August 2010 Archives
August 3, 2010
Legal vs. Moral
New Jersey law requires that a pharmacy fill birth control prescriptions even if the pharmacist is morally opposed. I presume this means that if you're a Christian pharmacist who owns his own business, you've still got to do it. (I don't know what the penalties are for not doing it.) So ABC's Primetime: What Would You Do? sets up just that scenario, with 16 year old girls walking in to get prescriptions filled while adults look on and sometimes offer their two cents worth, including near the end a couple of Catholic nuns. I hope readers will take the time to watch this video. It runs a little over six minutes with a 30 second commercial at the beginning.
Why We Have a Culture War
Okay, this is just one reason among many for the culture war, but it's an interesting one:
In the comments thread on Bill's post below commentators expressed some hesitation about my outraged comparison between a) requiring employers to make religious accommodations for Muslim checkout clerks who will not handle pizza that contains pork (even if it is wrapped) and b) not merely allowing but positively encouraging employers to fire pharmacists who will not dispense birth control pills and, indeed, requiring that all pharmacies dispense all legal drugs. The point made was that liberals consider it to be particularly important that birth control be made available.
Yes, that's true, they do. And presumably it is on that basis that they make it (or want to make it) a matter of the force of law that pharmacists must make birth control available, doctors must refer for abortions, pharmacists must dispense suicide prescriptions, etc. It's so particularly important that people get access to suicide drugs that pharmacists must not be allowed to opt out. People also should not have to look around a bit to find a counselor who is ideologically comfortable with affirming homosexual behavior. All counselors should be forced to do so as part of their training.
What is common to all of this? Just this: In all of these cases, the ideologically and morally charged nature of the activity demanded would seem by common sense to make it more understandable that people should be allowed to refuse to perform the service, dispense the drug, etc.
August 4, 2010
America's Lost Decade?
Over at The New Ledger, they've posted a little essay by me that touches on some familiar topics: banking, free markets, the financial crisis, the modern error. There's something in there for everyone.
Lest you think only financiers and economists operate on this sinking sand of presumption, on the contrary I consider it the modern error in summary. It’s the idea that we can, in our pristine laboratory of the human mind, abstract away some part of what it means to be man, some part of the ineffable complexity of the world and man’s place in it, and then cheerfully go forth taking our abbreviation to be reality. Posit that man is a creature of sub-rational passions only, that libido dominandi is his chief feature, the will to dominate, to conquer, to acquire, to possess: here is the abbreviation of some moderns. Or again, posit that man is a reasoning creature only, that it can only be systems or structures outside himself that derail his natural rationality: here is the abbreviation of some other moderns. What modernity refuses to do, mostly, is take man as he is, a dualistic creature, one compounded of both body and soul, matter and mind. [read more]
Here Comes the Judge...Again
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has overturned the ban (known as Proposition 8) on gay marriage in California. The suit was filed "by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban violated their civil rights."
In reaction, former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who argued the case on the plaintiffs' behalf, claimed vindication of "the rights of a minority of our citizens to be treated with decency and respect and equality in our system," and Republican (:~)) Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger "also praised the ruling as an important step toward equality and freedom." Opponents of the decision will appeal to the 9th Circuit Court (the court which once ruled that "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional).
The judge gave the following reasons for his decision:
August 5, 2010
Some thoughts on the Prop 8 decision
1. Judge Walker’s decision, he tells us, is based on the principle that the state ought not to “enforce ‘profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles’” or to “mandate [its] own moral code.” But that is, of course, precisely what Walker himself has done. His position rests on the question-begging assumption that “same-sex marriages” are no less true marriages than heterosexual ones are, and that the only remaining question is whether to allow them legally. But of course, whether “same-sex marriages” really can even in principle be “marriages” in the first place is part of what is at issue in the dispute. The traditional, natural law view is that marriage is heterosexual of metaphysical necessity. Rather than staying neutral between competing moral views, then, Walker has simply declared that the state should stop imposing one moral view – the one he doesn’t like – and should instead impose another, rival moral view – the one he does like.
August 6, 2010
Good news for Rifqa Bary!
At (virtually) the last possible moment, the Ohio judge in Rifqa Bary's case gave the rulings that Rifqa's lawyers have been asking for--a) that reconciliation with her parents is not possible and b) that it is not in her interests (!) to be sent back to Sri Lanka. With these rulings in hand from a local judge, Rifqa's lawyers will be able to apply for a special juvenile visa for her. Even the fact that she has applied should protect her from deportation, and that visa program is applicable until she is twenty-one years old. (But it appears that the judge needed to rule before she turned eighteen, which occurs next Tuesday, because otherwise the judge would not have authority to make the ruling, or something of that sort.)
Rifqa's parents, ever the control freaks, had also attempted to have her forced to undergo chemotherapy, though apparently (I infer from the news story) Rifqa does not want this and considers that the medical situation makes it unnecessary. The story states (amazing news) that Rifqa's doctors say cancer is not detectable in her body.The judge ruled on the 4th that Rifqa would not be forced to undergo chemo. (I should add that this entry leads me to believe that this may be the last news we get for a long time on Rifqa's health, as she evidently wants to keep that information private. The parents' motion to have chemotherapy forced upon her brought the present apparently good news about her health into the open.)
There will no doubt be many post mortems on the legal strategy of Rifqa's lawyers. One camp is of the opinion that they took too many risks and should have concomitantly applied for religious asylum. The judge certainly did keep everyone guessing until the last minute and could hardly have been called friendly to Rifqa. On the other hand, there is something to be said for being justified by the event. The fact that the lawyers' strategy for dealing with Rifqa's immigration situation did apparently work out has got to count for something along the lines of "maybe they knew what they were doing all along." I trust, though I do not know, that if Rifqa has applied for a special juvenile visa she can legally work and earn money in the United States. I assume this will be important given that she is about to age out of the Ohio foster care system.
All indications are that she has had a greater measure of freedom during the past several months than she had previously had, and she should, Lord willing, be free to go where she wishes and to accept the help of her friends when she turns eighteen. I hope that we will hear something of how she is doing, though it is understandable that she wants privacy and also that she will have security concerns about revealing her location. It's not as though the danger of her being killed for being a convert to Christianity from Islam will be magically removed by her birthday.
We should pray for her safety from would-be killers, for her health situation (and in particular that her parents would not be able to gain control of her, even as an adult, should she become incapacitated by her health), and for her future. She will have many decisions to make and many challenges. These decisions and challenges will be made more difficult by the fallings-out among those who love her and in particular between her lawyers on the one hand and her friends Jamal Jivanjee and Pamela Geller on the other. There is little doubt in my mind that Rifqa will have many conflicting pieces of advice given to her, all of them from people who truly care about her and for whom she has affection, about what course her future should take, and for someone as young and in an important sense alone as she is this will be very difficult.
HT: Atlas Shrugs
August 9, 2010
Happy Consequentialism Day!
Perhaps you already observed it on Friday, since that was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. But today, the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, is an equally fitting date. Certainly the image above – the aftermath of Fat Man’s explosion over Nagasaki – is a fitting symbol for consequentialism. Perhaps consequentialist ethicists should consider putting it on the covers of their books, or wear little mushroom cloud pins when they meet up at philosophical conferences. For one thing, since the consequentialist case for the bombings – that they would save more lives than an invasion of Japan would – carried the day with the Truman administration (and with defenders of the bombings ever since), it may be the most consequential piece of consequentialist reasoning ever formulated. For another, the bombings give a pretty good idea of what a world consistently run on consequentialist principles might look like.
But don’t put the party hats on yet, because there’s one little hitch: Consequentialism is, as David Oderberg has put it, “downright false and dangerous, an evil doctrine that should be avoided by all right-thinking people.” And the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, accordingly, as evil as consequentialism is. So, maybe Consequentialism Day is not a good idea after all, except perhaps as a reminder of the scale of evil that can be and has been done in the name of “good intentions” and “rationality.”
Announcing New Library of Historical Apologetics Website
Fans of historical apologetics will be interested to know that the Library of Historical Apologetics has just gone live. The site features a Spotlight article, a quotation of the week, and a browsable annotated bibliography.
If you are on Facebook, you can spread the word that way as well, as the Library of Historical Apologetics has a FB page.
August 11, 2010
Choice devours itself--The quietus
Some readers may be familiar with P.D. James's dystopian future novel The Children of Men. It is a bit too dark and bitter for me to have been exactly fond of it, but it is undeniably powerful, and several aspects of it have stuck with me. One of these is the quietus. The quietus is euthanasia by the state, carried out on the willing or unwilling elderly. In the novel, the protagonist has a conversation with an old professor whose wife has dementia. The professor tells him a transparent lie to the effect that his wife (who isn't talking at all anymore) has been talking a lot about the quietus lately. Later, the protagonist stumbles upon the bit of seashore where the elderly are being drowned en masse and witnesses her murder.
And now, activists in the Netherlands are "investigating the feasibility" of a new suicide clinic at which they will kill, among others, people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. They call this "assisting" people who "wish to die," but the open statement that the people "assisted" will have dementia and Alzheimer's raises the obvious question of how they can be taken to be giving rational, informed consent to their deaths.
I expect that my usual liberal time-wasters will come into the thread and tell me that people in the early stages of these problems can still give informed consent. To tell you the truth, I'm not really interested in what the liberal time-wasters among my commentators have to say. They'd find something to say no matter what, and I'm not minded to have my time wasted by them. (I would note that these are the same people who are furiously indignant at any suggestion that liberal doctrines could justify pedophilia, yet it seems like a more plausible case could be made for intelligent, rational "consent" by a healthy, normal ten-year-old child than by an elderly person with dementia.) I admit, moreover, that I am totally opposed to assisted suicide even for people with PhD's and all their faculties.
I am, however, interested in the "choice devours itself" phenomenon in which we start out by talking about choice and freedom--especially, as I often say, in the twin areas of sex and death--and end by justifying coercion, the use of deadly force against the vulnerable, and various other actions obviously entirely inconsistent with choice and freedom in these very realms. So, we started by talking about "rational suicide" and now are talking about "helping" people with dementia to die. If that doesn't creep you out, you have done something bad to your creep-o-meter.
Related: The phenomenon of murder-suicide for couples in which one member of the pair has Alzheimer's.
HT: Secondhand Smoke
August 13, 2010
Todd Mckimmey's work has - again - been awarded Photo of the Month by the Your Photo Forum website. It's not hard to see why:
"The People Have Spoken"
Those who have relied upon democratic/populist arguments in the same sex "marriage" wars are about to realize the gravity of their mistake.
August 14, 2010
Looking for a few good men
Specifically, state governors.
As I've been going on about in someone else's thread (sorry, Jeff), individual people, even conservative Christians, are very chary of defying court decisions and/or ordinances or laws. It would help them a lot if some officials backed them up.
Suppose, which God forbid, that SCOTUS declares homosexual simulacra of marriage to be a constitutional right. Or suppose that more state supreme courts do so. What we desperately need are some governors who are willing to defend marriage within their states. Upholding their oath to the laws and constitution of their own state, and defying the ridiculous pretense of "interpretation" that says that the U.S. or state constitution requires homosexual "marriage," such governors should issue an executive order that no marriage licenses be given to anyone other than one man and one woman.
Preferably there would be several such governors, so that no single one would stand alone, and preferably they would have previously coordinated their actions and made sure that the attorney generals of their states were on-board with the plan.
We plan ahead for all sorts of disasters. This disaster--moral, legal, and constitutional--should be planned for as well. If the state governors step up to the plate, I believe no small number of their citizens will be heartened and will support them. Moreover, the claim that this is "now the law" will be thrown into question in those states, which will help citizens who do not wish to go along with it. What the federal government will do at that point is an interesting guess, especially if there are several such states. But the mental paralysis that holds that if SCOTUS tells us all that we must go out and stand on our heads this is now required by "The Law" must be challenged and broken.
Any suggestions from my conservative readers of governors who might answer the call?
August 16, 2010
King Alfred over despair
King Alfred the Great of Wessex ruled in a time of fire and carnage. His kingdom, like all the Christian principalities on the British Isles of that day, was constantly harried by the formidable onslaught of the Vikings. Often in ill-health, he was a warrior by necessity, and it seems he had abiding interests and talents outside the martial sphere. A Churchill put it, “he had a lively comprehension of the great world”: he perceived the importance of naval power, and was perhaps given a glimpse of a future England, unified under a common law — a thriving nation rather than a gaggle of fractious petty kingdoms. His people benefited greatly by his encouragement of learning and the arts as well as by his statesmanship, but it was the latter that saved them from ruin and probable extinction. Churchill’s judgment is that, had Alfred failed, “all England would have sunk into heathen anarchy.”
He won and lost several battles against the Danes, fearsome contests of bludgeoning force which must have been awful to behold. That he won at all is evidence of his quality, for history discloses few who were at that time capable of resisting the terror of these proud Northern raiders. Again from Churchill: he “began as second-in-command to his elder brother, the King. There were no jealousies between them, but a marked difference of temperament. Ethelred inclined to the religious view that faith and prayer were the prime agencies by which the heathen would be overcome. Alfred, though also devout, laid emphasis upon policy and arms.” Ethelred was killed in battle and the crown passed to Alfred, who in turn lent all his considerable talent at arms and policy to the protection of his land and her people. We might reasonably conclude that both men were right on the question of agency.
A saint of both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches — the great ecclesiastical breach is reconciled in the Wessex king’s antiquity — Alfred shines an unquestioned hero of the English-speaking peoples. Ever shall “men signed of the cross of Christ” venerate his memory.
Rarely has that veneration been rendered more powerfully, more enchantingly, than in Chesterton’s The Ballad of the White Horse (1911). Loyal readers will recall my love of his magnificent poem. Lately I have been reading it to my little girls. If ever you feel that oppression of despair, which Christians are obliged to resist, consider repairing to Chesterton’s retelling of Alfred’s tale. What follow are simply a few stanzas that I fancy supply a sense of the poem; but of course only a complete reading (out loud) will do it justice.
August 18, 2010
Contraception doesn't merely deprive one's own children of siblings. It deprives one's nieces and nephews of cousins; and it deprives one's grandchildren, grandnieces and grandnephews of aunts, uncles, and cousins - on down the line. After several generations of contraception most of us do not know what extended families are like. To compound the problem, American hyper-mobility ensures that our few remaining relatives live hundreds of miles away, and American individualism ensures that we don't share the same religious beliefs anyway.
Have you noticed that our politicians, even the most corrupt, are never charged with nepotism anymore? Nepotism requires family, and we don't have families. I never understood the horror that some people have for political nepotism. In the old world it was called aristocracy. Of all forms of corruption in a democratic republic, nepotism is the most human and understandable. Aren't we supposed to prefer our relatives? To the extent that we still have dynastic families like the Kennedys and the Bushes, I view that as a good thing. It's really a shame that George Washington didn't have fifteen children.
Anthony Esolen grew up in a town of 5,000 with twenty of his cousins. Twenty. That means, of course, that he had aunts and uncles in the town as well. He writes that "kinship is the foundation of community life", and that cousins, in particular, "provide you that straight passport into a community".
Extended family is the reason Americans survived the last Great Depression; the absence of extended family is the reason we won't survive the next one. The close proximity of many relatives - relatives who, more or less, share the same religious faith and code of morality - is the best form of social insurance there is. When hard times come, as they come to all eventually, there's a cousin with a spare room, a cousin who can loan you the rent money, an uncle who owns a business and needs a clerk, an aunt who can move in while you recover from surgery, etc., and they all live close enough to be of help in an emergency. Furthermore every family has its eccentrics, people who just don't "fit in" and conform very well to social expectations, for whatever reasons. Nowadays such people are a heavy burden, but in healthier times they could be assimilated into the extended family. The "crazy uncle" perhaps couldn't hold down a job, but maybe he could entertain the children and do odd chores for the family: there was no reason he needed to be destitute.
There are some on the political "right" in America who reserve their greatest wrath for the "welfare state" and its clients. I'd like to know how many children these pundits are having. What are they doing to restore the extended family?
Close call on sharia in New Jersey
I apologize for so often writing posts about things that have been known and available for a while. By this time, readers are probably used to it.
Here is one I have been saving up: The Case of the Battered Wife and Sharia
(Strangely, the original link to the appellate ruling from a number of blogs has disappeared. Fortunately, I found another. Perhaps I should download a copy. It makes fairly grim reading, so don't read it if you'd rather not.)
In New Jersey, a Moroccan woman was beaten and repeatedly raped by her husband. On one occasion she ran away from him, escaping from a window. She returned that time briefly but later left him permanently and asked a judge to give her a restraining order against the abusive husband. The judge refused the long-term protective order in part on the grounds that the husband did not have "criminal intent" when he engaged in repeated spousal rape (while his wife cried continuously), because his religious beliefs dictated that he was permitted to do what he did.
Some of the commentators at the Volokh Conspiracy don't seem to understand the point, opining that this really isn't about criminal intent, since it was not a criminal trial but rather a hearing on a restraining order. This is nonsense, as the appeals court made clear when it overturned the lower judge's decision. The matter was in fact all about criminal intent. Under New Jersey law, getting a restraining order in a domestic abuse case depends on showing probable cause that something criminal has been done previously (abuse, sexual assault, etc.). So while the standard of proof is lower than it is in a full-blown criminal trial, the issue of criminal intent is relevant and was exactly and expressly what the judge was addressing. Therefore (in case the point isn't clear) this is a pretty important incident, because if the "no criminal intent" argument (if your religion says you can do X, you aren't guilty of criminal intent in doing X) can be upheld in a restraining order case, it could also be used in an outright criminal trial.
And, to repeat, the judge said that if your religion allows you to rape your wife while she cries, you aren't committing a crime if you do so. Which is absurd. The appeals court overturned his ruling.
In this post at Atlas Shrugs we find Attorney Yerushalmi criticizing the ponderous lengths the appeals court goes to in showing that religious freedom precedents do not apply to laws against spousal rape. Yerushalmi thinks that this is a bad sign, as the claim was ludicrous on its face and should have been dismissed out of hand; he worries that the amount of space the appeals court spent indicates deference to the fact that the religion in question was Islam. He's right that any attempt to apply a religious exemption to such a law is ludicrous, not only morally but also legally. We would not allow a jihadi to say that he did not have criminal intent to commit murder since setting off a bomb is not murder according to his religion. Yerushalmi's worry is not unreasonable. But I would rather think that the appeals court was making a dry legal joke by the elephantine style in which it demolished the lower court judge's claim of no criminal intent.
I have one point to add to all that bloggers have already said about this case: It is another case of "we can say it, but you can't." If someone criticizing Islam says that, according to Islam, a man is permitted to rape his wife, that's a liberal no-no. But if the very same claim can be used for purposes of mitigating a husband's act when he abuses his wife, then the statement is permissible. Just how far this double standard and the use of these "cultural defenses" will be allowed to go in the end remains to be seen.
August 21, 2010
Goo goo ga ga
Listen – the intention of that video was to show the hilarity to which people will fame-whore themselves. It was playing with the idea that I knew my style was something that people really were admiring. So I thought, Well, what’s the most ridiculous thing that we could immortalize? Something not fashion at all and make it fashion. And I was [looking at] a lot of Helmut Newton books and photographs, and there were all these disabled women who looked fabulous. So I thought watching the celebrity fall apart is so fascinating to everybody, why don’t I just fall apart for seven minutes and see what happens. The hilarity of the wheelchair being covered in diamonds…
Thus spake Lady Gaga, in the profile on her in this month’s Vanity Fair, a rag I admit to reading religiously. (Hey, it’s perfumed-up real pretty, which makes it perfect to wrap fish in.) You thought public morals and good taste were all she’d taken a chainsaw to – as you can see, she’s done a real number on the English language as well.
Thou shalt not discriminate...against monsters
When Little Red Riding Hood is sent by her mother to take a basket to her grandmother's house, her mother warns her not to talk to anyone. Of course, she talks to the wolf, and that (after a few plot twists and "the better to eat you with, my dear") is the end of that. No one who really understands what monsters are, no one who "gets" the Big Bad Wolf, is under the impression that Riding Hood should talk to the wolf because it's not his fault that he is a wolf. No. Big Bad Wolf = Bad Wolf (tautology).
An imagination rightly trained on fairy tales understands that monsters are just bad and are to be regarded and treated as such--preferably, avoided, or perhaps fought, if one is a hero.
Here is an absolutely wonderful (and very funny) video clip of Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll talking about occultic preteen literature. More remarks below the fold.
August 22, 2010
The Tolerance of Islam
If you missed this 60 Minutes segment, and have the leisure, it's worth observing the fate of Christianity in one of its earliest outposts outside the Holy Land - in a country many have described as perhaps the most secular, enlightened, and modern of Muslim states, one that has repeatedly sought entry to, first, the Common Market and now to the European Union. This is the story of Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and primate to the world's 300,000,000 Orthodox Christians. In it you will see some of the oldest Christian structures in existence, and its most ancient artwork. Some of the frescoes are instantly recognizable. As the camera takes you through the churches, the monasteries, and the schools - all mostly museums now (the Hagia Sofia is one, built a 1,000 years before St. Peter's) - you can feel the spirits of those ancient converts who built the faith, and ultimately the civilization we know as Christendom, pressing upon the present. If Bartholomew is right about a "resurrection," then maybe the work of our first brothers and sisters in the faith is not done yet. As of now, though, only 4,000 Christians remain in Turkey. It's a cause for sadness; it is also an abomination.
The Patriarchate's website is here.
There is one 30 second commercial interruption.
August 24, 2010
Sri Lankan pastor being dehydrated to death without consent in Canada
Lifesite News has the story.
The pastor, Joshua, had not indicated his end-of-life decisions in writing or appointed a decision maker for health care. He is able to breathe on his own and is partially conscious, able to answer some one-word questions on the telephone with his sister. Evidently, "Do you want to be dehydrated to death?" isn't a question the hospital officials are interested in asking him. The hospital's determination that he must die appears to be based solely on the conclusion that he won't recover fully. The disabled should be very concerned about this.
More disturbing still (advocates of "choice" in dying, please note), someone--the court? the hospital?--told a candidate "decision maker" that he must agree to Joshua's death by dehydration in order to be appointed. Joshua's sister, who does not live in Canada, had previously been rejected by the court for reasons that are unclear. (The statement made was that she "was not capable of making medical decisions" for him.) The faux "decision maker" (really, at this point, just a mouthpiece for the hospital) agreed to the conditions and has been appointed. Joshua's dehydration began on August 17.
Read the whole Lifesite article.
Letters calling for Joshua's food and fluids to be restored and protesting the pressure placed upon decision makers in his case may be sent to Brampton Civic Hospital at
and to the Consent and Capacity Board of Ontario (I guess I don't dare say "death panel," do I?) at
August 26, 2010
Spam Prevention Measures
W4 Readers --
I've currently ramped up some additional anti-Spam measures to combat the latest round of new spam tactics.
As part of this effort I've added an additional input prior to submitting a comment. You'll notice that the comments now require an answer to a 'challenge question'. If this is incorrect, it will warn you.
If by chance you go to make a comment on something and the field isn't there, your browser has cached an older version of the page. Use [Ctrl]-[F5] to force the browser to reload the page from the server, otherwise your comment will be automatically junked.
Apropos of Hiroshima...
"'In the third trial a man came to [Sir Bors] dressed as a priest, and told him that there was a lady in a castle nearby who was doomed to death unless Bors made love to her. This supposed priest pointed out that he had already sacrificed the life of his own brother [i.e., the speaker, Sir Lionel - it's a long story], and that if he did not sin with the new lady now, he would have a second life on his conscience...
"'Well, the lady appeared in the castle...and confirmed the story. She said that there was a magic which would make her die for love, unless my brother was good to her. Bors now realized that he must either commit mortal sin and save the lady, or refuse to commit it and let her die. He told me afterwards that he remembered some bits out of the penny catechism, and a sermon which was once given when there was a mission at Camelot. He decided that he was not responsible for the lady's actions, while he was responsible for his own. So he refused the lady.'
August 27, 2010
Cianfrocca takes on all comers
It will be no surprise to anyone that I judge Francis Cianfrocca to be in the top rank of commentators on the American crisis. Without him I would be flying blind in this thing. But note well, my friends who affirm Capitalism, that only a fool would imagine that his enthusiasm for the free enterprise system is anything but deep and abiding. He is a defender of the free market. It may be easy enough to dismiss the ravings of a couple of brassbound Distributists like me and Maximos; it will be another challenge entirely to blow off the hard truths that Francis delivers from the actual world of Capitalism.
But more than the supreme challenge he delivers to the defenders of plutocracy from the Right, Francis just writes brilliantly. I am not alone in having attempted unsuccessfully to persuade him to write a book. He says he has too much business to do, too much company to build, too much enterprise to accomplish. America needs such men more than ever. Our Socialists simply do not understand that their dreams no less than ours are doomed if the private sector can never again grow robustly.
So folks ought to listen to Francis for a variety of compelling reasons.
August 29, 2010
Fiddling in the Mountains
I live for those moments when old time musicians just happen to meet together with no particular plans. Yesterday afternoon at the mountain fair, between fiddle concerts, some of these folks gathered casually on the front porch of a wooden building - a replica of a western-style “general store” – seating themselves upon rocking chairs and bales of straw. This was another impromptu “jam session”, a venerable tradition in old-time music circles that, when respected, creates its own incredible magic. The elder musicians delight in coaching and coaxing the children. They’ll play as slow as the youngsters need them to play, leading when possible and, of course, following when unavoidable! For them, it’s all about keeping the tradition alive, and that means inspiring the young people and building their confidence.
The musicians seemed oblivious to the surprise late-summer downpour, which was plenty noisy, though I can’t say whether any of the old buildings had a tin roof. As the mules splashed in the mud just fifteen feet away from my chair, gnawing at the wood fence, a seven year old girl in a homemade dress called out “Swallowtail Jig” and started in with her fiddle. So much for listening to the rain. The older musicians quickly jumped in and the rousing Irish jig began to attract a crowd. Ear-to-ear smiles, clapping, and delight all around.
Now a pretty young lady from the crowd begins to dance, all by herself, moving with astonishing grace and poise, though perhaps just a little too … freely. Some of us aren’t sure whether she is to be trusted, but I for one am captivated by her skill and decide, for the moment, not to give it another thought. A few songs later comes another stranger from the crowd, a matronly woman from Guadalajara in a colorful Mexican costume. She asks the lead guitarist to accompany her while she sings a few lovely ballads in Spanish. One can tell that, back in the day, she had a voice worthy of Lola Beltran. Hey, maybe she is Lola Beltran! In honor of this stranger’s Mexican roots, the group launches into “Jesse’s Polka” and thereafter returns to its familiar hoedowns, waltzes, and other favorites.
So, what does this have to do with anything? I don’t know. It all put me in the mood of John O’Keefe’s outrageously pollyannish jingle:
A glass is good
And a lass is good
And a pipe to smoke in cold weather;
The world is good
And people are good
And we’re all good fellows together.
It’s easy to forget how much humanity is left when stripped of its crude ideologies. Indeed, there is an inverse relationship between the prospering of humanity and the burden of ideology, which is modernity's substitute for God. I think I share with my fellow contributors – and with most of this site’s devoted readers – a desire to make the world as safe for humanity, and as free from ideology, as is possible this side of the beatific vision.
August 30, 2010
How will its future resemble its past?
My friend Matthew Roberts forwards me an interesting message, and an interesting video. Here's the video: