Strong Families Are Worth Defending

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a landmark report in which he contended that the rising number of black families headed by unmarried mothers would reduce the prospects for Blacks to rise out of poverty, in spite of that era’s landmark civil rights legislation.

Moynihan was furiously denounced for his efforts. But he was proven right and he would be even more correct making the same observations today.

It’s been a tough half-century for families. Although Moynihan focused his concerns on Blacks, family breakdown correlates as much with income level as it does with race.

Because there are more low-income Blacks, more black children are raised by single mothers, but the overall percentage of births to unmarried women has gone from 5% in 1960 to 40% today. In 1970, 84% of US children spent their entire childhood with both biological parents. Today, about half do.

Partly because of the withering criticisms directed at Moynihan, the chattering classes have mostly avoided the issue of family deterioration, at least until recently. But the consequences have been enormous.

Harvard economist Raj Chetty analyzed the causes of income disparity and concluded that “the strongest and most robust predictor is the fraction of children with single parents.“

In fact, there is scant evidence that race or racial discrimination causes the multiple economic and societal problems associated with family breakdown. Government spending doesn’t seem to have any effect, nor even does education explain the income gap. It is family status itself.

So what caused families, long our core civic institution and the means for passing on our values, to falter? There’s no easy answer, of course, but scholars note a sea change in our views of almost everything that began about the middle of the last century.

Especially in developed countries, people became more anti-authoritarian and more critical of traditional rules and roles. Views about sex outside of marriage, divorce, cohabitation, and single parenthood significantly changed.

It wasn’t all bad. Many of the changes extended civil rights and created a more fair society. But some of the “progress” has been tough on the kids.

For example, it’s not judgmental, just descriptive, to note that the increase in cohabitation has resulted in more unstable family structures.

Even with children, cohabiting couples break up faster and more often than married couples. Unmarried fathers are even less likely than divorced dads to form lasting bonds with their children. What may appear to be simply a matter of documentation can have a profound impact on the well-being of children.

Changing mores regarding sex before marriage has resulted in millions of young women bearing children for which they have made no financial or other preparations.

It’s not judging, it is the essence of caring for each of us to do a better job of informing these potential mothers of the catastrophic lifelong consequences of their casual decisions, both on themselves and the new life they are bringing into the world. We should also do a better job of making unwed fathers, many of whom openly boast about the children they are not raising, accountable for the consequences of their actions.

As Ronald Reagan might say, the government is not the solution to this problem. It is the problem. There’s no question that the Great Society welfare rules, requiring recipients to be unmarried and unemployed to qualify for benefits, led to countless women making the sensible decision to “marry the government“ rather than the uneducated, undependable father.

The government has also mortally harmed families by taking over many of their traditional functions, especially care of the young and the aged. Families traditionally stayed together to assure that those unable to provide for themselves would be sustained.

Today, it is assumed that the elderly are entitled to be cared for by the government. Some adults are known to simply walk away from their families because they don’t see the need.

We need sound strong families for all Americans, not only the wealthy and privileged. It would help if the government did less harm. But we need to do a better job of protecting and prioritizing our families, respecting the outsized role they play in making our country strong and our lives worthwhile.

Democrats’ Disastrous, Capricious Energy Policy

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Democrats have spent decades warning that the United States must stop using the most efficient and affordable energy sources or it will be consumed by heat waves, fireballs, and cataclysmic weather events.

Every flood, every hurricane—every natural event, really—is now blamed on climate change. We have burdened our children with an irrational dread over their future. Then again, many in The Cult of Malthus won’t even have children.

So, why, if we’re on the precipice of this apocalypse if saving the planet trumps every other concern, is President Joe Biden begging everyone to drill? On the days Democrats aren’t blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for rising gas prices (a cost the president not long ago argued was worth paying for “freedom”), they’re blaming oil companies for profiteering.

As the national average hit $5.01 last Wednesday (nearly $2 higher than a year earlier), Biden sent letters to refining companies threatening to once again abuse his executive powers if they do not immediately alleviate high prices—a political appeal to the imaginary “greedflation.”

Biden, who promised a 100% “clean-energy economy” with “net-zero emissions” in a couple of decades, now demands energy companies, already at utilization rates above 90%, invest tens of billions more in new drilling infrastructure, when everyone knows that tomorrow when prices recede, Democrats are going to go right back to passing laws and regulations that undercut their business.

Today, Democrats demand CEOs spend more; tomorrow, they will promise to “hold oil executives accountable” and drag them in front of congressional committees where they will be scolded by economically illiterate windbags.

That future is baked into today’s price. Because Democrats’ energy policy is a schizophrenic mess, oscillating from puerile to pernicious. You can’t spend decades working to undercut production and campaign on the promise of destroying industry and then demand it turn on a dime when it’s politically convenient.

Democrats will argue that this is a unique emergency as prices have spiked to historic highs. Guess what? Energy prices will always be at historic highs when you create shortages, which is exactly what progressives have been advocating we do for years.

Virtually every left-wing energy proposal in the past two decades, if not longer, has been designed to create false scarcity, either through fabricated marketplaces and stringent regulations or by putting caps on production. This is what they wanted.  

“No more drilling on federal lands,” Biden promised during the 2020 presidential campaign. “No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, No. 1.”

Not No. 2. No. 1.

“No more—no new fracking,” the president also said.

Blue states across the country have either banned fracking or are in the process of banning fracking projects.

And, on the first day of his presidency, Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement—an accord he is now working hard to break—revoking permits for Keystone XL, a 1,700-mile pipeline that was going to carry approximately 800,000 barrels of oil a day into the United States (also baked into the price).

Biden signed a slew of executive orders prioritizing climate change over energy production, halting oil and natural gas leases on all public lands. When a court blocked him, the Biden administration appealed the decision, even as indications of an energy spike were clear.

Rather than threatening price controls, the president should just rescind all his executive orders.

Of course, until some new technology is devised, implementing any policy that resembles the Green New Deal—the plan Biden says is the “framework” for his own efforts on “environmental justice”—would hold approximately the same economic consequences as having coronavirus economic shutdowns for 30 years straight. That’s merely if we followed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommendations on carbon emissions.

Last year, with inflation already looming, Biden preached that it was a “moral imperative” to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030 and 100% by 2050. That’s a policy that will have us fondly reminiscing about $5 a gallon.

Energy policy can’t be capriciously implemented and then abandoned every time the Democrats’ poll numbers flail. This is just a little taste of the Green New Deal. There is no sentient being that could accept the notion that Democrats are the party that is in favor of abundant fossil fuels.

Hopefully, the price—even in small measure—for Democrats’ green policies is so politically severe that they will moderate. Because we all have unattainable dreams.

*****

This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

What We Saw During ‘Night of Rage’ Pro-Abortion Protest

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

As the sun set over Washington, D.C., hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators stood chanting and holding signs outside the Supreme Court.

Rally speakers called for protesters to “take to the streets” in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade.

In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote: “Like the infamous decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, Roe was also egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided.”

The protesters outside the Supreme Court on Friday night appeared to disagree.

Below are videos and pictures from the “Night of Rage,” as it was dubbed by the pro-abortion demonstrators. Warning: Rude language ahead.

Around 8:30 p.m., a group of 30 protesters dressed in black and carrying an Antifa sign arrived at the Supreme Court and proceeded to march down Constitution Avenue toward downtown Washington.

*****

This article was published by The Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.

Weekend Read: 97.8% of Mass Shootings Are Linked to This

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

Do Psychiatric Meds and War Games Lead to Mass Shootings?

  • While many have bought into the simplistic idea that the availability of firearms is the cause of mass shootings, a number of experts have pointed out a more uncomfortable truth, which is that mass shootings are far more likely the result of how we’ve been mistreating mental illness, depression and behavioral problems
  • Gun control legislation has shown that law-abiding Americans who own guns are not the problem, because the more gun control laws that have been passed, the more mass shootings have occurred
  • 97.8% of mass shootings occur in “gun-free zones,” as the perpetrators know legally armed citizens won’t be there to stop them
  • Depression per se rarely results in violence. Only after antidepressants became commonplace did mass shootings really take off, and many mass shooters have been shown to be on antidepressants
  • Antidepressants, especially selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are well-known for their ability to cause suicidal and homicidal ideation and violence

While many have bought into the simplistic idea that the availability of firearms is the cause of mass shootings, a number of experts have pointed out a more uncomfortable truth, which is that mass shootings are far more likely the result of how we’ve been mistreating mental illness, depression and behavioral problems.

An article written by Molly Carter, initially published on ammo.com at an unknown date1 and subsequently republished by The Libertarian Institute in May 2019,2 and psychreg.org in late January 2021,3 noted:

“According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a mass murder occurs when at least four people are murdered, not including the shooter … during a single incident …

Seemingly every time a mass shooting occurs … the anti-gun media and politicians have a knee-jerk response — they blame the tragedy solely on the tool used, namely firearms, and focus all of their proposed ‘solutions’ on more laws, ignoring that the murderer already broke numerous laws when they committed their atrocity.

Facts matter when addressing such an emotionally charged topic, and more gun control legislation has shown that law-abiding Americans who own guns are NOT the problem. Consider the following: The more gun control laws that are passed, the more mass murders have occurred.

Whether or not this is correlation or causation is debatable. What is not debatable is that this sick phenomenon of mass murderers targeting ‘gun-free zones,’ where they know civilian carry isn’t available to law-abiding Americans, is happening.

According to the Crime Prevention Research Center,4 97.8% of public shootings occur in ‘gun-free zones’ – and ‘gun-free zones’ are the epitome of the core philosophical tenet of gun control, that laws are all the defense one needs against violence …

This debate leads them away from the elephant in the room and one of the real issues behind mass shootings — mental health and prescription drugs.

Ignoring what’s going on in the heads of these psychopaths not only allows mass shootings to continue, it leads to misguided gun control laws that violate the Second Amendment and negate the rights of law-abiding U.S. citizens.

As Jeff Snyder put it in The Washington Times: ‘But to ban guns because criminals use them is to tell the innocent and law-abiding that their rights and liberties depend not on their own conduct, but on the conduct of the guilty and the lawless, and that the law will permit them to have only such rights and liberties as the lawless will allow.’”

The Elephant in the Room: Antidepressants

Thoughts, emotions, and a variety of environmental factors play into the manifestation of violence, but a mental illness by itself cannot account for the massive rise in mass murder — unless you include antidepressants in the equation. Yet even when mental health does enter the mass shooter discussion, the issue of antidepressants, specifically, is rarely mentioned.

The fact is, depression per se rarely results in violence. Only after antidepressants became commonplace did mass shootings take off, and many mass shooters have been shown to be on antidepressants.

Prozac, released in 1987, was the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) to be approved for depression and anxiety. Only two years earlier, direct-to-consumer advertising had been legalized. In the mid-1990s, the Food and Drug Administration loosened regulations, direct-to-consumer ads for SSRIs exploded and, with it, prescriptions for SSRIs.

In 1989, just two years after Prozac came to market, Joseph Wesbecker shot 20 of his coworkers, killing nine. He had been on Prozac for one month, and the survivors of the drug-induced attack sued Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac. Since then, antidepressant use and mass shootings have both risen, more or less in tandem.

In the two decades between 1988 and 2008, antidepressant use in the U.S. rose by 400%,5, and by 2010, 11% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 were on an antidepressant prescription.6

In 1982, pre-Prozac, there was one mass shooting in the U.S.7 In 1984, there were two incidents and in 1986 — the year Prozac was released — there was one. One to three mass shootings per year remained the norm up until 1999 when it jumped to five.

How can we possibly ignore the connection between the rampant use of drugs known to directly cause violent behavior and the rise in mass shootings?

Another jump took place in 2012 when there were seven mass shootings. And while the annual count has gone up and down from year to year, there’s been a clear trend of an increased number of mass shootings post-2012. Over time, mass shootings have also gotten larger, with more people getting injured or killed per incident.8

How can we possibly ignore the connection between the rampant use of drugs known to directly cause violent behavior and the rise in mass shootings? Suicidal ideation, violence, and homicidal ideation are all known side effects of these drugs. Sometimes, the drugs disrupt brain function so dramatically the perpetrator can’t even remember what they did.

For example, in 2001, a 16-year-old high schooler was prescribed Effexor, starting off at 40 milligrams and moving up to 300 mg over the course of three weeks. On the first day of taking a 300-mg dose, the boy woke up with a headache, decided to skip school, and went back to bed.

Sometime later, he got up, took a rifle to his high school, and held 23 classmates, hostage, at gunpoint. He later claimed he had no recollection of anything that happened after he went back to bed that morning.9

The Risks Are Clear

The risks of psychiatric disturbances are so clear, ever since mid-October 2004, all antidepressants in the U.S. must include a black box warning that the drug can cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors, especially in those younger than 25, and that:10

“Anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility (aggressiveness), impulsivity, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), hypomania, and mania have been reported in adult and pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants for major depressive disorder as well as for other indications, both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric.”

SSRIs can also cause emotional blunting and detachment, such that patients report “not feeling” or “not caring” about anything or anyone, as well as psychosis and hallucinations. All of these side effects can contribute to someone acting out an unthinkable violent crime.

In one review11,12 of 484 drugs in the FDA’s database, 31 were found to account for 78.8% of all cases of violence against others, and 11 of those drugs were antidepressants.

The researchers concluded that violence against others was a “genuine and serious adverse drug event” and that of the drugs analyzed, SSRI antidepressants and the smoking cessation medication, varenicline (Chantix), had the strongest associations. The top-five most dangerous SSRIs were:13

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac), which increased aggressive behavior 10.9 times
  • Paroxetine (Paxil), which increased violent behavior 10.3 times
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox), which increased violent behavior 8.4 times
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor), which increased violent behavior 8.3 times
  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), which increased violent behavior 7.9 times

Depression Is Vastly Overdiagnosed

In her article, Carter also reviewed the clinical determinants for a diagnosis of clinical depression warranting medication. To qualify, you must experience five or more of the following symptoms, most of the day, every day, for two weeks or more, and the symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with normal everyday functioning:14

Sadness Anxiety
Feeling hopeless Feeling worthless
Feeling helpless Feeling ’empty’
Feeling guilty Irritable
Fatigue Lack of energy
Loss of interest in hobbies Slow talking and moving
Restlessness Trouble concentrating
Abnormal sleep patterns, whether sleeping too much or not enough Abnormal weight changes, either eating too much or having no appetite
Thoughts of death or suicide

The reality is that a majority of patients who receive a depression diagnosis and subsequent prescription for an antidepressant do not, in fact, qualify. In one study,15 only 38.4% actually met the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria, and among older adults, that ratio was even lower. Only 14.3% of those aged 65 and older met the diagnostic criteria. According to the authors:16

“Participants who did not meet the 12-month MDE criteria reported less distress and impairment in role functioning and used fewer services. A majority of both groups, however, were prescribed and used psychiatric medications.

Conclusion: Depression overdiagnosis and overtreatment is common in community settings in the USA. There is a need for improved targeting of diagnosis and treatments of depression and other mental disorders in these settings.”

What Role Might War Games Play?

Aside from antidepressants, another factor that gets ignored is the influence of shooting simulations, i.e., violent video games. How does the military train soldiers for war? Through simulations. With the proliferation of video games involving indiscriminate violence, should we really be surprised when this “training” is then put into practice? As reported by World Bank Blogs, young men who experience violence “often struggle to reintegrate peacefully into their communities” when hostilities end.17 While American youth typically have little experience with real-world war, simulated war games do occupy much of their time and may over time color their everyday perceptions of life. As noted by Centrical, some of the top benefits of simulations training include:18

  1. Allowing you to practice genuine real-life scenarios and responses
  2. Repetition of content, which boosts knowledge retention
  3. Personalization and diversification, so you can learn from your mistakes and evaluate your performance, thereby achieving a deeper level of learning

In short, violent mass shooter games are the perfect training platform for future mass shooters. Whereas a teenager without such exposure might not be very successful at carrying out a mass shooting due to inexperience with weapons and tactics, one who has spent many hours, years even, training in simulations could have knowledge akin to that of military personnel.

Add antidepressant side effects such as emotional blunting and loss of impulse control, and you have a perfect prescription for a mass casualty event.

On top of that, we, as a nation, also demonstrate the “righteousness” of war by engaging in them without end.19 When was the last time the U.S. was not at war someplace? It’s been ongoing for decades.

Even now, the U.S. insists on inserting itself into the dispute between Russia and Ukraine, and diplomacy isn’t the chosen conflict resolution tool. Sending weapons to Ukraine and calling for more violence against Russians are. Sen. Lindsey Graham has even called for the assassination of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Showing just how serious such a suggestion is, the White House had to publicly disavow it, stating Graham’s comment “is not the position of the U.S. government.”20

Graham, meanwhile, does not appear to understand how his nonchalant call for murder might actually incite murder. In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, he now wants to mobilize retired service members to enhance security at schools, and while that might be a good idea, how about also vowing never to call for the murder of political opponents? Don’t politicians understand that this could translate into some kid thinking it’s acceptable to murder THEIR perceived opponents?

As far as I can tell, mass shootings have far more to do with societal norms, dangerous medications, a lack of high-quality mental health services, and the normalization of violence through entertainment and in politics, than it does with gun laws per se.

There are likely many other factors as well, but these are clearly observable phenomena known to nurture violent behavior. I’m afraid Americans are in need of a far deeper and more introspective analysis of the problem than many are capable of at the moment. But those who can, should try, and make an effort to effect much-needed change locally and in their own home.

*****

This article was published by Dr. Rich Swier and is reproduced with permission.

 

More Alarming Inflation Data Undercut the Progressive ‘Greedflation’ Narrative

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Companies haven’t jacked up prices to even fully match the increase in their costs, let alone exceed them. Another day, another disturbing price inflation metric.

 

The federal government just released the latest Producer Price Index (PPI), an index that tracks the prices of a basket of the typical inputs businesses rely on, like energy, warehousing, etc. It finds that prices rose 0.8% from April to May and a whopping 10.8% from May 2021 to May 2022. The PPI is the Federal Reserve’s preferred metric of price inflation, and this latest update keeps it near a 40-year high.

To see just how extreme this trend continues to be, just check out this graph from Fox Business [above].

Of course, this latest update comes just one day after another alarming inflation update. Released Monday, the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) showed an 8.6% year-over-year increase in consumer prices. That metric imperfectly measures prices for a basket of consumer goods a typical US household might buy, and it too remains near 40-year highs.

What’s the significance?

Well, these updates offer more proof that rising prices are hurting American families, eroding paychecks, and bursting budgets. But we already knew that.

The really interesting insight here comes from comparing the producer price data to the consumer price data. Contrasting the two undercuts the progressive “greedflation” narrative that argues rising prices are in large part due to corporate greed.

“Inflation first rose because of other factors, like Covid and economic stimulus bills,” the New York Times writes in an article explaining what “greedflation” advocates believe. “But companies raised prices more than necessary to net higher profits. They knew they could get away with it because consumers no longer had a benchmark for what prices should be. And they did not face enough competition to keep prices down.”

Or, as Senator Elizabeth Warren argues, “profiteering” and “price-gouging” have driven higher prices because “they [can] get away with it because our markets lack competition.”

But this narrative has never made any sense. For one thing, corporations are no more “greedy,” aka profit-seeking, than they were 5 years ago or 10 years ago, when inflation wasn’t surging. What’s more, some sectors have seen much bigger price hikes than others. Are companies in some industries just less greedy than in other sectors?

“Greedflation” conspiracy theorists cite market concentration, i.e. monopoly power, as to why companies can supposedly be what’s driving this. But, as MIT economist David Autor notes, market concentration hasn’t meaningfully shifted in the last two years… while inflation most certainly has!

That’s why a survey of top economists found that the vast majority reject the “greedflation” narrative out of hand.

What’s this have to do with PPI, CPI, and other inflation metrics?

The new data set put the nail in the coffin for the “greedflation” narrative.

Why?

Well, if companies were truly greedy and just jacking up prices to make money, we would expect them to be hiking prices for consumers at a rate higher than their own production costs are going up. But these data sets actually reveal the opposite: consumer prices rose 8.6% while producer prices rose 10.8%—suggesting that, roughly estimating, companies haven’t jacked up prices to even fully match the increase in their costs, let alone exceed them.

Where’s the evidence of this rampant special surge in “greed” we keep hearing about?

It’s nowhere to be seen, of course, because the “greedflation” narrative was always a political talking point simply meant to deflect blame away from the federal government and onto Big Business, a popular boogeyman.

*****

This article was published by FEE, Foundation for Economic Education and is reproduced with permission.

 

The Costs of Leniency

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

The leniency of British penal policy might be defined as the means by which crime’s financial costs to the middle-class taxpayer are limited while its costs to the quality of life remain where they arise: among the relatively poor. For example, in a town not far from mine in England, a man who lived in ‘social’ housing was sentenced to life imprisonment (meaning, for once, prison was where he would stay for the rest of his life) only after his third killing, having served a grand total of five years for his first two. 

It comes as a strange kind of consolation to know that this idiocy, this indifference to the brutality that poses as generosity or liberality of mind and spirit, exists on the other side of the Channel.

A man aged 37 called Nicolas Alba was recently arrested on a charge of rape of a 22-year-old woman. He abducted her at knifepoint, raped her, and threatened to kill her and her family if she went to the police. Forensic evidence supports the charge, which he admits. He says that he now regrets what he did.

It turns out that Nicolas Alba was known to the police. In 2010, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for having killed a woman aged 79 in the course of a burglary two years earlier. He stabbed her 82 times while she was in bed. He was under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs at the time, and while he acknowledged what he had done, he expressed surprise that he had stabbed his victim so many times. He thought it was “only” fifteen. He told the gendarmes that he feared she might recognize him. 

After he killed her, he spent an hour searching her flat and took about $200, some jewelry, and her credit card, with which he tried to withdraw money from an ATM. He explained his conduct as an expression of his sorrow at the death of a nephew, murdered by his sister’s boyfriend. ‘All the anger that was in me came out,’ he said. A psychologist told the court that there might be a symbolic connection between the taboo against killing a child and that of killing an old woman.

He was released conditionally in 2020, supposedly under supervision. Two psychiatric and other reports had concluded that the risk of reoffending was low; he had behaved himself while in prison. He had also abided by his conditions of release, as far as anyone could tell, which were then relaxed.

The overarching error is that legal punishment is a form of personal therapy for the punished, a kind of psychotherapy within high walls.

The point, surely, is not that the psychiatric and other reports were mistaken, almost laughably so were it not for the tragic consequence of their erroneousness: it is that they were called for in the first place. For if a man can do what Nicolas Alba did and not thereby forfeit his right to live ever again as a free man in society, it is difficult to know what someone would have to do to forfeit that right.

The whole episode exhibits the intellectual and moral confusion behind penal policy both in Britain and France, presumably under similar doctrinal influences.

The overarching error is that legal punishment is a form of personal therapy for the punished, a kind of psychotherapy within high walls. Of course, it is a good thing if the punished learn something from their punishment: though the principal factor in improvement is probably the passage of time (crime being mostly a young man’s game).

But criminality is not analogous to, say, arachnophobia, from which the sufferer rightly seeks psychological assistance. And while the very concept of punishment has come under sustained philosophical attack for many years, and one eminent British criminologist admitted that criminology had for a century amounted to a conspiracy to deny its efficacy or very necessity, I think it fair to say that no large-scale society has so far found it possible to dispense with it.

Our societies, however, have decided (quite rightly) that there must be a limit to the severity of punishment. Having abolished the death penalty, the maximum a civilized society can inflict is imprisonment for life. Moreover, everyone subjected to imprisonment should be treated with decency, the avoidance of cruelty or brutality being a deontological moral requirement.

There is another penological principle that has to be followed: namely, that the severity of punishment must be proportional to the crime, even if the proportionality can only be approximate and grosso modo, since there is no common measure of severity and many factors go to constitute it. Any decent system must allow for mitigation (aggravation is less popularly urged).

Now if there is a maximum penalty that can be decently inflicted, and if penalties must be proportional to the severity of the crime, it follows that the maximum penalty must be inflicted only for the most serious crimes. But with crimes as with states of mind as described by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, “No worst, there is none.” There is always a crime worse, at least potentially worse, than that currently before one.

Though the mind shrinks from doing it, it is possible to imagine or conceive of a crime worse than that of Nicolas Alba. This being the case, it might have seemed impossible, unjust, to inflict on him the severest penalty that any civilized society could inflict. But this way of thinking has the corollary that a civilized society can never inflict its maximum penalty, because a worse crime can always be imagined than the one under consideration.

Another corollary is that downward pressure on all sentences is exerted, especially in circumstances in which supposedly determinate periods of imprisonment are routinely reduced, halved or more, by early release. If a man such as Nicolas Alba is released after only ten years, what sentence can be given to a mere burglar? And yet, as everyone who has ever been burgled knows, burglary is not a minor crime, nor is burglary, when it is common, without profound social effects. (By the way, the poor are burgled much more frequently, and with more devastating effects, than the rich.)

There is an obvious solution to the problem. The maximum penalty can be inflicted for crimes that reach a certain level of severity, without them having to be the worst imaginable. Even though, with effort, one can imagine a worse crime than that committed by Nicolas Alba—at least, worse in its extent if not in its depravity—his crime surely passed the threshold of severity that should reasonably call forth a sentence of imprisonment for life. And if, nevertheless, one wished to preserve the principle of proportionality, one could do it purely symbolically. Nicolas Alba could have been sentenced to a term far exceeding his life expectancy—two hundred years, say. And if subsequently there were a crime committed even worse than his, the culprit could be sentenced to three or four hundred years.

A society that lacks either the will or the courage to imprison someone like Nicolas Alba for life (without, I hasten to add, any cruel treatment) is a society that has no confidence in its own judgment, either moral or practical.

*****

This article was published by Law & Liberty and is reproduced with permission.

Why Cutting the Gas Tax is a Bad Idea

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Biden says he will request a three-month reduction in the Federal gas tax and urges states to follow as well. At one time Barak Obama called this idea a gimmick. Obama was right.

Certainly, one can understand why. The increase in fuel costs is hurting everyone, including those at the bottom of the income scale the Democrats say they are concerned about.The public is howling, with about most people polled blaming Biden and the Democrats. Most do not feel it is the fault of the greedy oil companies or Putin. These energy companies that just more than a year ago provided us fuel at half the cost did not just discover profits. They pursued profits when energy was cheaper, as they should.

And, if you have been paying attention, energy costs started to rise after the election and were well on their way higher before Putin invaded Ukraine. No, high energy costs are clearly the consequence of Democrat policies that began years ago but culminated with the election of Biden. As the sticker says, he really did do that!

High fuel costs are altering, if not canceling, vacation plans. They are increasing the price of food and everything that is shipped by rail, air, ship, or truck.

Democrats are looking to “do something” to ease the pain because of the fall congressional elections. But the consequences will be found for years in higher home heating oil prices, higher food prices, higher electricity prices, and reduced industrial production. Economic growth relies on the access to competitively priced energy, where energy sources are determined by engineers and the market, not environmental departments at universities and politicians.

When the world moved from wood to coal, from coal to oil, from horses to cars, from kerosene to electricity, it was entrepreneurs operating with the voluntary forces or profit and loss that made the determination. At the turn of the century, we had electric cars, steam-powered cars, and the internal combustion engine, all competing with one another. We had Westinghouse and Tesla competing again Edison. Let that process work today.

What we have now is a top-down, centrally planned forced conversion to different energy systems based on biased research about CO2 and its role in temperature changes. It is what Biden calls a “transition.”

Republicans should not accommodate Biden for the following reasons:

As a tactical matter, do not provide your opponent help when he is hurting himself. They don’t deserve the assistance and it is politically stupid to help them.

We should replay as often as possible all the campaign promises where Democrats pledged to put the oil and gas industry out of business. We should further explain that this has been a long-standing goal of Democrats going back at least 20 years with Al Gore and his inconvenient blunders.

We should explain to the public how the  ESG movement starves energy corporations of capital and reduces supply. Ideas have consequences. The explanation of why these ideas are bad has more weight when people feel the consequences of bad political and scientific decisions. There is nothing quite like pain and fear to focus one’s attention.

This blowback from high prices needs to be unleashed not just on the politicians but the university departments, the environmental industrial complex, and environmental organizations. This has been their multi-year project and we now see the consequences.

More importantly, reducing a tax does not produce one bit of additional energy. Rather, it gives the Democrats the appearance that they care, while they impoverish us all in their Green New Deal fantasy. 

No, let the reality of what they are doing sink in. Many of the people who voted for Biden need to see reality by experiencing the consequences of destroying an industry before better alternatives are created. It is time for tough love. Democrats are reducing our standard of living deliberately to force their ideas on “climate change.” The collateral economic damage is felt by all, but especially by many who voted for Biden.

That pain is a positive thing because it will create political change.

It is the same with the release of oil from the strategic oil reserve. Such action produces no energy and further, uses what is supposed to be a “strategic reserve” intended for when the country is involved in war or confrontation with a hostile energy producer like Iran or Russia. That is a misuse of the purpose of that reserve. It is not a political piggy bank to be drawn on when Democrats are in trouble.

We could have gotten almost an equivalent amount of oil from Canada simply by completing pipelines that were already well on the way to completion.

Releasing oil from the strategic oil reserve, and cutting the gas tax, are all calculated steps to distract us all from the real problem:  the US has immense energy reserves and Democrats stand in the way of them being utilized. It is painful for us all, but we must let that reality be driven home.

There are additional problems as well. This revenue goes to the highway trust fund and is needed for vital infrastructure improvement. We should not let that trust fund be raided by politicians seeking relief from their own policies.

That money will have to be made up somewhere. Thus, the loss in revenue has to come from somewhere, higher taxes elsewhere, or increases in the deficit that adds upward pressures on inflation and interest rates.

Finally, the amount of 18 cents for gasoline, and 24 cents for diesel, is hardly enough to provide relief and it will be only temporary relief at best. We have seen the price of gas go up that much in a day or two.

I drive a mid-sized pickup that averages about 18 miles per gallon, for city and highway.  I drive about 10,000 miles a year. So, let’s do the math. At 18 miles per gallon, that is about 555 gallons per year.  Saving 18 cents per gallon would save me about $100 for a year.  The three months proposed would equal about $25 of total savings.  C’mon man.  I am not worried about the $25, I am worried about Biden’s energy policy costing me more for gas, electricity, and propane, for the rest of my life and for my children and grandchildren.

In summary, it is a political gesture with no meaningful benefit other than to help Biden.  He doesn’t deserve it.

If we really want to have a sane energy policy that keeps prices low for consumers,  the Democrats need to lose.  We should see that they do.

 

 

A World Turned Upside Down

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

When Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown, the band played a tune called “The World Turned Upside Down”. We could use some of that music today.

As I quietly celebrate a new national holiday called “Juneteenth”. I am grateful for the opportunity to have another chance to feel guilty about something. Another reminder that we are all racists never does any harm, does it? A holiday is a great time to feel bad, or at least sad. I always feel terrible at Thanksgiving about what we have done to turkeys.

The prices of Bitcoins and all the rest of the crypto-nonsense are hurtling down the drain, yet the business media pretends these are just stocks seeking to “find a bottom”. How about zero? Nevertheless, some “expert” just trotted out a poll showing that 70% believe that Bitcoins are “trustworthy”. What does that even mean? People can be trustworthy; fantasies, not so much.

Another report shows the price of jet fuel up 128% in the last year. Airlines are about to jack up prices again. Yet everyone seems ready to fly somewhere, even though incomes are lagging further and further behind inflation. My guess is that credit card defaults will soon be spiking.

The airlines have canceled tens of thousands of flights this weekend, citing staffing problems. The Administration’s Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttijug, is threatening to fine the airlines if they don’t hire more people. Maybe they should train some of those homeless people to fly. Many of them already take self-activated trips every day. Pistol Pete neglected to mention that the main reason for the cancellations was the short-staffing of the Government’s own air traffic controllers. All those kids playing video games should make ideal air traffic controllers.

The Secretary has been touting the excellence of AMTRAK. Yet, when he had a flight between DC and NYC canceled, he drove instead. I wonder why?

Based on the latest statistics, it appears we will have a new record: over 2 million illegals coming to the U.S. this year. Now the Administration is planning to bus them further from the border, giving large cities an opportunity to host more people who committed a crime getting here and no one knows how many more beforehand. Their major contribution seems to be that they keep our supply of fentanyl growing.

A decision on overturning Roe v Wade is due any day now. It seems clear that the case was wrongly decided on legal grounds many years ago. Each State will now get to decide what they want. A lot of misery is coming, but as long as the lawyers have won, we should all be happy. Who better to make moral decisions than lawyers? Politicians?

The price of a barrel of oil has come down from the stratosphere. Don’t celebrate just yet. The price of gasoline has little to do with Russia and the war. Years of reducing investment in exploration for new sources have guaranteed a supply deficiency for years to come. Even the Saudis don’t have an inexhaustible supply. We do, but we don’t want to continue to depend on our own supply. Some think it better to be dependent on foreign supply. The Germans believed it a good idea to depend on Russian gas and now look at the mess they are in.

The President says the fault is the greedy oil companies. Having never actually been in business himself, he apparently does not know that companies make investment decisions based on expected profitability. Who in his right mind would make a decision to invest when the President of the U.S. is determined to put you out of business and continually issues Executive Orders aimed at facilitating your demise? In fact, Biden is so determined to kill the U.S. oil industry that he goes begging to our enemies to please pump more oil in order to keep the price down. The only logical conclusion is that he sees the destruction of hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs in the U.S. as an unavoidable consequence of making us the leader in the attempt to halt climate change.

His own spending binge caused the current bout of inflation, the worst since Jimmy Carter’s feckless presidency. Spending has to be financed, and since we could not find the money elsewhere, it fell to the Treasury and the Fed to just print the money. Flooding the country with too much money is what causes inflation, not greedy oil companies.

Biden’s answer is to combat climate change and inflation by stimulating the development of electric vehicles, and wind and solar power. As always, the question is how all this change will be financed and how major practical problems will be solved. He promises to put charging stations every 50 miles along the nation’s highways, apparently unaware that there are long stretches in the West that have no way to bring electric power to run the charging stations. And let’s not forget that his Transportation Secretary wants to tear down parts of the Interstate Highway System because they bulldozed black neighborhoods when they were constructed in the 1950s.

We are told that inflation will soon subside, even though it keeps increasing. It will be interesting to see what the Social Security benefits increase will be for 2023. One thing is sure. The number will be manipulated downward using technical esoterica in justification. It won’t be the first time, nor the last. The Social Security System simply can’t raise benefits by 8% without the Fed having to print more money.

I laugh when various experts come on TV to debate the “possibility” of a recession. Open your eyes, guys! We are already in one. All the talk of “soft landings” is pure balderdash. Inflation will moderate eventually but forget quickly. I frequently eat lunch with a friend at Otro Café, a local restaurant that serves the best tacos in Phoenix. Like many men, we always have the same thing. For a long time, the price of our lunch for two was $35. This past week it was $48. Same meal, same tax, same % tip. That is a 37% increase. I could quote similar increases in other restaurants, One restaurant’s takeout price was $48 during COVID, $60 now. Same meal. This can’t continue. Demand destruction is just around the corner.

Suppose that prices just stay high. If the public won’t support higher prices, and they just stay the same, isn’t that a lower rate of inflation? Yes. If only…!  In reality, wages have fallen quite a bit in relation to inflation. Workers need to catch up, and the sudden interest in unionization in places like Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks suggests that workers feel the need for unions to make them whole again. Of course, increasing wages means pressure to increase prices in order to keep the business going. And so, inflation does not just go away.

In the long sweep of history, there are two facts that we need to keep in mind as we lurch from one insanity to another.

We have been fortunate to have lived our lives in a relatively small number of years when the climate of planet Earth has been exceptionally favorable to life, agriculture, and to prosperity. Continuance is not an inevitability. But neither is our ability to materially change geophysical realities. Climate change is real, but it is not man’s fault, nor can we do as much to change what we don’t like as we would like to think. Exaggeration of facts is not the way to sound responses.

Empires have frequently risen and fallen. Ours is not necessarily immortal. With enough arrogance and stupidity, we could actually hasten the fall of the most productive and free world power the world has ever known. There is always “another side” in a debate. When the major objective of politics is the annihilation of opposition, the final outcome may well be the annihilation of all. Neither Republicans nor Democrats seem to recognize that at this time.

WHO Chief Now Says He Believes COVID Did Leak From Wuhan Lab After an Accident in 2019

Estimated Reading Time: < 1 minute

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has been playing the toady for the Chinese Communists since the pandemic was first loosed upon the world in Wuhan, China in December of 2019. He abandoned any pretense of impartiality and ran interference for his masters in Beijing when the first investigations into the origins of the coronavirus were conducted.

According to the Daily Mail, Tedros is also coming around to accepting that hypothesis. He confided to a senior European politician that the most likely explanation was a catastrophic accident at the Wuhan Institute where infections first spread in late 2019.

In essence, it’s now down to a process of elimination. For two years, scientists have been looking for the specific animal species that would have passed the coronavirus to humans. They’ve concentrated on bats, but other mammals have been tested — tens of thousands of them — looking for the “‘zoonotic’ spread” that researchers confidently predicted would show up and solve the mystery of the coronavirus’s origins.

There’s been no sign of the coronavirus spreading from a specific animal species to humans. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. But it’s certainly a compelling reason to try and force China to cooperate in the investigation…..

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Continue reading this article at  PJ Media.

The Catastrophe of 12 Million Fatherless American Boys

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Editors’ Note: Although the following article is written from a Christian perspective, one need not be Christian to appreciate the role of fathers. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists, can concur as well. The Left’s attack on men in general, masculinity itself, and the specific attack on white males has created much of this problem. But men have contributed to it as well, with a casual attitude towards sex and its inevitable consequences, and women who defy biological reality and want to be as casual about sex as men. Whatever the complex factors, as a society we must push for the ideal of a long-term marriage between a man and a woman. Other arrangements such as same-sex marriages are tolerated, but they are not relationships that will produce children. For households that do produce children, there is simply no way as a society can we continue to ignore the impact of fatherless households. As heroic as many single mothers are, and as effective as many single mothers can be, the data shows that this is likely more the exception than the rule.

 

Amongst the heated public rhetoric in the aftermath of the Uvalde school massacre, one tragic detail remains stubbornly paramount: the 18-year-old male shooter came from a broken family and was estranged from his father.

While it would certainly be unfair to pin all the blame for monstrous crimes committed by young men on the failings of their parents without considering other factors, there’s no denying what is arguably the central issue facing our nation (and what the Left persistently brushes aside): the breakdown of marriage and the children that grow up fatherless as a result. The Institute for Family Studies recently summed up the situation well: “The decline of marriage and the rise of fatherlessness in America remain at the center of some of the biggest problems facing the nation: crime and violence, school failure, deaths of despair, and children in poverty.”

American boys are at the center of this crisis: they grow up to commit crimedrop out of school, and take their own lives at far higher rates than women do. From 1960 to 1996, the percentage of boys who lived without their biological father almost doubled—from 17% to 32%. Today, the Institute for Family Studies reports that “an estimated 12 million boys are growing up in families without their biological father.”

The result of this implosion of intact families has been absolutely catastrophic for society, particularly for boys. A recent study conducted by the Institute for Family Studies found stark disparities among fatherless boys compared to their peers with fathers in college graduation (14% versus 35%), idleness at ages 25-29 (defined as not working and not looking for work—19% versus 11%), and who have been incarcerated by ages 15-19 (31% versus 21%) and ages 28-34 (21% versus 10%).

Common sense tells us why this is the case. As Adam B. Coleman has astutely observed, involved fathers provide critical guidance to their sons in a host of ways. In particular, they offer:

  • “a blueprint for manhood”;
  • “a source of protection” and a “source of security” from the outside world;
  • “a builder of confidence and a teacher for how to regulate your emotions in stressful situations”; and
  • “the son’s purpose compass as he helps guide him throughout the trials of adolescence towards purposeful adulthood.”

This fatherly nurturing is especially critical during a boy’s childhood and as they approach the teen years. As Family Research Council’s senior research fellow George Barna has written, “Because a worldview is fully developed before the age of 13, young children listen to and watch their parents for clues on how to live an appropriate and successful life.”

Scripture clearly stipulates why an engaged father is so critical during childhood: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

But as common sense also tells us, more responsible fathers aren’t going to just magically appear in our society, despite the best efforts of liberal masculinity lessons. Good fathers are formed through good marriages, just as our Creator designed it (Matthew 19:4-6). As the Institute for Family Studies notes, “[W]e must … revive our most fundamental bond, marriage because it connects men to their sons in a way nothing else does.”

So how can we promote healthy marriages in order to forge the capable fathers that our country so desperately needs? It’s a project all of us must be involved in, and it can take the form of doing practical things like those of us who are fathers talking honestly about fatherhood to our bachelor friends, inviting them into our family and community life, taking an active role in mentoring young men in our circles of influence, and yes, setting up eligible bachelors with eligible bachelorettes in our social circles.

In regard to the more immediate problem of the current crop of fatherless boys in our country, we can ask our representatives to look into passing bills that strengthen fatherhood and mentorship. There are also many practical ways we can minister to the fatherless. We can start by keeping our ears to the ground in our local communities so that we are ready to provide mentorship to the boy next door who we know is living in a single-parent household. This could simply involve inviting them over to play with our kids as often as we can so they can witness healthy Christian family life. Or we may consider getting involved in more formal after-school mentorship programs or other national mentorship programs.

While there is admittedly a multitude of factors that have led to the fatherhood crisis we find ourselves in here in America, one thing is certain: nothing will change unless we are willing to help cultivate genuine, godly masculinity and fatherhood in our own families and communities.

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This article was published by Daily Signal and is reproduced with permission.