Tuesday, December 31, 2013

25 Grace Points

Ann Voskamp has developed this graphic to depict her 25 Point Sanity Manifesto for 2014. In her blog post here she elaborates on each of the 25 points.

Make Laughter Your Chocolate

Your work is Art: It needs a soundtrack

Step on the Snake

Stay in the Pool (Don't get distracted)

Go Slow. Life’s so extraordinary it warrants going slow, held in reverential awe.

Everything you say yes to, you say no to something else.

Are your yeses forcing you to say no to what you really want to say yes to?

Count gifts. Write down three things each day you are grateful for.

Tomorrow always begins with the night before, so turn in early so tomorrow can turn out well.

"It's all green"

Doing more with less

Spandrell wrote a piece in November about

the High Level Equilibrium Trap, which is a theory saying that China had developed medieval technology so efficiently that it just never had a need to develop machinery and high density energy sources.

It is perhaps unrelated, but one does have the impression that Asians generally do more with less. The Confucian exhortation to self-improvement and mastery in some way produces a mindset conducive to extracting all the juice from whatever you have, instead of abandon it and come up with something new from scratch.

Beautiful!

The Democracy Initiative

Have you heard of the Democracy Initiative? J. Christian Adams explains,

The Democracy Initiative seeks to alter process in three areas: 1) bloating the voter rolls and attacking election integrity laws, 2) restricting the filibuster, 3) restricting political speech through restricting financial participation.

The groups launching the plan are the heavyweights of the left, and they pledged millions of dollars to the effort. They include the SEIU, AFL-CIO, NAACP, Sierra Club, Common Cause, Center for American Progress, Demos, and more.

The Democracy Initiative is already batting 3 for 3, even without burning the millions pledged by the left.

What is the conservative or Republican response?

Weak — in part because few understand the left’s focus on process. Most still think ideas and substance determine outcomes and do not comprehend the left’s fixation on these process rules.

Whenever millions of dollars are devoted to changing the mechanics of elections to aid the left, to limit political speech, and to usher radicalized nominees through the Senate, you’d think there would be more coverage. But the Democracy Initiative and its goals barely touched the pages of conservative media in 2013. Something designed to “remake America” deserves more attention.

The collapse of media credibility

Ed Driscoll writes that the most underreported news story domestically in 2013 was the complete collapse of media credibility. He cites many examples here.

Moral totalitarianism

Roger Kimball writes that the most underreported domestic item in 2013 was the

was the eclipse of tolerance as a prime liberal virtue and its enrollment in the index of unpermissible reactionary vices.

Homosexuality is one of those subjects — race is another, differences among the sexes is a third — that has been enveloped in a cocoon of politically correct Newspeak. If you violate the cocoon, prepare for ostracism or worse.

What happened to Phil Robertson was typical. GLAAD, the homosexual and “transgender” activist group, attacked him and called on the A&E network, which airs Duck Dynasty, to cancel the show. A&E promptly responded, suspending Robertson.

So far, this was just business as usual in the precincts of our society dominated by so-called “liberal” (really, it’s deeply illiberal) intolerance.

A liberal might tolerate what he disapproved of because he advocated pluralism, or because he valued freedom, or because he believed in free speech. The problem for illiberal “liberals” — that is, for politically correct totalitarians who mouth progressive sentiments to camouflage their fundamental intolerance with liberal plumage — is that tolerance implies criticism. One tolerates something despite one’s aesthetic or moral or intellectual or political disapproval. Gaining tolerance was only the first, ultimately dispensable, step in a process that eventually jettisoned tolerance for the goal of uncritical celebration and affirmation. That is what “thug groups” like GLAAD want: not tolerance but celebration and moral parity. Tolerance is a conspicuous obstacle to those desiderata; therefore, tolerance must be met with intolerance.

Set foot on almost any college campus and you will soon find that the proclaimed “commitment to diversity” really means subscribing to speech codes and adhering to an agenda of intellectual conformity about any contentious issue.

Aiding and abetting a complete lack of transparency

Roger L. Simon asserts that the number one underreported story of 2013 is the same one as the year before that and the year before that:

To put it bluntly: nobody knows nothin’ about the president of the United States, aka the leader of the free world. And what little we do know is highly uninformative and often contradictory.

In a world where every phone call, email, text message, Tweet, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook post, YouTube, Vimeo, LinkedIn link, Google + post, blog post, semaphore, morse code, Braille, and probably burp has been recorded digitally for posterity and beyond, nobody knows what Barack Obama even got in freshman English. (Well, maybe the NSA does, but they’re not telling.)

The press at the end of 2013 is at a remarkable moment. It may be – we don’t know yet – that the unreported story of 2103 (and five years previous) may finally be reported in 2014. Due to a number of factors – the Obamacare lies among them – a critical mass is forming that wants to know the truth. Whether they get it is another question. But whatever the result, a comprehensive – and accurate – biography of Barack Obama, whenever it is published, may be one of the best sellers of all time. I, for one, will certainly be anxious to read it.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Forward into the New Year!

Ann Voskamp thinks about making music:

“We are all going to botch it some days. We all sometimes get the notes wrong. But the song only goes wrong — when we keep thinking back to the wrong notes.”

“When a piece starts to fall apart — fall forward. Fall forward into the next bar. Moving forward is what makes music.“

Failing? What feels likes losing is really gaining experience. Forward!

Falling apart? Fall into whatever. comes. next. Forward!

Fearful? Fear is always the first step of faith. Forward!

Whenever you are lost, forward is always the way Home.

Ann concludes with this Scripture:

“But one thing I do:

forgetting what lies behind

and straining forward to what lies ahead…

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

~Phil. 3:13-14

Next generation surveillance

James Bridle writes,

BRITAIN IS ONE OF THE MOST surveilled countries in the world. Studies put the number of operational CCTV cameras at between two and four million, for a population of 60 million people. The country’s national DNA database holds records on six million people. Telecoms companies are mandated to store logs of all mobile-phone calls and text messages for 12 months, and to make the data available to government at all levels.

In many cities, closed-circuit cameras have built-in loudspeakers that allow operators—mainly local government employees—to speak directly to those they see live on-screen and suspect of foul behavior. As a result, British people are accustomed to the sight of cameras fixed to the outside of buildings, and on poles by the side of the road.

The unregulated nature of ANPR in the United States means that the information regularly leaks out, and can be acquired by third parties—or even sold. Among the vendors is a Texas-based company called TLO, which provides so-called data solutions to law enforcement agencies, lawyers, and private investigators. These “solutions” include individuals’ personal information, addresses, employment, relatives and assets. TLO maintains a vehicle sightings database containing, it claims, one billion location records, with an additional 50 million added each month. For $10, anyone can look up a vehicle’s log to see when and where it has been seen.

What is common to all of these cases is that in each one the police followed established guidelines laid down in laws and public policy documents. The intent was debatable, but it is the regulations that are flawed. It is the regulations that exempted vehicle data from privacy protections, and it is the regulations that do not mention the very real possibilities of harassment, intrusion of privacy and wrongful arrest that are inherent risks of blanket and automated surveillance systems.

How smart are plants?

Plants have electrical and chemical signalling systems, may possess memory, and exhibit brainy behavior in the absence of brains. Construction by Stephen Doyle.

Michael Pollan writes in the New Yorker,
Plants have evolved between fifteen and twenty distinct senses, including analogues of our five: smell and taste (they sense and respond to chemicals in the air or on their bodies); sight (they react differently to various wavelengths of light as well as to shadow); touch (a vine or a root 'knows' when it encounters a solid object); and, it has been discovered, sound. In a recent experiment, Heidi Appel, a chemical ecologist at the University of Missouri, found that, when she played a recording of a caterpillar chomping a leaf for a plant that hadn’t been touched, the sound primed the plant’s genetic machinery to produce defense chemicals. Another experiment, done in Mancuso’s lab and not yet published, found that plant roots would seek out a buried pipe through which water was flowing even if the exterior of the pipe was dry, which suggested that plants somehow 'hear' the sound of flowing water.

Do Elephants Have Souls?

Caitrin Nicol writes in The New Atlantis

They are not us, but to look into their eyes is to know that someone is in there. Imposing our own specific thoughts and feelings on that someone is in one sense too imaginative, in presuming he could receive the world in the way we do, and in another not imaginative enough, in not opening our minds to the full possibilities of his difference.

Nicol includes this from Peter Mathieson's The Tree Where Man Was Born,

There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, an ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.

