What You Don’t Know Can Kill Them

Pro-abortion activism is bad, but it is also, a lot of the time, weird—weird in a way that other activist efforts really aren’t. In Albury, New South Wales, for instance, a common and perfectly reasonable pro-life tactic drove a pro-choice activist nuts:

About a dozen anti-abortionists have been picketing the Fertility Control Clinic in Albury at the NSW border every Thursday for the last few years.

And one of their ‘shameful’ tactics is to give women plastic doll foetuses as they enter the clinic, pro-choice campaigner Liz Marmo told Daily Mail Australia.

The 54-year-old said the tactic had been going on for years, but said the group had been hiding the dolls from the pro-choice campaigners.

The anti-abortionists have become more open about the ‘shameful new low’ over the past six to eight weeks, and now have the dolls placed in a woven basket for all to see…

NSW Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi took to Facebook on Monday to call the tactic of handing out foetal dolls ‘disgusting’.

“Shameful.” “Disgusting.” “Shameful new low.” The weirdness becomes palpable here: this is the language of puritanism, employed by people who are almost explicitly anti-puritan. The Daily Mail Australia also mentions that the activists want to impose a buffer zone around abortion clinics because it’s “the only way that women will feel safe.” It is funny: Liz Marmo claims that women “can even make up [their] own minds.” And yet: apparently women are incapable of being handed a plastic fetus; they tremble at the thought of walking close to someone who disagrees with them. So women are capable of “making up their own minds” so long as they’re only presented with one real choice. This is weird. It makes no sense and it is embarrassing for pro-choicers.

Another weird aspect of the abortion debate is the ignorance one often encounters from the pro-choicers. There is the foundational ignorance that undergirds most pro-abortion arguments—the assertion that a conceived, genetically distinct, fully individual human being is “not a human being”—and then there is also the simple, base, scientific illiteracy that you see in the day-to-day operations of the pro-abortion camp. For instance:

It’s not clear what foetal age the dolls are supposed to represent, but Ms Marmo believes they are not anatomically correct.

She said the dolls have little toes and toenails, fingers, ears and rib cages.

Oh, for Pete’s sake: she thinks the dolls aren’t “anatomically correct?” The images make it clear that, based on their size and development, the dolls are supposed to represent fourteen-week-old fetuses, maybe even a little older. Fingers and toes start to grow around nine weeks; ears start to grow around this time as well, and by twelve weeks these body parts are clearly visible. By twelve weeks, fingernails have begun to grow. A baby’s ribs, meanwhile, begin to harden around eight weeks. If Liz Marmo is going to both (a) demand that it be legal to kill the unborn, and (b) profess to know something about the unborn, the least she could do is pick up a basic biology textbook and educate herself a little bit.

Progressivism’s Humor Problem

Last week Donald Trump appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show for a light, dopey, chuckly interview with the aforementioned host. The segment is actually charming at times—Donald Trump is a fraud and a charlatan and a bad guy, but he can really be winning when he wants to be—and Fallon did not attempt to inject any political antagonism into the mix: it was just a playful few minutes on America’s favorite talk show, nothing more and nothing less.

The Left did not see it that way, however: the Left essentially had a collective shrieking meltdown, with Samantha Bee leading the charge, accusing NBC of believing that “ratings matter more than brown people.” It is sincerely difficult to overstate how nuts liberals went. It was babbling, hair-pulling hysterics on an industrial scale, all because Jimmy Fallon—a professional goofball whose personal motto is giggling and who would probably crack jokes while being subject to a Spanish inquisitorial tribunal—didn’t call Donald Trump a racist or something.

Well, late last week Hillary Clinton appeared on Zach Galifianakis’s comedy program Between Two Ferns, and we at the Federalist decided to have a little fun with that, publishing a piece that was essentially a verbatim recycling of liberals’ anti-Fallon arguments, but directed towards Galifianakis. That’s all it was—a little light-hearted jab at a clueless and overwrought political class, making fun of liberals by literally using their own words against them.

