July 2009 Archives
July 2, 2009
Does Maine have Hate Speech laws?
Apparently bureaucrat Elaine Thibodeau, of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, thinks it does. Thibodeau sent a letter to the Christian Action Network concerning a fund-raising letter it sent out this year. Thibodeau's letter of accusation contains a list of charges, a fine for $4,000, and a place for CAN's leaders to sign that they admit to all the charges and waive their right to appeal.
Among the allegations are #5, "The correspondence contained an inflammatory anti-Muslim message."
To which my immediate reply is, "So? This is illegal?"
Interestingly, the $4,000 fine is actually being levied for two other alleged violations. The first is sending out a fund-raising letter without being properly registered as a non-profit. But actually CAN has canceled checks showing that it was duly registered in 2008, and the state doesn't make any claim to the contrary. The letter in question was sent before the end of the renewal grace period for 2009 re-registrations, so their 2008 registration should still have been in effect. Moreover, the state's complaints about missing paperwork for their 2009 registration seem plausibly to have been cooked up for harassment purposes when the state decided it disapproved of the group's message.
More worriesome is the $3000 portion of the fine for using the state governor's name without his written consent! The fund-raising letter urges recipients to write to the government concerning a pro-Muslim public school curriculum (with Muslim prayer "play-acting"), urging him to stop the institution of the curriculum. Anyone who gets mailings from non-profit organizations recognizes this sort of lobbying suggestion quite well. If it is illegal in Maine to urge people to write to the governor without the governor's written consent, Maine has serious First Amendment problems.
But back to the "inflammatory" speech thing:
In case anybody's feeling smug...
"To determine students’ level of basic civic knowledge, we surveyed Arizona high school students with questions drawn from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) item bank, which consists of 100 questions given to candidates for United States citizenship. The longstanding practice has been for candidates to take a test on 10 of these items. A minimum of six correct answers is required to pass. The service recently reported a first-try passing rate of 92.4 percent.
"The Goldwater Institute survey, conducted by a private survey firm, gave each student 10 items from the USCIS item bank...Questions included (1) Who was the first president of the United States? (2) Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? and (3) What ocean is located on the East Coast of the United States?
"...Only 3.5 percent of Arizona high school students attending public schools passed the citizenship test..."
Christianity and feminism: a proposition
In the Fall 1992 issue of Touchstone, S.M. Hutchens argued that Christianity and feminism are mutually incompatible. Here's the money quote:
Feminist doctrine cannot accommodate the Church's insistence that all must bend the knee before the Man who is the perfect and complete revelation of God, for it simply does not believe God can be perfectly and completely revealed by a male. In consistently egalitarian theology there must be at the very least a feminine co-principal. But this orthodox Christianity denies, agreeing here with the more thoroughgoing feminists, that those who wish to retain their alliance with the faith by styling themselves Christian egalitarians can only do so by misunderstanding both Christian doctrine and the telos of their own ideology. You cannot have both at once; Christianity and feminism, whether of the egalitarian or gynarchial variety, exclude one another.(Emphasis added.)
I invite comments. But please read the whole thing first. These are deep waters.
July 3, 2009
Welcome Michael Liccione
What's Wrong with the World is pleased to welcome as a new contributor Michael Liccione. Dr. Liccione received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania and has taught at a number of Catholic colleges, including Catholic University of America and the University of St. Thomas (Houston).
Michael's blog, Sacramentum Vitae, discusses topics that readers of W4 will be interested in--petitionary prayer, arguments against the existence of God, abortion, and Catholic liberalism. We look forward to seeing such posts and reader discussions of them here at W4.
ID, the "God of the gaps," and metaphysics
Francis Beckwith's recent post Design, Theism, and Romans 1:20 has elicited a multi-faceted debate taking up, as of this writing, over 130 combox entries. In this post I want to focus on what I see as the most important sub-debate in that thread: that between the "theistic evolutionists" and advocates of intelligent-design theory (ID). Exchanges between Prof. Beckwith and Lydia McGrew afforded most of the substance of that sub-debate. Rather than rehearse its details, however, I shall frame the issue in a way I believe most conducive to progress.
ID presents itself as a scientific theory. It proposes that some features of living things can only be explained as products of intelligent design, and its proponents are confident that such a proposition is scientifically testable. For two reasons, though, I am not concerned with the question whether such confidence is justified. For one thing, I am not qualified to judge. But more important, I believe that the overarching philosophical question at stake would be left largely untouched even if ID were empirically well-confirmed.
I say "largely" but not "wholly" because the success of ID, if that were forthcoming, would at least be philosophically relevant. By showing that neo-Darwinism is scientifically inadequate as an explanation for the development of species, it would rightly cast doubt on the thesis of neo-Darwinian materialists that the origin of life itself can eventually be explained in non-teleological terms. And the ranks of those finding support for classical theism in ID would certainly be bolstered. But I do not share the confidence of ID theorists that things will take such a happy course; and even if they did, materialist neo-Darwinians could always emulate the old defenders of geocentrism by having recourse to epicyclical explanations for which they could claim predictive value. They could, that is, postulate that the pertinent features were designed by other material, if admittedly intelligent, beings. I have read that Richard Dawkins has already armed himself with such a comeback on the off chance that it turns out to be needed. Although it's hard to see how that postulate could be tested, it would in principle be testable.
But those aren't even the main reasons I disbelieve that ID can offer what most of its proponents seem to want: scientific evidence for classical theism. As I implied in my review of Georgetown theologian John Haught's book Is Nature Enough? Truth and Meaning in the Age of Science (2006), the very idea of seeking scientific evidence for classical theism is a category mistake. The aims, methods, and canons of natural science, though not immune to revision, remain just as they are whether or not classical theism is true. There is no scientific work for an appeal to a "God of the gaps" to do.
A more promising tack, I believe, would be to show that natural science does not, because it cannot, answer a certain question that its results make it reasonable to raise: why are the laws of nature, whatever they are, what they are? Natural science entails discovering causal regularities and subsuming them under higher-order causal regularities. Those are what natural science uses to explain and predict observable events. Within its proper sphere, it does so quite successfully; it might conceivably come up with a confirmable "Theory of Everything," where the quantifier ranges over physical things. And the nested set of causal regularities such a theory would present would just be "the laws of nature." But that doesn't rule out the question why the-totality-of-things-that-change, or what Wittgenstain termed "the sphere of what happens," exists.
