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Comstock Race Resurrects the Clinton Wars



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The race for a vacant swing Congressional seat in the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. looks both forward and backward. GOP candidate Barbara Comstock, who became a conservative after reading an issue of National Review, is running on her record in the state legislature as a problem-solver. John Foust, a Fairfax County supervisor, pledges to bring home the bacon for a district chock full of federal employees. 

But Democrats, finding it hard to run against the personable Comstock, have resurrected the Clinton Wars of the 1990s, when a GOP Congress locked horns with a White House intent on blocking scandal investigations ranging from Travelgate to Filegate to Whitewater. Comstock was a chief investigator for the House Government Oversight Committee, the committee now chaired by Representative Darrell Issa. Politico has a delicious recounting of the ancient Clinton political struggles playing out in this year’s campaign:

Clinton allies, however, are convinced that Comstock would quickly return to the warpath if she makes it to Congress — and are bent on stopping her.

[Virginia governor Terry] McAuliffe will soon host a fundraiser for Foust and “plans to do everything he can” to help the Democrat, an aide said. “His brush with Comstock came in February 1997 when, working late one evening, she uncovered a McAuliffe memo that seemed to suggest that the president have donors over for White House sleepovers. The revelation sent the Clinton White House into damage control mode.

Comstock so bedeviled the Clinton White House that the wounds from that era clearly haven’t healed. The Politico article also quotes Paul Begala, a former adviser to Bill Clinton, who has now assumed the role of attack dog against Comstock.

“If she wins, she will no doubt practice the same politics of personal destruction she and her ilk practiced in the Clinton days,” he said. He accuses her of having a “really almost sick, sort of stalker-like obsession with President Clinton.”  Hmm . . . Comstock has rarely brought up her investigative past during the campaign. As for the Democrats, one of her allies resurrects an old campaign line of President Clinton, saying, “We have crossed the bridge to the 21st Century; they have not.”

Breaking Through



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In the last couple of days, I have been writing notes about Communism and anti-Communism, Communists and anti-Communists. (There is another category, by the way: anti-anti-Communism, whose practitioners are anti-anti-Communists. WFB and NR used to write about these people all the time. There were always people who objected to anti-Communism more than they did to Communism. There still are.)

For the second and final installment of my little series, go here. I would like to jot one more note, here on the Corner.

Some weeks ago, I was seated at a dinner next to a woman from the former Soviet Union. She is an exceptionally worldly woman, someone who has had a diplomatic life on several continents. She is from a prominent and influential family. She earned a Ph.D. in economics from Moscow State University — this was back in Soviet days.

I asked her whether she had been a believing Communist. She said yes. “We all were. We were brainwashed, mesmerized. We never heard anything except that life in the capitalist West was miserable.” I asked whether her professors had been Communists. Yes, she said. “They would not have been allowed to hold those positions otherwise. They were carefully vetted.”

Now, this woman is unusually bright and sophisticated. And she had a desirable family background. If she was taken in — if she was unable to break through the indoctrination, until later — what chance did the ordinary Joe have? What about the Ivans and Olgas on the street?

I think of an Egyptian woman I knew, also a worldly person, who has traveled widely, speaks several languages, etc. When the terrorists struck on 9/11, she said, “It could not have been Arabs or Muslims.” Who must it have been then? Well, you might guess. (Rhymes with “choose,” as Rick Brookhiser might say.)

And I thought, “If this woman is subject to such thinking, what about the people on the streets, who have not had a fraction of the opportunities to learn about the world that she has had?”

To some degree, most people are prisoners of their time and place, I suppose. Most people go with the flow around them. “Come out from the world and be separate” is easy to say — but very hard to do. Going with the flow is the norm. And the flow can be bad. This makes the righteous dissenters, the Solzhenitsyns and Sakharovs, all the more remarkable.

P.S. We are all sure that, if we lived in a totalitarian society, we would be dissenters. Are we really sure? Maybe there is a touch of wishful thinking involved . . . 