You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect response: liberals freaked out about the piece. Writer Reed Richardson claimed that he could not detect an “arch, self-awareness” within the piece, and said that it was “so stilted & chock full of angry links…it comes off desperate.” (Remember: I had just copied and pasted the stuff liberals said.) Zack Ford at ThinkProgress was left scratching his head: “I can’t tell if [the piece] is satire or not,” he wrote, adding that, at the Federalist, “Poe’s Law reigns supreme.” (Hey, Zack: Poe’s Law is universal, like a law of physics; it’s not confined to one website, like a local statute.) One fellow mocked the piece and then added, “I get that the piece is trolling the response to Fallon. it’s still stupid. it may technically qualify as parody, but it’s facile, ‘IknowyouarebutwhatamI’ parody, and it’s bathed in actual outrage.” One suspects that this fellow realized too late that he’d been had and was just trying to cover up for it. In any event, it is worth pointing out that this guy is huffing and puffing about the “actual” “outrage” of my writing—when in fact it was just a near-verbatim send-up of liberal anger! Moreover, honestly, how “facile” could the piece have been if a bunch of super-smart people actually fell for it?

These are just a few examples—but they are, sadly, representative. Progressivism has a problem with humor. Liberals do not particularly like to laugh, certainly not at themselves and increasingly not at much of anything else either. It is bad enough that they get genuinely upset when liberalism’s own silly rhetoric is reflected back at them; with each passing day, however, the list of unfunny things grows longer and longer. From harmless 1990s gay jokes to run-of-the-mill offensive comedians to “sexist” Twitter jokes, increasingly the Left is incapable of seeing humor in anything: they’re like the dour, frowning, aggressively joyless conservative patriarchs they’re always having nightmares about.

Why is this? In part it is because, these days, liberalism is primarily an oppositional philosophy. It defines itself not so much as what it’s for but what it’s against, and it keeps widening that circle to include new things: new outrages, new microagressions, new meaningless indignations. Humor will invariably be sacrificed at such an altar.

But then there is the sincerity of it all: for many liberals, especially the younger ones, every issue, every cause, every crusade has become a life-or-death fight in which the Heroic Forces of Progress are fighting back against the Reactionary Forces of Super-Evil Straight White People or whatever. For a great many liberals, the issue isn’t usually, “My preferred way of doing things is better than your preferred way of doing things;” it’s, “Mine will solve everything, and yours will re-enslave blacks and make rape legal.” This is why they can’t tolerate the childish antics even of someone as harmless as Jimmy “Fart Jokes Are Great” Fallon; and it’s why they really have trouble laughing at a crystal-clear parody of their own silly intransigence. The Struggle is far too important.

In the end, of course, that kind of denseness provides its own share of humor. Chock something full of obvious gags and make it so “facile” that the smart set swallows it hook, line, and sinker: it’s a recipe for Internet delight. You can feel free to laugh about it, even if your critics sit there glowering and muttering. Some things are just really, really funny.

It’s Time To Ask Yourself What You Believe

At the Atlantic this week, Emma Green claims to have discovered “why only Cafeteria Catholics can survive in American politics.” This is actually false—Paul Ryan, for instance, is both devout and highly successful, and there is not much reason to believe that Ken Cuccinelli is done with his political career—but Green uses as examples the two vice presidential candidates of 2016, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence:

Today, it would seem ridiculous to accuse someone like Tim Kaine, who is Catholic and a nominee for vice president, or his rival Mike Pence, who was also brought up Catholic, of trying to give Pope Francis unseemly power over the White House. On the contrary, they might welcome the association: The pontiff is almost twice as popular in the United States as the Democratic or Republican presidential nominees. But while non-Catholic Americans are much more comfortable with the Church than they used to be, their changing attitudes say less about acceptance than assimilation. The price of Catholics’ admission into public life was a loss of distinctiveness. And the political records of this year’s two vice-presidential candidates—both of whom have openly defied the Church on different issues—illustrate why.

