t get a seven-figure book deal like Johansen, but I’m a fantasy writer, too. My first book, Tentyrian Legacy, has romance and attractive heroines, most notably the main protagonist Arianna Parker. It’s a story about a young adult’s path of self-discovery. Among her more unsettling revelations is that she’s the prophesied descendent of an ancient Egyptian vampire race. From childhood to adulthood we follow Arianna’s struggle with mental illness, college, and being a successful finance executive. She is headstrong, smart, and certainly not reliant on a man.

She’s also beautiful. Why? Because I wanted her to be.

I’d like to think her strength of character tells a compelling enough story without me having to get mired in discussing physical insecurities to make her feel “real” or constantly making banal observations about body weight and image issues.

Arianna also falls in love, but I’d also like to think it doesn’t define her or make her seem less in touch with the challenges before her—like having to save the world from an apocalyptic disaster.

If we only went through life worrying about paying the mortgage and getting the next raise, well, that’s a pathetic, miserable existence.

I’m certainly no supermodel, and most of the time I have food on my shirt that my seven-month-old son threw at me. But you know what, when it comes time to pull myself together, I put in an effort because I want to feel pretty and not like the disaster I sometimes am. I want my husband to say, “You look beautiful” just as much as he says, “Honey, you are smart.” Because no matter how you slice it, appearance is a defining characteristic of who we are—and so, for that matter, is romantic attachment and being in love. It’s an emotion that is distinctly human; if we only went through life worrying about paying the mortgage and getting the next raise, well, that’s a pathetic, miserable existence.

Let’s face it: there are a lot of terrible things in life. However, there is also a lot of beauty and romance. I refuse to think beautiful heroines and romantic plots send bad messages to women. In fact I think it says the opposite.

My book is not the next Pride and Prejudice and it sure won’t sell as many copies as The Queen of the Tearling. It’s not like Tentyrian Legacy is becoming a movie like Johansen’s starring Emma Watson…

But, last time I checked—Emma Watson was gorgeous.

Elise Walters is a fiction writer based in Pound Ridge, New York. Her debut book, Tentyrian Legacy, is out this week. 

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A Spreadsheet’s Not Going To Spread Her Legs, And More Marriage Advice http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/22/a-spreadsheets-not-going-to-spread-her-legs-and-more-marriage-advice/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/22/a-spreadsheets-not-going-to-spread-her-legs-and-more-marriage-advice/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:03:12 +0000 Mollie Hemingway http://thefederalist.com/?p=20574 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:

sexcel

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.

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A Spreadsheet’s Not Going To Spread Her Legs, And More Marriage Advice http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/22/a-spreadsheets-not-going-to-spread-her-legs-and-more-marriage-advice/feed/ 1
4 Worst Ways Halbig Truthers Have Spun Obamacare Architect’s Comments http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/4-worst-ways-halbig-truthers-have-spun-obamacare-architects-comments/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/4-worst-ways-halbig-truthers-have-spun-obamacare-architects-comments/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:23:49 +0000 Mollie Hemingway http://thefederalist.com/?p=21056 This week saw a major victory for attorneys who’ve argued that, according to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it’s illegal to give federal subsidies if insurance plans aren’t part of a state-based Obamacare exchange. The D.C. Circuit Court ruled that the legislation does not authorize such subsidies. Another court gave a somewhat muddled and mixed ruling on the matter that said such subsidies are ok, basically saying that Congress could have or would have been ok with it. The good news, for the attorneys fighting this battle, is that the mixed rulings make it more likely that they’ll be able to argue their case at the Supreme Court.

In any case, when that first “Halbig” ruling came down, progressive fans of Obamacare continued to argue that it was insane to think that this was a clear reading of the legislation. And they were doing all right advancing this argument, or trying to, until late Thursday. That’s when video came out showing Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber making exactly the same argument made by the attorneys fighting this issue. The comments were from back when Obamacare proponents were trying to force states to set up exchanges and before most states declined to, to the shock of a deeply out-of-touch Congress. Whoopsie! Kind of hard to call your opponents crazy when they’re merely quoting the law …. and agreeing with the guy who wrote the law. At least they agreed with him in 2012. In recent days, he’d backtracked on his claim and joined in calling this interpretation crazypants. Again, most likely because fans of the behemoth legislation are trying to salvage it even though states didn’t share Nancy Pelosi’s naive enthusiasm for it.

Now, in the hours since that video release, we’ve had a few updates. Gruber went to The New Republic to plead his case that he’d merely had a “speak-o,” which he defined as being like a typo but in verbal form. (I am not joking.) You have to see the video to see how extensive and thought-out the speak-o was, but either way it played better before another video came out showing him making the same “speak-o,” this time in prepared remarks.

But when it was just one instance of the worst possible thing happening to progressive talking points, the spin was interesting to behold. Here are some of the worst examples of progressive journalists trying to retain a busted talking point.

Vox is just another word for ignoring those who disagree

There’s not really much to say in response other than this, from one of the chief lawyers fighting the case:

And to show how wrong Ezra is on his point 4:

Whoopsie again!

Has Congress heard about a place called Kentucky?

Here we have a Washington Post pundit grasping for anything to hold onto in the aftermath of the MacGrubering. Greg Sargent tries to show that legislation is super-confusing and therefore Halbig was an inside job, or something:

Which would be, you know, a fantastic argument except that Congress wasn’t born yesterday:

Why read laws?

After the Halbig ruling came down, progressives tried to claim that no one had ever imagined that the legislation said what it did. When Obamacare-architect-author-guide Gruber himself contradicted that claim, they sort of threw up their hands and said, “yeah, but did anyone else?” Here’s Chris Hayes:

To which one journalist responded:

Of course others pointed to this Senate debate, which doesn’t help:

Wait, Congress sometimes puts incentives in legislation? Are you sure?

We should be easy on Mr. Beutler. He’s had a tough week. But still, if you are a journalist who covers federal politics, you should know that there are things that the federal government tries to encourage states to do using some combination of carrots and sticks. Such as setting up state exchanges to help bear the cost of super-chaotic legislation that nobody outside of corporate lobbyists read before passing. Or as Sean Davis puts it:

Follow Mollie on Twitter.

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5 More Typos We Found In Major Pieces Of Legislation http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/5-more-typos-we-found-in-major-pieces-of-legislation/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/5-more-typos-we-found-in-major-pieces-of-legislation/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:14:51 +0000 Sean Davis http://thefederalist.com/?p=21054 Much has been said, most all of it idiotic, about how a typo/drafting error was responsible for the recent federal court decision that forbids Obamacare subsidies from being used to offset the cost of federal health exchange plans. Seriously. A lot of people who are not particularly bright have actually claimed the whole brouhaha is due to a silly little typo.

A major federal appeals court, however, did not just gut Obamacare because of a “drafting error.” But in keeping with the spirit of the always accurate and super intellectual argumentation we’ve come to expect from the Left, we here at The Federalist have identified a number of other huge drafting errors in major legislation.

Without further ado, here are 5 massive drafting errors in landmark legislation that had been completely missed until now:

1) The Bush tax cuts didn’t actually sunset after 10 years. They were permanent.

When the Bush tax cuts were initially passed in 2001 and expanded in 2003, they technically included a 10-year sunset in order to comply with budget reconciliation rules. But most of the people who voted for it and wrote it didn’t want a sunset. They wanted the tax cuts to be permanent. The point of the law was to increase economic growth. Why on earth would lawmakers not want to increase economic growth forever? We’re supposed to believe they only wanted more jobs and higher growth for ten years? That’s absurd.

Sure, the law technically states that the new tax rates and brackets were to expire after ten years, but we really do need to look beyond the plain meaning and focus on the real intent of and context surrounding the law.

Plus, I heard someone somewhere say they actually meant to make it sunset after 100 years, not 10. The point is: let’s not let this silly drafting error get in the way of increased economic growth. Unless you hate people having jobs and making money.

2) The Iraq war authorization actually allows the U.S. to invade Canada.

In 2002, Congress passed and the president signed a law giving the president the authority to use military force against Iraq. And everywhere else. A few caveats: yes, the law itself is entitled “Authorization For Use Of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution Of 2002,” so a pedestrian analyst might look at it and assume it’s only related to Iraq. And yes, the law technically only allowed the president to use force against Iraq and not other countries:

AUTHORIZATION.—The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to—
(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

But c’mon. The resolution was written by Republicans and supported by Bush, and they’re all dirty war mongers who love killing people, so it’s absurd to assume they’d only constrain their insatiable blood lust to a single Middle Eastern country. Ergo, watch out Canada. You might be next.

3) The PATRIOT Act allowed waterboarding of anti-war opponents.

Think about it. Terrorists attacked us, and we were unprepared. The PATRIOT Act was intended to give law enforcement the ability to find and stop terrorists before they could strike us again. Terrorists opposed the war against terrorism. And anti-war activists opposed the war, so they’re kind of just like terrorists.

Anyhow, the point is that waterboarding dissenters would have made crushing dissent a lot easier, which would’ve made war a lot easier, which would’ve made protecting America easier, which was the whole point of the PATRIOT Act.

Sure, they didn’t technically write that authorization into the law, but there’s really no other way to interpret their intent. And if you disagree, it’s probably because you’re a terrorist.

4) About that whole Second Amendment thing…

Finally we get to the real fruits of the Left’s labor of interpretation legislative intent. Yes, the Second Amendment mentions guns. Yes, it mentions the right to own and bear them. Yes, it says that right shall not be infringed. Yes, America was freed from oppressive British rule thanks to the ability of common individuals to fight back using their own weapons.

But c’mon: a right for people to own guns? That’s just absurd.

5) About that whole First Amendment thing…

Remember that time the Founders fought a war to ensure our right to freely express our religious beliefs? Well, you remembered wrong. It turns out they were only cool with speech approved by 21st century liberal politicians. I mean, the right to own a gun to protect yourself is one thing. But the right to say your thoughts out loud? Talk about absurd:

[I]n the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Democrats held a hearing on Tom Udall’s proposal to gut the First Amendment by allowing Congress to prohibit or restrict participation in political campaigns. The Democrats like to say that the amendment would reverse the effect of the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases, but in fact it goes much farther than that. The amendment, which is favored by Harry Reid and most Senate Democrats, would give Congress unprecedented power to limit debate on public issues in the context of elections. You really have to read the proposed amendment to understand how radical it is.

Thankfully, the constitutional geniuses who run the U.S. Senate have finally found a way to correct the first-ever American legal typo: just repeal the First Amendment in its entirety. With that out of the way, they won’t ever have to worry every again about people going to court to affirm the notion that words mean things.

At long last, America’s never-ending, speech-laden, typo-fueled nightmare might finally be over.

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The Agony of Jonathan Gruber: Michael F. Cannon’s Revenge http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/the-agony-of-jonathan-gruber-michael-f-cannons-revenge/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/the-agony-of-jonathan-gruber-michael-f-cannons-revenge/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:47:19 +0000 Ben Domenech http://thefederalist.com/?p=21047 This week there’s been a ton of talk about the Halbig case, and the left has been consistently advancing the notion that this is all a Republican lie based on a typo or a drafting error. Sean Davis debunked that notion here. But one of the foremost advocates of this view is Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber. He was on MSNBC just the other day talking about it:

“Chris, it is unambiguous this is a typo. Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it`s a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the federal states. And why would they? Look, the law says that people are only subject to the mandate if they can afford insurance, if it’s less than 8 percent of their income. If you get rid of these subsidies, 99 percent of the people who would get subsidies can no longer afford insurance, so you destroy the mandate. Why would Congress set up the mandate and go through all that political battle to allow it to be destroyed? It’s just simply a typo, and it’s really criminal that this has even made it as far as it has.”

I think Jonathan Gruber should take up this argument with someone who holds the opposite view: Jonathan Gruber, back in 2012. Check the answer he gives around 31 minutes in.

Here’s what Gruber says, in a total vindication of the Halbig case:

Questioner: You mentioned the health-information Exchanges for the states, and it is my understanding that if states don’t provide them, then the federal government will provide them for the states.

Gruber: Yeah, so these health-insurance Exchanges, you can go on ma.healthconnector.org and see ours in Massachusetts, will be these new shopping places and they’ll be the place that people go to get their subsidies for health insurance. In the law, it says if the states don’t provide them, the federal backstop will. The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it. But you know, once again, the politics can get ugly around this.

Here’s Peter Suderman on the tale of the tape:

In January of 2012, Gruber told an audience at Noblis, a technical management support organization, that tax credits—the subsidies available for health insurance—were only available in states that set up their own exchanges. A video of the presentation, posted on YouTube, was unearthed tonight by Ryan Radia at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank which has participated in the legal challenge to the IRS rule allowing subsidies in federal exchanges.

And here’s Veronique de Rugy on all the other times Gruber has shifted his arguments for the law around:

As I wrote a few months ago, this is also the same Gruber who said in January that Obamacare wasn’t designed to save money, even calling the idea that savings were a “misleading motivator” for Obamacare. This was after he very actively promoted the deficit-reducing side of the law before it was adopted and called Obamacare “a historic and cost-effective step in the right direction” toward saving our health-care cost problems. He’s also the guy whose work was used to create the appearance of a consensus among health economists about the ACA, without revealing that he was a paid contractor.

Yowch. Maybe he can make an argument this was an evil twin? A time traveler? Does Earth-2 Jonathan Gruber also love birds?

One additional note: The whole process around Halbig has been an object lesson in why no one should ever doubt the dogged determination of Cato’s Michael F. Cannon, whose insistence that words mean what they mean and not merely what bureaucrats say that they mean – a revolutionary concept in this age of executive discretion! This case was spearheaded by Cannon and law professor Jonathan Adler; a lot of people didn’t take this issue seriously at the time, but there are a number of signs that Cannon and Adler really are correct about what went down, even if they offered an argument largely dismissed by the law’s advocates. Now they’ve been vindicated by the court and by Gruber’s own words.

The ramifications of Halbig could potentially be huge: it would mean that the White House has been breaking the law by distributing funds they were never authorized to spend, and enforcing mandates that were never supposed to go into place. Should the Supreme Court confirm this view, it would essentially transform the Obamacare project’s impact on private insurance in much the same way that the Court’s decision transformed the Medicaid expansion – from a gun-to-the-head decision for the states into an opt-in, opt-out choice, just as Gruber framed it in the video.

It’s rare that a piece of video evidence comes along which, in an instant, so clearly and thoroughly undermines the case that one faction has made so consistently. I’m a little shocked myself, and interested to see how the people who’ve been calling Michael Cannon nuts for years offer their mea culpas. Because they will do that, right?

Update: After defending himself to TNR this morning by saying he had simply misspoken, a second audio recording of Gruber going into even more detail has surfaced via John Sexton:

This isn’t just at odds with what Gruber has argued for the past several years – it’s also at odds with the amicus brief he filed in the Halbig case.

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GAO: 91 Percent Of Fake Obamacare Applicants Gain Subsidized Coverage http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/gao-91-percent-of-fake-obamacare-applicants-gain-subsidized-coverage/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/gao-91-percent-of-fake-obamacare-applicants-gain-subsidized-coverage/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:45:41 +0000 John Daniel Davidson http://thefederalist.com/?p=21027 Fast on the heels of the Halbig and King decisions this week, in which the D.C. and Fourth Circuit courts split over whether subsidies can be disbursed through federal exchanges (not just state-based exchanges, as the law stipulates), comes two studies that, taken together, cast doubt on entire exchange scheme of Obamacare.

The first study, published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), initially appears to be a cause for celebration among Obamacare supporters: it found the law has helped insure more than 10 million people since last October, when the exchanges began open enrollment. Researchers estimate that the uninsured rate dropped by more than 5 percentage points in the second quarter of this year as a result of expanded coverage under Obamacare, declining from 21 percent in September 2013 to 16.3 percent in April 2014.

As you can imagine, states that expanded Medicaid saw the largest drop in their uninsured rates—6 percent compared to a 3 percent drop in states that didn’t expand. The study, which used Gallup polling and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data, mirrored findings by Gallup (obviously) and estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Who Cares If You’re Legal

But another report published Wednesday cast the findings of the NEJM study in a less favorable light. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the preliminary results of an investigation into fraud on the Obamacare exchanges, and found, among other things, that 11 out of 12 fake applicants were able to get subsidized coverage on the exchanges—about a 91 percent success rate, if by “success” you mean fraudulently gaining subsidized coverage.

Those 11 fake applicants—that is, applications with falsified documentation—were all required to submit supporting documents to verify eligibility. But the submission and review process was inconsistent, GAO found, and there was also this:

As of July 2014, GAO had received notification that portions of the fake documentation sent for two enrollees had been verified. According to CMS, its document processing contractor is not required to authenticate documentation; the contractor told us it does not seek to detect fraud and accepts documents as authentic unless there are obvious alterations. As of July 2014, GAO continues to receive subsidized coverage for the 11 applications, including 3 applications where GAO did not provide any requested supporting documents.

Isn’t that nice? Keep in mind the entire point of this GAO investigation is to test the “front-end” controls that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) claims are in place to prevent fraud and ensure that only those who are eligible actually receive subsidies.

Navigating the System

The GAO investigation also tried to discover whether in-person assisters, or “navigators,” would urge applicants to lie about their income in order to get subsidies, as was documented among Texas navigators last year by James O’Keefe. Investigators couldn’t actually get anyone to assist them, but numerous reports on navigators have revealed questionable tactics that come close to fraud and political activity.

Most recently, National Review Online’s Jillian Kay Melchior wrote a piece about a navigator in Connecticut, Linda Yannone, who pursued her work in that capacity for the sake of social justice. “That’s not a political agenda,” Yannone said. “I mean, I don’t even know what a political agenda is. It’s injustice to have people losing their homes and being stuck in terrible jobs that they hate, just because of insurance, or terrible relationships, abusive relationships, because of lack of health care.” While working as a navigator, she sent around an email to her co-workers stating that “the capitalism of health care is simply inappropriate and untenable” and urging them to sign a MoveOn.org petition that read:

The People’s health is a matter of public safety and a basic human right. It is not an optional commodity to be capitalism-ized and tossed into the marketplace for gambling and profiteering. Rather, it is like the FDA, roads, national defense, etc., to be supported by taxes. Therefore, please introduce National Health Care with a single payer system, aka ‘Medicare for all.’

Yannone claimed to have enrolled 1,100 people in coverage through the Connecticut exchange.

Of course, none of this proves anything. In fact, a GAO official told the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee that the results of the probe are not enough to draw conclusions about widespread fraud on the exchanges. And one bad navigator in Connecticut, or handful in Texas, does not a conspiracy make.

But at the very least the GAO report, along with media reports, casts serious doubt on the notion that everyone gaining coverage on the exchanges is actually eligible. That, in turn, casts doubt on whether the uninsured rate has dropped as much as the NEJM study says it has.

And all this, taken in hand with the Halbig ruling, casts doubt on whether the Obama administration really thought out how the Affordable Care Act would work, or whether it work at all, or whether that was really a priority in passing the law in the first place.

Follow John Davidson on Twitter.

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Summer: One Of The Last Vestiges Of A Patriarchal Society http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/summer-one-of-the-last-vestiges-of-a-patriarchal-society/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/25/summer-one-of-the-last-vestiges-of-a-patriarchal-society/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:43:34 +0000 Brian Willett http://thefederalist.com/?p=20966 What does the word “summer” conjure in your mind? Some might say going to the lake, fireworks, grilling out, or baseball. Or perhaps you think of weddings or working in the yard.

It should come as no surprise, then, that this season of the year and most of its traditions limp along as some of the few surviving totems of a decaying male-oriented construct that has been culture since the beginning of time.

Don’t believe me? Just look at those summer activities. Going to the lake? Which piece of misogyny should I start with? The societal pressure for women to wear a bathing suit? Or maybe the dad who needs to self-validate with the purchase of an oversized, over-torqued, and overly loud (not to mention compensatory) boat.

Oh, the Phalluses

Take baseball and fireworks. A symbol of phallic expression and a symbol of phallic completion. Ever wonder why so many teams have fireworks after games or home run?

Grilling out seems like a relatively benign activity (except for the cow that gave its life). But really examine it. A man using yet another extension of himself to poke and prod at something that never even had the opportunity to say no.

