Packers and Steelers go to the Superbowl

Both of the division championship games were surprisingly alike.  One team absolutely dominated in the first half, but then in the second half the other team showed life and came within striking distance.  But the Packers from Green Bay, Wisconsin (pop. 100,353) defeated the Bears from Chicago, Illinois (pop. 2,896,016).  Also the Steelers from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (pop. 312,819), defeated the Jets from New York City, New York (pop. 8,214,426).

So it will be a small town Superbowl, a rust belt Superbowl.

I realize that people who live or have lived in Pittsburgh and in Pennsylvania generally will support the Steelers.

I urge everyone else to support the Packers.   Liberals should like them because they aren’t owned by some rich capitalist; rather, they are publicly owned.  Conservatives should like them because they represent small town America.  Let’s make this a campaign for national unity (except for Pittsburgh).

Two different reasons to be civil

Michael Gerson asks, “Why, other than upbringing, should we be civil in the first place?”  He cites two different and competing reasons:

In the Western tradition, one answer has been rooted in epistemology – the limits of knowledge. Citizens, in this view, should not be arrogant or intolerant about their political, moral and religious views because no one has the right to be certain of his or her views. What our public life needs is more ambiguity, agnosticism and detachment. The humble are less strident, more peaceful.

This argument is made by a certain kind of campus relativist, who views the purpose of education as the systematic cultivation of doubt. But it is also reflected in the conservative tradition, which is suspicious of ideological certainties that lead to radical social experiments. Both the liberal and conservative variants of this epistemological modesty can be traced back to classical liberal thinkers such as John Locke, whose overriding concern was to prevent wars of opinion, particularly religious wars. If no one believed their opinions were absolutely true, there would be less incentive to attack or coerce others. In the absence of harmful certainty, society would operate by barter and compromise.

But there is a second, very different argument for civility – this one rooted in anthropology. The Christian and natural law traditions assert that human beings are equal and valuable, not because of what they think but because of who they are. Even when they are badly mistaken, their dignity requires respect for their freedom and conscience. A society becomes more just and civil as more people are converted to this moral belief in human dignity and reflect that conviction in their lives and laws.

Without a doubt, doubt is useful and needed at the margins of any ideology. The world is too complex to know completely. Many of our judgments are, by nature, provisional. Those who are immune to evidence, who claim infallibility on debatable matters, are known as bores – or maybe columnists.

Yet doubt becomes destructive as it reaches the center of a belief and becomes its substitute. A systematic skepticism may keep us from bothering our neighbor. It does not motivate a passion to fight for his or her dignity and rights. How do ambiguity and agnosticism result in dreams of justice, in altruism and honor, in sacrifices for the common good? What great reformers of American history can be explained by their elegant ambivalence?

via Michael Gerson – Two good arguments for civility – and passion – in politics.

So one is a negative reason  (we can’t know anything for sure, so we have to be tolerant of all views and the people who hold them).  The other is a positive reason (human beings have an intrinsic value by virtue of their creation by God and so should not be mistreated).

It seems to me that the first view will NOT be civil or tolerant to those who do have beliefs they are sure of.  Whereas the second view will be civil or tolerant to skeptics as well as believers.

Cooking the books on health care reform

Democrats are saying that the Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare would add to the deficit.  Saying that our only hope of controlling the deficit is to have health care reform, they cite numbers from the non-partisan Congressional Budget.   Charles Krauthammer exposes the way the Democrats are cooking the books:

Suppose someone – say, the president of United States – proposed the following: We are drowning in debt. More than $14 trillion right now. I’ve got a great idea for deficit reduction. It will yield a savings of $230 billion over the next 10 years: We increase spending by $540 billion while we increase taxes by $770 billion.

He’d be laughed out of town. And yet, this is precisely what the Democrats are claiming as a virtue of Obamacare. During the debate over Republican attempts to repeal it, one of the Democrats’ major talking points has been that Obamacare reduces the deficit – and therefore repeal raises it – by $230 billion. Why, the Congressional Budget Office says exactly that.

Very true. And very convincing. Until you realize where that number comes from. Explains CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf in his “preliminary analysis of H.R. 2″ (the Republican health-care repeal): “CBO anticipates that enacting H.R. 2 would probably yield, for the 2012-2021 period, a reduction in revenues in the neighborhood of $770 billion and a reduction in outlays in the vicinity of $540 billion.”

As National Affairs editor Yuval Levin pointed out when mining this remarkable nugget, this is a hell of a way to do deficit reduction: a radical increase in spending, topped by an even more radical increase in taxes.