Actually, the “political records” in question illustrate no such thing. But it is first worth reflecting on something that Green herself points out: Mike Pence is no longer a Catholic. He was raised a Catholic and still thinks positively about his Catholic upbringing, but he himself is an Evangelical these days. It is really quaintly absurd to claim act as if an Evangelical convert is somehow a feasible stand-in for a practicing Catholic. I mean good grief.

That being said, even assuming Pence were still Catholic, his policy positions do not represent some kind of flouting of the Church’s core principles. She cites Pence’s being acquiescent to the hardline immigration stance of the Trump campaign, but the Church does not actually require any one particular immigration policy; indeed it specifically makes allowances for immigrants to be “subject to various juridical conditions” in the course of their immigration. (That’s not to say Donald Trump is right about immigration, for surely he is wrong; but as far as Catholic teachings go, he’s wrong in this one instance as a matter of practical degree, not as a matter of moral kind.)

Green’s other example is that Pence is a climate change skeptic while Pope Francis is a climate change believer; apparently this makes Pence at odds with the Catholic faith. This is preposterous and barely worth commenting on. Whether Pence is wrong or right about global warming, nothing in the Catechism or in Canon Law requires anybody to agree with the Pope on the matter of environmental science. Give me a break.

Her examples for Kaine, on the other hand, are far more incriminating, as it were: Kaine supports abortion rights (even going so far recently as to call for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment), he is in favor of homosexual marriage (he recently claimed that the Church will “change” on the matter of gays getting married), and he has called upon Pope Francis to let women be ordained (something Pope Saint John Paul II said the church lacked the authority to do). Far and away, Kaine’s breaks with the Catholic Church are incredibly more dire that Pence’s.

The real lesson here is this: it is actually not all that hard to be both a politician and a devout Catholic faithful to the teachings of the Church. The formula is simple: you just have to avoid trying to run as a Democrat. Trump’s candidacy notwithstanding, you can get away with, say, a more liberal immigration policy if you’re a Republican; when it comes to issues surrounding the sanctity of life, however, you will find no purchase in the Democratic Party, a political organization that will tolerate no dissent when it comes to issues like killing the unborn. Make no mistake: it is oftentimes not easy to practice your faith. But—at least if you’re a sincere Catholic—it is much harder if not impossible to do so under the auspices of modern American liberalism.

Face The Strange Change

The old guard of feminism sometimes looks rather antiquated next to its modern variant—all the advocacy over the Equal Rights Amendment often seems dated when compared to the weird stew of neurotic socio-sexual politics that define the movement today—but there is one thing on which all feminists seem to agree, and that is abortion. Here, for example, is Card-Carrying Old Feminist Gloria Steinem:

Steinem began her 20-minute speech by promoting “reproductive rights.” She said: “Nothing but nothing is more important than ensuring our fundamental right to reproductive freedom. The principle that government power stops at our skin.”

She then went on to attribute global warming to “forced childbirth.” This comment reflects prior statements she made last year regarding Pope Francis and global warming. During an interview with Cosmopolitan, Steinem attributed global warming to the teachings of the Catholic Church on the sanctity of human life.

She said at the time, “…the human load on this earth is the biggest cause of global warming, and that is because of forcing women to have children they would not on their own choose to have…”

Steinem specifically linked global warming to Pope Francis: “I’m glad the Pope spoke out about global warming and it was very helpful, but does he know he’s causing it?”

This is nonsense. For starters, it is entirely unlikely that Steinem, or many other pro-abortionists for that matter, genuinely believe that “government power stops at our skin:” there are plenty of laws that proscribe the full usage of one’s body—organ trafficking laws, drug laws, bans on smoking on private property, minimum alcohol consumption ages, bans on raw milk, the innumerable laws governing controlled medical substances—and you rarely if ever hear complaints about these laws from people who obsessively support abortion. It’s almost as if—bear with me here—the Left is not so much interested in keeping government out from under your skin as it is keeping the murder of innocent human beings legal.

Moreover, it is the height of arrogance to assume that the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life means that the Pope is “forcing women to have children they would not [have had] on their own.” It does not seem to occur to Steinem that many women are pro-life of their own volition, that they happen to see the value of the pro-life ethic and that consequently they are not being “forced” to have children at all. Invariably you see this kind of rhetoric from feminists, many of who often express barely-concealed anger and disdain towards women who make unapproved choices.

What is more instructive in these cases is this: you can see why climate change is such a ballyhoo for the Left, for in global warming they see an opportunity to advocate for, and fulfill, all of their wildest policy dreams. Population control? Check. Massively expanded government? Check. The diminution and eventual abolition of a First World capitalist fossil fuel-based economy? Check. The abasement of the productive class and the elevation of sneering faux-intellectuals like Gloria Steinem? Check. Global warming has it all, baby: it’s the global phenomenon for every occasion, and it paves the way for just about every plank in the DNC platform. What’s not to like, if you’re a Democrat?

On that note, frustrated with the Republican Party’s unwillingness to acquiesce to climate alarmism, nearly four hundred scientists yesterday published one of those “open letters,” one addressed to nobody in particular, “regarding climate change:”

We are certain beyond a reasonable doubt…that the problem of human-caused climate change is real, serious, and immediate, and that this problem poses significant risks: to our ability to thrive and build a better future, to national security, to human health and food production, and to the interconnected web of living systems.

Now, perhaps climate change really does pose a serious threat to all of these things (it would be helpful, from a rhetorical perpsective, if environmentalist hadn’t spent the past half-century getting all of these types of predictions wrong). But it is also worth noting that the climate alarmist agenda—a rapid shift to “green” energy production, a forced reliance on untested technologies, a government with far more operational latitude than it currently has—poses just as much, if not more, of a “significant risk” than does a minor fluctuation in temperature from a mid-20th-century baseline.

Everything about modern life that you love—cheap energy, ample and easily-accessible transportation, highly affordable consumer goods, the creature comforts that have lifted us from the grinding wretchedness of preindustrial life—would be affected, negatively, by a move to “sustainable” or “renewable” resources. You see these aims quite frankly in, say, Steven Chu’s gasoline price dreams or in the demands to roll back on American air conditioning usage. The climate agenda has numerous, severe, critical drawbacks—and all to avoid certain outcomes that, at this point, are entirely hypothetical. No wonder skepticism persists.

The Belief That Launched a Thousand Ships

Perhaps, like the rest of good-thinking America, you are excited about the upcoming season of the Bachelor, in which an uncompelling and unlikable white man (Nick Viall) will compete for the unconvincing love of several unpleasant and unappealing white women (various). It is invariably white women: if tradition holds, there will be a minority woman at the outset of the season who will be voted off the show quite quickly. There will also be a “bad girl” who acts out and who will make the other girls uncomfortable, and there will be lots of women shaking their heads and muttering the word “drama.” The alcohol will flow like the Tigris. There will be no surprises.

It will also be a fairly confusing endeavor—it always is, and always for the same reason. Here, to nicely illustrate this phenomenon, is Bachelor triathlete Izzy Goodkind:

“You should have seen my face when they pulled [Nick] out to announce it,” Goodkind, 25, tells Us. “When I went onto Ben’s season, they announced Nick first as [the Bachelor on After Paradise] kind of like a joke, and I remember I started crying. I called my mom like, ‘I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to be on The Bachelor if Nick’s the Bachelor.’ So when they brought him out again [this year], I said, ‘Oh, this has to be a joke.'”

Why is this confusing? Simply because this is a grown woman talking about fantasy as if it were reality, saying the words “this has to be a joke” about something that is inarguably a literal joke already. This is how the Bachelor franchise thrives, along with the rest of “reality” television: by treating make-believe as if it were real. Now, you’ll hear Bachelor fans claim that, yes, they know it’s all fake, but it’s just so fun to watch, so that’s that. But this doesn’t really account for things. If the Bachelor were styled not as “reality” television but as normal television—if the show turned on fictional characters, if it were completely 100% scripted (instead of merely 80% scripted) and if it followed a narrative story arc rather than a kind of nonsequential freeform one—then it is doubtful many people would tune into it: who wants to watch fake people fall in fake love? Ah, but what else are we doing when we watch the Bachelor? It is a quandary for the ages.

That is what it so interesting about reality television—it requires a suspension of disbelief, not merely the type required from viewers of “normal” television but one that is several degrees more existential: we first admit that the show is fake but that we want to watch it anyway, but we simultaneously convince ourselves the show is real so that it might be worth watching in the first place. This is an insanely lucrative industry, thriving off a weird kind of grown-up literary regression. It is frankly bizarre. On the other hand, it looks like Evan Bass, the penis doctor who was humiliatingly rejected by JoJo Fletcher last season, has finally, at long last, found the love he was after. He deserves it; Evan is a good man. Even if it’s a fake ending, it’s still a happy one.

Call Me By My Word

So it turns out that “Chelsea” Manning, while serving a prison sentence for leaking classified government information, will be allowed to undergo “gender reassignment surgery,” a process in which, presumably, his genitals will be removed, a “vagina” will be “made” for him where his genitals used to be, and his pectoral muscles will be augmented to resemble breasts.  This is what a “gender reassignment” procedure is: mutilative plastic surgery. It is considered very progressive and forward-thinking to support this kind of self-mutilation. If you are opposed to this, you are often considered a bigot.

Transgenderism is maybe the weirdest thing going these days, chiefly because it is internally inconsistent and incoherent to a startling degree. Here is a news report concerning Pennsylvania’s treatment of its “transgender” students:

Schools across Pennsylvania are putting the safety and health of transgender students at risk by barring them from bathrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities matching their gender identity, according to a new report out Wednesday.

The 23-page report from the Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, culled the findings of in-depth interviews with scores of transgender students, parents, teachers, administrators, and service providers in Alabama, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Utah.

Here is the fundamental incoherence of transgender ideology writ large. “Gender identity” is, according to this ideology, an inner sense. It is a feeling, a belief, a deep conviction. Most importantly, it is something entirely distinct from biological sex. But that is the point: bathrooms are segregated by biological sex, not gender: when you see the little “Man” symbol outside a bathroom door, for instance, it is denoting a restroom meant for people with penises, not people whose “gender identity” somehow corresponds to the word “Man.”

In other words, when someone claims that a school is “barring [transgender students] from bathrooms” that “match” their “gender identity,” they are explicitly linking a subjective concept (gender identity) with an objective fact (biological sex) and pretending as if the two are identical—which of course they’re not; in fact they are wholly disparate, as LGBT activists never tire of reminding us. You see the problem here. Put another way: it would be like if a man who enjoyed wearing women’s skirts and blouses wanted to use the women’s restroom: “I should be allowed to use the women’s room,” he would argue, “because it matches my outfit identity!” It makes no sense. These are not proportional concepts.

Here is a dirty little secret: the transgender ideology is deliberately chaotic like this; it desires chaos, thrives on it, and works very hard to perpetuate it. I don’t mean to imply that transgenderism is some kind of grand conspiracy theory; I only mean to say that its devotees are uninterested in crafting any kind of intelligible and factual order to this madness, and indeed for the most part they seem devoted to doing precisely the opposite. Take, for instance, Vanderbilt’s recent suggestions for “pronoun” usage:

“When introducing yourself, offer your name and pronouns — even to familiar colleagues and students,” asks a poster created by the school’s Faculty Senate Gender Inclusivity Task Force. “Offer your name and pronoun in faculty meetings, committees, and other spaces where students may not be present.”

“Pronouns” in this case, denotes how you wish to be addressed: as “he” or “she,” for instance, or some strange exotic made-up pronoun like “ze” or “hir.” The whole thing is weird enough, but note the killer line: Vanderbilt wants its people to introduce their pronouns “even to familiar colleagues and students.” The implication is obvious: “pronouns” are supposed to be changeable not just once within a lifetime but on a day-by-day or even hour-by-hour basis. This is deliberate chaos: petty, childlike, stupid chaos, to be sure, but chaos nonetheless.

That is kind of the point: in an attempt to seem edgy and forward-thinking, people have turned to stupider and more babbling and more indecipherable modes of communication. The only good news is this: as the gender zeitgeist continues, and as each new iteration becomes passé in its own right, you can expect gender fanatics to invent ever-new and ever-more confusing and maddening systems like this—and such desperate grasping for edginess will probably, eventually, be the death of silly countercultures like this.

No Doubt in Anyone’s Mind

One really interesting thing about the Clinton family is how, as I show at National Review this week, they have a weird, almost supernatural power to make people deny the truth. This has been going on for about three decades now. It is obvious, for example, that Hillary Clinton grossly mishandled classified information in a way that was almost certainly criminal—and yet people continue to insist, against the incredibly self-evident and well-documented facts, that she did nothing wrong, that it’s all a big farce, that the hoopla over her e-mails is nothing more than conservative conspiracy-mongering. At this point it’s almost akin to one person saying, “Two plus two equals four,” and another person saying, “Um, you only say that because you’re a conspiracy theorist.”

You see this, too, in the response to Clinton’s “episode” from this past Sunday, in which she collapsed in New York City, was literally dragged into a waiting van, and was driven away and subsequently shrouded in complete secrecy for few hours. People have been wondering about Clinton’s health for a while now—she had a coughing fit a while back, and she has suffered falls and head injuries in the recent past that have incapacitated her to varying degrees. Her frankly shocking collapse on Sunday seemed to verify that she is not well. But of course her supporters and her campaign both gave out with a litany of snarling excuses: “She just had allergies” became “she was overheated” became “she was dehydrated” became “she has pneumonia but she’s fine” became “she’s cancelling some campaign stops” became “umm everyone in her campaign is falling ill from a contagious illness” became “also she really doesn’t like to drink water so that’s the main problem.”

With all this in mind, it is entirely credible at this point to assume that the Clinton campaign is in some way lying about Clinton’s health, and that maybe her medical problems are broader and deeper than simply pneumonia.

But you can still find people who are incensed that you might suggest as much.

It’s bizarre. Maybe the Clintons’ serial, seemingly-incurable penchant for chronic lying has rubbed off on the electorate in some strange second-hand way. Or maybe, in this election at least, Clinton’s strange, categorically unlikable personality—her startling lack of charisma, her clear inability to relate with other people, her obvious slavering lust for power—inspires some odd kind of anti-hero worship in a lot of people. In any case, it’s a terrible problem in American politics. Can you imagine what four to eight years of this reality denialism will look like?

There are others, of course, who are angry at the thought that someone might even dare to notice that Hillary is not in the best of shape:

This is of course nonsense, and any reasonable grown-up could immediately identify it as such. But Chase Mitchell’s illiterate quip must be understood in its proper political context. The progressive perspective on “women’s health” is basely crude and unlettered, almost childish in its stupid simplicity. When a liberal refers to “women’s health,” he’s referring to abortion and nothing else. The Left in 2016 is only interested in women’s medical concerns insofar as those concerns relate to the intentional killing of unborn human beings. In reality, women’s healthcare is far more deep and broad and complicated than the intentional killing of unborn human beings: human female physiology is insanely complex, and only a pathetically reductionist and stunted worldview would view women the way leftism views them: as nothing more than potential abortion consumers.

Women deserve a better political philosophy that that of progressivism, which reduces them to useless uterus-based caricatures of real people.

Tap Rack Bang

After the Orlando nightclub attack this past summer, more than a few people demanded an increase in American gun control laws under the assumption that, if we just expanded a background check, say, or passed or a heavy-multi-doodle-assault-weapon-ban, then we’d never see things like the Pulse massacre again. Thankfully, some other people saw through this categorically nonsensical solution, and have taken matters into their own hands, literally:

Jonathan Fischer is never sure who’s going to be more surprised when he, as he likes to put it, comes out of the gun closet — the gun aficionados who find out he’s gay or the gay friends who find out he likes shooting guns.

When the 38-year-old television editor showed up last month to a defensive handgun class near Piru with a Glock 27 pistol on his hip, he wore a T-shirt sporting a rainbow-colored AK-47. His “gay-K-47,” he said.

In the days after 49 people were fatally shot at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., this summer, Fischer wanted to do something to make his community safer. So he started the West Hollywood chapter of the Pink Pistols — a loosely organized, national LGBT gun group.

“If someone was to try and break into my home, and especially if someone were armed, I don’t want to fight back with a kitchen knife,” Fischer said.  “And I don’t think that’s extremist or crazy.”

Actually, in terms of who is “more surprised” when it comes to gay people with guns, the article makes clear that the “gun aficionados” really don’t care at all, and are just interested in helping people defend themselves. Meanwhile, the “broader LGBT community” has given a “mostly negative response” to the Pink Pistols: “Some LGBT centers…have even specifically banned the Pink Pistols from using their facilities.” Talk about tolerance! I guess the straight people win this round.

In any event, I’m with Jonathan Fischer: I don’t think it’s “extremist” or “crazy” to want to defend yourself with the most effective tools you possibly can (especially when you’re part of a population that has historically been targeted for violence). But you’d be surprised: a great many people are genuinely repulsed at the idea of owning a gun for self-defense. It triggers something visceral in a lot of folks—like you might be one of those weirdos who duct tapes your front door shut or lives in your attic or wears a tinfoil hat. “Do you really think you’re going to need a gun to defend yourself?” they ask, as if you haven’t really thought about it. Some people seem genuinely offended, scandalized by the idea that you might shoot a criminal who’s threatening you and your family. (In many parts of Western Europe they’ve taken this sentiment so far that you can be jailed if you shoot or otherwise injure an intruder.) There is a deeply weird puritanical streak to so much of American anti-gun politics: guns are seen as dirty, the desire to use them in self-defense a kind of degenerate, depraved impulse.

To the people who feel this way about guns, it’s worth posing a simple, easy-to-answer question: Suppose you are at home with your spouse and your young children, and late at night you hear a window break downstairs and several criminals come into your house. They may just be there to burgle—but they also might be there to rape you and/or kill your family (it happens). Under such circumstances, would you rather be effectively defenseless, waiting for the cops to arrive while you’re at the mercy of potential psychopaths?

Or would you rather have a gun?

Humanae Vitae Contemptus

There is this assumption among a great deal of the Catholic laity that, given enough time and a large-enough population of Catholic women using artificial contraception, the Church will one day “change” or “reverse” her position on extrinsic, unnatural birth control methods. This is a particular hobby horse of “Catholic feminists” who seem to think the sun rises and sets on the ability of women to prevent ovulation every month. Writing at the Huffington Post, Celia Wexler claims that “it’s time to revisit” this controversial topic:

Catholic hospitals and women religious, who should be at the forefront helping the disadvantaged plan their families, are stymied by the wrongheadedness of a long-dead pope…

In 1930, Pope Pius XII had strongly condemned artificial birth control, when there was worry about a declining birthrate after the deaths of so many young men in World War I. But by the 1950s, the church had relaxed that ban to permit natural family planning, which allows couples to schedule intercourse when the woman is not fertile.

In 1962, Pope John XXIII convened a commission to examine the ethical implications of birth control, a commission which was expanded and continued under Pope Paul VI. The commission, which included Catholic married couples and physicians, reportedly voted overwhelmingly to lift the Vatican’s blanket ban on artificial birth control, and to permit married couples to prudently plan their families.

But that hope was dashed in 1968, when Paul VI, writing in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, once more declared artificial contraception “intrinsically wrong.”

Good grief, this is a shameful, embarrassing mess. For starters, Pius XII was not pope in 1930; it was Pius XI. And while Pius XI did indeed reiterate the Church’s opposition to artificial contraception in 1930’s Casti Connubii (an opposition that has existed for nearly two thousand years and was not inspired by a postwar decline in birthrates), in that same document he also affirmed the practice of natural family planning—a practice which has been acknowledged by the Church as valid since at least the mid-19th century. It is true that Pius XII clarified these matters in 1958, but that was all it was: clarification, not whole promulgation. In no way did the Church in the late 1950s all of the sudden “relax” her opinions on contraception to “permit” natural family planning; that had been around for a century at that point, if not longer. Moreover, while it is true that the Pontifical Commission voted to allow for artificial contraception, it did so only by way of very flimsy and graceless logic, something Paul VI very convincingly proved in Humanae Vitae.

All of that being said, consider the underlying subtext: Wexler wants to promote artificial birth control as a means of “helping the disadvantaged plan their families.” In Wexler’s eyes, the “disadvantaged” are evidently incapable of understanding natural family planning: apparently primitive and unlettered in her eyes, they are lost causes when it comes to the art of NFP and can only be dealt with using little pills and copper implants and surgical nicks. There is such a sneering quality to so much lay activism when it comes to the Catholic position on birth control: those crude, unsophisticated people over there are breeding out of control, and we can’t possibly hope to teach the women how to chart their cycles, so we’d better get them a few boxcars’ worth of Yasmin to help them out.

Those of us who believe in and practice the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics do so in part because those teachings acknowledge and uphold the dignity and innate value of the human person. We are also willing to extend our fellow humans the benefit of the doubt: we assume they are capable of exercising self-control and working with rather than against their own bodies and understanding a mildly complex system of charts and temperatures. Would that so many of the self-appointed advocates on their behalf held them in so high a regard.

Stock Em If You Got Em

The one ironclad rule of progressive political strategy in the 21st century seems to be this: if something goes wrong with a government program, always claim that the program didn’t go far enough. There is never the assumption or even the remote possibility that, say, a government program was misguided to begin with, or was crafted so shoddily that it was bound to fail. Invariably the reaction is: “Well, we just need to double down!” For instance:

Federal officials are continuing to consider a proposal that would require stores that accept food stamp cards be required to stock far more healthy food choices for customers than they do currently. The proposal would likely not have an effect on large retailers, but could impact smaller neighborhood stores and require them to carry more items.

The proposal would require stores to sell “seven varieties of qualifying foods in four staple food groups” as well as “perishable foods in at least three of the four staple food groups … dairy products; breads and cereals; meats, poultry and fish; and fruits and vegetables.”

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, most food stamp program participants shop at supermarkets; in fiscal year 2015, 82 percent of all benefits were spent in what the USDA categorized as supermarkets and superstores.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I thought the same thing too: rather than compel retailers to stock various government-approved products, why doesn’t the USDA simply prohibit food stamp users from purchasing junk food? That would seem to make the most sense—the USDA surely has plenary power over how one of its own programs is administered, and probably has little authority to compel shop owners to stock certain items (the Supreme Court has ruled against somewhat similar styles of government coercion in the past, and I think there’s a good chance this kind of coercion would be illegal as well). Instead of expanding the government’s authority into the realm of healthy food quotas (which to my knowledge is new and novel), why not just add to the already-existing list of prohibited items on the food stamp charter (which the USDA has been doing for years)?

Part of it is a paranoid liberal tendency to freak out about “policing poor people’s shopping carts;” I have talked with progressive friends in the past who absolutely shriek at the idea of telling food stamp recipients what they may or may not be able to buy (as if the public might not be entitled to a reasonable say in how welfare recipients spend their welfare receipts).  But the more important lesson here is this: when faced with a deficiency in the way a government program is administered, invariably the government will demand a larger program rather than a smaller more; more oversight, not less; more regulations, not fewer. The American experiment was, as Lincoln put it, “conceived in liberty;” increasingly the American government is administered with precisely the opposite intent. If and when the government fails to see the desired results from this newest food stamp proposal, do you think they’ll admit they were wrong and maybe roll some of their regulations back? Or do you think they’ll demand more, more, more? It is not hard to guess.