Sunday, July 22, 2012
The Precipitous Decline Of Christian England
A British hotel replaces the in-room Gideon Bibles with copies of Fifty Shades of Grey (aka Mommy porn). A Christian organization is banned by the Advertising Standards Authority from announcing that God can heal sickness today. And a recent poll indicates that only 37% of people in England say they have always believed in God, as opposed to 81% of Americans. Christian England, what has become of you?
The hotel in question was the Damson Dene Hotel in Cumbria, Northwest England, and the idea to replace the Bibles with the racy novel came earlier this month from Wayne Bartholomew, general manager of the hotel and “reportedly a choir member at his local church.” (One wonders what kind of church Mr. Bartholomew attends.)
But that is just one hotel, and there was some outrage over the general manager’s decision. What happened to a Christian group in Bath England in February was far more telling. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned a ministry named Healing on the Streets Bath from announcing on its website and in leaflets that God can heal today, ruling that “this is a ‘misleading’ ad which could sow ‘false hope’ amongst sections of the public.” And the ASA made this decision despite the fact that the message of healing in Jesus’ name is as old as the Gospels while the group simply offered to pray for sick people without making any guarantees. (Saying “can” is different than saying “will.”)
Cutting-edge columnist Brendan O'Neill could not resist taking a swipe at the ASA’s ban, writing, “The ASA has been itching to ban the words ‘God heals’ for quite a while. Last June, it rapped the knuckles of a church in Nottingham for putting up a poster that said ‘God can heal you today!’ after the church was grassed up to the ASA by some snitch in Nottingham’s Secular Society. And now it has actually banned a Christian group from proselytising about God’s healing powers. What next? Should we ban groups from declaring that ‘Jesus loves you!’, considering that is probably also technically untrue and could promote ‘false hope’?”
Not to be outdone, in June, “Three church groups [were] suspended from preaching at a secondary school after a leaflet containing homophobic scripture was delivered to homes in Walthamstow.”
In other words, because the leaflets contained a Bible verse that spoke against homosexual practice (part of a list of ten sinful behaviors in the verse; see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), they were suspended from using a public school for their meetings. (It should also be noted that the verse was one of several on the leaflet, and homosexual practice was absolutely not the focus of the leaflet.)
Remarkably, all three church groups denied distributing the leaflets, with one theory being that it was the work of a “rogue parishioner.” The spokesman for one of the church groups stated that, “It is ill advised to put that sort of thing on a leaflet and we would certainly never do it,” while a local atheist who received the leaflet said, “People who preach this sort of thing shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a school.” Perhaps verses like this should just be cut out of the Bible to avoid all offense?
And then there was the case of Eunice and Owen Johns, a Christian couple in their 60’s who had cared for 15 foster children in the past. Last year, England’s High Court ruled that they could no longer take in children after a gay activist organization brought a complaint against them, concerned that kids in their care could be “infected” with Christianity.
As Eunice Johns explained, “All we wanted to do was to offer a loving home to a child in need. We have a good track record as foster parents, but because we are Christians with mainstream views on sexual ethics, we are apparently unsuitable as foster parents.”
In May, the courts again ruled that the Johns’ could not provide care for a 16th child. As Eunice stated, “The judges have suggested that our views might harm children.” (She had previously told a social worker who pressed her about her faith that she would provide love and care for a child who identified as homosexual but would not tell the child that homosexuality was “okay.”) She continued, “We have been told by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that our moral views may ‘infect’ a child. We do not believe that this is so.”
Ironically, the initial court ruling against the Johns’ came down just weeks after magazine covers around the world breathlessly announced the news that Elton John and his partner David Furnish now had a baby boy, all of which leads me to ask: Christian England, home of men like John Bunyan, John Wesley, William Wilberforce, G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis, home of cities named Christ Church and of once-Christian universities like Oxford and Cambridge, what has become of you?
Feminism betraying modern British middle-class women
The career devotees are finding that they have missed the boat. The old saying: "You must be young and beautiful if you want to be loved" (originally a 1920s advertising jingle, I think) is not the whole truth but women ignore it at their peril
I can't afford to have sex at the moment," says Lysette Peters, a 43-year-old part-time barrister, who recently broke up with her 54-year-old banker boyfriend. "He wanted a lifestyle I couldn't keep up with financially, given the recession."
Another woman I know, who at 39 still has curves that would have a bishop kicking through a stained-glass window, has been celibate for six months, because, as she told me bluntly: "Right now, it's too expensive to run a lover. It's not just the cost of maintaining your appearance, but men these days seem to expect you to pay half of everything."
There was a time when shiny women south of 30 with independent means possessed the holy grail of a thousand magazine articles – a Prada handbag, an address in an agreeable part of the metropolis (forsaken for Italy in August and Les Arcs in January) and a lover who ornamented their lives, despite the concomitant outlay on lingerie and beauty salons. Now, however, austerity and unemployment are compelling an increasing number of middle-class women to choose between their lifestyles and the ars amatoria, and many are opting for what would once have been unthinkable: no sex and the city.
According to a recent study by the Cumbria Social Institute, the number of single women between the ages of 35 and 50 has increased by seven per cent in the past two years. And it would appear that a steady boyfriend, has, to many, become a luxury they can't afford.
Dr Angela Hutton, who compiled the report, says: "One of the factors is undoubtedly financial. Women are having to prioritise, and the mortgage and the car – as well as taking care of dependants – are taking precedence over men, who are increasingly falling into the luxury category."
It is a truth universally acknowledged that women heavily outnumber men in the dating arena; and the male sex is taking financial advantage of the fact.
As the cost of living escalates, so it seems, has the cost of loving, at least for the more mature woman. While older men remain willing to prise open their chequebooks for a 25-year-old whose alabaster complexion would grace the yacht of any concupiscent billionaire, an increasing number are ignoring the traditional etiquette of courting when it comes to women over the age of 35.
Gallantry is in retreat, buckling under the forces of recession, spurious excuses of equality – and the assumption that such women are in no position to protest, if they want to find themselves in an agreeable position in the boudoir. Michael Glass, a 50-year-old Scottish hedge funder, confirms that Cupid's arsenal of arrows has been subject to age-sensitive cuts.
"While I would happily spend money on a real babe, over whom other men are competing, I don't feel the need to do the same with an older woman who is probably desperate," he says. "Many of my friends feel the same. They'll ask such a woman to pay her share."
A recently married male friend who, at 49, has a small production company, made it clear while dating potential partners that women who were unable or unprepared to spend need not apply. "Part of my wife's attraction was her executive salary and her willingness to foot the bill," he says. "I earn, but in a recession I wasn't prepared to throw my money about as I had on previous girlfriends."
It seems that the economic downturn has left chivalry in tattered clothing. Dr Alfred Kinsey, the fabled American sex researcher, concluded in the first study of human sexual behaviour in 1948 that there was a correlation between inflation and sexual activity. High prices and low earnings, he concluded, led to "an increase in celibacy".
Contemporary females, woefully, are finding this to be the case. "The last two men I went out with would have bankrupted me," says Eliza Budsworth, a 42-year-old television researcher. "The first was a 50-year-old barrister who had extremely expensive tastes and in the end I couldn't pay half the bill in all the five-star hotels we always stayed at." She calculated that the cost of sustaining a relationship with him for a year would have been around £17,000.
Her second beau, a 46-year-old author, implied that she was lucky to have him, and: "He wasn't going to spend money on me."
The sexual see-saw has upended and a transference of power has occurred. While younger men, with the insecurities of youth, may still feel the need to wine and dine women in the traditional manner, the confident older man, providing he has the normal complement of limbs, feels himself to be an Alcibiades reborn, to whom women should pay financial as well as sexual homage. "It was increasingly impressed upon me," says Lysette Peters, "that my bank balance was the strongest hold I had over men."
In essence, many-splendoured romance has been replaced by something cold and glittering that is more akin to a business merger. And if you are a woman who can't afford to splurge, any sort of merger is becoming increasingly unlikely. Dorothy Parker once wrote:
Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do
Ah no, it's always just my
luck to get
One perfect rose
Today, many women would be lucky to receive even the rose without an invoice for half its cost tied to the stem.
Jane Morrow, a London psychiatrist, told me that many of her older female patients suffer from depression because "they feel that not only are men taking advantage financially, but in this competitive environment, with younger women a continuous threat, they worry they can't afford to maintain that groomed and perfect look that is their one advantage.
"Three months ago one of my patients lost her job. Her chief concern seemed to be that her fiancée would drop her because she could no longer afford designer clothes and weekly trips to the beauty salon and hairdresser."
Today, A-list men expect their female peers not only to pay as they date, but to look as pristine as a Clichy crystal. This involves a considerable outlay, rising as we grow older. Jennifer Ames, an accountant who was made redundant last November, was forced to give up her gym membership, her visits to Knightsbridge boutiques and her weekly pedicures and facials. "I'm only 39 and I've always taken care of myself, but then my boyfriend started to complain I was looking drab, and one week, when I couldn't afford to have my legs waxed, he just went off me."
She later found out that he had acquired a new girlfriend, aged 25. The sexual value of youth remains a recession-proof commodity. "To tell you the truth," conceded a male friend of mine, "I'd be prepared to invest a lot of money on a woman under 30. There's more mileage there and you feel good having her on your arm. Why would I spend money to have a 40-year-old middle-ranking executive on my arm instead? And if she is on my arm, she'd better pull her weight financially."
Even though the average female salary in the UK is a third less than the average male salary, women are told that going Dutch is the logical outcome of feminism. One woman I know who protested when her date, who had done all the romantic running, asked her to pay her half of the bill at an expensive London restaurant, received the response: "Do you want to go back in time and be some submissive little housewife?" Another was told, under similar circumstances, that her attitude "lacked modernity".
The celluloid sex symbol Lana Turner was once asked, apropos her financially draining hubby Bob Topping, "is the screwing you're getting worth the screwing you're getting?" Marie Harvard, a relationships counsellor, says: "These days, money as much as infidelity is causing discord between couples. Men are making financial demands on women that they weren't 10 years ago. This is partly due to the economy, but friction arises when women can't meet these demands or don't want to."
For an increasing number of women, the answer is no. Eliza Budsworth says: "I had the chance of a romantic weekend in Venice last month but the man who asked me wanted half the hotel bill up front, and so that was that. In any case, that sort of attitude doesn't really sweep you off your feet. I know I'm not this year's top model, but if men who aren't exactly George Clooney are only willing to be generous with 23-year-old sexpots, they're also the long-term losers."
Yet nubile females are always unsafe bets for men with the passions of Romeo in the bodies of Sir Toby Belch. This is where the modern male is making his fatal mistake. Once, wining and dining grown-up members of my sex were willing to overlook men's imperfections in search of a committed relationship. This gave men a certain sexual power, even if it came tinged with gratitude. No longer.
In a development that is ominous for both sexes, more and more women are shunning men who require them to look like Sarah Jessica Parker and meekly pony up half the bill. Sally Hughes, an attractive 41-year-old doctor, faced a choice this summer. "I could either go to France and chill with old friends, or spend money I haven't got and go to Italy with a man who expects me to be super-groomed and financially independent. The first cost £800. The latter around £3,000." She decided on old friends and celibacy.
For many women in her position, this choice is looking increasingly attractive. The cost of loving has become too high.
A Wakeup call for the young
Hey kids, wake up! Stop playing your X-Box while listening to your Facebooks on the iPod and wearing your iPad with the cap turned backwards with the droopy pants and the bikini underwear listening to Snoopy Poopy Poop Dogg and the Enema Man and all that!
Take a break from getting yet another tattoo on your ass bone or your nipples pierced already! And STFU about the 1 Percent vs. the 99 Percent!
You're not getting screwed by billionaires and plutocrats. You're getting screwed by Mom and Dad.
Systematically and in all sorts of ways. Old people are doing everything possible to rob you of your money, your future, your dignity, and your freedom.
Here's the irony, too (in a sort of Alanis Morissette sense): You're getting hosed by the very same group that 45 years ago was bitching and moaning about "the generation gap" and how their parents just didn't understand what really mattered in life.
Hence, many of the early pop anthems of the baby boomers - technically, those born between 1946 and 1964 but or all intents and purposes folks 55 years and older - focused on how stupid old people were ("don't criticize what you can't understand") and how young people would rather croak themselves then end up like their parents ("I hope I die before I get old"). "We are stardust, we are golden," sang Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young at Woodstock. "We got to get ourselves back to the garden." Flash forward four or five decades, a couple of hundred pounds, the odd organ transplant, random arrests and jail stints, and the only garden David Crosby is getting back to is the Olive Garden with its unlimited pasta bowls and breadsticks. What small parts of American life and power the boomers don't yet run they will soon enough.
Did you read that New York Times op-ed that called for a brand-spankin' new military draft and national service plan? "Let's Draft Our Kids," by veteran (read: old, born in 1955) journalist Thomas Ricks, is symptomatic of the new vibe, a kind of reverse Logan's Run scenario. In that godawful 1976 flick, when you turned 30, you were killed for the common good. Nowadays, it's more like life begins at 30. Which is confusing because 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40 and on and on. The important thing: Youth is no longer to be wasted on the young.
Ricks suggests letting high-school grads pick from either 18 months of military service or two years of civilian service, in return for free college tuition and subsidized health care and mortgages (libertarians, he notes, could opt out of service by forfeiting benefits though apparently not avoiding taxes). Beyond all the obviously great and good and wonderful things that come of forced labor, Ricks suggests that "having a draft might...make Americans think more carefully before going to war." Sure it would. Just like it did in the past when we actually had a draft.
Expect this sort of plan to get more and more respectful hearings if unemployment stays high for another few weeks. Or as former hippies and punks get up there in years. Last year, during an appearance I had on Real Time with Bill Maher, the host and other guests (all of us well north of 30) thought mandatory service was a fine notion. Back in the 1980s and '90s, national service was a pet project of folks such as Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and right-wing icon Bill Buckley (who wrote a book, Gratitude, on the topic).
Oddly, back in the actual 1960s, one of the few things that hippies and Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan could all agree on was that conscription was a really bad thing. For god's sake, Richard Nixon created a commission to end the draft. But that was then, and this is now.
And right now, old people are not going gentle into that good night. They know they're going to need younger people to change their diapers and pay their bills for them, literally and figuratively. As Hillary Clinton put it in 1999, nobody's going to do that if they have any option not to. Speaking to a National Education Association meeting, she explained one of the great benefits of old-age entitlements was that they meant you didn't have to live with your goddamn parents.
"In a very real sense," she said, "Medicare and Social Security say to our older people: We're going to help you remain independent ... We're going to free up the resources that might otherwise have to come directly to you from your family, so that they can do what you did--raise the next generation, send their children to college, hold down the jobs that enable them to move forward."
You got that? The author of It Takes a Village, a paean to the intricate bonds across and among generations, thinks one of the great selling points of Social Security is that it means you don't have to make room for granddaddy. Goddammit, we need that room for a home office! "There would be many families who would have to choose between supporting a parent--an elderly parent--and sending a child to college." She mused, "That would cause a lot of difficult decisions in our lives, wouldn't it?" Yes, it would, so it makes sense to give old people enough of other people's money so you don't have to see them except on holidays.
As a point of fact, retirees aren't particularly "independent" if they rely on tax dollars for income, are they? But here's the real rub, kids: You're getting screwed by Social Security, a program that is now more sacrosanct to aging boomers than Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. You're paying more into the system than you're ever going to get out. No wonder it's mandatory. C. Eugene Steuerle and Stephanie Rennane put out a study for the Urban Institute last summer that should have caused far more riots than anything that happened at Zuccotti Park. They document that folks making average wages who retired in 2010 will get a raw deal over the coming decades. The deal will only get worse if you retire in, say, 2030. Read it and weep, kids, and don't believe it when old people who are either already on Social Security or about to join that club tell you it's part of a generational bargain that can't be changed even if retirees are totally wealthy compared to you.
Indeed, be wary of folks telling you that means-testing old-age entitlements is insulting and un-American. Because the fact of the matter is that between 1984 and 2009, the only households that did well are those headed by people 55 years or older. Fact is, you're coughing up 12.4 percent of your compensation for a system that will give you less money than you gave it. And that's assuming the system is still around in recognizable form when you're ready for retirement. On top of that negative return, expect to read more articles like this one by Spy co-creator Kurt Anderson (b. 1954) in which the one-time snark-meister bemoans the fact that the 1960s made us "all shamelessly selfish." Huh? Who's we, kemo sabe? Those of us either too young or too unborn to remember the '60s aren't being selfish if we call attention to a system that loots the relatively young and relatively poor to give money to the relatively old and relatively rich. We're being fair.
So kiddos, you're getting screwed by old people who expect you to maintain a system that benefits them at your expense, regardless of their needs or yours. Thanks, Mom and Dad! And we just might be in the early stages of a bring-back-the-draft-movement, where you would get to choose between painting military barracks for 18 months or sharpening a teacher's pencils for two years.
Then chew on this: One of the primary ways that President Obama (born 1961) is making the so-called Affordable Care Act affordable is by having you foot more than your share of the bill.
Think it through for a moment, especially given that younger voters seem to really dig him. The younger you are, the less likely you are to need health care, much less insurance (there is a difference). The smart move for most generally healthy younger people is to take out a catastrophic coverage plan that would cover you in the event of a big accident. Thanks to Obamacare, you've got to get covered, either by your parents' plan or otherwise. The predictable result is that plans for younger people are getting more expensive precisely at the moment they are required by law (finally, a case where correlation meets causation!). That all plans are going to have to conform to higher-than-before benefit schedules ain't helping things either. Some colleges are dropping student plans as a result.
And just wait until those price-capped government-run health-care exchanges finally get set up. By law, the exchanges can't charge their oldest beneficiaries more than three times what they charge their youngest beneficiaries. That's despite the actuarial reality that the older group costs insurers six times as much. So you're helping balance the books there, too. Welcome to community rating, kids.
Another way you're helping balance the books: It'll be your future earnings that will pay the taxes to cover the massive amount of debt that local, state, and federal governments have rung up over the past few decades. Even before the Great Recession, the feds were spending like a drunken sailor (no disrespect to drunken sailors). Nowadays, the feds are borrowing something like 40 cents of every dollar they're spending. That bill is going to come due eventually and when it does, the people who spent it will be long dead. And so will the economy, suffering from a "debt hangover" that all the Advil in the world won't help. We're getting perilously close to the debt-to-GDP ratios that economists Carmen M. Reinhart, Vincent R. Reinhart, and Kenneth Rogoff say will significantly retard economic growth for an average of 23 years.
It should go without saying that it doesn't have to be this way. And don't buy into the idea that the way things are is just part of the circle of life. You're the mark here, the chump who's believing in Bernie Madoff even after the grift has been revealed. There's not going to be a bigger idiot to come along and keep the pyramid scheme alive. You can tell yourself that this is all part of living in a society, that's it for the common good, that there's simply no way a class of people with only 45 times the amount of household income as you do can get by without you sacrificing so much. But you're kidding yourself, kiddo.
More to the point: Older generations don't need to mop up all the gravy from their kids' bowls. Those of them who can afford to should pay their own way and, in a generational exchange observed for hundreds of generations, could even leave things for their heirs (this is impossible with Social Security, of course). The days when being old universally meant being poor or sick are thankfully behind us and old-age entitlements should change to reflect that reality. We can help the truly needy among us without creating a system in which young people's already small incomes and savings are reduced further to prop up the relatively plush living standards of older Americans (read the cover story of the August-September issue of Reason, not yet online). The young shouldn't be sacrificed to the real and imagined needs of the old.
The one thing I know for damn sure as a parent and a late-era boomer (b. 1963) is that I would never want to charge my existence onto my kids' credit card. If that means we need to start living within our means as a society, that's not really a tough call, is it?
Tyrants and Human Nature
Walter E. Williams
The agendas of liberals, progressives and assorted tyrants desperately depend on the aspects of human nature they often condemn, such as acquisitiveness, profit motive, self-interestedness and greed. This crossed my mind while reading "How Departures From Economic Freedom Can Affect Freedom In General," by Dr. John Taylor, a Hoover Institution scholar. Taylor tells how former Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich was forced to take Troubled Asset Relief Program funds even though Wells Fargo did not need or want the funds. Kovacevich was threatened that if he did not accept TARP money, regulators would declare his bank capital-deficient even though Wells Fargo had a triple-A rating. At the time, October 2008, Wells Fargo was in the process of acquiring Wachovia, and to be declared capital-deficient would have killed the deal. U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke could rely on acquisitiveness, profit motive and self-interestedness to bully Wells Fargo into accepting TARP money. They also knew that Wells Fargo's competitors would go after Wachovia. If all sound banks had refused TARP money, Paulson and Bernanke's tyrannical threats would have failed.
Imagine a person was ordered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to harvest timber on land that he owned because it threatened the habitat of the red-cockaded woodpecker. What would the average agency tyrant propose in order to make him obey? If you said levy a fine, you'd be absolutely right. If he were to continue to disobey the order, he'd face the imposition of a higher fine. The agency tyrant's behavior simply acknowledges the first fundamental law of demand, which correctly predicts that the higher the cost of doing something the less people will do it. Conversely, the lower its cost the more people will do it. There are no known exceptions to the reality of the law of demand.
Though the law of demand is not rocket science, liberals and progressives sometimes pretend it doesn't exist. Suppose one wants to reduce the number of rapes, robberies and homicides. Should we raise or lower the cost of committing such acts? Though the death penalty exacts a high cost for a homicide conviction, most liberals and progressives are against it. Some liberals and progressives don't hold criminals responsible, because they believe that poverty and discrimination are the cause of crime and that it's society that must be cured. Others think that soft sentences and rehabilitation programs reduce criminal behavior. Both visions lower the cost to criminals of committing a crime.
An excellent example of how liberals and progressives -- and even some respected economists -- deny the law of demand is their support for increases in the minimum wage. The effect of mandated wage increases is to raise the cost of labor. The entrepreneurial response to higher labor costs is to use less of it by finding substitutes, and examples abound. Back in the 1930s, '40s and '50s, when you pulled into a gasoline station, there was a kid to pump the gas, wipe your windshield and check the oil. Today virtually all gasoline stations are self-serve, and it's not because today's Americans like smelling gas fumes. The minimum wage has destroyed that kind of job. Other responses to higher mandated wages include automation and relocation of production facilities to places with cheaper wages.
Though a few liberals and progressives acknowledge the minimum wage law's negative effects on low-skilled workers, none acknowledges the law's racially discriminatory effects. If an employer must pay a minimum of $7.35 an hour to everyone he hires, the costs to discriminate in the employment of people whom he doesn't like are less. The minimum wage is so effective at promoting racial discrimination in employment that it was a major tool in the arsenal of South Africa's racists during its apartheid era. Racist unions were the country's major supporters of minimum wages for blacks.
Liberals, progressives and tyrants acknowledge the reality of human nature when it fits their agenda and ignore it when it doesn't.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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