American Values Prove Stubbornly Resistant to Gun Control Opportunism

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American Values Prove Stubbornly Resistant to Gun Control Opportunism

Fairfax, VA – -(Ammoland.com)- Social justice busybodies obsessed with how other people live their lives often portray the success of their causes as a matter of destiny.

“The young people will win,” insists one youthful gun control advocate, falsely portraying his personal crusade as a generational mandate. Yet recent events have demonstrated that bedrock American values – including support for the Second Amendment – tend to outlast moments of high emotion that are increasingly relied upon by political opportunists to advance their agenda.

Given the chance to collect their thoughts, most Americans instinctively revert to freedom.

We recently commented on this point with reference to poll numbers that show a familiar pattern of gun control support spiking in the immediate aftermath of an infamous firearm-related crime, only to taper off as the punditry aims its fury in another direction or overplays its hand and is forced to regroup.

Since then, additional evidence has arisen to complicate the media’s breathless narrative that “the ground is shifting on gun control.”

First, more recent poll numbers underscore the fact that Americans, including young Americans, recognize that the country has far more pressing problems than rushing to enact unproven gun control measures.

The Associated Press and MTV, for example, teamed up this year to measure the “Youth Political Pulse,” with surveys conducted from late February to early March (when the news cycle was focused on the terrible crime at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School) and again from late April to early May. Between the survey periods, the percentage of respondents aged 15 to 34 who identified firearm-related issues as their highest concern for the country fell 15 points, from 21% to 6%. During the earlier survey period, the gun issue was the highest concern. In the latter period, it was tied for the sixth most common response, behind the economy, social inequality, and even threat of nuclear war.

Moreover, a week after a similar crime in Santa Fe, Texas on May 18, support for gun control in the Lone Star State had actually dropped 6% since April, as measured by Quinnipiac University polling. Support for stricter gun laws was also lower in the May sample among those aged 18 to 34 than among those 65 or older, another inversion of the conventional wisdom that youth are destined to change the national debate on this question.

A Quinnipiac analyst opined: “The tragedy at the Santa Fe school south of Houston changed few opinions among Texas voters about gun control. Support for gun control in general is down slightly, while support for background checks for all gun buyers is virtually unchanged.”

Adding to the gun control advocates’ woes were the release of data and studies that contradicted their claims of a rising epidemic of school shootings fueled by easy access to so-called “assault weapons.”

The website The74Million.org, which describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America,” published a lengthy interview in May with Criminologist Nadine Connell of the University of Texas at Dallas, who’s compiling a database of every school shooting since 1990. The piece underscored Connell’s findings that “school shootings are extremely rare” and that allowing them to drive policy isn’t “always the most productive” way to keep students safe.

Connell indicated that “from the perspective of policymaking,” the media’s current reporting on school shootings can be misleading.

“[A]s of now,” she said, “we don’t think there is an increase in the number of incidents as much as there is an increase in the attention to the incidents.” She also stressed that “the number of rampage-like incidents remains extremely low, and they are a relatively small subsection of the shootings we are analyzing.” Schools, Connell said, “are the safest they’ve ever been.”

While Connell indicated in the interview that she is not a fan of arming teachers, she also declined to put gun control at the center of the debate. When asked what would be the “most effective method to stop the lion’s share of the problem,” she emphasized “whole-school-centered approaches to improve climate, clarify expectations, and support teachers and administrators in creating a community of trust and support.” She also noted that the “environmental design” of schools can play an important role in keeping kids safe without making them feel like they are under siege.

Can Mass Shootings be Stopped?

Perhaps more even more ironic was a May 22 report from the Rockefeller Institute that was funded by a multi-state “Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium” representing a who’s-who of Northeastern antigun jurisdictions. Entitled “Can Mass Shootings be Stopped?” the report broadly focuses on mass shootings in general, rather than on school-specific events.

Like Connell, however, the authors mentioned media distortion as an impediment to understanding the true nature of the problem.

“Mass shootings, and those that are particularly lethal, are amplified by the news cycle, making them appear more commonplace when they are, in fact, statistically rare,” they stated. They also characterized the media’s coverage of the events as “unbalanced,” potentially leading the public to “hold disproportional attitudes about the events themselves.”

The report made the points that mass shootings are not limited to the U.S. but “occur in countries worldwide,” are nearly three times more likely to be perpetrated with handguns than with “assault weapons,” and occur more frequently in workplaces than in schools. Also likely to displease its funders is the report’s observation that gun control laws, whether passed in the immediate wake of a mass shooting or kept on the books for decades “often are not enforced, leading them to be ineffective at preventing the next mass shooting.” But perhaps most damning of all was the authors’ admonition that “[k]nee-jerk reactions rooted in emotion will not solve the problem.”

Mass Shooting School Gun Laws Bans
But perhaps most damning of all was the authors’ admonition that “[k]nee-jerk reactions rooted in emotion will not solve the problem.”

Yet that is exactly how gun control advocates operate and what they offer. Whatever can be said about the youthful gun control activists who have captured so much of the media’s attention lately, they are among the prime purveyors of emotionalism and hyperbole. And far from bringing innovative new thinking to the issue, their main “solution” is the tired notion of banning guns that are underrepresented in rampage gun crimes and remain highly popular among the law-abiding. Instead of treating every word out of their mouths as some new game-changing revelation, their gun control seniors should remind them that “assault weapon” bans had until recently been de-emphasized as an embarrassment to the movement and too obvious of its prohibitory intent.

Unlike the latest gun control hashtag or self-congratulatory Hollywood vanity project, the National Rifle Association has been around since 1871. We’ve seen movements come, and we’ve seen movements go. And while we never doubt the sincerity of our opposition in their desire to eradicate the right to keep and bear arms, we’re not about to change our values or objectives just because some media talking heads or youth-obsessed celebrities begin making demands or throwing around half-baked claims.

Fortunately, the American commitment to freedom also remains strong and resilient. And freedom-loving Americans know they have an ally in the NRA.

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)

About:
Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org

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Is it Possible to Know Goodness without European History?

It’s an often repeated and battled about question for young people, and those young of mind. “Is it possible to be good without God?” And its various iterations.

Here Judeo-Boomer Dennis Prager demonstrates his 115 IQ with an infographic worthy of a Jordan Peterson debate. By the way, if you intend to start a YouTube channel, I suggest you watch as much PragerU as you can. His audience is mostly boomers, the content is easy to parrot, and if you are young, female, and remotely good looking you’ll get both the beta bucks and the boomertards who publicly claim they wish their daughters had role models like you, while watching for the YouTube alert to hope they can add something new to the yank bank.

And If you want to seem edgy forget Patreon and go MakerSupport (which is a good site, by the way, without sarcasm). For a conservative, MakerSupport it will make you seem too edgy for Patreon. If you want to be more mainstream, Patreon is safe as is pretty much everything else deplatforming the real right these days. Hell even Candace “I found Reagan on the road to Damascus” Owens got a public apology from Jack Dorsey for calling her “far-right”.

Here is the answer from a non-militant nearly life-long atheist: Yes. Yes, you can be good without God; yes, even if God does not exist, murder is (still) wrong.

I was an atheist for 37ish years and I was, for the most part, a pretty good person. This is typically a Prager-tier question to atheists in a futile display of boomer-autism to convince young people who have rejected by stench if not logic and history the contemporary religious scene that passes for “Judeo-Christianity.”

Most of my former fellow atheists were atheists because they didn’t like Christianity. I don’t blame them. I don’t like it either. I grew up around Evangelicals who genuinely believed things (frequent but not universal among them) such as:

  1. Scientists are lying about the age of the Earth, the Great Flood, the discovery of certain archaeological sites whose existence would conclusively prove not only the Bible but the Evangelical version. Some Evangelicals believe that dinosaurs were put there by the devil to confuse man.
  2. Scientists lie about stuff all the time, I trained in Geophysics as an undergrad and once had a professor tell me to pretend a mountain didn’t exist so my gravity data would match up with the model we were using. Think about that the next time Bill Nye talks about “climate change models”.
  3. Jews are God’s chosen people and the reason they keep getting kicked out of — well, everywhere they’ve ever been — is because of anti-semitism. I’ve heard Evangelicucks say “Jews are God’s barometer for evil. If someone like Hitler hates God’s chosen people, he hates, God and therefore goodness.” That’s some Hagee-tier rationalization going on there guys. Even if you believe Jews are God’s chosenites, does it follow that it’s always the other guys fault you get kicked out? If a woman goes on 109 dates with 109 guys and no one calls her back, the common denominator is her.
  4. Complex eschatology such as dispensationalism, millennialism, pre-millennial/post-millennial dispensationalism, the two witnesses being stuck down in Jerusalem, and “Biblical prophecy” coming to fulfillment in our lifetimes because Izrul, as John Hagee pronounces it.

Have some of Pastor Hagee at his absolute most Judeo-Boomer:

They really believe this stuff. He is not a fringe nut among American Christians.

In reality the primary cause of the rise of secularism among the west isn’t any goofy belief though, or iron clad paradox seen on Reddit or a logical presentation of science YouTube Skeptic.™ It’s the fact that the churches don’t actually mean anything anymore. Churches are not a home for strength and men you respect. They are the home of the concessionist. They are the place you go for warm feelings of childhood.

In their desire to shield their children (and let’s just be honest here, many of these Christian men, raised in the church and on the internet, are rather uncomfortable with physical sex as well) from “the world” they have constructed a sterile cultural bubble where Christians cannot survive.

When gay marriage was legalized in the US several years ago, one of my best friends, a devout memeer of his Baptist Church, and a layman who often helped out with things needing to be done, turned to me — the secular, single man, who enjoys amusing my married friends with disturbing stories of debauchery — turned to me and said, “I told pastor, that if he wanted to marry a gay couple in our church, I’d stand by him. I’d be proud to have a gay family member.”

Christians today lead nothing, they follow Caesar. They follow, and have followed for a very long time, because they are afraid of “the world” which does not belong to God. In fact, many of my Christian friends like to blame Hollywood, or the MSM, or celebrities, or politicians, academia, really anything they can, for the problems facing the country and the west.

They’ll blame everyone but the one group responsible: themselves.

In the 1970s Christian boomers retreated from the culture and left it to young Marxist culture-makers to bastardize and darken everything good about American and European culture. The fruits of those seeds were reaped in the 90s when The Ellen Show aired TV’s first lesbian kiss, when women began appearing in combat roles in action films, when the zeitgeist turned to feminism as cool. I remember watching MTV play women artists back to back to back to back all weekend one time to prove to radio programmers you could make money off female artists.

As if women had never sung before. But in the 90s my generation witnessed as our classmates: historical illiteracy and professional oppression were the parents of a little mulatto baby named Social “historical oppression” Justice. She has an even more temperamental brother coming of age called “Corporate Social Responsibility” watch out for that ingrate. He’s what happens when HR gets a Six-Sigma black belt.

Back to the question of goodness. We today debate goodness and morality not as if they were subjective. But as if they were a figment of the imagination of Descartes’ demon. Pascal’s Wager once made sense because the worldview of the people to whom he was speaking knew the difference between love and happiness. Today, we seem to have two categories of words related to morality: words that make GoodFeels and words that make BadFeels.

Ask an atheist if it’s possible to be “Good without God” and you’ll usually get snark, or if the atheist is out of college, an eye-roll and an “of course it is: is am good.”

But rather than ask the basic question “Good without God” why not ask a question that rebukes Descartes’ demonic scenario which can only be answered by the very Enlightened cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am). And do not apply Pascal’s Wager to people who would rather take ten dollars today than twenty tomorrow. Just watch this regular blonde woman say she would change her opinion on weather preference for $55 US!

Religion today is fungible. It means little because it is a social club one joins to get ahead in life or to have people like yourself with whom to associate. It has no moral foundation.

But it once did.

So rather than address the tired question, “Can you be good without God,” ask, “Is it possible to know if another person is good without a socially agreed upon set of values?”

In more elegant terms: If one claims, “Man can be good without God” simply reply, “But how would you know if he is good without the reality of asking such a question in the shadow of more than a thousand years of European Civilization?”

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Mary Christine Athans, B.V.M, Ph.D., Celebrates Nearly 50 Years of Professional Excellence

PHOENIX, AZ, May 22, 2018 /24-7PressRelease/ — Mary Christine Athans, B.V.M, Ph.D., has been included in Marquis Who’s Who. As in all Marquis Who’s Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value.

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How Muslim Migrants Are Reshaping Russia’s Dying Countryside, One Village at a Time

Or more specifically, the 35-year-old native of Tajikistan, the most impoverished of Central Asia’s five former Soviet republics, says his presence here, 200 kilometers northwest of Moscow, is good for his adopted homeland.

“‘Better you than the Chinese,’ that’s what my ex-boss told me,” the small-framed Soliev says between double shifts as a stoker at the village school, earning him around $250 a month, nearly twice the average Tajik wage.

The “you” is a reference to Soliev, who speaks fluent Russian and also routinely quotes ancient Persian thinker Omar Khayyam’s poems in Farsi, a linguistic sibling of his mother tongue, and 46 other families whose resettlement from Tajikistan over the past decade almost doubled Rozhdestveno’s aging population of about 200.

Half of the students in Soliev’s school are their raven-haired children, and their wives, in long skirts and head scarves, shop for groceries at a store next to the Orthodox church.

The arrival to urban centers and the countryside of Soliev and millions of other mostly Muslim labor migrants from Central Asia is at the center of what could emerge as Russia’s most radical ethnic makeover in centuries.

And some residents of Rozhdestveno and nearby villages speak caustically of the immigrants and forebodingly of an uncertain future.

“In 10 years, the village will either disappear or become foreign,” says retiree Viktor Yerofoeyevich, declining to give his last name. He is a resident of the neighboring village of Bortnikovo, where a paltry 12 houses have full-time residents.

Polls point to fears among many of Russia’s 142 million people of an uncontrolled influx of migrants eager to snatch up jobs and wildly tilt the country’s demographics in favor of the newcomers.

Vyacheslav Postavnin, a former deputy director of Russia’s Federal Migration Service who now heads the 21st Century Migration Fund, a Moscow-based think tank, compares it to the storied Mongol invasion of the 13th century that was followed by Islamization and the settling of former nomads in what is now southern Russia.

“The last bastion is the quick construction of Orthodox churches,” Postavnin says of ethnic Russians’ mistrust of the cultural and religious implications of immigration, “because the number of adherents of Islam is growing.”

Four-fifths of Russians say the Kremlin “must limit” the flow of migrants, and two-fifths believe migrants should live in “specially assigned areas,” according to a survey last year by state-run pollster VTsIOM.

And more than one in four Russians feels “irritation, dislike, or fear” specifically toward Central Asians, according to a more recent survey by independent pollster Levada.

Bucking A Trend

In its recent Revision Of World Urbanization Prospects report, the United Nations predicted that the current decline in Russia’s rural population would accelerate in the coming decades, from nearly 37 million now to just 22 million Russians residing in the countryside by the year 2050.

Stretched along the road between the ancient city of Tver and the Volga River, Rozhdestveno and a cluster of smaller villages around it exemplify the agony of Russia’s countryside.

Here, as in many rural areas mired in joblessness since the post-Soviet collapse of collective farms, decimated by low birthrates and migration to big cities, and barely held together by potholed roads, there is a perception that this kind of national heartland is no longer a pillar of Russian identity, prosperity, and tsarist-era expansion from the Baltic to the Pacific.

The trends have been accompanied by cutbacks in the number of village hospitals, schools, and administrative resources that further encourage locals to flee dwindling villages. Almost 36,000 Russian villages, or one in four, are home to 10 or fewer residents, and 20,000 more have been abandoned altogether, according to the latest Russian census, conducted in 2010.

Rozhdestveno is lucky to be larger than the nearby villages, but fallow fields covered with birch and pine saplings and poisonous giant hogweed surround it in every direction. The saplings herald the return of dense forests from which these villages were carved out centuries ago.

While the elderly in the area are forced to make do on meager pensions, many of the younger residents who haven’t left for the city subsist on potatoes from backyard gardens and pick mushrooms and berries to supplement their incomes. They sell whatever they can pick to middlemen from Tver or to affluent neighbors — frequently dacha owners from big cities who only show up in summer.

“I can sell mushrooms, sell cranberries. How else can I earn money?” says Vladimir, a jobless man from the village of Nesterovo, lisping through missing teeth. Clad in a greasy jacket and standing on a dirt road, he sums up his quarter century since the Soviet collapse.

“All of our household economy was destroyed, all the animal farms,” he says. “Every old lady used to have sheep, cows. Now, no one has any. Even chickens are gone.”

‘Not Afraid To Work’

Almost all of Rozhdestveno’s Tajik families hail from Gorno-Badakhshan, an especially poor, mountainous region that accounts for nearly half of Tajikistan’s territory. Tajiks were early and eager labor migrants to post-Soviet Russia, and hundreds of thousands now have citizenship there, officials say.

While it didn’t distinguish between Russian nationals and foreigners, the last nationwide census, in 2010, showed fourfold increases in the number of ethnic Tajiks and Kyrgyz in the Russian countryside, although there was a steep decline in the number of ethnic Uzbeks.

