Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bluegrass this Saturday Evening

From our colleague Ryan Hanley:
This Saturday evening, the Cream City Bluegrass Band will be back at our favorite regular east side haunt! We’re playing at Paddy’s Pub (2339 N. Murray, Milwaukee) from 9-midnight. If it’s warm we may be outside on the patio; otherwise, we’ll be in the upstairs bar.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An Endorsement for Obama’s Fuel Economy Standards

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Women’s Lib Hasn’t Created Happiness

From, of all places, the New York Times:
American women are wealthier, healthier and better educated than they were 30 years ago. They’re more likely to work outside the home, and more likely to earn salaries comparable to men’s when they do. They can leave abusive marriages and sue sexist employers. They enjoy unprecedented control over their own fertility. On some fronts — graduation rates, life expectancy and even job security — men look increasingly like the second sex.

But all the achievements of the feminist era may have delivered women to greater unhappiness. In the 1960s, when Betty Friedan diagnosed her fellow wives and daughters as the victims of “the problem with no name,” American women reported themselves happier, on average, than did men. Today, that gender gap has reversed. Male happiness has inched up, and female happiness has dropped. In postfeminist America, men are happier than women.

This is “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness,” the subject of a provocative paper from the economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers. The paper is fascinating not only because of what it shows, but because the authors deliberately avoid floating an easy explanation for their data.

The decline of the two-parent family, for instance, is almost certainly depressing life satisfaction for the women stuck raising kids alone. But this can’t be the only explanation, since the trend toward greater female discontent cuts across lines of class and race. A working-class Hispanic woman is far more likely to be a single mother than her white and wealthy counterpart, yet the male-female happiness gap holds in East Hampton and East L.A. alike.

Again, maybe the happiness numbers are being tipped downward by a mounting female workload — the famous “second shift,” in which women continue to do the lion’s share of household chores even as they’re handed more and more workplace responsibility. It’s certainly possible — but as Wolfers and Stevenson point out, recent surveys actually show similar workload patterns for men and women over all.

Or perhaps the problem is political — maybe women prefer egalitarian, low-risk societies, and the cowboy capitalism of the Reagan era had an anxiety-inducing effect on the American female. But even in the warm, nurturing, egalitarian European Union, female happiness has fallen relative to men’s across the last three decades.
The author, Ross Douthat, goes on to point out that both feminists and traditionalists can spin this data fit their ideology, then suggests that more “family friendly” policies would help things. Then he says some controversial things, all the while pretending that they are not controversial.
[Liberals and conservatives] should also be able to agree that the steady advance of single motherhood threatens the interests and happiness of women. Here the public-policy options are limited; some kind of social stigma is a necessity. But a new-model stigma shouldn’t (and couldn’t) look like the old sexism. There’s no necessary reason why feminists and cultural conservatives can’t join forces — in the same way that they made common cause during the pornography wars of the 1980s — behind a social revolution that ostracizes serial baby-daddies and trophy-wife collectors as thoroughly as the “fallen women” of a more patriarchal age.
Douthat is wrong about this, but he can’t risk telling the truth in the New York Times. What he calls “a more patriarchal age” was simply a more moral age, at least where sexual morality was concerned.

As recently as the 1960s, Republican Nelson Rockefeller was badly disadvantaged as a presidential candidate because he was divorced. Nobody seemed to mind Ronald Reagan’s divorce in 1980, and in 1992 nobody seemed to mind that Bill Clinton was a serial adulterer -- although that was partly because the mainstream media insisted it could not be discussed.

Douthat concludes:
No reason, of course, save the fact that contemporary America doesn’t seem willing to accept sexual stigma, period. We simply don’t have the stomach for permanently ostracizing the sexually irresponsible — be they a pregnant starlet, a thrice-divorced tycoon, or even a prostitute-hiring politician.

In this sense, ours is a kinder, gentler, more forgiving country than it was 40 years ago. But for half the public, it’s an unhappier country as well.
The problem is: at some point, society has to be willing to say “your actions are immoral, they hurt people, we are going to think badly of you because of them.”

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“Pro-Choice” Nazis: No Free Choice on Birth Control

From Pro-Life Wisconsin:
State Budget Committee Rams Through Birth Control Mandates in Dark of Night


Measures would force pharmacies to dispense contraceptives and private and public health plans to cover contraceptives


In a bold move, Democrats on the state’s budget-writing committee inserted two controversial social policy items in the biennial budget bill late Saturday night of Memorial Day Weekend. Introduced as separate bills in past legislative sessions, the items have not been a part of the budget discussion this year. Both measures are part of Planned Parenthood’s 2009-10 legislative agenda. Both passed the Joint Finance Committee on party-line votes with the four minority Republicans voting in opposition, specifically Senators Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Representatives Phil Montgomery (R-Green Bay) and Robin Vos (R-Racine).

The first measure, offered by Senator Judy Robson (D-Beloit) and Representative Gary Sherman (D-Port Wing), would force all Wisconsin pharmacies to dispense prescribed contraceptive drugs or devices “without delay.” Contraceptives are defined to include any drug or device approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that is used to “prevent pregnancy,” including those restricted to distribution by pharmacies such as the morning-after pill. Violators would face up to $2,500 in forfeitures for each violation. The measure passed 12-4.

“This budget motion is a bold attack on the lawful conscience rights of pro-life pharmacy professionals,” said Peggy Hamill, Pro-Life Wisconsin’s state director. “Pharmacists, like doctors and nurses, are valued members of the professional health care team who should not be forced to choose between their consciences and their livelihoods. It is appalling that the Democrats on the budget committee would ram through such a sweeping policy change in the dark of night. It is appalling that they would stick the measure in the budget with zero opportunity by those affected to voice their opposition in a public hearing. This is power politics at its absolute worst.

The second measure, offered by Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine), would force commercial health insurance plans and self-insured governmental health plans (state, county, town, village, or school district) to cover contraceptive drugs and devices. Contraceptives are defined as drugs or devices approved by the FDA to “prevent pregnancy.” The measure passed 11-4.

“Pregnancy is not a disease,” said Hamill. “Why should the government force health insurance companies – and the policy holders who will pay for this expansion through increased premiums – to cover drugs and devices that are purely elective? If a woman doesn’t wish to become pregnant, there are several actions she can take to avoid pregnancy. The real question is who should be responsible for her choices. In the eyes of Planned Parenthood and the pro-abortion movement, we should all foot the bill for the choices she makes.”

Hormonal contraceptives, including the morning-after pill, the Pill, and the Patch, do not always prevent fertilization. Instead, they can act to induce early abortions by chemically preventing implantation of the newly conceived human embryo. Many of these drugs and devices also have serious, sometimes deadly, side-effects.

“It’s ironic that the same individuals who argue so stridently against government intrusion in our private lives are leading the charge for these mandates,” concluded Hamill. “Isn’t it all about choice? Apparently not for pro-life pharmacists, health insurers and patients. Thankfully, the Republicans on the committee refused to tow Planned Parenthood’s line. We applaud Senators Darling and Olsen and Representatives Montgomery and Vos for their ‘No’ votes.”

Once the Joint Finance Committee adopts its version of the biennial budget bill, the legislation (Assembly Bill 75) will proceed to the State Assembly.
It’s a huge irony, but very revealing, that “pro-choice” advocates have absolutely no respect for the choices that other people might make.

They will talk about how birth control and abortion are a “woman’s right,” but rights don’t give you the power to coerce others to provide what you want. Since the end of Prohibition, we all have the right to buy alcoholic beverages. But nobody is forced to sell alcoholic beverages. Since the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision, there is a supposed “constitutional right” to have homosexual sex. But if you can’t find somebody willing to have sex with you, you go without.

But when feminists -- and other politically correct people -- talk about a “right,” they mean an entitlement the provision of which is going to be forced down the throats of people who disagree.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Cheney on the War on Terror -- Uncut and Uncensored

You’ve seen the sound bites, and you’ve seen endless analysis. But an excellent use of the better part of an hour is to see Dick Cheney’s speech uncut.

Compare this to President Teleprompter. It would be easy to say it’s style versus substance. But untimately, the sober recitation of facts and solid logic is a compelling style.







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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Israel & the Palestinians: The Chimera of a “Two State Solution”

Virtually everybody claims to want a “two state solution” in the Middle East -- the State of Israel living alongside an independent Palestinian State.

This sounds reasonable. It sounds sensible. Indeed, it would be both things. Except for one thing. According to Jeff Jacoby:
It isn’t going to happen.

International consensus or no, the two-state solution is a chimera. Peace will not be achieved by granting sovereignty to the Palestinians, because Palestinian sovereignty has never been the Arabs’ goal. Time and time again, a two-state solution has been proposed. Time and time again, the Arabs have turned it down.

In 1936, when Palestine was still under British rule, a royal commission headed by Lord Peel was sent to investigate the steadily worsening Arab violence. After a detailed inquiry, the Peel Commission concluded that “an irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country.” It recommended a two-state solution -- a partition of the land into separate Arab and Jewish states. “Partition offers a chance of ultimate peace,” the commission reported. “No other plan does.”

The Peel Commission’s proposed two-state solution (1937). The Arabs said no.But the Arab leaders, more intent on preventing Jewish sovereignty in Palestine than in achieving a state for themselves, rejected the Peel plan out of hand. The foremost Palestinian leader, Haj Amin al-Husseini, actively supported the Nazi regime in Germany. In return, Husseini wrote in his memoirs, Hitler promised him “a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world.”

In 1947, the Palestinians were again presented with a two-state proposal. Again they spurned it. Like the Peel Commission, the United Nations concluded that only a division of the land into adjacent states, one Arab and one Jewish, could put an end to the conflict. On Nov. 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly debated -- and by a vote of 33-13 adopted -- Resolution 181, partitioning Palestine on the basis of population. Had the Arabs accepted the UN decision, the Palestinian state that “the whole world wants” would today be 61 years old. Instead, the Arab League vowed to block Jewish sovereignty by waging “a war of extermination and a momentous massacre.”

Over and over this pattern has been repeated. Following its stunning victory in the 1967 Six Day War, Israel offered to exchange the land it had won for permanent peace with its neighbors. From their summit in Khartoum came the Arabs’ notorious response: “No peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel.”

At Camp David in 2000, Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians virtually everything they claimed to be seeking -- a sovereign state with its capital in East Jerusalem, 97 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, tens of billions of dollars in “compensation” for the plight of Palestinian refugees. Yasser Arafat refused the offer, and launched the bloodiest wave of terrorism in Israel’s history.

To this day, the charters of Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian factions, call for Israel’s liquidation. “The whole world” may want peace and a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians want something very different. Until that changes, there is no two-state solution.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

A More Humane Alternative

Some Wonderfully Cynical Quotes from H. L. Mencken

Via an e-mail correspondent:
A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn’t know.

A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.

A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.

All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.

Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.

Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

Misogynist: A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.

Platitude: an idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true.

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.

The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.

And finally, two for this Age of Obama:
In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell.

The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.
And McAdams’ corollary to the above:
Sometimes the idiots outvote the sensible people.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blago Hair

So far as we can tell, this is not a parody site, and will actually sell you the stuff.

Just the look for guys who aspire to be corrupt Chicago politicians.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Keep Him Quiet

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Al Qaeda On 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

The Atheist’s Moral Abyss

From Dinesh D’Souza in Christianity Today.
I write this fresh from debating bioethicist Peter Singer on “Can we be moral without God?” at Singer’s home campus, Princeton University. Singer is a mild-mannered fellow who speaks calmly and lucidly. Yet you wouldn’t have to read his work too long to find his extreme positions. He cheerfully advocates infanticide and euthanasia and, in almost the same breath, favors animal rights. Even most liberals would have qualms about third-trimester abortions; Singer does not hesitate to advocate what may be termed fourth-trimester abortions, i.e., the killing of infants after they are born.

Singer writes, “My colleague Helga Kuhse and I suggest that a period of 28 days after birth might be allowed before an infant is accepted as having the same right to life as others.” Singer argues that even pigs, chickens, and fish have more signs of consciousness and rationality—and, consequently, a greater claim to rights—than do fetuses, newborn infants, and people with mental disabilities. “Rats are indisputably more aware of their surroundings, and more able to respond in purposeful and complex ways to things they like or dislike, than a fetus at 10- or even 32-weeks gestation. . . . The calf, the pig, and the much-derided chicken come out well ahead of the fetus at any stage of pregnancy.”
Of course, people like Singer always betray their atheist logic by making strong moral claims. He rejects the notion that Homo sapiens is special. But if we want to treat Homo sapiens as special, what right does he have to say we can’t? If he were willing to argue that God made all creatures, and likes them all equally, then yes, pigs and babies are not morally different. But if there is no God, we have every right to create our own morality.

Indeed, we have a right to create a morality that consigns Peter Singer to prison, or to the stake.
Some people consider Singer a provocateur who says outrageous things just to get attention. But Singer is deadly serious about his views and—as emerged in our debate—has a consistent rational basis for his controversial positions.

To understand Singer, it’s helpful to contrast him with “New Atheists” like Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins. The New Atheists say we can get rid of God but preserve morality. They insist that no one needs God in order to be good; atheists can act no less virtuously than Christians. (And indeed, some atheists do put Christians to shame.) Even while repudiating the Christian God, Dawkins has publicly called himself a “cultural Christian.”

But this position creates a problem outlined more than a century ago by the atheist philosopher Nietzsche. The death of God, Nietzsche argued, means that all the Christian values that have shaped the West rest on a mythical foundation. One may, out of habit, continue to live according to these values for a while. Over time, however, the values will decay, and if they are not replaced by new values, man will truly have to face the prospect of nihilism, what Nietzsche termed “the abyss.”

Nietzsche’s argument is illustrated in considering two of the central principles of Western civilization: “All men are created equal” and “Human life is precious.” Nietzsche attributes both ideas to Christianity. It is because we are created equal and in the image of God that our lives have moral worth and that we share the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nietzsche’s warning was that none of these values make sense without the background moral framework against which they were formulated. A post-Christian West, he argued, must go back to the ethical drawing board and reconsider its most cherished values, which include its traditional belief in the equal dignity of every human life.

Singer resolutely takes up a Nietzschean call for a “transvaluation of values,” with a full awareness of the radical implications. He argues that we are not creations of God but rather mere Darwinian primates. We exist on an unbroken continuum with animals. Christianity, he says, arbitrarily separated man and animal, placing human life on a pedestal and consigning the animals to the status of tools for human well-being. Now, Singer says, we must remove Homo sapiens from this privileged position and restore the natural order.
Why one should prefer the “natural order” to some artificial order created by man is, of course, something that people like Singer can’t answer. A Christian can argue that God created the natural order, but without God, the “natural order” is just as morally arbitrary as any order we might choose to create. Why should a massive cosmic accident have any ethical standing?

One can, of course, create one’s own metaphysical system, and insist that “nature” has some sacred status. But to any consistent skeptic, that is as dubious as God.
This translates into more rights for animals and less special treatment for human beings. There is a grim consistency in Singer’s call to extend rights to the apes while removing traditional protections for unwanted children, people with mental disabilities, and the noncontributing elderly.

Why haven’t the atheists embraced Peter Singer? I suspect it is because they fear that his unpalatable views will discredit the cause of atheism. What they haven’t considered, however, is whether Singer, virtually alone among their numbers, is uncompromisingly working out the implications of living in a truly secular society, one completely purged of Christian and transcendental foundations. In Singer, we may be witnessing someone both horrifying and yet somehow refreshing: an intellectually honest atheist.
Of course, we are already witnesses the consequences of the breakdown of Christian morality as secular elites, especially in the Democratic Party, insist that inconvenient children can (and even should) be aborted. If Obama is able to nationalize the nation’s health care system, we are quickly going to find that whole classes of people whose lives can not be maintained in a “cost effective” way will be allowed to die.

Liberals are agast at the notion that aborting black babies is a good thing, since it (supposedly) reduces the crime rate. But is this just politically correct bias, or is it principle? Coming from people who think that aborting Down syndrome babies is a fine thing to do, it pretty much has to be the former.

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