Friday, March 29, 2013

Who Needs an AR-15?

From, of all places, CNN:



We don’t happen to believe that the Second Amendment protects citizen’s right to own what are essentially military weapons.

On the other hand, the 1994-2004 assault weapons ban was a failure, providing no reduction in gun crime.

As with so many of the things that elitist liberals favor, the desire to ban assault weapons is driven by cultural bias rather than hard-nosed policy analysis. Gun people are, to the liberals, “the other,” who don’t sufficiently obey their “betters,” and need to be put in their place.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

On Being Offended

From Stuff White People Like:
To be offended is usually a rather unpleasant experience, one that can expose a person to intolerance, cultural misunderstandings, and even evoke the scars of the past. This is such an unpleasant experience that many people develop a thick skin and try to only be offended in the most egregious and awful situations. In many circumstances, they can allow smaller offenses to slip by as fighting them is a waste of time and energy. But white people, blessed with both time and energy, are not these kind of people. In fact there are few things white people love more than being offended.

Naturally, white people do not get offended by statements directed at white people. In fact, they don’t even have a problem making offensive statements about other white people (ask a white person about “flyover states”). As a rule, white people strongly prefer to get offended on behalf of other people.

It is also valuable to know that white people spend a significant portion of their time preparing for the moment when they will be offended. They read magazines, books, and watch documentaries all in hopes that one day they will encounter a person who will say something offensive. When this happens, they can leap into action with quotes, statistics, and historical examples. Once they have finished lecturing another white person about how it’s wrong to use the term “black” instead of “African-American,” they can sit back and relax in the knowledge that they have made a difference.

White people also get excited at the opportunity to be offended at things that are sexist and/or homophobic. Both cases offering ample opportunities for lectures, complaints, graduate classes, lengthy discussions and workshops. All of which do an excellent job of raising awareness among white people who hope to change their status from “not racist” to “super not racist.”

Another thing worth noting is that the threshold for being offended is a very important tool for judging and ranking white people. Missing an opportunity to be outraged is like missing a reference to Derrida-it’s social death.

If you ever need to make a white person feel indebted to you, wait for them to mention a book, film, or television show that features a character who is the same race as you, then say “the representation of was offensive and if you can’t see that, well, you need to do some soul searching.” After they return from their hastily booked trip to land of your ancestors, they will be desperate to make it up to you. At this point, it is acceptable to ask them to help you paint your house.

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More on Disability: New Welfare or New Unemployment Insurance?

Some commenters have challenged our post on the increasing number of people on disability insurance, making the following claims:
1. The real cause of the increase in disability is a poor economy . . . and

2. That it’s substantially due to the declining health of the population, and particularly due to the fact that an aging population resulted in more Americans in the age range (50-64) where health problems are prevalent.
An authoritative discussion of the increasing disability rolls comes from MIT economist David H. Autor.

There is some validity to the claim that a poor economy leads to more people on disability. Quoting Autor:
The growth of the SSDI rolls is not solely due to changes in the program’s eligibility criteria, however. The labor market has played a key contributing role. Previous research has established that workers are most likely to apply for SSDI benefits following job loss, a fact underscored by the pronounced positive correlation between the national unemployment rate and the SSDI application rate. The secular decline in earnings and employment opportunities for U.S. workers with high school or lower education over the last three decades has also made SSDI an increasingly attractive option for job losers and long-term unemployed.
However, as with everything else associated with the welfare state, when you reward dependency, you will get more dependent people:
As highlighted by Autor and Duggan (2003), the effective replacement rate of labor earnings with SSDI benefits has also risen in recent decades due both to the rising value of in-kind Medicare benefits and to a subtle interaction between the SSDI benefits formula and rising income inequality in the U.S. This interaction causes SSDI’s effective generosity for low-wage workers to rise as wages in the lower deciles of the distribution fall relative to the mean. Hence, absent any changes in the SSDI program, it is a near certainty that the deteriorating U.S. labor market for less educated workers would have caused SSDI applications to rise in recent decades. The Congressional liberalizations of the program enacted in 1984, however, allowed this surge in demand for benefits to translate into a substantial growth in the SSDI rolls.
As for the argument that people are becoming less healthy, that seems to be without much merit:
2.2 The role of population health and aging

The expanding size and cost of the SSDI program would not be inherently problematic if this expansion reflected a rising rate of disability among working-age adults and, moreover, if the program’s mounting expenditures enabled these individuals to maintain employment and self-sufficiency. Neither appears to be the case. Figure 6 shows that the fraction of middle-age adults reporting a disability has been roughly stable over the last two decades, averaging approximately 10 percent among both men and women.