Of course, the very numbers that yield this $230 billion “deficit reduction” are phony to begin with. The CBO is required to accept every assumption, promise (of future spending cuts, for example) and chronological gimmick that Congress gives it. All the CBO then does is perform the calculation and spit out the result.

In fact, the whole Obamacare bill was gamed to produce a favorable CBO number. Most glaringly, the entitlement it creates – government-subsidized health insurance for 32 million Americans – doesn’t kick in until 2014. That was deliberately designed so any projection for this decade would cover only six years of expenditures – while that same 10-year projection would capture 10 years of revenue. With 10 years of money inflow vs. six years of outflow, the result is a positive – i.e., deficit-reducing – number. Surprise.

If you think that’s audacious, consider this: Obamacare does not create just one new entitlement (health insurance for everyone); it actually creates a second – long-term care insurance. With an aging population, and with long-term care becoming extraordinarily expensive, this promises to be the biggest budget buster in the history of the welfare state.

And yet, in the CBO calculation, this new entitlement to long-term care reduces the deficit over the next 10 years. By $70 billion, no less. How is this possible? By collecting premiums now, and paying out no benefits for the first 10 years. Presto: a (temporary) surplus.

via Charles Krauthammer – Everything starts with repeal.

Tiger Moms

Chinese kids are so successful, says Amy Chua (who also wrote a book on the subject), because their mothers are willing to browbeat, shame, and control their children in the pursuit of perfection.  And, she argues, this is a good thing.

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me “garbage” in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn’t actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her “beautiful and incredibly competent.” She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

via Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior – WSJ.com.

The “Tiger Mom” allows no playdates or sleepovers, demands hours of piano or violin practice (and no other instruments), and insists on perfection in all endeavors.  Western mothers, by contrast, are more like kitty kat moms, sheltering their children from all consequences and nurturing their self-esteem.

Read the whole article, which gives more of the Chinese rationale and approach to child-raising.

What do you think of this?  Can we find a Golden Mean here?

Default blocking of all internet porn

We blogged about this a while back ago, but Great Britain is going through with it, requiring internet providers to block pornography on the internet unless adults specifically ask for it. Our discussion, though, missed the point, focusing on whether or not this was technologically feasible and how easy it would be to get around it. But there would be no need for an adult to get around it, since he would merely need to ask for access to this material and he would have it.

Let me reiterate what England is planning to do and pose some specific questions.

The UK Government is to combat the early sexualization of children by blocking internet pornography unless parents request it, it was revealed today.

The move is intended to ensure that children are not exposed to sex as a routine by-product of the internet. It follows warnings about the hidden damage being done to children by sex sites.

The biggest broadband providers, including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, are being called to a meeting next month by Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, and will be asked to change how pornography gets into homes.

Instead of using parental controls to stop access to pornography – so-called “opting out” – the tap will be turned off at source. Adults will then have to “opt in.”

via All internet porn will be blocked to protect children, under UK government plan | News.com.au.

Would this work, in theory, in the U.S.A.?  It wouldn’t violate anyone’s freedom of speech or freedom of the press or freedom of porn.  If an adult wants it, he could have it.

Wouldn’t this not only protect children, but also be beneficial for adults, many of whom I suspect take advantage of the easy access now but would be ashamed to sign up for it?

Are there any down sides of doing the same thing here? Should people concerned about the moral harm of pornography launch a crusade to do what England is doing?

HT: Joe Carter

Law & Gospel at the movies

Anthony Sacramone discusses the movie Black Swan, which is about a ballerina’s tormented pursuit of perfection.  He then draws out the Law/Gospel connections:

The film is not subtle and Nina’s inner life, her delusions and paranoid fantasies, trace the borderline of camp. But what is really missing is a way out of this false dilemma between “perfection” and “failure.” Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and so in order to achieve it one must always subordinate the self to some other authority, which, in this realm, is always, always fallible. It is a self-defeating exercise, because even if you think you’ve achieved it, give it a minute, and the criteria by which that perfection is judged will shift, and you’ll find yourself having to place catch-up. To be perfect is, by definition, to fail. And the ultimate failure is death.

Which is why we Lutherans have placed such emphasis on law/Gospel dichotomies. Every time gospel implies “You must” or “You must not,” it becomes a word of condemnation, of failure, because, with all do apologies to Yoda, “you can’t,” try as you might. The good news is that someone already did, and you can rest in his success as if it were your own. You can put yourself under his authority without fear of collapsing under its weight, because his yoke is easy and his burden is light. The price of admission to perfection is faith alone, because the cost of that admission was paid 2,000 years ago. And faith is never a work. Only believe.

But Nina never hears that word, drowned out as it is by the disparate and competing demands of “You must.”

via Black Swan: Law vs. Gospel » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.


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