Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Sad Case of Treyvon Martin and George Zimmerman

Like most of America, I have watched the news coverage of the Treyvon Martin shooting with a mixture of sadness and horror. I've also had a few of my friends and family ask me what I think of the case, to which I have replied in the following manner:

I don't know. I wasn't there.

These six words are simple, and yet they seem impossible for the talking heads, pundits, and professional grievance mongers to utter. It seems as though the rabble-rousers and opinion makers feel compelled to opine upon something that no one witnessed, and those individuals have, predictably, fallen along partisan lines, with leftists overwhelmingly declaring shooter George Zimmerman guilty of race-based murder, while those on the right wing have been grasping for a reason to exonerate him.

This, I think, demonstrates some of the petty partisanship and pack mentality that is poisoning this nation. Race hustlers such as Al Sharpton and the New Black Panther Party, along with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farakkhan, see this as a perfect opportunity to demonstrate Whitey's oppression (nevermind the fact that Zimmerman is half Hispanic). The anti-gun crowd wants this to be a cold-blooded murder so that they finally have an example of a legally-armed citizen committing a violent crime with a gun to use as fuel for a nationwide gun ban. Conservatives have had a kind of knee-jerk tendency to defend Zimmerman for the same reasons; they don't want to provide the left with ammunition demonstrating racism in action or the risk that an armed citizen will act improperly with his firearm. In a very real sense, the way that a person views this incident is predetermined by his or her political philosophy, and the actual facts of the case are secondary, if they are ever considered at all. The problem is that just like me, none of the people speaking out on this incident were present, and none of them knows exactly what happened. This is itself a tragedy.

I'd like to make a suggestion to everyone out there who wants to lynch Zimmerman or claim that Martin had it coming. Stop, look yourself in the mirror, and repeat the following six words:

I don't know. I wasn't there.

If you want to argue for gun control, fine. If you want to defend the right of Americans to carry firearms, fine. If you want to have a discussion on the current state of race relations in the U.S, fine. But to make a judgement on the Treyvon Martin case just so that you can use it to further a political position makes you intellectually dishonest, and demonstrates that you have no problem sacrificing the truth in order to further your cause.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Statistics Don't Lie...

Over the weekend, I was listening to my Pandora feed while working on my current project, a 1966 Mustang coupe restomod, and one of the advertisements nearly made me choke on my beer. The ad was from Obama's campaign, and touted the fact that under Obama, United States oil production is at the highest point in eight years. According to the Obama campaign website:
"That’s why President Obama has taken concrete steps to put us on a path to energy independence and create an economy that’s built to last.American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years, and we are less reliant on foreign oil than at any time in the last 16 years. Natural gas production is at an all-time high."
In truth, U.S. oil production is at the highest point in eight years. Currently, the U.S. produces approximately 5.6 million barrels/day, which matches what was being produced in 2003. The Obama campaign wants to take credit for this, but as is usually the case, the facts are a bit more, how shall I say... nuanced.

As was parroted endlessly by leftists right after the turn of the century, it takes about a decade to ramp up production above an oil reserve before output is at its max. This was cited by leftists as a reason not to tap oil reserves in ANWR during the Bush presidency. The claim was made that additional drilling wouldn't help lower prices now, so it wasn't a solution to the high pump prices being seen in the early 2000's. Here is a leftist site which posted this exact claim late in Bush's presidency. Here is the money quote on why opening up new areas to oil drilling was not a solution:
"New drilling wouldn’t bring the first drop of oil to market for at least 10 years—and they know it. Normally, it takes years—to set up operations, dig test wells, and build a functioning oil rig—before any oil goes to market. On top of that, all of the oil drilling ships in the world are booked for the next five years. So it would take 10 years before any oil is pumped out of new offshore wells..."
Now, my math is rarely wrong, so unless I'm terribly mistaken, Obama has been president for just over three  years. Therefore, any actions taken by Obama to increase domestic production, by leftists' own admission, will not have any effect on actual oil production for another 5-7 years, at least.