Moreover, there is little evidence that the underlying health of the working-age population in the U.S. is deteriorating. For example, one of the most common and rapidly expanding diagnoses for individuals receiving SSDI awards is mental illness, which comprised more than 20 percent of SSDI awards in over the past decade. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine (Kessler et al. 2005) reports that the prevalence of mental disorders in the U.S. population was unchanged between 1990 and 2003. In the same interval, the rate of treatment of mental illness substantially increased—which in turn should have contributed to improved work-readiness among individuals coping with mental illness.

Using self-reported health data from the National Health Interview Survey, Duggan and Imberman (2008) find a substantial improvement between 1984 and 2004 in the average health of U.S. adults between the ages of 50 and 64. This age group is especially relevant because it accounted for 62 percent of all SSDI recipients in 2004. Reinforcing these conclusions, demographers Kenneth Manton and XiLiang Gu of Duke University (2001) find that the share of the population ages 65 and older suffering from a chronic disability fell by one-third between 1982 and 1999 (from 26.2 to 19.7 percent), with the largest drop between 1994 and 1999. In net, there is little reason to believe that the work capacity of adults with disabilities has declined in recent decades.

Perhaps surprisingly, the aging of the U.S. population—in particular, the passing of the baby boom generation into middle age—has made only a modest contribution so far to the growth of Disability Insurance. Calculations from Duggan and Imberman (2008) reveal that, holding age- specific rates of receipt of disability benefits at their 1984 base, the aging of the population between 1984 and 2004 explains only 6 percent of the increase in the fraction of non-elderly adults receiving Disability Insurance through 2004. The contribution of aging to program growth is numerically overwhelmed by the growth of SSDI recipients within given age groups.
The bottom line here is not that having a social safety net is a bad idea. It’s that it’s a good idea with huge dangers attached. The welfare state tends to take on a momentum of its own, with ever increasing dependency. But simply having people dependent on government is not nearly so bad as an ethos of dependency, in which people come to think that, as a matter of right, they have a claim on a decent lifestyle, regardless of work or effort. Europe is far down that path, and we see the results.

We seem to be following, pushed along by elites who benefit from change.

The table below (from Autor) tells the story.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Disability: The New Welfare

From, of all places, National Public Radio, a most insightful piece on the explosion of disability in recent years.

They are not the first to notice this rapid rise, but they provide a lot of insight into how it has happened.

Essentially, it is too easy to get on disability, even on the basis of vague or ill-defined medical problems. When one looks at the vastly increased numbers in recent years, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that most of these people could work. But why do that, when you can draw a regular check?

In the 1990s, led by the state of Wisconsin, “welfare” (technically, AFDC) was reformed, and women on the program required to work. Welfare had long been stereotyped (with considerable justification) as a program that discouraged work and supported idleness. Thus highly effective work requirements were put into effect.

But while “welfare” had a bad reputation, few people had any desire to get tough on people who were “disabled.” It’s not your fault, after all, if you have a medical condition. Of course, there are medical conditions and there are “medical conditions.” There has been a marked shift over time in the composition of the “medical conditions” that allow people to be on disability. Conditions that can produce a hard diagnosis (heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease) have either remained constant or declined as a proportion of those on disability, while back pain and mental illness have radically increased. But the American people have not become less healthy over the past (say) 30 years.

Ironically, the growth of disability has vitiated another piece of Federal legislation: the Americans With Disabilities Act. That Act was based on the assumption that people with disabilities can work, especially if employers are required to make an “accommodation” for their disability. But the trend, unfortunately, has not been to get disabled people into the workforce, but to take them out of the workforce with government assistance.

This, like the growth of AFDC in the 60s, 70s and 80s, is another example of how good intentions can get out of hand and produce highly negative results. The graphs below tell the story.



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Friday, March 15, 2013

A Jesuit Pope

Some comments on the new Pope from George Weigel, published in National Review:
The first Jesuit pope? Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. Bergoglio is an old-school Jesuit, formed by classic Ignatian spirituality and deeply committed to an intelligent, sophisticated appropriation and proclamation of the full symphony of Catholic truth — qualities not notable for their prevalence among members of the Society of Jesus in the early 21st century. I suspect there were not all that many champagne corks flying last night in those Jesuit residences throughout the world where the Catholic Revolution That Never Was is still regarded as the ecclesiastical holy grail. For the shrewder of the new pope’s Jesuit brothers know full well that that dream was just dealt another severe blow. And they perhaps fear that this pope, knowing the Society of Jesus and its contemporary confusions and corruptions as he does, just might take in hand the reform of the Jesuits that was one of the signal failures of the pontificate of John Paul II.

There will be endless readings of the tea leaves in the days ahead as the new pope, by word and gesture, offers certain signals as to his intentions and his program. But the essentials are already known. This is a keenly intelligent, deeply holy, humble, and shrewd man of the Gospel. He knows that he has been elected as a reformer, and the reforms he will implement are the reforms that will advance the New Evangelization. The rest is detail: important detail, to be sure, but still detail. The course is set, and the Church’s drive into the Evangelical Catholicism of the future has been accelerated by the pope who introduced himself to his diocese, and to the world, by bowing deeply as he asked for our prayers.
The failings of the Jesuit order are very visible at Marquette, which is less a Catholic university than a typical secular, politically correct place.

Will the new Pope change that? We doubt it, but if he provides strong moral leadership it may have the effect of making campus bureaucrats less bold in thumbing their noses at Catholic teaching.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Liberals Have Been Suckers For Leftist Tyrants

From Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe:
On the 60th anniversary of Joseph Stalin’s death last week, the Associated Press reported that admirers of the Soviet dictator, one of history’s bloodiest tyrants, were flocking to the Kremlin to venerate him as a great leader despite his ghastly record of repression. With polls showing a rise in Russians’ admiration and nostalgia for Stalin, observed the Associated Press, “experts and politicians puzzled and despaired over his enduring popularity.”

That some Russians express approval for a despot who has been dead since 1953 is distressing, though perhaps not surprising given the ongoing campaign to burnish Stalin’s image by Russia’s autocratic president, Vladimir Putin. But even more of a reason for puzzlement and despair is the enthusiastic applause for Stalin by influential American liberals when he was at the height of his bloody reign — and the willingness of similar propagandists, naifs, and true believers today to sing the praises of other thugs and dictators.

In the 1930s, as millions were being murdered in Stalin’s terror-famine and Great Purge, Walter Duranty was assuring readers of The New York Times that the Soviet ruler was “giving the Russian people . . . what they really want, namely joint effort, communal effort.” The renowned literary critic Edmund Wilson extolled Stalinist Russia as the “moral light at the top of the world.” Upton Sinclair, who later won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, vigorously defended the integrity of the “confessions” extracted by the secret police from many of Stalin’s victims: It “seems obvious,” Sinclair wrote, that they would not have “confessed to actions which they had not committed.”

The adulation of left-wing dictators and strongmen by Western intellectuals, journalists, and celebrities didn’t begin with Stalin (in 1921 Duranty had hailed Lenin for his “cool, far-sighted, reasoned sense of realities”), and it certainly didn’t end with him. Mona Charen chronicled the phenomenon in her superb 2003 book “Useful Idiots,” which recalls example after jaw-dropping example of American liberals defending, flattering, and excusing the crimes of one Communist ruler and regime after another. Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, the Khmer Rouge, Leonid Brezhnev, Kim Il Sung, the Sandinistas: Over and over the pattern was repeated, from the dawn of the Bolshevik Revolution to the collapse of the Iron Curtain — and beyond.

And the useful idiocy lives on.

When Venezuela’s America-hating caudillo Hugo Chavez died last week, Human Rights Watch summarized his legacy starkly: “a dramatic concentration of power and open disregard for basic human-rights guarantees.” Over his 14-year rule, Chavez succeeded in rewriting the constitution to abolish the Venezuelan Senate and repeal the one-term limit for presidents. He stifled judicial independence, cracked down on freedom of speech, and used his power to “intimidate, censor, and prosecute Venezuelans” who opposed his political agenda. Chavez cemented Venezuela’s alliance with Cuba — “the only country in Latin America that systematically represses virtually all forms of political dissent,” Human Rights Watch noted — and vocally backed dictators elsewhere, including Syria’s Bashar Assad and Libya’s Moammar Khadafy.

None of that troubled the ideologues who raced to praise the dead bully. Chavez “understood democracy and basic human desires for a dignified life,” gushed US Representative José Serrano of New York. Former President Jimmy Carter saluted his “commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.” And former Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Kennedy II, a longtime Chavez booster, eulogized Chavez as a humanitarian who cared about the poor.

All this was preceded by Dennis Rodman’s return to the headlines, as the former basketball star traveled to North Korea, where the planet’s most ghastly regime presides over a Stalinist hellhole in which hundreds of thousands of people are imprisoned in slave-labor camps. But Rodman, whose trip was financed by Vice Media, an American documentary production company, wasn’t there to see a human-rights nightmare. He came to watch some basketball, to hang out with the country’s new dictator, Kim Jong Un, and — in a country where starvation is a leading cause of death — to eat a 10-course meal that participants described as “an epic feast.”

All in all, the trip’s organizer said, “they had a grand old time.” So much so, apparently, that before a crowd of thousands, Rodman assured Kim: “You have a friend for life.”

Indeed. It’s a shameful thing, but dictators like Kim always do.

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Saturday, March 09, 2013

Muslim Rapper From Tennessee Praises Jesus

Hat Tip: First Things

Yea, this runs contrary to several stereotypes. On its face it’s as strange as Jewish rock music, and every bit as nice.

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Politically Correct Marquette Faculty Rally Behind FemSex

From the Marquette Tribune, an open letter from faculty who support the FemSex workshop, from which Marquette recently pulled support.

The letter engages in the standard blather about how great the workshop was. It further makes a few absurd claims, such as:
By affirming the worth and importance of female desire and fostering people’s understanding and appreciation of their bodies and sexuality, the curriculum also cultivates a campus climate in which the sexual assaults that brought Marquette under public scrutiny two years ago can become less likely.
How this would supposedly happen is a mystery. How writing pornographic stories, or coloring pictures of female genitalia (both part of FemSex at Marquette) might prevent rape is something only a feminist could imagine.

But what is interesting is the list of faculty who signed the letter:
Eugenia Afinoguenova, Lauren Applegate, Tara Baillargeon, Danielle Beverly, Amy Blair, Omega Burckhardt, Gerry Canavan, Roberta Coles, Ed de St. Aubin, Eric Dunnum, Ellen Eckman, Jenn Fishman, Leah Flack, Kristen Foster, Stephen Franzoi, Melissa Ganz, Barbara Glore, Beth Godbee, John Grych, Angelique Harris, Steven Hartman-Keiser, Heather Hathaway, Heather Hlavka, Jim Holstein, CJ Hribal, Andrew Kahrl, Astrida Kaugars, Laurieann Klockow, Lezlie Knox, Christine Krueger, Robert Lowe, Timothy McMahon, Jodi Melamed, Dawne Moon, Sameena Mulla, Kristy Nielson, Rebecca Nowacek, Debra Oswald, Tony Peressini, Anthony Porcelli, Sareene Proodian, Krista Ratcliffe, Heidi Schweizer, Mary Anne Siderits, Angela Sorby, James South, Peter Staudenmaier, Meghan Stroshine, Theresa Tobin, Robert Topp, Sarah Wadsworth, Elizabeth Wawrzyniak, Amelia Zurcher
This is pretty much a Who’s Who of the politically correct secular caucus on campus, full of the names of the people who wanted to hire aggressively lesbian dean candidate Jodi O’Brien. Among the signers is a psychology professor who demeaned the Bible as “sexist” by ripping a passage out of context.

Then there is a philosophy professor whose class was approvingly described by a student acolyte:
I just finished up an entire class on how patriarchy controls every structure in our society and how women are systematically prevented from being equal to men (Capitalism and Catholicism are among the most guilty parties).
Then there is James South who, as chair of the Philosophy Department tore down from the door of a graduate student a quote from humorist Dave Barry of which he disapproved!

This, in other words, is part of the “we don’t really like Catholicism, and want to undermine it when we can” lobby at Marquette.

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The Attack on Palermo’s: More

From Ethan Hollenberger on the website of the Young America’s Foundation:

A discussion of the student leftist’s demonstration against Palermo’s Pizza at the Bradley Center on Saturday. The demonstration was mounted by Youth Empowered in Struggle, a recognized Marquette student group.

The basic agenda is to bully the pizza company into recognizing a union. The claimed grievance: the company fired 75 workers when they could not prove they were in the country legally. And Palermo’s didn’t do this just to spite the workers. They doubtless would have preferred not to hassle them. But they were under an immigration audit by federal authorities.

It is, in this country, illegal to hire illegals. The law isn’t well enforced, but when it finally is enforced, a company better comply.

As Hollenberger notes:
The liberal students are looking to destroy a business that has spent supporting the local community, not to mention the students at Marquette University. Palermo’s was vindicated by the NLRB in November, and as of now, Marquette is sticking with Palermo’s.
It’s terribly revealing that the pro-union forces have to resort to trying to blackmail Palermo’s by staging a boycott, and trying to pressure politically correct institutions (as universities usually are) to enlist in the jihad.

If a majority of employees actually wanted to join a union, the union could win a representation election held with a secret ballot among workers. But they apparently can’t do that. So the real issue is not support for the workers, it’s support for union bosses, who want to coerce people into joining — and paying dues.

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Sunday, March 03, 2013

Palermos Pizza Protest at the Bradley Center

Apparently, the MU Coalition for Worker Rights was one of the groups involved in the protest.

Of course, the issue isn’t worker rights at all. It’s the organizational interests of labor unions.

Here is the protest group’s Facebook page.

And here is a photo of two of the protesters.


It’s fun to feel self-righteous. Why bother to ask questions about the issue?

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