What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

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September 2007 Archives

September 1, 2007

And another thing...

...that's wrong with the world.

The "Palestinians" are tearing up more irreplaceable archeological finds on Temple Mount, while the Israelis (in the capital of whose country this is taking place) turn a blind eye. Well, that isn't quite fair. The Israeli archeological community is appalled at the present act of destruction--a piece of wall from the Second Temple bulldozed in the course of supposed electrical work. But the Antiquities Authority is making no effort to stop the barbaric work, so it goes on. To add insult to injury, the archeologists aren't even allowed to observe, take pictures, or make any other attempt to record the finds being destroyed...at night.

I say "more irreplaceable finds," because ten years ago the "Palestinians" bulldozed material from below Temple Mount and were dumping it in loads of dirt. Eventually the archeologists managed to get their hands on the dirt (thanks so very much) and found many important artifacts, including lamps, pottery, coins, and a marble pillar.

It is surely no coincidence that the people doing all of this literally deny the existence of Jewish temples on the mount, ever, at any point in history, persisting in their delusional views in the face of massive archeological evidence. And that's part of the entire delusional Muslim, not to mention "Palestinian," approach to reality. There was no Jewish presence in Israel before the 1880's, y'know. Oh, and the Wailing Wall? That was where Mohammed hitched his horse when he came to Jerusalem from Mecca. Truly, you couldn't make this stuff up.

September 3, 2007

Technology ain’t always so bad.

I have grave doubts about the true value of technology, like any good Conservative. This position is strained by discoveries like this. Last night our esteemed Mrs. McGrew pointed out that Google Books includes William Muir’s classic The Life of Mohamet, right there in a reading format. Then I read a vigorous and wise statement by Touchstone’s James Kushiner:

I propose that no bishops be consecrated in any church unless they have studied and inwardly digested the full ecclesiastical history of the fourth century, beginning with the mass persecutions, then on to Nicaea, the Arian-inspired exiles and persecutions, and beyond. They should be rigorously quizzed on the names, the dates, the documents, the accounts of the martyrs, and then sign a form (in triplicate, of course!) saying they will faithfully walk in the steps of these orthodox bishops (and saints), and defend, to their last breath, that which was handed on from the apostles, and if not, then get a real job.

— Which, in turn, sent me off on a search which produced this. So there. Technology ain’t all bad.

September 4, 2007

The PGA Playoffs in full swing.

We saw some of the best golf of the year yesterday outside of Boston. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, paired together for the third time in this second round of the PGA Playoffs — the Deutsche Bank Championship — did not disappoint. For a time it looked as though Mickelson would just run away with it, but Tiger gave him a good run — good enough, indeed, to make this viewer wonder whether Mickelson would choke against Woods yet again. In the end he did not, putting markedly better than his rival and capturing the top position in the Playoff standings as the Tour moves to Chicago for its third leg.

Continue reading "The PGA Playoffs in full swing." »

Gratitude

When this blog was brand new (several months back) our esteemed editor, Paul Cella, posted a piece referring to conservatives as "the party of grateful men." I think that's quite right and have recently been reminded of some perhaps rather unusual things for which to be grateful.

In particular, it occurs to me that I have a special personal duty to be grateful to all the people who created and who continue to maintain the culture of Baptist and other Protestant evangelical Christianity. While I am now a continuing Anglican of low-church sympathies, my upbringing was entirely, even aggressively fundamentalist Protestant, and I've not entirely lost touch with it. As things presently stand, that culture provides me with most of my closest physically-present friends.

Recently we were privileged to have some of these friends over--a very large and very musical family.

Continue reading "Gratitude" »

September 6, 2007

Libertarianism Ain't What it Used to Be

Milton Friedman once famously remarked that "It’s just obvious you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”

And, speaking as somebody who still, doggedly, likes to think of himself as a libertarian, I think he was right. Once the taxpayer is shelling out thousands of dollars worth of benefits to poor immigrants, it's simply ridiculous to discuss the issue of immigration as if it were merely a matter of private contracts between employers and employees, in which the taxpayer has no legitimate interest.

Yet certain prominent libertarians, like Will Wilkinson, persist in doing just that. What's worse, they don't hesitate to tar as bigots those who dare to raise certain facts inconvenient to their position - without ever even attempting to refute those facts.

Shame on them.

Update below the line.

Continue reading "Libertarianism Ain't What it Used to Be" »

September 7, 2007

Adaptation Of The Hawks

It has been fascinating to watch the reevaluation of the virtues of more "organic," tribal society by those supporters of the war who not so many years ago believed that the Iraqis were not motivated by loyalty to "religion or tribe or whatever," but yearned to share in the bounty of modern alienation and freedom. Indeed, a few years ago the suggestion that Iraqis' tribal and sectarian loyalties would come to the fore, especially in a time of crisis, was met with disdain and not-so-veiled hints that the observer was a racist and a cultural relativist at the same time.

Continue reading "Adaptation Of The Hawks" »

September 8, 2007

Global Warming and the Jihad

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle. - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The popular trope on the Right is that Leftists are suicidal dhimmi when it comes to the Jihad. While there may be some truth to that, I don't think it is the whole story. In a recent thread, Lydia and I were both making dire predictions which we fervently hope will not come to pass. In the course of that thread a metaphor came up which may be helpful in understanding how modern left-liberals think about the Jihad.

The metaphor is this: the modern Left views the Jihad in much the same way that the modern Right views global warming.

Continue reading "Global Warming and the Jihad" »

September 11, 2007

The Victory of September 11.

La%20Valette.jpg
In 1565 the Grand Master of the Knights was a Frenchmen of Gascony, Jean Parisot de la Valette by name, who was by then (like Sultan Suleiman himself) in his seventies, but still vigorous. Piety and military acumen were his leading virtues: he was the very model of the warrior-priest, a kind of throwback to a dying medieval age. The religious fervor of the Knights had of late diminished, much as the chivalric piety of the medieval age itself was dying, and many of them had become worldly, sensuous, and arrogant. But La Valette, when he became Grand Master, aimed to check this corruption. Ernle Bradford calls him, “that rarest of human beings, a completely single-minded man.” His lieutenant was an Englishman, in exile from his homeland where Catholicism was proscribed; and it was this latter who decoded the reports from spies in Constantinople that the Turks were again massing against the Knights. The Order was the last vestige of that great Christian counterattack known as the Crusades, and the Sultan was now determined to stamp it out forever. Communiqués were sent all over Europe, calling the Knights to the defense of their last island home.

For the strategists of the Turks, including an old Algerian corsair called Dragut, Malta was more than just the remnant of an antique military order: it was the key to a proposed offensive in the western Mediterranean, an offensive that was to cow the Spanish and if possible carry the jihad to the very doors of St. Peter’s. And in any case, since Sicily, Sardinia, Majorca, and southern Spain itself had once been Islamic lands, it was a duty imposed upon the Sultan, by the iron principles of jihad, as duly constituted ruler, the successor to the caliph, to recover them from the infidel. Lands where the banners of the Crescent had once flown proudly must be returned to the Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam). The presence of the Maltese Knights barred such a project; and therefore the reduction of the island would be a prelude to a wider war. Said Dragut: “Unless you have smoked out this nest of vipers, you can do no good anywhere.” In March of 1565, a fleet of nearly 200 vessels, bearing some 40,000 soldiers (including 6,500 elite shock troops known as the Janissaries), assembled in the Golden Horn for the Sultan's inspection. Dragut made two astute recommendations: move against the isle early in the season, and detach a significant flotilla to menace the Spanish mainland, thereby preventing aid from the Emperor. Once the invasion began, the more confident among the Sultan's advisers anticipated the victory to come — in a matter of days.

The victory never came. Across Europe news of the bravery of Knights — outnumbered five to one or more — rang like a great tocsin. All throughout that brutal summer on the sun-baked isle, the Turks had been repulsed, time after time, in their attempts to take the Christian fortresses of Malta. One such fortress had been reduced to rubble by Turkish artillery, and its garrison (almost every one of them already dead) desecrated by enraged Turks; but the other had held. Casualties among the Sultan’s army had been terrible, and disease ran rampant. The stiffness of the resistance, added to the depredations of pestilence and heatstroke, had won for Western Christians their first great victory over the Turk. La Valette’s final address to his men has come down to us:

A formidable army composed of audacious barbarians is descending on this island. These persons, my brothers, are the enemies of Jesus Christ. Today it is a question of the defense of our faith — as to whether the Gospels are to be superseded by the Koran. God on this occasion demands of us our lives, already vowed to his service. Happy will be those who first consummate this sacrifice.

The date of this victory has for us a certain resonance: it was September 11, 1565.

From that day we may date the decline of Turkish power on the Mediterranean. Six years later at Lepanto, a vast Ottoman fleet was decisively beaten by a comparable fleet of the Christian Holy League in one of the largest and bloodiest naval battles ever fought. The Knights were there on that day too. On another September 11, 1683, the Polish King John Sobieski led an army to relieve Vienna from a Turkish siege, in a battle that marks the end of the Turkish advance into Europe. These dates may strike us today as very ancient indeed; the reader may wonder what significance they have to us. The answer is that they form the conclusion to a very long story, a great tale of human drama, mostly forgotten now by a forgetful people k a drama that, on yet another September 11th, was renewed here in America. It is the story of the Jihad.

There can be little doubt that this story, now updated to include our own contributions to it, will bulk bigger for our children and grandchildren than it does for us. Jihad has come to America, as it once came to Byzantium, which was Rome; as it once came to Latin North Africa, and extinguished that ancient civilization; as it once came to Spain, to France, to Italy, to Greece and the Balkans; to India and to Russia; and, much more recently, to Great Britain, to Spain again, to Bali, to the Philippines, to Canada, to Denmark; and to a dozen other places. Jihad is a fact: a massive and glaring fact. It is the religious doctrine that has motivated men to make war against the Unbeliever for fourteen centuries.

The idea of religious war is not something modern man ever really contemplates; he only shudders at it. But this, for our enemies and thus inevitably also for us, is a religious war, whether or not we in the secular world of the West will take it seriously. If men choose to make war against you on religious grounds, you cannot change the fact of this religious war by wishing it weren't so. This one, moreover, has been a very long war, waged over souls and for the souls of whole nations; therefore it has been slow and erratically conducted. Rare is the war that occupies the leaders of more than one generation of men; rarer still is the war that occupies leaders of more than one age of men. This one has occupied medieval men, renaissance men, modern men, and it will surely implicate postmodern men. It began in what we call the Dark Age and has not yet ended; and we would do well not to sneer at a war that has gazed with patient, jaded eyes on the Battle of Tours, the fall of Constantinople and the Siege of Vienna; the victory of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and her defeat; the break up of Catholic Europe and the decay of Protestantism; and the rise and fall of Feudalism, Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy, each in turn.

On this day, when we remember the act of treachery and malevolence that finally made manifest to us this war, it is foolish to abstract it from its historical context. It is foolish to remember New York, September 11, 2001, and never once think about Vienna, September 11, 1683, or Malta, September 11, 1565; or even Constantinople, May 29, 1453 or Tours, October 7, 732. We might as well talk obsessively about Normandy and say nothing of Pearl Harbor or the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. We might as well fix our attention on Gettysburg and cultivate perfect innocence of Ft. Sumter or First Manassas. No, we must show more imagination than that. We must bring ourselves around to see that there are older and more implacable things on this earth than what our predilections tell us, and that the Jihad is one of the oldest and most implacable.

September 13, 2007

Tar-al-Islam, Baby

More than a year ago my monday-morning quarterback guess was that 9-11 was a tar baby strategy on the part of al Qaeda: that the idea was that we would either be too weak willed to respond at all, or if we responded we would overcommit and end up in a Soviets-in-Afghanistan style war of attrition that we cannot win.

A year or so later, I haven't seen any reason to change that view. It seems to me that al Qaeda's strategy - if that was the strategy - worked. The reason we haven't been attacked again is because things are going exactly according to plan. Instead of narrowly focusing on wiping out al Qaeda and getting serious about preventing the form of sedition called "Jihad" at home, we decided to change the world one predominantly Muslim country at a time, starting with one that had nothing to do with 9-11.

And if we don't want to have various parts of our anatomy handed to us over the long run, one of the first things to do is admit and understand why we've had a certain one handed to us in the short run.

September 16, 2007

A Muslim Miscellany

Herewith a miscellany of mostly-recent news items, possibly of interest to our readers and certainly relevant to our site's purpose.

Rod Dreher has excerpts from the Muslim Brotherhood's 1991 plan, recently put in evidence in the HLF trial, for taking over the United States by gradual means. I'm no Crunchy Con, but that just makes me all the more pleased to see Rod publicizing this stuff. It is perhaps worth pointing out that the Muslim Brotherhood, dedicated to "dying in the cause of Allah" and "the way of jihad" was founded in 1928. I'll let y'all think about the relevance of this fact to some of the rationales given for Muslim rage, jihadist activities, and so forth.

In other news, Houssein Zorkot, a medical student in Dearbornistan who is a big-time Hezbollah supporter was arrested for wandering about in a public park with a loaded AK-47. A group of people in the park called 9-11 when they heard what they believed to be the sound of his cocking the gun. Screen caps from his web site show one picture with the caption "The Start of my Personal Jihad (in the US)." The Hezbollah supporters in the Dearborn area also send death threats to columnist Debbie Schlussel. (Language alert on the links. Schlussel quotes the e-mails she has received.) This is a "take notes" moment for those who believe that Hezbollah is not our problem.

Continue reading "A Muslim Miscellany" »

September 18, 2007

Ideology and globalism.

Poor David Gelernter. I suppose he just cannot see the difficulties in his own argument, as exposed by his own argument. He cannot see that what is right in his argument overturns what is wrong. He cannot see that his most compelling polemics may be easily applied to him. He cannot see, in short, that he is arguing against himself.

The Democrats are not unpatriotic, but their patriotism is directed at a large abstract entity called The International Community or even (aping Bronze Age paganism) the Earth, not at America. Benjamin Disraeli anticipated this worldview long ago when he called Liberals the “Philosophical” and Conservatives the “National” party. Liberals are loyal to philosophical abstractions — and seek harmony with the French and Germans. Conservatives are loyal to their own nation, and seek harmony with its Founders and heroes and guiding principles.

This is certainly true. The derailment of patriotism by ideology is one of the more prominent features of our age. Men delude themselves that ideas are countries, or countries ideas, and thus that patriotism is merely a sincere commitment to philosophical abstractions. But when Gelernter gets around to telling us how we should oppose the Liberal ideology, how to counter the derailment of patriotism, he can only offer another ideology:

Americanism is the set of beliefs that has always held this country together in its large embrace. Americanism calls for liberty, equality, and democracy for all mankind. And it urges this nation to promote the American Creed wherever and whenever it can — to be the shining city on a hill, the “last, best hope of earth.” Ultimately, Americanism is derived from the Bible. The Bible itself has been a grand unifying force in American society, uniting Christians of many creeds from Eastern Orthodox to Unitarian, and Jews, and Bible-respecting deists like Thomas Jefferson — and many others who respect and honor the Bible whatever their own religious beliefs.

So really the charge against the Democrats is not their mania for abstractions, but that they adhere to the wrong ones. Their abstractions are not ambitious enough.

Continue reading "Ideology and globalism." »

September 19, 2007

Bleachers in the sun.

Sometimes the stubbornness of the Iraq war promoters, in the face of the perplexing troubles we face there, wanders into the category of absurd. We are urged fervently to support a war effort that has no strategy for victory. I mean, that is what it comes down to. Every pronouncement from Bush administration officials amounts to the statement that our object over there is, in essence, to hang on for dear life until the Iraqis get their act together. But whether the Iraqis can get their act together is always left an open question, or worse, an unexamined assumption. So our strategy hinges on something that by our own admission is beyond our control.

We are very good at mopping the floor with any Jihadist brigands who dare to tangle with our soldiers. We are good a building infrastructure. We have had some success in winning allies to our side among both Shia and Sunni Muslims. But from none of this does it follow that Iraq will become a stable, functional state, much less a democracy. That remains up to the people of Iraq, a people so riven by divisions as to leave open the question of whether such a thing is possible even in ideal conditions.

The whole business put one in the mind of the comical absurdity in the final verse of Bob Dylan famous song, “Highway 61 Revisited,” on the album of the same name:

Now the rovin' gambler he was very bored
He was tryin' to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61.

September 20, 2007

Privatized Profits, Socialized Costs, Writ Large

Referencing a contribution by Ezra Klein to an ongoing conversation about Wal-Mart, its business model and the social, political, and economic consequences of that model, Reihan Salam states, or, perhaps, sketches, the case for wage subsidies:


Hence the case for wage subsidies. Wal-Mart shouldn't be held responsible for solving all our social ills. On the center-left, there really are (at least) two distinct approaches to Wal-Mart: in cities like Chicago, politicians target big-box stores per se, as though Wal-Mart were a black-hatted corporate villain that exists in a vacuum. (McDonald's also plays this role.) Then there are those who very sensibly advocate comprehensive national policies that would impact all of us. My bias is clear. The right policies are those that use revenues raised by broad-based taxes to fund a basic minimum: a decent wage and health care.

At first brush, this is baffling. In the final analysis, it remains baffling. I suspect I will still find it baffling even after I have digested Salam and Douthat's argument for wage subsidies in their forthcoming book. For manifestly, the proposed wage subsidies are intended as a solution to the problem of the substandard wages and benefits provided by Wal-Mart - and many other corporations these days - and equally manifestly, a standard line of conservative analysis would rightly portray such a subsidy as a de facto subsidy of Wal-Mart's scrooge-like wage policies. Wal-Mart will be enabled to continue its low-wage, low cost policies, which are profitable, but impose significant externalities on a society unwilling to countenance Dickensian conditions among the poor and lower-middle; and the costs of those externalities will be borne by you and me, dear readers. The plutocrats will reap their earthly rewards, while we will pay to mitigate the penury of their employees. Or, they could simply pay higher wages, and pass the costs along to us as consumers of goods and services, and eliminate the government middlemen, which would be less convoluted. As I say, baffling.

Continue reading "Privatized Profits, Socialized Costs, Writ Large" »

September 21, 2007

The Bushian Folly, In Cartoon Format

Via Lawrence Auster, a luminous send-up of the feckless war policy of the Bush adminstration. Have a look.

What Globalization Means

James Fallows, writer on Asian issues and moderate proponent of globalization - or so I gather - on the cash value of the enterprise:


First is the social effect visible around the world, which in homage to China’s Communist past we can call “intensifying the contradictions.” Global trade involves one great contradiction: The lower the barriers to the flow of money, products, and ideas, the less it matters where people live. But because most people cannot move from one country to another, it will always matter where people live. In a world of frictionless, completely globalized trade, people on average would all be richer—but every society would include a wider range of class, comfort, and well-being than it now does. Those with the most marketable global talents would be richer, because they could sell to the largest possible market. Everyone else would be poorer, because of competition from a billions-strong labor pool. With no trade barriers, there would be no reason why the average person in, say, Holland would be better off than the average one in India. Each society would contain a cross section of the world’s whole income distribution—yet its people would have to live within the same national borders.


We’re nowhere near that point. But the increasing integration of the American and Chinese economies pushes both countries toward it. This is more or less all good for China, but not all good for America. It means economic benefits mainly for those who have already succeeded, a harder path up for those who are already at a disadvantage, and further strain on the already weakened sense of fellow feeling and shared opportunity that allows a society as diverse and unequal as America’s to cohere.

I have but three questions for the present moment, though I imagine I'll have much more to say about all of this in the future.

First, should we regard this as just in the relevant sense, that is to say, consonant with our obligations towards our fellow Americans?

Second, if we decide that justice is not implicated in any of this, how should ordinary Americans think about this, given that the perception of justice - or, perhaps, a torpid, cynical shrug that there is nothing more one can do than receive the shaft - will be critical to the acceptance of this more nearly Hobbesian future?

Third, in what sense is this future desirable? At all. Bill Gates and the barrio. Who, other than those who either know, or will gamble, that they will be numbered among the fortunate few, would accept, in full cognizance, this (cough) social contract? And, given that so few people are in fact cognizant of any of this, though it is really as simple as arithmetic, what are the consequences for representative, republican, deliberative governance of such radical alterations in our mode of existence, brought about without deliberation, and without knowledge on the part of the people?

OK, so that is five questions, though numbers four and five follow upon the third. Readers likely already know where I stand: this is unjust, the people should recognize it as such, it is highly undesirable, only the morally stunted or somnolent would accept it, and it entails the evanescence of republican governance. This is the "cash value" of that "natural level of wages."

September 23, 2007

Called it in the air

I'm getting all the satisfaction I'm liable to get from the following story: That of having been proved instantaneously right.

Here is the story I first read yesterday morning about what flight attendants regarded as suspicious behavior and a terrorist threat by two "individuals" aboard a flight coming into the Raleigh-Durham airport. (Actually, I saw this linked from LGF. But the LGF story has been updated to include what I'm going to reveal below.) As you can see, there are no details as to what the two individuals did. Nor does the general public evidently have such details yet.

So I read it, turned to my husband and said, "When the FBI says there was no danger and that it was just a misunderstanding, I won't believe it." He thereupon did a little clicking around, and in seconds, came up with this story. Headline: "Incident on Flight to RDU Posed No Threat." And in the first sentence, we have...you got it...It was a misunderstanding.

I don't believe it. It would be helpful to be able to evaluate for ourselves how plausible the "misunderstanding" theory is, but no one is telling us what the two guys said or did. Interesting.

And on the subject of flight security, here was the photo doing the rounds of the blogosphere yesterday. Y'all can put this in the "I feel much safer now" file. In case you can't tell, the TSA agent frisking the habited nun is wearing a hijab.

Update: The link for the photo was wrong in the original version of this post. I've fixed it. Try again if you didn't get a photo of a nun being frisked before.

September 25, 2007

Book review.

Steve Talbott’s new book Devices of the Soul is, first, a careful and illuminating examination of technological society by a man conversant with its sources and mechanics; second, a calm, elegant but unrelenting polemic against the particular disorder and infirmity engendered by it; and third, a series of intimations toward the recovery of health. In all three guises, the book is a valuable contribution; in the last, it is most intriguing and provocative. The author is a man of unusual breadth of learning: he turned from organic farming to software programming and technical writing, and from that to online pamphleteering with an electronic newsletter called NetFuture. He was urging caution against the “widespread utopian expectations for the Internet” well before the Internet had hit its stride. In this book Talbott urges nothing less than a recovery of our humanity, which he perceives as threatened by our idol-worship of technology. [read more] devices.jpg

The Utopia of the Utilitarians

I returned home this evening in a state of righteous indignation, for, unlike Daniel Larison and Noah Millman, I am not disposed towards temperate responses to incandescent lunacy.

But then, while walking from the kitchen, I stepped on a one-inch wood staple that had somehow become flattened out, and it penetrated, just above the ball of my right foot, to a depth of half an inch, which left me more irritable than indignant. However, reacquainting myself with that incandescent lunacy has revived my spirits somewhat; and, considering the nature of that lunacy, how could it not?


Today we regard a Northerner circa 1855 who transported, housed, and concealed from authority a fugitive slave as a moral visionary, despite the fact that he was flouting the laws of his time. Is there any morally relevant distinction between that individual and someone today who smuggles a refugee from Zimbabwe into the United States, shelters him in his home, and helps him evade the immigration authorities? (snip) Mike Linksvayer likes to call this system “international apartheid,” and I think there’s a lot of merit to thinking about it in those terms. We regard it as barbaric when a society limits peoples’ economic and social opportunities based on a morally arbitrary characteristic like skin color, as South Africa did until the 1980s, and as the United States did until the 1960s. By and large, our laws no longer discriminate on the basis of race. But where you were born is of no greater moral relevance than the color of your skin. So if it’s wrong to consign someone to second-class citizenship based on skin color, why should we feel any more comfortable about forcing someone to live someplace horrible like Zimbabwe simply because that’s where he happens to have been born? (snip) We would consider it barbaric to permanently exile an American citizen to Zimbabwe, even if he was a hardened criminal. Yet most people don’t think twice about imposing the same penalty on someone from Zimbabwe, based solely on the fact that he had the misfortune of being born there. I’m having an awfully hard time coming up with a moral theory that could justify such a difference in treatment.

Continue reading "The Utopia of the Utilitarians" »

September 26, 2007

Hamara Des, Hamara Rishta

It is rare for anyone to say that I have responded temperately to anything, so I owe Jeff my gratitude. Jeff has also done a fine job of chewing over what is really the most troubling part of my Scene colleague Tim's post. This is where he describes race and place of birth to be equally morally "arbitrary." They are therefore irrelevant in determining the obligations owed, and an unjustifiable basis on which to distinguish between people as a matter of law.

The argument against legal discrimination according to race holds that depriving someone of fundamental legal and civic rights on account of an "accident of birth" is unjust. Similarly, slavery, which Tim invokes in his post, is the complete deprivation of legal personhood based on either some contingency (e.g., being captured and sold) or an "accident of birth." Both involve a denial of something fundamental that cannot rightfully be denied someone on such a basis. Place of birth, on the other hand, is substantially different. (Leave aside for now that this line of argument, if consistently maintained, would make birthright citizenship--one of the shibboleths of pro-immigration advocates--entirely unjustifiable.) First of all, there is no act of depriving someone of anything that is rightfully owed to him. There is no "right to immigrate," and so there can be no injustice in denying someone entry on the basis of origin and nationality. There is no question of force or coercion being used to "keep" someone in his home country, but simply in preventing entry into our own.

Continue reading "Hamara Des, Hamara Rishta" »

Behind the Ate Ball

This is what happens when Wesley J. Smith goes on vacation. I start missing pro-life-relevant news items. Just now heard about the Vatican's responses on administering nutrition and hydration, even to people in a so-called persistent vegetative state. They sound perfectly sensible to me, particularly the emphasis on this as "ordinary and proportionate" care.

HT Secondhand Smoke

September 27, 2007

Why Will Wilkinson Has No Argument

Apropos of two recent posts here at WWWtW, and in response to this characteristically unilluminating Will Wilkinson post, Daniel Larison highlights the non-discursive nature of Wilkinson's remarks:


My concluding points in these two cases (Two previous instances, linked in Daniel's piece, in which D.L. observes that Wilkinson is not really arguing anything - Maximos.) were to draw attention to the fact that the points of contention between Mr. Wilkinson and his interlocutors are not disagreements over anything like measurable practical benefits for the world’s poorest or anyone else. They are disagreements between libertarians such as Mr. Wilkinson and conservatives, because the two are sharply, seemingly irreconcilably at odds about basic values. He berates conservatives for privileging the interests of fellow citizens and countrymen (which he finds “morally abhorrent”), but beyond asserting that this act of privileging is wrong he does not give any persuasive reason why this should be so, except to fall back on his assumption that distinguishing between citizen and non-citizen is arbitrary and wrong.

I would like to enter a simple observation, namely, that there is a transparent reason for the non-discursive nature of Wilkinson's remarks, and that is, that their moral terms are functions of two (implicit) libertarian hallucinations claims: the right of the individual qua individual, as a unit of volition shorn of his historical contingencies, to maximize his personal utility, and the desirability of the global economic system becoming maximally efficient, in the aggregate, as a reflection of maximized personal utility functions - neither of which Wilkinson, or anyone else adopting similar positions, has deigned to defend, as opposed to assert. At this point, I could invoke MacIntyre on the incommensurability of the traditions, but the libertarian/liberal/globalist position is so radically at variance with, oh, everything from lived human experience to the findings of sociobiologists, that at this stage of the game it merits nothing more than derision.

Relatedly, Mr. Lee, incognizant of the follies of his previous post, has more or less done precisely what I said libertarians would do in my comments on Wilkinson, throwing in the hoary old libertarian shibboleth of 'denying social services to the masses of third-world utility-maximizers we are obligated to admit'. It is incumbent upon us to acknowledge that the willed imposition of such Dickensian conditions would be gravely immoral; albeit that denial would be the squaring of the circle - of the rights of Americans to maximize their utility and the rights of the third world migrants to maximize their utility - for the libertarian, for whom citizenship matters, except when it doesn't.

Libertarianism: applied autism.

Wild goose chases

Raymond Ibrahim, editor of The Al Qaeda Reader, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, discloses an interesting fact indeed. It seems that the propaganda of the Jihad takes two distinct forms, one for Western eyes and one for Islamic eyes. For Westerners, the language is one of grievance and accusation: the West has committed X, Y and Z crimes against the House of Islam; the Jihad is the just response to these outrages. Meanwhile, for Muslims an entirely different tone: the West is composed of infidels; between believer and infidel there is undying enmity; the Jihad is the just response of the House of Islam to the unbearable outrage of unbelief. In short, our enemies justify their raids and aggression to us by appeals to our weakness for victim narratives; but to Muslims they justify themselves by appeals to Islamic doctrine.

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September 29, 2007

Apples, Oranges, and Moral Equivalence

One of the less edifying features of our current public discourse is the tendency to say "shut up!" by accusing someone of postulating moral equivalence between, say, ourselves and the terrorists who have attacked us.

Now it is doubtless true that many critics of the Administration's follow-up to 9-11 really are attempting to draw a moral equivalence, or even worse, to displace moral blame for the attacks from those who carried them out to someone else. Certainly that is a dominant theme on the political Left, and the "Truther" phenomenon is its natural manifestation. If we are morally to blame then we must be the ones who actually did it, a priori: no matter how much people try to cling to the idea that we are responsible for outcomes rather than for our own acts, nature reasserts herself. The "Truthers" are just being more consistent with the reality of how moral responsibility works than other factions of the "blame America first" mob.

[Note to the paleo Right: if you don't want to be like the Truther Left, then don't be like them. You can choose.]

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