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Obamacare’s Architect Agreed That Only State Exchanges Could Offer Subsidies



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Tonight, Reason’s Peter Suderman published an interesting revelation about the history of the decision reached this week by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, that Obamacare subsidies couldn’t be distributed unless it happened through a state exchange.

It turns out that one of the key minds behind Obamacare, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, entirely agreed with Michael Cannon and Jonathan Adler, the scholars behind the legal theory that backed up the Halbig plaintiffs who triumphed this week.  He’s on the record explaining that Obamacare subsidies are limited to state exchanges. 

Suderman writes:

Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist who helped design the Massachusetts health law that was the model for Obamacare, was a key influence on the creation of the law. He was widely quoted in the media. During the crafting of the law, the Obama administration brought him on for his expertise. He was paid almost $400,000 to consult with the administration on the law. And he has claimed to have written part of the legislation, the section dealing with small business tax credits.

After the law passed, in 2011 and throughout 2012, multiple states sought his expertise to help them understand their options regarding the choice to set up their own exchanges. During that period of time, in January of 2012, Gruber told an audience at Noblis, a technical management support organization, that tax credits—the subsidies available for health insurance—were only available in states that set up their own exchanges.

A video of the presentation, posted on YouTube, was unearthed tonight by Ryan Radia at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has participated in the legal challenge to the IRS rule allowing subsidies in federal exchanges. Here’s what Gruber says.

“What’s important to remember politically about this is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits—but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying [to] your citizens you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges. But, you know, once again the politics can get ugly around this. [emphasis added]“

In case you need to see it to believe it, here is the video:

It’s kind of embarrassing, considering that Gruber told Mother Jones in 2013 that Adler and Cannon’s theory was nutty and stupid:

Jonathan Gruber, who helped write former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care law as well as the Affordable Care Act, calls this theory a “screwy interpretation” of the law. “It’s nutty. It’s stupid,” he says. And beyond that, “it’s essentially unprecedented in our democracy. This was law democratically enacted, challenged in the Supreme Court, and passed the test, and now [Republicans] are trying again. They’re desperate.”

Oops

It could be that he suffers from short-term memory loss. A few days ago, he was interviewed by Chris Matthews and he argued that the issue is simply a typo:

Let`s go to Jonathan. Jonathan, was this a typo, saying that only if you had a state exchange could you get a subsidy and therefore be required to participate, or was it some significant policy decision not to include  states that didn`t have exchanges?

JONATHAN GRUBER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Chris, it is unambiguous this is a typo. Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it`s a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the federal states. And why would they?

Look, the law says that people are only subject to the mandate if they can afford insurance, if it`s less than 8 percent of their income. If you get rid of these subsidies, 99 percent of the people who would get subsidies can no longer afford insurance, so you destroy the mandate.

Double oops. 

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

Suderman’s piece is here.

Web Briefing: July 28, 2014

Goldberg: Putin Wants Ukraine Crisis to Seem Murky



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Krauthammer’s Take: Obama Has Done ‘Nothing of Substance’ about Ukraine



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On Thursday’s Special Report, Charles Krauthammer slammed President Obama for his failure to take meaningful action to resolve the Ukraine crisis. The lack of American leadership in international affairs is responsible for the “general perception that the world is going to hell and the president’s out playing golf” and has registered in recent opinion polls, he said.

Obama likes to use false dichotomies to justify his inaction, Krauthammer said. “And of course when the president is inactive as he is now on this issue, [he] has done nothing of substance, they say ‘Well, what do you want to do? Go to war? Send troops into Ukraine?’” he said. “Whereas as Jonah [Goldberg] indicated, the alternatives, the other policies between nothing and war, there is a huge range of territory.”

The middle-range policies Krauthammer suggested include giving military aid to Ukraine, such as jamming equipment to protect airplanes from missile attacks.

Gender Theory 207



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Throwing your grandmother under a bus — that’s bad. Throwing your mother under one — that’s matricide, really bad. Throwing your mother-in-law under a bus — well, that’s a sophisticated feminist interpretation of the psychology of a wayward husband:

Hillary Clinton blamed Bill’s sex addiction on the abuse he suffered as a child by his mother, new book reveals.

