Checks and Backgrounds

Last week I wrote in part about the inevitable calls for gun control that we’ll have to deal with in the wake of the awful Roanoke shooting tragedy; even Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe was demanding stricter gun control while at the same time admitting it would not have stopped the Roanoke shooting. Intelligent people have no use for McAuliffe’s slack-jawed tongue-flapping inanity, and it is best to just ignore him until his sequentially-term-limited time in office is over. But as bad as these calls for gun control are, out of a sense of respect it’s still worth listening to Alison Parker’s father, Andy:

Speaking outside the Roanoke television station where his daughter worked, Parker said he’s not against gun ownership in general, but stricter background checks are needed to keep guns away from mentally ill people. He wants to close loopholes for buying guns at gun shows.

He acknowledged obstacles, ranging from a lack of political will to a desensitized public.

“Each time you think there’s a tipping point, with Sandy Hook or Aurora, and nothing gets done,” he said.

One is willing to give Parker a great deal of latitude here—he has suffered an unimaginable loss and is desperate for a meaningful resolution of some kind. Our hearts are with him. But he is nonetheless misguided. “Stricter background checks” would not have stopped the Roanoke shooting, nor Aurora; both shooters passed background checks before purchasing their weapons. What is likely needed is a more thorough and judicious mental health system featuring a rigorous records-keeping framework which, when dovetailed with the already-adequate background check system, will flag crazy people as ineligible for purchasing firearms. (Background checks were totally immaterial in the case of Sandy Hook: the shooter killed his mother and stole her guns, which she herself purchased after passing background checks.) And while it is understandable that gun control folks are frustrated at the lack of a “tipping point” in the wake of these murders, they are ignoring the wider trends in favor of the political non-starter. Gun violence has plummeted over the last few decades, even as gun ownership has risen: there are more guns in private hands than ever before, and gun homicides are as low as they’ve been since the early nineties.

In other words, we have, by any reasonable estimation, already reached a tipping point, and passed it. The important thing is to figure out why the gun homicide rate has dropped, and see if we can perpetuate those circumstances. But one answer is obvious: the solution isn’t a reduction in the number of privately-held firearms.

Nonetheless, these factors notwithstanding, the gun control crowd is rather relentless in its seemingly-willful ignorance. As I said, we can offer Mr. Parker some sympathy, given the ineffable horror-show his life recently became. But the general tenor of the gun control effort is one of profound illiteracy when it comes to guns. A few weeks before the Roanoke shooting, a cutesy tweet on the subject made the rounds on Twitter:

It is hard to know how to even treat with such a fallacy-laden stew of gibberish. For one, no politician that I am aware of has proposed to “ban” birth control; rather, conservatives have just proposed that religious objectors should not be forced to pay for it (this is difficult for lots of people to understand, but not paying for something is not the same as banning it). As well, it isn’t quite proper to speak of the pro-life effort as one that looks to “ban” abortion; the point isn’t to “ban” abortion (how would you do such a thing anyway?) but rather to make it illegal and throw people in jail if they practice it. And for Pete’s sake, it wasn’t a matter of banning gay marriage but affirming traditional marriage: gay marriage was never banned so much as traditional marriage was upheld.

As for the “guns” remark, yes, it is true that “banning things never works,” at least insofar as there will always be people who break the law regardless of what the law says. But the efficacy of any law that bans a certain product or prohibits a certain behavior must be weighed against the scope of its concomitant casualties. For instance, if you make abortion illegal, then anyone who practices abortion would have to go to jail—but that’s acceptable, because abortion is infanticide, and we want people who commit infanticide to be in jail. Owning a gun, on the other hand, is not in and of itself a bad thing: good, moral people purchase guns for a great variety of reasons, and “banning” guns would have the effect of criminalizing the perfectly acceptable actions of a bunch of virtuous folks who just want to go to the shooting range or protect themselves and their families. We want to make bad things illegal, in other words—and gun ownership is not bad, and indeed may in fact be very good if a gun is used to its proper ends. “People will find ways to get [guns]” in the event of a gun ban—that’s very true. But thank goodness we have the Second Amendment and we don’t need to worry about any such thing.

