The most controversial measure on the ballot this April, without doubt, is Prop 5. If passed the initiative would add homosexual and transgender identity to the list of protected categories under Title 5. Proponents of the measure are framing the argument as a fight for equal protection under the law.
Category: On the Right Side
Every revolutionary movement needs a clear enemy. The French revolutionaries had the monarchy, while the Bolsheviks had the Tsarist aristocracy.
Not to be outdone by those who came before them, the Occupy Wall Street movement has targeted the banks, modern hygiene, and the top one percent of income earners.
Consequently, the most widely disseminated claim of the protesters is that one percent of the population own 38 percent of the wealth. This is often said with a great deal of self-assuredness, as if it were the coup de grâce of free-market capitalism.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released a report which found “that from 1979 to 2007, average inflation-adjusted after-tax income grew by 275 percent for the [top] one percent… And for the three-fifths of people in the middle of the income scale, the growth… was just under 40 percent,” The New York Times reported.
While it is true that the top income earners had a larger share of the pie than they have in the past, this ignores the fact that everyone is better off. If given a choice between taking a quarter of a pie and half of a pie, your answer would depend on the size of the pie.
Wealth has grown, as evidenced by the fact that every income group saw a gain over the past 30 years; it’ not a fixed pie. Just because your neighbor has become wealthier does not mean some poor schlub out there has become poorer.
To make things worse, the CBO report uses household income as a measurement, which is associated with two problems. The first is that there are less people per household today than there were in 1979, meaning that per capita income has grown at a greater rate than household income. Secondly, there are 39 million people in the bottom 20 percent of households and 64 million people in the top 20 percent. It shouldn’t be any wonder that an added 25 million people results in a greater household income disparity.
An additional error in accepting the CBO report at face value is that it doesn’t take into account actual flesh and blood people.
The report says nothing about what happened to actual income earners in the top one percent; instead, it only tells us how much money is required to qualify for the top bracket. Therefore, all we can take away from the report is that the top earners in 2007 earned more than the top earners in 1979. The problem is that most of the top income earners of 1979 are not the same people as those in 2007. A great deal of income mobility exists.
The Department of the Treasury tracks information on individuals, and according to their data, 80 percent of millionaires are first generation. Additionally, of those in the very highest income group in 1996, 75 percent were in a lower bracket by 2005. Meanwhile, 86 percent of those in the poorest fifth in 1979 rose into a higher bracket by 1988 (15 percent of which reached the top bracket).
Moreover, these numbers don’t tell us anything about the strides in the standard of living the poor now enjoy relative to the 1970s.
According to the Census Bureau, of Americans officially designated as poor, 99 percent have electricity, running water, flushing toilets, and a refrigerator. 95 percent have a television, 88 percent a telephone, 71 percent a car, and 70 percent air-conditioning.
In 1970 for example, only 36 percent of all households (poor and rich alike) had air-conditioning.
Many protesters can be seen using the latest iPhone, a technology that didn’t even exist a decade ago. In absolute terms, Americans today are far better off materially than they have ever been.
Of course these facts do nothing to alleviate the poor job market; they are only useful in realizing that capitalism is a dynamic system that allows people to rise and fall. Nobody is in favor of private gains and socialized losses; we all have a right to be angry. But all this class warfare targeted at the wealthy is a lot of nonsense. Instead, we should be taking aim at the source of the problem, Washington D.C.
There seems to be a movement as of late pushing for a tax hike on the wealthiest Americans. This coalition includes President Obama, the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and even fellow columnist Brett Frazier.
Indeed, one cannot ignore the cries lamenting the fact that the top 1 percent control 70 percent of all the wealth in this country. We need redistributive justice to ensure that the rich are paying their fair share, or so they say.
It would be easy to dismiss such a tax increase proposal by pointing out that the top 10 percent already pay 70 percent of all income taxes, or that the cycle of poverty/wealth is largely a myth in America (80 percent of millionaires are first-generation), but neither of these objections directly address Frazier’s arguments, which I intend to.
His two major justifications for increasing taxes on the wealthy are that there are arbitrary factors involved in the acquisition of wealth, and that the wealthy owe something to the community that supported them.
On both points we’re actually in agreement, only I contend that these observations don’t support his proposal.
Anyone who takes the time to observe the world as it is will have to come to the conclusion that people are different; natural talents are not distributed on an equal basis. There is also obviously an inherent advantage to being born into a family of certain qualities.
Undoubtedly our society does not operate as a “genuine meritocracy”, but does this fact compel us to make corrective action, or more importantly, is corrective even possible?
We’ll have to address both merit and equality of opportunity to better understand the problem.
While it is true that there are arbitrary factors involved in the financial success of individuals, it does not follow that all success is due to luck.
Surely merit exists, and therein lies the problem. How can anyone determine what distributive justice ought to be for more than 300 million people? Nobody has the knowledge to possibly determine whether wealth was accumulated due to luck or merit, therefore those interested in “corrective action” can never really enact true distributive justice. Instead, they propose an across the board tax increase with the assumption that everyone at the top of the economic ladder arrived there based purely on arbitrary factors; their analysis completely leaves out the possibility of effort and lumps everyone into the same group.
The second term that must be further discussed is equality of opportunity. According to Frazier, “Arbitrary factors that give some people greater opportunity than others violate the principle of equality of opportunity.”
Again, it is obvious to anyone that true equality of conditions does not exist; however, the aspiration of equality of opportunity is misunderstood in this sense. Most advocates for equality of opportunity realize that in the real world, we can never achieve perfect equality. Much like the statement in our own Declaration that “all men are created equal”, it is meant to communicate that we all deserve equal treatment under the law, that we have the same rights as citizens.
Moreover, the rule of law is in direct confrontation with this sort of cosmic justice which Frazier appears to be advocating, because the rule of law means applying the same rules to everyone, regardless of circumstances or inequalities. Rather, he would have us rely on some arbitrary sense of justice (which he lacks the absolute knowledge to truly fulfill) targeted at different groups.
Additionally, in the subsequent article, he argues that the wealthy ought to pay taxes because they owe something to the community. This is an obvious truth to everyone, excluding perhaps anarchists. Taxes are required to protect life, liberty, and property.
Furthermore, the wealthy ought to pay more than those with less due to the simple fact that they have more property to protect; they have more at stake.
But if it were the case that all the government restricted itself to were law enforcement, roads, schools, firemen, and basic utilities, we’d be living in Ron Paul’s libertarian paradise.
The federal government currently rakes in $2.1 trillion annually, add state and local, and that number climbs to $4.5 trillion. The debate isn’t over the existence of taxes, but whether further revenue is justified when we continue to spend billions on unnecessary wars, out-of-control entitlement programs, and regulations which siphon roughly $1.75 trillion annually.
We ought to expect a better budget solution from our representatives than a tax increase, which in itself is insufficient to closing the budget gap and foolish during a time of economic hardship.
Technology took our jobs! That is, according to Douglas Rushkoff, who declared in his article Are Jobs Obsolete? featured on CNN that, “New technologies are wreaking havoc on employment figures.”
That makes perfect sense, right? Technology often replaces manual labor; therefore, technology creates unemployment, or as Rushkoff put it, “Every new computer program is basically doing some task that a person used to do. But the computer usually does it faster, more accurately, for less money, and without any health insurance costs.” Voilà! Mystery solved. Now no explanation is necessary as to why Obama’s stimulus failed by its own unemployment benchmark of 8 percent. It was those tricksy computers all along.
But wait a minute; does Rushkoff’s claim actually have any logical consistency? The short answer is no, but exposing the fallacy remains a useful exercise.
On the face of it, if technology really did cause unemployment, then wouldn’t we except to see continuously higher unemployment than in years past?
If we examine the last 50 years alone, unemployment peaked in 1980 at 11 percent, and remained relatively low in the following three decades until the recession of 2008.
Certainly unemployment ought to be higher coming out of the recent recession, coupled with the fact that technology has advanced leaps and bounds since the late 70s and early 80s.
But one doesn’t have to start with the arbitrary date of 1950. If technology really did cause unemployment, then “primitive man must have started causing [unemployment] with the first efforts he made to save himself from needless toil and sweat,” as Henry Hazlitt concluded.
The assertion doesn’t even pass the most basic test, but there are other reasons why it is so patently false.
While it is true that technology replaces workers of a certain skill set, it creates jobs in other industries. Take Microsoft for example. Much of the goods and services Microsoft currently provides didn’t even exist thirty years ago, and it is now the employer of roughly 130,000 people.
Or for those who complain that ATMs are replacing bank tellers, don’t forget that there are numerous others involved in the design, programming, and upkeep of ATMs. ATMs don’t materialize out of thin air, but are rather the product of the labor of hundreds, if not thousands of individuals.
And let’s not take our eye of the ball. ATMs, like other technologies, make our lives better. They allow us to use our time and resources more efficiently.
It is said that the economist Milton Friedman was once invited to tour a large scale government project where he observed thousands of construction workers using shovels to build a canal. He was curious as to why there were no mechanized earth-moving equipment on site. One of the officials in charge explained that this was in fact a “jobs” project, meaning productivity was only secondary. Friedman remarked: “Then why not use spoons instead of shovels?”
This oft told anecdote illustrates the shallowness of the opposing argument so clearly. While the workers obviously benefit from the employment, the economy as a whole does not. As an aggregate, we benefit far more from productivity and the advancement of technology.
To put it plainly, we could take $100 from taxpayers and pay a man to dig a hole and fill it back up on a daily basis. Without a doubt, the man benefits from the job, but society loses. The man is producing nothing of value in the economy. The government may as well pay him to stay home and do nothing.
There is an opportunity cost involved in protecting jobs at the expense of technological advancement. By coddling certain industries, we allow people to use their resources inefficiently, where in the market they could find work doing something people actually want.
The economy is clearly changing. Thanks largely to labor unions and our vast regulatory system; manufacturing jobs that Americans have traditionally enjoyed are moving overseas. Our labor force will either have to adjust to the changing landscape or risk being left behind.
But we can’t let the inevitable pain that comes with dying industries stifle technological progress, the same advancements that have increased our standard of living so dramatically over the past few centuries.
Where would we be if we wasted money subsidizing the horse and buggy industry after the advent of the car? Technology doesn’t cause unemployment; but it will sometimes shift employment from one industry to another. Rather than complaining about the changes in the economy, it’s more prudent to take notice and invest in human capital in order to meet the new demands of the labor market.
It is now eminently clear that the European model of governance simply does not work. One by one, each of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain) will eventually pay the piper. The Germans won’t be there to bail them out this time, and if Bret Stephens of the Wallstreet Journal has any foresight, “the riots of Athens will become those of Milan, Madrid and Marseilles.”
But the crisis in Europe is not merely economic, but spiritual as well. One does not have to look further than the riots in Athens or London to observe the soul-rotting effects of the welfare state.
In London, contrary to the preconceived notion that the riots were stirred up by inequality or lack of education, the looters were largely from mixed backgrounds. “Shockingly, among those in the dock accused of looting are a millionaire’s grammar school daughter, a ballet student and an organic chef. A law student, university graduate, a musician and an opera steward also said to have taken part. They are just some of the youngsters from comfortable middle-class backgrounds who have been charged with criminality,” the U.K. Daily Mail reports.
Not long before the riots began, a British member of the European Parliament, Daniel Hannan, lamented over the effects of the welfare state during an interview with Peter Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge.
“The real problem with the growth of welfare is not that it retards economic growth, although it does… The real malignancy is the way it frays the bonds that used to tie society together. It makes us less virtuous as individual citizens,” Hannan said.
He continued by pointing out the connection between the welfare state and the growth of secularism in society: “When the state expands, it squeezes out the private sphere,” most notably, the church. Hannan added that, “there was a time not so very long ago when we all had to look out for our elderly neighbors and make sure they were collecting their milk every morning. That is now seen as social services.”
The welfare state takes on responsibilities that used to fall to citizens and turns them into state functions. The result is an infantilized populace, one that is incapable of dealing with the rigors adulthood.
The most obvious responsibility associated with adulthood, is of course parenting, and one which Europe has practically abandoned altogether.
There is a common belief that the strongest correlation to a nation’s birthrate is its wealth. Apart from the U.S., the wealthiest countries in the world tend to also have incredibly low birthrates; but upon a closer examination, the stronger corollary is religiosity.
Countries where religion plays an important role in the lives of its citizenry tend to have higher birth rates. This is no mystery considering Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all highly value childrearing.
One can even observe this within the United States itself. States in the south tend to have high birth rates as well as high church attendance in comparison to their neighbors in the north.
The dismal birthrate of Europe and the declining birthrate of the United States have real and serious effects. The most apparent is that Europe is now producing below the replacement rate at 1.5 children per female. In order to produce enough children to replace a population, there must be at least 2.1 children per female. Because Europe falls below replacement levels, every generation is smaller than the last; which means less economic activity; thus, fewer workers to pay into their elaborate social programs.
Social security in the United States is a good comparison to the mess across the Atlantic. The program isn’t a fund that is stored away someplace then withdrawn after retirement, but one that must be continuously paid into by new workers. Today’s recipients of social security are being paid by today’s workers, which is why a declining population means less people paying into the system. That is what critics of social security mean when they say the program is unsustainable.
Somewhere, sometime, down the line, things will have to change. Either the payments will have to be cut across the board, wealthier recipients barred, or what is more likely, is that the retirement age will have to be increased.
What is most perplexing is that there are still people in the United States who want to continue expanding these and other programs, replacing private charities and religious organizations.
It cannot be emphasized enough, that when the state grows, the individual shrinks, and with then individual goes the church. In Europe, Christianity has been replaced by government. The great English writer G.K. Chesterton was only too right to observe that, “Once abolish the God and the government becomes the God.”
The rioters in London are not suffering from a lack of material goods, but from spiritual emptiness. It must be understood that their behavior is the logical outcome of society that has abandoned Judeo-Christian morality in favor of secularism, which gives no objective basis determining right from wrong.
Texas Governor Rick Perry is now the clear frontrunner in the G.O.P. presidential primary. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, he garners 24 percent support among Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents, which gives him a healthy lead over both Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachmann, whose numbers sit at 18 and 10 percent respectively.
This turn of events has galvanized the media against him. Politico ran a story headlined “Is Rick Perry Dumb?” Typically, the left goes with one of two narratives in order to dismiss conservatives. Since right of center views are so atrocious, either the holder of those views is stupid or he is evil. One could hardly characterize Perry as “evil” so the approved line of attack is to brand him “stupid.”
Paul Krugman of The New York Times is at the front and center of this smear. In his article titled “Republicans Against Science”, he claims that Rick Perry and the G.O.P at large is anti-science, because Perry expressed doubts about evolution and anthropogenic global warming.
Supposedly Perry and his ilk are on a “witch hunt” against “anyone who contradicts them.” Of course Krugman doesn’t provide any examples, so you’ll just have to take his word for it.
But the problems with Krugman’s line of argumentation are numerous. For one, Perry’s view of evolution is irrelevant to the job of commander in chief. It has no bearing whatsoever. The point of mentioning Perry’s doubts with evolution is, of course, to portray him as a fool.
I am no critic of evolution, but the assumption that those who doubt the theory must have a low IQ is simply wrong. Dr. David Berlinski received his doctorate in philosophy from Princeton and went on to do postdoctoral work as a fellow in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University. He has been an outspoken critic of evolution in the past, and one could hardly dismiss him as an idiot.
Ronald Reagan was similarly criticized as an affable dunce and had his own doubts about evolution, yet his presidency is largely considered a success. In fact, a Presidents Day poll conducted by Gallup this year found that most Americans regard Reagan as the greatest president of all time.
And while nearly all scientists are in agreement that man has an effect on the climate, many do not believe the problem to be serious enough for a remedy.
Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist and professor of Meteorology at MIT argues that there is no need for all the alarmism. As one of the lead authors of the IPCC Third Assessment Report on climate change, he makes the blunt assessment that, “we don’t have any evidence that this is a serious problem.”
Lindzen’s tempered analysis is in stark contrast to Krugman’s predictions of global catastrophe. Krugman has even gone as far as labeling those who don’t share his view of climate change as “immoral” and “treasonous.” Apparently he does know a thing or two about witch hunts.
A more key failure of the Times article is the complete lack of self-reflection. Jonah Goldberg of The National Review points out that the left often cherry pick which issues get to be the “benchmark of science.” They decry conservatives for denying global warming, while simultaneously ignoring scientific studies on such topics as the heritability of intelligence or the distribution of cognitive abilities among the sexes.
Let’s not forget former President of Harvard Larry Summers who was forced to resign following a controversy in which science came into conflict with political correctness. Democrats place the mantle of science over themselves only when it supports their conclusions, and dismiss it when it does not.
Labeling Perry “anti-science” or “anti-knowledge” is also unlikely to be effective considering his record. He was commissioned in the Air Force as a C-130 pilot, has made a fortune in real estate, and has been elected governor of Texas for three terms.
With Perry as governor over the last decade, Texas has created approximately 732,800 private sector jobs. No other state in the Union even recorded an increase of 100,000. What’s more is that only 19 states even had any gains at all.
Additionally, between 2000 and 2009, 850,000 people moved from other states to Texas. California, meanwhile, where the Democrats maintain a monopoly on power, saw an exodus of 1.5 million people. And although the unemployment rate in Texas has risen to 8.4 percent, it is still well below the national average of 9.1 percent.
Despite the poor economy of the last decade, Texas saw incredible economic prosperity under the leadership of this so-called “intellectual lightweight.” For all the presumed superior intellect of Barack Obama, the nation as a whole cannot say the same about the last few years.
The abortion debate is largely focused on the legal question of whether or not a woman ought to have the right to terminate her pregnancy. The right to an abortion was legally validated by the 1973 landmark decision Roe v. Wade, but the battle continues to rage over both the methods and timeframe in which an abortion can occur. And although many (myself included) would like Roe v. Wade to be overturned, society must first answer the fundamental question of whether abortion is morally justifiable. As G.K. Chesterton put it, “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” Therefore, it is vitally important to show why abortion is morally wrong.
The most rational place to start is at conception. Every living human being can trace their beginnings to the moment when the chromosomes of their father’s sperm united with those of their mother’s ovum. This process leads to the formation of an entirely new organism which we call an embryo. Often an embryo is portrayed as being a mere clump of cells in the early stages, but to the contrary, according Robert P. George, a professor law at Princeton University, “As early as eight or ten weeks of gestation, the fetus has a fully formed, beating heart, a complete brain… a recognizably human form, and the fetus feels pain, cries, and even sucks his or her thumb.”
From the very start it can be firmly established that the embryo is a distinct living thing with its own unique DNA. It is not a part of the mother’s body but something separate and dependent. The question of when life begins may be an issue in philosophy, but the embryo is biologically living; that is as much beyond dispute as the reality of any adult human life. And when an abortion occurs, the life that is ended is a member of the family of Homo sapiens. It is a human being that happens to be in the earliest stages of life.
Much of the divide over this issue appears to stem from two opposing views of human life. One side views human life as intrinsically valuable, while the other sees it instrumentally valuable. If human life is intrinsically valuable, then it is an end in and of itself, while its counterview is conditional.
The instrumental perspective is posited clearly by philosopher Mary Anne Warren, who defines a human person as one who is capable of “consciousness, reasoning, communication, self motivated activity, self awareness.”
Of course a problem with this is that it excludes newborn infants and the mentally ill. We can scientifically establish that an embryo is a living member of the human species, and will never agree on the human person criteria. For something as important as human rights, it is preferable to have a basis more firm than the mind of Mary Ann Warren.
Another apologist for abortion is Judith Jarvis Thompson. She argues from a bodily autonomy angle in her famous violinist example. She describes a situation where a man is attached to a violinist who needs to borrow his kidneys to survive. He can detach himself at any point, but it would mean the death of the violinist. She concludes that a Good Samaritan would keep himself attached, but that nobody is expected to give up bodily autonomy and do whatever it takes to allow another person to survive.
There are several problems with this analogy. The most obvious is that abortion is not at all the same as the story she describes. It is not the act of disconnecting oneself, but an active attempt to end the life of someone else. It would be more accurate to describe the man having to kill the violinist by violent force.
The picture she paints seems to be similar to the situation of conjoined twins. Often, their organs are intertwined and the survival of one is dependent on the other. Could we justify one killing the other order to achieve bodily autonomy?
It is true that a fetus is dependent on the body of its mother for survival, but the vulnerability of its life does not change much after birth. Consider the fact that no infant could survive on its own. An infant is extraordinarily dependent on others for food, shelter, and protection. Since she believes that nobody is entitled to the beneficence of others, in her view, it is morally justifiable to pass by an abandoned infant on the sidewalk.
Even five and six year olds would not likely survive on their own without the consideration of adults; therefore, caring for infants is actually a basic societal duty, and is not going above and beyond the call.
The two most prevalent arguments justifying abortion fail because one leads to an amoral society that arbitrarily deems many of its own unworthy of rights, while the other supports the abdication of the duty to care for infants.
Because a fetus is a living breathing member of the human race, it has the right to life, which makes the choice to have an abortion morally wrong. And despite the Roe v. Wade, perhaps the increasing moral conscience on this issue will “turn the worst laws to advantage,” as Tocqueville once noted.
Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed Senate Bill No.48 into law, making California the first state in the Union to require public schools to update their curriculum “to include a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.” Proponents of the bill gave three underlying reasons for their support: to combat…
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Americans are in need of a wakeup call. Before we go the way of Greece, we must come to grips with the looming debt crisis. Unfortunately, as it stands, the majority appears to be fundamentally unserious about taking the required measures to steer this nation off of its currently unsustainable course.
Sunday, June 19, was the 101st anniversary of Father’s Day. Like many Americans, I gave my father a call as a sign of appreciation and to respect the tradition.
In contrast to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day tends to be low key. The contributions of a mother to her children are clearly visible, while a father’s role is often in the background. This mother-father dynamic may have an influence on the level of praise one parent receives over the other, but the actual importance of fathers is only now beginning to be realized.
Historically, the vast majority of children were raised in a two parent household. In the 1950s, single-parenthood was viewed as nothing less than a scandal. By the 70s, 11 percent of children were being raised by single parents; in 2011, the number has more than doubled to around 26 percent.
Of all single parents, 84 percent are women. Which means that a nearly a quarter of all children in the United States are being raised without a father.
Many believe fatherless households are not a problem, but something to be celebrated. Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) is an organization that offers “support and information to single women who are considering motherhood.” This view is supported by The New York Times columnist Pamela Paul who espouses the virtues of single motherhood. In the same vein Carol Sarler of the The Sunday Times argues that, “children don’t need fathers.” Unfortunately, the absence of fathers has real and serious detrimental effects on children.
According to the Progressive Policy Institute, seventy-two percent of juvenile murderers were raised in fatherless homes.
The Village Voice published similarly grim numbers: children raised without a father were found to be five times more likely to commit suicide, 10 times more likely to use drugs, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
Perhaps the most telling statistic is that boys without a father were 14 times more likely to commit rape.
This is corroborated by a 2006 U.S. Children’s Bureau Office on Child Abuse and Neglect report: “One of the most important benefits of a positive relationship between mother and father… is the behavior it models for children. Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect… are more likely to have boys who understand how they are to treat women and who are less likely to act in an aggressive fashion toward females.” The report also emphasizes the impact of a father’s behavior on his daughter. “Girls with involved, respectful fathers see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships.”
What isn’t quite understood by many is the great importance the male gender plays in the upbringing of children. Dr. David Popenoe, a noted sociologist writes, “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”
Even the cognitive development of children seems to be greatly influenced by fatherly involvement. According to Michael Lamb, professor of psychology and head of the Department of Social and Developmental Psychology at Cambridge University, “Children raised without fathers are more likely to show signs of psychological maladjustment, they are more likely to have difficulties at school… They are more likely to be represented in the statistics on delinquency and unconventional social behaviour, and they seem to have difficulty establishing and maintaining intimate relationships, particularly heterosexual relationships once they move into adulthood.”
Faced with these realities, it is no wonder that in 2008, Barack Obama urged Black fathers to take care of their children. “They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it… I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle — that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my girls,” Obama said.
Despite my disagreements with the majority of Obama’s policies, I greatly respect him for his dedication to his family.
He was right to send the much needed message to the Black community, because that is where fatherlessness is most prevalent. Around 65 percent of African American children are being raised by a single-mother. The aforementioned Progressive Policy Institute study also revealed a great crime inflicted on black children. After controlling for the factor of an absent father, there is virtually no difference between black and white crime rates.
The great tragedy in all this is that defenders of the nuclear family now have studies to prove their points where there used to be only religion and tradition to rely on.
In this age of increasing abdication of responsibility, a real effort is required of both men and women to turn these trends around. The fact remains that fathers matter; there should be nothing but contempt for men who abandon their wives or girlfriends and leave their children fatherless. Single mothers by choice belong in the same category. They display an incredible level of narcissism and lack of concern for the well-being of children, which are practically relegated to the category of fashion accessory.
Most of us appreciate the contribution of our mothers in our lives; it is fathers who often go unnoticed. Those of us raised by good, hardworking, and loving fathers, could likely do a lot more to show our gratitude. And for those men who weren’t so lucky, you can do what our President did and break the cycle, make a conscious choice to be a good father.
I would like to thank Brett Frazer for his response to my article “Islamic Violence Justifies Islamophobia,” in the May 31 issue of The Northern Light, because his views are a good representation of apologists for Islam in the West. And so it is with great enthusiasm with which I aim to dismantle his arguments in this week’s column.
A common critique of American society is the extent to which inequality runs rampant. It’s all been said before; how those lovely Scandinavian countries and many of their Western European neighbors have achieved a much greater level of egalitarianism than we have. America is the land of cutthroat capitalism, where the rich exploit the poor for their labor, and only the few elite enjoy the fruits of American industry.
Let’s grant for a moment this cartoonish characterization. There is another half of the puzzle that is rarely spoken of, until recently perhaps, which is the great difference between America and Europe in social equality. I am referring to the recent case against France’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
On 14 May 2011, a maid working at the Sofitel Hotel in New York made the allegation that Kahn sexually assaulted her when she was cleaning his suite. Everyone deserves a fair trial and the assumption of innocence, but the reaction to Mr. Kahn’s alleged rape is illuminating to say the least. In the land of liberté, égalité, and fraternity, many don’t seem to enjoy watching one of their elites being treated like an ordinary citizen.
The French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy recently opined that he was appalled by the “American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other.”
A subject of justice like any other? Where is equality more important than before the law? Perhaps some in France do not approve of the way accused criminals become subject to media scrutiny, but certainly Kahn ought to be treated like anyone else. As flawed as the American judicial system may be, at least an attempt at equal protection under the law is made. Lévy and many of his fellow Frenchmen have come right out and declared that not only do the elite receive preferential treatment in court, but they ought to!
In a stereotypically snooty fashion, Jean Daniel of Le Nouvel Observateur writes, “We and the Americans do not belong to the same civilization,” and is baffled by the fact that authorities didn’t realize Kahn was “not like other men.” I suppose he wanted Kahn to be treated with special care that only a pampered Frenchman of the ruling class deserved. Well, it’s quite a relief that this was not the case. The ever so wonderful Dominique Strauss-Kahn, as much apparent good as he’s done for so many ordinary folk out in the world, was treated like any other man would be if accused of rape in America.
It may be the case that this outrage in France is an aberration from the rest of continental Europe, and the vast majority of Europeans don’t promote such a socially stratified society, but I am willing to bet not. The reason for this is the strong connection between a powerful state, and a growing sense of elitism among the ruling class. This sort of disconnect from the rabble can be seen by examining the lives of people like Al Gore, who has been going on and on about the threat of climate change, but sees little reason to adjust his own lifestyle. Like many of his compatriots, Gore continues to fly around on his jet of hypocrisy. While he lectures middle-income Americans about conserving fuel, he uses more in a day than they likely will in a decade.
Because statism is so prevalent throughout Europe, and appears to be creeping into America, one can expect the enlightened political class to increasingly see themselves as above the law. Thankfully however, this arrogance that the French seem to revel in is still in its infant form at home, which the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case is testament to. But in order to keep this sort of elitist arrogance out of the political discourse in America, it has to be continuously fought back. Every time hypocrites like Al Gore refuse to practice what they preach, they need to be called out. Whenever someone makes a remark about the lowbrow state of the “average America,” remind them that they are included in that demographic.
I am glad we live in a society where even the most powerful men in the world can be brought before a court of his peers to be judged like anyone else. Perhaps Jean Daniel is right, that we don’t belong to the same civilization, but we are better off for it.
Whether it’s the recent ban on trans fat in California, sugary drinks in Massachusetts, or salt in New York, one thing is for certain, the state is becoming increasingly involved in the dietary choices people make. Until recently, these regulations only targeted what businesses and schools were allowed to provide. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act,…
One of the more heated issues over the budget debate in Washington is the amendment passed by House Republicans to cut all federal funding of Planned Parenthood. As of now, the Federal Government subsidizes Planned Parenthood at a cost of about $360 million per year. And although this may seem like a lot, in the grand scheme of things it’s only peanuts in comparison to the $1.5 trillion budget deficit.
Despite the relatively small amount of funding at stake, both sides are unwilling to budge on what is largely an ideological conflict. Pro-life republicans see the budget crisis as an opportunity to cut a program they find not only illegitimate but immoral, while pro-choice democrats see this defunding attempt as an assault on their core platform.
The most amusing aspect of this whole clash over abortion is the way in which the pro-choice side has conducted itself. The amendment’s detractors cloak themselves in the banner of maintaining “women’s health” and some, such as Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) have gone as far as to say that republicans have been elected to “kill women” in a Nazi-like fashion. Additionally, CNN’s Candy Crowley has even co-opted Planned Parenthood’s talking points. In an interview of Rep. Steve King (R-IA) she asked, “Would you worry that, by cutting off those services, people would have sicker babies?”
Let’s get some facts straight. About 98 percent of all services provided by Planned Parenthood for pregnant women are for abortions, yet Crowley is worried that if the government cuts off their funding, people might have sicker babies? I am pretty sure the net-gain for infant health would be huge if the largest abortion provider were to disappear tomorrow. Last I heard, babies whose brains have been sucked out tend not to be the healthiest bunch.
Rep. Slaughter’s comments are even more ridiculous. I am assuming she’s accusing republicans of killing women via not paying for their abortions when their lives are threatened by a pregnancy. Considering the fact that in developed countries, maternal death accounts for less than one percent of all births, that is a rather strange thing to quibble over. To be precise, the maternal mortality rate in the United States, as of 2005, was 11 deaths for every 100,000 pregnancies.
A fundamental flaw in Slaughter’s analysis is she doesn’t take into account the other females. She is so fixated on victims of maternal mortality that she forgets the huge number of deaths approved and funded by people like her every year. It’s not republicans who are killing women, but organizations like Planned Parenthood.
The abortion rate in 2005 was about 1,940 for every 100,000 pregnancies. Assuming that roughly half of all infants born are female, that is a death rate of 970 females per year, but groups like Planned Parenthood have the audacity to carry signs labeled “Stand up for Women’s Health.” The irony is thick.
Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor and pro-life activist said it best during her speech in 2008, “If abortion is about women’s rights, then where were mine? There was not a radical feminist, standing up and yelling about how my rights had been violated that day. In fact my life was being snuffed out in the name of women’s rights.”
But this was not always the case. The history of feminism is actually staunchly pro-life. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Wollstonecraft and Alice Paul were all opposed to abortion and vehemently condemned it. Feminists for Life, an American organization leads the way in educating people on feminist history and its hijacking by radical pro-choice advocates. You won’t read anything about that on NOW’s website, however, where to them, the right to murder children is as American as baseball or apple-pie.