So, what gives? Why the increase in oil production starting in 2008? Well, as it turns out, most of this production is the result of exploitation of the Bakken formation in North Dakota. The attempts to exploit the Bakken began in earnest in 2000, and the leftists were right: it took eight years to get all of the infrastructure in place, and now the oil is beginning to flow. The important thing to note is that all of the field leases and EPA red tape were taken care of during the Bush administration; Obama has had exactly zero to do with the increase in domestic oil production. The real fact is that Obama has attempted to stymie any new oil exploitation the entire time he has been in office. He was too late to screw up the Bakkens, though, and now he wants to take credit since the oil has started flowing. It's a damn lie.

The phrase from which I took the title of this post is "Statistics don't lie, but liars use statistics." In this case, the phrase holds true. Obama is completely against U.S. oil production, and to twist the domestic oil production number in order to make it seem otherwise is one of the more blatant examples I've seen in recent memory.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Cult of the Perpetually Aggreived

After my post yesterday, I was fully prepared to let the whole "Evil Rush Limbaugh calls a poor college coed a slut" issue go, but it actually presents a good opportunity to discuss something that I notice on a regular basis whenever a controversial issue is being discussed.

For starters, let's take a look at the situation. Last week, Rush Limbaugh referred to professional political activist Sandra Fluke as a a "slut" based on her claim that she goes through $1000 worth of contraceptives per year. This statement was met with much crying, wailing, and gnashing of teeth from the left, and the issue was vaulted to such prominence that a number of Limbaugh's sponsors have jumped ship rather than be tied to the misogynist bastard. Under pressure, Limbaugh issued an apology, which Fluke has declined to accept.

I'm going to make a radical claim here: no one who has publicly expressed outrage or offense with regards to Limbaugh's statement, including Fluke herself, were even remotely offended by Limbaugh's statement. They have always despised Limbaugh, and see this as nothing more than an opportunity to draw blood, as well as taint the motives and intentions of anyone that disagrees with them by association.

There are a few reasons that I hold this viewpoint. For starters, if all of the outrage really was about a woman being called a slut, then we would have seen similar outrage when "comedian" Bill Maher called Sarah Palin a "cunt." Or when he referred to her as a "twat." Or when MSNBC host Ed Schultz called conservative radio host Laura Ingraham a "slut." Or when Jimmy Fallon's house band played the song "Lyin' Ass Bitch" to welcome Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann onstage. No, this isn't really about insulting a woman, because it's clearly OK to call women all manner of sexist names, provided that they possess the wrong political sensibilities.

Second, the whole thing comes right out of the Saul Alinsky playbook. In Rules for Radicals, Alinsky, a leftist political activist, literally wrote the book on winning political battles at all costs. In Rules, Alinsky states that "The third rule of the ethics of means and ends is that in war the end justifies almost any means," and "The tenth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments." As part of his discussion of tactics, he goes on to state that "In a fight almost anything goes. It almost reaches the point where you stop to apologize if a chance blow lands above the belt." The entire book is filled with exhortations to lie, obfuscate, ridicule, resort to personal attacks; anything that furthers the cause is legitimate, since political victory is the only thing that matters. Since Alinsky is regarded as one of the patron saints of modern progressive political activism, is it really so hard to conclude that the Limbaugh dust-up is nothing more than manufactured outrage intended to muddy the waters and paint Fluke's political opponents as evil, sexist bastards?

In response to Limbaugh's apology, Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom has the following to say:
"So. Did Limbaugh’s apology change anything? Or has it merely emboldened those who will use any tools to silence us to step up the scapegoating, and demand even further loyalty pledges and movement purges?
Just asking. Because as you all know, I would have fought the very premise that the Left and it’s faux outrage over Limbaugh’s use of “slut” was anything more than an intentional attempt to take him out of context and use the resultant disingenuous narrative to silence powerful voices who stand in opposition to their political agenda of “fundamental transformation.” I would have loudly and clearly told them that we won’t be cowed by your dishonest and cynical rhetorical gamesmanship — and that we see right through you.
But then, I’m an outlier. And not a pussy."
I tend to agree with Jeff; to allow the left to make this about Limbaugh's choice of words is to play right into the left's hand, and to act as though this is anything other than an attempt to silence political opponents through cynical deception and fake offense is to give up the game.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

This is Christian Libertarianism

In a post titled "What is a Christian Libertarian?" Acton Institute blogger Joe Carter attempts to define those who label themselves both Christian and Libertarian. He comes up with a total of five possible categorizations, ranging from those who don't really understand the terms, to those who just like the label, to what he labels as Type #1, which he describes thusly: "Type #1 Those who have developed a consistent philosophy in which libertarianism and Christianity are fully compatible." Of Type #1, he has this to say:
"Although I’m not sure I’ve ever met a Type 1—and I’m not sure it’s even possible—I believe this is the ideal use of the term.
Of course no one is going to be have a perfectly consistent religio-political worldview. But this should be our goal. And if we find that it’s nearly impossible to resolve the tensions between the two (as with Christian Marxism), then the intellectually respectable choice would be two abandon one or the other.
The trouble with being a Type 1 Christian libertarian is that it appears to limit the types of Christian views you can hold. For instance, I’m not sure it’s possible to be a politically consistent Catholic and politically consistent libertarian since the social doctrines of the Catholic Church are often antithetical to libertarian doctrines. (But I could be wrong.)"
Since I am both a Christian (of the born-again evangelical variety, no less), and a registered Libertarian, I'd like to attempt to demonstrate to Mr. Carter, as well as any others out there who are interested, why I believe that I am a Type #1, and that it is intellectually consistent.

First, it is necessary to begin with what Martin Luther called the "Two Kingdoms" approach, which Carter references in his post. According to Luther, God rules the kingdom of Earth through secular governance and the kingdom of Heaven through his divine grace. Key to the Two Kingdoms doctrine is the belief that human authority cannot coerce religious belief; true belief comes voluntarily and individually. Therefore, it is not within the purview of government to enforce spiritual laws; instead government's rightful place is to maintain the peace. Later political philosophers such as John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine have maintained that the proper purpose of government is to protect personal property and individual liberty, and that each individual must make his own moral choices beyond that line.

With this in mind, we can take a look at Libertarianism, and where it fits in with a Christian worldview. According to the Two Kingdoms mindset, Libertarianism can be a legitimate political choice for a Christian, provided that it does not have irreconcilable differences with Christianity (as Carter points out is definitely the case with Marxism). To do this, we can take a look at the general definition of Libertarianism. According to
"Libertarianism is, as the name implies, the belief in liberty. Libertarians strive for a free, peaceful, abundant world where each individual has the maximum opportunity to pursue his or her dreams and to realize his full potential.
The core idea is simply stated, but profound and far-reaching in its implications. Libertarians believe that each person owns his own life and property, and has the right to make his own choices as to how he lives his life – as long as he simply respects the same right of others to do the same.
Another way of saying this is that libertarians believe you should be free to do as you choose with your own life and property, as long as you don't harm the person and property of others.
Libertarianism is thus the combination of liberty (the freedom to live your life in any peaceful way you choose), responsibility (the prohibition against the use of force against others, except in defense), and tolerance (honoring and respecting the peaceful choices of others)."
In general, libertarians support the rights of each individual to be guided by his or her own conscience, provided that each individual respects other individuals' rights to do the same. At heart, Libertarianism is an amoral political philosophy; beyond the promotion of personal liberty and private property rights, it neither promotes nor discourages any particular behavior. Instead, it supports the individual's right to abide by their own moral convictions. Where major parties attempt to enforce their moral code (Republicans wanting to ban drugs & prostitution, Democrats promoting forced wealth confiscation and redistribution), Libertarians believe that sexual morality and charity are areas best left to the individual and the private sector. This does not mean that we encourage prostitution and discourage helping the poor; it merely means that these are things that government should steer clear from.

There is, I think, a mistaken idea among many evangelicals that Libertarians support homosexuality, prostitution, abortion, drug use, and myriad other morally-objectionable behaviors. This is simply not the case. While many Libertarians may in fact support such behaviors as a personal matter, it is not the party or philosophy that supports such things; instead we leave such things to the individual. Therefore, while I may believe that homosexuality or prostitution is morally wrong, I can as a matter of public policy also contend that it is not government's role to regulate such things. (As an aside, the only area where I depart from the official Libertarian platform is the issue of abortion. Since I believe that life begins at conception, I believe that it is within the proper role of government to protect the life of the unborn. I would, however, point out that this standpoint is still intellectually consistent with the libertarian standpoint that government's proper role is the protection of life.)

Ultimately, Libertarianism is a political philosophy, not a moral worldview. Therefore, it is shared by people of many personal convictions, from the pothead, to the gay couple, to the married evangelicals in rural North Carolina (like me). These are people who would likely not get along at a dinner party, and may disagree vehemently about what is right and wrong, but who believe that "live and let live" is the best government philosophy.

And, really, isn't that what Jesus taught? Jesus did not come to Earth to establish a kingdom, and specifically forbade his disciples from attempting to do so. Instead, he encouraged personal morality and individual conversion. Make no mistake; Jesus taught a very specific moral code, but he did not attempt to force it on anyone. Instead, he allowed individuals to choose to follow him or not, and, by extension, to follow his moral directives or not. We can argue about whether the Libertarian model for government is the best, but I don't think that there is any question that it is compatible with a Christian worldview.

Freedom, Sluts, and Rush Limbaugh

Last Thursday, a Congressional hearing was held regarding the Department of Health and Human Services' decision to mandate birth control coverage as part of insurance plans. The big objection to this mandate has come from Catholic institutions, which adhere to the Catholic doctrine that birth control is a sin, and that to pay for birth control would make the institution party to a sinful activity.

Prior to the hearing, congressional Democrats invited Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke to speak to the committee. According to Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the hearing, her name was submitted too late to be considered, and Fluke was not allowed to address the committee. Fluke, however, has found a number of willing outlets for her tale of woe, including a hearing before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, chaired by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. During the hearing, Fluke argued that for some, contraception is a medical necessity (since it is used to regulate hormones in some individuals with medical disorders), and that the cost of contraception for someone attending law school is $3000 over the course of the program. Fluke's conclusion, along with that of Pelosi, is that Georgetown, a Catholic institution, should be forced to provide contraception coverage as a part of their student insurance plan, even if it violates the school's religious convictions.

Many pundits on the right have responded to the buzz surrounding the Fluke story. Most notably, radio host Rush Limbaugh referred to Fluke as a "slut" on his radio program, a comment which has drawn rabid criticism from the same group of leftist malcontents that have had no similar misgivings about calling Sarah Palin far, far worse. In addition to Limbaugh's inflammatory comment, others have pointed out that Georgetown charges $46,000/year for law school, making the claim that students cannot afford birth control a little silly, and that the Target pharmacy a few miles from campus sells Ortho Tri-Cyclen for $9/month ($324 for a 3-year stint in law school), putting lie to the $3000 claim.

While this demonstrates that law students clearly don't have to be good at math, it really detracts from the truly important issues here: the true nature of freedom and the dishonesty with which progressives go about attempting cultural and political change. Let's take the latter issue up first. Some of the things that have come to light about Ms. Fluke since her story became national news:
  • Fluke is not a "23-year-old coed" as some sources have reported. She is a 30-year-old women's rights activist who led a conference discussion on reproductive justice at the Law Students for Reproductive Justice's 2011 national conference.
  • Fluke had reviewed Georgetown's insurance policy prior to starting law school, knew that it did not cover contraception, and decided to attend the school anyway, precisely so that she could contest the policy.
Fluke, with her progressive enablers, is attempting to pass herself off as a victimized, 20-something student who doesn't have access to a medical necessity because the mean old religious stiffs have deemed it improper. The fact is that she is a professional political activist who has misrepresented both herself and the reality of the situation in order to sway public opinion.

Now, let's take on the topic of freedom and rights. Fluke would have you believe that this is about reproductive rights, but this could not be farther from the truth. Fluke attends Georgetown University, a private institution, by her own choice, not because she has been forced to. By her own admission, Fluke was aware of the contraception policy before she enrolled. Furthermore, Georgetown does not forbid the use of birth control, they simply will not pay for it. To claim that this is about rights is to imply that Georgetown (or according to Obamacare in general, the American public) has a duty to provide contraception to anyone who wants it. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: rights do not include the freedom to do whatever you want while someone else pays for it. This type of "freedom" is intellectually inconsistent because it imposes upon the freedom and rights of another. In other words, your rights cannot come as the result of my servitude. The only kind of freedoms that can truly exist are those that can be universally held; those that can be had without making another your servant. In fact, while progressives like Fluke would have you believe that they are championing freedom, what they are actually doing is attempting to force others, at the point of the government's gun, to do their bidding. Georgetown is not the oppressor here, it is the victim.

This debate should be about individual rights and the proper role of government in private life. Instead, it's become about a blowhard radio host calling a dishonest political hack a slut. That, of course, plays right into the progressive's hand, because it takes attention away from the real issues, and obfuscation always favors the dishonest in a debate.

So, on to the real question: is Sandra Fluke a slut? I don't really know, nor do I care. I do know, however, that she is a fraud and a charlatan, which is far worse. I'd much rather be honest and promiscuous than chaste and a liar.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Yeah, That's Kind of the Point

In 1929, the stock market crashed. Most of you know this. The reason for the crash, however, is probably known by far fewer. And those of you who "know" the cause probably learned about it in public schools, which means that you were taught some variation that put the excesses of unregulated capitalism at the forefront of the nation's economic collapse. In this case, it's not so much what you don't know, to paraphrase Mark Twain, it's that what you know ain't so. Since this post isn't really about the '29 market crash, I won't get into it in too much detail, I'll just point out that one of the things being debated in Congress in late 1929 was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, the most aggressive protective tariff since the so-called Tariff of Abominations in 1828. Given that the 1828 tariff played no small part in the secession of several southern states in 1860-1861, it isn't too much of a stretch to believe that a similar tariff could cause a severe economic panic a century later.

I bring up Smoot-Hawley in order to highlight the federal government's response, which was the most sweeping takeover of the economy by the federal government in U.S. history. That's right, kids: the federal government's solution to a problem created by the federal government is more federal regulation. The icing on the cake was the successful revision of history which has placed the blame for the original failure at the feet of the capitalist system.

In 1966, the practice of using socialism to wreck capitalism, all while placing the blame on the capitalist system itself, was given a name: the Cloward-Piven strategy. Richard Cloward and Frances Piven advocated encouraging people to apply for welfare en masse in an attempt to overload the welfare system, which would lead to economic collapse and an implementation of a full-scale Marxist wealth-redistribution program. Today, Cloward-Piven is used generally to refer to the practice of progressives using leftist programs to break the system, at which point private industry can be blamed and further leftist programs can be posited as a solution to the failure of the private model.

All of this leads to the recent decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to require Catholic and other religious institutions to provide birth control and abortifacients as part of mandated insurance coverage. Many conservatives have used this as evidence of the Obama administration's aggression toward Christianity and conservative values in general. While I agree that Obama is anti-Christian, I think that there is something more sinister at work here, and the proof can be found in a statement by Cardinal George earlier this week, in which he states that the birth-control mandate will force Catholic hospitals to close:
"What will happen if the HHS regulations are not rescinded? A Catholic institution, so far as I can see right now, will have one of four choices: 1) secularize itself, breaking its connection to the Church, her moral and social teachings and the oversight of its ministry by the local bishop. This is a form of theft. It means the Church will not be permitted to have an institutional voice in public life. 2) Pay exorbitant annual fines to avoid paying for insurance policies that cover abortifacient drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization. This is not economically sustainable. 3) Sell the institution to a non-Catholic group or to a local government. 4) Close down …"
Option 1 is non-viable, since without funding from the Church, these private hospitals will likely have to shut down. Option 2, as stated, is not economically sustainable. That leaves options 3 or 4. Option 3 will likely mean the takeover of Catholic hospitals by government, and Option 4 means that there will be a void in health care provision. In such a case, the government will undoubtedly claim that it must step in to fill a public need, all the while blaming the lack of health care options on the Catholic church.

And that, folks, is how the strategy works. Use government to completely destroy something in the private sector, then claim that the failure of the private sector to fulfill a need is cause for the government to step in and take care of things. As I state in the title, if Catholic hospitals shut down as a result of the birth control mandate, it will not be an unfortunate consequence, it will be the whole purpose. This is Cloward-Piven at work, with the necessity of single-payer health care as the result.