Of course, he can only grill out after he’s placated his troglodyte need to smother his lawn in bee colony-destroying pesticides and then destroy it with an emissions-spewing mower. All for the sake of satisfying his id.

Or perhaps we can talk about the beauty of marriage. Or, as some call it, a contract with man and his property. Or do you really still believe that an engagement ring is steeped in loving, Christian tradition?

Even Don Henley is guilty of micro-aggressions. I guess I should be thankful that at least locomotives aren’t a staple of summer.

Subjugation and Domination

Take American culture out of it and you’ll still see a history of men using this season to subjugate and dominate. And I won’t even address the obvious naming of the representation of summer: the hot sun, a figure always portrayed as a cool guy with sunglasses (and conveniently a homophone for… wait for it… male progeny).

Look at the traditional months of summer: June, July, August. June is at least named after a woman, Juno. Unfortunately, she was likely only chosen because she is the goddess of marriage. July and August are, surprisingly enough, named after (male) Caesars Julius and Augustus.

The French, seeing the damage that a male-centered calendar system could do, even attempted to remove gender influences when they instituted their own during the revolution. They changed the names of the months to Messidor (June), Thermidor (July), and Fructidor (August). These names refer to the harvest, a gender-neutral activity that didn’t depend on war, sex, or domination to succeed (except for Thermidor, whose name was eventually bastardized for yet another women-as-servants motif: the kitchen).

Is it any wonder why Napoleon, a known sexist, quickly ended the revolution? The gender-neutral calendar must have been the last straw (h/t to @voxdotcom for the history lessons).

Should we abolish the traditions of summer? I’m not suggesting that. The next generation will likely mindlessly carry on these practices, never knowing their actual harm. But I do think that, maybe, it’s time to ask if we really need to eat popsicles on a hot July afternoon.

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Are Climate ‘Denialists’ The Most Educated People In The World? http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/24/are-climate-denialists-the-most-educated-people-in-the-world/ http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/24/are-climate-denialists-the-most-educated-people-in-the-world/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 19:43:49 +0000 David Harsanyi http://thefederalist.com/?p=20991 BtUssdeCUAEzHSr

The above chart is featured in an Andrew Sullivan post titled “Demographics of Denialism,” which is taken from a Chris Mooney piece in Grist that tackles what nearly every Chris Mooney piece tackles: the anti-science radicalism of  conservatives.

Here’s what he comes up with:

Not only is the United States clearly the worst in its climate denial, but Great Britain and Australia are second and third worst, respectively. Canada, meanwhile, is the seventh worst. What do these four nations have in common? They all speak the language of Shakespeare.

The reason for this, Moody speculates, is not that the Anglosphere is uniquely populated by some less intelligent species, but rather that three of the top four countries on the list are “linked together by a single individual: Rupert Murdoch.” Fox News! Thankfully we have methodical fact-based thinkers pulling this all together for us.

Then again, since we’re using superficial charts and cobbling together preposterous theories I should probably ask: What else links these countries together?

Well, for one thing, many of them also have the largest number of highly educated people in the world. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s list of most educated populations, in fact, Australia, United Kingdom, United States, Russian Federation, Japan, and Canada have the highest percentage of college graduate level citizens. And using Moody’s logic, this means that my theory is more likely to be true than The Rupert Murdoch Hypothesis, as it ties together six of the nations. So, science.

Korea is the only country that appears among the less skeptical nations (to be fair, North Koreans are already environmentalists.)

Naturally, the poll question that led to all this hypothesizing– from the Ipsos MORI “Global Trends 2014” report — is useless to begin with. Do you agree or disagree with the contention that “the climate change that we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity”? (Italics mine.) Well, you’ve already compelled me to concede that I’m “seeing” climate – which is, in fact, true – but now, if I fail to agree with the theory that the change I see is “largely” driven by human forces, I’m considered a denialist, as well.* That’s convenient. Especially for people who conflate scaremongering and science.

*For transparency’s sake, I admit that I believe man probably has something to do with climate change. But I also believe that present-day progressive environmental prescriptions are not only ineffective but immoral, and would do far more damage to humans than climate change itself.

 Follow David Harsanyi on Twitter.

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