Call that totality 'T'. Granted we do not know its full extent, and may never know it short of the Eschaton, T certainly exists. The question why T exists is meaningful because we cannot rule out that T embodies the intention of something it does not comprise, and is in that sense telic. We could rule out that possibility, and thus render the question meaningless, only by premising scientism: the thesis that only what can be known by means of modern science, and thus without recourse to final (and formal) causes, can be known at all. Yet, for reasons that needn't be explained, no scientific argument for scientism can be given. Scientism is a philosophical option for which, I've suggested, the arguments are essentially moral arguments. Given the full range and depth of human experience, those arguments are not particularly persuasive. And once one realizes that the question why T exists admits only a teleological answer if it is answerable at all, then a successful ID could be taken as evidence that the question is quite reasonable to raise. A true and non-trivial answer to that question would also afford an answer to the question why the laws of nature are as they are.
A successful ID would not and could not provide the answer to either question; but it would provide a good reason to admit both—a better reason, I should think, then Dawkins' saving-the-appearances hypothesis would be for excluding them. Here, "theistic evolutionists" would be on terra firma they could share with ID theorists. But only if ID proves itself scientifically cogent.
July 4, 2009
A Providential Irony
I was pondering our nation's birthday today. I had been explaining to Youngest Daughter (age 5 1/2) what it means to say that July 4 is America's birthday, a locution she likes a lot. And as happens to a lot of conservatives, I found myself forced to admit in the privacy of my own mind that the forefathers' grievances against George III were pretty minor compared to, well, our own present grievances against the present regime. For the life of me I couldn't make the story of the Declaration come out as a good guy/bad guy story. So I'm afraid it was a bit boring. ("You see, the colonists really didn't like some of the things the English had been doing. Taxes and so on that they were being made to pay. And so they decided that they would be a country of their own and govern themselves instead of being English colonies." Borrring. Fortunately Y.D. likes acquiring information, so she wasn't too bored.)
Others more erudite than I can make a plausible case--compounded of things like Thomas Jefferson's highly unfortunate admiration for the French Revolution, for example--that there was nothing terribly conservative about the American Revolution, the legitimacy of Burkean distinctions notwithstanding.
Be that as it may, it does a soul good to try to imagine where we'd be if it hadn't been for the American Revolution. Of course, ceteris never is paribus. Who knows--the entire world might have been governed by Spain and France for a while, followed by a Muslim takeover. Alternative histories are fun to write but rarely very well-supported. But this much I think is clear: America's present relative friendliness to values Christian conservatives hold dear is in no small part a function of America's independence from European control. From hate speech laws to difficulties with home schooling to outright decadence, America has a lot to be proud of in the way of her divergence from European norms.
So it is a providential irony that what may have begun as something hot-headed and anti-conservative has, in the end, delayed the action of the virus of post-Christian evil that is taking over the world at large. Here in America we may hope to preserve the greatness of the West for longer than it will be preserved elsewhere. We may hope to do this because we still retain some degree of national sovereignty and distinctiveness. And as a great man once said, "For my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task...if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward[.]"
God bless America!
Something about patriotism causes it to intensify as its object is weakened. We remember Washington freezing at Valley Forge, and then the bold, perhaps even reckless crossing of the Delaware, more warmly than we remember the steady, calculated siege at Yorktown. The infant Republic is somehow more lovely when she appears very nearly snuffed out, than she is years later, with the thrill of victory gathering.
Or again, why do we remember the great rescues of Christendom, the relief of Vienna by the Poles, the astonishing endurance of the Knights of Malta on their own September 11th, more readily than the sure victories?
Why are even Northern men stirred by the perseverance of Lee's army before Appomattox Courthouse, and even Southern men by the magnanimity of Grant at its end?
I think it is because patriotism partakes of the tragic character of life. The patriot is that rare romantic who will love even pitiful remnants of broken nations. The patriot is indeed moved by his country's victory, but not as much as he is moved by her subjugation.
If Christ can weep over Jerusalem in the knowledge that defeat and ruin were near, surely we, in these dark days, can allow our eyes well up at the lonely and harried symbol Old Glory, waving still over the land of the free and the home of the brave.
July 6, 2009
You know things are getting grim when sophisticated economists writing in the Financial Times begin contemplating Biblical solutions. Here we have Willem Buiter, who ably relates the general failure of governmental policies since the Crash, and concludes by proposing a Jubilee on household debt.
The essay is quite technical at times. Parts of it go over my head. But the gist of it is that thrift has come back in a major way. The usefulness of debt as an instrument of finance has vanished, and households around the Western world and beyond now favor savings over consumption so dramatically that no tool of governmental policy so far applied can counteract it.
Meanwhile, the vast interventions by governments in the banking and non-bank finance industries have insured that big corporations have access to capital (much of it government-backed), but smaller businesses are rigidly fettered. Credit lines are disappearing; banks are exceedingly cautious; consumers even more so. Governments and central banks may have managed to rescue the financial system; but they have done little to alleviate the deeper structural problems of the economy as a whole.
In a word, the Usury Crisis continues apace, and few in positions of authority dare face it.
The road not traveled, intellectually, is the one where savings is recognized as at base a healthy response to the exuberance of usury that has sown such ruin. We have answered a crisis brought on by excessive debt with yet more debt. The Keynesians have already begin to call for more. The frozen rigidity of their thinking is remarkable. They talk like it is 1932.
But Buiter with his half-facetious steps toward a vast cancellation of usurious debt, biblical in scope, may be signifying some breaking of the ice. Maybe.
July 7, 2009
The usury crisis and Catholic social teaching
Paul Cella's post Biblical Solutions is especially timely not just in light of the current recession, but also because of the publication of Pope Benedict XVI's new encyclical Caritas in Veritate. I'll have more to say about CV once I've read the whole thing. In the meantime, it would be useful to issue a little primer about how Catholic social teaching applies in today's dire circumstances.
What I've seen of CV so far is quite in line with how Catholic social teaching (see here for its official "compendium") has been developing since Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (1891). By endorsing private property and the pursuit of profit, it is compatible with some forms of capitalism and thus needs no defense around here. But it also insists on conditioning those goods by such principles as "the universal destination of goods," "solidarity," "subsidiarity," and "the preferential option for the poor." As moral injunctions for the faithful, those principles are not terribly controversial either, at least among Christians. Most of the debate about applying Church social teaching concerns the extent to which such conditioning principles call for civil legislation and regulation, especially concerning the economy. On that question, the political (and theological) Left is generally maximalist; the political (and theological) Right is generally minimalist.
As a conservative in the American sense of the term, I come down mostly with the minimalists. Thus I believe that the principle of "subsidiarity" calls for private over public solutions when the former are feasible. From a theological standpoint, though, the question whether to be a political minimalist or a political maximalist is a matter of prudential judgment, rather than doctrine, about what's "feasible." The question is essentially empirical, and boils down to how to balance, in practice, the principle of subsidiarity with the other principles "conditioning" the goods of private property and profit. Subsidiarity is generally more popular with the Right than with the Left. But for Catholics, and a fortiori everybody else, Rome generally treats the balancing act as a matter of opinion. For the social teaching of the Church is logically compatible with a rather broad range of prudential judgments about how to implement it in the concrete.
In fact, what conservative critics of the Church's social teaching often fail to realize is that, seen as a whole, it is less palatable to the Left than to the Right. Liberal Catholics generally embrace Church teachings on, e.g., the death penalty, health care, and the treatment of immigrants, and want them enshrined in secular legislation; but on abortion, euthanasia, same-sex "marriage," and other issues called "social" in American political parlance, the song changes dramatically. True, the precise converse holds among many Catholics who are politically conservative, especially in the U.S.; but in my view, the conservatives hold the theologically stronger position. As Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute notes:
It is quite a spectacle to see Catholic progressives — who in other circumstances contort themselves into exegetical pretzels when they want to undermine clear, emphatic, authoritative, and repeated magisterial prohibitions on same-sex relations, female “priests,” and contraceptive acts — morph into virtual Ultramontanists on prudential matters such as the precise level of a minimum wage.
And the same could be said, mutatis mutandis, about many other political issues, such as whether the advantages of government-run health care would outweigh the disadvantages. As I argued in this post, the trouble with the Catholic Left is that it often presents as morally binding certain political proposals which, from Rome's standpoint, are really matters of opinion, and presents as matters of opinion certain political proposals which, again from Rome's standpoint, are morally binding. So not only is the Catholic Right's general sense about Church social teaching theologically sounder than the Left's; said teaching is more easily reconciled with American "conservatism," or at least with some strains thereof, then with American "liberalism."
But in some cases, applying the Left/Right dichotomy is simply unilluminating. The "usury crisis" Paul has described is a good example. Although people can debate from now till doomsday how much state regulation of debt instruments is wise, and probably will, it cannot be denied either (a) that some degree of regulation is necessary, and (b) that the explosion of public and private debt, all slated to be repaid with interest, has been bad for everybody. Ignoring the traditional moral strictures of the Church about debt and interest fosters a systemic greed which is eventually self-defeating. We are now in a situation where bankrupt governments are shoring up bankrupt sectors of the economy with funny money that will burden the next generation and beyond with unsustainable debt service. That wouldn't have been necessary if both the private and public sectors hadn't reduced themselves to pigs feeding at the trough. Because both private and public greed have driven this crisis, it's really not a Left/Right issue. It's a rather elementary moral issue.
Evidential ammo for the Christian soldier
Do you have kids? Do you know any Christian young people, perhaps heading off to college this fall, who you hope will remain Christians all their lives?
Then I have a suggestion: Don’t leave them intellectually unarmed.
I am an unabashed evidentialist in the area of apologetics, and I think evidentialism can be defended on philosophical grounds. But even suppose, per impossible, that it couldn’t. I encourage my readers to consider from the point of view of outcomes that it is a dangerous thing to send your carefully nurtured young Christian off to college and off into the world without arming him with evidence for his faith. I have heard more stories than I care to remember in which young people had questions about Christianity, went to a pastor, and were given poor answers or no answers at all. In one such story, a young man went with his doubts to his pastor, whose only response was to push the Bible across the desk and ask him, “This is the Word of God. Do you believe it?” The young fellow thought for a moment and then said, “No.” And that was the end of that.
So I have asked my Resident Expert to suggest some accessible ammo for the Christian parent, teacher, or friend. He suggests the three B’s—Bennett, Blaiklock, and Bruce.
July 8, 2009
Christian evangelization of Muslims forbidden in Dearborn--Part II
Well. And wow. The updates keep coming so fast that I almost can't keep up. Readers will remember that I reported here on police attempts to "corral" the Christian group Arabic Christian Perspective at the recent Arab festival in Dearbornistan.
One of my leftish commentators was highly skeptical of the implication that Christians were being singled out. After all, he said, perhaps only those who "didn't rent a booth" were singled out. Maybe, you know, the entire five block area really was blocked off to anybody who didn't rent a booth? Huh? Maybe leafletting on public streets really is suddenly illegal for everybody when an "Arab festival" has been declared?
In that post I speculated about what might happen if ACP next year did not happen to notify police--which the police took as a request for permission, though no permission is needed for free speech in America. Would the police walk about looking to target Christian groups at the festival?
Well, as they say, we have data on that. And we didn't even after to wait for next year. You see, as we might have suspected, security at the Arab festival appears to be carried out by a Brute Squad of OMEA men. Who knows. Perhaps they actually have been given some sort of official police powers, but that would only make their behavior more outrageous. The appearance in the video I am about to share, however, is that real police don't show up until one gets outside of the festival area. Within that area, the sharia police get to operate as they like, which means ganging up on members of a different group, Acts 17 Apologetics Ministries, when they are merely attempting to talk peacefully with people at one of the Muslim booths. Festival security members hit their cameras over and over again, pushing them, threatening them with force, and eventually converging in a body to drive them with threats ("I'll make you keep walking, trust me") off of the festival grounds, where security proceeds to lie to the first actual uniformed police officers they encounter. In the course of the assault, the leader tells them the name of the intersection where, he says, "Your preaching area is." That intersection is apparently the one that was assigned as the Christian corral for ACP. The festival sharia police got the impression that they had all the Christians rounded up there and were outraged to find David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi of Acts 17 actually wandering around freely on public streets, taking videotapes and asking questions. The nerve.
Watch it all. It is truly shocking, and it is difficult to believe that this is America. If Mr. Wood gets any sort of legal satisfaction for this assault, all performed on camera, I hope I hear about it. But I'm not holding my breath.
HT Jihad Watch
Update: Here is David Wood's own blog entry at Acts 17 Apologetics Ministries' blog. A couple of interesting notes about the legal situation are in order. First of all, according to the story reported at Jihad Watch about Arab Christian Perspectives, the police order was made only to ACP, because only ACP contacted the police ahead of time. It was this order that was not stopped by a requested emergency stay by a federal court. So technically, only ACP was actually forbidden from distributing literature. Acts 17 Ministries realized, however, that the Arab festival organizers took it that all Christian groups were forbidden from distributing, and to be on the safe side, Acts 17 Ministries assumed that indeed the order applied to all Christian groups, and in fact they did not distribute literature. That the festival organizers so assumed is borne out by the repeated attempts to get the Acts 17 guys to give someone a Christian pamphlet on the part of security, as though this were a violation of something or other. So right away, we apparently have one anti-1st Amendment extension of the already legally highly questionable police order to ACP--namely, that it applied to literature distribution by all Christian groups. Second, David Wood testifies--and I have no reason to question his testimony--that they personally witnessed other people passing literature while walking around the festival. So it was not the case that there was a "no literature passing" blanket rule at the festival, even if such a rule could be supported under the 1st Amendment (which I think is questionable). Christians were singled out. Then, as the above video shows, and as Wood points out, the anti-Christian ban on speech was extended by security forces to all Christian dialogue during the festival with people at booths, even without literature passing. So we have targeting of Christians, a ban specifically on Christian literature distribution, even for groups that have not previously been told they cannot distribute by police, and a ban even on Christian free movement and discussion, not to mention filming, at the festival. This is exceedingly bad.