But the census generally excludes temporary labor migrants, according to Yevgeniya Chernina of the Center of Labor Studies at Moscow’s Higher School of Economy, of which there are millions, on and off the books.

The Tajik men around Rozhdestveno — from teenagers to forty-something men — are said to be generally eager to accept any employment opportunity that presents itself. They compete with locals in picking mushrooms and berries, and work at a nearby sawmill, on farms and construction sites in Tver, and drive cabs and buses.

“They’re not afraid to work,” Mayor Dmitry Kirdanov says. “It’s a helpful difference from the native population.”

Immigrants renovated several three-story apartment buildings that stood empty after the demise of the village’s collective farm, bought up dilapidating wooden houses, and enrolled three dozen children in school — doubling the number of students and providing teachers with more work.

There have been inevitable tensions, but locals say they have generally been tackled before they were allowed to fester.

The imposing, taciturn leader of Rozhdestveno’s Tajik community routinely finds himself thrust into the center of such quarrels.

Pairavsho, as he is known, manages a storage facility in Tver and arbitrates disputes between Tajiks and locals, a cultural holdover from the common Central Asian practice of tapping the wisdom of elders.

“If there’s a misunderstanding, they come to me, and we sort things out right away,” the father of two says on a Sunday evening, as dozens of Tajiks play soccer on the field in front of him.

Kirdanov cites an example, saying the immigrants’ children “brought a specifically [Central] Asian attitude to women” that some locals found objectionable. In that case, he says, a “conference” was convened to prevail upon the immigrants and soon the boys “stopped treating girls rudely.”

‘Better Off in yhe Village’

Some of the immigrants’ personal trajectories fit patterns described by Shukhrat Ganiev, a labor migration expert with the Humanitarian Rights Center, a think tank in the central Uzbek city of Bukhara. He has made two extensive trips across Russia since 2000 to document the emergence of what he calls “Uzbek villages” there.

Village officials or farmers in northern regions and Siberia frequently allow labor migrants to squat in abandoned houses and help them get work and residency permits, he says, sometimes inducing nearly whole villages to follow.

“Usually, this is a perennial practice with further integration into the local society,” Ganiev says in a reference to migrants who get Russian passports and send their children to Russian-language schools.

Other migrants are hired as seasonal farmhands, he says, mostly in southern Russian regions with booming, industrialized agriculture, and return home in winter.

Even more often, Ganiev says, migrants working in big cities move their families to the countryside because of lower rent and food costs and a safer, healthier environment.

“They’re better off in the village,” says Rovshan Khushvaktov, a 28-year-old cabbie who arrived four years ago from the central Uzbek city of Bukhara. “It’s so hard to keep an eye on children in Moscow.”

His wife and three children live in a small rented house in the village of Khoroshevo, some 180 kilometers southwest of Moscow. He sleeps in his white Hyundai between 18-hour shifts and tries to visit them each week.

Once they get Russian citizenship, many migrants become an important asset for local politicians.

In Rozhdestveno, where the overwhelming majority of Tajiks boast red Russian passports, Pairavsho declines to discuss his community’s political preferences, saying only that they “take part in every election.”

But the indications are that they vote overwhelmingly for the ruling United Russia party.

“Through their leaders, we always get a high turnout,” Kirdanov says in a reference to influential elders like Pairavsho.

“All sorts of outside political carpetbaggers tried to use them,” he adds, “but now they trust the [Kremlin’s] power, and openly say they won’t sell their political favors anymore.”

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Study delves into reasons for increased preference of the elderly to live alone

For decades, the elderly in Spain have shown a preference for living at home, either alone or with their partners, instead of sharing a home with relatives of other generations. A study by the University of Granada delves into the reasons for this trend.

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Goldman Sachs Lobby Art Explains Everything That’s Wrong With Our Elites

Critics of Goldman Sachs love to say the investment bank highlights the failures of everything from capitalism and neoliberalism to democracy and socialism. Millions of words have been written depicting Goldman as the central villain of the Great Recession, yet little has been said about their most egregious sin: their lobby art. In 2010, Goldman Sachs paid $5 million for a custom-made Julie Meheretu mural for their New York headquarters. Expectations are low for corporate lobby art, yet Meheretu’s giant painting is remarkably ugly—so ugly that it helps us sift through a decade of Goldman criticisms and get to the heart of what is wrong with the elites of our country.

Julie Mehretu’s “The Mural” is an abstract series of layered collages the size of a tennis court. Some layers are colorful swirls, others are quick black dash marks. At first glance one is struck by the chaos of the various shapes and colors. No pattern or structure reveals itself. Yet a longer look reveals a sublayer depicting architectural drawings of famous financial facades, including the New York Stock Exchange, The New Orleans Cotton Exchange, and even a market gate from the ancient Greek city of Miletus.

What are we to make of this? Meheretu herself confirms our suspicion that there is no overarching structure to the piece. “From the way the whole painting was structured from the beginning there was no part that was completely determined ever. It was always like the beginning lines and the next shapes. So it was always this additive process,” she said in an Art 21 episode.  

Does all art need a strict and coherent structure? Of course not. Yet consider Mehretu’s mural in juxtaposition with Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings. Both are large, abstract, and improvisational. Pollock painted by moving the canvas to the floor and dripping paint down, making the act of painting more akin to dance. Meheretu made her piece on a computer and then had a team of assistants actually paint it on the wall. Pollock’s jazz-inspired swirls and textures evoke raw emotion unfiltered. They invite us to look at the painting as a painting, and not for some further content. If there are any defenders of the Goldman mural, they’re probably hiding behind similar arguments and offering platitudes appealing to the idea of expression for the sake of expression: that the painting justifies itself simply by existing. However, Meheretu does not allow for this easy out. Unlike Pollock, she includes something more than paint: the facades of famous financial buildings, by which she implies artistic argument, content outside of form.

So what is the painting trying to say? Nothing.

The glimmers of old-world beauty demand to be accounted for, and yet because there is no coherent structure to the piece, we can find no true justification for their inclusion, other than that they reference who paid for the painting. Again, Mehretu’s own words confirm what is immediately visible: “I think there’s a lot of meaning in the painting, but I would never want to articulate a direct statement. I think maybe that’s a big reason I work with abstractions so that you can’t necessarily pinpoint a specific narrative.”

Good art doesn’t need an easily packaged message, theme, or subject, and it could be argued that the greatest works of art have a way of championing the hard-to-articulate experience, which Wittgenstein would have us leave in silence. This is not what’s going on at Goldman Sachs, however. The inclusion of the famous facades in a painting created specifically for one of the most powerful investment banks on earth is meant to be evocative, but because there is no narrative, there is no way to produce coherence. Obviously it is a nod to global finance, and yet Mehretu provides no larger framework by which we can judge this against itself. Would the piece be materially different if you swapped the financial buildings for church facades? Is the artist successful on her own terms, let alone ours? We can’t say. We are simply expected to accept that the artist’s choices justify themselves because they were made. This nihilistic approach to meaning in art reflects both our larger cultural moment and how meaning and ethics are approached on the upper floors of Goldman Sachs’ headquarters.

Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre gave a lecture to Notre Dame’s Center of Ethics and Culture in 2000 about the compartmentalization of our ethical lives. He argued that in modern Western culture these different areas are governed by different ethical norms and standards. The example he gives is how a waiter at a restaurant acts differently in the kitchen than in front of the customer. In the kitchen it is normal to yell, curse, and touch the food with his bare hands; none of this would be appropriate in front of the customer. And when the waiter goes home, his personal life is dictated by a further third set of norms. Or consider how the ethics of lying are treated differently during a job interview versus at home or at a law office. Like the painting in the Goldman Sachs lobby, our ethical lives seem to be made of different layers that don’t connect. Our culture no longer shares a single ethical narrative, and so our choices are not weighed against a standard that’s consistent. Rather, people ask that their choices be accepted simply because they were made. When the bankers over-leveraged prior to 2008, they made a series of compartmentalized choices without considering the larger societal implications. They and the art in their lobby are the same.

I do not think the bankers at Goldman spend each morning scrutinizing their lobbies for larger ethical implications. Nihilistic art does not create nihilistic bankers. Yet both the elites of art and the elites of finance come out of the same culture. Both are indicative of where we are as a society. The Occupy Wall Street crowd may call Goldman a vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, but they never apply the same harsh rhetoric to our cultural institutions. A decade after the recession, our contemporary high art is more nihilistic than ever. This informs all areas of our culture. When powerful institutions are discussed we often critique in terms of isms: capitalism, liberalism, managerialism. We forget to mention that our institutions are made up of individuals who share the same culture that we all do. IRS auditors listen to Katy Perry. Federal judges watch comic book movies. The spies at the CIA read Zadie Smith novels. Our morality is informed in part by the art, both high and popular, that surrounds us.

After a decade of ignominy, Goldman Sachs is currently pushing further into consumer finance, which means further onto Main Street. The mural in their headquarters is indicative of the candy-coated nihilism that is also pushing further into our lives.

James McElroy is a young New York City-based novelist and essayist, who also works in finance.

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‘Bibi to the gas’ spray-painted on Tel Aviv yeshiva high school

The vandalism also recommended to “free Palestine,” and declared, “No pride in Apartheid.” The words “Antifa Zone” were also scrawled on the building, a reference to the far-left American protest movement. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked …

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The Commodity-Subsidy Scheme

The amount of cronyism and subsidies in the nation’s agricultural program is too much to cover in a single article. That’s why, as the debate over this year’s Farm Bill heats up, I’ve been covering one topic a week, from advertising campaigns that taxpayers cover for large producers’ advertising to the sugar program that harms the economy at large to subsidize just over 20,000 sugar producers. This week, we’ll look at the heart of farming subsidies — commodity programs.

Under the nation’s current agricultural program, farmers are able to take advantage of two types of programs. The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) provides coverage against natural disasters and other factors that reduce crop yield, while the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs provide protection against changing market conditions.

Farm support subsidies overwhelmingly go to six crop types, even though they do not come close to making up a majority of agricultural production. Corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, rice, and peanuts received 94 percent of commodity subsidies, despite making up only 28 percent of production between 2014 and 2016.

And subsidies they are — despite being intended as a safety net, these “insurance” programs consistently pay out far more than they take in. A study by the Environmental Working Group found that, between 2000 and 2014, farmers received an average of $2.20 in subsidies for every dollar they paid in premiums. There was not a single year over this time period where farmers didn’t receive, on average, more in subsidies than they paid in.

Part of the problem is that farmers do not need to suffer significant losses to receive subsidies. So-called “shallow loss programs” insure farmers against minor losses, providing encouragement to ignore market signals. This creates a form of moral hazard, as farmers can engage in riskier behaviors knowing that even small losses will be picked up by the federal government.

Farmers are also able to “double-dip,” receiving access to both the FCIC and ARC/PLC programs. The Environmental Working Group also found that, between 2014 and 2015, a decline in crop prices caused the federal government to pay out $13 billion in subsidies through the ARC/PLC programs. At the same time, the FCIC paid out nearly as much — almost $11 billion — to help farmers with that same price decline. Taxpayers were on the hook for the whole $24 billion.

The current farm bill, up for consideration in the House, could post even bigger losses for taxpayers — and bigger payouts for farm businesses. Changes to the way payments are calculated and inflated reference prices, some at more than 100 percent of market price, practically guarantees payouts regardless of economic conditions or losses. In addition, the bill extends these payments to cousins, nieces, and nephews and eliminates the current payment cap for pass through entities and other types of joint ventures. This is a massive expansion of the pay-out pool, extending taxpayer funds to individuals and groups that may have had little or nothing to do with the day to day operations of the farm, let alone would bear the brunt of any potential loss.

Subsidies of this level of generosity completely distort the market. For example, in 2012, the most severe drought in half a century caused nearly 1,700 counties to be declared natural disaster zones. Far from barely getting by, however, farmers had their most profitable year in history thanks to subsidies and sky-high prices. A safety net should provide protection against loss, but it need not be designed so that farmers come out ahead after natural disasters.

We are also far from the days of an economy based largely on small farmers. The share of Americans working on farms has dropped from 40 percent in 1900 to 1 percent today, while crop production has multiplied several times over. As a result, farming households have grown wealthier than the average household — the net worth of the median U.S. household in 2012 was $68,800, while the net worth of the median farming household in 2014 was $802,000.

And it’s the largest farm businesses that receive the bulk of the subsidies. Commercial farms, which account for just over 10 percent of all farms, received 73 percent of ARC/PLC payments and 83 percent of FCIC payments. Small family farms, making up 90 percent of farms, received the remainder.

Congress should work to address the over $20 billion a year taxpayers are on the hook for each year to subsidize these large farms. It’s past time to turn commodity systems into a true safety net, not a golden parachute.

The post The Commodity-Subsidy Scheme appeared first on The American Spectator.

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