Senate Republicans Huddle over Border Crisis



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A meeting hosted by Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R., Texas) failed to unite the Republican conference behind a legislative response to the influx of Central American children at the southern border of the United States.

“The effort to try to coalesce around one piece of legislation totally fell apart,” a Senate aide familiar with the events of the Thursday evening meeting told National Review Online. “You’re just not going to get a large number of Republicans behind any one bill.” 

Some senators dislike the policy proposals, others oppose tying the policy fix to supplemental funding for the border, and some hesitate to take responsibility for a problem they view as caused by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, according to the aide.

“I’ve strongly conveyed to my colleagues that it’s our lax enforcement of immigration laws that has encouraged more immigrants to come here illegally,” Senator David Vitter (R., La.) said in a statement to NRO in response to questions about the meeting. 

“That’s exactly why we’re seeing the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving at our southern border,” he said. “We need a policy that actually deters illegal immigration. I’ve said that if we want to send a message to others thinking about coming here illegally, let’s deport these people by the planeload.”

Many Senate Republicans believe Obama already has the funding and the legal authority necessary to resolve the problem, according to the aide.

“There is very much consensus on who is responsible for the crisis, and that’s the president, and that’s where the message should be,” the aide said.

Ted Cruz: Obama and Harry Reid Have ‘Callous Indifference’ to Suffering Border Kids



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Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) doubts that the Senate will pass legislation dealing with the border crisis, saying that President Obama and Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) care more about scoring political points in an election year.

“President Obama’s and Harry Reid’s approach demonstrates a cold, callous indifference to the plight of these children who are being physically and sexually victimized by violent coyote smugglers, and neither the president nor the majority leader are willing to do anything whatsoever to solve the problem,” Cruz told National Review Online Thursday afternoon.

Cruz introduced legislation to bar federal employees from implementing Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which he says has caused the influx by creating the perception that children who arrived in the country could stay, but Reid attacked the bill as an attempt to deport children.

“Harry Reid’s approach has been, rather to fix that problem, demagogue anyone who would endeavor to solve this humanitarian crisis,” he says, citing a Department of Homeland Security report that showed 95 percent of the people arriving expect to be permitted to stay.

Calling Obama “an absentee president,” Cruz says that the two top Democrats see the border crisis as a campaign opportunity.

“It is all politics all the time and no leadership to actually solve problems or to even address the human suffering that his policy failures have caused,” he said of Obama, before turning to Reid.

“Unfortunately it appears right now that Harry Reid has no interest in legislation actually passing the Senate, instead, he wants a meaningless show vote for political purposes,” Cruz said.

 

Boehner Appears Unwilling to Consider Cruz’s Proposal



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House speaker John Boehner isn’t going to consider GOP legislation to fix the border crisis unless it comes out of the working group he assembled to address the problem, comments he made at his weekly press conference suggest.

“I’m focused on the recommendations of our border control working group, and we’re operating within those guidelines,” he saidBoehner’s comments likely mean he will not consider Senator Ted Cruz’s effort to stop President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

From Meat to Meth



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You probably believe — as God knows I did for decades — that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, legumes, and fish is the healthiest. Every authoritative body in the nation told us so, from the American Heart Association, to the New York Times, to the Department of Agriculture. Oh sure, they changed their recommendations every now and then about how many eggs you could safely consume in a week, but one thing was certain: That rib roast was a ticket to an early grave.

This week on Need to Know, Jay and I welcome Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. This may not seem to be a Need to Know-ish topic, but trust me, the topic is interesting in itself and also has wider implications for our trust in conventional wisdom on many subjects. Not to mention that after reading this book, or listening to the podcast, you can eat your bacon and eggs without the slightest anxiety. 

The chaos of the wider world beckons in the second part of our program. Jay and I wade into the moral muck of the world’s response to Hamas. It’s the same story, decade after decade, and yet, as Jay says, he who tires first loses. So we don’t. 

There’s more, including Jay’s reflections on Maine. Not on the famous senator, James Gillespie Blaine (1830–1893) about whom schoolchildren used to chant “James, James Gillespie Blaine, monumental liar from the state of Maine” but about more recent troubles, like meth.

Do join us.

‘Gang of Eight’ Republicans Won’t Permit Border Crisis Trojan Horse



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With some Democrats and Republicans alike viewing the border-crisis bills as a possible vehicle to pass comprehensive immigration legislation, the Republican members of the Gang of Eight announced their opposition to such a maneuver.

“Any legislation considered this year must be focused exclusively on addressing the current crisis, halting the flow of unaccompanied children crossing the border and preventing future waves from making the dangerous journey north,” Senators Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), John McCain (R. Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), and Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) said in a joint statement.

The Thursday-afternoon statement came after House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D. Calif.) suggested that “the most important thing that we can do to use this crisis as an opportunity is to pass comprehensive immigration reform.” 

Even before Pelosi’s remarks, congressional immigration hawks had already expressed their concern that, if the Senate and the House ended up negotiating about the border crisis in a conference committee, the final product would include substantial parts of the “Gang of Eight” bill.

“I don’t want to see a vehicle coming out of the House that gives Harry Reid a chance to attach the Gang of Eight language to it and then send it back to the House and say, ‘We have all of these kids that are down here pouring into the United States, and we can’t fix that unless you first pass amnesty,’” Representative Steve King (R., Iowa) told National Review Online to explain why he had not introduced a bill on the issue.

Obama Motorcade Joins the War on Women



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President Obama’s motorcade prevented a woman from bearing her child in the safety of a hospital:

Witnesses say a pregnant woman in labor was prevented by authorities from crossing a Los Angeles street to a hospital Wednesday because the road had been closed for President Barack Obama’s impending motorcade.

The unidentified woman was barred from walking the few hundred feet to the hospital for at least 30 minutes as authorities waited for the president’s motorcade to pass by, witness Carrie Clifford told TheBlaze early Thursday morning.

According to the Los Angeles Times, one witness said that “medical staff from the hospital came to help the pregnant woman.”

Fortunately, the delay does not appear to have harmed the woman or her child. But from a political perspective, this sounds like something from The Onion: The president who says he’s trying to give women reproductive freedom stops a pregnant mother from entering a hospital.

In 2012 and 2014, Democrats raised alarms about a ”War on Women” to support their claims that expanded abortion and contraception access, especially on the taxpayer dime, will help woman control their bodies. 

Obama’s pro-abortion allies in New York have been talking about helping women who use Medicaid space out their pregnancies with abortifacients. Apparently, their efforts failed, so the president decided to get personally involved.

On a more serious note, this event shows yet again how ridiculously expensive, ostentatious, and arrogant presidential motorcades are. Several years ago, I saw parts of at least two roads shut down on Capitol Hill — disrupting who knows how much traffic — as a motorcade came screaming by. I found out later that day Vice President Biden was visiting Capitol Hill to lobby Members of Congress to pass legislation that was hitting snags. That’s to be expected in the national capital. But the people of Los Angeles have wisely chosen to live 3,000 miles away from Washington. Why should they have to suffer?  

At least the woman in question appears to have gotten the care she needed. On two occasions members of President George W. Bush’s motorcade died in motorcyle accidents.

Presidents are not to blame for accidents that take place during motorcade travel. But this is a democratic republic of equals, not a kingdom where serfs scatter before our betters. At least, I thought so.

Tags: War On Women , Barack Obama

The Ryan Mobility Agenda



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This morning, Paul Ryan offered up a series of significant reforms to federal anti-poverty programs. 

He proposed, for instance, to allow states to consolidate their different forms of federal anti-poverty funding (for food stamps, cash welfare, housing assistance, and more) into a single funding stream attached to a work requirement and the sort of “individual responsibility agreements” required by the 1996 welfare reform. This would let states try different anti-poverty approaches and tailor aid to individual needs. He backed an expansion (paid for with spending cuts) of the Earned Income Tax Credit, for childless adults, and some simplification of the way the EITC (the most effective and most pro-work component of the safety net) functions. He proposed some reforms and simplifications of federal aid to higher education and some devolution of federal funds for K–12 education to the states. He endorsed a series of bipartisan ideas for sentencing reform to reduce incarceration levels and help non-violent offenders reenter society. He called for rolling back “regressive regulations” that do particular harm to low-income Americans and for easing licensing requirements and other barriers to entry to the workforce. And he proposed more rigorous analysis of the real-world effectiveness of public safety-net programs. 

The first proposal, which Ryan termed the “Opportunity Grant,” is the most novel, and would constitute the most significant transformation of the welfare system since the 1996 welfare reform. It would very much follow the model of that earlier reform, applying it to a much larger portion of the safety net. Senator Marco Rubio proposed a reform on similar principles — which was in some respects more ambitious and in some respects less so — earlier this year. Ryan’s other proposals largely involved endorsing and further elaborating ideas that have been gaining prominence in recent years. The EITC expansion is similar to another Rubio proposal (and also to an Obama administration proposal, though that version would be funded by a tax increase); the higher-ed and sentencing reforms both track (as Ryan noted) proposals offered recently by Senator Mike Lee. 

But Ryan’s endorsement of such ideas, and his formulation of the Opportunity Grant proposal, marks an important moment in the emergence of the conservative domestic agenda that has been growing broader and deeper in recent months. As the document laying out Ryan’s proposals today repeatedly notes, these ideas embody a conservative vision of public policy that sees government not as the manager of society but as an enabler of bottom-up, incremental improvements made possible by a continuous learning process on the ground. Persistent poverty is persistent because we do not know how to address it effectively. That means that rather than deliver aid through constrained, prescriptive channels, we should use aid as an incentive to draw more service providers and more ideas into the space between the citizen and the state and see what might work best. Ryan’s opportunity grant proposal is an effort to move from the first model to the second, and the rest of his proposals also seek to play this role in various ways — to give people more resources and authority and greater freedom to find new and more effective ways up from poverty. 

The logic of this approach is the same one that informed the Medicare-reform proposal that defined Ryan’s tenure as chairman of the House Budget Committee. In that case, he sought to take a grossly inefficient single-payer health entitlement and give it a greater market orientation by turning the government from an insurer into a funder — allowing seniors to choose among private insurance providers and thereby using the enormous Medicare budget as leverage to make the underlying health system more efficient rather than less so. That reform would enable enormous savings of taxpayer dollars while providing seniors the same guaranteed benefit. 

It is also the logic of the broader reform agenda that some conservatives and libertarians have been advancing in recent years, and which has increasingly been taking the form of legislative proposals. Indeed, it is becoming harder all the time to sustain the proposition that congressional Republicans aren’t engaged in the country’s major policy debates. In just the past year, we have seen proposed two major tax reforms, several pro-market Obamacare alternatives, several major safety-net-reform proposals, a higher-ed-reform proposal, several fundamental federal transportation-funding reforms, and several sentencing-reform proposals, among others. Some Republicans have also begun at last to take on corporate welfare, to rethink financial regulation, and to propose piecemeal immigration reforms that would address key problems discretely rather than in an all-or-nothing package that looks worse than nothing. 

Some of these proposals have been offered as bills, some have been more like policy papers, and of course none has gotten anywhere near the president’s desk. But has there been another twelve-month period when the minority party in Washington has put forward so many elements of a comprehensive domestic agenda? Having so much out there so long before the next presidential election can give Republicans time to debate the merits of these various ideas, to improve them in response to criticisms from both right and left, and to hone the public case for them, so that potential 2016 presidential candidates might have an arsenal of well-developed policy options to choose from.

The Democrats are not going through a similar process, to put it mildly. It would not be easy to say just what Hillary Clinton, or whoever might emerge as the Democrats’ 2016 nominee, is supposed to run on exactly. Head Start for all and a carbon tax? Some particular elements of some of the proposals Republicans have put forward have appealed to some Democrats too (like the EITC expansion and sentencing reform), but the broad vision of a leaner, more effective government far better suited to the decentralized character of 21st-century life in America has not found its match on the left. And on many core elements of a middle-class policy agenda (like health care, education, energy, and taxes) the Democrats are wedded to an unpopular status quo and have very little room to move, thanks to their electoral coalition and their reticence to raise the subject of middle-class tax increases.

The Democrats will still have Barack Obama in the White House in the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, and maybe they are confident he will be able to continue to take executive actions that set off needlessly divisive public fights, isolating groups liberals detest and scaring Democratic constituencies into imagining they are under assault when in fact they are on the offensive. That strategy has paid some political dividends against a Republican party with relatively little of its own to say to the public. Will it work against a party articulating a coherent conservative agenda and vision? Here’s hoping the Right does what it takes to find out. 

Thesaurus Synonyms for ‘Obstructionist’ Include ‘Right-winger,’ ‘Rightist,’ ‘Tory’



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Apparently only conservatives and others on the right can be obstructionists, according to Roget’s Thesaurus.

A search for synonyms of “obstructionist” on Thesaurus.com, which cites Roget’s, reveals that the source considers several words related to conservative and right-leaning political stances to fit the definition of a “person who is cautious, moderate; an opponent of change.” Under antonyms, it lists left-leaning words.

Included in the list of obstructionist synonyms are “right-winger,” “right,” and “rightist” and ”Tory,” the British conservative party.

Other synonyms listed for obscrutionst are “traditionalist,” “conserver,” “conventionalist,” “unprogressive,” and “redneck.”

In its section for antonyms for obstructionist, “left-winger,” “liberal,” and “progressive” are listed.

This is the second time in recent weeks that a reference book has equated a negative quality with conservatism. Earlier this month, the Daily Caller found that both the Oxford English and Merriam-Webster dictionaries included “right-wing” and “conservatism,” respectively, in their definitions of “bigotry.”

Proxy Punishment in the West Bank



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The Washington Post reports that the Israeli military has revived a policy of demolishing the family homes of West Bank Palestinians who have committed acts of terrorism. I think this is wrong, even repugnant. Since its target is the entire family of such individuals, it amounts to a kind of proxy punishment. Deterrence — if this is an effective deterrent — is no excuse. Deterrence is a legitimate purpose of punishment, but it must be subordinated to the elementary principle of justice that one should not be punished for a crime one did not commit. (If we instead think of such a reprisal within the context of warfare, it amounts to the targeting of noncombatants.)

I hope I will not be accused of having “sided with the terrorists” and indulged in “moral equivalence” and so on. This is not like choosing which basketball team to cheer for. Of course it is a viler thing to kill innocent civilians than to demolish their homes. But acknowledging Israel’s right to exist, and to defend itself and its people, does not mean one must countenance its every tactic, and indeed part of what troubles me about this tactic is its inconsistency with all that I admire about Israel.

Re: ‘Bruised, Battered, Redeemed’



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Kathryn, I was struck by the definition of “chastity” from the Catholic catechism that you gave: “successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” I think lots of people in same-sex relationships would read that and say that their relationships have given them just that.

I realize that, from a Catholic point of view, sexual acts contribute to such integration only if they fulfill the behavioral component of the body’s reproductive function. To this a same-sex couple might reply that they aren’t convinced by the particular brand of teleological metaphysics behind that doctrine. Or they might bring the discussion down to earth and say something like, “Well, it’s more important for me to be with the person I love than to have and raise children with a member of the opposite sex.” I think this is perfectly understandable and should be respected. 

The choice that the people in the documentary you describe have made — namely celibacy — should also be respected. As should be the choice of anyone who finds himself or herself attracted to both sexes but pursues relationships only with the opposite sex in order for procreation within such a relationship to be possible.

What you have written — and this documentary — could, I think, be helpful to someone who already accepted Catholic teachings on sexuality. It could help a gay or lesbian Catholic to feel better about abiding by those teachings, and a straight Catholic to be more understanding. But the non-Catholic viewer will probably note that the set of alternatives presented in the film — be unfulfilled in your same-sex relationship, or be fulfilled celibate — omits the possibility of being fulfilled in such a relationship, as many are, and will probably find this omission more than a little tendentious.

I certainly would not presume to say that anyone who — to borrow your language — is “open to” the “Creator Himself” will come to accept the Catholic teaching, or any other particular teaching. I did not take that to be the import of your piece, but I do think there is a constant danger of supposing that one’s own understanding of “truth about who we are and what we were made for” must be everyone’s. (I suppose this is where readers might accuse me of propounding some sort of ethical relativism. This a subtle issue whose adequate discussion we’ll have to leave for another occasion, but my short answer is that, while there are things we can definitely rule out of any plausible conception of the good life, there is not a univocal form of human flourishing. With regard to many things — sexuality among them — I think that a variety of good lives are possible, and that it would be wrong to forbid or even disparage any of them. And I think that any theistic ethics must grapple seriously with the diversity of human nature and of reported human fulfillment. To my mind the Declaration of Independence strikes the right note: It asserts in universal terms that the Creator gives us the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but does not specify the proper content of this pursuit. The Creator might help you in yours, but be careful not to assume He’s also talking to your neighbor.)

Anyway, thanks for your characteristically thought-provoking and charitable article.

‘U.S.: Russia Firing Artillery at Ukraine Military’



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Per the AP. Russia doesn’t seem particularly alarmed, to say the least, about the West’s reaction to the downing of MH17.

Elizabeth Warren and Friends Want to Make the Labor Market Even More Stagnant than It Is Now



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Legislation proposed in the House by Democratic representatives George Miller and Rosa L. DeLauro this week would make the labor market even more rigid than it is already. The proposal would regulate part-time jobs by increasing the price of on-call work and limiting flexibility in part-time scheduling will only hurt those the law is ostensibly trying to help. 

Of course, Senator Elizabeth Warren thinks this is a great idea, and she plans to propose her own version of this job-killing bill in the Senate. ​

Economics 101 tells us that — with a few exceptions — when the price of goods and services increases, because of government regulations or other factors, the demand for them decreases. If politicians make the cost of hiring full-time workers more expensive, firms will hire fewer full-time workers. The same is true when politicians increase the cost of hiring people part-time.

We don’t need to look far to see this theory in action. In an already-strained economic environment, employers worried about their financial future and became reluctant to hire new employees full-time. The implementation of the president’s health-care law compounded the problem, inducing some employers to shift their demand for workers in anticipation of higher labor costs. The law requires employers of more than 50 workers to purchase health insurance for any full-time employee — defined as one working more than 30 hours per week — or face a fine of $2,000 per worker.

The results were just as economics predicts. The law gives some businesses an incentive to cap employees’ hours right below the full-time threshold so that they can avoid the extra costs, and the effect started to become most apparent in the retail and fast-food industries. Employers adjusted to the costs imposed by the new law by lowering their labor costs to a level that is sustainable to their businesses.

The health-care law is instructive in another way: Many current federal policies are themselves causing the problems that this new regulation attempts to solve. Rather than create new problems, Senator Warren et al. should stick to repealing their earlier “solutions.”

Rand Paul: “Live and Let Live”



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Reason has posted an interview with the Kentucky senator. An excerpt:

REASON: Reason recently did a poll of millennials, a national poll. Only 22% called themselves Republicans or leaned that way. Millennials, there’s 80 million of them, they’re the future demographically. They overwhelmingly identify in favor of gay marriage, in favor of pot legalizing, in favor of vaping and online gambling. Can the Republican party shed the social conservative issues which seem very central to its concerns? How is that going to work? Can they win millennials without becoming more libertarian?

PAUL: I think Republicans can only win in general if they become more “live and let live.” Grover Norquist will talk about this sometimes, this “leave me alone” coalition. But in order [for the party to] work—and this is what a lot of people don’t realize this and they say “oh well we want the Republicans to be the pro-choice, pro-gay marriage party—it may not be that but it may be that there are people in the Republican party that have those positions and some who don’t, and that we all get along because we believe in limited government and we acknowledge that the federal government isn’t going to be involved in some of these issues anyways. And I think that “live and live, agree to disagree” kind of amalgamation of people in the party will allow us to be big enough to win. I agree with you a lot on young people but I think also some other libertarian issues like right to privacy, the NSA overzealousness. Young people are concerned about their cell phone, that’s the main thing they do with every hour of every day. I think if we became the party that’s going to protect their privacy, you could get a large switch of Republican vote.

I don’t think Republicans need to make a special point of explaining that you don’t have to be pro-life to be part of the party, as opposed to explaining that you don’t have to be against raising the minimum wage, or against Obamacare, or against raising taxes on high earners. I think these sorts of comments by Paul suggest a degree of defensiveness about the party’s pro-life stance, and a tendency to think of the politics of abortion as similar to the politics of same-sex marriage, that the evidence does not justify.

I do agree, though, that the saying “Live and let live” is a good one to think about when we consider the abortion debate.

No, This Is the Worst Anti-Gun Column Ever



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I’m sorry, Mr. Cooke, but you must not read Salon enough. Here is the always-entertaining Heather Digby Parton going for a twofer, taking on “gun nuts” and conservatives at the same time. She’s quite upset at open-carry activists in Dallas, so she draws on some historical . . . errr . . . parallels. Readers, see if you can spot the problem. Key graphs:

The right-wing hatred for John F. Kennedy was in some ways as extreme as the hatred for Barack Obama and nowhere was it more energized than Dallas in 1963. Three years earlier, right-wingers in the city had signaled their anti-Kennedy zeal by turning on its native son, Lyndon Johnson, after he accepted the nomination for vice president. He and his wife, Lady Bird, were accosted by a shrieking mob of conservative women in front of their hotel armed with signs saying he’d sold out to “Yankee Socialists.” It was downhill from there. Over the next three years the simmer burst into a full boil as various luminaries of the John Birch Society such as millionaire oil man H.L. Hunt and the anti-communist fanatic Gen. Edwin Walker, a zealot so far to the right that he even believed Eisenhower was a communist, fanned the flames of anti-Kennedy hatred.

She continues:

The morning of Nov. 22, the Dallas Morning News featured a full-page ad “welcoming” the president to Dallas. After a preamble in which they proclaimed their fealty to the Constitution and defiantly asserted their right to be conservative, they demanded to be allowed to “address their grievances.” They posed a long series of “when did you stop beating your wife” questions asking why Kennedy was helping the Communist cause around the world. Here’s an example:

WHY has Gus Hall, head of the U.S. Communist Party praised almost every one of your policies and announced that the party will endorse and support your re-election in 1964?

WHY have you banned the showing at U.S. military bases of the film “Operation Abolition”–the movie by the House Committee on Un-American Activities exposing Communism in America?

WHY have you ordered or permitted your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on Communists, fellow-travelers, and ultra-leftists in America, while permitting him to persecute loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration, and your leadership?

WHY has the Foreign Policy of the United States degenerated to the point that the C.I.A. is arranging coups and having staunch Anti-Communists Allies of the U.S. bloodily exterminated.

WHY have you scrapped the Monroe Doctrine in favor of the “Spirit of Moscow”?

MR. KENNEDY, as citizens of the United States of America, we DEMAND answers to these questions, and we want them NOW.

You get the drift. And you probably recognize the tone. The subject may have changed somewhat but the arrogant attitude combined with the aggrieved victimization is a hallmark of right-wing politics even today.

You know what’s coming next:

As we all know, later that day the president was gunned down in Dealey Plaza. The entire world was shocked and traumatized by that event and the course of history was changed.

Lee Harvey “Osvaldovich” Oswald, right-wing loon.

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