How to Witness a Murder

I was among the unhappy thousands of people yesterday who happened to watch the live on-air executions of the two journalists in Roanoke, Virginia. I came across the news report and the video of the incident believing it would not be as graphic as it turned out to be, though in retrospect it is beyond me why I thought it would be a good idea to watch in the first place: whatever the content, it was a video that purportedly involved, in some way, the televised murder of two innocent people. Though it is a shallow thing when you consider what happened to the victims themselves, it is nevertheless true that those of us who watched will have to live with those images and those sounds for the rest of our lives: once you have seen and heard two people getting killed, you cannot un-see and un-hear it.

Sitting there dumbly afterwards, nauseous and stunned, I did the only productive thing I could think of: I called my precious wife, my bride of just over two months, and left a long rambling message on her phone telling her how much I love her—and then for good measure I told her again how much I love her.

What this incident has done, for me and for hopefully everyone who has been touched by it in some way, is this: it has re-affirmed the inestimable preciousness of life, the literal pricelessness of a beating human heart. We are reminded of this with virtually every act that takes a life; all needless violence against people is entirely definitive, and all of it is definitive in the exact same way. It is something of a trifling misnomer to call these acts, as many public figures invariably do, “senseless:” they are not senseless insofar as they do not lack meaning, and significance, at least so long as we are willing to see these things. There is a reason your heart felt broken yesterday, and why the killer’s howling insanity made you feel a unique species of horror.

It is funny how often we do not see it—how often our horror goes un-felt and our hearts go unbroken. A routine Chicago weekend may produce a body count almost five times as high as that in Roanoke. A twenty-year-old boy was killed in Detroit a few weeks ago—not even old enough to drink. We inject chemicals into peoples’ bodies so that they will die, and we do it in cold blood, and we often provide an audience for it.  At “women’s health centers” across the country, unborn children are routinely murdered and pulled apart for the shallowest and most superficial of reasons, at the service of a culture that ensconces infanticide within dewy-eyed feel-good rhetoric about “choice.” These killings are not each and every one of them morally identical, but it is nonetheless the case that each and every one of these lives is an invaluable thing in and of itself, something you can not rate by any temporal measure and which you cannot take away without committing a grave sin. Even the gang-bangers in Englewood and the murderers on death row are precious beyond reckoning, and anyone who says differently is lying to you: if Cain can murder his brother just because he’s embarrassed and still be worthy of divine protection, then the petty little thug from the crummy street corner surely qualifies.

Then, too, does the killer from Roanoke. I suppose it may be entirely imprudent, even offensive, to point this out, but not everything that is correct is prudent or conciliatory. By all accounts the shooter was a mish-mosh of deep and unrelenting unhappiness: he was evidently very stupid, angry, paranoid, crazy, socially inept to a painful degree, disliked by many people due to his bizarre behavior. This was a wretched, miserable person, and the egotistical, media-soaked executions he performed do not detract from the wretched misery he evidently felt every day of his life. It barely needs mentioning, but of course I am not making excuses for a cold-blooded double-murderer-cum-suicide: rather it is to point out that all the normal features and functions that generally mark a happy human life appear to have been absent from the shooter’s life, and he appears to have spent much of his time in a psychotic daze of suffering and imagined persecution. If you have prayed at all for the victims and their families, consider praying too for this man. Do not be like the people who gleefully proclaimed that there was a “space in Hell” for this broken soul. By all accounts he was already in Hell and had been for some time. Pray that his suffering is over instead of eternal.

I suppose in the days and weeks ahead we will have to deal with the inevitable tide of useless political grandstanding: the bodies were still warm yesterday when Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe called for more gun control in response to an incident he openly admitted he didn’t fully understand. In this case McAuliffe is playing the role of the shallow, opportunistic idiot, bravely exploiting a miserable tragedy in order to advance his own worthless political agenda. Aside from the cartoonish assumption that a slate of new gun control proposals would have stopped this massacre from happening, McAuliffe—a staunch pro-abortionist himself—misses the wider point: at the heart of every murder is not a firearm but a conscious and deliberate lack of respect for the sanctity of human life. We evidently could not fix this tendency in the Roanoke murderer in time—but we must not forget that we still have time to fix it in ourselves.

The Most Dangerous Wage

One of the more popular populist trends these days (and indeed most days) is focused on raising the minimum wage—and in some cases supersizing it, such as the growing movement in many American cities to jack the minimum wage up to $15 an hour, a staggering floor in both real and relative terms. Progressives contend that this enormous leap in starting wages will have no appreciable effect on business practices and employment; they insist, over and over again, that labor is not subject to the same economic realities as is everything else, and that employers will either happily ignore or else just absorb the inflated labor costs associated with hiring new employees or even keeping old ones.