Nicoli continues,

The birth of an elephant is a spectacular occasion. Grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and cousins crowd around the new arrival and its dazed mother, trumpeting and stamping and waving their trunks to welcome the floppy baby who has so recently arrived from out of the void, bursting through the border of existence to take its place in an unbroken line stretching back to the dawn of life.

After almost two years in the womb and a few minutes to stretch its legs, the calf can begin to stumble around. But its trunk, an evolutionarily unique inheritance of up to 150,000 muscles with the dexterity to pick up a pin and the strength to uproot a tree, will be a mystery to it at first, with little apparent use except to sometimes suck upon like human babies do their thumbs. Over time, with practice and guidance, it will find the potential Welcome to the world: This newborn hasn’t yet stood up and stretched its legs, let alone figured out how to use its trunk. “Elephant Nature Park” by Christian Haugen (CC BY 2.0). in this appendage flailing off its face to breathe, drink, caress, thwack, probe, lift, haul, wrap, spray, sense, blast, stroke, smell, nudge, collect, bathe, toot, wave, and perform countless other functions that a person would rely on a combination of eyes, nose, hands, and strong machinery to do.

From some combination of existential loneliness and intrepid curiosity, we also have for decades now been calling out for someone past the borders of our known experience. Meanwhile, although we’ve been working on it for millennia, the real depths of terrestrial intelligence are almost as unplumbed. Whether there are millions or just one, what does it mean that there is such a thing as Elephant?

The scientific enterprise, that special activity of human beings, brings us proof of their abilities and tools to unriddle them, but scientific language simply breaks down in describing who they are — as it does with beauty or with love — leaving us at the edge of a vast field of signals out of ordinary range. Listen with your ears, your eyes, your heart, your mind, your soul for the message from these kin as improbable as life itself, different and yet the same. We are not alone.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What is a daughter worth in Afghanistan?

A Muslim man in Afghanistan traded his 7-year-old daughter to a 35-year-old drug addict man for two goats, a donkey, some wheat, rice, and other goods. The wedding ceremony was solemnized by an Imam.

The story of Middle Eastern shepherds updated

Kay Wilson, a British born Israeli, was the victim of a terrorist attack in 2010. She writes,

And it came to pass that in December 2010, two Palestinian shepherds left their little town near Bethlehem and set out to walk ten miles across the Judean Hills. There in the forest, they kept watch by night. The following day, at about the 6th hour (3pm) the shepherds saw two women walking along the Israel National Trail. With great fervour they took out their knives and attacked the women.

While shepherds held the girls that day and pinned them to the ground, their serrated blades glinted in the sun, shining all around. With knives to their throats, the women dare not move.

“Fear not,” said the men – for mighty dread had seized the women’s troubled minds – “we bring you good news that will cause great joy for our people.” What could these glad tidings be? Rape, a robbery, a beating? Anything was better than death the women pondered in their hearts.

And it came to pass that near the seventh hour, the shepherds said, “Behold, let us go forth and kill these Jews like Allah has told us to do.”

The shepherds gagged the women, removed their shoes, and bound their hands. They forced one woman to her knees, covered her head and pushed her neck forward. The woman knelt, and prepared herself to be beheaded. Suddenly she saw a great light – the blade of his knife glinting in the sun. The Jewish woman whispered, “Hear Oh Israel.” The Islamic host cried, “Allah HuAkbar,” and the Christian screamed “Jesus,” the name of a Jew born in David’s town.

Thirteen times the shepherds thrust their knives into the women, breaking bones, tearing flesh, even impaling one to the ground. As the Jew played dead, she watched the Christian friend hacked to death before her very eyes.

The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising Allah for all that they had seen and spread the word concerning what had they had done. “Today near the town of David, two Jews have been slaughtered,” they declared. They plotted and schemed, boasting to their neighbours, “this will be a sign, they will find two of their own, all meanly wrapped in bloody clothes and in the bushes laid.” And everyone who heard of it, was amazed.

Read more by Kay here.

How best to aid the conservative cause?

George Will writes that conservatives have believed that the way to persuade unbelievers in the conservative message would be to have them read some well written text written by a conservative. However, Will writes that what conservatives have learned is that the best way to persuade people is for progressives to be elected, and then people can see the bankruptcy of the progressives' policies.

Will writes,

Counterfactual history can illuminate the present, so: Suppose in 2012, Barack Obama had told the truth about the ability of people to keep their health plans. Would he have been reelected? Unlikely. Suppose in 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts, instead of rewriting the health-care law to save it, had been the fifth vote for overturning it. Would Obama be better off today? Probably.

Will wonders if history will repeat itself and progressives and statists will be rebuked by voters for many years into the future. Let's hope so.

Open carry of guns

If you were standing behind a guy in the check out lane who was openly carrying a gun in a holster on his waist, would you be scared? Would you think he was a nut? That was Rick Tosche's reaction when he saw such a person. The town of Castle Rock, Colorado, near where I live, is considering approval of open carry within the town limits. Tosche is freaking out.

If a gunman started opening fire in the store where I work, I would hope that there would be a well trained person with a gun, either concealed or openly carried, who could take out the gunman. The alternative is waiting for the police to arrive, which would take several minutes at best. What is your view?

Obama's regulatory agencies discriminate against gays

Colorado has a shortage of donated blood. Gay men are not allowed to give blood, because, as Brandon Zelasko, who is gay, writes in today's Denver Post,

The FDA defends itself by claiming that I cannot give blood because it cannot find a question for the screener form that reliably identifies "a subset of MSM (men who have sex with men) ... who do not still have a substantially increased rate of HIV infection."

It bears repeating: The FDA discriminates because it cannot find the right question to effectively pre-screen donors.

Zelasko asserts,

Donor screening should focus on sexual behavior and any use of needles.

The FDA works under the premise that all gay men are, by default, promiscuous and engage in dangerous sexual behavior. My partner and I have been in a committed, monogamous relationship for nine years. That would be relevant information for the FDA to ask about.

All gay men shouldn't be allowed to give blood just for the sake of equality. There are certainly gay men engaging in risky sexual behavior who shouldn't be allowed to give blood, but the same can be said of straight men and women. The point is, the same standard should apply to everyone and my sexual orientation should not automatically disqualify me.

Sunnis versus Shiites

Saudia Arabia is sending $3 billion to Lebanon to bolster the government's military. Iran funds Hezbollah, presently the most viable military group in Lebanon. Hezbollah is Shiite Muslim, Saudi Arabia is Sunni Muslim.

He "bumped his head"

Police in Newtown Connecticut have finished their investigation and released more information about Adam Lanza. The New York Post quotes a teacher who said,

“In all my years of experience, I have known (redacted) grade boys to talk about things like this, but Adam’s level of violence was disturbing,” the teacher said. “Adam’s creative writing was so graphic that it could not be shared.”
Did that teacher bring his violent writings to anyone's attention? Yes, apparently to her principal. What did the principal do about it? That is not revealed in the 7000 documents made public yesterday.

We don't know, because the investigation is now closed, and the police have eight more pages of information they do not plan to share.

Jason Howerton writes in The Blaze that

In the documents, a friend told police that Nancy Lanza reported that her son had hit his head several days before the shootings. And an ex-boyfriend told police that she canceled a trip to London on the week of the shooting because of “a couple last-minute problems on the home front.”

Lanza “was undoubtedly afflicted with mental health problems; yet despite a fascination with mass shootings and firearms, he displayed no aggressive or threatening tendencies,” it said.

Mary O'Leary writes in the New Haven Register that

Nobody was allowed into his room, he wouldn’t touch doorknobs, his windows were covered with black plastic bags, his food had to be arranged on the plate in a certain way and he changed clothes often during the day, according to the report.

Nobody was allowed in his room? What, was he the owner of the house? My point is that such entitlement is absurd.

Allan G. Breed and Michael Biesecker write for the Associated Press that
Lanza's real problems appear to have begun after his parents' separation in 2001, when he was 9 years old.

In fifth grade Lanza and at least one other student produced a book entitled "The Big Book of Granny." It is about a granny and her son who

Granny and her son, "Bobolicious," terrorize a group of children. In one episode, Bobolicious tells the children they're going to play a game of "Hide and go die."

Breed and Biesecker write,
Granny uses her "rifle cane" to kill people at a bank, hockey game and Marine boot camp. She also goes back in time and murders the four Beatles, according to a police synopsis.

The book also contains several chapters with the adventures of "Dora the Beserker" and her monkey, "Shoes" — a clear knockoff of the popular children's show "Dora the Explorer."

