April 2010 Archives
April 1, 2010
"We don't anticipate that..."
Just in case anybody here hasn't seen this yet:
Our congress-creatures at work.
I must say that Admiral Robert Willard, commander of our Pacific Fleet, deserves some sort of award for his performance, here: not the least raise of an eyebrow, not the slightest flicker of a smile.
For those who can't spare two minutes and forty-eight seconds to watch the whole thing, I transcribe the climactic exchange, below the fold...
April 2, 2010
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace, through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The meaning of the Passion
The bloody violence of the death of Jesus Christ – the skin torn by scourging, the nails driven through hands and feet, the thorns pushed into scalp and forehead, the spear thrust into the side – naturally impresses upon our minds His fleshly humanity. But it is in contemplating the Passion, perhaps more than in any other context, that we must fixate our minds precisely upon Christ’s divinity, lest we miss the event’s significance entirely. Modern people think they understand it well – a miscarriage of justice on the part of a corrupt political system, an affront to freedom of conscience, an expression of reactionary hostility to novel ideas comparable to the execution of Socrates. Thus is Christ transformed, absurdly, into something like an early martyr for Liberalism. (This gets the death of Socrates completely wrong too, of course. The popular understanding of both events reflects a Whiggish narcissism: “He was a great man; ergo he must have been anticipating us moderns in some way.” But that is another subject.)
April 4, 2010
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Alleluia! Christus Dominus hodie resurrexit! He is risen!
O God, who for our redemption didst give thine only-begotten Son to the death of the Cross, and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of our enemy; Grant us so to die daily from sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through the same thy Son Christ our Lord. Amen.
Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day,
Didst make thy triumph over death and sin:
And having harrow'd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
And grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
Being with thy dear blood clean wash'd from sin,
May live for ever in felicity.
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love thee for the same again:
And for thy sake, that all like dear didst buy,
With love may one another entertain.
So let us love, dear love, like as we ought,
Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Edmund Spenser, Amoretti LXVIII
Readers, feel free to provide a link to one or more of your favorite artistic representations of the resurrection or of the resurrected Christ. One thing that I have found interesting is that the most exciting art on this subject (Grunewald's, for example) often makes it appear that Jesus is ascending immediately, directly out of the tomb, which of course is not accurate. (See here.) (But don't hesitate to provide links to those paintings anyway, some of which are among the great works of Western art.)
It is nearly a necessary consequence of the fact that Jesus was literally resurrected that accurate portrayals of Him with His feet firmly planted on the ground, in a real, physical, body, not even shining like the sun as in the Transfiguration, will perhaps not be terribly visually exciting. Yet His resurrection was, because of its very literalness, the most exciting thing ever to happen to mankind. Because He lives, we shall live also. Death is swallowed up in victory.
The meaning of the Resurrection
As with Christ’s Passion, people are always trying to attach to His Resurrection various counterfeit meanings. But it is, in this case, harder to do it with a straight face. Were you present at the crucifixion, you would have seen what on the surface required no supernatural explanation – a man nailed to a cross, as so many had been before by the Romans. Were you present at Christ’s tomb on that first Easter Sunday, you would have seen a corpse returned to life. “Keep hope alive!” “Jesus is still with us in our hearts!”“You can’t keep a good man down!” and all the other banalities liberal pastors will waste their congregations’ time with today rather fail to convey this central fact about the Resurrection. It was a divine suspension of the natural order, a miracle, or it was nothing. “If Christ is not raised,” St. Paul tells the Christian, “your faith is worthless.” And by “raised” he meant raised – reanimated, brought back from the dead – not eaten by wild dogs but remembered fondly, or whatever it is the John Dominic Crossans of the world want to put in place of what Christianity has always claimed. The Christian faith has, historically, laid everything on that line: Accept the Resurrection, and you must accept what Jesus Christ taught; reject it, and you must reject Him too as a fraud.
April 5, 2010
Rifqa Bary Update: Judge drags heels on necessary order for immigration filing
There was a hearing today on the Rifqa Bary case in Ohio. Judge Gill is being, to put it mildly, obstructive on a motion from Rifqa's lawyers that reunification with her parents is impossible. This order is necessary before Rifqa turns 18 (on August 10) in time for her lawyers to apply for a special juvenile immigration status for her. The judge refused to rule on the motion today, stated that she would not rule on it without a hearing, and it sounds like she was snippy to Rifqa's lawyer who pled for an expedited hearing. The date next month has not been reported. The judge apparently made repeated statements today to the effect that Rifqa's own lawyers are not to "interfere" in the counseling process going on with Rifqa and her parents (so far, separately). The implication is apparently the extremely silly one that Rifqa's lawyers are somehow preventing her from being happily reunited with her parents before she turns 18, when in fact Rifqa is and always has been adamantly opposed even to talking with them.
From all that I can tell, Rifqa would be subject to deportation at 18 if some sort of "immigration relief" paperwork had not at least been submitted at that time. Being subject to deportation is not, of course, the same thing as being actually deported, but it would make it hard for her to make a living here in the U.S. It's also unclear what her lawyers would do in that case and how they would then seek immigration help for her. In other words, what is their backup plan? They are not able to discuss this because of a gag order on the case. I only hope they have a backup plan, since the judge is dragging her heels, apparently wanting to pretend that the immigration issue can be kept strictly separate from the "family counseling" issue.
Rifqa's parents' lawyer was his usual charming and sinister self today. He had the chutzpah to imply that Rifqa's parents have already applied for "immigration relief" for her as part of their family, which appears (according to Rifqa's own lawyer) to be impossible, since they do not presently have custody. One wonders if he really believes that she would agree to go back to her parents for these last months before she is (God willing) free of them forever in order to gain the benefit of their immigration filing! Tarazi (the parents' lawyer) also sneered at Rifqa's own lawyer, Angela Lloyd, asking if she is an immigration lawyer. Yes, she does have a specialty in this area, which Tarazi must know.
All rather disturbing. One could wish that the judge's idea of being "tough" (on whom?) did not include heel-dragging at this important time.
April 7, 2010
Recommending Human Life Review [Updated below the fold]
In a world of blog posts and hat tips, there is still a pro-life journal that publishes on paper with copious footnotes. The Human Life Review, published by the Human Life Foundation, is a resource that no pro-lifer should be without.
I say this as a person who hates having paper journals around. And some years ago I did give my back issues of HLR to the local Catholic Information Center.
But the truth is that HLR remains an excellent and sometimes appallingly informative resource. In the most recent issue to come out (Fall, 2009), the journal contains two articles on disabilities and eugenics that are hair curling. I had not realized until I read Mark P. Mostert's "Eugenic Death-Making and the Disabled" just how blatant doctors and others were a century ago about killing the disabled. Alfred Nobel, for example, said of himself that he was a "pitiful creature [who] ought to have been suffocated by a humane physician when he made his howling entrance into this life." One Sigmund Engel in Hungary argued that "cripples, high-grade cretins, idiots, and children with gross deformities...should be quickly and painlessly destroyed [when] medical science indicates...that it is impossible for them ever to become useful members of society..." In 1915, Dr. Harry Haiselden made big-time propaganda out of refusing to treat disabled children and letting them die, beginning with baby Allan Bollinger, who died over a period of five days of a blocked bowel. When a family friend pled with Haiselden to operate and save Allan, Haiselden laughed and said no: "I'm afraid it might get well." When asked if his decision was eugenic, he said, "Of course it was eugenic." Haiselden thereafter gave press interviews and displayed dying "defective" babies to reporters.
April 9, 2010
“Consciousness is ‘nothing but’ a complex set of electrochemical processes in the brain.” “Living things are ‘nothing but’ aggregates of physico-chemical processes.” “Human beings are ‘nothing but’ primates of a certain sort.” "Intelligent Design" theorists rightly decry such reductionism. But where did the reductionist tendency so prevalent in modern thought come from? Why, from the very “world as artifact” model of nature ID theorists themselves have inherited from the anti-Aristotelian revolution of the early modern philosophers. See the first of what I expect will be a series of posts on this subject over at my own blog.
In praise of obscurantism
A follow-up on my previous post:
The widespread practice of deliberate screening for birth defects is a bad thing.
Now that I've gotten everyone's attention...
No, it is not intrinsically wrong to find out before your child is born that he has Down syndrome. And, yes, such knowledge can be used simply to prepare oneself mentally for the care the child will need, to rally one's support group, and the like.
But let's get something clear: There is nothing that can be done, pre-birth, for the unborn child with Down syndrome that you would not be doing anyway--taking care of yourself, getting good nutrition, and the like.
The widespread practice of administering the bundled triple test to pregnant women has as an undeniable effect an increase in the number of abortions for children suspected to have Down syndrome or spina bifida, especially when follow-up tests confirm the diagnosis. And certainly there are people and groups who mean to use such tests to "prevent" birth defects by preventing the birth of the defective.