The evidence of this video is obviously supportive of ACP's claims of content-based violation of freedom of speech, and I hope that ACP will be able to use the video in court in their own lawsuit.
One commentator asked whom to contact. I believe that Acts 17 Ministries is for the moment not telling anyone exactly what else they plan to do in terms of legal action. For all I know, they may be getting legal advice. But meanwhile, they have themselves contacted the Arab Chamber of Commerce, who hired the private security forces. So that might be one place to start, though I myself wish there were some effective way to complain to the actual Dearborn local government, which is ultimately responsible for the problem here.
Related: Here are several anecdotes from a Brit about police refusal to investigate and punish violent crimes in Dover when performed by Muslims, including knifing and threatening with a knife. According to the commentator, the police threatened a local paper with prosecution for "inciting hatred" even for reporting one such crime, thus effectively muzzling the press.
HT for both update links: Esteemed Husband
July 9, 2009
Hate Crime? What hate crime?
The Akron Beacon Journal reports:
"...after a family night of celebrating America and freedom with a fireworks show at Firestone Stadium...[Marty] Marshall, his family and two friends...were attacked by dozens of teenage boys, who shouted 'This is our world' and 'This is a white world' as they confronted Marshall and his family.
"The Marshalls, who are black, say the crowd of teens who attacked them and two friends...numbered close to 50. The teens were all white.
July 10, 2009
Faith, Reason, and the Christian University: What John Paul II Can Teach Christian Academics
That's the title of an article I just published in Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 12.3 (Summer 2009): 53-67. You can find it online on my website here. Here are some excerpts (endnotes omitted):
My take on Caritas in Veritate published in Christianity Today
Although mainstream media outlets have already spun this encyclical as one that focuses on the global economic crisis—and it most certainly does address that—that is clearly not the pope’s point of departure. For those who have eyes to see, the animating principle of this encyclical is virtually on every page of it: theological anthropology is the only proper starting pointing from which we can come to know the common good....
July 11, 2009
Jordan J. Ballor on Calvin, Conversions, and Catholicity
Published on the 500th birthday of John Calvin, Jordan J. Ballor has authored a thoughtful piece on some of the problems that arise in discussions between Protestants and Catholics about catholicity, the Early Church, and the reasons provided by converts from Protestantism to Catholicism. Appearing on First Thing's On the Square, here are some excerpts:
Utterly beyond the pale
So I learned today that Obama's new "science czar," John Holdren, was a population control Nazi along with the infamous Paul Ehrlich in the 1970's and is evidently unrepentant (both of the failed apocalyptic science and of the wicked policy proposals) to this day. His book Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment, co-authored with Paul and Anne Ehrlich in 1977, contains such charming proposals as forced abortion, putting sterilizing drugs in the water supply and staple food items, forced surgical sterilization, coercive government two-child policies, eugenics for undesirables, and a world-wide police force to administer all resources fairly.
Now, why should I be surprised? After all, we already know that Barack Obama is still in touch with the scary 70's radicals who influenced him. Why wouldn't he put somebody in charge of science for the nation who falsely predicted mass population explosion and the consequent destabilization of society and who advocated totalitarianism in response? That's our "hope and change" President for you.
But really, I should set cynicism aside. Because there is no way Holdren is going to be made even superficially to renounce these evil policies by the left, or by Obama, or by anybody. We on the right will fume, the left will mouth the phrase "out of context" (despite the fact that such views were absolutely typical of the population control enthusiasts of the 70's and despite all the money quotes you can eat from the book itself), the whole thing will blow over, and Holdren will get going on being science czar, whatever that may mean exactly.
And that's what is so horrifying. Let us make no mistake: The views of Holdren and the Ehrlichs in that book should be as disgusting to all men of sane and sound mind as the vilest anti-Semitism, the most blatant racial hatred and supremacism, as out of court and beyond the pale as proud membership in the KKK or the Nazi Party. They should be shunned. No one who co-authored such a book should even be considered for any public office until and unless he has at least claimed, explicitly and in detail, to have seen the light and utterly renounced those views. That combination of terrifying and gloating totalitarianism, hatred of mankind, hatred of life, hatred of the innocent unborn, hatred of female fertility, eugenics, and disregard of the rights of women not to be mutilated, is so loathsome that we who call ourselves conservatives should never, even in bitterness of heart, shrug our shoulders at it. It lives today in the UN Population Fund and in numerous other population control programs around the world. And it lives today in the minds of people like Holdren and the many silent liberals who think that what he and the Ehrlichs said in that book is, at most, a little over the top.
We will doubtless have no success holding Obama's and Holdren's feet to the fire on this. But it should nevertheless not go unremarked. We are now in an administration that has no problem promoting such people, and that bodes very ill for our country.
Related: Here are my remarks on the recent Ginsberg interview affair. (As you see, I've now decided to blog a bit about the Ginsberg comments after all.) I consider that the views Ginsberg said she originally associated with Roe are likewise so vile that Ginsberg should not be allowed to get away with any unclarity on the subject and should be forced by public opinion to say whether she did or did not support Roe v. Wade during the time when she believed that it was all about limiting those "populations we don't want to have too many of."
July 12, 2009
Morgan Freeman to marry step-granddaughter; Lorenzo Lamas' ex-wife slept with step-son
(Update: Legal scholar Jonathan Turley offers the Lawrence v. Texas argument here, maintaining that the state's prohibition of adult incest should have to pass strict scrutiny. Now, that didn't take long, did it?)
July 13, 2009
Latest reviews of TLS
“In his work The Last Superstition, Edward Feser melds philosophic acumen with an acute sense of humor, steadily dismantling the philosophic claims of Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and others… a sharp critique of modern philosophical errors… One hopes that Feser's work will spur further interest in classical Thomistic and Aristotelian metaphysical thought.” Michael O’Halloran, Review of Metaphysics
“Every argument atheists raise against belief in God can be dismantled like a cheap watch by [people] who know how to do it. And, as The Last Superstition shows, Edward Feser really knows how to do it… If [atheists] were willing to dispassionately consider the case for theism that Feser builds here, they would come away from reading this book with their confidence profoundly shaken.” Patrick Madrid, Envoy Magazine
July 14, 2009
Robert Spencer's Excellent answer to fact-free criticism
I am a huge fan of Robert Spencer. One of the reasons I am such a huge fan is that Spencer deals in details and facts. I could not possibly begin to summarize all the information he presents about Islam and what is going on in the world with Islam these days. One of the best things about Spencer is that he gives information both from the scholarly point of view of Islamic jurisprudence and holy texts and from the current events point of view of what Muslims are right now taking these texts to mean and how they are acting on them.
This is a double-whammy, and to my mind it should render speechless all the "religion of peace" promoters. I ask my readers' indulgence, as I certainly intend no blasphemy, but it seems to me that the liberals' (and some "conservatives'") view of Islam is a sort of unholy, secular version of the Catholic view of the Blessed Sacrament: Even if all the visible accidents of Islam are violent, by faith the liberal believes in an underlying substance or essence that is peaceful.
July 15, 2009
What We're Reading--"Little Gidding"
I am preparing a literature class for my eldest daughter's upcoming high school year. Planning to call the class "T.S. Eliot and Christian Literature." So we're starting with Eliot, and I have been making notes. I just finished re-reading The Four Quartets today with "Little Gidding," and it seemed to me imperative that I should write a post to say--read this poem. Or re-read it. If you have read it before so many times that you think you have it memorized, go, pick it up, and read it again. And by the way, pick it up and read it from a physical book, not merely on-line. If you have never read it read it for the first time. In fact, read it again and again, until you have it nearly memorized. Then put it away for a while and come back and read it again years later. It will repay you, every single time.
I was nearly overwhelmed this time through by the power of this particular poem, beyond even the power of any of the other three in the group.
Eliot specializes in the way of negation, and in "The Dry Salvages" (for example), itself a very great poem, there is that sense of negation almost to the point of depressing the spirits. In "Little Gidding" he transcends anything remotely akin to depression and turns negation into hope.
For Nietzsche, European civilization has been in decline since Plato. For Heidegger, the rot set in even earlier, with the Pre-Socratics. It is widely held among secularists that the history of Western civilization between the rise of Christianity and the Enlightenment was a centuries-long dark age that stalled the scientific progress that had been initiated by the Greeks and only restarted with Bacon, Galileo, Descartes, and Co. Marxists tell us that the entire history of the human race is a history of one form of oppression supplanted by another. Feminists tell us that it is, above all, a history of men oppressing women. Multiculturalists tell us it is a history of the West oppressing the rest.
Other examples could be given. The idea that vast stretches of human history – centuries, even millennia – have been shrouded in moral and intellectual darkness is taken very seriously.
Except when that idea is given a conservative twist. When a conservative says that things have been getting worse since the 1960s, or since FDR, or since the Enlightenment, or (as Richard Weaver says in Ideas Have Consequences and as I argue in The Last Superstition) since William of Ockham, the very idea of a decades- or centuries-long decline is dismissed as inherently crackpot, the ravings of a misanthropic crank or misfit.
Why the double standard? Just asking, as they say.
(The obvious answer might seem to be that the developments bemoaned by conservatives are “progressive” ones, and thus couldn’t possibly mark a decline. Out of charity, though, I won’t put this answer into the mouth of the left-winger, since it is blatantly question-begging. Surely the lefty has a better answer. So what is it?)
July 18, 2009
TLS on radio
John Loeffler recently interviewed me about The Last Superstition for his show Steel on Steel. You will need a username and password to listen to it, but John has kindly provided us with one: Use “feser” for both, and you can listen to his entire show archive for 40 days (including interviews with John Bolton, J. Budziszewski, David Novak, Tom Tancredo, James Kalb,and many others). The interview begins about halfway into the show.
(For earlier radio interviews about TLS go here.)
July 20, 2009
Non-profits and political speech
Can one of my astute readers explain to me what the rationale is for the ban on express political advocacy by non-profit organizations?
I know that there is such a ban. I think I know what the rule is. 501(c)(3) organization X that stands for saving the whales (or whatever) is legally permitted to talk about the dangers of such-and-such a law to the whales, about how we need more laws to protect the whales, and so forth. But X cannot say, "Elect Smith for Congress this year, because he stands for saving the whales." Or, perhaps more accurately, only the "XPAC" can say that, and a PAC is a whole nother entity. Issue advocacy is permitted, but not express advocacy.
I think I get this. But even before McCain-Feingold (and yes, my memory does go back that far) there was this ban on a non-profit organization's expressly advocating the election of a particular candidate or a particular vote, say, on a referendum. They always had to watch out for that "express advocacy" bright line. Now why?
If the rationale for a non-profit's being tax exempt is supposed to be that it doesn't make a profit, isn't this an accounting matter? Wouldn't this simply be a matter of having a definition of the term "non-profit" and then determining whether or not the group did, in fact, meet that fiscal definition? What does express advocacy have to do with making a profit or not making a profit?
This is not a trick question. I suspect my readers will know the answer better than I do, and as I've been busy and a bit dry of post ideas recently, I thought I'd give y'all a chance to answer it.
Religious liberty: a dilemma
Suppose, uncontroversially, that it is morally obligatory to refrain from attempts to impose any particular religion on people by force. Call that obligation 'O'. What is the basis for O?
Some argue that the basis for O is a larger set of moral norms one can show, by philosophical reasoning alone, to be obligatory in itself and to logically entail O. But there is more than one version of such an argument. One is deontological and runs roughly like this: (i) Trying to force people to violate their conscience is intrinsically wrong, irrespective of what good might be thought to come of doing so, and thus can never be justified; (ii) trying to force people to adopt a particular religion is tantamount to trying to force them to violate their conscience; (iii) therefore, O. Let us grant that the argument is logically valid and that (ii) is true. Even so, there are two difficulties with (i).
Hitting the metaphysical snooze button
One of the major themes of The Last Superstition is the significance of the early modern philosophers’ replacement of the classical teleological conception of nature with an anti-teleological or mechanistic conception. Another major theme is how utterly oblivious most contemporary intellectuals are to the nature and consequences of this revolution – about the motivations that lay behind it, its true relationship to modern science, the surprising feebleness of the arguments used to justify it, and the new and intractable problems it opened up. Most of all, they show little awareness of the deep conceptual problems inherent in the attempt to give a thoroughly mechanistic account of the world, as contemporary naturalism seeks to do. (I argue in the book that the very program is incoherent, so that naturalism, as usually understood anyway, is demonstrably false. I also provide positive arguments to show that a teleological conception of nature is rationally unavoidable – as are the theism and natural law conception of morality that the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition derives from it.)
What is remarkable is how, just over a half-century ago, the problematic character of the modern mechanistic understanding of nature was as evident to many prominent intellectuals as it is utterly invisible to their descendants. Nor am I referring merely to Neo-Scholastics and other Thomists. In the book I quote a lengthy passage from the September 1948 Atlantic Monthly in which the then-prominent empiricist philosopher W. T. Stace – not someone with a religious or Aristotelian ax to grind – described the early moderns’ replacement of a teleological conception of the world with a mechanistic one as “the greatest revolution in human history, far outweighing in importance any of the political revolutions whose thunder has reverberated through the world,” and one which in his view necessarily undermined the foundations of morality. Moreover, he realized that this revolution was purely philosophical in character, not scientific, despite its often being conflated with (and thereby deriving an unearned prestige from) the discoveries of early modern science.
July 22, 2009
Obama is not a nice guy
I haven't posted anything yet about Obamacare, chiefly because I have this horrible deer-in-the-headlights feeling that we are all doomed and that it will be rammed home, come what may.
Of course it's a disaster. And see this IBD article on the clause that makes it illegal for insurance companies to enroll any new patients after the legislation goes into effect. Sweet.
Here is a good point by Lawrence Auster on the bromide that "At least Obama is a nice man." Well, no, he isn't. As Auster says (and this socialized medicine monstrosity is a good illustration),
In my view, a person who is so reckless with America's well being as this person is, is not a decent person who means well. He is someone who stands outside America, as something foreign and meaningless to himself, and who is trying to mess it up as quickly as he can, because his main purpose is to change America completely and irreversibly from its past, and he doesn't care how much he harms America in order to accomplish that. He doesn't care about America any more than an invading alien in a 1950s horror movie cares about planet earth.
The contrast with Bill Clinton in the "Obama is a nice guy" crowd is pretty clear to me, even when unstated. At least, conservatives are saying, Obama isn't a skirt-chaser. At least he brings some dignity to the office. Thus the legacy of the Clinton years in pistol-whipping conservatives into lowering their standards continues, even this long after the fact.
The "Obama is a nice guy" phenomenon, too, is much the same as the excuses made for communists. At least he "stands for" something. So did Stalin, of course. So did Pol Pot. But from a liberal perspective (and unfortunately the conservative on the street hasn't entirely avoided imbibing something of the liberal perspective) motivation by left-wing ideology excuses all harm and evil done in its name, because at least one cares.
The man in the Oval Office is a focused ideologue whose goal is to change America to fit his vision right now, and damn the torpedoes and anyone who gets in the way. This is not a nice guy.
Update: See this Heritage Foundation blog post for correction, clarification, and partial confirmation of the IBD article. Apparently private insurance will be able to enroll new patients after the beginning of the legislation, but only under onerous additional regulations.
July 24, 2009
President Obama's Gnosticism
When not accusing physicians of performing unnecessary tonsillectomies for financial gain though offering no evidence to back up this claim, our President is accusing a Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer of acting "stupidly" while admitting he does not have access to, and thus has not fully apprised himself of, all the facts in the case. While opining on what "victory" would mean in Afghanistan, the President reached into his reservoir of historical acumen and offered this analysis: “I'm always worried about using the word ‘victory,’ because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.” However, in the real world, it was Mamoru Shigemitsu (Japan's foreign affairs minister) who signed the surrender, and he did it before General Richard Sutherland, not General MacArthur.
The President, apparently, has immediate awareness of an ideal realm of "events" that we mere mortals cannot appropriate by our cognitive powers that seem forever bound by what our pedestrian minds think is "reality."
(Originally posted on First Thoughts)
Business is Business...
...and charity is charity. They are different things. Is there anything morally problematic about that?
Health insurance is a business. People go into the health insurance business for the same reason that people go into any other business: to make money by providing something that other people want and for which they are willing to pay enough for you to make a profit.
So far so good? Is there anything morally problematic about going into the health insurance business for the sole purpose of making a profit? Is it, for example, any more morally problematic than going into, say, the plumbing business for the sole purpose of making a profit? Or is there something about the health insurance business that makes the profit motive there particularly immoral?
I don't see why, but I'm open to objections.
Anyway, continuing: suppose that, having gone into the health insurance business, to make a living, my worst nightmare shows up, one day, in my office: some guy - lets call him Marty - together with his sisters and his cousins and his aunts, who, between them, suffer from more (and more expensive) pre-existing medical conditions than the average county in Wyoming: herniated discs, debilitating headaches, nausea, intermittent "visual phenomena" - you name it, they've got it. And what they haven't already got, they're going to get, sooner or later - given a family history of predisposition to certain catastrophic illnesses, beginning with colon cancer and moving on from there.
Question: am I morally obligated to offer the usual policies at the usual prices to Marty and family, just as if they were average customers? Am I morallly obligated to swallow the inevitable loss?
And is it morally acceptable for Marty and family - none of whom I know from Adam - to demand this of me? Just because I'm in the health insurance business?
Suppose that I don't think so. Suppose that I answer their demands like this:
"Marty, you and and your family are not looking for insurance. You are looking for charity. And you have come to the wrong place. This is a business. This is not a charity. I am in business to make a living. I am not in business to aid the needy. And your need is no claim on me - a stranger to you. If your need is a claim on anyone, it is not on strangers, but on your family, your friends, your neighbours and your community. You should go to them for help. You should not come to me. I have my own family, and friends, and neighbours, and community. And they and theirs - not you and yours - are the legitimate claimants on my charity."
Would this just be a monstrously evil thing for me to say and to believe?
On Being Baited
I've already said my piece on the subject of health insurance, charity, and social provisioning, and haven't the slightest intention of engaging in a bit of blog stuttering for everyone's dissatisfaction, so let it suffice by way of response to the post immediately preceding mine for me to state that it would be no more, and no less, monstrous to say and believe the things in that post than to argue for the liceity of a government-run health system rationing on the basis of a politically-determined cost ceiling, or even a quality-of-life/quality-of-life-years "metric" devised by those
satanists intellectuals called utilitarians. In each case, the determination of care is governed, in part, substantially, or in whole, by criteria extrinsic to the practice of sound medicine and the delivery of health services. Governments should neither balance budgets - on the assumption of some sort of public provision - by rationing care, thus implicitly determining who lives and dies, nor simply strive to reduce costs ala Peter Singer, by shouting at the untermenschen, "To the Kevorkians, GO!" And neither should corporations earn profits by implicitly determining who lives and dies. It is as much blood money in the latter instance as in the former, and it is merely a certain mysticism of markets that causes it to seem otherwise. As for the matter of charity, it should suffice to observe - although, doubtless, it will not in practice, for reasons already given - that the insufficiency of charity is one of the reasons for the present configuration of the health care system, and for the regulation, however often misguided in certain particulars, of the insurance industry. Among those reasons for the configuration will not be found a conspiracy against your freedoms, unless, of course, any acknowledgment of collective goods - even nonpolitical ones - constitutes a conspiracy against freedom - in this instance, perhaps, the 'freedom' to consign the weak, infirm, and unfit to fortuna, all in the name of some abstract doctrine, or perhaps the glorious totality of an economic system.