The Seattle Times, to its credit, has advised us to “hold the champagne” regarding the new minimum wage law (well, hurry up and let us uncork it already—this stuff isn’t cheap now that the bag-boy makes fifteen bucks an hour):

What’s needed are hard data. A research team at the University of Washington is working on that, talking with hundreds of businesses and dozens of workers. The team, led by UW professor Jacob Vigdor, will be charting wages, hours worked, use of the social safety net and the adaptive capacity of small businesses. Vigdor himself said it’s too early to determine what impact the law has had.

Yes, hard data are certainly needed, though occasionally anecdotal evidence is useful too. Years ago I worked for a business owner who generally voted straight-ticket Democrat, believed strongly in Obamacare, said the word “collective” a lot. If anyone would be likely to support a minimum wage increase, it would be her—but in fact when the Virginia legislature proposed a hike in the minimum wage, she opposed it, and opposed it very strongly, on the basis that—hmm—she couldn’t afford it. At another part-time job I held during and after college, working for a large employer, my hours had always hovered at just over thirty a week—until the Obamacare thirty-hour-per-week mandate kicked in, at which point my hours suddenly dropped to twenty-nine-and-a-half and stayed there. I know this sounds like an insane right-wing conspiracy theory, but sometimes it really seems like businesses are nervous about the idea of increasing the cost of labor, and occasionally—now bear with me here—one of the side effects of increasing the cost of labor is to decrease the consumption of labor itself. Call me crazy!

Another side effect of increasing the cost of labor is limited to one particular kind of employee: tipped workers, those who garner most of their income from gratuity. As the New York Times reports, raising the cost of labor is putting that style of payment in jeopardy: many restaurant owners are moving towards a system that eliminates tipping, raises every employee’s wages across the board, and jacks up the menu prices to  compensate. The measure is having some success, but it is not without its drawbacks:

At Ivar’s, eliminating tipping has been a success, said Mr. Donegan, the chief executive — thanks in part to the summer tourist season and a booming economy. Since the policy went into effect four months ago, wages have risen between $3 and $12 an hour, he said, with the lowest-paid worker earning $15 an hour. Everyone, including part-timers, has health insurance and a 401(k) retirement plan.

The No. 1 complaint from customers? The prohibition on tips. So while the menu still states that prices include service, the credit card slips now have a line that reads: “If you INSIST on leaving a tip, write it here.”

The drawback, in case you missed it, is this: the customers themselves are unhappy over this no-tipping arrangement. This is unsurprising. As the Times points out, we Americans are very much into tipping, and indeed we have one of the more generous and consistent tipping cultures in the developed world: tipping is almost universally expected, and tip levels reach 20% as a matter of custom (that’s double the rate of many of those super-non-selfish collective-welfare we’re-all-a-big-family socialist European paradises of societal brotherhood). Americans, in other words, are exceedingly generous with their tips, and besides that we evidently just really like to tip. So a service economy that eliminates tips will have in fact eliminated a significant source of consumerist pleasure for its customer base. Since the purpose of any economy is to raise the average person’s standard of living, this would have an objectively backwards effect on the economic well-being of Americans everywhere —to say nothing of the higher unemployment that would result.

A Year in Philadelphia

A while ago I wrote about the Philadelphia Catholic school in which a gay religious ed teacher was fired after parents found out she was in a lesbian relationship. The situation is simultaneously depressing and heartening: nobody likes to hear of a person losing her job, but the advancement and defense of Catholic doctrine is nonetheless encouraging in a day and age where it is increasingly difficult to be a Catholic. Now, again out of Philadelphia, there is another controversy, this involving a few “LGBT” groups and a parish rental:

New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for LGBT Catholics, said it had been welcomed initially by St. John the Evangelist in downtown Philadelphia. New Ways had planned to run a workshop there on gender identity. A second group, Equally Blessed, is bringing 14 families with LGBT members and was planning to use St. John as a home base during the day.

Neither group may use the church, New Ways executive director Francis DeBernardo said Tuesday. He said St. John’s pastor, John Daya, spoke to a member of New Ways last week and said the decision was made after a call from the archdiocese. Daya said both events were canceled, but it wasn’t clear if the archdiocese had a problem with both or just the New Ways workshop, DeBernardo said.

The workshop, entitled “Transforming Love: Exploring Gender Identity From Catholic Perspectives,” features presentations including those from a married transsexual woman and an intersex woman who is now Anglican.

As with the case of the Catholic school, this is both upsetting and encouraging: you can imagine the frustration and embarrassment that these groups must feel at being dis-invited to this parish, but it is also a relief that the Church, at least in Philadelphia, is becoming a bit more forthright about its Catholic identity. But then the question arises: why on earth did Fr. John Daya permit such a scheduling in the first place? New Ways Ministry is a group that explicitly endorses and promotes gay marriage; Equally Blessed has also expressed views antithetical to church teaching, such as coordinator Christine Haider-Winnett’s recent op-ed in which she demanded that the Church simply look the other way if its lay employees decide to get gay married. (She also claimed that she and “the majority of Catholics…will continue to lead with our conscience and make our own decisions about what is right and wrong.” That’s basically a wholesale refutation of Church teaching and indeed is almost entirely incompatible with the Catholic faith.) There was also going to be a presentation at the workshop from a “married transsexual woman;” based on the event’s brochure, this would be a man who believes he is a woman, married to another woman—which is to say, even if Catholicism endorsed transgenderism and transsexuality (it doesn’t), the relationship would still be a homosexual one and thus illicit in the eyes of the Church.

In other words, the Archdiocese made the right call here: there was no reason for St. John to host a group of people who are openly and even eagerly hostile towards some of the core teachings of the Church itself. Faith is not a popularity contest. It would have been better for everyone if Fr. Daya had never allowed these groups to reserve the space in the first place; this whole uncomfortable situation could have been avoided. Given the circumstances, however, it was correct for the Archdiocese to cancel the event. That’s two strong and prominent assertions of Catholic faith in Philadelphia this year, an encouraging sign in a time when the Catholic Church badly needs such fearlessness.

Arrest the Development

Yesterday at the Federalist I wrote about the critical need for police reform—a need brought about by the fact that many of our police departments have increasingly come to resemble criminal syndicates and racketeering rings instead of law enforcement agencies. Proactive policing is a necessary part of a safe community, and good police officers should be both appreciated and rewarded for what they do. Yet bad police officers—like the kind who arrested Sandra Bland for absolutely no reason, leading to her eventual suicide—should be held appropriately accountable: if you arrest someone when they haven’t broken the law, or if you punch a fellow in the head when he has his hands up, or choke a man to death because he was selling loose cigarettes, or steal someone’s money when they haven’t been charged with a crime—then you deserve to be censured, or fired, or put in jail for a good long while.

Criticizing the police is always bound to stir up opposition; both the police and their supporters have hair-triggers when it comes to any kind of negative appraisal whatsoever. One fellow suggested that I wouldn’t be so critical of law enforcement if I simply took a ride-along with a police officer and saw how the job goes. Actually, I have gone on a ride-along with a cop before; it was kind of an interesting experience but ultimately a non-exculpatory one (at one point we had to go into a laundromat to remove a sleeping homeless man; the police officer woke him up by repeatedly kicking the man’s feet). Police may have a more dangerous job than many people, but every police officer knows this before signing up for the gig, and they don’t get a pass just because they’re in a hard profession. They deserve to be held accountable just as anyone else.


You may have seen the latest Planned Parenthood video, in which a former StemExpress employee claims that she and a Planned Parenthood employee cut open the face of an aborted baby whose heart was still beating. Under any reasonable interpretation—and any moderately civilized legal framework—this counts as murder. That’s pretty big news; in fact, it’s kind of headline-making stuff, right? “Planned Parenthood Accused of Cutting Open Face of Live Baby” is a fairly earth-shattering revelation. So how has the media handled this incredible, disturbing and upsetting story? CNN’s crack team, for one, was on the beat:

Anti-abortion group releases seventh Planned Parenthood video

Ah, okay. Well, you know, to me, “Activist Group Releases Another Video” is a bit less relevant to the story than the part that says, I don’t know, “Medical Technician Accuses Abortion Provider of Harvesting the Brain of a Living Baby.” Gee, it’s almost like CNN wants us to focus on–call me crazy—the politics of the “anti-abortion group” rather than the dead baby with its face cut open and its brain ripped out. Pretty nuts, right? I reached out to Eugene Scott, the reporter whose byline is on the article, to tell him that I thought the headline didn’t adequately reflect the most newsworthy content of the story itself. “The article is about the release of the 7th video,” he replied. “And the headline reflects that.”

I pointed out that that was the problem; his article focused on a video rather than a murdered baby. “I disagree with your reading of my story,” he said to me. Which is kind of odd, because that was *his* reading of the story, not mine. So a CNN journalist deliberately glossed over the dead baby in the story, admitted as much, and then claimed I was wrong when I agreed that he had glossed over the dead baby. The most grimly ridiculous thing about this is that Eugene Scott will suffer no professional consequences for his sloppy and transparently partisan journalistic bent.

One of the great problems facing the pro-life movement is this: virtually the entirety of the mainstream media is openly and cheerfully supportive of abortion and willing to go to great lengths to protect it from any threat whatsoever. We have a long way to go before we are through with this fight, and in the meantime we have to deal with a hostile media corps carrying water for literal baby-killers. It’s a long way out ahead.

The Embers and the Ashes

There is an excellent piece at Vanity Fair this week that examines “the dawn of the dating apocalypse:” the steady decline of formal dating, replaced by the heartless bacchanal of modern hook-up culture, itself supported by the rise of sex-crazy hook-up apps like Tinder. One fellow brags that he is able to seduce women primarily by text message; another boasts that he has had sex with three girls over the course of four nights, spending a total of eighty dollars on all of them, or less than thirty bucks per hook-up. It is a cold and uncomfortable landscape out there. Dating is increasingly not what is used to be. It is more than enough to make a man grateful to be married, and grateful that marriage is an institution of permanent union.

One predicted and predictable consequence of the post-sexual revolution app-fueled casual sex dating scene is this: many men are now free to indulge in their nasty, boorish sexual appetites, and many women are confused and upset by the nastiness and boorishness with which they must deal in the course of casual sexual encounters. “Wanna fuck?” texts one man—to a woman who happens to be a total stranger. The men also say things like “Come over and sit on my face,” according to a nineteen-year-old, a young lady. Has this reprehensible behavior turned women away from the online hook-up scene? Well, no; they just keep at it, as if it’s acceptable, or at least to be expected:

Hearing story after story about the ill-mannered behavior of young women’s sex partners (“I had sex with a guy and he ignored me as I got dressed and I saw he was back on Tinder”), I wondered if there could be a parallel to Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth (1991). Wolf posited that, as women achieved more social and political power, there was more pressure on them to be “beautiful” as a means of undermining their empowerment. Is it possible that now the potentially de-stabilizing trend women are having to contend with is the lack of respect they encounter from the men with whom they have sex? Could the ready availability of sex provided by dating apps actually be making men respect women less? “Too easy,” “Too easy,” “Too easy,” I heard again and again from young men when asked if there was anything about dating apps they didn’t like.

“Online dating apps are truly evolutionarily novel environments,” says David Buss. “But we come to those environments with the same evolved psychologies.” And women may be further along than men in terms of evolving away from sexist attitudes about sex. “Young women’s expectations of safety and entitlement to respect have perhaps risen faster than some young men’s willingness to respect them,” says Stephanie Coontz, who teaches history and family studies at the Evergreen State College and has written about the history of dating. “Exploitative and disrespectful men have always existed. There are many evolved men, but there may be something going on in hookup culture now that is making some more resistant to evolving.”

This is silly for a number of reasons. For starters, it is quaintly bizarre to speak of “young women’s expectations of safety and entitlement to respect” as a new phenomenon. For generations and centuries, women have always demanded such things from men—it is not a preference that just started occurring over the past few decades.

What has changed is this: whereas before the average woman would dismiss a suitor who opened a courtship with, “Wanna fuck?,” today that man has a very strong chance of receiving a positive response. But while there has been a significant decrease in the standards to which the average woman holds the average man, there has evidently been no concurrent decrease in the average woman’s desires: she still wants to be treated like a lady, respected and wanted for more than just sex, but the grinding pressure of third-wave feminism and 21st-century sexual politics means that she shouldn’t care and should just deal with it. “[I]t feels bad when [men] are like ‘See ya,'” says one woman. “It seems like the girls don’t have any control over the situation,” another woman complains.

