A cultural rubicon. Hempfest, a three-day festival expected to attract 85,000 people per day, begins today in Seattle. It will be the first year for the festival since Seattle legalized marijuana, though police have long been lenient about pot use during the festival. This year, though, they’re going one step further: Police will pass out bags of Doritos with messages attached explaining the new marijuana law, which still (supposedly) prohibits smoking in a public space. The message does not, however, mention that marijuana causes memory loss, intoxication, and dependence. This likely will make me sound like a cranky old man, but when police start passing out munchies at a pot fest, we’ve crossed a cultural Rubicon.
Dude looks like a lady. I occasionally get asked if I “believe in” female pastors, priests, and bishops. The question confuses a key issue—whether it is possible for women to hold ordained office. To use fancy theological language, this is an ontological question, not a sociological question. In other words, whether I “believe in” something does not change the fact of its existence (or not). “Believing in” unicorns does not make them real. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the latest denomination to demonstrate they do not understand these questions. The ELCA just voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new presiding bishop, Elizabeth Eaton. Most observers expected the former presiding bishop, Mark Hanson, to be re-elected, but Hanson presided over the denomination when it voted to allow openly homosexual clergy—another ontological question. Hanson, in other words, is dying by the same sword he wielded. That’s some justice, anyway.
Obamacare delays. With each passing week, aspects of Obamacare get delayed. In July, the Obama administration announced it was delaying by one year the large employer mandate. Large employers now have until 2015 to provide employee health insurance, or face fines. The administration also delayed by a year rolling out procedures to verify incomes of people claiming government subsidies to buy insurance on the state health exchanges. Do all these delays mean the wheels are coming off the Obamacare bus? I was in Washington, D.C., this week, and conservative activist Grover Norquist told me that these delays for “Obama’s friends” give conservatives leverage to “delay and defund” Obamacare for everyone. I must confess, though, that I’m less hopeful. President Barack Obama has demonstrated that he is patient, and many aspects of Obamacare are already implemented, popular, and likely permanent. Still, I wouldn’t count out Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, the two lawmakers leading the charge to defund Obamacare. They’re brilliant and relentless, and they are right when they say the stakes are high: Full implementation of Obamacare will permanently and negatively change American cultural and economic life.
Water, water everywhere. I ran across another example recently of ideology masquerading as journalism. A commentator for the supposedly “middle of the road” MarketWatch, quoting supposedly reputable studies (from, for example, Scientific American, an overtly left-leaning magazine), wants us to believe that pollution and water shortages will be the “biggest enemy” we face in 2024. The article says it will take $60 trillion to solve these twin problems. The commentator also is quick to point out that the current economic output of the entire planet is $70 trillion. The article, however, fails to point out a lot of inconvenient truths. For one, by 2024 the planet’s economic output likely will have doubled or more, so even if this really is a $60-trillion problem, that fact alone makes the scale of the problem much less than he wants us to believe. Secondly, in a free-market economy, one man’s problem is another man’s opportunity. This “problem” is only a real problem if we attempt to solve it with government solutions. Water shortages are tailor-made for free-market, technological solutions. This is especially true because, thirdly, the writer fails to take into account that the planet is 70 percent water. We don’t have a water shortage, we have a distribution challenge. I repeat: This is the kind of problem free and open markets are really excellent at solving. Fourthly, the writer fails to take into account that the planet has gotten cleaner and safer in the past 100 years—if you take out wars and mass murder caused by totalitarian regimes. That said, I can tell you that, after spending six weeks in Colorado this summer, water issues are important in the West, and elsewhere. But the sort of solutions this MarketWatch commentator would have us implement would make the problem worse, not better.