Friday, August 27, 2010

Who is for Same-sex Marriage?

Here is an interesting poll (August 10-11, 2010) on same sex marriage from  FoxNews.

Those most likely to support allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally include liberals (59 percent), Democrats (56 percent), Northeasterners (55 percent), and those under age 30 (52 percent).

Conservatives (38 percent), Republicans (37 percent), those ages 65 and over (37 percent), and those with less than a college education (36 percent) are among those most likely to say there should be no legal recognition for same-sex relationships.

Among those who attend religious services regularly, 20 percent believe gays should be allowed to marry legally, 31 percent support a legal partnership and 43 percent believe there should be no legal recognition.

For those who attend services rarely, 44 percent support legal marriage, 31 percent legal partnership and 20 percent no legal recognition.

Notice the predictable groups in favor and against. Notice also that the country is still decidedly against it: 57 percent to 37. But when you examine the results in greater detail, you can hear a less heartening message.

Do you believe gays and lesbians should be:
1. Allowed to get legally married,
2. Allowed a legal partnership similar to but not called marriage, or ...
3. Should there be no legal recognition given to gay and lesbian relationships?
4. (Don’t know)

Legally married - 37%
Legal Partnership - 29%
No recognition -28%
Don't know - 6%

Legally married - 56%
Legal Partnership - 18%
No recognition - 21%
Don't know - 5%

Legally married - 19%
Legal Partnership - 39%
No recognition - 37%
Don't know - 5%

Legally married - 39%
Legal Partnership - 29%
No recognition - 24%
Don't know - 8%

This is what I observe in "Who Favors Same-sex Marriage?" (, Aug. 25, 2010),

From the summer of 2004 through 2006 and 2009 to now, the national figures for supporting same-sex marriage have climbed dramatically from 25% to 27% to 33% to 37%. Correspondingly, between the summers of '06 and '09, support for "no legal recognition" fell 10 points from 39% to 29%. That is a significant cultural shift.

It is also striking that legally recognizing unions between people of the same sex has the approval of only 19% of Republicans. One wonders how many of those are libertarians and social liberals within the party. That level of support is almost the same as the 20% support among people “who attend religious services regularly.” That church attending group gives 31% of its support to some sort of legally recognized partnership, lower than the Republican figure of 39%.

I also share this reflection on the notoriously conservative Fox News that sponsored the poll (which I am assuming to be professionally done and accurate).

I have strong suspicions that the network fully supports the idea, and actively promotes it. They frequently run stories on the subject to the point that I cannot let my children watch the show without great caution. Yes, news on this subject is event-driven, but their stories always feature multiple, successive images of same-sex couples "marrying," kissing, hugging, etc. All of this seems calculated to desensitize us to what traditionally would have shocked the average viewer, and to convince us of its normalcy and the inevitable legalization and social acceptance of the practice.

CBS reporter, Lesley Stahl, once did a story on Ronald Reagan that was highly critical of the President. Michael Deaver, Reagan's Deputy Chief of Staff for image-crafting, phoned her up and thanked her for it. She was confused, of course. But he pointed out that the images were all quite flattering, and that that is all that people would remember.

With these suspicions in mind, consider what we were dished up from the Fox News All Stars this evening. Bret Behr asked for their response to former Republican National Committee chairman from the GWB years, Ken Mehlman, "coming out" this week. It's not a story, they all said. A guy from Roll Call said lots of Republicans now have homosexual friends and family members. Opposition is fading fast. Juan Williams agreed. Charles Krauthammer said that opposition comes from his generation. But they will be washed from the scene, leaving only young people like his son who thinks it is just a natural expression of what human beings are. No big deal. Behr added with a smile and a twinkle in his eye (I may be over-interpreting) that Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council, of course, disagrees.

What we are seeing here may not be so much the new voice of political conservatives as the voice of the high-metropolitan Washington cultural elite showing off their sophistication. It is a huge leap from having a homosexual relative to not just tolerating homosexuals socially, but legitimating homosexual "marriage." In the chatter and squawk of DC politics that may seem reasonable, but I don't see it mainstreaming in most of America.

But Fox will work on middle America with those kissy, huggy images.

Appendix: Regarding the opposition to same-sex marriage from those with "less than a college education," it is worth keeping in mind the ISI report from 2007: "Students Know Less After 4 College Years," Annie Karni, New York Sun, Sept. 19, 2007).

Students at many of the country's most prestigious colleges and universities are graduating with less knowledge of American history, government, and economics than they had as incoming freshmen, with Harvard University seniors scoring a "D+" average on a 60-question multiple-choice exam about civic literacy.

According to a report released yesterday by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the average college senior at the 50 colleges and universities polled did not earn a passing grade.

"At the most expensive colleges, they actually graduate knowing less," the executive director of the Jack Miller Center at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Michael Ratliff, said. "Colleges and universities are not directing students to the courses that would educate them. We want to know whether after getting $300 billion to do their work, universities are actually educating their students."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Coming! Doom! Doom!

Back in June, I put some indicators together in my non-economist mind and wrote that 2011 will be our Second Plunge Recession. At, I entitled a fuller version of this "We're Doomed." (You should be able to get the gist of a column or chapter by its title.)

Some people who left comments at World were skeptical. Various award winning economists say we're pulling out of this mess. They cite data. Who is this Innes guy? But remember, economics is not a science, though it has a strong quantitative component. Human elements like political passions and wishful thinking enter even into the minds of laureates.

They fester in my mind too, but I'm sorry to say that developments are confirming Innes's prognostications. Look at these headlines:

"Dow Slumps Again" (Jonathan Cheng, WSJ, August 24, 2010).

U.S. stocks slid again Wednesday as blue chips bobbed above and below 10000 as economic data continued to disappoint. ... Investors were responding to a second consecutive day of weak news from the housing sector, as new-home buying fell to a record low in July amid rising inventories, another signal that the market could continue struggling without support from the government's first-time home buyer's tax credit.

"Plunge in Home Sales Stokes Economy Fears" (Sudeep Reddy and Nick Timiraos, WSJ, August 25, 2010).

U.S. home sales plummeted in July to a level not seen in more than a decade, spurring fears of renewed weakness in housing prices and the broader economy. ... The expiration of a home-buyer tax credit in the spring was expected to damp buying, though less severely. Economists said the sales drop—together with a corresponding rise in the inventory of unsold homes—meant another decline in housing prices was on the horizon. House prices had stabilized last year after declining since 2006.

This article quoted Paul Dales of Capital Economics as stopping short of saying this means a double dip recession for sure. "At this point in the recovery, every little bit counts. A double dip in the housing market and house prices would not be enough to generate another recession. It would certainly help to hold back the recovery."

So what would send us over the edge if this doesn't? (That's an if.) Repealing the Bush tax cuts seems like a big enough blow to finish us off. So if you love your family, your job, your neighbors, lobby your Democratic Congressman to back off on that plan. In fact, if you support the President's broader agenda and would like to see him win a second term, you should also lobby to leave the tax cuts in place.


In my column, I say that Social Security is a big Ponzi scheme. Rassmussen Reports surveyed the American public on that question, and the results are here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Justice in Your Cup

You enjoy your cup of joe each day, perhaps several, and it's not cheap. You can do this only because sunbaked peasants have planted and pick the beans. You drive up to the Dunkin drive-thru in your 2009 Honda Pilot, but the peasant lives in a hovel without anything close to the medical and educational privileges you take for granted, to say nothing of pedicures and weekly viewing of 30 Rock.

Actually, I don't know how they live. But I'm pretty sure it's not the American suburbs.

So under the terrible weight of guilt stemming from this contrast, and what is surely the exploitation of these peasants by heartless corporations, some folks cam up with the idea of offering these growers a "fair price" for their coffee beans, and then marketing the resulting coffee products in western industrial nations as guaranteed "fair trade" coffee. Hence, for just a few cents more, you can have justice in your cup.

Hey, if it's that simple, why shouldn't we move to a fair trade economy in everything? We can voluntarily increase everyone's earnings! Or perhaps just down at the bottom of the economic ladder. We'll figure out the details later. Goodbye to the free market, with all its exploitation and obvious injustice, its winners and losers. Hello, economy of the enlightened.

Well, let's start with coffee. Victor Claar, an economics professor at Henderson State University in Arkansas, has written a helpful little book for the Acton Institute, Fair Trade? Its Prospects as a Poverty Solution, that examines why growers get paid as little as they do (the volatility of the market and the inelasticity of both the suppy and the demand has a lot to do with it), and the constraints on what we can do about it at the consumer end.

I have written a summary of Claar's argument in "Righteous Coffee" at, but it's a very poor summary, so buy the little book. It's just $6.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Exciting and Predictable Worlds of Jack London

Jack London is dead. Okay, I'm late. He died in 1916 after a mere 40 years among us...or among them.

The review of a new biography of the man, Wolf: the Lives of Jack London by James L. Haley (Basic Books), caught my eye in the Economist. This should not surprise anyone since he has been a favorite writer for many boys, and I was no exception. I had a fondness for those northern adventure books, like Call of the Wild and White Fang. Farley Mowat's Lost in the Barrens was another one I remember well. Later, I moved on to Joseph Conrad. But enough about me.

What struck me about this fellow, London, is that on the one hand he wrote fine adventure novels that continue to thrill the young (they thrill my kids), writing on the basis of his grueling experiences on sealing ships and prospecting in the northern wastes.

Child Labourer, deckhand, gold prospector, hobo, and then forever a writer. And what a writer. Jack London was a hack who knocked out 1,000 words a day. His unceasing output fell into several categories: potboilers, high-calibre adventure novels, journalism (he served as a foreign correspondent for William Randolph Hearst during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05), and political screeds.
On the other hand he was totally captive to the intellectual fashions of his day. Does that sound like the literate left you know today? How about the glitterate left?

He was a socialist. But like most socialists, he was happy with capitalism and privilege when it served him personally. Obviously, he wrote and sold books for his own enrichment. I'm fine with that, but it doesn't sound like socialism. The reviewer also notes, however,  that "America's most famous socialist...travelled with an "obsequious Oriental valet" and bought yachts while claiming to speak for the working man."

At this point, I began suspecting that he was like so many celebrity leftists, who seem to attach themselves to every fashionable thought and cause. Sure enough. The reviewer tells us, "he was also a 'racialist' who believed in the superiority of the white race." It was popular at the time. What's next, I thought, spiritism and phrenology?

There is no word on phrenology (I may have my era confused on that one), but we learn next that his basket-case of a mother was indeed...a spiritist. Did London embrace it? No word on that either, but it fills out his world along predictable lines.

Like many great artists, however, he suffered much in his short life, and we have his art to show for it. More artists should stick to the craft of entertainment.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tears for Our Children

This video montage, mostly of dad's coming home from service in Iraq and surprising their children (warning: you will cry), testifies to the depth of what children lose when divorce takes their fathers away or when they simply never know their fathers. It is a huge hole that nothing can fill. The Lord, our heavenly father, made us to have earthly fathers who love us and serve us with pure and manly love and whom we can love in turn with trust and devotion. Yes, Hanna Rosin, we will always need men, and we (I mean women and children) need them to be MEN.

Leon Kass, in his sad but marvelously illuminating 2002 essay, "The End of Courtship," evokes tears of a different sort with this description of what David L. Tubbs calls freedom's orphans:

The ubiquitous experience of divorce is also deadly for courtship and marriage. Some people try to argue, wishfully against the empirical evidence, that children of divorce will marry better than their parents because they know how important it is to choose well. But the deck is stacked against them. Not only are many of them frightened of marriage, in whose likely permanence they simply do not believe, but they are often maimed for love and intimacy.

They have had no successful models to imitate; worse, their capacity for trust and love has been severely crippled by the betrayal of the primal trust all children naturally repose in their parents, to provide that durable, reliable, and absolutely trustworthy haven of permanent and unconditional love in an otherwise often unloving and undependable world.

But we are too self-absorbed and pleasure saturated to care. We learn those pathologies as children, and perfect them as sexual consumers in the dollar store of young adulthood...or what Kay Hymowitz more accurately says has become "postmodern postadolescence."

For a challenging sermon on manhood, go to Rev. Benjamin Miller's sermons on, and look for "A Jesus Kind of Guy" (August 8, 2010). For many, regardless of your age, the road to manhood will lie on the other side of hearing this. The preacher is kind, but he is not gentle. Ben Miller pastors Franklin Square Orthodox Presbyterian Church on Long Island with Bill Shishko.

As a footnote, if anyone knows anything about the song on the video, please pass along the name of the artist and title.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Progressive Project of Learned Feudalism

George Will gave this address to the Cato Institute on the occasion of receiving their Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty on May 13.

Fifty-one days ago the president signed into law health care reform, that great lunge to complete the New Deal project and the Great Society, that great lunge to make us more European. At exactly the moment that this is done the European Ponzi scheme of the social welfare state is being revealed for what it is.

There is a difference. We are not Europeans. We are not, in Orwell's phrase, a "state-broken people." We do not have a feudal background of subservience to the state. No, that is the project of the current administration - it can be boiled down to learned feudalism. It is a dependency agenda that I have been talking about ad nauseam.

Here is the podcast:

Read the print version of "Not a State-broken People."

Charles Murray spoke on this same subject to the American Enterprise Institute last year.

You might also read what David Brooks said at the same time.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Jihad and Western Liberty

Whatever you may say about him personally (and I do), Newt Gingrich is brilliant, and is as politically insightful as the best among us.

At a recent address to the American Enterprise Institute, Gingrich argued that we need to reframe our understanding of the so-called War in Terror. That name distorts the nature of our present international conflict involving radical Islam.

It began not in 2001, but in 1979 with the Iranian revolution.

It has nothing to do with Gitmo, Israel, America's image in the world, or the presence of American troops in the Middle East. The essence of the conflict is the struggle on the part of radical Islamists to impose Sharia law universally. It is what their religion requires (as they understand it), and technology as well as culotural and political circumstances have opened the opportunity to make great strides toward that end.

It takes two forms: militant and stealth, i.e., the former using violence, and the latter using cultural, intellectual, and political means to achieve the same goal. Framing the conflict as a war on terror takes into account only the former. Iran is the locus of the militant effort. Saudi Arabia pushes the stealth agenda.

Watch the entire speech, "America at Risk: Camus, National Security, and Afghanistan."

Andrew McCarthy has an eloquent summary of the speech and the issue it addresses at NRO, "It's About Sharia: Newt Gingrich Resets Our National Security Debate."

He explains,

  • "The single purpose of this jihad is the imposition of sharia."
  • "Islam is not merely a religious doctrine, but a comprehensive socio-economic and political system."
  • "...the brutality in sharia sanctions is not gratuitous, but intentional: It is meant to enforce Allah’s will by striking example."
  • "It is thus entirely rational (albeit frightening to us) that they accept the scriptural instruction that the very existence of those who resist sharia is offensive to Allah, and that a powerful example must be made of those resisters in order to induce the submission of all — “submission” being the meaning of Islam."
  • "Islamism is not a movement to be engaged, it is an enemy to be defeated."
  • "By pressing the issue, Newt us a metric for determining whether those who would presume to lead us will fight or surrender."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No Great Gain without Failure

My colleague in the King's College business department, Brian Brenberg, recently published this great little piece on the First Things website: "Why We Need Failure."

Here's a taste:

Winston Churchill probably hated every one of the bumps that made his life’s road so inspiring. But he also knew that winning and losing are inseparable. “Success,” he said, “is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” It’s not fun to fail, but it’s inevitable. Try as we might, we can’t get rid of failure in our lives unless we all agree to never get out of bed (and even that’s not without risk). The sooner you get used to dealing with things going wrong, the sooner you can get on with the business of finding ways to make things go right.
It is interesting to read the unqualified disaversion to failure in some of the comments on the article. Yes, some of our lives include terrible tragedy. That's not what Brenberg has in mind. ("So you say your three years old has eye cancer. Well, pick yourself up and learn from it!" Not the point.) Where do the complainers look for support? "Muscular unions." Where do they not look? There is not a word about God's loving providence.

Prompted by Brenberg's article, I offer my own reflections on failure and success at in "The Failures Behind American Success."

Brian Brenberg is assistant professor of business and economics at The King’s College in New York City. He holds degrees in public administration and in business from Harvard University.