Currently, democrats are crying foul over the fact that republicans are forcing gridlock on the budget due to their insistence to push through this divisive amendment. Unfortunately, the Senate is unlikely to allow it to pass. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) insisted last week that, “We will never, never, never defund Planned Parenthood.” Yet if there is to be a government shutdown, the democrats would surely be to blame considering they didn’t even pass a budget last year out of political cowardice.
Their criticisms are true to an extent. Yes, republicans are making things more difficult by pushing through a relatively insignificant (in dollar terms) amendment to defund a very popular organization among democrats, but it’s still the right thing to do.
Not a dime of tax-payer funds should ever go to this disgusting corporation again. They make over a billion dollars a year in the business of baby killing. They do not exist for the benefit of “women’s health” but for the profitable industry of providing abortions. That’s their bottom line. And in this current budget crisis their blood-money should be the first to go.
“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” Oh how the times have changed. These were the words of then-candidate Obama in 2007 before he decided to intervene in yet another oil-producing Arab nation. He and his party have gone from one of anti-war doves to full-on warmongers. Even President Bush went before Congress before invading Iraq, an alleged threat to the United States.
To their credit, however, many liberals and democrats are aghast at his decision to commit military aid without the approval of Congress, including Dennis Kucinich, Jim Webb, and others. Politico reported that just last week during a convening of House Democrats one lawmaker angrily protested. “They consulted the Arab League. They consulted the United Nations. They did not consult the United States Congress.” It is also worth noting that in last week’s edition of The Northern Light, Eli Johnson who typically takes a left of center approach argued in his column that America cannot afford the intervention in its current budget crisis.
Even if the budget deficit for this year wasn’t $1.5 trillion and we weren’t $14 trillion in debt, the decision to intervene in Libya is still the wrong course to take for several reasons.
One of the most compelling reasons for the war’s supporters is that it has international support behind it. We’re just following the UN resolution to impose a no-fly zone to protect civilians they say. We have both the Arab League and international community behind the operation; the U.S. government is not taking a leading role. But this “go along to get along” mentality is proving to be a failure.
The Arab League is already reversing its support for the operation. Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa was shocked and dismayed to learn that civilians were killed in ally airstrikes. Well, what did he expect? With any sort of military engagement there will be civilian casualties. When dealing with the Arab League, this comes as no surprise seeing as how unreliable they have been in the past, yet they were praised as an instrumental asset to the operation.
What of the other powers? Well, Germany is long gone after a dispute with France; Russia denounced the intervention as a “medieval crusade”; China and Brazil are calling for a ceasefire and Turkey and India have remained unfavorable from the beginning. Three cheers for the multilateralism!
Of the countries still actively involved in the Libyan war, there is still some confusion in the chain of command. President Obama made sure to reiterate a few weeks ago that America was merely “one of the partners among many.” But then who should lead? At this point nobody is quite sure. Norwegian aircraft were ready to strike from Crete but refused to send them anywhere until it figured out who’s in charge. There is a crisis of leadership that only America seems to be able fit to fill, leadership which the President seems adamant to refuse.
And why should the UN determine whether the U.S. goes to war in the first place? It sounds incredibly high-minded to say that we’re not acting out of national interest, but because the “international community” told us to. Put more simply, we’re basically allowing our foreign policy to be determined by China, France, Russia, the U.K. and all the others collectively. Sure, we always seem to compose the largest force with the most resources but it should be the world that decides when we engage in war, not simple-minded Americans and their representatives, the ones who will actually be paying the bill and sending their soldiers off to die.
Apart from the moral abdication of allowing the UN at the helm of American foreign policy decisions, President Obama has not outlined any sort of vital interests at stake. At the very least, before engaging in a preemptive war which is already somewhat dubious in and of itself, there has to be some sort of national interest at stake, and as far as I can tell there are none.
Supporters of the war claim that we’re not acting out of self-interest but to prevent the slaughter of civilians. But if this were true, then why pick Libya? Sudan is in the same bloody neighborhood. Its leader Omar al-Bashir has already been charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court, but nobody is talking about toppling his regime. I suppose the President is still waiting for someone else to take the lead on that one. If the only requirement for U.S. intervention is massacre of civilians, then we better prepare for endless war in impossible scenarios. The brutal Syrian dictator Assad cracked down on peaceful protesters last week killing dozens, but we didn’t even get a word of condemnation from the administration, and in fact, Secretary of State Clinton praised Assad as a “reformer”. How nice.
The last and possibly most important question not being asked about this entire debacle is why should we help the rebels? Do we even know their goals or what they stand for? If we have learned anything from our past of arming rebel Arab armies it is that we ought to look carefully into their aims. We keep hearing how they are “freedom fighters” but where in the history of that region has any sort of free democracy ever flourished? Is the freedom they want simply to impose their own version of theocracy on each other? It may be possible that the rebels want to establish an even worse government than Gadhafi’s oppressive regime, and before arming them we should actually find out.
We also shouldn’t forget our foray into Afghanistan so quickly, where the U.S.-backed government in Kabul has “democratically” passed Sharia-style laws, allowing officials to put to death Muslim apostates. The same goes for those “freedom loving” Egyptian revolutionaries who are apparently aiming to elect Muslim Brotherhood candidates in a swift election this September. Remember them? They’re that harmless “secular” political party whose goal is to establish Islamic rule.
We can only hope President Obama sees the mess he has got us into and removes U.S. forces from the equation as soon as possible. And if he wants to intervene in another Middle Eastern civil war in the future, he should consult Congress beforehand or at the very least know something of the combatant’s goals. But then again, we’re broke.
The devastation in Japan is mind boggling. As most are aware, the country experienced a record-breaking 9.0 earthquake off its North Eastern coastline, triggering a major tsunami measuring nearly 80 feet high and traveling up to 10 miles inland.
Currently, the official death toll is 10,102, though estimates put the number closer to 18,000. From the combined impact of the earthquake and tsunami, 125,000 buildings have either been damaged or destroyed, and major infrastructure such as roads and railways severely crippled.
On top of all this, nuclear power plants in the Fukushima prefecture have gone into full scale meltdown, creating fears of food contamination. Two provinces near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have placed restrictions on spinach, milk, and other foods produced in that region.
Millions of Japanese remain homeless, and millions more are managing without electricity, running water, and little food. Even in areas not as directly affected, people are struggling to deal with the crisis. A friend of my mother, Keiko Tamura, a 43-year old Tokyo resident and mother of two young children describes the difficulties of the current situation. “After the earthquake, the railway was suspended and my 9-year old daughter had to ride her bike four five hours in order to get home. We are also low on basic supplies such as food and toilet paper.”
Additionally, the elderly who make up a large portion of Japan’s demographics are taking the crisis quite seriously. I spoke with my grandfather Toshiro Suzuki, an 86-year old painter living in Yokohama. He told me that “many elderly people are afraid and have been stocking up on large quantities of rice from the grocery stores. Now we have a shortage of rice.” In spite of the shortage, Suzuki is optimistic about the future. The Japanese lived through and strived in the aftermath of WWII and will certainly recover from this disaster, continuing to progress.
Despite the magnitude of the tragedy, the people of Japan have conducted themselves in an admirable way. Unlike the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Japan has experienced no looting, rioting, or panic to speak of. They have acted in a genuinely selfless way, going to great lengths to help each other out.
This may be because Japan has no culture of entitlement or government dependency. Sure, it has extensive social programs to help the needy, but able-bodied members of society are expected to contribute (welfare recipients are not even allowed to own television sets!). They also seem grasp the limits of what the government can and cannot do. They aren’t complaining, but instead trying to make do with what they have and are contributing to the improvement of the situation. In short, the Japanese culture is ingrained with what President Kennedy was trying to communicate in his famous inaugural address when he stated, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” They aren’t acting like dependent children recently abandoned by their parents (as was seen during Katrina) but mature adults who are a part of the solution.
News agencies have noted the astounding way in which the Japanese are reacting. CNN’s Kyung Lah reports that “unlike other disasters where the world has observed looting, rioting and public outbursts of sorrow and rage, it has seen a country quietly mourning, its people standing patiently for hours in orderly lines for a few bottles of water.” There is no rowdy behavior whatsoever. Everyone is waiting their turn in a courteous way.
The Japanese response to its triple disaster goes beyond acting in a strong and mature way however, it has also been completely charitable and considerate.
I don’t know whether it is simply religious understanding, or some other cultural quality, but whatever it is, the Japanese culture is unique in how it dictates people’s etiquette toward each other.
A family in Fukushima was ecstatic to discover that their dog survived the tsunami but decided to leave it in what remained of their house. Their decision was not based on any lack of love for their dog, but out of respect for others in the shelter.
It is depressing to say that this scene would be unlikely in American society where the culture promotes self-obsession in what many describe as “Generation Me.” When young people look up to vain spoiled heiresses such as Paris Hilton or self-glorifying morons like Kanye West for their role models; it is a sad state of affairs.
But these realities should not let us get away from the issue at hand of how superbly the Japanese have responded to the disaster. Their behavior is a model for the rest of the world and we as a society should hope that during future calamities, whether they be terrorist attacks or natural disasters, that we step up to the plate as individuals and conduct ourselves in a similarly respectable manner.
I urge everyone to donate what they can afford to the Red Cross or a preferred charitable organization in order to help our brothers and sisters living across the Pacific.
How To Help Japan: Earthquake Relief Options:
In the past month the world witnessed two barbaric acts of terrorism in the name of Islam. Arid Uka shot and murdered two U.S. soldiers and seriously wounded two others at an airport in Frankfurt while shouting the all too familiar “Allahu Akbar.”
Oddly enough, the Obama administration was incapable of labeling this a terrorist act and chose to play its usual politically correct game by tiptoeing around the issue.
The President called it a “tragic incident” which was just another “isolated” case in a list that includes the Fort Hood shooting and failed Times Square and underwear bombings.
Why politicians continue to ignore the truth of Islam and the fact that it remains the one common variable in all these attacks is beyond explanation.
More recently a Jewish family in Israel was massacred. Rabbi Udi Fogel along with his wife Ruth and three of their small children including a 3-month-old baby girl were brutally stabbed by Palestinian terrorists. Thankfully, the terrorists missed three of their other children sleeping in an adjacent room.
Fogel and his family were murdered for no reason other than the fact that they were Jewish. This was a heinous crime without excuse. Despite these facts, the response from Palestinians in Gaza was utterly barbarous.
According to Ynetnews, “Gaza residents… hit the streets Saturday to celebrate the terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Itamar… [They] handed out candy and sweets.” One resident was reported as saying the joy “is a natural response to the harm settlers inflict on the Palestinian residents in the West Bank.” Joy over the murder of children is a natural response to settlements in the West Bank?
Enemies or not, there is nothing natural about celebrating the murder of innocent children, unless perhaps if you are a psychopath whose religion is nothing more than an overly-glorified death cult.
In order to extinguish any doubts about the feelings of Palestinians, Hamas Spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri stated, “The report of five murdered Israelis is not enough punishment.” To civilized people, slaughtering children in cold blood is never justifiable, yet to these Islamic thugs Jewish children are considered of no more worth than monkeys or pigs.
It is this characterization that allows them to commit their crimes without the guilt. If Jews are nothing more than animals then killing them is not a problem.
After 9/11 President Bush went to a mosque and declared that Islam was a “religion of peace” and that these acts were not representative of most Muslims around the world.
It is true that only a very small percentage of Muslims ever actually commit any violence against the West, but many seem to either be neutral or passively approving of acts of aggression. This lie that Islam is a religion of peace crumbles every time the Arab world hits the streets and celebrates the murder of innocents. Violent Jihadism is not a fringe element of Islam, it is the mainstream.
Al-Jazeera, another one of those mainstream Arab news organizations we are all supposed to love and trust features Yusuf Qaradaw weekly, a man who promotes suicide bombings and attacks against non-believers on his show.
Additionally, we always hear about the masses of moderate Muslims, but where are they? Where are the outspoken Muslims groups actively seeking to root out their violent brethren?
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is all the time using its resources to combat what it terms “Islamophobia” or “anti-Islamic racism” but rather than fight the response, why not fight the cause?
Those who mistrust Islam and its adherents do so with reasonable cause. In the U.S., of the 128 terrorists indicted in the last two years, 126 of them were Muslim and the two remaining were working for Al Qaeda.
There is nothing wrong with refusing to respect Islam or any religion for that matter. CAIR and others attempt to frame any attack against Islam as bigotry and even racist, but there is nothing racial about an ideology.
It is as ridiculous as claiming that a rejection of Nazism in the 1930s and 40s were some sort of racist act towards Germans at that time. Islam has no right to demand the respect of non-believers merely for the fact that it is a religion; respect and tolerance must be earned and is also a two way street.
Until the streets of Gaza are filled with people condemning the senseless killings of innocent Israelis rather than promoting killers of children as war heroes, there can be no consolation.
As long as Islam remains a sadomasochistic religion of the vicious, peace is impossible. Islam needs to reform itself because the status quo is intolerable.
Apart from a few radicals, most Americans believe in equality. The great disagreement comes when people try to determine what equality actually is. On one side are those concerned with establishing the optimal environment for the equality of opportunity, while the other side wants to guarantee the equality of results. Feminism began as a necessary movement to allow women many of the choices formerly only available to men. Unfortunately, modern feminism has transformed into nothing more than a racket of victims looking to gain special privileges.
From lower physical requirements for female firefighters, soldiers, and police officers, to quotas in sports with the enactment of Title XI, modern feminist causes have been about special treatment over equal treatment. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the way in which feminists have tackled the issue of the so-called gender income gap.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) for example loves to tout the fact that women’s median annual salary is only “78 cents for every $1.00” earned by men. But like most of these statistics, they are used to paint a story that just isn’t so. Several feminist groups claim that this wage gap is evidence of systematic discrimination against women in the workplace and are using it to pass legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act. Regrettably, the conclusion of the feminists has no basis in reality.
The first problem with their line of reasoning is that one cannot assume discrimination based on unequal results. For example, 75 percent of public educators in the United States are female according to the National Education Association. To conclude that this gender gap in employment is due to discrimination toward males in the public school system is not even taken seriously, nor should it be, but this same logic somehow applies to the wage gap.
The most reasonable explanation for the lack of male public educators is that men simply choose not to become teachers at the same rate as women. This issue of choice also happens to be at the heart of the gender income gap. The inconvenient truth of the matter is that women lag behind men in wages because of the choices they make. Women tend to go into different areas of study, choose different sorts of jobs (often with less risks involved), and manage their home lives with different considerations than men.
The Labor Department issued a study in 2009 which concluded that difference in income between the genders “are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”
This study only reinforced what has been known by most economists for a relatively long time. In a recent interview, economist Thomas Sowell noted that in 1969, unmarried women earned a higher income than men who were never married, they also became tenured professors at a higher rate than men who were never married. The variable to look for is marriage and child rearing, two choices that make a very big difference in determining the lifetime income of women.
It’s true that feminist groups use this dishonest wage gap statistic to push their agenda, but they often forget other very important facts as it relates to gender in the workplace. One statistic you never hear NOW using to petition Congress for in order to promote equity is the gender difference in workplace related deaths. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 men accounted for 93 percent of all workplace fatalities, even though women were responsible for 43 percent of all hours worked. Of course this statistic goes back to the point that men typically are willing to take on riskier jobs than women. Riskier jobs often mean higher pay.
Another angle not often considered by those who fret over the wage gap is that it makes little sense to an employer. If women truly did equal work for less pay, why would an employer ever hire a man except as a last resort? Businesses have one primary objective, and that is to turn a profit. If an employer could hire a woman and pay her a significantly lower rate than what it would have to pay a man, with equal results, what business wouldn’t take advantage of a deal like that?
Facts are stubborn things. Men choose fields that tend to earn more income and are more likely to work longer hours. Women are more likely to be selective when choosing work, taking flexibility and environment into account, as well as time for children and family. So before anyone participates in the upcoming feminist rallies in April to show their solidarity, consider how baseless the wage-gap grievance really is. Sadly enough, the wage gap fallacy is only the tip of the iceberg in the emotionally charged movement that is modern day feminism.
Multiculturalism as a defensible concept seems to be standing on its last few legs. Recently, both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron have declared multiculturalism to have “failed” and France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen says she senses an “evolution” in Europe’s support for multicultural policies. It would seem that promoting multiculturalism as a national goal is both wrongheaded and simply does not work.
The idea that all cultures are equal has its roots in a mixture of tolerance and relativism. Tolerance is fine, but relativism is suicidal. One does not have to make the jump of tolerating a cultural practice to declaring it equally valuable to society. I am not talking about minor cultural differences such as food, dress, or language (as bad as Finnish cuisine may be), but cultural differences which violate natural rights and liberties. For example, female circumcision is an extremely painful, barbaric practice, which removes a woman’s ability to enjoy sex, and is still performed in modern Africa. This disgusting violation of basic female rights is not just different, but morally wrong.
Furthermore, the United Nations as an organization holds to the view that the natural rights of mankind are not cultural but universal. The UN Commision on Human Rights runs on the very assumption that human rights are a birthright; otherwise, they are accomplishing nothing more than imposing their subjective values onto North Korea when they give Kim Jong Il a very poor grade on his human rights report. Starvation and slave labor camps have been an integral part of North Korean culture for decades. If all cultures are equal, by judging South Korea to be a better place than its neighbor to the North is nothing more than the expression of a subjective opinion, merely personal preference.
How then can democratic nations continue to worship at the altar of multiculturalism, declaring all cultures equal, while simultaneously be active members of the U.N.? The U.N is supposed to promote universal human rights, but human rights and cultural practices can often conflict. Perhaps cultural relativism was never supposed to make sense, but only make people feel good.
People don’t want to hear that some cultural practices are detestable, it feels much better to put the blinders on and pretend that no one culture is really better than the other, only different. Like individuals however, all cultures are special, but some are downright vicious.
Evils such as slavery and the abuse of women are commonplace in many cultures around the world, but the naïve promoters of cultural relativism conveniently forget the more brutal practices.
Currently, the failures of multiculturalism have not yet been as apparent at home as they have in Europe. Muslim immigrants in particular have been slow to integrate and European governments are beginning to see the need to change strategy.
Prime Minister of the U.K. David Cameron has been quick to denounce the impotent policy of the British government in promoting the cultural relativism disaster. “A passively tolerant society… stands neutral between different values. A genuinely liberal country does much more. It believes in certain values and actively promotes them.” This has been a problem specifically for young Muslim men living in the U.K who, according to Cameron, are trapped between a militant Islamist worldview quite confident in its cultural superiority, and a national government which has failed to promote its identity as anything other than relativism.
The policy of multiculturalism in the U.K., far from integrating Muslims into British culture, has promoted an increase in Islamism by failing to give the youth a strong sense of national identity. People want something to believe in and relativism provides nothing but meaninglessness to life. If all views, even contradictory ones, are equally valid, then it is the same as saying nothing is valid at all.
Canadian author Mark Steyn argues along the same line as Prime Minister Cameron in reference to why the West is having difficulty in winning the war against Islamic terrorists. He believes we don’t really have a sound ideology that we can have any confidence in, if at all. “Insofar as we have an ideology it’s a belief in the virtues of “multiculturalism,” “tolerance,” “celebrate diversity” – a bumper-sticker ideology that is, in effect, an anti-ideology which explicitly rejects the very idea of drawing distinctions between your beliefs and anybody else’s.”
As long as the West continues to castrate itself with the morally bankrupt view of cultural relativism, we can have no confidence in our culture. And if we have no confidence in our own culture, how can we expect others to? In order to have a chance of winning the ideological war with militant Islam, we must promote human rights as not merely a Western convention, but as a universal birthright for all peoples.
Tunisia, a country whose citizens have long put up with a corrupt leadership and rigid controls on both their economic and political rights, has finally had enough.
With an unemployment rate hovering around 13.5 percent and a highly regulated economy, growth has been slow and unable to quell the anger and frustration over police state rule, which has maintained strict limitations on the press and the internet.
The tipping point occurred on December 17, when a young man Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in protest when government officials barred him from selling vegetables on the streets of Sidi Bouzid. Following this final act of desperation, demonstrations triggered across the town which lies within one of the poorest regions of Tunisia. President Ben Ali retaliated with aggressive police action as well as labeling the protesters “terrorists”, which only seemed to further anger them and win supporters to their cause.
When none of these tactics proved to be effective, President Ben Ali began to make an attempt at concessions, promising to “deepen democracy and revitalize pluralism.” But it was too late. In an act uncharacteristic of the strong-arm ruler, Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia with his family after being rejected entrance to France.
These unexpected turn of events should be welcomed by the Western world. The Tunisian people have successfully overturned an oppressive government and now seek to implement many of the freedoms we enjoy.
Although the death toll continues to mount, the protesters must not relent in their demand for reforms and remember that, “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” as Jefferson once said.
One recent effect of the revolution in Tunisia has been to inspire other Arab states. Following suit, rioting began to break out across Egypt on January 25, over similar reasons of economic stagnation and political repression.
However, unlike the events in Tunisia, there are reasons to be wary of a political upheaval in Egypt. Although most of the initial protesters appear to be advocates of secular democracy, their success in ousting President Mubarak may actually usher in an even worse governing entity. Throughout the period of his long reign, he has battered democratic-minded opposition, making them ill-prepared for any sort of power shift, which leaves one of the several Islamist groups as the likely candidate.
The hope is that before Mubarak goes the way of his friend Ben Ali, he will implement many of the sought after reforms. The 82 year old dictator must restore legitimacy to Egypt’s election laws in order to step down gracefully.
And in a welcome move by the administration, while in Jordan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated, “We support the universal rights of the Egyptian people… including the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.” She went on to say that “we urge the Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications, including on social media sites.”
Unfortunately, it may already be too late. On January 28, with no end in sight to the chaos, the Islamist groups may have already begun to make their move. Egyptian scholar Samuel Tadros reported “seeing Islamists out in full force among the protesters.”
He went on to describe that, “they poured out of the mosques after Friday prayers and are marching and shouting Islamist slogans.”
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan has taken the accusation even further claiming that the “Egyptian demonstrations are not the equivalent of Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution”, but a “reprise of Iran’s 1979 radical revolution.”
Before we get on board behind the revolution in Egypt (or any overthrow of a tyrannical government for that matter) it is important to make sure that whatever is replacing it is not actually worse than its predecessor. As bad as Mubarak’s military dictatorship may be, it is preferable to an Iranian-style theocracy.
Though it may be the case that this fear of a rising Islamism is premature, as there is a real possibility the advocates for a liberalized democratic state are the ones who will be able to assert themselves, and transform their nation into something like a modern-day Turkey. An Islamist takeover of Egypt is surely terrible to contemplate. Only time will tell in either case.
The full ripple effect of Tunisia and now Egypt however is yet to be seen. And some analysts such as Joel C. Rosenberg believe Jordan could be next, and unlike Egypt “there is a very high risk that Islamic radicals would take over the regime.” Let us pray this is not the case. For now we can only hope that Tunisia and Egypt change for the better.
During an age in which Americans are bombarded from all sides over stories of natural disasters, overpopulation, pandemics, terrorism, and global warming, it is easy to adopt a grim view of the current state of the world. In 2010 we witnessed a deadly earthquake in Haiti, a massive oil spill off the Gulf Coast, and economically fueled riots across Greece. And already in 2011 there has been a deadly flood in Brazil, violent anti-government protests in Tunisia, and bombings of Christian churches in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, and the Philippines. Given a relatively informed view of the world, how could anyone possibly be optimistic about the future of the human race? Well it so happens that in reaction to this wave of pessimism, Oxford educated zoologist turned journalist Matt Ridley has decided to challenge the current wave of hysteria by advocating what he terms “Rational Optimism”.
Currently participating in a lecture tour to promote his book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Ridley presents several key facts on his side which are not often considered by the modern day Chicken Little.
In his lectures, Ridley starts off by listing five indicators of prosperity over the past 55 years that are likely to ease some of the concerns of even the most pessimistic among us. Life expectancy globally has increased by a third, per capita income has tripled, food per capita is up by a third, child mortality has decreased by two thirds, and population growth has been cut in half. Yes, for those paranoid over the non-existent overpopulation problem you have nothing to worry about. Considering 55 years is a relatively short period of time in the grand scheme of things and these are all global averages, these realities are no small achievement.
One of the illustrations Ridley often uses in his lectures is the availability of reading light to show an increase in prosperity over time, which he borrowed from a study by William Nordhaus, Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale. He explains that if someone wanted to read a book for an hour by the light of a compact florescent bulb, it costs roughly half a second of work on the average wage today. In 1950 it would have cost eight seconds of work. With a kerosene lamp in 1880, it required 15 minutes of work. And for an hour of light by a candle in 1800 one had to work six hours on the average wage, which means that the average person could not even afford an hour of light in 1800.
In his book he illustrates a perfect point for his argument by examining America in particular. “Today of Americans officially designated as poor, 99 percent have electricity, running water, flushing toilets, and a refrigerator. 95 percent have a television, 88 percent a telephone, 71 percent a car, and 70 percent air-conditioning.” In the 1950s, he describes that a car owner being labeled as poor would have been “ridiculous” but that it is now considered acceptable. He doesn’t view this as a negative but rather as a sign that we are becoming kinder as a people, but must recognize progress when it is made in order to consider that further improvements are possible.
After establishing the position that conditions are improving as a whole and that we are perfectly rational to be optimistic about the future, the question of why this is the case must be answered. Ridley believes he has a good idea of why prosperity has been increasing at such an exponential rate. This answer can be simplified down to trade, not only the exchange of goods and services but the exchange of ideas between groups. “What’s relative to society is how well people are communicating their ideas and how well they’re cooperating, not how clever the individuals are.” Trade he explains is much older than farming and for the most part unique to humans. It is an incredible tool for increasing prosperity because it allows for the specialization of labor, where each individual does their own part to create what none could do well alone; a sort of “collective brain” as Ridley describes it.
The next time someone frets over poverty, hunger, or the end of civilization as we know it, it is important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. There are problems in this world but conditions have dramatically improved over the past few centuries. As long as we continue to promote healthy policies such as free trade and minimally regulated markets, as well as utilize valuable tools such as the internet to spread ideas, there is plenty to be optimistic about.
The estate tax (also known as the death tax) is possibly the most devastating form of taxation ever created. It is for this reason that Congress passed a tax relief package in 2001 gradually phasing it out. The relief reached its peak this year resulting in a zero percent estate tax rate, something which hasn’t been achieved since 1916. Unfortunately, the tax relief was not made permanent and is headed for expiration in 2011 with a return to a 55 percent rate. The revival of the death tax is both disastrous for an already weakened economy and just plain wrong for several reasons.
The most direct negative impact of the death tax is that it discourages savings. Rather than putting money in the bank or investing it, people are encouraged to squander their earnings. Milton Freidman put it this way, “Because of the death tax, there’s little need to save, you might as well spend your money on wine, women and song as to save it.” What the death tax does essentially is create perverse incentives. It punishes those who act responsibly, saving what they earn and investing in future generations while rewarding those who spend quickly for short-term gains.
The estate tax is a form of double taxation. Assets are already subjected to federal payroll, income and capital gains taxes throughout a lifetime, and upon death, they are taxed once more. This reduces the total capital stock, which translates to lower living standards from the loss of investment and innovation.
Some believe that in this current debt crisis, the federal government needs the estate tax in order to take in more revenue to balance the budget. Strangely enough, an economist formerly with the Clinton administration Alicia Munnell found that the cost of implementing the death tax is almost the same as the actual revenue it brings in! Therefore, the advocates behind the estate tax may be more ideologically driven than anything. Many view taxes not as a necessary evil to fund government services, but as a means to shape society into what they prefer. It’s not enough that the government bills are paid for, but that the rich must be punished for their success. The envious nature of those on the left is revealed in that they cannot stand that some may be better off than themselves. If the death tax results in so little revenue, what motivation could there be behind it other than sheer greed?
Not only is the tax economically stupid, but it is also immoral. Americans who work hard their entire lives should be allowed to pass on their earnings to their children without the government getting in the way. The idea of some bureaucrat being in charge of distributing the lifelong accumulated wealth of an individual is terrible to contemplate.
Consequently, many economically competitive countries have seen the light on this issue and repealed their respective estate taxes in recent years, countries such as China, Canada, and Israel. Even Sweden, a welfare state so often lauded by advocates on the left did away with their death tax in order to stimulate economic growth.
The death tax produces little revenue, creates incentives to spend rather than save, hurts investment, and is a form of wealth redistribution. If President Obama and Congress want to encourage economic recovery, killing off the death tax is a great place to start.
Proposition 8 in California defining marriage as being between a man and a woman was overturned in August of this year in the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger and is now set for a Dec. 6 hearing before the Ninth District Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Vaughn Walker wrote the decision arguing, “Gays and lesbians… have intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples” and “deserve the full recognition of society.”
Judge Walker makes some important claims that must be addressed. It may be true that same-sex couples share intimate relationships similar to that of their traditional counterparts, but it cannot be said that they share the same sort of relationships; men and women are intrinsically different.
Former President of Harvard Larry Summers presented a hypothesis in 2005 suggesting inherent differences between the genders as far as aptitude at the high end in mathematics is concerned. Following the discussion he encountered fierce opposition bordering on religious fanaticism from the side rejecting any male-female differences, in spite of reality.
It is the difference between the sexes that allows for something imitable when they join together. Even some of the most radical advocates for same-sex marriage would agree that traditional marriage is also the optimal environment for the upbringing of children. A child benefits most from a having both a father and mother because each bring something unique to the table.
We call this union between man and woman a marriage, and whatever else one says about a same-sex relationship it cannot by definition be a marriage for the simple fact of nature that men and women are not the same. However many similarities there may be between traditional and same-sex couples, the two are different and should be recognized as such.
Judge Walker’s second point is a strange one. His job is to interpret law, not pass judgment on whether society should or should not recognize same-sex relationships. That is for society to decide, not a single man.
The people of California already passed a constitutional amendment establishing what they believe the definition of marriage ought to be, and Judge Walker is entitled to his vote and opinion on the matter but no more than the next citizen. His position as a Federal Judge does not grant him power of sole legislator.
Now there is a misunderstanding that infects the whole discussion over marriage that needs to be examined, which is the idea of gay “rights”. Often people confuse rights with privileges. For example, society grants the privilege of driving a car to persons above a certain age and able to perform at a designated level of aptitude, but certainly driving a car is not a birthright. There are standards one must meet in order to receive a driver’s license, much like entering into a legal marriage.
In order to communicate this more clearly, it should be acknowledged that there are real and serious disagreements between conservatives as liberals as to what constitutes a right, but one thing is certain, all rights have a corollary duties.
In the winter of 1944, President Roosevelt presented a Second Bill of Rights in his State of the Union Address which included a right to employment, housing, medical care, and so on. Many vehemently disagreed with Roosevelt’s new assessment of rights, but agreed that these new rights would impose additional duties. If one has a right to housing, then the government has a duty to build one. Likewise, all Americans have a right to legal counsel and are provided it by the state if they cannot afford it.
Therefore if marriage is in fact a right, it would mean the government has a duty to provide a spouse. Properly understood, a contract of legal marriage is not a right but a privilege, and all claims by gay “rights” activists to be obtaining their proper rights are frivolous.
With the exception of a few states, marriage in the U.S. remains between one man and one woman as it has been since its beginnings. The traditional family model has worked for America for hundreds of years and centuries before that going back to our Anglo-Saxon tradition.
It is because of this historical tradition that the burden of proof is on those who seek to change this ancient institution without using false claims to “rights” or denying the nature of men and women.