When Granny asks Dora to assassinate a soldier, she replies: "I like hurting people ... Especially children." In the same episode, Dora sends "Swiper the Raccoon" into a day care center to distract the children, then enters and says, "Let's hurt children."

In the real kids' show, Dora has a backpack that contains a talking map. In Lanza's perversion, the group carries a bag stuffed with an AK-47, an M-16, a shotgun, a musket and a rocket launcher.

The boy who drew the cover illustration — showing Granny firing her cane gun — thought the book was turned in, but that remains unclear.

He told investigators that Lanza was "weird" and "would sit by himself on the other side of the room and would not talk or associate with anybody else." Lanza also came to school with a briefcase, he recalled.

Breed and Biesecker write,

Back at Newtown High, Adam was a member of the Tech Club — although he did not engage much with the others. Instead of participating in gym class, he was allowed to keep a journal.
How does keeping a journal equate to taking a gym class?

Was their sexual abuse, with Lanza being either the perpetrator or the victim? Breed and Biesecker write,

Among the documents investigators found on Lanza's computer was one titled "pbear" that investigators described as "advocating pedophiles' rights and the liberation of children." Another, called "Lovebound," was a screenplay describing a relationship between a 10-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man.

Two weeks before the shootings, the documents say, Nancy Lanza told a lifelong friend that Adam was growing "increasingly despondent" and had refused to leave his room for three months. Despite sleeping on the same floor, they communicated only via email; one document in the police inventory is a "list of problems and requests from the shooter to Nancy."

The mother tolerated that?

On Dec. 10, 2012, she decided to try a little "experiment." She was going to make a short trip to New Hampshire to see how Adam fared alone for a few days.

Shortly before noon, she texted a friend that "she had gotten off to a rough start." Adam had "bumped his head" early that morning, and they were "dealing with blood," according to the police files.

Nancy Lanza returned home late in the evening of Dec. 13.

Within 12 hours, she, her son and 26 others were dead.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What could possibly go wrong?

Dr. Barbara Bellar made this speech in October, 2012.

Thanks to BizzyBlog for reprising this long sentence.

Might video games actually be good for us?

Jane McGonigal summarizes some research here about video gaming. She links to the research on each of the points below.

Gamers of all ages perform better than non-gamers on tests of attention, speed, accuracy, and multi-tasking.

Children who spend more time playing videogames score higher on tests of creativity.

Massively-multiplayer online role-playing games improve cognitive function among elderly players, and can help stave off age-related dementia.

Scary or violent videogames improve children’s ability to manage difficult emotions, such as fear and anger.

Parents who spend more time playing games with their kids have better relationships with them – and the kids have better moods, higher grades and less behavior problems.

First-person shooter games improve our vision – so much so, that they can effectively treat cataracts.

Playing videogames gives us the ability to control our dreams and stop our own nightmares – and therefore are being used to treat post-traumatic stress.

Videogame technology can increase physical activity in children by 60% and decrease physiological risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

Jane also points to research that shows prominent emotions gamers experience. They range

from bliss, to relief, to personal pride, to feeling emotionally close to another player, to surprise, to curiosity, to excitement, to awe and wonder.

What’s extraordinary about these ten positive emotions is that gamers have figured out how to spark and feel them whenever they want, no matter where they are, or what kind of day they’re having. It doesn’t matter if they’re bored or stressed or lonely or frustrated or anxious – gamers can change how they feel, just by starting to play. We know that this is true even for gamers in incredibly difficult conditions. For example, children in hospitals prior to surgery are able to control their anxiety by playing a handheld videogame (see the research), while soldiers in Afghanistan are able to reduce psychological stress by nearly 75% by playing videogames for three to four hours a day (see the research, specifically pages 33-34). In fact, recent clinical trials have demonstrated that online games can outperform pharmaceuticals for treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

The last point she makes in her article is that

There is something transcendent about playing games that lifts us up and out of the tedium and pain of everyday life.

Not So Happy New Year

Guest post by Suzann Darnall

I greatly fear this will be the widespread feeling across America as 2014 begins. Very much a not so happy New Year. And, there seems little we can do to affect the inauspicious beginnings of what should be a time for renewal and fresh starts.

We have brought much of this distress upon ourselves. American citizens have too long languished in the doldrums of inactivity and inattentiveness regarding our government. Far too many of us have simply sat along the sidelines or atop the fence and allowed politicians to simply do as they may, without considering that everything the politicians and government do affects our lives both personally and publicly.

The majority has too often allowed the tyranny of the minority for fear of being accused of one or more of the many politically incorrect labels, most of which are falsely used at the drop of the hat and bear not relation to the realities of who we are and what we do. Because we have allowed fear of being politically incorrect to rule over our lives, we now find ourselves in the political, societal hell of our own making. A place where we cannot do much of anything to relieve the stress and distress that now rules even down to what we are allowed to eat in some cities and what we can say in far too many venues. The Political Correctness (PC) is just a new way to practice old tyrannical controls.

It is time American citizens stand up and take back our freedom. We must exercise our constitutional rights and push back against the ever-encroaching government, politicians, and PC police. The Progressives have expanded their PC control efforts to include almost anything and everything in our lives. They want to tell us how to be a family, what to eat, what to wear, what to drive or ride, what to watch, what to say, who is popular, what is an acceptable religion, whether we should profit from our work, force us to support their "charities" while denying tax-free status to our "charities", and the list goes on and on and on . . . seemingly without any end to the intrusions they consider acceptable to make into our privacy.

It is possible we have allowed the Progressives, Socialists, Democrats, Leftists, and others to make too many inroads into too many aspects of our life to ever get them out again, but we must try. We must be vigilant. We must not be afraid of their name-calling. Names will never hurt us, but their excess controls will destroy us! They already take our money and our freedom . . . so, when will they begin taking our lives?

We must begin now to fight the political battles of 2014 and 2016. We must watch closely at all polling places for fraud. We must insist on nationwide photo ID voting! We must challenge those places which turn in votes exceeding populations or registered voter rolls. We must quit allowing the Left to somehow shame us into being passive about allowing them to steal elections. They are not just stealing elections, people! They are stealing our government, our country, our freedom, and our lives! When we allow them to walk all over our rights we allow them to trample our liberty into the dust and we become their serfs.

We will soon be little more than salve-like minions in their evil empire of complete domination. We will do only as they allow and I can guarantee they will allow very little. We will exist solely to serve our political masters and do only as they deem acceptable.

If any of y'all doubt my predictions for 2014, just recall at what has happened in the past 5+ years under Obama. Think about the things happening in NYC under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Remember the many idiotic things said and done by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Look at Obama's list of czars and his many signed executive orders . . . both things that operate outside our constitutional government checks and balances! And, check out what is going on with ObamaCare!!! If that one fiasco alone does not terrify you, you aren't paying attention!

These people do not care about American lives or the quality of American lives. If they did, we would not have had 4 dead diplomats in Libya . . . with a Secretary of State asking, "What does is matter"? We would not have government medical controls being implemented that take away our choices of plans, doctors, and hospitals, while limiting our access to treatments and options. It is with very good reason that I fear for our lives under an out-of-control Democratic controlled government! These people are neither rational nor compassionate. They are just greedy for more power! They will take it any way they can and do anything to keep it! Even lie, cheat, and steal!

So, while we may not be able to make a happier start to 2014, let's do all we can to make a happier ending for 2014! Make a resolution to be proactive in the political arena. Find the local organizations best suited to preserving our constitutional freedoms and join with them in the efforts to defeat the Democrats and Progressives in every race possible! Don't even allow a Democrat to be elected dogcatcher! 'Cause the Democrat at the local level today maybe the Democrat with enough power to become president in a couple of decades! Stop them at the front gate and allow them to go nowhere! It may well be the only way to wrest back our rights and ultimately preserve our freedom!

© Suzann C. Darnall, DECEMBER 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Much more than just a welfare queen

She stole his color t.v.!

That's what one of Linda Taylor's eight husbands told Detective Jack Sherwin. Taylor was the "Welfare Queen" Ronald Reagan talked about when running for president in 1976.

“In Chicago, they found a woman who holds the record,” the former California governor declared at a campaign rally in January 1976. “She used 80 names, 30 addresses, 15 telephone numbers to collect food stamps, Social Security, veterans’ benefits for four nonexistent deceased veteran husbands, as well as welfare. Her tax-free cash income alone has been running $150,000 a year.” As soon as he quoted that dollar amount, the crowd gasped.

“If she wanted to be a ho, she could be a ho. If she wanted to be a princess, she could be a princess,”

Josh Levin has written an incredibly exhaustive piece on Taylor in Slate; surely worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.

It took a crew of cops nearly 20 hours to count all the cash. There were coins and bills stuffed in the furniture, sheathed in piles of clothes, and stuffed inside laundry bags, pillowcases, cardboard boxes, and an old foot locker. A deputy superintendent said that it was the biggest haul he’d come across in 23 years on the force. The final tally: $763,223.30.
That description was of money found in the house of a Chicago hustler who ran a policy racket. Taylor tried to get that money when he died.

Levin writes,

For Linda Taylor, people were consumable goods, objects to cultivate, manipulate, and discard. Once she’d extracted something of value—an identity, a check, a life insurance claim—she’d move on to someone else. No matter her circumstances, and no matter her surroundings, there was always a new target.

What kind of person behaves this way? In the 1970s, psychologist Robert Hare developed a checklist to assess a given subject’s personality. The symptoms on Hare’s list read like a catalog of Linda Taylor’s known behaviors and personal characteristics: glib and superficial charm, pathological lying, manipulativeness, lack of empathy, parasitic lifestyle, frequent short-term relationships, and criminal versatility.

Saying exactly what he thinks

I urge you to watch this video, if you have not seen it.

If the treatment is killing your patients, you stop the treatment!

Do you want it enough?

Obama: a national Rorschach test

It's my job to call a folly a folly.

You're betraying your whole life if you don't say exactly what you think; and if you don't say it honestly and bluntly.

Tired of the shrill nerdocracy

Victor Davis Hanson wonders if we have gone from the iconic Marlboro Man to Pajama boy without as much as a blink in between. He asks,

how many of us have joined Pajama Boy nation — 20%, 40%, 60%? — and how many want nothing to do with such metrosexual visions of a huge state run by a nerdocracy, incompetently doling out other people’s money. How many were on board for Obamacare, more entitlements, and lectures from the apartheid elite on inequality and fairness, versus how many turn the channel at sound of His voice.

Obama obsesses on inequality, but cannot even go through the populist motions of avoiding Martha’s Vineyard, or not dressing like a nerd for golf at the latest tony course.

He is an arugula-eating man of the people who tries to bowl only during election season. Michelle rags on the 1%, but still hits Costa del Sol and Aspen. Obamacare for us; for congressional staffers and insiders something quite different. A Nobel Prize and a half a billion dollars for guru Al Gore; and dumping Current TV on a fossil-fuelled, anti-Semitic authoritarian Middle Eastern regime to fund more good work of our green Elmer Gantry. Amnesty for illegal aliens, but private academies for liberal kids far from the ensuing chaos of the public schools. Pajama Boys are fiercely liberal so that they can fiercely avoid the people they so champion and are so afraid to live among.

Second, the architects of Pajama Boy nation always expect others to go on despite rather than because of them. The frackers must frack so that Obama can brag about their productivity, while he bites his lip and looks pained to billionaire coastal benefactors about pumping liquid into the bowels of their Mother Earth.

Savings accrued from the sequester that was forced upon Obama by those Tea Party nuts in the House. Gas prices are dropping despite the efforts of Obama to stop fracking and horizontal drilling on federal lands. Senator Obama himself voted to shut down the government under George W. Bush, rather than to raise the debt ceiling — having once passionately adopted the very stance that he now demonizes others for.

There is a growing tiredness with Pajama Boy nation. Millions are sick of being lectured, caricatured, and slandered for their supposed pathologies by the Sandra Flukes of the age and those in their pajamas who still grasp with two hands their hot chocolate. Add all their annoying Stalinist efforts up — to selectively going after Chick-fil-A or the Washington Redskins or Duck Dynasty — and the public is becoming tired of the shrill nerdocracy.

Federal government not planning to require itself to disclose when people get hacked when they go on Healthcare.gov

Private companies are required to publicly disclose security breaches and to notify people if their personal information has been hacked. The federal government is not planning to do that with people whose information is hacked when they go on Healthcare.gov.

Do you know about WhatsApp and Snapchat?

Did you know that young people are leaving Facebook in droves? That is what The Global Social Media Impact Study found when it surveyed 16 to 18-year-olds in eight countries for fifteen months. WhatsApp has overtaken Facebook as the number one way to send messages. Matthew Sparkes writes at The Telegraph that

Snapchat has gained in popularity in recent months by allowing users to send images which “self-destruct” after a short period on the recipients phone in order to maintain privacy.

Snapchat claims that 350 million images are sent every day, and reportedly recently turned down a $3 billion (£1.8 billion) acquisition offer from Facebook. Co-founder Evan Spiegel, who lives at home with his father despite an estimated net worth of $3 billion, last month told The Telegraph that “deleting should be the default”.

Researchers found that close friends were using Snapchat to communicate, while WhatsApp was used with acquaintances and Twitter broadcasted indiscriminately to anyone who chose to follow that person.

I'll stick to blogging.

Democrats on the rocks

Republicans are not the only ones fighting within their party. Molly Ball writes in the Atlantic that the Democrats are also. On the one hand there are those who

believe restraint is necessary in both policy and politics.
They wince at the emphasis on income redistribution and political correctness. These Democrats realize they are going to lose seats in the House and the Senate next year, and they are distancing themselves from Obama.

On the other hand, Ball writes,

Progressive groups would like to play the role in the Democratic Party that the Tea Party plays in the GOP, forcing elected officials to stake out less moderate positions in order to win party primaries.

Obama has managed in the past to convince both sides that he is with them. But some, including Latinos and unions, feel badly let down by Obama's actual policies.

Ball concludes,

If Republicans manage to mend the current rifts that so help their opponents and unite behind a candidate with broad appeal, a Democratic Party already on the rocks could find itself in serious trouble.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Inequality and social rule

Matthew Continetti writes,

It’s a funny thing about the inequality debate that has consumed the American intelligentsia for the past several years: The individuals who are most interested in identifying, describing, diagnosing, and addressing the phenomenon of income inequality are the individuals least affected by it.

The administration focusing all of its efforts on combating inequality is the same administration advocating: an amnesty that would incentivize illegal immigration and drive down low-skilled wages; trade deals with mercantilist nations that would reap profit for Democratic donors and job losses for the low-skilled; a minimum wage increase that makes it less likely an unskilled teen gets his first job; an unending delay on a pipeline that would create jobs and bolster energy independence; and an all-lifestyles-are-equal social policy that offers nothing but speeches in the face of the decomposition of the nuclear family.

What the income inequality debate is about is not social justice but social rule. It is about power, about who wields it and to what purposes, and the slogans and statistics that appear in the papers are the weapons by which a caste of liberals organizes its political coalition and vanquishes its opposites.

Drawing a line in the sand

Betsy Newmark observes,
I bet no GQ reporter would go asking any prominent Muslim what his or her religion felt about gay people.

China: the competitor on our heels

Spengler writes,

Household income in China has grown by 16 times – that’s 1,600% — since 1987, the greatest advance of living standards in history. It has turned a peasant population into urbanites with vastly superior education, health, and expectations.

China is moving 600 million people from the countryside to cities in the space of 25 years, the largest migration in history.

Spengler lists these highlights of China's development:

China’s shore-to-ship missiles can sink a U.S. aircraft carrier 200 miles or more from its shores (its missiles reach space and go straight down, and our countermeasures aren’t designed for that sort of threat)

China will have the most industrial robots of any country by 2014.

Tianhe-2 is the world’s fastest supercomputer.

Beijing Genomics Institute has the world’s largest DNA sequencing capacity.

China had 505 million Internet users in 2011 and expects E-commerce to double between 2012 and 2015.

“Starting from almost no live surveillance capability 10 years ago, today the PLA has likely equaled the US’s ability to observe targets from space for some real-time operations.” (World Security Institute)

In computation, missile technology, satellites and Internet technology, China has reached world class.

China will leapfrog the Wal-Mart and Bank of America model of brick-and-mortar growth and go straight to the Amazon model.

China now plans to build high-speed rail through Southeast Asia, and eventually all the way to Istanbul — along with broadband Internet and pipelines. It’s the biggest infrastructure buildout in world history and it will transform the Asian economy. Southeast Asian countries already are making plans to turn their peasants into high-value-added farmers sending fresh goods by 200-mile-an-hour train to the Chinese market.

This is history’s great exemplar of creative destruction. China will destroy the smokestack economy that Deng built just as Deng destroyed the peasant-centered system that Mao built. It is creating a new tech-driven economy.

What should America do about it? Acting tough doesn’t help. We have to be tough. There’s only one thing that matters, and that is doing what we used to do best: innovate. The economic environment — budgetary, fiscal and regulatory — is more hostile to innovation than at any time since World War II. We need more defense spending, not less, but spending geared to the scientific cutting edge — the kind of focus that gave us the moon shot and the victory over Russia in the Cold War.

The grotesque soap opera in Pyongyang

Did you know that as many as 3.5 million people starved in North Korea in the early 1990s? How are things there now? Richard Fernandez writes,

People have forgotten what it is for the lights to work or to eat to their fill. Food reserves are nil as the country has not produced at self-sufficiency in decades.

Everyone is trapped in the Communist hell that was constructed by Kim Il-sung and there is no way out. That’s the story that lies underneath the veneer of the grotesque soap opera in Pyongyang, the one we laugh at but don’t understand. The least reported story of the year.

Hostage to the hostages

Michael Ledeen writes that secret talks between America and Iran have been going on for years. He reveals that he was involved in them in 1985, when President Reagan was concerned about the well-being of CIA station chief William Buckley, who was held hostage in Iran, and eventually died in torture there. Reagan, Ledeen writes, became hostage to the hostages, and Ledeen wonders if Obama has, too.

The decline of American power

Claudia Rosett believes that the most underreported foreign news story of 2013 is the decline of American power.

This past year saw many parts of this story covered in detail. There has been endless print about the U.S.-led diplomatic dalliance with Iran, from which Iranian officials emerged to announce their “inalienable right” to enrich uranium, while America officials advertised as an achievement a half-baked short-term nuclear deal that has been neither clarified nor implemented. Not only has the U.S. failed to stop the “unacceptable” Iranian bomb program; America has gone far to erode its own credibility in denouncing as unacceptable — yet de facto accepting — everything from rogue nuclear programs to the theft of massive amounts of information from its own National Security Agency. Where does this go?

There’s also been plenty written about the rise of Putin’s increasingly despotic and ambitious Russia — looming over Ukraine, and reasserting itself in the Middle East. This year brought the U.S. climbdown over Syria, in which the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons translated into gains for Moscow and irrelevancy for Washington. Another story was China’s territorial jockeying, along with Japan’s growing worry about the reliability of the old U.S. defense umbrella. On North Korea, there has been plenty of copy devoted to young hereditary tyrant Kim Jong Un conducting his maiden nuclear test — North Korea’s third since 2006 — while the U.S., alerted in advance, looked on.

The pogrom against Christians in Islamic countries

Andrew McCarthy writes that

The most underreported foreign news story of 2013 is the pogrom against Christians in Islamic countries.

It is, after all, directed at Christians because there are no more Jews left to persecute.

The charter of Hamas, like the charter of Hezbollah, calls for the extermination of Jews. Yet the West increasingly treats these terrorist organizations as if they were regular political actors espousing respectable agendas. Moreover, all of the blather about a “two-state solution” always assumes an Israel in which Muslims live freely and a Palestinian state purged of Jews. The message to Islamic supremacists is clear: Aggression works and, for all our incessant chatter about toleration and diversity, there will be no comeuppance for the religious persecution and institutional discrimination innate in sharia governance.

Having established these principles, Islamic supremacists have now turned their hostile attention to the remaining Christian minorities in the Middle East. Life was no picnic for Copts in Mubarak’s Egypt, but at least they had some hope of the law’s protection. When Mubarak was ousted, the stepped up persecution of Christians was a direct result of the fallacy that popular elections serve to “democratize” countries bereft of democratic culture.

Meanwhile in Iraq, where the United States endorsed the adoption of a sharia constitution, the United Nations estimates that a million Christians have fled the country in the last decade. In Syria, Christians are systematically targeted by the Sunni jihadists waging a civil war against the Assad regime. Thousands of Christians were evacuated from Sudan this year because the Islamic-supremacist government regards them as enemies of the sharia state. Similarly in Shiite Iran, where sharia is the law of the land, Christians are systematically imprisoned for practicing and preaching their faith.

Sadly, we could have written this essay at the end of 2012, and the story will be no different at the end of 2014. If Muslim societies are not confronted about religious persecution, they are encouraged to persist in it. That is our shame.

Ann Barnhardt explains some science and some Catholic dogma

Is there anyone like Ann Barnhardt? Here is Ann explaining some science and some Catholic dogma to us:

Why was it essential for Mary to be sinless and sinless from the moment of her conception? That’s where the science comes in.

There are two phases to Mary’s existence. The first phase was from the moment of her conception until the Annunciation, which is when Jesus was conceived in her womb. The second phase was from that moment of Jesus’ conception forward for all eternity. Each phase has its own physiological delight attached to it which required Mary to be a sinless vessel for Our Lord.

First, the pre-Annunciation period. As it has been discovered just within the last few decades, all baby girls have all of the eggs that are ever going to be in their ovaries fully formed not just at birth, but fairly early in their fetal development phase. Unlike men who are continuously producing new sperm, a woman’s eggs aren’t created and formed with each menstrual cycle. All that is happening during a cycle is that an egg, which has been fully formed in a woman’s body since she was a pre-born fetus, is released into the reproductive tract. What this means theologically is that the egg containing the 23 chromosomes that God would miraculously fertilize with 23 chromosomes that He miraculously supplied (including a Y chromosome) to become the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ, was physically present inside Mary’s body from the time that Mary was inside of her mother’s womb. That egg, and those chromosomes, that physical constituent of Our Blessed Lord was present inside of Mary’s body, waiting to be . . . if I may use the word . . . consecrated. The word consecrate, when broken into its Latin components means:

Con: With

Secr: Holy

Ate: Territory of a Ruler

And so, Mary was, from the time she was inside St. Anne’s womb, already carrying a portion of Our Lord’s physicality, namely 23 of His chromosomes. And thus Mary was, from her very beginning, already a proto-tabernacle, already the Ark of the New Covenant, carrying within her what would be consecrated into The Law Incarnate, The High Priest, and The Bread of Life – just like the Old Ark, except perfected and fully fulfilled as God Incarnate. And as we know from the book of Exodus, the Old Ark had to be “perfect”. And thus, the Ark of the New Covenant was TRULY perfect, except this perfection was a perfection that only God Himself could accomplish: the perfection of Mary, full of grace and thus saved from all sin, including Original Sin.

The second phase is actually broken into two sub-phases. The first sub-phase is when Mary was pregnant with Jesus and His entire body was inside of hers.

The second phase is that phase from the time of Jesus’ birth forward into all eternity. Jesus is STILL physically inside of Mary in a unique way. It was discovered just a few short years ago that immune cells pass from a pre-born child to the mother across the placenta. Not only do these immune cells, which are the child’s and thus carry the exclusive and complete DNA of the child, pass across the placenta, but they persist in the mother’s body for the rest of her life. A woman who has carried a son has immune cells with Y-chromosomes in her bloodstream that can now be filtered out of her blood and observed. Female children also pass cells to their mothers.

Thus, a woman truly does carry her children around inside of her, with their DNA coursing through her heart, for the rest of her life. That isn’t just a sentiment – it is a physiological fact.

Thus, Mary continued and continues to this day to be a perpetual, living physical tabernacle of her Son, as she carries cells with His DNA in her bloodstream. And so now we see why Mary was and had to be filled with grace and thus saved from the stain of sin from the moment of her conception eternally forward – because she was and is a perpetual Ark of the New Covenant.

This also explains why Mary’s body was assumed into heaven immediately at the end of her earthly life, because her body literally contained living cells of Our Lord and thus her body could not remain on earth in physical death to decay in any way.

She simply was afforded the same physical resurrection that all of the faithful will receive, albeit instantaneously for her, given her very special state, both spiritually and physically. This is what is doctrinally referred to as “The Assumption”.

Finally, if you are a quasi-Christian Protestant-pagan reading this and it has made you the least bit angry, you need to sit down and ask yourself one excruciatingly simple question: WHY? Why are you so utterly consumed with hatred for the MOTHER. OF. GOD.?

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Muslims target Christians on Christmas Day in Iraq

Viewer discretion is advised regarding this extremely graphic video of the aftermath of a Christmas bombing by Muslims in a Christian area of Baghdad, Iraq.

Thanks to Pamela Geller

What is left of the 4th Amendment?

Bill Whittle:

The NSA admits to harvesting virtually every email and phone call made by American citizens. That's a lot of warrants based upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation. Who is doing the oathing and affirmationing?

Thanks to Jim at Asylum Watch for posting this video.

Another exclusive interview interrupted

Manhatten Infidel was all set to interview Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, when two vile creatures from MSNBC interrupted. Wouldn't you know it?

Home health care cuts looming

Are you a senior? Do you know what is coming for you on January 1, 2014?

Thanks to Jim at Asylum Watch

Protecting the President

You may have read about how a fake interpreter pretended to be doing sign language during Obama's address at the funeral of Nelson Mandela. This event was very embarrassing to our Secret Service. Don't worry, though, the Director of the Secret Service has announced some plans to correct the mistakes.

Agents must perform seven new duties. Here is one of them:

Metal detectors shall be set up at each entrance to ensure that no weapons are brought into the building. This includes agents, who will no longer carry gross, patriarchal firearms but shall use the moral authority of a progressive government to ward off danger.

It's Kwanzaa: time to pull out the daishiki

Do you want to know more about Kwanzaa? Ann Coulter, as usual, has done the research:

Karenga's invented holiday is a nutty blend of schmaltzy '60s rhetoric, black racism and Marxism. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are the very same seven principles of the Symbionese Liberation Army, another innovation of the Worst Generation.

Kwanzaa was the result of a '60s psychosis grafted onto the black community. Liberals have become so mesmerized by multicultural nonsense that they have forgotten the real history of Kwanzaa and Karenga's United Slaves -- the violence, the Marxism, the insanity.

Most absurdly, for leftists anyway, they have forgotten the FBI's tacit encouragement of this murderous black nationalist cult founded by the father of Kwanzaa.

Kwanzaa emerged not from Africa, but from the FBI's COINTELPRO. It is a holiday celebrated exclusively by idiot white liberals. Black people celebrate Christmas

Christians in Iraq slaughtered on Christmas Day

How was Christmas Day in Iraq? Rick Moran reports,

Three separate bombs were detonated in the Christian neighborhood of Baghdad leaving 37 dead and dozens wounded.

Churches are routinely targeted and not just by al-Qaeda. Local clergy whip the population into an anti-Christian frenzy and attacks are carried out by ordinary people.

All across the Middle East - from Syria, to Lebanon, to Egypt, to Iraq, Tunisia, and Algeria, Christians are literally under the gun. Authorities refuse to do the things necessary to protect Christian populations from terrorism and the west stands mute as the faithful flee the region for more tolerant countries.

Armageddon in 2014?

Which is more dangerous to world peace, the Middle East, or Northeast Asia? Thomas Lifson writes at American Thinker,

While I have assumed for decades that the Middle East had the greatest potential to ignite a catastrophic world war, Japan, China, and the two Koreas are offering some serious competition in the volatility sphere.

Japan's Prime Minister Abe has seriously ticked off China and the Koreas by visiting Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where the souls of the war dead are believed to rest, including not just the Imperial warriors who inflicted incredible suffering on Japan's neighbors, but also the war criminals.

Meanwhile, the Japanese public is fairly strongly behind Abe, who is seen as restoring some kind of honor and pride to Japan, which has groveled before the outside world since its defeat in WW II, or as the Japanese call it, The Pacific War (so as to distinguish it from Japan's successful military forays into Asia - it was only drawing America into the war that ruined things for Japan). For the Japanese, obligation to one's ancestors who made sacrifices is a central cultural value. Despite the unfortunate results, those who died in the cause of the Emperor are seen as having made a noble sacrifice. That is why Abe felt so strongly as to make a Yasukuni visit on the first anniversary of taking office - a kind of moral force multiplier.

Japan is suffering from a kind of spiritual crisis for the last two decades, as its economy has stagnated, and its younger generation is declining to reproduce. The population is falling by 200,000 people a year, resulting in shrinking markets. In such an environment, reverting to tradition, and honoring those who sacrificed is a kind of comfort that has wide appeal.

Lifson points out that in North Korea, China, and Japan,

we have domestic political dynamics at work in three countries that push each regime toward bluster and confrontation. And a power-mad, callow, and insecure dictator armed with nukes. Throw in deep historical grudges still clung to with passion, and you have a recipe for Armageddon.

Oh yeah, and then there are the mad mullahs who could launch a war that would block the Persian Gulf and cut off oil supplies to East Asia, which would lead to extreme privation at the least, and over a matter of months, probably starvation. 2014 could end up being one of those years like 1914, where the world changes forever.

Generate economic growth!

What do the poor need? Your money redistributed to them? Or a strong, vibrant, growing economy? Robert E. Grady writes in the Wall Street Journal that

In periods of high economic growth, such as the 1980s and 1990s, the vast majority of Americans gain, and have the opportunity to gain. In periods of slow growth, such as the past four and a half years since the recession officially ended, poor people and the middle class are hurt the most, and opportunity is curbed.

If the goal is to deliver higher incomes and a better standard of living for the majority of Americans, then generating economic growth—not income inequality or the redistribution of wealth—is the defining challenge of our time.

Where has the stimulus money gone?

Regarding growth, Mr. Obama claimed in his speech that we should use some money "to create good jobs rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports, and all the infrastructure our businesses need." Yet a recent analysis by BCA Research shows a sharp drop in real spending by the government on nondefense infrastructure since the president took office. When a Democratic Congress passed the president's massive $800 billion stimulus bill, seven-eighths of the total went to transfer payments like Medicaid, food stamps and sending a check to millions of Americans who do not pay income taxes.

Thanks to Donald Douglas for linking to the WSJ article.

50,000 new AIDs infections a year in America

What is happening with AIDS? The New York Times reports,

Nationally, 25 percent of new infections are in black and Hispanic men, and in New York City it is 45 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the city’s health department.

The AIDS epidemic in America is rapidly becoming concentrated among poor, young black and Hispanic men who have sex with men.

Despite years of progress in preventing and treating H.I.V. in the middle class, the number of new infections nationwide remains stubbornly stuck at 50,000 a year — more and more of them in these men, who make up less than 1 percent of the population.

Snowden versus Krauthammer

Edward Snowden gives a Christmas message. Is he a hero or a traitor? Is he exaggerating the threat to our privacy?

Charles Krauthammer invites Snowden to come home and explain himself to a jury of his peers. If you are a patriot, trust your peers, for whom you say you have done this. If, on the other hand, you are a traitor, then you will hide out in countries who are American adversaries, whom you have enabled by exposing the tradecraft of our espionage, so that our enemies may one day launch an attack on the United States.

Thanks to Donald Douglas for posting the videos.

Seize a common future of security, prosperity and peace!

Thanks to Donald Douglas for finding this video

Stand fast in liberty

From a piece written in 1949 by Vermont Royster, and published annually in the Wall Street Journal since:

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter's star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Thanks to Donald Douglas

Gratitude and materialism: opposites

American Power linked to an article in the Wall Street Journal on the importance of having an attitude of gratitude. It seems that the "social scientists" are now getting interested in the subject. Several studies have been conducted, and the results are what you would expect.

One study found that

A 2013 study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin that tracked materialism in 355,000 high school seniors from 1976 to 2007 found that desire for lots of money has increased markedly since the mid-1970s, while willingness to work hard to earn it has decreased.

Further, teens who strongly connected buying and owning things with success and happiness reported having lower GPAs, more depression and a more negative outlook. "Materialism had just the opposite effect as gratitude—almost like a mirror," says study co-author Jeffrey Froh, associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Mainstream views influencing pop culture

Adrienne Royer writes at The Federalist,

It was only a matter of time before the left complained about Phil Robertson. His actual quotes in GQ are almost insignificant – at some point, someone was going to go after him for his views on guns, women, and even his much-hated “yuppie” comments.

The surprise should be how liberals dismissed the rise of Duck Dynasty until this fall, when it was too late to stem the show’s popularity. Once it became evident that this family held so much influence, the left suddenly realized they faced the first threat to their decades-long monopoly on popular culture.

Duck Dynasty was the top 3 show on television among all categories according to Nielsen ratings released on Thursday.

In just four years, the Robertsons have gone from hosting a hunting and fishing show on the Outdoor Channel to starring in the most popular reality TV show in history. This astonishing growth – and their ability to merchandise practically any product sold at Wal-Mart – demonstrates how the show’s primary focus on humor combined with their beards, camo, and frat boy antics can push messages supporting traditional marriage, church, masculinity, and gun rights.

Like many Americans, the lives of the Robertsons revolve around their church, kids’ activities, work and family get-togethers. Because of their honesty about struggles with alcoholism, drugs and overcoming poverty, the Robertsons demonstrate that it is possible to have a close, traditional family unit in modern times without relying on government handouts.

