Naked City

The "AA-S' Chastity Patrol

Someone must be dumping a foreign substance -- maybe saltpeter -- into the water supply down on Town Lake, or wherever Austin American-Statesman columnists are imbibing their inspiration. On Wednesday, Feb. 20, Marvin "Calvinists Love Longer" Olasky delivered a hallucinatory version of the American Revolution, in which the British lost not because they were fighting an unjust colonial war far from home -- nor because they were using outmoded military tactics in guerrilla combat -- but because the British commanders just couldn't keep their pants on. According to Olasky, unlike Brits William Howe, the Earl of Sandwich, and George Sackville -- who were always chasing young mistresses, or worse, younger soldiers -- George Washington was virtuous and mature, a bit of a dullard, not much of a speechmaker, and faithful to his wife -- i.e., just like George W. Bush. Ergo, his troops were loyal and won the war. (Olasky argued this extremely dubious thesis at embarrassing length in his 1999 book, The American Leadership Tradition: Moral Vision From Washington to Clinton. The subtitle gives the game away.)

The next day, Cal "The Frother" Thomas addressed the Bush administration's proposal to spend $100 million promoting marriage among the poor. Thomas is less than enthusiastic, but not because he doubts that it's the government's business to be improving the moral condition of poor people. He just fears it can't work, because "the culture" has abandoned the "stigma" against divorce and illegitimacy, and until we get that back -- by such helpful means as exchanging the values of Ozzie and Harriet for those of Sex and the City -- well, poor people are just going to go on having sex, and babies, without permission. The point here, of course, is that poor people aren't poor because they have no money -- or decent jobs, or living wages, or sustaining economic prospects, but it's because they don't behave like sitcom families from the Fifties, especially when it comes to sex.

This bilge is predictable enough from syndicated conservative columnists, whose appointed task it is to defend every retrograde social policy proposed in D.C. But on Saturday, Feb. 23, Lifestyle columnist Ricardo Gándara weighed in, openly advocating that government subsidies go to such religious proselytizing programs as "True Love Waits," as recently staged by the "PromiseLand" youth pastor Ricky Poe. Poe says he would accept federal welfare funds for promoting abstinence to teenagers, "as long as there's not too much red tape." You know, pesky technicalities like the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the federal government from directly subsidizing religion. It doesn't merit a mention by Gándara, who admittedly -- to judge from past columns -- may be getting increasingly deranged by the prospect of his three young daughters becoming teenagers. Believe me, we understand.

But why stop there? Why not divert federal welfare funds to PromiseLand's recent program of touring speakers who promise to "cure" homosexuality via fundamentalism? Or its Halloween "Haunted House," which promised hellfire and damnation for adulterers and abortionists? The prospect opens up a whole new field of social theory.

For example, also on Saturday, the Statesman business section reported that the Central Texas unemployment rate had reached 5.4%, the worst since June 1990. You might think the 13,100 local people thrown out of work last year lost their jobs because of the recession, or business failures, or other economic factors beyond their control. Newly enlightened by the Statesman's social theorists, however -- Olasky, Thomas, and Gándara -- you should now realize the true underlying cause of unemployment, poverty, and "the welfare cycle." It's sex. (And if the recession persists, expect more of this wooly nonsense in the op-ed pages.)

Lost your job? Think abstinence.

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