Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Scarcity No Excuse For Avoiding Health Care Reform

Image Source: Center for American Progress.
Plenty of people have written ad nauseam about liberal smugness. Heck, even liberals have written about liberal smugness. I’ve already pointed out that liberals’ supposed intellectual superiority is oversold. But for sheer condescension, try reading a conservative on economic issues. It’s hard to find a conservative talking head who doesn’t assume liberals know nothing about economics, who doesn’t treat liberals like third-graders in need of a stern talking-to about grown-up stuff. Case in point: Kevin D. Williamson, whose National Review piece, “Health Care, from the Top”, can serve as a model for How to Write Like a Patronizing Ass.

“Those Poor, Simple Liberals”

“Our ongoing troubles with health care,” Williamson begins, “stem from an unwillingness to deal with certain facts. One of those facts is scarcity.” Just from the way Williamson tees up the ball you can see where he’s aiming: “Those poor, simple liberals think everything is available in mind-dazzling abundance and shouldn’t have to be paid for (except by other people).” Apparently, to Williamson liberals are all college-age kids going to school on Mommy and Daddy’s nickel, who don’t have to pay for anything except Jell-O shots and the occasional reefer (thanks to Obamacare, the Trojans are covered).

To give Williamson his due, his attitude never verges into a Scroogean desire for the unfortunate to die and decrease the surplus population. “There is a certain libertarian tendency,” he writes,  “to … throw up one’s hands, exclaiming: ‘Just let markets work!’ We should certainly let markets work, but not ‘just.’ We aren’t going to let children with congenital birth defects suffer just because they might have stupid and irresponsible parents [people are poor because they’re stupid and irresponsible, don’cha know], and we are not going to let old people who have outlived their retirement savings die of pneumonia because we don’t want to spend a couple of thousand bucks treating them.” He even writes approvingly of “giving poor people money and money analogues (such as food stamps) to pay for food,” which makes him a rarity among conservatives.

However, these heartwarming glimpses of Williamson’s humanity aren’t enough to dispel the irritation produced by his ham-handed belaboring of the obvious. It might distress him to learn that not all liberals are spoiled-brat millennials mindlessly parroting Bernie Sanders’ Facebook memes. Indeed, it might cause him consternation to know that liberals are fairly evenly distributed among income strata and that college graduates are a bit more likely to lean left than right. I can’t imagine what would happen to Williamson if it were revealed to him that there are even a few liberal economists still around.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Day Melania Trump Became a Real Person

First Lady Melania Trump, just before meeting Pope Francis.
(Photo credit: Gregorio Borgia, AP)
I’ve felt some pity for Melania Trump for some time now. It’s hard not to.

In the Shadow

For one thing, for all the money they make — and it’s not necessarily as much as you’d think — supermodels don’t get much more respect than ordinary models, who rate more respect than fast-food workers but less than nursing assistants. To the average person, being a model requires only three attributes: height, skinniness, and photogenic looks. No one expects you to have a brain, let alone opinions worth listening to; after all, if you had a brain, you’d have pursued some socially useful career, like (fill in the blank), instead of trading on such an ephemeral quality as beauty.

For another thing, Melania’s married to the shamelessly self-promoting Donald Trump. As such, to the public eye, she’s been little more than an accessory to The Donald, a gold-electroplated accouterment. Nobody actually knows the dynamic of their relationship, which has never stopped anyone from treating speculation as fact (“trophy wife!”). Being Trump’s wife has made her a target of spite. Melania recently settled a libel lawsuit with the British tabloid the Daily Mail, who had asserted that at one point she supplemented her modeling income with prostitution. And her delivery of the Lord’s Prayer at a rally in Melbourne, Florida garnered both howls of outrage from secularists and sneers from bigots who made fun of her accented English.

All told, however, most of Melania’s time is spent in the shadow of the lurching, bellowing PR ogre that is Pres. Donald Trump. For the press and for a large proportion of the Trump-hating public, she is little more than a cardboard cutout, or a pretty face posted on a punching bag — the First Bimbo. Even her son Barron gets more positive attention than she does.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dreher’s “Benedict Option” Not THAT Hard to Understand

Monday, while perusing Big Pulpit, I came across a link to Deirdre Mundy’s Aleteia post, “Where [Rod] Dreher lost me on the ‘Benedict Option’”. I recently bought the book The Benedict Option: A Strategy For Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (New York: Sentinel Books) but hadn’t got around to reading it yet. I’d read a couple of his columns on the concept two years ago (and wrote a post about them); the basic idea seemed pretty clear to me at the time. However, intelligent people like Dr. John Zmirak and Austin Ruse showed quite clearly that they didn’t get it. Nevertheless, I read the book before reading Mundy’s piece.

Build an Ark? Right!

Reading the book was kind of a let-down. I agreed with everything Dreher wrote. In fact, I had written about many of the things he discusses and drawn pretty much the same conclusions. It was like I had paid $16.00 for the privilege of reading my opinions in someone else’s book. (Mind you, I’m not accusing Dreher of plagiarism!) The difference is, Dreher is a more experienced writer who uses fewer twenty-dollar words than I do, so his style is more accessible to the average reader. So it was like reading my opinions the way I should have written them. The Benedict Option concept is just not that hard to understand; it’s not Plato’s Republic or Cicero’s On Public Duties.

Having forearmed myself with the assurance that I indeed knew what Dreher was talking about, I then plunged into Mundy’s article to see where Dreher lost her. It turns out that her problem is with a simile Dreher conjured up in passing: “I believe that Christians now have got to realize that we’re living in a post-Christian civilization and take measures to build a kind of ark for ourselves with which to ride out the dark ages, to hold onto our faith, and tender the faith for such a time as light returns and civilization wants to hear the gospel again.”

Rebuts Mundy: “Here’s the problem: from a Catholic point of view, we already have a metaphorical Ark: The Church. We don’t need to build a new, more isolated ark to ride out what Dreher sees as a coming dark age. We can continue to live in the Ark we already have, as members of the body of Christ.” The rest of the article discusses ideas that Dreher covers in his book, but they’re written as if she’s contradicting him instead of agreeing with him. Sigh; some more hay litters the pavement of the public square as another straw man has the stuffing beaten out of it.