Thus have several decades of feminism—allegedly an empowering philosophy—served to make women feel uniquely disempowered, and in one of the worst ways possible. And yet they seem to feel no need to change the way things are going, and indeed they are active participants in the way things are going.

Which brings us to the second problem: Stephanie Coontz expresses dismay that “some [men are] more resistant to evolving,” that these men are happy treating women like garbage, but she misses the fact that there is no reason for them to change their behavior. “Come over and sit on my face,” these men say directly to women—and it works! Hook-up culture offers no real negative consequences for such nasty conduct. There is no impetus, in other words, for the male users of Tinder to change their deportment in any way at all: they get precisely what they want, they barely have to work at all for it, and afterwards they can ignore the women they’ve used for sex—indeed, they can be actively searching for another sexual partner even as the woman is still getting dressed.

Prior generations of women would have doubtlessly revolted against such loathsome, reprehensible behavior; it would have been deemed unacceptable, and the man who practiced it would have either had to change the way he acted or deal with the fact that most women would want nothing to do with him. No longer. “It’s a contest to see who cares less,” says one young woman. “And guys win a lot at caring less.” Yes—but who is letting them win?

A Leave of Senses

Earlier this week at the Federalist I wrote about the dangers of government-mandated family leave: far from helping women, there is compelling evidence that it is in fact professionally harmful to them, and that it serves as a barrier to professional advancement. Many European governments offer both maternity and paternity leave, which in theory should result in a kind of workplace parity of benefits uptake; however, even when the policies are gender-neutral, it is still women who overwhelmingly take advantage of any leave that is offered (it turns out that—surprise—men and women are different). Because women are the principal users of family leave in most circumstances, employers are apt to look upon hiring women as a particularly fraught and risky endeavor from a business perspective, and they will act accordingly: by refusing to hire women at all, or else sticking them in sub-par positions without much room for advancement.

So from the perspective of female workplace equality, family leave is a loser public policy. One other argument I’ve heard bandied about is that mandated maternity leave will encourage more women to have children; if we want to galvanize the low fertility rate that has marked the last few decades of the United States, what better way to do so then paying women for their necessary post-birth leave of absence? I am dubious of this policy prescription for two reasons. First, it is the official stance of the United States government to provide birth control to women at no cost to them; this is, in fact, a major policy plank of the Democratic party, and Republicans don’t really seem interested in doing much to counteract it. It is absurd and schizophrenic, therefore, to have two simultaneous government policies that are each intent on accomplishing the exact opposite of the other: at the DHS they’re ordering the free dispersal of the Pill, while down the street at the Department of Labor they’d be encouraging you to pop out a kid and take a three-month vacation.

Even if you got rid of the ridiculous birth control mandate, however, there is still very strong evidence that family leave policies do not increase the fertility rate of any particular nation. The Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, South Korea, Brazil, Canada—these are just a few countries with very generous family leave (both maternal and paternal) that also happen to have a lower fertility rate than the United States. Declining fertility has nothing to do with family leave, in other words; the real issue is that a growing number of men and women are disinterested in becoming parents at all. That’s a serious problem, and it’s one you can’t fix with a pretty package of government-mandated benefits.

The Trump is Nigh

More than anything, the Donald Trump campaign is marked by a deep-seated and unrelenting paranoia. You know the apocalyptic sandwich-boarders who, when the End Times fail to materialize, simply keep moving the date of apocalypse forward? That’s Trump, and that’s his base. He would be a genuinely dismal and harmful president; this much is plainly self-evident. Yet any criticism directed at him from the Right is dismissed due to any number of insane reasons: his criticizers aren’t real conservatives, they’re progressives-in-hiding, they’re “cuckservatives,”  they’re “establishment” Republicans who are just angry over an insurgent shaking things up, they’re weak-kneed milquetoasts who are terrified of a guy who “talks straight”  and “shoots from the hip.”

Trump’s remarks this weekend regarding Megyn Kelly—in which he insinuated that the Fox News host was mean to him during the GOP debate because she was menstruating—should have been the end of this: Trump’s campaign should have quickly, visibly imploded, with his supporters left staring dumbly at each other and wondering how they could have ever been so stupid, like befuddled cult members after the Charismatic Leader has swallowed his poison Kool-Aid: “We wasted so much time on that?” But that almost certainly won’t happen, for two reasons: one, Donald Trump is not smart enough to feel any shame, nor is he capable of processing the criticism he’s receiving. To him, it’s all stimulus, like a blind gorilla being stung by hornets: he knows he’s being attacked, but he can’t make any real existential evaluation of the whole thing, so he just roars and swats and squeals and gets angrier. His base will presumably be enraptured by this response, and all his grunting and swatting will be chalked up to Trump “telling it like it is.”

The other problem is Erick Erickson’s decision to disinvite Trump from the RedState Gathering on Saturday. To be sure, Erickson made the right move: it’s what I would have done, anyway, and this year’s gathering was assuredly more pleasant (and far, far more intelligent) without the sweaty, mumbling, klod-headed presence of Donald Trump to gum things up. Just the same, this will only serve to fire Trump’s base up even more: if you really and truly want to stoke the fires of Trumpish paranoia, just have Redstate’s editor ban Trump from attending an influential, popular assembly of prominent Republican leaders and politicians. Trump’s campaign responded in fine form:

“For all the people who were looking forward to Mr. Trump coming, we will miss you. Blame Erick Erickson, your weak and pathetic leader. We’ll now be doing another campaign stop at another location.”

“Your weak and pathetic leader.” Trump’s campaign now literally sounds as if it’s being run by actual extraterrestrials. I don’t think his campaign is over yet—not by a long shot. He has indicated that he may very well run in a third party capacity if he feels like he’s been treated “unfairly” by the GOP establishment. We’re probably stuck with this gibbering buffoon until at least next November. The Hillary Clinton Administration would almost be a welcome relief afterwards.

Children of God Without Blemish

A short while ago there was a bit of controversy when a gay teacher was fired from her position as the director of religious education at a Philadelphia Catholic school: some parents found out about the woman’s living in a lesbian relationship and called for her dismissal, which the school obliged. The firing has predictably created a controversy, with the Daily Beast reporting that the teacher is “fighting back against the Catholic Church:”

[Margie] Winters was hired at Waldron Mercy in August 2007, three months after she married her long-time partner, Andrea Vettori.

Same-sex marriage is forbidden under the official teachings of the church, so Winters was transparent with Waldron Principal Nell Stetser about her marriage during the hiring process.

Winters says Stetser encouraged her to be open with the faculty and staff, but warned her to be careful before disclosing her relationship to parents, some of whom were more conservative than others.

There are a few serious problems with this. First and foremost: it’s not that gay marriage is “forbidden” by the Catholic Church; rather, the Church maintains that “gay marriage” is not marriage at all. Claiming that the Church forbids gay marriage is like claiming the Church forbids four-sided triangles: you can’t “forbid” something that doesn’t exist.

More importantly, if Margie Winters is telling the truth—and we have no reason to doubt that she is—then the principal of Waldron Mercy quite possibly deserves to be fired as well. Nell Stetser knowingly hired a religious education director who was actively and willingly going against one of the core teachings of the Church itself. If Winters’s role in the school had been less than what it was, hiring her could perhaps be understood (though maybe not condoned). That Stetser chose a practicing lesbian to teach Catholic religious doctrine goes beyond administrative incompetence or even dereliction of duty; it’s almost an act of subversion against the Church itself.

None of which is to say the situation is an easy one. Winters is presumably a good teacher, and perhaps Nell Stetser felt uncomfortable dismissing someone who was qualified for the position due to a factor that—in this day in age—seems like such a minor issue or even a non-issue. Maybe she was worried about hurting Winters’s feelings or causing her anguish. One could understand the difficulty. Nonetheless, both Winters and Stetser were wrong, the firing was sadly the right thing to do, and Stetser herself should be under investigation by the archdiocese for any other serious violations of Church doctrine that are occurring under her leadership. It is quaintly absurd for an institution to call itself a Catholic school while it tolerates and even apparently encourages the direct contravention of Catholicism itself.

With that said, there is also reason to believe that Winters was not a competent religious education director, and that her dismissal was warranted for more than one reason:

[Winters and her partner] both worry about Catholic children who are struggling with their own sexual identity in school, and the message Winters’ firing sends them.

“It tells them they’re not worthy to teach in a Catholic school because of who they are,” says Vettori. “That they’re less than a full person in the church and therefore less than in the eyes of God. That’s the real horror in all of this…”

No. This is an absolutely disgraceful rendering of the Church’s teachings on homosexuality—and though it comes from Vettori, we can quite justifiably assume that Winters feels the same way. The church very, very clearly teaches the exact opposite of what Andrea Vettori has posited here:

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

There is no doubt that church officials have acted less-than-compassionately in the past when it comes to homosexuals and homosexuality. Nonetheless, the times have certainly changed—and in any event the extant, real-world Church teaching is absolutely explicit in its affirmation of the full humanity of gay people and the necessity to treat them with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” That a so-called religious education director would tolerate the twisting of this beautiful doctrine into the drivel seen above is shameful and scandalous. If this is how Winters views the Church, there is no doubt that she is unfit to teach young minds on the critical matter of Catholic faith, and her firing was strictly warranted for that if nothing else.

Shutdown at High Noon

A fifth undercover Planned Parenthood video has dropped, and at this point the criminality is almost becoming old hat: we know now that Planned Parenthood is regularly and happily breaking the law, that it views baby body parts as “a matter of line items,” that it violates federal law as a routine matter of course in order to make as much money as possible from butchered babies. No doubt Planned Parenthood will insist that the videos are “heavily edited;” then after a few days they’ll insist that it’s all a politicized misunderstanding; then they’ll assume enough time has passed that they can bring out the “heavily edited” canard again. Cecile Richards will have one heck of a time spinning this from whatever eastern European asylum country she’ll eventually be holed up in.

It is now, as it has been for the past forty-plus years, a question of what we are going to do about it. The criminalization of abortion must be the endgame, but in the meantime we must also ask ourselves what else we can do. In our political discourse, there is a very powerful and very inexplicable tendency to call for “moderation” on the issue of abortion, as if the subject of murdered babies can possibly brook any moderate stance whatsoever. You’re either for it or against it. If you’re against it, then the Planned Parenthood videos provide ample evidence that legalized abortion is not compatible with a civilized, law-abiding society: it’s killing babies, and it will apparently create a market in dead baby body parts, and as these videos show, it doesn’t matter how many laws you pass: if people want murdered baby liver and heart, they’ll get murdered baby liver and heart.

So, the question as it stands is: what are we going to do about it? I am aware of the practical limitations of divesting Planned Parenthood of taxpayer funding—it will not make abortion illegal, after all—but just the same, it’s a good place to start. Planned Parenthood is primarily a non-unique establishment offering non-unique services that can be found at many, many other medical centers and clinics. There is no reason to funnel half a billion taxpayer dollars into an organization whose only distinctive business function is infanticide. But how will we go about defunding this monstrosity? It won’t be easy:

[U]nlike other political dramas that fade after a vote or two in Congress to satisfy outraged lawmakers and activists, the Planned Parenthood storm has the potential to gather oxygen and suck in everything around it — up to and including this fall’s debate to fund the government.

Here’s a step-by-step look at how the Planned Parenthood debate could conceivably shut down the government…

Normally I would be loath to recommend this kind of parliamentary tactic: when Republicans tried this in the past, it did not work out for them in the slightest and indeed ended up being counterproductive. But now I’d say it’s worth going for. If you’re not going to shut down the government over profiteering baby-murderers, what are you going to shut it down for? Put the Democrats on the defensive: have them explain why they want to shut down the government over a criminal organization that sells the body parts of dead boys and girls to the highest bidder. It will admittedly be extraordinarily difficult to pull this off: the media is very happy to carry water for the Democrats during such times, and they’ll be eager to dust off the grandma-might-not-get-her-Social-Security-check-because-of-Republicans meme if given half a chance. No matter: grandma will still get the check, and if Republicans play it right—a big “if,” but still possible—they can show the country that the Democratic Party is literally the party of infanticide, and that it prefers legal, taxpayer-sponsored baby-killing over a functional government.

This tactic will win favors for no Republicans whatsoever. But that’s not the point, and it never has been. Dead babies should not be subject to the tenets of a popularity contest; dead babies demand action, and they demand it no matter what the political cost. If Democrats want to put up a fight about this, Republicans should give it to them, happily; we should all be so lucky as to fight on behalf of unborn children. Defund Planned Parenthood. If necessary, bring on the shutdown.