While a committed, pro-life mother may choose to have this test for legitimate reasons with no increased likelihood that she will abort her child, the societal effects of the tests--of their widespread availability, and especially of doctors' fear of lawsuits if they do not offer them--are beyond all doubt pro-death and eugenic.
What should we do about this? How can pro-lifers work effectively to reduce government funding for the screening and reduce its acceptability in society?
April 10, 2010
"The Irony of Libertarianism...
...is that the atomistic individualism it prescribes would quickly vanish once the state is dismantled. In other words, if libertarians were successful in abolishing the modern therapeutic state, man would quickly revert to tribalism, the manner in which he's lived since time immemorial. The therapeutic state and libertarians live in a symbiotic relationship."
Thus spake my homey, Matthew Roberts, over at Alt.Right.
“Intelligent Design” theory and mechanism
From an Aristotelian-Thomistic point of view, one of the main problems with “Intelligent Design” theory is that it presupposes the same mechanistic conception of nature that underlies naturalism. ID theorists, including William Dembski, sometimes object to this characterization of their position. But Dembski’s own work makes his commitment to mechanism unmistakable, as I show here.
The Great Dispossession
The W$J reports:
"Justice Stevens, who turns 90 later this month, is the only Protestant now on the court. Once entirely Protestant, the court now has six Catholics and two Jews. Among the top three candidates to succeed Justice Stevens, two are Jewish and one is Protestant."
And here's that "protestant."
April 12, 2010
Libya vs. The Rest of the World
This is absolutely horrifying, and every conservative, especially every conservative interested in stopping jihad in America, needs to know about it.
Libya has engaged in acts against Switzerland which, in a different era, might very well have been regarded as causes of war. As Belien tells the story, it all started when the son of Libya's dictator beat two of his servants savagely while staying in Switzerland. The Swiss put him in jail for (gasp!) two nights and then released him. Libya took two innocent Swiss businessmen in Libya hostage in retaliation, and one of them (the one who was ethnically Swiss, of course) is still being held in a Libyan dungeon.
Libya has called for the "dissolution" of Switzerland in response to the Swiss minaret ban and took it as a dire insult when Switzerland consequently decided not to allow 188 extremist Libyans to enter Switzerland (which also meant they couldn't enter other parts of the EU). Terrified, the rest of the EU has been groveling to Libya and trying to get Switzerland ousted from the Schengen zone of the EU. Apologies and cave-ins from Switzerland, the U.S., and, especially, other EU countries are scattered throughout the sorry tale. Meanwhile, Swiss citizen Max Goldi continues to be held a hostage in Libya lest anyone else should have the temerity to stand up to the Libyans anywhere in the world.
Hannibal Gaddafi beats up his wife in public in the UK and his girlfriend in France. His guards beat up a photographer in the UK. But of course, he now suffers no repercussions. Some French or British citizens might want to travel to Libya without being kidnapped and held in durance vile world without end.
Please note: Libya is asserting its right to tell every other country in the world that they a) may not enforce their own reasonable laws against Libyan big-wigs and b) may not exclude dangerous Libyans from their countries. The message is clear: You must let anyone we send into your country. You must allow anyone we consider important to behave as he wishes while in your country. If you do not, your citizens will be captured by us and held in prison on trumped-up or trivial charges for an indefinite period as hostages for your compliance. Everybody grovel. We're in charge.
Fortress America begins to look better and better. And American citizens travel at their own risk.
April 14, 2010
No doubt my readers have already read this story (see also here). An American street preacher was fined 1,000 pounds in Scotland for saying, in response to an obvious set-up, that homosexuals "risk the wrath of God unless they accept Christ." His conviction was, specifically, for "uttering homophobic remarks" which were "aggravated by religious prejudice." In other words, the fact that his remarks were based on his religious beliefs was apparently treated as an additional, aggravating factor justifying his arrest and fine.
What particularly struck me in the story was the reaction of a spokesman for the Catholic Church:
Peter Kearney, a spokesman for the Catholic Church in Glasgow told the Scotsman, “We supported [hate crime] legislation but it is very difficult to see how this man can be charged for expressing a religious conviction.
“The facts of this case show his statement was clearly his religious belief. Yes, it is strong language he has used, but it is obviously a religious conviction and not a form of discrimination.”
Do you get that? Neither do I. They supported hate-speech legislation (and even, says the Scotsman article, increased penalties for so-called anti-gay "hate crimes") but don't want him to be charged for "expressing a religious conviction." And they think they can make some kind of distinction between what he said and "a form of discrimination." Say, what?
I'll be a monkey's uncle if there weren't people warning and informing Catholic leaders in Scotland of exactly what hate-speech legislation means. Sounds like they didn't listen. Thanks a lot, gentlemen.
Similar story about worse-than-wimpy Catholic leaders encouraging the suppression of Christianity here.
“Poles and freedom! Not only in their own country did they practice it[*]; Polish freedom fighters were active in many parts of the world. Two noblemen survive in the memory of the United States — Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Kazimeirz Pulaski, the only U.S. general who died in the War of Independence on American soil. (Nor should one forget Henryk Deminski and Jozef Bem, who played a similar role in the Hungarian Rising of 1848-49.) In the battle of Liebnitz, the Poles and the German Knights diverted the Mongols from the plains of North Europe; the Poles defeated the Turks in 1683 at the gates of Vienna; and in 1920 they defeated the Bolsheviks in front of Warsaw. Three times they saved Western civilization. Does the world realize it? Of course not!”
April 15, 2010
According to La Wik, "cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group...It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, may take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held."
Case in point:
“Calvin Elliot, who wrote the twentieth century’s most spirited defense of the usury prohibition (albeit in 1902), traces the origin of the neshek to the biting of a serpent. To make his case, he cites the research of a contemporary with the intriguing name Dr. George Bush. Bush argues that the serpent’s bite ‘is often so small as to be scarcely perceptible at first, yet the venom soon spreads and diffuses itself till it reaches the vitals, so the increase of usury, which at first is not perceived, at length grows so much as to devour a man’s substance.’ This whole notion of biting and slicing and infecting will resonate throughout the history of this subject up until the present. Elliot’s take on the subject has had sufficient staying power that his book was reprinted in 2007.”
-- Jack Cashill, Popes and Bankers
April 16, 2010
Liberals: Guardians of Tradition?
As the father of five very musical children, I find myself in the company of classical musicians and teachers with some regularity. One would be hard pressed to find a more reflexively liberal demographic than that of classical musicians. Their brand of liberalism, though fairly radical, is genteel and seldom confrontational. In a superficial way, I actually enjoy the company of these people and can usually find enough common ground to have an interesting conversation. Indeed I am more socially “comfortable” around them than I am around most people in the great middle class. Yes, this does seem to be a class phenomenon. We have similar levels of education. We think about the same kinds of things – they on one side, me on the other. They read books. They have decent manners. They don’t mind putting on a coat and tie, or a long skirt.
Crucifying the Pope
In 2002, when the scandal found its epicenter in the Archdiocese of Boston, Americans became fully aware of the extent to which a small minority of Catholic priests had been sexually abusing minors and, for far too long, getting away with it. The American bishops and, as we have learned, the bishops of Ireland and many other countries, usually shielded their clerical buddies from criminal prosecution and even, in many cases, minimal ecclesiastical discipline. Such failure to protect innocents has led to massive payouts for civil damages. Naturally, the bishops and the Vatican itself have been doing much since then to address the problem--even though many American bishops, such as Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, have failed to take as much personal responsibility as they should, and few have acknowledged the rather clear implications of the fact that most victims are, or were, pubescent boys. But now we face a new wave of reports about Joseph Ratzinger's role in old cases. With whatever degree of justice, the scandal has now reached Pope Benedict XVI himself.
April 17, 2010
ID theory, Aquinas, and the origin of life: A reply to Torley
Several days ago, over at Uncommon Descent, VJ Torley posted a response to my recent post on “Intelligent Design” theory and mechanism. I’ve now posted a reply to Torley over at my own blog. This latest piece explores in greater depth some issues that arose here in the W4 comboxes, such as the origin of life.
April 18, 2010
If you thought meat offered to idols was just a 1st century issue
...think again. Kentucky Fried Chicken in the UK is engaging in a trial of halal-only KFC's. This means, I mention in passing, that bacon-containing items which KFC otherwise sells are not available at these restaurants at all. Welcome to UK-Eurabia. No bacon here, thank you. But moving on, KFC's dhimmi intention has been to "woo" Muslim customers by offering halal-only meat at these restaurants, and for that reason has purchased only chickens whose throats were cut while a verse from the Koran is recited over an intercom system.
Let me repeat that: A major, not-previously-Muslim food chain in Britain is deliberately selling in quite a number of its restaurants only meat that was slaughtered while the Koran was being read over the intercom in the slaughterhouse. Think about that for a minute. This is plain old KFC, and they are buying not just meat that was slaughtered by this or that physical method, which is what you may have been deceptively told is all that "halal" means, but meat that was slaughtered in a slaughterhouse with a verse from the Koran being read--and it would have to be more or less continuously read--droning on all day over and over and over again.
But the news of the weird just gets weirder and weirder from the new Muslim world of chicken processing in the UK. The Muslims still aren't satisfied. No, you see, reading the Koran over and over again over the intercom in slaughterhouses isn't enough. They want each individual animal blessed by the Koran while still alive. The slaughterhouses have to get even more devoutly Muslim. The Muslim leaders will be meeting with KFC execs to discuss such deep matters as whether it is Islamically Correct to stun the chickens before cutting their throats. Some of them might die, you see, before having their throats cut and getting individually blessed by Koranic verses.
KFC is a private company and is free to pray to Allah over its dying chickens if it likes. But the rest of us are also free to be disgusted by the explicit Islamicization of previously normal public commerce in once-Christian Britain.
HT Jihad Watch
Cudworth and Fuller respond
Over at Uncommon Descent, Thomas Cudworth responds to my latest post on the A-T versus ID controversy. Like VJ Torley, Cudworth insists that I have misunderstood the ID position. But, also like Torley, he never explains how exactly I have misinterpreted the passages from Dembski I quoted. And like Torley, he then goes on to defend the ID characterization of living things as artifacts! So which is it?
Unlike Torley or Cudworth, prominent ID defender Steve Fuller gets it, and in Cudworth’s combox Fuller acknowledges that ID and A-T really are at odds:
At the risk of opening up this theological rift even more, I must say that I actually hold the view of ID that these Thomists are attacking – and I don’t think I’m alone either, though perhaps I’m more explicit than most. Thus, I can see exactly where Feser and Beckwith are coming from, though calling the ID position ‘bad theology’ is just self-serving rhetoric on their part. But certainly there is a real theological disagreement here.
What Fuller sees and Cudworth does not is that if ID theorists are serious when they describe biological phenomena as “machines,” “artifacts,” and the like, then they are committed, whether they realize it or not, to a metaphysics of life that is incompatible with A-T. Cudworth says that I am wrong because ID isn’t committed to any particular view about how God creates. But Fuller understands that if you say that a living thing is a kind of “machine” or “artifact” (in the sense that A-T finds objectionable) then you are committed to a view about how God creates, because you are committed thereby to a certain metaphysical view about what it is that He creates.
Fuller says “frankly, I think ID should simply openly embrace the position that the Thomists are trying to stigmatise as ‘bad theology.’” We disagree about that – and I certainly do not endorse everthing Fuller says about Thomism – but at least he understands that there is a real difference here.
April 19, 2010
First Things on AQUINAS
Ryan Anderson kindly reviews Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide in the May 2010 issue of First Things. From the review: “Do not let the subtitle deter you. While Aquinas is ‘a beginner’s guide,’ it is rigorous and accessible philosophy at its best. Even seasoned Thomists will benefit from Edward Feser’s analytic precision in interpreting and presenting Thomas’ philosophy. Placing Thomas in conversation with modern thinkers, Feser explains how so many worthies have gotten Thomas wrong and thus done battle with a straw man. More than this, Feser shows how, even on a host of contemporary debates, Thomas provides the most intellectually satisfying ways forward… Long have I searched for a book to recommend to colleagues, friends, and students to introduce them to the basics of Aquinas’s philosophy; I search no longer.”
Modern Concert Music You Can Love: 1944
If you go to professional musical historians and theoreticians and critics for advice on what to listen to, you might well come away with the impression that modern concert music just isn't for you. Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Messiaen, Boulez, Babbitt, Varèse, Cage, Stockhausen, etc., etc., etc....they always seem to be pushing stuff that's very hard to understand and almost impossible to like. So why not take refuge in modern popular music, which is always easy to understand and often possible to like?
Well, believe me - I feel your pain. Speaking as a guy who earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from one of the top programs in the world, specializing in the aesthetics of music, and who wasted years of his life plowing through the writings of all those professional musical historians and theoreticians and critics (so that you don't have to!) - there's just no "there" there.
The emperor has no clothes.
They're nothing but a pack of cards.
So forget them. And discover the true world of modern concert music. Let's begin in the year 1944:
April 20, 2010
Dembski rolls snake eyes
William Dembski himself now responds to the debate between “Intelligent Design” theory (ID) and Aristotelico-Thomism (A-T) that has been raging recently at this blog and others. But I’m afraid he seems only to have made his position even less coherent than I gave it credit for in my original post. I explain how in a new post over at my own blog.
April 21, 2010
I missed the first act of this story when it happened last year, but what that means is that now I can relay the whole story, including the follow-up. Last May, Senator Jeff Sessions argued that "sexual orientation" should not be a relevant consideration for a Supreme Court justice. Playing the good dhimmi-to-liberalism, Senator Sessions pretended that the phrase "sexual orientation" used in such a context (when we're discussing what would happen if Obama were to appoint a "gay justice" to SCOTUS) just means thoughts and feelings in one's private mind and has nothing whatsoever to do with one's actions. He referred delicately to a person who "acknowledges that they have gay tendencies." Not, you know, a person who is proudly and openly living with his male homosexual partner or anything. Sessions evidently didn't want to talk about that.
Neither did Bruce Hausknecht, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, who told "The Plum Line" that sexual orientation “should never come up....It’s not even pertinent to the equation.” Judicial philosophy, said Hausknecht, is everything. And Ashley Horne, Focus's "federal policy analyst," echoed the statement.
"Someone's sexual orientation or their preferences, none of these things should come into consideration when we're talking about evaluating someone who will make decisions based on precedent under the law [and who will] practice judicial restraint," Horne explains. "Those are the things we look at for whether or not someone would make a fit justice on the Supreme Court."
Of course, the very idea that the first openly homosexual Supreme Court Justice, appointed by President Obama, would have an originalist judicial philosophy and do what Horne means by "practicing judicial restraint," is laughable, but Horne and Hausknecht felt they had to say the politically correct thing.
It was only with the follow-up this year that I learned about what Focus had said a year ago.
April 23, 2010
Saving Rural America
The darkened counties of this 2007 map are losing population. America's small towns and rural counties have been declining for decades, a trend which seems to have no end in sight. As rural America empties, nothing at all seems to be filling the void. Main Street, USA, is for rent or for sale at bargain prices. 40,000,000 acres of American farmland are now fallow. The rural "brain drain", in which the best and the brightest are constantly migrating to the cities, has become cliche. Our rural areas are increasingly plagued with high unemployment, substance abuse, and other pathologies.
This is a disaster for the United States. Small town and rural life is uniquely suited to fostering traditional mores and habits of mind, to inspiring regional and familial loyalties, and to living the Christian virtues amongst neighbors whom you did not choose, but who were chosen for you before you were born. A small town has a personality, like a man, and must be accepted like a crazy uncle with warts and all. In the rural districts one cannot pretend to be independent: you need your neighbors, whether or not you happen to like them, and over time you learn to like them well enough. The mainstays of a traditional life - ritual, familiarity, memory, transparency, patriarchy, personal loyalty - can flourish only in settled communities organized on a human scale. The demise of such communities reduces American culture to that of an urban sit-com.
Carl Orff is best known for his "Scenic Cantata," Carmina Burana (1936). But he was also a pioneer in the development of children's musical education. Between 1950 and 1954 he published five volumes of Music for Children. In 1977 a supplementary volume entitled Paralimpomena appeared. The last piece in this last volume is a choral setting of "Das Himmlische Leben" (The Heavenly Life) from Arnim & Brentano's famous collection of German folk poetry, Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn) - a poem which had earlier provided Gustav Mahler with the text for the finale of his Fourth Symphony. Orff's version is shorter, earthier, and, like many of his pieces for children, irresistibly catchy:
I have provided English subtitles and a background of appropriate stained glass windows.
*Modern Concert Music You Can Love
Scruton’s Gifford lectures
Prof. John Haldane writes to inform us that Roger Scruton’s series of Gifford lectures on “The Face of God” are available for listening online. Two of the six lectures have been presented so far. Listeners may leave comments and a recording session is planned in which Scruton can respond to some of them.
Free trade is changing all that, right?
I remember when I decided to let my subscription to the Von Mises Institute's newsletter lapse, thus renouncing forever my right to be called a card-carrying libertarian, even with the appellation "pro-life" added. Well, all right, I don't remember the year. But I remember the occasion. It was when I realized that the Von Mises folks were so bent on showing the world that free trade is a Good Thing that they were willing to imply falsehoods regarding the horrors of China's one-child policy. Their articles on the subject, when they mentioned it at all, read like dispatches from the UNFPA--all about how all that was in the past, how China was changing. The iron fist of the one-child policy was gradually withering away like the state in a Marxist's dream. But of course the Von Mises spin was that this was one of the wonders of free trade. See what a great moral cleanser even a tiny taste of the free market is; it gradually turns totalitarian Communist countries into places of ever-greater freedom. With, of course, the unstated assumption that this process will go on and on indefinitely. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.
Well, it was balderdash then, as a factual matter, and I knew it and was disturbed by their elevation of ideology over truth. And it's balderdash now. In spades. Here is the latest: Chinese province rounds up elderly parents, imprisons them in unpleasant conditions, and lectures them about the one-child policy, to force couples to get back to the village double-pronto and be sterilized as part of a round-the-clock sterilization marathon so the province can meet its sterilization quotas. I guess doctors in China don't have to worry about malpractice lawsuits, at least not under these circumstances. Sounds like a libertarian's dream, doesn't it?
Oh. Guess not.
HT: Mike Liccione
April 26, 2010
ID, A-T, and Duns Scotus: A further reply to Torley
My latest response to Torley's latest response. ID: The gift that keeps giving, and giving, and...
Pure Philosophy of Religion
Calling all philosophy of religion geeks and other interested readers: There is now a new post up at my personal blog that should rejoice your hearts. The question: Is it necessary to show first by natural theology arguments that the God of traditional theism exists before arguing that God has performed a miracle?
I hereby do solemnly swear that intelligent design is mentioned nowhere in the post and that it is entirely possible, even easy, to discuss the topic without any discussion of intelligent design.
I am selfishly closing comments here at W4 in order to hog them all for my personal blog.
I can think of specific readers who should be interested in this post and make good contributions to the discussion (V. and B., this means you), so don't make me hunt you down. Come over and comment.
Defining a Three-Dimensional Political Permutation Space
That's just my pretentious way of titling Noah Millman's interesting, and largely successful attempt at a new political taxonomy, intended to dispel the confusion among the respective triads left/liberal/progressive and right/conservative/reactionary, and to employ the respective terms with greater precision than Americans in political discourse prefer (Americans tend to prefer to use terms in as slovenly a manner as they dress.) All such taxonomies are obviously open to critique, both as to their definitions and architecture, and their exclusions; bearing this in mind, I'm disinclined to attempt a critique of Millman's schema, as we're just not prepared for a political taxonomy in four, five, or six dimensions - three probably pushes the limits in America, with our fascination for the procrusteanism of the left/right binary, or alternately, the conservative/liberal one. Millman's taxonomy is not only serviceable, but illuminating, affording a more formalized means of explaining why, for example, conservatives concerned about place and locality don't get along with conservatives hymning the Dionysian glories of creative destruction: we're conservative reactionaries of either left or right, and they're right-wing liberal progressives.
Heroes of Suffering vs. Heroes of Accomplishment
Steve Sailer has an even more than usually insightful piece up at VDare on "That Texas Schoolbook Massacre" - you know, the Texas Board of Education's recent "challenge to the Left's post-1960s dominion over the past" - in which he takes a close look at one prominent example of the sort of high school "history" text that the "Texas Taliban" wants to replace. The whole article is so good that one hates to single out just one thing, but I was particularly struck by Sailer's point that, over the past century, "heroes of suffering" have replaced "heroes of accomplishment" in the American imagination - a point that he attributes to the formidable Gregory Cochran.
So the likes of John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, William Shockley, Robert Noyce, Jack Kilby, Claude Shannon, James Watson, Francis Crick, Raymond Spruance, Clarence Wade McClusky, Max Leslie, Clifton Sprague, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and even the Wright brothers, fade into obscurity, while the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony crowd to the front of the educationist bus.
Would it be mischievous for me to suggest that this interesting phenomenon represents the ultimate triumph of the Christian aspect of our Western cultural inheritance over both the Greco-Roman and the Germanic aspects?
So far as I can determine, neither the Greeks, nor the Romans, nor the Germanic tribes ever regarded the victims of history with anything but contempt. They were champions of achievement - especially military achievement. If any of them ever lost any sleep over the sufferings of the losers, I have yet to hear about it.
But the deification of the victim - God on the Cross - lies at the very heart of Christianity.
April 27, 2010
That cannibalism example (Updated)
It wasn't so far-fetched after all.
Wesley J. Smith: "If these stories are true–and I believe they are–China is a monster state."
(Full disclosure: I already knew from Smith's earlier posts that China is doing this, so this wasn't really a matter of my making up an example that just "turned out" to be real. The news here is the expansion of the organ-cannibalism to include religious groups--including members of Christian house churches--in addition to Falun Gong.)
Update: I suggest as a first step boycotting the supposedly "funny" book Larry's Kidney, which Smith discusses, a true story about buying a kidney on the black market in China. I wonder what it would take to get Barnes & Noble and Amazon not to sell the book? Smith appears to think that if the big booksellers were to stop selling it, this would constitute "censorship." To which I respond: The word "censorship" gets thrown around too much. These booksellers are private agents and can refuse to stock the book if they want to. But it might be hard to convince them.
April 28, 2010
The Young Blog
I missed it! I had planned to put up a brief post (just like this one) on April 19, but better late than never.
On April 19, 2007, our esteemed editor, Paul Cella, put up this wonderful inaugural post called "The Party of Grateful Men," and What's Wrong With the World was off and running. (I urge you to read the post if you have come to W4 since then.)
I'm not knowledgeable about statistics and do not regularly look them up. Others can speak to our reader numbers, page hits, and the like. But writing for W4 is, for me, a great privilege. Thanks to our readers for giving us someone for whom to write and for interesting and vigorous discussion. And thanks to my blog-mates for being part of W4.
Happy birthday to What's Wrong With the World. Long may it flourish!
April 29, 2010
The metaphysics of the Martini revisited
The esteemed Brandon Watson calls our attention to this list of classic cocktails, which makes reference to a variation on the Martini I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of before: the Burnt Martini, wherein scotch takes the place of vermouth. Naturally, I mixed one right away upon learning of it. But I think I was too timid: Nervous about overdoing the scotch, I erred in the wrong direction and could taste it not at all. I’ll try again someday, but deviations from the Martinian norm should be indulged only rarely.
But is there a norm here? I addressed the question once before in a gag post, but since we’ve been discussing the metaphysics of artifacts, let’s address it semi-seriously. To certain super-sophisticates, vermouth, never mind scotch, shouldn’t appear in a Martini at all. (There’s the famous crack about Churchill to the effect that when mixing his Martinis he’d look in the direction of France, which would suffice for the vermouth. Perhaps Churchill’s Burnt Martini recipe would have called for a mere glance northward toward Scotland or a toot on the bagpipes.) This seems to me more than a little precious. And just false. Here’s the basic reasoning: A Martini is a kind of cocktail; cocktails are mixed drinks; gin by itself is not a mixed drink; ergo, gin by itself is not a cocktail, and thus not a Martini.
The Fall of Saigon: April 30, 1975
It seems that treachery and murder are not rewarded.
April 30, 2010
Cranky Cons (including me)
(I don't usually inflict on my W4 readers my love of hymns and gospel music; I usually put that stuff on my personal blog instead. But as you will see later, there is an embedded gospel music video in this post. I ask your indulgence.)
I wish to coin a new term: Cranky Cons. I'm a Cranky Con myself, so I'm including myself in the mildly pejorative connotations.
The Cranky Con tent is large. It includes all those who identify themselves as conservative and who are recognizably conservative in American political terms by some measure made up by...er...me, but who are out of the mainstream of conservatism in some notable way or ways that causes them to grumble at and criticize majority conservatism at least sometimes, perhaps even frequently.
I'll usually let you into the "Con" part if you're strongly socially conservative on core domestic issues like abortion (and I really mean strongly, so no Obama "conservatives"). The "Cranky" part is also easy. Trad-cons, paleocons, and many others will belong. My own Cranky Con credentials are secured by the fact that I grind my teeth when fellow pro-lifers invoke Martin Luther King as a role model. That's a big cause of teeth-grinding, and my dentist should probably have a talk with me about it. A somewhat lesser inducement to teeth-grinding is the comparison of abortion to slavery. I also didn't vote for John McCain through pro-life purism, and that assures me a place in the Cranky Con tent right away. However, I've been known to use the term "rights" or the phrase "right to life" without irony and without breaking out in hives, and that means that other Cranky Cons get cranky with me.
See how this works?
E pur si muove!
About six months ago, Stephanie Grace, a third year student at Harvard Law School, went to dinner with some "friends." It seems that, at some point in the evening, the conversation turned to the question of human bio-diversity. Later on, Miss Grace e-mailed her "friends" in an attempt to clarify her views on that interesting topic.
Here is the controversial heart of Miss Grace's e-mail: