Author archives: Michael Fragoso

Treaty News

by Michael Fragoso

June 9, 2009

Recently President Obama signaled to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee his treaty ratification priorities for the 111th Congress. Not surprisingly, the Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is on the list as the lone “Human Rights” treaty Obama wants ratified. A pleasant surprise, however, is the conspicuous absence of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Both treaties are extremely pernicious and the United States should ratify neither, as Pat Fagan, Bill Saunders, and I explain here. It’s good to see that for now we only need to worry about one of them.

Runaway Bride (without Richard Gere and Julia Roberts)

by Michael Fragoso

June 5, 2009

The Wall Street Journal is running an interesting piece on the problems facing China’s surplus of young bachelors. The background is that 30 years of the “one child policy” coupled with Chinese “son preference” has yielded “a surplus of 32 million males under the age of 20” by the most recent count. These men are now reaching a marriageable age and, lo and behold, there simply aren’t enough women to go around as brides.

The result is that “bride prices” are increasing dramatically. To compensate, the article notes, “A study by Columbia University economist Shang-Jin Wei found that some areas in China with a high proportion of males have an above-average savings rate, even after accounting for factors such as education levels, income and life-expectancy rates. Areas with more men than women, the study notes, also have low spending rates — suggesting that many rural Chinese may be saving up for bride prices.” Unsurprisingly, these increasingly lucrative bride prices are causing increasingly common bride graft by means of “runaway brides” pocketing the money and leaving their new husbands.

This is just the beginning of the myriad problems China will face in the coming generation due to its one-child policy and the resulting sex imbalance. For more, see my article on the subject some years ago.

The Associate Justice from Cardinal Spellman?

by Michael Fragoso

May 27, 2009

Say what you will about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, her personal story is a compelling one. From the sickly daughter of a widow in the South Bronx projects to the Pyne Prize at Princeton, the Yale Law School, and almost two decades as a federal judge is a remarkable journey. Yet, one should ask how much of Judge Sotomayor’s success “against-the-odds” came from her high-quality preparation at in the Catholic school system. Would her story have turned out differently had she attended a soon-to-be-blighted South Bronx public high school rather than the rigorous Cardinal Spellman?

That said, how many future Sonia Sotomayors are among the 1,715 DC students currently enrolled in private and parochial schools through the DC Opportunity Scholarship voucher program? How many will still be given the same chance to excel once the program is terminated in 2010? If President Obama is serious about the importance of Judge Sotomayor’s biography, he should work even harder to make sure that DC children from similar backgrounds can have the same opportunities.

Offensive Joke, Offensive Treaty

by Michael Fragoso

March 20, 2009

Last night President Obama went on the Tonight Show.  Deciding to go off-teleprompter, the President made a joke at the expense of the disabled, saying that his bowling skills might qualify him for “the Special Olympics.”  In other words, America was treated to the spectacle of her President engaging in a less-funny version of the traditional Rodney Dangerfield send-up (“I tell ya, I don’t get no respect.  I went bowling the other day, and my wife Michelle tells me…”) Lovely.  (It should be noted that Obama has since apologized for the comment.)

 

Jocular merits aside, one can’t help but wonder: would Obama’s joke violate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?  The Convention has a host of problems, not the least of which is its potential to be extremely anti-life, but to its credit it’s very clear about stereotyping the disabled in a negative way.  For example, Article 8, Section 1 states that state parties should take actions: “(a) To raise awareness throughout society, including at the family level, regarding persons with disabilities, and to foster respect for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities; (b) To combat stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices relating to persons with disabilities, including those based on sex and age, in all areas of life; (c) To promote awareness of the capabilities and contributions of persons with disabilities.”  Article 8, Section 2 urges state parties “To promote positive perceptions and greater social awareness towards persons with disabilities;” (a, ii) and “To promote recognition of the skills, merits and abilities of persons with disabilities, and of their contributions to the workplace and the labour market;” (a, iii).  This is to happen not merely at the governmental level, but also by “Encouraging all organs of the media to portray persons with disabilities in a manner consistent with the purpose of the present Convention;” (c) Somehow I don’t think that the nation’s highest executive authority belittling the athletic skills of the disabled on the top-rated late night talk show is quite what the Convention has in mind.

Thankfully for President Obama the United States is not a signatory to the Convention, and has not moved to ratify it, so his flub won’t be discussed during any periodic reports before the implementation committee anytime soon.  On the other hand, Obama’s campaign did promise to see the treaty ratified by the Senate.  While I may think Obama’s joke last night was in poor taste, I certainly don’t think it should be subject to the scrutiny of a bevy of liberal, cosmopolitan “human rights experts” at the UN.  Does President Obama?  Does he still support the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?  Or is his policy simply to belittle the disabled at home, and empower their radically liberal “advocates” abroad?

Can’t we just bring back Kilborn?

by Michael Fragoso

March 19, 2009

For those of you keeping track, there has been a recent bevy of digital ink spilt on the Jon Stewart- Jim Cramer kerfuffle.  At about the same time I chimed in, Mark Hemmingway at National Review gave us an excellent run down on this feud and the larger Stewart comedic bait-and-switch.  Wunderkind Ben Shapiro presented a similar anti-Stewart brief over at Big Hollywood.  Tucker Carlson has presented his insider’s testimony about Stewart as pseudo-pundit.  And the always enjoyable Jon Last has been following the business with a matter-of-fact and correct read on Stewart’s soporific lack of funny.  Furthermore, the CEO of NBC Universal, Jeff Zucker, has gone on the attack, calling Stewart’s hit job “absurd.”

A friend of mine reminds me that amidst all of this Jon Stewart-as-comic-or-pundit talk it would be best if we kept one neologism in mind: “clapter.”  About a year ago Reader’s Digest ran an interview with Tina Fey.  Like Stewart, Fey is about as mired in leftist politics as they come; unlike Stewart, Fey happens to be funny.  During the interview, Fey was asked what pleases her more, applause or laughter.  She responded,Laughter. You can prompt applause with a sign. My friend, SNL writer Seth Meyers, coined the term clapter, which is when you do a political joke and people go, ‘Woo-hoo.’ It means they sort of approve but didn’t really like it that much. You hear a lot of that on [whispers] The Daily Show.“  From the mouths of Democrats. 

 

The Daily Show with Tomas de Torquemada

by Michael Fragoso

March 13, 2009

Jim Cramer went on The Daily Show last night to be grilled by Jon Stewart. Liberals everywhere are singing the praises of Stewart, who went in loaded for bear. (See video here-Stewart’s language is saucy: you’ve been warned.) Stewart deftly illustrated the multitudes contained within Cramer-both a loudmouth performer, and a cool, savvy Wall Street operator-and excoriated CNBC, Cramer, and market capitalism in his characteristically self-righteous and crypto-Marxist way (“When are we going to realize in this country that our wealth is work? That we’re workers…”). Apparently finance is serious business and Cramer’s goofy “Mad Money” persona makes Stewart mad. Mad enough that he felt the need to embarrass Cramer for 3 segments in front of his audience of clapping New York sycophants.

And yet, Cramer has been at this for years (I recall watching Mad Money with my friends in college because Cramer’s histrionics and questionable stock advice could be quite entertaining). Why did Jon Stewart decide to take Cramer to the woodshed on March 12, 2009? Why not a month ago-or six months ago, or a year ago, or four years ago? It turns out that Cramer and Stewart have been feuding ever since Stewart began taking shots at Rick Santelli for his “Chicago Tea Party” outburst. This feud, like Stewart’s previous one with Tucker Carlson, is predicated on his infuriating bait-and-switch routine: 1.) Sanctimoniously deliver a sucker punch about a serious political or cultural matter in which there is substantive disagreement; 2.) Respond to counter attack by saying “I’m just a comedian, don’t hold me to high standards! I make jokes! I’m no expert!” 3.) Behave like a smug expert and deliver more substantive criticism. 4.) Respond to next counter attack by saying “I’m just a clown! Watch me make funny faces!” 5.) Repeat until plaudits pour in from Gawker, Huffington Post, and other snark-mongers.

The fact is that Cramer’s shtick has not changed, and yet it is now that Stewart decides to declare Sicilian vendetta. Since Mad Money premiered, and in many ways going back to his stint on Kudlow & Cramer, Cramer has been a clown for the masses and a savant for the privileged-and Whitman-like in his ability to embrace the contradiction. What has changed is this: Cramer, like Santelli before him, went after the “wealth-destroyer,” President Obama. When the self-described liberal Jim Cramer was jumping around, biting the heads off toy bulls, yelling, “BUY! BUY! BUY!” and supporting Barack Obama, Stewart was nowhere to be found. When the self-described liberal Jim Cramer does all the same things but now dares to criticize the patently horrendous fiscal policies of the new President, that’s when Jon Stewart gets mad. Stewart insists it’s “not political,” and yet the timing is anything but.

Perhaps this explains why Obama tolerates the constant bumbling of Robert Gibbs: who needs a Press Secretary when your cult of personality is enough to turn a late-night comedy show into a camera stellata?

Dwight Daschle

by Michael Fragoso

February 3, 2009

Everyone is now familiar with former Sen. Tom Daschle’s failure to pay upwards of $100,000 in taxes. Hoping to salvage his nomination as HHS secretary he undertook the usual DC kabuki theater of the heartfelt apology. Unlike the usual show, however, Daschle didn’t apologize exactly, instead he said, “”I am deeply embarrassed and disappointed by the errors that required me to amend my tax returns.” I, for one, thought I accidentally had tuned into a repeat of Sunday’s episode of The Office. See this exchange (at 16:10) -

Dwight [reading from a page]: I state my regret.
Jim: You couldn’t have memorized that?

Dwight: I could not because I do not feel it.

In the Second Week of Advent, Newsweek Gave to Me…

by Michael Fragoso

December 8, 2008

Via the Corner, there is this profoundly misleading piece from Newsweek on marriage and the Bible.  In it, Lisa Miller attempts to go through the Bible bit by bit, showing how “Biblical” marriage is a ridiculous construct that no reasonable person would want-polygamy in the Old Testament, and Pauline prudishness in the New.  In the end, we should just adopt the Bible’s narrative of “inclusion” to be good Christians and accept same-sex marriage. 

Just to take one of her points: are self-described “Biblical” Christians bound to the polygamy of the Patriarchs?  Of course not.  In the 10th Century, Aelfric, Abbot of Eynsham, was asked to translate the first seven books of the Bible by his king into what is now known as Old English.  In his preface to the Book of Genesis he expresses his unease at such a task, worried that those who do not understand the canons of Scriptural Interpretation might misunderstand facts of the Old Testament.  Certain Biblical actions followed “the customs of the age” but were robustly condemned by the contemporary Church and had been since its inception, such as the polygamy of the Patriarchs or the attempted sacrifice of Isaac.  Aelfric notes that those who hear these stories should not be allowed to dwell on the literal actions of the Patriarchs, but rather on the educative functions: such as polygamy as representing the fecundity of the Church, or the sacrifice of Isaac prefiguring Christ on the cross.  Instead, he feared, any powerful Saxons who had this read to them by an unthinking priest-as the non-clerical classes were largely illiterate at the time-would see Genesis as a license to commit polygamy or engage in human sacrifices, against the expressed teachings of their Church, but with an apparent “Biblical” mandate. 

Likewise, all of Miller’s “novel” objections to St. Paul’s famous “It is better to marry than to burn” line* or questions about Christ’s evident chastity have been answered countless times throughout Christian history, but that doesn’t stop her from making them as if she’s done something terribly groundbreaking in the process.

Frankly, dealing any more with Miller’s specifics would not be at all fruitful.  She elides much of the New Testament, and her history is reliant on the quotably wrong Stephanie Coontz.  Where does one begin to answer imputations that King David was a homosexual?  How can one comprehend-let alone respond to-an argument that first apparently admits Christ’s virgin birth and then proceeds to equate the Holy Family to “Jesus has two (Immaculate) Mommies”?  The Bible is simply a weapon-at-hand for her preferred policy ends.  She’s the sort of person Aeflric was worried about. 

*It is worth noting that even here Miller’s translation betrays a prejudice.  She takes St. Paul to mean “burn with passion.”  Perhaps.  He also might mean “burn [in Hell].”  The early Fathers were divided on the issue, as were many prominent glossators.  It’s funny how the inconvenient, morally absolute reading-found in King James, among other translations-doesn’t get picked up by Miller. 

The Hunt for Red Beluga

by Michael Fragoso

November 13, 2008

In a case that resembled a mix between a Tom Clancy novel and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Navy can use its active sonar when conducting drills and fleet operations off the California coast.  Environmental groups had argued that active sonar pinging could be harmful to marine mammals, and thus ought not to be permitted.  The Navy countered that such fleet operations are necessary to keep our forces up to snuff in their sub-hunting abilities in the event of a naval war. 

The short of it is that an environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, sued the Navy arguing that they failed to issue an environmental impact report for their exercises in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  A district court judge saw things the same way, and the Navy agreed to issue the report, but chafed at the sonar-use restrictions placed upon them by the court.  President Bush stepped in, directing that the Navy be exempt in this case from the NEPA because these sub-hunting exercises are necessary for national security in time of war.  Unsurprisingly, the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and upheld the lower ruling, resulting in yesterday’s Supreme Court decision, which had a comfortable 6-3 margin.

Some readers might recognize this case from the Court Jesters segment at our Values Voters Summit back in September.  (Phyllis Schlafly wrote a poem about it.)  It’s very refreshing to see that-at least for now-we have a Supreme Court willing to correct the silliness of activist judges.

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