Resources, of course, are indeed finite, and the intersection of this inescapable reality with health care policy merits extended reflection, and that of moral and formal qualities surpassing those of Peter Singer's discussion of the subject. Nonetheless, the tedium of most conservative discourses on the subject is a function of, first, a failure to present this reality as the attainment of a profound and tragic wisdom, arduously acquired; and second, of a tone, sometimes rising to the level of a chorus, that the unfit and poor should be grateful, as of crumbs from the table of the King, for what little they receive. That is to say, it is a function, first, of a combination of celebratory apologetics and masked utilitarianism, and second, of intermittent spasms of callousness: We are well, so we cast these unwell upon the mercy of God and the vagaries of the wills of American self-positing supermen. Conservatives would do well, I believe, to focus on such things as abortion and euthanasia coverage in public health care plans, or in private plans as mandated by officious cultural leftists. At least such arguments are not exercises in special pleading for for-profit rationing and "free-market" utilitarianism. Bah.
Per Capita Public* Health Care Spending...
...in OECD countries, as of 2004 (the latest stats I can find for free), according to the Congressional Research Service:
United States: $2728
United Kingdom: $2164
New Zealand: $1612
Czech Republic: $1214
Slovak Republic: $686
July 25, 2009
What Collective Insanity Looks Like, Right-Wing Edition
Most of us are cognizant of what left-wing political dementia looks like, of how it presents in its subjects, a prime manifestation being the assignment to Obama of quasi-messianic status. Political dementia knows no partisan limitations, and the following, then, is an oddly disquieting presentation of right-wing political nutbaggery.
Blogospheric commentary on this spectacle has been, as one would expect, voluminous and predictable, with the left hauling out the tropes of populist conservative racism, and referencing the dreaded Southern Strategy of the GOP realignment. It cannot be denied that there is a kernel of truth to that analysis, given the occasional presence of stuffed-monkey toting nutbars at McCain rallies last autumn, but racism cannot suffice to explain the above manifestation of political dementia. Race, after all, is often itself a trope, a convenient adumbration of a broad array of political, cultural, and economic concerns, and in this instance, is not even the object of the ire of the crazies at the Delaware town hall meeting. Rather, what transpires in this video is altogether more interesting, more subtle, and, for that very reason, more profound: those who have latched onto a certain cause have essentially reified, distilling, as it were, into a physical symbol, a profound sense of political and cultural alienation - dis-identification - from a politician, the present configuration of the political establishment, and the direction of the country. An inability to identify with a president and his political programme became a judgment that he was deficient in his Americanism, according to a variety of partisan metrics; and that judgment, in turn, was crystallized, literalized, in the claim that the president was not even an American citizen.
At this point, one might as well apply the strictures against conspiracy theorizing previously and fruitfully discussed on this site to the bizarre movement now setting down roots on the right, as exemplified by the embedded video clip.
Health care: getting clear on the premises
For the past several days, I've watched the debate on this blog about Obamacare in particular, and the economics of health care in general, with growing frustration. I am frustrated because, to my mind, there's little use in debating such questions without achieving some clarity about what the pertinent moral premises ought to be. So much is, or ought to be, obvious; and many of the participants have indeed expressed their moral premises. But I see no agreement on what it would take to resolve the disagreements at that level, or even an awareness that reaching such an agreement is important. Since I believe it is important, I shall suggest a way of reaching, or attempting to reach, such an agreement.
To that end, the point of departure is the question is how we would reach agreement about formulating the goal of a national health-care policy. Personally, I see the goal as ensuring quality health-care for everyone at a cost the nation can both afford and accept. But making that our goal makes sense only if some level of health care must be treated as a politically enforceable right, not just as a market-priced commodity. Libertarians would not agree that health care should be treated as such a right at all, and non-libertarians do not agree on the extent to which health care should be treated as such a right. So the next question to be addressed is how resolve such disagreements.
July 26, 2009
There is no "them"
Those of you who have ever been involved in a project involving a small group, or perhaps in a small church, may be familiar with the phenomenon: You start out doing things, and you do some work and help, and then the time comes when you say to yourself, "Okay, that's enough. I've done enough for them. I'm sure they have other people who can do the rest. They can't expect too much from me."
The moment when you grow up in your interaction with that group is the moment when you admit the obvious. There is no them. Or, to put it alternatively, you are them. There is just that group of people. It may be ten, it may be two dozen. But what gets done is what that group of people, including you, does. There isn't some gigantic organization that exists apart from you, to which your contribution is just a drop in the bucket, which will continue getting just as much done without you. This is a small church, a small organization, a volunteer group. If you don't do it, it doesn't get done.
Return to Rome interview tonight on Pittsburgh diocese radio show, Amplify
This evening I will be a guest on Fr. Ron Lengwin's Sunday night radio program, Amplify. It is broadcast from KDKA in Pittsburgh (1020 on the AM dial). You can listen to the show from 9-11 pm EDT online here. I will be on the program to talk about my new book, Return to Rome: Confessions of An Evangelical Catholic (Brazos, 2009)
(Originally posted on First Thoughts)
July 28, 2009
Youth Leader from the Black Lagoon
And now, for some comic relief. A relative sent me the link to the Youtube below. It's sort of like "The Onion Meets Evangelical Youth Culture." I think my favorite line is, "The Hubble space telescope...can literally see hundreds of miles." Or maybe, "It's based on some verse in the Bible about fire." Yes, this is satire. But unfortunately I'm gathering it is satire that cuts rather close to reality for comfort.
My Catholic readers can tell me if there is anything in Catholic youth leadership that corresponds to the phenomenon of "Ignatius."
July 29, 2009
Note to the elderly: Just say no to top-down end-of-life rationing
Wesley Smith discusses the pressure Obamacare will put upon the elderly not to receive end-of-life care. (See also here.) Under Obama's bill, the elderly would be encouraged (I haven't yet been able to find out just how strongly they would be pressured) to receive end-of-life counseling every five years or even more often. The "even more often" option would be triggered not simply by their being diagnosed with an illness that gives them less than three months to live (!) but even by a "chronic, progressive, life-limiting disease." Life-limiting, huh? How do you spell "life unworthy of life"? Is your life limited? Let's get you quick as can be to someone to counsel you on refusing antibiotics in case you get an infection.
Think I'm kidding? We're just talking about super-costly interventions, right? About extraordinary care, right? About things no sensible person would want, anyway, right?
Wrong. Antibiotics and artificial nutrition and hydration are expressly listed as items people are going to be counseled about refusing. So, for example, if you are diagnosed with MS, why, then, a utilitarian "expert" will be right on hand to counsel you on how your miserable life, so limited by your disease, could be ended if you just wrote down that you don't want antibiotics if you catch pneumonia.
This is bad stuff, folks. This is not something any pro-lifer should be endorsing. As Wesley points out, the pro-suicide Compassion and Choices will be only too happy to offer their services as such counselors. But even if the counseling comes from someone else, there is no question that the intent is to pressure the elderly into refusing normal care on the grounds of a lack of quality of life. It isn't the care that's so expensive. We need to face the fact that it's their lives that are being regarded as too expensive.
And, as a doctor points out, it is entirely contrary to the Hippocratic oath to put doctors in a situation where they are supposed to be trying as hard as they can to cut costs rather than trying to recommend what is actually best for their patients.
This civic republican or deliberative democratic conception of the good provides both procedural and substantive insights for developing a just allocation of health care resources. Procedurally, it suggests the need for public forums to deliberate about which health services should be considered basic and should be socially guaranteed. Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity - those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberation - are to be socially guaranteed as basic. Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.
(Cited as from Hastings Center Report, Nov-Dec. 1996. If anyone can locate an electronic link to the full text of the article, please e-mail me with it.)
Welcome to the Brave New World.
[After some careful thought, I have decided to close comments on this post. I do not have time to monitor and engage in another large-scale discussion about healthcare. Nor am I interested in bantering with liberal drive-bys. My goal is to inform my conservative readers and blog colleagues about what rationing really means and is really going to mean to the elderly in terms of end-of-life care. I want to ask all of you to take this information into account in your own rhetoric and recommendations regarding healthcare and in your own evaluations of the President's plan.]
Update: Here is the link to Emmanuel's whole article. Thanks to a reader for sending the link.
If Confucius or Aristotle did stand-up…
…this is how it would go (HT: Siris):
The Gates Incident, the 911 tapes, and a certain cast of mind
As Andrew Cline, editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader , points out, the release of the 911 tapes of the Gates incident reveals the cast of mind that is produced by an academic culture that dehumanizes the individual in the name of advancing what are the apparent interests of one's class, race, or gender. Readers of WWWtW have seen this to a lesser extent when some of us have faced a level of sophomoric reasoning bordering on philosophical malpractice that is in such perverse disproportion to what is appropriate to such disagreements that in prior ages it would have been considered potential Monty Python material.
At some point, all of us--conservatives and liberals alike--have to begin to value the truth for its own sake. I am, of course, under no illusion that even if we all embraced this noble principle, deep disagreements would continue, and that each of us would sometimes think our adversaries are not being entirely candid about their viewpoints and their plausibility. Trust me, I know how difficult it is to exercise virtue under the weight of adversity. But we still have to realize that not every incident of personal or political conflict should be seen as an opportunity to score cultural points when the scoring of those points requires one to dehumanize another under some academic abstraction or "internalized narrative."
Here are some excerpts from Mr. Cline's essay:
July 30, 2009
Why discrimination must be legal
I have been thinking for quite a while of writing a post on the importance of allowing various forms of what are considered to be "discrimination" in hiring. That longer and more sweeping post will have to wait, unless this one turns into it by way of the comments discussion. Meanwhile, here is just one reason.
Increasingly, the public at large is insane about what counts as a valid reason for firing someone or not hiring someone. The majority simply cannot be trusted, in any way, shape, or form, to come up with some sort of rational rules by which to micro-manage employment practices, even if such micro-management were a valid function of government at all. In witness whereof, I call the following case regarding a public school teacher, whom nobody involved seems to think should be fired:
Crystal Defanti, a 5th-grade teacher in Elk Grove, CA, made a videotape of herself having sexual intercourse. She then accidentally included the tape on a DVD of school memories from the past year that she made for students. When students were watching the tape with parents at home, suddenly it cut to that footage.
But nobody wants her fired. Oh, dear, no. Even the parents don't seem to want that. And "legal experts say it's unlikely she'll lose her job." Why? Well, you see, she didn't do anything illegal. Well, that's that, then.
Now, what do you think? If these parents, Ms. Defanti's employers, Ms. Defanti herself, and/or the legal experts consulted were in charge of anti-discrimination laws, what are the odds that they would think it should be illegal to fire her? Discriminating against her for her "lifestyle," you know, and for a simple little mistake, poor woman. I think there are people who would indeed say so. A lot of people. There are a lot of people who have crazy ideas about what's a good reason to fire somebody, and who think that their own ideas should be the law. And the history of federal and state law in the past forty-five years encourages them in such totalitarian impulses, because that history has been one long progression of everybody and his uncle making it illegal to make any employment decision they wouldn't make.
So thank God there are still private elementary schools in the country who maybe, just maybe, would fire Ms. Defanti. And thank God that maybe, just maybe, they still could.
July 31, 2009
The Bank of America Experience
Sorry to stray so far from my usual topics and attitudes - but I'm really pissed off about this.
Years & years ago, in a sentimental moment, I accepted a University of Michigan Alumni credit card from MBNA, which was absorbed by Bank of America in 2005.
As credit card companies are wont to do, they constantly badgered me with promotional offers.
Early last January, I finally yielded to the temptation. They had sent me an offer which, in my circumstances at the time, I just couldn't refuse:
"Simply use one of these attached checks...by your statement Closing Date in January 2009 [i.e., January 23rd]" - and receive 0% interest until October 2009!!! - the offer fairly shouted...
...Well - dear reader, what can I say? - I used one of the attached checks, at the very beginning of January, to pay off a balance on my Discover card. The good folks at Discover duly credited this check to my account on January 9th - a full two weeks *before* the above-mentioned closing date. And, those good folks assure me, they processed the check within a couple of days, at most.
So here's where the plot thickens:
Bank of America didn't post the transaction for another TWENTY-FOUR DAYS - until February 2nd, to be precise - ten days *after* the closing date. At which point they started charging me in excess of 20% interest. Which has added up, so far, to several hundred dollars that I can ill afford.
When I point out to their "customer satisfaction agents" that I "used" the check well before their deadline, and that I can prove it (with my Discover card statement) - they reply, in essence, that the only thing that matters is the date when they chose to *post* the transaction. Which was, conveniently enough for them, several days *after* the deadline for the promotional rate.
Even though neither the word "post" nor any of its variants is anywhere to be found in their offer letter (which I have retained).