Just Breaking…Obamacare Unconstitutional

January 31, 2011

At least according to the latest ruling by a Florida Federal Judge:

“Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void. This has been a difficult decision to reach, and I am aware that it will have indeterminable implications. At a time when there is virtually unanimous agreement that health care reform is needed in this country, it is hard to invalidate and strike down a statute titled ‘The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.’ ”

But we are all glad you did Judge Vinson.

A warm spot in a long winter.

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Christopher Hitchens and the Edge of Boredom

January 31, 2011

I often follow what Christopher Hitchens writes and says because I have been a long time admirer of the man’s thought processes, long before he came out as an avowed atheist. He is a heroic character in some ways, inasmuch as he has faced down dictators with a pen and resisted being easily pressed into a political categories by those who agree and disagree with him. These are a few of the many reasons I am saddened by his critical illness and the potential loss of his incisive and unrelenting voice.

That being said, I think Hitchens is also a tragic figure, one who in many respects is his own worst enemy. As he now struggles to survive there is much to be learned from his him about the emptiness of a life without God. I was particularly reminded of this in a recent interview in which he describes the choices that led to his illness:

HITCHENS: So to answer your question, of course, I always knew that there’s a risk in the bohemian lifestyle and I decided to take it because whether it’s an illusion or not, I don’t think it is, it helped my concentration, it stopped me being bored, stopped other people being boring, to some extent, it would keep me awake, it would make me want the evening to go on longer, to prolong the conversation, to enhance the moment. If I was asked, would I do it again, the answer is probably yes, I’d have quit earlier, possibly, hoping to get away with the whole thing.

Easy for me to say, not very nice for my children to hear. It sounds irresponsible if I say yes, I’d do all that again to you. But the truth is it would be hypocritical of me to say no, I’d never touch the stuff if I’d known, because I did know, everyone knows. And I decided all of life is a wager, I’m going to wager on this bit. And I can’t make it come out any other way. It’s strange; I almost don’t even regret it, though I should. Because it’s just impossible for me to picture life without wine and other things fueling the company. And keeping me reading and traveling and energizing me. It worked for me. It really did.

LAMB: What over the years has bored you? You use that word more than once in your writing.

HITCHENS: Yes, well, it’s a vice, of course. Acedia, I think it’s actually one of the deadly sins. Boredom was the anteroom to despair. Sort of the feeling that anime (ph), that nothings interesting, nothings worth – I am too prone to it. I get easily tired of – I don’t know, committee meetings or – not that I have to do many of those. Or waiting in line. I’m a very, very impatient person.

So, I’m very happy by myself, I’m lucky in that way. If I’ve got enough to read and something to write about and a bit of alcohol for me to add an edge, not to dull it.

It’s been a formula.

In many ways this claim is almost impossible to believe for the average person. Christopher Hitchens has led anything but a boring life. He had a first class education; he has traveled the world, entertaining and being entertained by the wealthy and famous as well as the infamous. He has kept from himself no pleasure he desired, male or female, and he is widely received and hailed as a phenomenal author, speaker, and thinker. He has managed the achievements of several lifetimes.

And yet he felt compelled to lubricate it all with vociferous amounts of alcohol and tobacco, to his own detriment – to stave off the boredom and despair which crouched at the edges of his existence.

In many ways this isn’t so hard to understand – even at a young age I realized how rapidly human existence grows boring. There is, as the author of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “Nothing new under the sun“. Having been freed of the shackles of parental supervision as a young teen and having a precocious need to experience the world, by the time I hit college I had already indulged my desires in ways many people often don’t experience until much later, if ever. I was deeply familiar with how such emptiness begs for the numbing effects of alcohol. It was in part this realization that began to open my heart and mind the reality of God, and the necessity of Christ for completeness. If anything is to be learned from Hitchens’ choices, I think it is the reality that a life without God is not sufficient for contentment or real joy.

For myself I can honestly say I have not felt one moment of despair since making that decision, or any extended periods of boredom. And as a result I haven’t felt the need to stave off such things with alcohol and stimulants. It is sad to think that Christopher Hitchens may never know such a life.


Observations

January 31, 2011

You know, I always wondered what the parable of the Good Samaritan would have been like if the Samaritan showed up before the robbers had fled.

Now I know.

The band of about 40 robbers, some of whom were travelling as passengers, stopped the train in the Chittaranjan jungles in West Bengal around midnight. Shrestha– who had boarded the train at Ranchi in Jharkhand, the place of his posting–was in seat no. 47 in coach AC3.

“They started snatching jewelry, cell phones, cash, laptops and other belongings from the passengers,” Shrestha recalled. The soldier had somehow remained a silent spectator amidst the melee, but not for long. He had had enough when the robbers stripped an 18-year-old girl sitting next to him and tried to rape her right in front of her parents. He then took out his khukuri and took on the robbers.

“The girl cried for help, saying ´You are a soldier, please save a sister´,” Shrestha recalled. “I prevented her from being raped, thinking of her as my own sister,” he added. He took one of the robbers under control and then started to attack the others. He said the rest of the robbers fled after he killed three of them with his khukuri and injured eight others.

During the scuffle he received serious blade injury to his left hand while the girl also had a minor cut on her neck. “They had carried out their robbery with swords, blades and pistols. The pistols may have been fake as they didn´t open fire,” he surmised.


Observations

January 29, 2011

“Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science, once divided the world into two categories: clocks and clouds. Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, “highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable.” The mistake of modern science is to pretend that everything is a clock, which is why we get seduced again and again by the false promises of brain scanners and gene sequencers. We want to believe we will understand nature if we find the exact right tool to cut its joints. But that approach is doomed to failure. We live in a universe not of clocks but of clouds.”

Jonah Lehrer, Breaking Things Down to Particles Blinds Scientists to Big Picture


Secularism and the Death of Culture

January 29, 2011

In a recent article in the journal Inside Higher Ed Stephen Brockmann, a professor of German at Carnegie Mellon University apologized for the impact secular liberalism has had on the ability to pass Western culture onto future generations:

I was a graduate student in the 1980s, during the heyday of the so-called “culture wars” and the curricular attacks on “Western civilization.” Those days were punctuated by some Stanford students chanting slogans like “Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go,” and by fiery debates about Allan Bloom’s book The Closing of the American Mind, which appeared in 1987, toward the end of my years in graduate school. Back then the battle lines seemed clear: conservatives were for Western civilization courses and the traditional literary canon, while liberals and progressives were against those things and for a new, more liberating approach to education.

In retrospect I find that decade and its arguments increasingly difficult to comprehend, even though I experienced them firsthand. I ask myself: What on earth were we thinking? Exactly why was it considered progressive in the 1980s to get rid of courses like Western civilization (courses that frequently included both progressives and conservatives on their reading lists)? And why did supporting a traditional liberal arts education automatically make one a conservative — especially if such an education included philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Marx?

Brockman goes onto describe in some detail how we have very little left to pass onto our students as a result of the crumbling of our Western traditions.

In a related column, Heather Wilson a member of the committee that selects Rhodes Scholars, shares the tangible consequences of a people who have no root in the truths or values of our culture:

Unlike many graduate fellowships, the Rhodes seeks leaders who will “fight the world’s fight.” They must be more than mere bookworms. We are looking for students who wonder, students who are reading widely, students of passion who are driven to make a difference in the lives of those around them and in the broader world through enlightened and effective leadership. The undergraduate education they are receiving seems less and less suited to that purpose.

An outstanding biochemistry major wants to be a doctor and supports the president’s health-care bill but doesn’t really know why. A student who started a chapter of Global Zero at his university hasn’t really thought about whether a world in which great powers have divested themselves of nuclear weapons would be more stable or less so, or whether nuclear deterrence can ever be moral. A young service academy cadet who is likely to be serving in a war zone within the year believes there are things worth dying for but doesn’t seem to have thought much about what is worth killing for. A student who wants to study comparative government doesn’t seem to know much about the important features and limitations of America’s Constitution.

When asked what are the important things for a leader to be able to do, one young applicant described some techniques and personal characteristics to manage a group and get a job done. Nowhere in her answer did she give any hint of understanding that leaders decide what job should be done. Leaders set agendas.

I wish I could say that this is a single, anomalous group of students, but the trend is unmistakable. Our great universities seem to have redefined what it means to be an exceptional student. They are producing top students who have given very little thought to matters beyond their impressive grasp of an intense area of study.

This narrowing has resulted in a curiously unprepared and superficial pre-professionalism.

In many ways this reflects my frequent criticisms of New Atheism. It’s not that I don’t respect a person’s right not to believe, or even that I believe atheists are being dishonest when they claim that they don’t have sufficient evidence to believe. As a Christian I accept the fact that many, perhaps most people will never have a faith in the same things I do. What concerns me and I think these articles highlight this concern are that atheists seem to believe that doubt is in and of itself sufficient to for a complete life and society and that scientific research is the only reliable means by which one may ascertain truth. I think this belief is gutting our culture and creating a poorer sort of person –persons incapable of comprehending the culture they inherited or of communicating anything of value beyond specific knowledge about the subject matter in which they have training.

Consider the fact that I recently had a discussion with an atheist that insisted we could not say in any objective way that human equality and the existence of human rights are ‘true’ because we could not empirically measure their existence. This is frightening, and indicative of the poverty of intellectualism amongst the secularists. It does not bode well for the future of the Western world.

I believe this is why European culture is fading – and why it will fall eventually to radical Islam, in much the way North Africa and the Middle East is falling as we speak. An empty and valueless skepticism cannot resist a motivated and aggressive opponent – it can only undermine its own position. As atheists attack Christianity (for some reason their primary target despite the notable ills of so many other religions and philosophies in the world) they erode the foundations of the very culture that allows them to exist as freely as they do.

Solomon warned us, “He who troubles his own house will inherit wind.” Our inheritance is almost here.


Mon Dieu! The French do Something Right!

January 29, 2011

 

It is an obvious ruling, but it’s been a awhile since we have seen such good sense from a European court:

France Gay Marriage Ban Is Constitutional, Top Watchdog Rules

…the country whose motto is “Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite” and whose name rhymes with romance hasn’t given the love and commitment of same-sex couples an equal legal standing to that of heterosexuals.

An ongoing debate over the issue is now gathering steam.

A trigger point came on Friday when the Constitutional Court – an esteemed body that counts former Presidents Jacques Chirac and Valery Giscard d’Estaing as members – ruled that laws banning gay marriage don’t violate the constitution. They said any change is for parliament to decide.

  Given the recent penchant of the American courts to emulate European rulings on various issues, this bodes well for the inevitable ruling by the American Supreme Court on the issue.

One only hopes they can show such bon sens.


Finally Admitting it

January 27, 2011

 

From the ‘Stuff You Already Knew but Now They are Admitting It’ file. 

This is Medicare’s Chief Actuary Rick Foster answering questions posed by Rep. Tom McClintock (R., Calif.) during the House Budget Commitee hearing yesterday:

McCLINTOCK: “True or false: The two principle promises that were made in support of Obamacare were one, that it would hold costs down. True or false?”

FOSTER: “I would say false, more so than true.”


McCLINTOCK: “The other promise…was the promise that if you like your plan, you can keep it. True or false?”


FOSTER: “Not true in all cases.”