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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March 2010 Archives

March 1, 2010

Photography and a little bit of self-promotion

It's not often that I post to What's Wrong with the World, but I wanted to take a minute to plug my little side business with a small advertisement.

I am happy to announce that as of this morning, 11 of my photos went on display on the walls of the Starbucks inside our local Barnes and Noble. As this was the first time my photos -- in a quantity larger than, say, one -- were displayed in public, I wanted to share with the W4 readers both some of these images and a special offer...

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Raindrops on Roses

Continue reading "Photography and a little bit of self-promotion" »

March 2, 2010

Being a liberal means never having to say you're sorry

One of the remarkable features of the Crisis of Usury is how thoroughly it has exposed the flaws of our reigning public orthodoxies; and yet how invincible they remain in many particulars touching on those flaws.

To me this peculiar quality of the times is most prominent when it comes to the orthodoxy of globalization. For our purposes globalization may be defined as simply the integration of world capital markets. Globalization allows an investor in Asia or Europe, working through credit intermediaries — banks, funds, shadow banks — to deploy his capital in, say, the US housing sector by a few strokes of a keyboard. For decades this development was praised by almost everyone, Right or Left, as a manifest advance for human prosperity; more importantly, it was commended particularly for the stability it would secure for all of us.

The Great Recession has blown that theory to pieces. In the event, what globalization achieved was a condition of appalling fragility — and what’s worse, an exploitable fragility. The integration of capital markets across borders and cultures meant that, as a finance firm, all that was necessary for “too big to fail” status was a position sufficiently integral to the infrastructure of finance that the consequences of bankruptcy would destructively ramify to all corners of the globe. The key attribute need not even be sheer size. AIG included a sizeable shadow banking operation, to be sure, but what was far more important than its size was its crucial role in guaranteeing for other banks vast swaths of the mortgage-backed securities market. These guarantees were extended around the world; after Goldman, the next biggest institution to receive billions in US taxpayer cash after the chaotic September 2008 rescue of AIG was a French bank. AIG found an integral niche in global finance, and exploited it to the hilt.

More than systemic fragility, as can be readily observed, globalization presented the financiers with irresistible opportunities for high-tech blackmail. Corner a certain market in systemically important securities — commercial paper, say, or overnight repurchase agreements, or any number of a vast array of credit derivatives — and the unscrupulous financier could count on winning any stare-down with regulators in the event of panic and crisis.

Continue reading "Being a liberal means never having to say you're sorry" »

Reply to Unz

My thanks to Ron Unz (Unz) for publishing a detailed reply to our recent critique of his article on Hispanic crime rates. However, since, speaking as the numbers guy for our critique, I believe his analysis is largely mistaken, I'm providing a response.

Continue reading "Reply to Unz" »

March 3, 2010

Update on Rifqa Bary

On my personal blog I have posted an update on Rifqa Bary's situation. The short version is that there is good news along with continued concerns about her immigration situation. The good news is that the judge turned down her parents' most recent attempt to get her isolated again, to get her dependency declaration thrown out, and to send that dependency into doubt and to trial. The continued immigration concern arises from the fact that the judge is not yet making certain rulings that Rifqa's lawyers need to have in place in order to apply with the federal government for legal immigration status for her, independent of her parents. This application needs to be at least in the works (and possibly granted, I don't know which) before she turns eighteen on August 10, and while her eighteenth birthday will be a relief in the sense of relieving her from any fear of being sent back unwillingly to her parents, it also would leave her possibly open to deportation if the paperwork ducks aren't in a row. The judge needs to rule a) that reconciliation with her parents is impossible and b) that it would not (!) be in her best interests to be returned to Sri Lanka. This is a part of a special federal immigration status program for immigrant children in the foster care system. Once a local judge rules in those ways, those rulings can be used in making a federal application for a special juvenile visa before Rifqa's eighteenth birthday. But for the time being the judge is unwilling to rule that reconciliation with the parents is impossible, so that process is stalled.

On the one hand, the hysterical statement by some that Rifqa's dependency declaration in January was "useless," that she had been "tricked" into agreeing to it, and that her parents have simply "reneged" on the dependency "deal" has been shown to be false. As the lawyers were saying all along would happen, the judge did not grant the parents' motion(s). (Actually, there were several, including removal of her present guardian ad litem and of her entire legal team.) On the other hand, the time is getting short to get that immigration paperwork going, and it's worrisome that the judge is demanding that everyone continue "counseling" and meanwhile will not make the rulings that will make the immigration application possible.

There is some sort of hearing (labeled, weirdly, a "pretrial" at Atlas Shrugs) on April 5, but none of Rifqa's blogospheric supporters seems to know what it's about. My best guess, but only a guess, is that the judge will take up the "reconciliation impossible" motion at that time.

March 5, 2010

Scholastic’s Bookshelf

I’ve resumed my series on recommended reading in Neo-Scholastic philosophy and theology. Alert the media.

Feminism, Traditionalism, Professionalism

In this enjoyable short essay, philosopher Susan Haack discusses the feminism of Dorothy Sayers with special reference to Sayers' novel Gaudy Night.

My own feelings about Gaudy Night are ambivalent. On the one hand, Sayers seems more ideological and, as a result, less good a mystery writer in this novel than in most of her others. Her feminism gets the better of her when it comes to her characterization of the would-be murderer and to her approval of Lord Peter's rather nauseatingly submissive behavior toward Harriet Vane. On the other hand, a fan of Sayers or of mysteries will enjoy the novel for its craftsmanship, its excellent and well-textured writing, and its interesting characters and plot. This is borne out by the fact that, despite my annoyance at some features, I have read it so many times as nearly to have it memorized.

But Gaudy Night is by the way. Haack's main point is to praise Sayers' brand of old-fashioned feminism and to contrast it with contemporary, "women's studies" feminism, of which Haack, quite rightly, disapproves.

Haack is an individualist and, in the old-fashioned sense, a humanist. She wants to study and to emphasize, on the one hand, what is common to mankind and, on the other hand, what is specific to a given individual (in terms of abilities and interests), not what is characteristic of groups and especially not of "interest groups." She is a self-designated feminist of Sayers' sort and an opponent (I have reason to believe) of affirmative action and of other aspects of the contemporary spoils system of group politics.

I, on the other hand, am a gender-role traditionalist. I believe that male-female differences make a much bigger difference to workforce activities than feminists of any stripe believe. I can well imagine many situations in which discriminating against a female (or, sometimes, for a female) would make perfect sense. These include the obvious ones--the military, on-the-beat police work (as we discussed here), and (for discrimination in favor of women) work with young children. I also would think it quite understandable if an employer, having found that every one of his carefully trained, white-collar, female assistants had a baby and left him to look for and train another assistant (after taking advantage of the federal law forcing him to hold the job open during three months' maternity leave), preferred in the future to hire a male. I think it unfortunate that an employer is not permitted under current law to make obvious, rational use of such inductive information. I think that most women will be happiest if they can make being a wife and mother a full-time vocation. It seems to me that it has caused a great deal of harm both to individuals and to society for all girls to be raised to intend a career. I think men should be expected to take on the responsibility of bringing home the bacon.

So it might seem that I would have little use for Haack's resolute individualism. As it happens, though, I heartily cheer her condemnation of what she delightfully calls the "pink-collar ghetto" of feminist philosophy and all its ilk. But I would give a slightly different reason from the one she emphasizes for rejecting it.

Continue reading "Feminism, Traditionalism, Professionalism" »

March 7, 2010

Thoughts on Empire and Secession

No true son of Christendom can be against empire in principle. What is the alternative to empire? The "right to self-determination" for every conceivable racial, religious, and random grouping of individuals? That is a recipe for anarchy and endless revolution. But we may oppose this or that empire for moral or pragmatic reasons, and we may even promote the (non-absolute) right of secession for moral or pragmatic reasons. The question, for us, is whether the American empire has outlived its legitimate mandate, and whether secession or resistance might be, in some cases, a moral imperative.

March 8, 2010

Unz Again

In his response to my "Reply to Unz," Ron Unz gets one thing right, a bunch of things wrong, and simply ignores the most damning part of my reply.

Continue reading "Unz Again" »

March 9, 2010

Blinded by Scientism

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The problem with scientism is that it is either self-defeating or trivially true. F. A. Hayek helps us to see why. Here is the first of a two-part series on the subject I wrote for Public Discourse. The second installment will appear on Friday.

Apes....

... According to primatologists, demonstrate capacities for humaneness exceeding those of Randroids, the architects of the nineteenth-century British Poor Laws, the British politicians and capitalists who spent the Great Hunger debating the finer points of Malthus, Manchester liberalism, and the imperative of not encouraging the production of surplus mouths, and various and sundry other ghouls who think sharing, altruism, and compassion to be sins against nature.

The researchers do note that it is possible the behaviour is essentially selfish, undertaken with a view to future reciprocation; this, however, does not mitigate the contrast, inasmuch as a simulated compassion is still preferable to actual callousness.

H/T: Yves Smith.

The Theory of the Leisure Class: Application and Illustration

Thorsten Veblen's classic sociological work, The Theory of the Leisure Class, divided human societies, for hueristic purposes, into two generic forms, the productive, in which most everyone works and participates in networks of solidarity, and the barbarian, in which a dominant class expropriates some portion of the production of society, rules over the productive segment of the population, and legitimates its status by elaborating myths according to which this idle exploitation is somehow finer and more noble than actually doing stuff.

Verily, the contemporary applications fain would make themselves, and indeed, one Etay Zwick has served as their facilitator:

Continue reading "The Theory of the Leisure Class: Application and Illustration" »

The. End.

Daniel Pipes writes:

"...my mood about Iraq could variously be described as depressed, despairing, despondent, dejected, pessimistic, melancholic, and gloomy.

"That's because the Iraqi regime (along with those of Afghanistan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority) is a kept institution that cannot survive without constant American support. As long as Washington pumps money and sacrifices lives to maintain the Baghdad government, the latter can hobble along. Remove those props and Iranian-backed Islamists soon take over...

"As the American era closes, the Iranian one opens. In a year or two, the current elections will be looked back on as a cosmetic episode..."

So I guess even the most neo-conservative of neo-conservatives are finally saying goodbye to the thought that democratizing the Arab world - even assuming that we could bring it about - would be a good idea.

Good on Daniel Pipes.

March 10, 2010

Dutch to the Elderly: Just Die Already

I hasten to add to my title that the law I refer to in it has not yet been passed, though a petition in its favor has gained 100,000 signatures, which will send it to a debate in Parliament. Holland, of course, has an incredibly liberal assisted suicide regime, as Wesley J. Smith has frequently documented. In addition to all manner of legal allowances for assisted suicide for sick people who request it, Holland also has legal post-birth infanticide, and doctors euthanize people (not only infants) without request. The Supreme Court, Smith mentions, has made assisted suicide available to the depressed.

What more could suicide advocates want?

But there's always more. The new law would allow legal assisted suicide to those over the age of seventy who "consider their lives complete." Charming, isn't it? When you consider your life complete, you can just check out.

People love the idea of control. The idea that they should not be able to control their deaths is increasingly unpalatable to people. It does not help that just being old is more and more treated as a disease. I did not really enjoy P.D. James's dystopian novel The Children of Men, but I must admit that this latest legal proposal made me think of the "quietus" in that book, which is exactly this--death for the elderly, just because they are elderly.

(Related post)

Christian workers expelled from Morocco.

The Moroccan government has begun what amounts to an expulsion of all Christian missionaries. Considering that the speech of a Dutch politician said to be anti-Islamic, or a Swiss law to curtail the building of minarets, is the kind of thing that attracts extensive and often hyperbolic press coverage, one might expect that this Moroccan policy might be worthy of notice. Alas, aside from a few blogs and a handful of New Zealand websites, this outrage has gone unremarked. My brother Robert Cella has some firsthand experience in missions work in Morocco. Here is the note he wrote me about the explusion:

The children’s home that rests on the hills outside of the town of Ain Leuh, Morocco has been a haven for the marginalized orphans of Morocco for nearly a half century. Founded in 1957 by two American women dedicated to caring for the abandoned children of Morocco, the Village of Hope, has been a beacon of hope and healing to the orphans for over half a century — until two days ago, when the hand of the Moroccan government turned against it.

