7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.11)

7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.11) July 11, 2013

1. Two videos — both incredible, but in very different ways: One toke over the line. A flash of lightning.

2. Scot McKnight shares a story about how Justices Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan have become “hunting buddies.” I’ve often thought it would be constructive to organize hunting trips like this, sending NRA-beholden lawmakers out for a long weekend with, say, police officials who favor gun-safety laws. That might provide a chance for the cops to convince them that common-sense gun legislation isn’t the threat to Second Amendment rights that they fearfully imagine it to be.

But in the case of Justice Kagan, I’d advise a bit of caution. She’s probably safe as long as there’s a Democratic president in the White House, but once there’s a president in office who would fill a Supreme Court vacancy with another member of the Federalist Society, then I’m not sure she should head into the woods with an armed hothead who might be dreaming of pulling a Cheney as a short-cut to a 6-3 majority.

3. I linked yesterday to Sarah Moon’s post on “Privilege, oppression, and being ‘nice.'” She was responding to an earnestly awful post elsewhere in the evangelical blogosphere titled “Are Christian Feminists Hurting Their Cause?” (You know, because they’re all pushy and angry and insufficiently grateful for all that men have begun to allow them to do.) Amy Mitchell also has a nice response to that post, titled “The tone policing needs to stop.” But I think my favorite response is from Dianna E. Anderson, who co-opts and wonderfully spoofs the faux-concern and condescension of the original in a post titled, “Are Christian Complementarians Hurting Their Cause?” Sauce for the gander indeed. That’s deserving of a Nina Turner Award for the Exposure of Duplicitous Hypocrisy.

4. Rent-seeking can be a tricky thing to explain or to grasp. It basically means making money without ever making anything else, or collecting wealth without creating value. Concurring Opinions points us to a new book from Geoff Mulgan which provides a helpful metaphor for this form of affluent parasitism. The book is called The Locust and the Bee: Predators and Creators in Capitalism’s Future. Here’s the nut of it:

If you want to make money, you can choose between two fundamentally different strategies. One is to create genuinely new value by bringing resources together in ways that serve people’s wants and needs. The other is to seize value through predation, taking resources, money, or time from others, whether they like it or not.

Hence locusts vs. bees. Or, as I usually think of it, Old Man Potter vs. George Bailey.

5. Andy Kessler was losing an argument with his 16-year-old son, so he made the disastrous decision to continue losing that argument even harder in a far more public forum. Kessler, a hedge fund manager (i.e., a rent-seeking locust), took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to repeat his belief that homelessness is caused by homeless shelters.

Scott Keyes performs the necessary chore of shredding Kessler’s factually ignorant and morally stunted argument, but what I find most interesting is the between-the-lines family drama this column inadvertently reveals. Kessler makes it clear that he had grown frustrated by his son’s failure to be instantaneously convinced and converted by this blinkered analysis of the “damage” done by shelters. He didn’t get the answer he was looking for — something like, “You’re so smart, Dad, and so very right, so I will now quit volunteering at the homeless shelter” — and so he has repeated it to his peers, to the other WSJ-reading locusts who are sure to supply the hearty agreement he was looking for. It doesn’t occur to him that his son has acquired real-world experience as a volunteer, and that he has thus encountered truths and learned things about reality that cannot be reconciled with his father’s elegantly self-serving theories.

As Doktor Zoom writes, the whole thing is “kind of sad, like Homer Simpson telling Lisa, ‘It’s OK honey, I used to believe in things too.”

But hang in there, kid. Your dad may be disgracing himself, but that’s not on you.

 6. “This argument has been made before, with equal self-satisfaction but without quite this level of obliviousness.” That’s from Eric C. Miller’s devastating Religion Dispatches essay “An Evangelical Intellectual Takes on Same-Sex Marriage, Grasps at Straw Men.”

7. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is in trouble and he deserves to be in trouble. Not just because he allegedly has taken tens of thousands of dollars in gifts from the owner of a dietary supplement company, and not even just because those gifts appear to be a transparent quid pro quo in exchange for the governor’s support for that company’s products. McDonnell’s bigger problem is the nature of some of those gifts and the cartoonish opulence of the luxuries he’s purchased with this ethically dubious money. The governor received a $6,500 Rolex watch — engraved with the inscription “71st Virginia Governor.” The business owner took McDonnell’s wife shopping — in Manhattan, at Bergdorf Goodman, for an Oscar de la Renta dress. The governor borrowed the business owner’s luxury car — a Ferrari. This is the Republican governor of a Southern state, but his spending habits read like the kind of hoity-toity East Coast liberal elite caricature you’d hear vilified by Rush Limbaugh or the speakers at a tea party rally. Mitt Romney had better populist instincts than this guy. Heck, Rafalca had better populist instincts.

An undisclosed $6,500 contribution or a dodgy gift of $15,000 to the first lady might be ethics violations, but McDonnell might have ridden out the scandal if those gifts had been simple cash transfers. But a $6,500 Rolex and a $15,000 haute coutore shopping spree at Bergdorf Goodman provide the kind of unforgettable, unforgivable details that will likely make it impossible for McDonnell to rally enough support from his base to survive this.

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