The threat of the Robertsons isn’t in Phil’s politically incorrect comments. The threat is that this family has figured out how right-wing politics and Evangelical Christianity can influence pop culture without being the punch line or the bad guy. While the left has spent decades making conservatives look like idiots and Christians look like bigots, Duck Dynasty reminds average Americans that these views are mainstream. The left is alerted but will those on the right take advantage of what the Robertsons have created?

Mark Steyn on the Age of Tolerance

Mark Stein is in a conflict with his editor at National Review. Stein wrote this weekend about the Duck Dynasty controversy,

What GLAAD is attempting would be called, were it applied to any other identity group, “cultural appropriation.”

In the broader sense, it’s totalitarian. While American gays were stuffing and mounting the duck hunter in their trophy room, the Prince of Wales was celebrating Advent with Christian refugees from the Middle East, and noting that the land in which Christ and Christianity were born is now the region boasting “the lowest concentration of Christians in the world — just four percent of the population.” It will be three, and two, and one percent soon enough, for there is a totalitarian impulse in resurgent Islam — and not just in Araby. A few miles from Buckingham Palace, Muslims in London’s East End are now sufficiently confident to go around warning local shopkeepers to cease selling alcohol. In theory, you might still enjoy the right to sell beer in Tower Hamlets or be a practicing Christian in Iraq, but in reality not so much.

It is not enough to have gay marriage for gays. Everything must be gayed. There must be Five-Year Gay Plans for American bakeries, and the Christian church, and reality TV. There must be shock brigades of gay duck-hunters honking out the party line deep in the backwoods of the proletariat. Obamacare pajama models, if not yet mandatorily gay, can only be dressed in tartan onesies and accessorized with hot chocolate so as to communicate to the Republic’s maidenhood what a thankless endeavor heterosexuality is in contemporary America.

Here are two jokes one can no longer tell on American television. But you can still find them in the archives, out on the edge of town, in Sub-Basement Level 12 of the ever-expanding Smithsonian Mausoleum of the Unsayable. First, Bob Hope, touring the world in the year or so after the passage of the 1975 Consenting Adult Sex Bill:

“I’ve just flown in from California, where they’ve made homosexuality legal. I thought I’d get out before they make it compulsory.” Advertisement For Hope, this was an oddly profound gag, discerning even at the dawn of the Age of Tolerance that there was something inherently coercive about the enterprise. Soon it would be insufficient merely to be “tolerant” — warily accepting, blithely indifferent, mildly amused, tepidly supportive, according to taste. The forces of “tolerance” would become intolerant of anything less than full-blown celebratory approval.

Second joke from the archives: Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra kept this one in the act for a quarter-century. On stage, Dino used to have a bit of business where he’d refill his tumbler and ask Frank, “How do you make a fruit cordial?” And Sinatra would respond, “I dunno. How do you make a fruit cordial?” And Dean would say, “Be nice to him.”

But no matter how nice you are, it’s never enough. Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, in his career-detonating interview with GQ, gave a rather thoughtful vernacular exegesis of the Bible’s line on sin, while carefully insisting that he and other Christians are obligated to love all sinners and leave it to the Almighty to adjudicate the competing charms of drunkards, fornicators, and homosexuals. Nevertheless, GLAAD — “the gatekeepers of politically correct gayness” as the (gay) novelist Bret Easton Ellis sneered — saw their opportunity and seized it. By taking out TV’s leading cable star, they would teach an important lesson pour encourager les autres — that espousing conventional Christian morality, even off-air, is incompatible with American celebrity.

Steyn's editor, Mr. Steort scolded,

By way of criticizing speech, I’ll say that I found the derogatory language in this column, and especially the slur in its borrowed concluding joke, both puerile in its own right and disappointing coming from a writer of such talent.

To which Steyn responded with a challenge,

It is a matter of some regret to me that my own editor at this publication does not regard this sort of thing as creepy and repellent rather than part of the vibrant tapestry of what he calls an “awakening to a greater civility”. I’m not inclined to euphemize intimidation and bullying as a lively exchange of ideas – “the use of speech to criticize other speech”, as Mr Steorts absurdly dignifies it. So do excuse me if I skip to the men’s room during his patronizing disquisition on the distinction between “state coercion” and “cultural coercion”. I’m well aware of that, thank you. In the early days of my free-speech battles in Canada, my friend Ezra Levant used a particular word to me: “de-normalize”. Our enemies didn’t particularly care whether they won in court. Whatever the verdict, they’d succeed in “de-normalizing” us — that’s to say, putting us beyond the pale of polite society and mainstream culture. “De-normalizing” is the business GLAAD and the other enforcers are in. You’ll recall Paula Deen’s accuser eventually lost in court — but the verdict came too late for Ms Deen’s book deal, and TV show, and endorsement contracts.

I am sorry my editor at NR does not grasp the stakes. Indeed, he seems inclined to “normalize” what GLAAD is doing. But, if he truly finds my “derogatory language” offensive, I’d rather he just indefinitely suspend me than twist himself into a soggy pretzel of ambivalent inertia trying to avoid the central point — that a society where lives are ruined over an aside because some identity-group don decides it must be so is ugly and profoundly illiberal. As to his kind but belated and conditional pledge to join me on the barricades, I had enough of that level of passionate support up in Canada to know that, when the call to arms comes, there will always be some “derogatory” or “puerile” expression that it will be more important to tut over. So thanks for the offer, but I don’t think you’d be much use, would you?

How dumb do you have to be to scold Mark Steyn, and not expect a devastating reply?

Craig's List ad

FIFTY YEAR OLD MANURE SPREADER – $1 ( WASHINGTON , DC ) Fifty-year old manure spreader. Not sure of brand. Said to have been produced in Kenya . Used for a few years in Indonesia before being smuggled into the US via Hawaii. Of questionable pedigree. Does not appear to have ever been worked hard. Apparently, it was pampered by various owners over the years. It doesn’t work very often, but when it does it can sling shit for amazing distances. I really don’t want it hanging around getting in the way. I would prefer a foreign buyer to relocate the manure spreader out of the country. I would be willing to trade it for a nicely framed copy of the United States Constitution.

Location: Currently being stored in a big white house in Washington , D.C. Found here.

Where is your spine, America?

Laura Hollis is a professor at the University of Notre Dame. She writes,

The unveiling of the dictatorial debacle that is Obama care absolutely flabbergasts me. It is stunning on so many levels, but the most shocking aspect of it for me is watching millions of free Americans stand idly by while this man, his minions in Congress, and his cheerleaders in the press systematically dismantle our Constitution, steal our money, and crush our freedoms.

The President, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid (with no small help from Justice John Roberts) take away our health care, and we allow it. They take away our insurance, and we allow it. They take away our doctors, and we allow it. They charge us thousands of dollars more a year, and we allow it. They make legal products illegal, and we allow it. They cripple our businesses, and we allow it. They announce by fiat that we must ignore our most deeply held beliefs – and we allow it.

The President is not a king. Barack Obama does not behave like a President, an elected official, someone who realizes that he works for us. He behaves like a king, a dictator – someone who believes that his own pronouncements have the force of law, and who thinks he can dispense with the law’s enforcement when he deigns to do so.

Obama is not a centrist; he is a central planner. And this – all of it: the disastrous computer program, the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted, the lies, the manipulation of public opinion, the theft of the public’s money and property, and freedom (read insurance, and premiums, and doctors) — IS what central planning looks like.

Obama is deceitful. Just as the collapse of the computer program should not surprise anyone, neither should we be shocked that the President lied about his healthcare plan.

The media is responsible. And had the media been doing their jobs, we would have known a lot of this much, much earlier. The press is charged with the sacred responsibility of protecting the people from the excesses of government. Our press has been complicit, incompetent, or corrupt. Had they vetted this man in 2008, as they would have a Republican candidate, we would have known far more about him than we do, even now. Had they pressed for more details about Obamacare, Congress’ feet would have been held to the fire. Had they done their jobs about Eric Holder, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS scandal, NSA spying – or any of the other myriad betrayals of the public trust that this administration has committed, Obama would likely have lost his 2012 reelection campaign. (A fact that even The Washington Post has tacitly acknowledged. Well done, fellas! Happy now?)

We are not SUBJECTS. (or, Nice Try, the Tea Party Isn’t Going Away). We have tolerated these incursions into our lives and livelihoods too long already. There is no end to the insatiable demand “progressives” have to remake us in their image. Today it is our insurance, our businesses, our doctors, our health care. Tomorrow some new crusade will be announced that enables them to take over other aspects of our formerly free lives.

Texting romantic odes

Ch writes,
If Romeo were alive today, he’d be staring at his phone under Juliet’s balcony, furiously texting her romantic odes as she watched them arrive on her phone from up above him. If you think we’ve lost something human in the transition, just wait until you get a load what the future has in store…

Pride cometh before the fall

CH writes at Chateau Heartiste about the differences between the elites who are running our country and the people who live in it.
You know what’s happening? Multidirectional, multivariate, multicausal American decline. Every metric, every signpost, every judicial fiat, every subversive narrative points to the same destination: The drain. The deviants and degenerates and destroyers are as close to the sun now as they’ve ever been. This is their moment. They can feel the warmth of validation. The radiant glow of coerced acceptance. The flare of triumph over human nature. Fat Pride, Femcunt Pride, Freak Pride, Furry Pride, Slut Pride, Anti-White Pride, Gay Pride and now Pantywaist Pride. Pride cometh before the fall.

Wrong

Matt Walsh writes that

If it isn’t wrong to kill children, then it can not be wrong to do anything else.

I’m often told that I need to be more understanding on this topic, but this is an unfair request. There are people — millions of them, in fact — who think it should be legal to murder babies, but then illegal to, say, pay a fast food worker less than minimum wage, or refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. How could I possibly understand this mentality? How could I wrap my head around the thought process that leads one to conclude that the latter cases are so atrocious — so dehumanizing — that they ought to be outlawed, but the former case is so acceptable that it ought to be vigorously defended, and even funded, by the federal government?

Matt then tells about a couple in Washington that has just won a fifty million dollar lawsuit against a hospital.

Brock and Rhea Wuth sued a hospital because their son was born severely disabled. No, they were not alleging that the hospital caused the disability; they alleged that the hospital (and a lab testing facility) did not run the correct tests that would have detected the genetic defects while the child was still in the womb. Had they been given the correct tests, they would have known that the baby was “defective,” and then killed it. Tragically, they were robbed of the opportunity to abort their son, so the hospital must pay for the son’s care — for the rest of his life.

Can you imagine how this is going to affect the cost of having your baby in a hospital?

Parthenogenesis

Maureen Dowd wonders if women really need men any more for anything other than ornaments. Fred Reed retorts that Ms. Dowd
ain’t got the sense God give a crabapple.
In fact, Fred hopes Ms. Dowd has mastered parthenogenesis. Look it up

Is God at the center of Christmas?

This writer says so.

We are told that there are approximately 2 billion Christians all over the world. Many hundreds of millions of them are celebrating Christmas with great joy, hope, and devotion—most of them openly, but some in secret and in fear for their lives.

They are joined by hundreds of millions more people – nominal Christians and non-Christians—who enjoy the parties, candies, family traditions, special foods, gifts, music, decorations, days-off—all the emoluments, meeds, and premiums, all the glow, if you will, of the Christmas season. They bask in the pleasures of the holiday but remain indifferent to or uninterested in the fact that God is at the center of the thing.

Nowhere—nowhere—in the Bible are Christians commanded to observe Christ’s birthday.

They are simply given the facts concerning his birth: the manner of it, its place in man’s history, and its implications for man’s destiny. The event is recorded in only two places, the gospels of Matthew and Luke. It is described in a spare and straightforward narrative using remarkably chaste language: Angels without exaggeration; a heavenly host without hyperbole. And although we are given its historical context—the Augustan census taken between 6 and 4 B.C. for purposes of military service and taxation—we are not given the exact date or even time of year of the birth.

It is almost as if God said to man, “Make of this event what you will.”

And the result has been a spontaneous celebration, heartfelt and lasting; an expression of joy—a peculiarly infectious joy—that has echoed down through the centuries. History has judged the event astounding and the implications profound—God’s entry into human history for the purpose of delivering his most loved creation from the consequences of their own behavior. This birthday, fixed by tradition at the close of the year, has literally brought joy to the world, changed the way man keeps track of time, and inspired some of the greatest and most beautiful music, art, and literature of all time.

American Digest linked to this post at The American Magazine.

Light

Have you ever heard of Newgrange? I had not. It is the oldest known building in the world. Gerard Vanderleun writes,

Newgrange was built 1,000 years before Stonehenge and also predates the pyramids by more than 500 years.
It was built about 3200 BC, during the Neolithic period, which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. It is in Ireland.

Go the Gerard's blog to read about what happens every year there during winter solstice. Gerard writes,

No matter what time and the universe can throw at us, we still go on. To remind ourselves that we have and shall endure and prevail, we still mark our small planet's turn around our home star. We mark it with ceremonies every year when, at this moment in time, the sun begins to rise higher to warm us again in our small patch of heaven. And we are still here to bear witness, no matter how shrill the Acolytes of Zero, to the mystery and the gift. We're a tough race and a rough species. It will take more than a few degrees centigrade, one way or another, to finish us.

The light of the solstice pierces to the heart of the tomb at Newgrange, and then, soon after, the Light of World arrives. Two moments that remind us of the many manifest miracles of God. Reminders that no winter is without end and that The Gift is given to us again. If we can but receive it.

Do you hate Walmart?

Gerard Vanderleun made a trip from Seattle to New England. Suddenly he needed a warm coat. He got this one at Walmart.

Go here to read about his shopping experience, then stay and read all the comments.

Stand fast in liberty

"....But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

"Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

"Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter's star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

"And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

Review & Outlook: In Hoc Anno Domini - WSJ.com -- This editorial was written in 1949 by the late Vermont Royster and has been published annually since.

I found it at American Digest

Merry Christmas from the You Tube animals

The animals of You Tube wish us a Merry Christmas.

I found it at American Digest

Simple, free, where we ought to be

Which one won this year, quantity, or quality? Gerard Vanderleun remembers a gift he received that was one of his favorites.

Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free.

Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be.

Reaching out

By Christmas Eve, Ann Voskamp's upside down tree was all "reaching out." Not curling down, curling out. Reaching out. Ann has discovered,

Climbing ladders of doing doesn’t make your life grow bigger —

it’s reaching out with loving that makes your life grow bigger — better.

What's under your tree today? Ann shares with us a story about a little boy in Africa, who had one toy under his tree.

Ann writes,

Only what you have given away will ever give you joy.

When you give to the least of these, you give to the Greatest of All and get the greatest joy.

Ann met this child who eats ants off her dirt bedroom floor.

The candle light service at the new age church

Last night after work I went to a candle light Christmas Eve church service at the Mile High church in Lakewood, Colorado. A fellow employee at work invited me. He has been very kind to me. I had recently apologized to him for making fun of his new age beliefs. I prefer Victor Davis Hanson to Deepak Chopra.

He asked me to meet him in the parking lot of a church just west of where I work. He said that church was a "sin and fear" church on the north side of the road. That church was dark, having already had its candlelight service two hours earlier. I parked my car there under a light, and he drove me into Lakewood, which was about an hour away.

The Mile High church tells its audience members that "you are the ones you have been waiting for!" I audibly winced and almost jolted out of my seat when I heard those words come from the pastor's mouth. I thought I was listening to Barack Obama!

Divine? I know that I am one hundred percent human, and zero percent divine. I am real clear about that. If there is any divine in me, it is the Holy Spirit, not me. I want the Holy Spirit to be able to make me a gift of His grace to others, but I know the difference between divine and human.

Peace on Earth? Not as long as there are jihadists killing Christians and preparing nuclear warheads aimed at Israel. Not as long as there are brutal totalitarian regimes building up their militaries while we scale down ours.

The church was packed to its 1100 seat capacity. The music was fabulous. The cellist was superb, as was her fellow acoustic musician who played several guitars. There was also an organist/piano player who was excellent, and a drummer who was outstanding. There was a large exuberant choir and a smaller children's choir. One of the children had the most beautiful, pure soprano voice, and she sang a breathtaking version of O Holy Night. There were several other soloists who were first rate. My favorite was the black man who led us in singing Joy To The World, which was the most rousing rendition I have ever participated in. Throughout the hour and one-half music and dance was interspersed with the new age message from the various pastors.

I was wishing my three children would have been with me. They have been going to a Catholic Church with Colleen in Santa Fe. They hate it. "Boring" is always how they describe the experience. Colleen loves it, though. The priest is an escapee from North Korea, and she admires him greatly. She also like the reverence and discipline of the service. She believes church is a place where you go to worship God, not be entertained. The kids would have enjoyed Mile High church, though.

One God, one truth. Rejoice and be glad!