In recent years the campus has provided homes and families for more that 30 orphaned children, placing them in the care of dedicated expatriate couples who have committed to raising each child to adulthood. Most couples and staff have come as Christians, looking to ease the pains of the broken social structure in Moroccan rural life. The couples act, in all senses of the word, as parents to these children, calling them sons and daughters and imparting to each their own last name. They have taken the children into their homes and raised them as their own — a true blessing as they would otherwise be placed in massive state-run orphanages. In addition to taking up these particular burdens as foster parents, the Village also provides numerous services to the local community. They provide free quality education to each child. They provide employment to many of Ain Leuh’s residents — teachers, tutors, cooks, nannies, construction workers, and workers in the apple orchards. They host annual events including a summer camp that brings in hundreds of local youth to learn basic skills, give exposure to English language basics, and play games.

I was lucky to be a part of the Village of Hope in the summer of 2005. The charming hillside community rises up from the vast valley that separates the Middle Atlas Mountains from the Low Atlas Mountains in the central part of the country. I recall my first weeks being surrounded by happy children, who would play in the newly built playground after their lessons, only to be called off to supper by their parents. The Village was a home to three core families then, each composed of about 10 kids and their parents. Throughout the summer I watched as these kids interacted with the only parents they had ever known. I recall now how the distinction between natural and real parents was nonexistent to those kids. I also recall the joy of being a part of their summer camp, shuttling local kids in a broken down Chevy Astro van, up and down windy roads with the overcrowded occupants singing loud songs in their native Arabic.

In recent days the news has come down that this charitable community, at the whim of Moroccan authorities, has been in effect shut down. The parents and all foreign-born workers have been expelled from the country, leaving children in the care of state authorities. Families have literally been rent asunder by the coercion of the state. It is an outrage to see this community, which has so faithfully filled gaps of the broken social structure, torn apart by bureaucratic caprice and the unjust fears from Islamic social pressures.

Contact the White House.

Contact the State Department.

Contact your Congressman and Senators.

March 11, 2010

The ascension and the "objective vision" theory of the resurrection

I am presently working on research for an article on history and theism for a projected Routledge Companion to Theism. A cause of slight psychological strain in doing the research is a ban on content notes--footnotes or endnotes--in the finished product. I'm not as dependent as some scholars on large numbers of content notes, but I usually have a few. (I just wrote to the editor today asking, in so many words, "Is the prohibition on content notes set in stone?" But it's hard to send the image of big, sad, appealing eyes over e-mail, and in any event, scholars are notably unamenable to the pure emotional appeal. So I kept it businesslike.)

One side issue that I would probably discuss briefly in a content note, if content notes were allowed, is the issue of the ascension as it relates to what has come to be known as the objective vision theory of the resurrection of Jesus. I'm a couple of months liturgically early in discussing the ascension, but hopefully my readers won't mind too much.

Continue reading "The ascension and the "objective vision" theory of the resurrection" »

Catholic Imperialism: The Bulls of Donation

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As an admittedly lazy follow-up to the recent discussion of empire and secession, I thought it might be helpful to introduce the papal "bulls of donation", in which the popes go well beyond mere toleration by taking an active and supportive role in the conquest of the New World. In theory, yes, there is a possibility that the involvement of the pontiffs could have been a moral or prudential error, such acts falling outside the charism of indefectibility, and good Catholics may disagree without censure. However, in the absence of any proof of wrongdoing, the faithful clearly owe Christ's Vicars the benefit of the doubt in this matter.

Contra those whose religion is Americanism rather than Christianity, no Christian can say "Americans are my only neighbors" and to hell with everyone else. Although empire building is seldom an obligation and often ill-advised, it cannot be true that the only just reason for conquest is self-defense. The example of Christian charity in the excerpt below is instructive:

From Inter Caetera by Pope Alexander VI, addressed to the kings of Castile and their successors:

Therefore all things diligently considered (especially the amplifying and enlarging of the Catholic faith, as it behooveth Catholic Princes following the examples of your noble progenitors of famous memory), whereas you are determined by the favor of Almighty God, to subdue and bring to the Catholic faith the inhabitants of the aforesaid lands and islands, we greatly commending this, your godly and laudable purpose in our Lord, and desirous to have the same brought to a due end, and the name of our Saviour to be known in those parts, do exhort you in our Lord and by the receiving of your holy baptism whereby you are bound to the Apostolic obedience, and earnestly require you by the bowels of mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, when you intend for the zeal of the Catholic faith to prosecute the said expedition to reduce the people of the aforesaid lands and islands to the Christian religion, you shall spare no labors at any time, or be deterred with any perils conceiving from hope and confidence that the omnipotent God will give good success to your godly attempts.

Continue reading "Catholic Imperialism: The Bulls of Donation" »

March 12, 2010

Recovering Sight after Scientism

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Seeing that scientism is unsustainable, we must embrace a return to philosophy. Here is the second article in a two-part series on scientism I wrote for Public Discourse.

What's Wrong With Distributism

Distributism is, basically, the doctrine that "ownership of the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the general populace, rather than being centralized under the control of the state (state socialism) or a few large businesses or wealthy private individuals (plutarchic capitalism)."

The best known advocates of distributism were probably Hillaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton, whose book What's Wrong with the World gave this website it's name.

Note that Distributism is, fundamentally, a consequentialist doctrine - i.e., it seeks to maximize a certain ideal end-state-of-affairs viz., the widest possible distribution of ownership of the means of production - while leaving the means by which this is accomplished pretty much up for grabs.

And that, in the end, is what's wrong with distributism.

Given the vast disparities in productive potential found in nature between individuals, between ethnicities, between races, and so on and so forth, the only means of avoiding the concentration of ownership of the means of production in the hands of relatively few individuals, ethnicities, races, &c is to build a gigantically powerful centralized state which doesn't mind resorting to main force, whenever necessary, to bring about that goal.

Trouble is, once that gigantically powerful centralized state gets built - who do you think stands the best chance of taking charge of it?

Distributist philosophers? or, say, for example...Wall Street Banksters?

The question answers itself.

March 13, 2010

Preamble and Compact

On a lively email list of which I am a member, a discussion of some controverted legal doctrines digressed into a debate over the status of the Preamble to the US Constitution. Several incisive lawyers insisted that its status, legally, is, in practice, nil. They allowed that the phrase “We the People” establishes the legitimacy of the document as having been made by consent, which is of course what the Declaration of Independence lays out as the basis for the just powers of government. But what they denied is that the remaining clauses of the Preamble can have binding authority.

Strictly speaking, I suppose, we would all be alarmed if, let us say, the learned justices of the Supreme Court, taking in hand a duly-enacted piece of legislation, and scrutinizing its content, adjudged it unconstitutional on the grounds that it failed to “promote the general Welfare” or “secure the Blessings of Liberty.” That would be an open door to extraordinary mischief, which the Philadelphia Convention surely did not intend. In that sense I agree with my lawyerly interlocutors: the Preamble cannot be thought to formally bind statutory enactment as the rest of the document does.

But where I part ways with them — and part ways with the ingrained scholarly habit of what we might call, with a touch of burlesque, “latent anti-Preamblism” — is when they undertake to set aside the Preamble more comprehensively, when they commence a reading of American constitutionalism abstracted from the purposes laid out there: in fine, when they embark on an effort to understand our political tradition without including in that attempt an understanding of that complex, winding sentence which serves to put the world on notice as to what ends “We the People” have set ourselves by constituting ourselves a unified people here in these United States of America.

Continue reading "Preamble and Compact" »

March 14, 2010

Distributism in practice?

An audience with King Adam Hemmings, a second-year political science and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations double major, begins with a firm handshake. Hemmings is perfectly polished, from his trimmed nails to the crisp lines of his suit. Every detail hints at how seriously he takes representing his state, which he is eager to discuss.

"I was talking with some of my good friends in England, where I'm originally from, and in 2005 we all started to question what a country really was," Hemmings said of his decision to form a new nation. "We decided, okay, let's start an experiment. Let's try to found a nation in England."

On June 4, 2005, Hemmings issued a declaration of independence. He founded Kemetia, a secessionist state operating on the terms of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States: a permanent population, a defined territory, and a government with the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

170 voting citizens, 32 of whom attend the University of Chicago, populate Hemmings' state. Kemetia comprises various parts of the South of England, including Winchester. Its government is a constitutional monarchy that transformed Hemmings into King Adam. It's not just a figment of Hemmings' imagination: Jordan, Syria, Taiwan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo all recognize Kemetia, according to Hemmings.

Whom shall we nominate as Lord Protector of the Chesterbelloc Republic? My vote is for Zippy.

Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City!

The big news lately in my neck of the woods is that they're shutting down about half of the inner-city public schools in Kansas City, Missouri. This is the latest act in a long-running tragical-comical-historical farce that's been going on since 1985, when a federal judge basically took over the school system in the name of "desegregation" and ordered the taxpayers of the State of Missouri to pay whatever it took to bring the overwhelmingly African-American student body of Kansas City's urban core up to par.

If you're at all interested in the whole sordid story, please click on my previous link.

But you're not at all interested - are you?

So let me give it to you straight:

Continue reading "Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City!" »

March 16, 2010

Not quite right

Here's an odd and interesting post arguing against post-abortion ministries like Silent No More and the Abortion Changes You ad campaign on the grounds that they contribute to our society's elevation of emotion over reason and reality on the issue of abortion.

When the concern is stated that way, one can understand the danger of such a result while at the same time seeing no problem with the approach in principle. It seems to me that the post author's central blind spot is this: She fails to see that the emotions in question, emotions of guilt, regret, pain, and so forth, are condign responses to reality. She compares what she calls the "wailing women" of post-abortion stories to "wailing women" of yore, feminists who "wailed" about how motherhood and the lack of legal abortion ruined their lives. But that is a faulty comparison on its face. It is unnatural to wail about not being able to have an abortion. It is natural and in an important sense salutary to wail about having had an abortion. A woman who feels unhappy about her abortion and who is allowed and even encouraged to confront those feelings may well be on the way to repentance and grace.

The blind spot is made especially evident when the author compares post-abortive women whose emotions are displayed as they tell their stories with parents in England who are feted after killing their disabled children. But this is completely upside down. The case of the sort she is talking about with which I am familiar is that of Robert Latimer in Canada, who murdered his disabled daughter Tracy. When people sympathize with all that he "felt" and "went through," this is sympathy that pushes (and is meant to push) in the direction of approving his act of murdering his daughter. When we listen and offer post-abortion counseling to women suffering with grief and guilt for having had abortions, the sympathy there moves the woman and society in the direction of disapproving of the abortion. Mr. Latimer doesn't feel guilt! And the people who sympathize with him aren't sharing feelings of pain and guilt for what he did but rather are sympathizing with him for what he did. In contrast, post-abortive women are often told (as the author of the post herself says) that they should "suck it up," that there is something wrong with them if a little voice tells them that what they did was not good. Encouraging them in expressing their misery is encouraging them in at least the direction of admitting wrong-doing, not sympathizing with their wrong-doing.

Continue reading "Not quite right" »

Zippy’s back

I have been remiss in failing to note, in case some readers are unaware of it, that our erstwhile colleague Zippy Catholic is back blogging at his own website. Lately he has put up illuminating posts on torture and usury. It both cases he has taught me at least — and I wager many more of us here — some very important things, which without him I might have never learned. On the former, he has been steadily updating a Catalogue of Failed Arguments mustered in defense of waterboarding, an indefensible technique of interrogation which, sadly, our government regularly engaged in and which, even more sadly, most of our countrymen are insouciant about.

On the latter, in good Chestertonian fashion, Zippy has begun an inquiry into the Thomistic treatment of usurious forms of lending and finance which operates on the premise that maybe, just maybe, it is not the moderns who are wise and the mediaevals who are ignorant of finance, but rather the reverse. As Chesterton himself put it: “Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which you are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being shocked. It may be that your grandmother was an extremely lively and vital animal and that you are a paralytic.” Well, modern finance capitalism has produced some extraordinary paralysis, alright. We have right now a securities trade where the big banks borrow money at near zero percent from the Federal Reserve and then lend it at 2 or 3 percent to the Treasury. What a bunch of geniuses these guys are! Meanwhile the financiers develop increasing intricate arbitrage trading strategies that consist of piling up huge capital behind a momentary, fractional irrationality in some arcane market, and turning a big profit on the unearned increment that is available only to the huge player.

In any case, Zippy is back blogging, and, as ever, always worth reading.

March 17, 2010

If you think we should stay in Afghanistan...

...for another micro-second, than you really need to listen to Matthew Hoh:


Continue reading "If you think we should stay in Afghanistan..." »

March 19, 2010

Oderberg on the First Way

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David Oderberg has just updated his website with several important papers, including his excellent new essay “’Whatever is Changing is Being Changed by Something Else’: A Reappraisal of Premise One of the First Way,” which appears in J. Cottingham and P. Hacker, eds., Mind, Method, and Morality: Essays in Honour of Anthony Kenny. Kenny is a fine philosopher and has written many valuable works on Aquinas, but his critique of the Five Ways in his book on the subject is (so some of us would argue) far less powerful than it is often given credit for. I explain some of what is wrong with it in my book Aquinas, and Oderberg responds to Kenny’s attack on the First Way in this new paper.

March 20, 2010

Boulder Catholic school refuses to be co-opted

Here's an excellent article by Archbishop Chaput on a Boulder, CO, Catholic school that has decided not to continue enrolling the children "of" (I use the term advisedly) two lesbian women.

The Archbishop makes a number of good points, and I want to draw out one of these points more explicitly in response to the "what about all the other sinners" objection.

The problem is not with allowing the children of sinners to attend a Catholic school! Obviously not, or there would be no children in the school. Nor is the problem even with children attending the school whose parents do, in fact, reject Catholic teaching on this point or the other--say, on the use of birth control. While I would support a Catholic school's right to refuse to enroll children whose parents are not willing to swear that they do not use birth control, the importance of such a policy for a school's Catholic identity is nothing like the importance of not enrolling the children "of" homosexual couples. The Archbishop expresses the matter rather delicately:

If parents don’t respect the beliefs of the Church, or live in a manner that openly rejects those beliefs, then partnering with those parents becomes very difficult, if not impossible. It also places unfair stress on the children, who find themselves caught in the middle, and on their teachers, who have an obligation to teach the authentic faith of the Church.

Most parents who send their children to Catholic schools want an environment where the Catholic faith is fully taught and practiced. That simply can’t be done if teachers need to worry about wounding the feelings of their students or about alienating students from their parents. That isn’t fair to anyone—including the wider school community.

Let's translate that into practical terms, giving imaginary names to the people involved: Every single time Mrs. Jones, the first-grade teacher, refers to one of the two lesbians who consider themselves to be little Betsy's "mothers," the teacher has to make a decision. What does she call these women? They may both have adopted Betsy, or it may be that one woman is Betsy's biological mother (by artificial insemination) and the other woman has no parental relation to Betsy--either biological or legal. In either case, it is the Christian and Catholic position that the lesbian relationship is not even remotely like marriage and that Betsy does not have two parents in anything remotely like the sense in which a child has two parents when he has a mother and a father. Yet if Mrs. Jones calls Betsy's biological mother "your mother" and the other woman "your mother's friend," there will be a big blow-up, and Betsy (who has been told that she has two mommies) will be distressed. If Mrs. Jones insists (if Betsy gets sick) on treating one of the women as her mother and not the other, there will be a major problem. And the same for all the other parent-teacher interactions. If neither woman is Betsy's biological mother and both have adopted her, Mrs. Jones might choose (still trying not to give in to the myth of the "lesbian family") to refer to them both as "your adopted mothers" or "the ladies who take care of you" or something. Imagine the fuss that would cause. If, on the other hand, Mrs. Jones just gives in and goes along with the "Betsy has two mommies" meme, she is implying something to the other children in the class that is contrary to Catholic and Christian teaching.

Continue reading "Boulder Catholic school refuses to be co-opted" »

March 21, 2010

Prayer to stop the healthcare disaster

Lawrence Auster has been doing yeomanly work covering the healthcare crisis caused by power-hungry ideologues eager to transform America, unconstitutionally if necessary.

With the word coming through that Stupak & co. may be about to sell their souls for a mess of worthless executive orders, Auster's recent theme--that we as Americans should pray that God would save our country--becomes more urgent than ever. Here he gives the text of the General Confession from Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. It is one of the most beautiful prayers in the Prayer Book and in the English language.

Comments are closed. This post is not being put up for purposes of debate but for purposes of calling genuine Christian conservatives to prayer for God's intervention in this urgent matter.

So much....


Watch CBS News Videos Online

...for the power of prayer.

Continue reading "So much...." »

March 23, 2010

Enumerated Shmenumerated

Good post (annoying spelling errors notwithstanding) here on the individual mandate and the concept of a federal government of enumerated powers.

Special kudos to this:

While taxes may have a regulatory purpose,...is there truly no limitation on Congress' ability to coerce through taxation what it cannot do through regulation? Should Congress really be able to take, as is the case here, up to two percent of a person's income because [he] has failed to do what Congress cannot compel [him] to do?

And this:

It will be tragic because the notion of a Congress limited by the scope of its enumerated powers will have finally suffered the coup de grace. The Bill of Rights (once famously - and now ironically - thought to be unnecessary given the structural limits on the power of the national government) will become the only limitation on the power of Congress. If Congress can require you to buy health insurance because of the ways in which your uncovered existence effects [sic] interstate commerce or because it can tax you in an effort to force you to do anything old thing it wants you to, it is hard to see what - save [for] some other constitutional restriction - it cannot require you to do - or prohibit you from doing.

My one point of disagreement with the author: He implies that the continuation of Obamacare is not in itself tragic, despite his acknowledgment that it will probably "do more harm than good" and lead to a single-payer system.

Otherwise, a useful article concerning just one of the things that some of us are going on about when we refer to the disastrous nature of the recent bill.

HT: James Allen

American political science quiz.

Q: In the majoritarian system delivered by the authors of The Federalist, what is the power that can (contrary to what previous political theory thought feasible) check the "factional" legislative majority -- the majority bent on ruin and injustice?

a. A minority outside the democratic system.
b. A reformation of morals in the majority itself, so that it will all on its own abandon its factional purpose
c. A coalition of other factional majorities, together composing a supermajority committed to a negative on whatever policy is being proposed.

March 25, 2010

Down to the brass tacks

From the moment man was self-conscious (or, if you like, from the moment he emerged out of the state of nature) he faced a political choice something like this. He could have rule by the one, rule by the few, or rule by the many. Those exhaust the options. This is a basic question of political science.

America, almost alone among nations, has sent forth a bold cry for rule-by-the-many, which means self-rule, since her earliest days. Our political tradition stands emphatically for rule-by-the-many, for popular government, for democracy; our nation is a republic.

I submit that this health care reform bill is a very considerable step away from rule-by-the-many and towards rule-by-the-few -- both on the level of state-capitalism, where we have established near-monopolies, and on the level of bureaucratization, hard on the heels of which will surely follow corruption on a vast scale. We have further "managerialized," if you'll forgive a jargon term, our society.

Now, I hasten to add that because America has, historically, stood for rule-by-the-many, and very boldly at that, does not make rule-by-the-many ideal or even best. We ought to separate our love of country from our estimate of the science. Of course Americans tend to think rule-by-the-many is the best way; many of us appear to think it is the only reasonable way. Objectively this is not so. Many reasonable arguments have been given, by many a serious thinker, for aristocracy or for monarchy, or for some principle of minority dictation. In the last few months star columnists at The New York Times have written admiringly of China, a nation unapologetically founded on a plutocratic or managerial or rule-by-the-few framework.

So someone is free to answer me: "well medicine is one area where we must have planners," or "let's face it that the managerial model ain't so bad when it comes to health issues." I will not gainsay that answer (for now), except to state that it has departed, at least in certain important particulars, from the American tradition of rule-by-the-many.

The Big "Hate Crimes" Lie

Another day, Another Campus Hate Hoax.

This one all got started when a certain African-American...ummm...entertainer who goes by the name "Jiggaboo Jones" held a "Compton Cookout" in San Diego to celebrate the release of his latest DVD. A "Compton Cookout," one gathers, is a theme party where participants are encouraged to dress up as stereotypical characters from the wonderful world of black popular culture. Among the invitees were some white frat-dudes, fans of Mr. Jones, from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

According to Mr. Jones, everything went swimmingly and a good time was had by all. But then, as he tells the story:

Continue reading "The Big "Hate Crimes" Lie" »

Absolutely and utterly ridiculous [Updated]

Readers of What's Wrong with the World know that I am a huge fan of Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch. I consider his work on Islam and the jihad to be first rate, and I owe it to his work at his blog that I am able to be well-informed both about the dangers of Islam and about the dodges used to call it a "religion of peace."

I am therefore astonished and disappointed to announce that I have been, as of today, banned from commenting at Jihad Watch.

In this comment in a thread here on coalitions I mentioned Robert Spencer's decision, with which I disagree, to cancel an event co-hosted with the Christian Action Network because of a rather strident letter written years ago under its auspices condemning the homosexual agenda. I sent further comments on the matter and on my disagreement with the decision to View From the Right, here.

Earlier today I attempted to post a comment at Jihad Watch in which I asked directly just how toned-down the Christian Action Network's rhetoric against the homosexual agenda would have had to be in order for Robert Spencer et. al. to be willing to make public common cause with them against the jihad. For example, had a different letter been written warning against the homosexual agenda in culture, complaining about a TV show, and calling the homosexual lifestyle "unnatural" or even "perverted," would that also have caused the co-hosted event to be canceled when the letter came to light? I did not keep a copy of my comment, so W4 readers will have to take my word for it that there was nothing remotely abusive about it. I think the question is a good one. Mr. Spencer (whom I continue to admire) insists that it is not the views of the Christian Action Network but the way that they were expressed that caused him to cancel the event. Yet almost any fund-raising letter to constituents on that subject from a strongly socially conservative organization would contain expressions and statements that would be deemed bigoted and homophobic by the Tolerance Police. So I think there needs to be a real question asked as to how and whether it would be possible for an organization to meet Spencer's rhetorical requirements while continuing in vocal, clearly worded, and unabashed opposition to the activist homosexual agenda.

That was it. Ten minutes ago, when I (having noticed that my comment had not posted) logged on to see if I could re-post it, I found that I have been banned from commenting at Jihad Watch. When I log in, I am given a message that I do not have permission to comment on the site. If you read the thread, you will see that there are others published there who criticize Spencer's decision and even those who argue over the morality of homosexuality. Why I was chosen for banning remains a matter for conjecture.

I am very, very disappointed in Jihad Watch. I would like to think that the banning decision was made by someone other than Spencer himself. I don't know how these things work at JW. If it was made by Spencer, I am disappointed in him as well, though I continue to applaud him for his courageous and scholarly work in opposing the global jihad, and I will continue to read and recommend his site.

Update (3/27/10): I wrote to Robert Spencer today, using his director's e-mail address found on this page. (I've not previously had any direct contact with him.) He wrote back saying that he would look into it, which I take to mean that the banning was done without his knowledge. He then wrote again and told me to try to see if I could comment and to let him know if it didn't work. It did work, so I am now un-banned at Jihad Watch. Both e-mail notes were brief and, though not un-cordial, not informative. There must be some story behind my banning (apparently by some other blog administrator at Jihad Watch), but I have not been told that story, and it's possible that Spencer does not know it either but decided based on my e-mail to reinstate my commenting privileges. The whole thing is odd and a bit disturbing, but I'm glad to be able to report that the decision was reversed, in any event.

March 26, 2010

The New Philistinism

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Here is a polemical piece on the New Atheism I wrote for The American, the journal of the American Enterprise Institute. In part it summarizes points I’ve made elsewhere, but it is primarily a discussion of the New Atheists’ tactic (invented by my longtime admirer P. Z. Myers) of shouting “Courtier’s reply!” whenever someone exposes their utter ignorance of what some religious thinker they are criticizing has actually said – a piece of Orwellian doublethink which by itself would suffice to illustrate the extreme decadence into which much secularist “thought” has fallen, if that were not blindingly obvious already. (For the memory impaired, I suppose I need to repeat what I have acknowledged so many times – that not all atheists are worthy of the contempt the “new” atheists so richly deserve. J. L. Mackie, J. J. C. Smart, Quentin Smith, and Jordan Howard Sobel – to take just four examples off the top of my head – are serious thinkers whose work must be treated by the theist with respect. Dawkins, Myers, Harris, Dennett, et al. are not worthy to be mentioned in the same breath.)

Brass Tacks, pt. II.

In the prior thread, I think we may have, through byzantine passageways of dispute, yet managed to make some progress toward clarity of disagreement.

One commenter has told me that rule-by-the-few is “here to stay,” with overtones to the effect that it is idle to argue against it; and another commenter has as good as told me that rule-by-the-few, far from merely being a fact to face, is a positive good in some areas, including health care.

The form of this rule-by-the-few will take is surely managerial or technocratic; rulership by the few experts or soi disant experts. We will all be covered with another set of regulations and officialdom. A new army of public clerks will be placed in authority over us; or, to be more precise, over the already extant army of private clerks placed in authority over our doctors. Among them — because in any army of men you will find such villains — will flitter a few ambitious tyrants and an abundance of crooks and fools.

Now I happen to think the managerial state is here to stay as well. I might have a more pronounced sense that the managerial experience is near the sunset of its days than my interlocutors (derivatives markets are giving an augury of doom right now), but we can agree that it is for now a simply fact to face.

Another area where some progress has been made, I like to think, concerns the particulars of the philosophical language of universal or natural rights — that language’s particular inadequacies.

Health is too precarious a thing to go around promising people as a right, arising from nature, vouchsafed against the community by the state. We might as well demand that every state receive the same amount of rainfall; may as well ask the Supreme Court to stop the drought or the floods in the South.

There is not yet the power in man, much less in his art of government, to insure that all our diagnoses will be right, or that none of our doctors shall ever be weary or hungover or distracted. We have yet to conquer misfortune.

So set that “rights” language aside. Repose in the language of justice — even social justice, if it will placate the liberals (though no one has ever heard of a non-social justice).

In light, not or rights but of justice, let us consider two questions: (a) has the establishment of the managerial state comprised an advance for justice? and (b) should we on those grounds continue to favor the replacement of democratic or self-governing or rule-by-the-many forms with managerial, plutocratic, rule-by-the-few forms?

March 27, 2010

The Christian State and Relief for the Poor

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Excerpted from "The Framework of a Christian State" by Rev. E. Cahill, S.J., 1932.

Although the duties of the State in regard to the poor come under the virtue, not of Charity, but of Legal Justice, a few points regarding such duties may be mentioned here. As the legitimate functions of the State in social life are essentially supplementary, they have place only where private effort fails or is manifestly inadequate. Thus, it would be an act of unlawful usurpation for the State to attempt to supplant private charity, as is being attempted under the existing unchristian regime in France. The normal duties of the State in regard to the poor are:

a) To eliminate, as far as possible, by wise laws and a just administration, the radical causes of excessive poverty.

b) To protect and encourage private effort on behalf of the poor.

c) To supplement the same as far as is found necessary, especially by subsidizing and assisting religious and charitable organizations.

Continue reading "The Christian State and Relief for the Poor" »

Language, Polemics, and Obamacare

Health care policy is one of those issues that should bring out the anti-democrat and anti-libertarian in normal conservatives. Democracy is clearly inadequate to the task: we have no choice but to rely upon experts, a managerial class, an "elite", and to hope they get it right. Libertarianism is unconscionable in that it denies the natural role of the state in fostering the common good.

With the passing of Obamacare traditionalist conservatives have a problem. We must oppose it for multiple grave reasons, but we cannot adopt the language of radical individualism, talk radio, or Ayn Rand without selling our souls. Last week I heard Dennis Prager practically shout at one of his callers: "I don't want a leader!" And there you have it, what has become the battle cry of the so-called American "right" - Non Serviam! - the drunken slogan of an ungovernable people. Prager went on to claim that the Old Testament did not place leaders over the Jews, nevermind the prophets, patriarchs, priests, judges, and eventually kings. Note well how libertarian ideology destroys the rational faculties of an otherwise intelligent man.

Language matters. Language changes us. We end up believing our own rhetoric. And here's the twist: our enemies end up believing it too, and they will one day use it against us.

So here are a few things I think we need to keep in mind:

1. "Coercion" is not a four-letter word. Laws are coercive. Taxes are coercive. The exercise of state power is by definition coercive.

2. Taxation is not "theft". Redistribution is not "theft". The state has legitimate power and authority to do both.

3. That Obamacare was passed along strict party lines means nothing. The problem is that it is bad legislation, not that it is partisan legislation. It has happened in the past, and will happen in the future, that good legislation is passed along strict party lines.

4. That a majority of Americans appear to oppose Obamacare also means nothing. The majority of Americans have not read the 1,700 page bill, and even if they had, most would not understand it. Good legislation should be passed even when opposed by an ephemeral "majority".

5. The state has an obligation to facilitate the common good, and that might include spending money on health care.

6. All people have a right to basic health care. That means someone has a duty to provide it. Traditionally, that has been the role of the Church and all Christians, with the supplemental help of the state. With Obamacare we are reaping the rewards of disestablishment.

Zippy has argued that, even though conservatives cannot embrace libertarianism as an ideology, it should nevertheless be the practical disposition of American conservatives given the wickedness of the present regime. I'm highly sympathetic to that line of thought. A libertarian regime would indeed be preferable to the secular totalitarianism which now threatens us. Still, I think we need to maintain a larger perspective. Christian civilization has more than one enemy, and the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend ...

March 28, 2010

Suffering and the Death of God

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As we head into Holy Week, I wanted to say something about this post. I'm a bit hesitant about doing so, but unfortunately, the post contains some theological implications that are not right, and it seems to me that Holy Week is a good time to answer them.

In brief, the author of the post, Anthony Sacramone (whose work I have never read before), says that he does not want to believe that God had a purpose in allowing his mother to suffer a painful death, he does not want an explanation of this, because that would have to mean that he considered that suffering to have been "O.K." He says,

And so, no, I don’t want to know whether there was a “reason” for it all. I don’t ever want to get to the point where what happened becomes tolerable. I want it forever to be ugly and pointless and cruel.

Continue reading "Suffering and the Death of God" »

The Gordian Knot Untied

Shortly before I gave up entirely on the world, the flesh, and even the devil, I spent two years as an intern in the Department of Clinical Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health, where my immediate boss was Dr. Zeke Emanuel - one of the architects of Obamacare (and also, as it happens, a great guy - even if he does happen to have a brother named Rahm). So I've been around all this health-care policy stuff for more years than I care to remember. In fact, I've been around it for so long that I can hardly stand to think or talk or write or read about it anymore.

Which, I guess, is why I missed this absolutely terrific article by David Goldhill, published in last September's issue of The Atlantic. Big, big tip o' the hat to Stephen Spruiell, at The Corner, for bringing this to my attention. He quotes Goldhill:

Continue reading "The Gordian Knot Untied" »

March 29, 2010

Stupak’s enablers?

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Bart Stupak has described himself as a “devout Catholic” and “pro-life Democrat.” Until his despicable sell-out last Sunday, many Catholics and pro-lifers were prepared to believe him. Christopher Badeaux at The New Ledger lays the blame for Stupak’s betrayal at the feet of the American Catholic bishops. “For essentially my entire lifetime,” Badeaux writes, “the Democratic Party has made as one of its governing planks that women have an inherent right to murder their children. Catholic Democrats have not, with a tiny handful of exceptions, bothered to even murmur a protest; the most prominent among them have taken up that position as their own.” Meanwhile, “the men who are supposed to stand against evil every waking moment of their lives appear more concerned about the environment, about immigrant rights, about the death penalty.” The bishops’ emphasis on these secondary issues, coupled with their failure to discipline pro-abortion Catholic politicians, has made them in Badeaux’s view “enablers” of those who, like Stupak, feel justified in compromising on abortion in the interests of pursuing what they take to be other social and political goods.

This is not entirely fair; the bishops have loudly, repeatedly, and consistently condemned abortion, and the United States Council of Catholic Bishops called on Congress to vote down the new health care bill if it failed to prohibit public funding of abortion. The bishops do not seem to be less concerned with abortion than with other issues. Still, Badeaux’s complaint seems to me to have merit – not with respect to every individual bishop, to be sure, but certainly with respect to the USCCB itself. For that body has also loudly, repeatedly, and consistently taken positions on several other matters of public controversy (such as the issues Badeaux mentions) in a fashion that has likely led many Catholics to think – quite mistakenly – that said positions are binding on Catholics and of equal weight with opposition to abortion. And that in turn has likely helped to generate a false impression that where opposition to abortion and the pursuit of some other political end come into conflict, a Stupak-like “trade off” can be justified.

Continue reading "Stupak’s enablers?" »

March 30, 2010

“We are at war with Eastasia. We have always been at war with Eastasia.”

Richard Dawkins in 2006:

Priestly abuse of children is nowadays taken to mean sexual abuse, and I feel obliged, at the outset, to get the whole matter of sexual abuse into proportion and out of the way. Others have noted that we live in a time of hysteria about pedophilia, a mob psychology that calls to mind the Salem witch-hunts of 1692… All three of the boarding schools I attended employed teachers whose affections for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety. That was indeed reprehensible. Nevertheless, if, fifty years on, they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers, I should have felt obliged to come to their defense, even as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience).

The Roman Catholic Church has borne a heavy share of such retrospective opprobrium. For all sorts of reasons I dislike the Roman Catholic Church. But I dislike unfairness even more, and I can’t help wondering whether this one institution has been unfairly demonized over the issue, especially in Ireland and America… We should be aware of the remarkable power of the mind to concoct false memories, especially when abetted by unscrupulous therapists and mercenary lawyers. The psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has shown great courage, in the face of spiteful vested interests, in demonstrating how easy it is for people to concoct memories that are entirely false but which seem, to the victim, every bit as real as true memories. This is so counter-intuitive that juries are easily swayed by sincere but false testimony from witnesses.

(The God Delusion, pp. 315-16)

Richard Dawkins in 2010:

"Should [Pope Benedict XVI] be investigated for how cases of abuse were handled under his watch as archbishop of Munich or as the Vatican's chief doctrinal enforcer?"

Yes, of course he should. This former head of the Inquisition should be arrested the moment he dares to set foot outside his tinpot fiefdom of the Vatican…

"Should the pope resign?"

No. As the College of Cardinals must have recognized when they elected him, he is perfectly - ideally - qualified to lead the Roman Catholic Church. A leering old villain in a frock, who spent decades conspiring behind closed doors for the position he now holds… a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence: in short, exactly the right man for the job. He should not resign, moreover, because he is perfectly positioned to accelerate the downfall of the evil, corrupt organization whose character he fits like a glove, and of which he is the absolute and historically appropriate monarch.

No, Pope Ratzinger should not resign. He should remain in charge of the whole rotten edifice - the whole profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution - while it tumbles, amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins, about his ears.

(The Washington Post, March 28)

Population control chic--Maybe they could call it "a tax"

I just got my latest Population Research Institute newsletter, which reports that "one of the nation's premier law schools" (which they do not name) is asking its students the following question:

Assume that population growth in the United States reached a point where additional growth would place a serious strain on our nation's resources, including food, water, space for housing, schools, and energy supply. Would the United States Constitution permit a law that limited people to having two biological children?

Students are then told to construct arguments for and against the constitutionality of various laws and regulations limiting childbirth, including a federal law and state laws.

A little googling hasn't turned up more information, but if any reader can identify the school, I'd be very pleased to know.

But hey, if they just put the "penalty" in the form of a "too many children tax" then I guess we're good to go, now.

March 31, 2010

This is how They see Us

My first thoughts: it is most important that we do nothing to give Them any excuse to see Us like this.

My second thoughts: but even even if We do nothing wrong, They'll just make stuff up.

My third thoughts: I have no third thoughts fit for publication.