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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

Seeing as today is February 29, we should ruminate on this odd practice of adding a day to the calendar every fourth year. In that spirit, I turn to William Schwenck Gilbert, who took up the matter in his and Sir Arthur Sullivan’s opera The Pirates of Penzance. The background to this song is the Pirate King’s wish to inform his apprentice, young Frederic, that since he was born on February 29, he was not, as he thought, 21 and hence eligible release from his pirate apprenticeship, but in fact only “five and a little bit over.”


For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, 
I've no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don't know who, 
very likely the Astronomer Royal, 
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February, twenty-eight days as a rule are plenty, 
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as 
nine and twenty. 
Through some singular coincidence -- I shouldn't be surprised if it were owing to the agency of an ill-natured fairy --  
You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement, 
having been born in leap-year, on the twenty-ninth of February; 
And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you'll easily discover, 
That though you've lived twenty-one years, 
yet,  if we go by birthdays, 
you're only five and a little bit over!

RUTH. and KING. Ha! ha! ha! ha! Ho! ho! ho! ho!

FRED. Dear me! Let's see! (counting on fingers) Yes, yes; with yours my figures do agree!

ALL. Ha! ha! ha! ho! ho! ho! ho!

FRED. (more amused than any) How quaint the ways of Paradox! 

At common sense she gaily mocks! 
Though counting in the usual way, 
Years twenty-one I've been alive, 
Yet, reckoning by my natal day, I am a little boy of five!

RUTH and KING. He is a little boy of five! Ha! ha! ha!

ALL. A paradox, a paradox, A most ingenious paradox! Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!, etc.

Happy Birthday, Frederic!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Op-ed: Obama Administration “Brainwashes” Public on Afghanistan

Obama, like his predecessor, systematically lies to the American people about the war. But don’t expect the Republican nominee (unless it’s Ron Paul) to expose the deceit.

Read the full op-ed here.

TGIF: Do Ends Justify Means?

If “goods” are incommensurable, then one of them cannot be said to be “greater” than others. Thus acting for the “greater good” is without meaning.

Read TGIF here.

Is Lawrence O’Donnell a Moron, or Does He Just Think His Viewers Are?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 19, 1942: A Day that Will Live in Infamy

Two days ago was the 70th anniversary of President Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the internment in "War Relocation Camps" (aka concentration camps) of some 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast.

Japanese poster

Two years later the U.S. Supreme Court, in Korematsu v. United States, upheld the order, 6-3. In the majority were the noted civil libertarians and FDR appointees Hugo Black, who wrote the opinion, William O. Douglas, and Felix Frankfurter. The other three were also appointed by Roosevelt. Dissenting were Owen J. Roberts (Hoover appointee), Robert Jackson (FDR appointee), and Frank Murphy (FDR appointee).


Any resemblance to the National Defense Authorization Act’s provision for indefinite detention without due process, signed recently by President Obama, is strictly ominous.

HT: Sandy Ikeda

Political Illogic

This is what passes for sophisticated argument in politics and the news media:

  1. A (contraception, whatever) is desirable;
  2. A costs money;
  3. Therefore compulsory financing of A is both proper and imperative (either through taxation or an off-budget device such as “insurance”);
  4. Opposition to 3 necessarily signals not only a denial of the desirability of A but also a wish to forbid the use of A.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Obamacare, Contraception, and Ayn Rand

It will be little comfort to the advocates of state-mandated “free” contraception that Ayn Rand, who would have abhorred Obamacare and all its mandates, was as staunch an advocate of birth control and women’s right to abortion as one can imagine. Writing about the anti-contraception papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” Rand wrote in “Of Living Death” (1968):
ayn-randTry to hold an image of horror spread across space and time—across the entire globe and through all the centuries—the image of parents chained, like beasts of burden, to the physical needs of a growing brood of children—young parents aging prematurely while fighting a losing battle against starvation—the skeletal hordes of unwanted children born without a chance to live—the unwed mothers slaughtered in the unsanitary dens of incompetent abortionists—the silent terror hanging, for every couple, over every moment of love. If one holds this image while hearing that this nightmare is not to be stopped, the first question one will ask is: Why? . . .
 The passive obedience and helpless surrender to the physical functions of one’s body, the necessity to let procreation be the inevitable result of the sexual act, is the natural fate of animals, not of men. In spite of its concern with man’s higher aspirations, with his soul, and with the sanctity of married love—it is to the level of animals that the encyclical seeks to reduce man’s sex life, in fact, in reality, on earth.

The “Accommodation” that Changes Nothing

Hat tip: Mario Rizzo

Scenario: A woman who works for a Catholic hospital walks into a pharmacy and fills her birth-control prescription. The pharmacy files the claim with her employer’s insurance company. The insurance company pays the pharmacy.

Question: Is this a description of a transaction taking place before or after Obama’s “accommodation” to the Catholic objection to being forced to pay for contraception?

Answer: There’s no way to tell.

Possible objection: But won’t the hospital’s premiums be lower after the accommodation since it won’t be paying for contraception coverage?

Answer: Not if the Department of Health and Human Services is right. HHS says paying for contraception coverage offsets the cost of medical expenses associated with having children. Therefore there is no reason to expect a post-accommodation fall in premiums for Catholic institutions.

Bottom line: If in principle one cannot distinguish a pre-accommodation from a post-accommodation transaction, there is no accommodation at all. The grand compromise is a sham.

This Week's Scribblings

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's an Orwellian World

Aggression against Iran is retaliation, and retaliation by Iran is aggression.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Israel and the MEK

Israel is in cahoots with a violent Marxist Iranian cult -- the MEK (Mujahedin-e Khalq) -- that is on the State Dept's terrorist list. I'm waiting for an explanation. (See NBC report.)

Published with Blogger-droid v2.0.4

Bad Deal

No woman would choose to spend her own money on birth-control "coverage," because the premiums would amount to prepayment for future purchases plus administrative overhead and more -- in other words, a bad deal. However, if you can get someone else to pay, it's another story altogether.

Insulting Our Intelligence

Updated below.

According to the Obama administration, forcing insurance companies to provide free contraception to women won’t cost the companies a penny. How can that be? Because, officials explained, by providing contraception, insurers won’t have to pay for baby delivery and prenatal care. Brilliant!

Well, not so brilliant.  That bogus argument assumes that women who don’t get free contraception through insurance won’t get it at all. How likely is that?

Mario Rizzo nails this point.

TGIF: Contraception: Insuring the Uninsurable

Insurance arose as a way for individuals to pool their risk of some low-probability/high-cost misfortune befalling them. It shouldn’t be necessary to point this out, but coming of child-bearing age and choosing to use contraception is not an insurable event. It’s a volitional act. It may have good consequences for the person taking the action and society at large, but it is still a volitional act. It makes no sense to talk about insuring against the eventuality that a particular person will use contraception. Strictly speaking, contraception has nothing to do with insurance.
Read TGIF here.

Some Feminists

As a feminist, I'd like to know why establishment "feminists" look to paternalistic government for free contraception.

Obama's "Accommodation" on Contraception

President Obama tells us that through his "accommodation" on the contraception controversy he's avoided "choos[ing] between individual liberty and basic fairness for all Americans."

How so? By ordering insurance companies to give away birth control pills.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

“We Perpetuate War by Exalting Its Sacrifices”

Rachel Maddow is using her nightly MSNBC show to agitate for a ticker-tape parade in New York City to honor the Iraq veterans and celebrate the end of the war in that country.

What could be more ridiculous? Has she forgotten that the invasion, war, and occupation – which laid waste to Iraq, killed over a million people, unleashed sectarian violence/cleansing, and created four million refugees – was against a country that had never threatened Americans and was based on bald-faced lies about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s connection to al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks?

What’s to celebrate? Victory? There is nothing that could be described as victory. The invasion and aggressive war guaranteed certain disgrace for the United States. But even in conventional terms, there was no victory. An authoritarian and corrupt government was left in charge -- a government that is close to Iran, which is demagogically portrayed as America’s (and Israel’s) mortal enemy. (I have no problem with the Iraq’s affinity for Iran, but America’s ruling elite can’t be thrilled about it.) The refugees have not returned to their homes. Half of them left the country. The place is a shambles.

Again, what’s to celebrate?

It will be said that, politics aside, the troops made sacrifices that should be honored. Nonsense. First, they made no sacrifices for “the country.” The country didn’t “call.” They might have thought that it did, but in fact their sacrifices were for opportunistic politicians and the military-industrial complex, who’ve all done quite well, thank you very much. The troops weren’t protecting “our freedom.” On the contrary, the U.S. government’s brutal treatment of Arabs and Muslims endangers Americans by provoking a desire for revenge. That’s why 9/11 happened in the first place.

So the vets weren’t serving the country. They were serving the imperial government, which seeks global hegemony for political and economic reasons. At best, the military personnel were fooled. At worst, they just enjoyed kicking Arab ass.

But shouldn’t they be honored anyway? it will be asked.

The last word in opposition to any celebration was provided by Paddy Chayefsky in his great antiwar movie, The Americanization of Emily:

“We perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices."

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Picture that’s Worth a Thousand Words


The blue mass in the middle is Iran. The stars in the red areas represent U.S. military bases. (Click to enlarge.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Op-ed: Obama Can Stop Israel from Attacking Iran

[W]hile Israel insists on its freedom of action, it realizes it would need America’s help. This means that the Obama administration holds the upper hand: it is in a position to stop Israel from igniting a catastrophic war in the Middle East simply by declaring publicly that it will not back Netanyahu if he orders an attack — or covertly provokes Iran into firing the first shot.

Americans who oppose war with Iran can best serve peace by demanding that Obama make such a declaration.

Read the full op-ed here.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Max Blumenthal on Israel, Iran & the U.S. Election

Iran’s Nuclear Program

From Gary Sick, Iran expert (“Will Israel Really Attack Iran?”):
[The International Atomic Energy Agency has] inspectors in all the sites where Iran is producing enriched uranium. These inspectors, who make frequent surprise visits, keep cameras in place to watch every move, and they carefully measure Iran’s input of feed stock to the centrifuges and the output of low enriched uranium, which is then placed under seal.

Latest Writings

TGIF: “Capitalism, Corporatism, and the Freed Market”

FFF op-ed: “Are Obama and Netanyahu Trying to Push Iran toward a Nuke?”

Ron Paul: Open-Borders Advocate?

RPIn “Ron Paul & Immigration: A Speculative Theory,” I expressed “my suspicion that Ron Paul secretly favors open borders” because although he says he supports “secure borders,” he opposes all standard measures for achieving that end. Rep. Paul lately has furnished more evidence (HT: Gary Chartier) that my theory is accurate. An Associated Press report from Las Vegas begins, “Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul outlined his views on immigration Wednesday, saying he favors a compassionate policy that doesn't rely on ‘barbed-wire fences and guns on our border.’”

The AP continued:

Paul blasted politicians who blame immigrants for causing the country's economic problems. He compared the situation to Nazi Germany's targeting of Jews in the 1930s.

"When things go badly, individuals look for scapegoats," Paul said. "Hispanics, the immigrants who have come in, are being used as scapegoats."

Paul also told an Hispanic audience he opposes illegal immigration and that “[i]f an individual is found to be breaking the law, serious consideration should be given for them to return.”

But this position may not be what it seems on the surface. Open-borders advocates also oppose illegal immigration. Indeed, we seek to legalize--or better, decriminalize—freedom of movement, making illegal immigration a thing of the past.

Moreover, when Paul talks about immigrant law-breakers, he seems to mean laws other than immigration laws. He followed up his statement about lawbreakers by adding, “I would think 99 percent of people who come here come because they believe in the American dream.”

Note also his reluctant tone: “serious consideration should be given for them to return.” Obviously he is unenthusiastic about deporting even lawbreakers.

Ron Paul clearly seems uncomfortable with government restrictions on people’s freedom to move. His libertarian convictions apparently run deep enough to keep him from sounding like other Republicans (and Democrats) on this issue.

“The one thing I have resisted and condemned: I do not believe that barbed-wire fences and guns on our border will solve any of our problems. You say, ‘Well, this is only for illegals.’ That's a bunch of baloney. How do you sort out illegals from legals? Unless you put papers and identification on everybody.”

Does that sound like an opponent of a key natural right: the freedom to move?

Thursday, February 02, 2012


My article "Patent Nonsense" was published in The American Conservative and posted online.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Headline I Expect to See

Al Qaeda Destroyed,
Remains Existential Threat,  
Intelligence Chief Says