For those seeking proof that the modern world is beyond satire:
The study, titled “Do We Always Practice What We Preach? Real Vampires’ Fears of Coming out of the Coffin to Social Workers and Helping Professionals” was conducted by researchers from Idaho State University and College of the Canyons and the Center for Positive Sexuality in Los Angeles.
“Most vampires believe they were born that way; they don’t choose this,” said Dr. D. J. Williams, the study’s lead researcher and the director of sociology at Idaho State.
The study is based on the experiences of eleven “real” vampires — which, by the way, are different from “lifestyle vampires.”
An important distinction to keep in mind. We shouldn't confuse the merely eccentric with the genuinely deranged. The story reminds me of an old English saying: There's nowt so queer as folk. Spend enough time getting to know people - as you move past the polite pleasantries and daily trivia - and you do find all sorts. I had a neighbour years ago, a sensible fellow to the point of being utterly boring, who lead an unexceptional life except for one thing: He believed in fairies.
This was not some affectation, or a joke gone a bit too far, he sincerely believe that tiny fairies lived in his house and kept him safe from harm. Naturally enough he had names for them all. They had different personalities and from time to time he would glimpse them - for only the briefest of moments - before they vanished again into the woodwork. His great fear in life was that people would discover his belief and mock him for it. Having been raised by a scrupulous courteous mother I nodded politely and tried to move the conversation onto something else.
This neighbour was never violent or rude. Not once in all the years I knew him did he attempt to pressure me into believing in the fairies. Never, except that one time, did he discuss the fairies at any great length. For him the fairies were a vital part of his identity, an essential reason why he never moved despite the home being too large for his needs. I doubt many of his friends had the slightest inkling that their co-worker, neighbour or relative believed in fairy power.
It was a largely harmless delusion, proof perhaps of the old idea that mankind can bear only so much reality. To the liberal minded social reformer my neighbour's problem was not that he believed in fairies in the woodwork, it was that he was afraid to express his beliefs frankly. In this worldview the great evil is not in believing in the absurd, it's being embarrassed by believing in anything that is widely considered absurd.
At a political level the mainstreaming of vampires, or fairies or what have you, is an attempt to destroy the current normal. If every form of behaviour, opinion or attitude is acceptable then there is no normal and therefore no social standards to observe. Everything is relative and your beliefs are just as good as mine. Following the logic carefully for a few steps you wind up with an obvious problem: If the standard is that there are no standards how is that a standard?
The answer is that there isn't. Too often conservatives spend time obsessing over absurdities rather than asking what they accomplish. A society without some standards of behaviour is no society at all. Relativism is a temporary phenomenon. It's social and political purpose is break up whatever is - by creating doubt and discord - to allow for something else to take its place.
The people who will today welcome the "real" vampires into the full fellowship of man will tomorrow, possibly sooner even than that, demand jail time for anyone foolish enough to wave the Confederate battle flag in public. A new carefully delineated form of speech and thought will be established - cleverly enough - under the happy rubric of tolerance and good will. And who among us is against tolerance and good will? Even if the meaning of those words has shifted in recent years.
If people wish to indulge their private fantasies it's no business of the state. Nor is it really the business of anyone else in a free society. What we have here is something else. We are well past the ancient libertarian notion of consenting adults behind closed doors. The vampires and their advocates wish to march right into the public square and demand to be taken serious. Wretched is the man or woman who shakes their head or even giggles. The calls for subsidy, privilege and political glorification will be automatic and uncontested. One form of vampire perfectly complimenting another.
I am shocked, shocked to find technically legal corruption in Canadian politics:
Most of what is billed as the largest, one-time benefit payment in federal history is likely to hit suburban voters living in federal ridings where the Conservatives can be considered the party to beat, an analysis by The Canadian Press shows.
Number-crunching based on the last census shows that many of the ridings in line to get the biggest cheques from the newly increased Universal Child Care Benefit are in suburban Alberta and the all-important ridings that surround Toronto — and they usually have a history of tilting Tory.
Once he was a darling of the mainstream conservative community. An Indian immigrant of Goan ancestry Dinesh D'Souza snagged a place at Dartmouth, where he helped found the legendary Dartmouth Review, before gingerly moving onto an editorial gig at Policy Review and then a staff position in the Reagan White House. After a series of scholarly books D'Souza's Illiberal Education shot him to national prominence in 1991.
Carefully researched and cogently argued, Illiberal Education was a prescient take down of the political correctness regime on college campuses. The rest of 1990s saw him become one of the most widely known and respected conservatives writers in America. It's a position he likely would have retained to this today if not for his notorious 2007 book The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11.
Taking the contrarian tendencies of a successful pundit to a bizarre extreme, D'Souza blamed the American Left for the 9/11 attacks. The book was littered with such observations as:
In faulting the cultural left, I am not making the absurd accusation that this group blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world. The Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks were the product of this visceral rage—some of it based on legitimate concerns, some of it based on wrongful prejudice—but all of it fueled and encouraged by the cultural left. Thus without the cultural left, 9/11 would not have happened. …
And it went down hill from there. His absurd twist on "blame America first" was so shocking even The New York Times called it treason:
I never thought a book by D’Souza, the aging enfant terrible of American conservatism, would, like the Stalinist apologetics of the popular front period, contain such a soft spot for radical evil. But in “The Enemy at Home,” D’Souza’s cultural relativism hardly stops with bin Laden. He finds Ayatollah Khomeini still to be “highly regarded for his modest demeanor, frugal lifestyle and soft-spoken manner.” Islamic punishment tends to be harsh — flogging adulterers and that sort of thing — but this, D’Souza says “with only a hint of irony,” simply puts Muslims “in the Old Testament tradition.”
The reaction of mainstream conservatives was even more strident. Not since William F Buckley "read" the Birchers out of the conservative movement was a prominent pundit so quickly dumped from respectable commentary. The better part of a decade later D'Souza concedes that: “Look, I may be wrong about it...I am attracted to arguments that have a certain plausible originality to them.”
The arguments in The Enemy At Home did have a certain originality. Plausible they were not. In the years since D'Souza has reinvented himself as a somewhat recherché critic of the Obama Administration. His 2010 book The Roots of Obama's Rage painted the 44th President as the product of the anti-colonial ideology of his absentee father. Two hit documentaries followed: 2016:Obama's America and America: Imagine The World Without Her. The films gave D'Souza a sort of cult status in some conservative circles.
There he might have remained, little noticed beyond his devoted fan base, until January 2014 when he was charged with making an illegal $20,000 campaign contribution to an old friend. Using a series of straw donors D'Souza had funnelled the money to Wendy Long's unsuccessful bid to unseat junior New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The use of straw donors, illegal under the Federal Election Campaign Act, has been a common political tactic for decades and is very rarely prosecuted.
The unexpected nature of the prosecution, the smallness of the amount involved and D'Souza's strident anti-Obama output have triggered suspicions across the political spectrum. Alan Dershowitz went so far as to describe the case as an example of "selective prosecution". Whatever one's opinion of D'Souza's politics this is a chilling moment. Last week it got worst.
In an almost Stalinistic twist to the saga the presiding judge, Richard Berman, ordered that D'Souza continue psychological counselling:
“I’m not singling out Mr. D’Souza to pick on him,” Berman said at the hearing Monday. “A requirement for psychological counseling often comes up in my hearings in cases where I find it hard to understand why someone did what they did.”
WND reported that at the Sept. 23, 2014, sentencing hearing, Berman said he could not understand how someone of D’Souza’s intelligence, with credentials that include college president, could do something so stupid as to violate federal campaign contribution laws.
Probably because the contribution laws are as scrupulous observed among political activists as the speed limits on the I-95. Justice Berman also expressed puzzlement at D'Souza not feeling terribly guilty about committing his crime:
The psychological case notes indicate that while Mr. D’Souza is highly intelligent, he has remarkably little insight into his own motivations, that he is not introspective or insightful, but that he tends to see his own actions in an overly positive manner.
Perhaps because D'Souza views his actions, circumventing an arguably unconstitutional law, as perfectly rational given the context and that his prosecution is politically motived. In other words he doesn't feel guilty because he doesn't think what he did was a real crime. Apparently that's not good enough for Justice Berman's peculiar sensibilities. The good judge, like the inquisitors of old, wants D'Souza to truly repent of his terrible sins.
Whatever you think of Dinesh D'Souza, his unusual public career or his controversial views, his story is warning sign of what might be ahead for the rest of us.
But telemedicine is facing pushback from some more traditional corners of the medical world. Medicare, which often sets the precedent for other insurers, strictly limits reimbursement for telemedicine services out of concern that expanding coverage would increase, not reduce, costs. Some doctors assert that hands-on exams are more effective and warn that the potential for misdiagnoses via video is great.
How long before the Tommy Douglas Fan Club shuts this down?
I've resisted writing about the Donald. The sheer absurdity of the man seems to make commentary pointless. Even Jonah Goldberg, who mixed it up with Trump last week over "pants-gate", has a sort of weary regret in dealing with his badly coiffed arch-nemesis. The absurdity is heightened when you consider the quality of the Republican field in 2016. The GOP has some remarkable bench strength, a sharp contrast to the warmed-over left-overs being passed off by the Democrats.
Compare 2016 with any election cycle in recent memory and you're spoiled for choice: Jindal, Walker, Perry, Rubio, Cruz and Bush are all very plausible candidates for the presidency. You may have your favourite, I have a certain fondness for Senator Rubio, but each are basically conservatives candidates that the party can rally around. Jeb Bush does have the establishment smell about him, to say nothing of that family name, but see him in a clear and unobstructed light and yes he would make a decent Commander-in-Chief.
Now enter the Trump. Granted he has put immigration on the table, divorced of even a hint of political correctness, but there are ways of raising awkward subjects without being overly offensive. We understand that cousin Fred has a drinking problem, throwing it out there in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner between the turkey and coleslaw isn't really going to help matters. If Trump doesn't get bored with pretending to run for President - I give it until September - then the Dems are going to have an awesome gaffe reel to play against the eventual Republican nominee next summer.
The gravity defying act that is the Trump Campaign can be explained in three parts:
1) Name recognition. In an incredibly crowded field everyone knows who Trump is. I had a friend who recently visited the interior of China. He was able find more than a few people who knew that Donald Trump was a very rich man in America. There's a good chance that large swaths of Oklahoma are only vaguely aware that Ted Cruz is the junior Senator from Texas. That's not a knock against the good people of Oklahoma, just a recognition that few follow politics that closely.
2) Rhetoric. There is little ideological consistency in Trump's message. He's a populist with a remarkable eye for the main chance. He tells people what they wants to hear. Are we surprised to find that makes him kind of popular? From time to time he raises a useful point in a tactless way. That can have its value in an era where conservative politicians are extremely cautious; only too well aware that their sound bites are routinely turned into bigot pretzels.
3) Copy. Imagine that you're a reporter. At this point in history you're likely questioning your career choices. Physical newspapers are dying. No one has quite figured out how to make money online. You have a sneaking suspicion that modern technology is making people dumber, so dumb that reading even the tabloid press will be too much effort in the near future. And you got into journalism with dreams of being Woodward and or Bernstein. Your editor wants copy. Not good copy but interesting copy. The sort that might get picked up. Donald Trump appears to you like a loud blonde gift from the gods.
Don't believe me? Here's an excerpt from an interview he gave to the Washington Post:
Will immigration remain your focus?
No. It’s just one of the things. It’s not only immigration. It’s about trade. They go hand in hand. Immigration is one of the things you have to do. I’m also a moralist. You heard what I said today about health care. I said, I’m sorry, folks, but we have to take care people that don’t have money. I know it’s not the conservative thing to say, but I got a standing ovation — and these were very conservative people. We can’t let people down when they can’t get any medical care, when they’re sick and don’t have money to go to a doctor. You help them.
So Trump has a heart?
A big heart, let me tell you. Too big.
You almost have to admire the man's brio. There's a certain charm about someone who really doesn't give a damn about what other people think. Someone who flaunts his absurdity as a badge of honor. You can easily imagine him half wink at you and whisper: "You think I'm crazy don't you? That's what I want you to think!"
The whole time there is that Trump smirk. The arrogant knowledge that, as with his bankruptcies and divorces, he is going to get away with again. Tens of millions in free publicity, the vanity ride of a life time and a brand that will glow sweetly to the far corners of the earth.
Welcome to academia, where five years to finish a humanities doctorate—coursework, comprehensive exams, dissertation—is considered speedy. So speedy that a new program at my alma mater has raised hackles for encouraging graduate students to finish in a half-decade. (It also foists upon its postdocs what is possibly the worst job title in academia. More on that in a bit.)
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) says the 1st Amendment’s religious liberty protections don’t apply to individuals.
On MSNBC last week, Wisconsin’s junior Senator claimed that the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion extends only to religious institutions, and that individual’s do not have a right to the free exercise of their own religion.
The exact quote form Senator Baldwin is somewhat less dramatic but more worrisome:
Certainly the first amendment says that in institutions of faith that there is absolute power to, you know, to observe deeply held religious beliefs. But I don’t think it extends far beyond that. We’ve seen the set of arguments play out in issues such as access to contraception. Should it be the individual pharmacist whose religious beliefs guides whether a prescription is filled, or in this context, they’re talking about expanding this far beyond our churches and synagogues to businesses and individuals across this country. I think there are clear limits that have been set in other contexts and we ought to abide by those in this new context across America.
So you can have freedom of religion in Senator Baldwin's America, you just have avoid talking about your religious views in public. It's a definition of freedom so narrow it could easily fit within the confines of an authoritarian state. Even the nominally communist oligarchs who rule China don't really care what you think, so long as you don't offend the Party with your words.
What is being established, under the cover of the gay marriage debate, is a new set of hate crime laws directed at Americans of faith. The Left has done a superb job of framing this issue as one over the rights of homosexuals. This automatically paints any critics as bigots regardless of their personal values or beliefs. Once the dust settles gay marriage will be an established legal and cultural fact. What will become apparent shortly thereafter is that freedom of speech has been dramatically narrowed in modern America.
The issue here isn't about gay marriage. It has nothing to do with baking a cake or providing contraceptives. The vital issue is freedom of speech. If the pharmacist cited in Senator Baldwin's example refuses to fill a prescription, but does not say why, then he cannot be convicted of this new type of hate crime. However if the pharmacist refuses to fill out a prescription, but truthfully says he does so on religious grounds, then he has committed a hate crime. The expression of an idea is being punished not the actions or inactions of the participants.
Senator Baldwin's fictional pharmacist, along with the cake bakers of Oregon, are now to be guilty of thought crimes. Once that wedge has been established in First Amendment jurisprudence other forms of freedom of speech will follow. At each step along the way the cry of fighting bigotry will be raised. Note the remarkable speed with which the Confederate flag became a political third rail. That rapid and ruthless process will soon be repeated on symbols, words and ideas far less historically contentious.
Much of this debate will hinge on the deliberately vague term "hate crime". Since hate is a subjective emotion anything can be deemed hateful or offensive. The very idea of a "hate crime" makes a mockery of the rule of law. If consistently implemented it would transform America into a government of neurotic men instead of objectively definable laws. Yet the popular perception of "hate crime" is of a violent act motivated by bigotry.
This bait and switch was practiced in Canada for decades. The regime of soft censorship which emerged eventually culminated in the prosecution of Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn. Levant, a well known conservative writer and publisher, was prosecuted for three years for publishing the notorious Danish Cartoons in a magazine he once owned. Mark Steyn went through similar travails over an article entitled The Future Belongs to Islam.
Both prosecutions were carried out under Canada's hate crime laws; Levant being pursued by the Alberta Human Rights Commission and Steyn by both its Ontario and federal counterparts. In the end both Steyn and Levant were victorious and the powers of these commissions greatly curtailed. But it was touch and go at times.
In the early years of Canada's hate crime laws they were mainly used to prosecute a small collection of derelict neo-Nazis, white supremacists and holocaust deniers. Having vanquished such grave threats to the peace and security of Canada the country's Human Rights Commissions suddenly became important. Over the span of a few years, almost overnight, these commissions were easily manipulated by a tiny group of activists to silence mainstream conservative critiques of Islamist ideology.
What was done north of the 49th parallel in the name of fighting Islamophobia will, in due time, be attempted further south under the rubric of fighting anti-homosexual bigotry. The obvious target will be America's most vocal christian churches. The tactics change but the ultimate goal remains the same: To established an informal system of censorship in traditionally free societies.
Don't for a moment believe that the First Amendment is a firewall. Constitutions are no stronger or better than the people who interpret them. Your freedom of speech rests not on the wisdom of the Founders but on the caprice of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the political intriguing of Chief Justice John Roberts.
Hopefully in the battle ahead America will have no shortage of fighters like Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn.