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November 2010 Archives

November 2, 2010

Random thoughts on an election day

It is the most beautiful time of all the year in my part of the world. Not spring. Spring around these parts tends to be fickle as a woman, though sometimes beautiful, and often unpleasantly stormy. In the autumn, as the year dies, we get days on end like today--cold, even very cold in the morning, frosty, and blue, with blinding, golden light that seems to come from the trees themselves. It is impossible on such a day not to feel uplifted and hopeful.

In the world of politics, too, the people on my side are in hopeful spirits, wherever they may live. We have reason to expect Republican gains in Congress across the country, and whatever failings the Republicans have, they can at least be expected to oppose whatever further evils the Democrats and their President had planned as punishment for their enemies--including a large number of the American people. It seems implausible that Obamacare will be repealed, given the President's veto power over such a move, but even that is not, now, entirely beyond the realm of possibility.

At times it gets rather discouraging, though, to be such stark realists. Is standing athwart the course of history shouting "Stop!" really the best we can hope for? It would be nice for once to be able to imagine something more like a positive victory--the enactment of actual policies we favor rather than simply resistance against further evils or even (what we hope for in our wildest dreams) rollbacks of recent bad policies.

But I do not think we should be discouraged by that. Let us make a virtue out of resistance and a noble cause out of obstruction. For evil is, paradoxical as it seems, endlessly creative in its own twisted fashion, endlessly full of new ideas for advancing its agenda. If, if only, those elected today who have a small inkling of what is wrong with America and with the world can be inspired and emboldened to plant a standard, to say, "No farther," and even to push back against their enemies on recently conquered territory, this will be cause for celebration.

Let us not be weary in well-doing, for we shall reap if we faint not. The final conquest of evil can be left for the Eschaton. Until then, if a refusal to bow the knee is the best the good guys can do, it will do very well. And may God defend the right.

November 3, 2010

Connecting the dots--or, I was a teenage nominalist

(Okay, okay, I put the word "nominalist" in the title only because I couldn't think of a better one. Don't shoot!)

There was a time, long ago, when I was young and rather too fond of playing the "There's no connection" game. Here's how the game is played. Person A criticizes some policy or even some use of language. Person B says that the policy doesn't necessarily have the problems that A attributes to it or that the language doesn't necessarily mean what the person takes it to mean. Hence, there's no connection between the two and person A is just hung-up or over-worried. In the area of language, and in Christian circles (I've seen it especially among young Protestants), this takes the form of something like pure nominalism--the idea that it doesn't matter how we use words, because they have no meaning in themselves and refer to nothing essential. I saw it in a conversation not long ago: Person A suggested that it's not such a good idea to connect an important word like "holy" with a distinctly non-holy followup word. Person B scoffed at this as "legalism," because, said B, "People give words their meaning," and since speakers presumably do not wish actually to assert as a propositional matter that the unpleasant substance in question is holy, why then, there is nothing to object to in the expression!

In politics, the "there's no connection" game is particularly evident when liberals are unable to see the "choice devours itself" phenomenon that I have discussed on numerous occasions. Suppose, for example, I were to link this story and connect it to the "choice devours itself" phenomenon. It's obviously an instance. Here is a girl literally being dragged to an abortion facility by her mother to be forced to have an abortion. One might ask why this was even an issue. Hey, all those people at the abortion facility are pro-choice, aren't they? The intimation from the girl that this was against her will would guarantee that they wouldn't perform the abortion, right? Right? So there should have been no fear, no terror, on the part of the girl about being dragged into the abortion clinic as some sort of sinister place, right? Those are all pro-choice feminists in there who just want to help her carry out her choice, right?

Um-huh. Not right. The girl was scared, and with reason. The so-called "pro-choice" operators of the abortion clinic could not be depended upon to refuse the abortion and to make sure it was the girl's choice. And people who have run crisis pregnancy centers will tell you that forced abortions on minors are a reality in America, technically illegal or not. But if I were to cite this as an instance of how choice devours itself, how the rhetoric of choice eventually leads to tacit and even active approval of the very opposite of choice, even for the people (the pregnant women) who are supposed to be granted choice, my liberal commentators would be completely confused. The court granted a restraining order, didn't it? The forced abortion didn't occur, did it? And individual pro-choicers can be found who will condemn the mother's attempt. There is no necessary connection between legalizing abortion and forcing women to have abortions. So move along, folks, nothing to see here. The whole "choice devours itself" phenomenon is just a chimera of a blogger's over-stimulated brain.

Continue reading "Connecting the dots--or, I was a teenage nominalist" »

November 4, 2010

Hayek and Keynes: The rematch

A follow-up to the now famous “Fear the Boom and Bust” rap:

November 6, 2010

HUD dismisses complaint on Christian roommate

A follow-up to this post.

Here's my executive summary: The Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights. is supposed to enforce federal law on the Fair Housing Act (though I don't know how they got assigned that job). Faced with a situation in which applying the letter of the law, as urged by a rabid non-profit organization, would make them look like creepy totalitarians, the Michigan dept. punted to the HUD. The HUD, not wanting to allow a case to proceed which would not only cost them money but would also call attention to, and might result in the striking down of, the crazy letter of the law, officially dropped the complaint. The ADF, who was representing the harassed Christian woman who innocently posted a notice for a Christian roommate on her church bulletin board, sounds a little disappointed that they won't have a chance to try to get the crazy letter of the law struck down as unconstitutional. End of story, for the nonce.

Oh, P.S.: The ADF claims that the rabid non-profit that started the whole thing, and that wanted the woman to be forced to pay them for harassing her, gets money from the city of Grand Rapids based on the number of complaints it brings for "discrimination." In other words, the city of Grand Rapids already pays them for harassing people. If true, this is scandalous and should be stopped immediately.

HT: Pearcey Report

Is it wrong to lie to HAL?

HAL.jpg

On natural law, science fiction, and the ethics of lying.

"I am white, after all..."

...as, indeed, are some of his best friends!

For anybody who hasn't seen it yet, here's the full original text of "An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum" by "anti-racist activist and writer" Tim Wise, who, Wikipedia informs us, "has lectured since 1995 at over 600 college campuses across the US," and "has trained teachers, corporate employees, non-profit organizations and law enforcement officers in methods for addressing and dismantling racism in their institutions":

Continue reading ""I am white, after all..."" »

November 7, 2010

"The Church and the Libertarian": A Review

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Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die. The law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive.

Thus proclaims Murray Rothbard - one of the two primary architects of Austrian economic theory alongside Ludwig von Mises - in his treatise “The Ethics of Liberty”. The statement should rattle any normal person whose conscience hasn’t been dulled by drinking too deeply of libertarian “ethics”. But you have to give Rothbard credit for his ruthless ideological consistency: he drives his libertarianism to its logical conclusion, without blinking an eye, and in that one statement we can see his libertarianism for the naked obscenity it truly is.

You would think that orthodox Catholics, along with honest men in every Christian tradition, would be repulsed by any philosophy advocating such horrors, and would distance themselves in every way from its proponents. But the economic and political theories of Mises and Rothbard are growing in popularity even among otherwise solid Catholics – Catholics who are, perhaps, so frustrated with the relentless growth of the secular state, so appalled by the erosion of economic liberties, so horrified by the state’s usurpation of authority properly belonging to families and churches and communities, that they look upon Austrian economics as the only thing capable of effectively opposing the new totalitarianism.

But this is a colossal mistake. To borrow George Orwell’s famous adage, “we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” Not that Catholic social doctrine is “obvious” to everyone – it must be sought after and studied like anything else, after all – but once studied it is obvious that libertarianism is wholly alien, and even antithetical, to the doctrinal precepts of Christianity as they pertain to “man, economy and state”. This is because Austro-libertarianism is more than just an economic theory: it is what amounts to a total worldview, and like its materialist twin, socialism, is in direct competition with the Catholic Faith.

Continue reading ""The Church and the Libertarian": A Review" »

Sunday Guessing Game: The Church and the Kingdom

[Update: Michael Liccione is the winner.]

So, uh, who wrote the following?

What was Jesus's own attitude? There can be little doubt that he saw himself as the Messiah; certainly he was executed for refusing to deny that he had made this claim. On the other hand, he seems to have been secretive about it, and to have disliked hearing himself called Messiah - or Christ, which amounted to the same thing. In Caesarea Philippi Jesus asked his disciples point-blank who people said he was. Some, they said, took him to be John the Baptist come to life, others Elijah, yet others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But whom do ye say that I am?, Jesus insisted. Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, Peter answered. Jesus was delighted; Blessed art thou, he said to Peter; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven. It was on this occasion, we are told, that Jesus went on to tell Peter that he was true to his name - a rock; and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. In terms of history, few sayings attributed to Jesus have proved more portentous, for upon it is based the whole mystique of the Catholic Church as the unique repository of God's purposes on earth and instrument of effecting them, with Peter as the first Pope to whom the keys of the kingdom of heaven have been entrusted.

Continue reading "Sunday Guessing Game: The Church and the Kingdom" »

November 8, 2010

Orthodox Christians can't give foster care in the UK?

‘The council said: “Do you know, you would have to tell them that it’s OK to be homosexual?”'

A Christian couple has been deemed "unfit" for foster parenthood in England because of their views on homosexuality.

So far from saying that this is going too far, a British homosexual rights organization approves the decision and derides the Christians' view by saying that it is "redolent of the 19th century." Now there's an argument.

The implications for adoption in the UK should be obvious as well.

The case is going to court.

HT: VFR

November 9, 2010

There is no Santa clause

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What do the figures above all have in common? None of them exists. Nor would any parent ever tell his child that Superman or Batman is real. Yet some parents tell their children that Santa Claus is real. Perhaps some also tell them that the Easter bunny or the tooth fairy is real.

They shouldn’t. These are lies. Parents who do this certainly mean well, but they do not do well, because lying is always wrong. Not always gravely wrong, to be sure, but still wrong. That is bad enough. But there is also the bad lesson that children are apt to derive from this practice, even if the parents do not intend to teach it – namely, the immoral principle that lying is acceptable if it leads to good consequences. There is also the damage done to a child’s trust in his parents’ word. “What else might they be lying about? What about all this religion stuff?”

Continue reading "There is no Santa clause" »

Someone finally answers the question: Is Obama a Socialist?

The impression I'm getting from a book review by Ronald Radosh in National Review is that the answer is 'yes.' The book in question is called Radical in Chief by Stanley Kurtz. The article can't be gotten at NR unless you're a subscriber, but the text of it can be found at The Hudson Institute.

Kurtz presents evidence, apparently a mountain of it, of a very long and consistent socialist pedigree in Obama's background, and not a molehill of same that he has parted company with it. Says Radosh:

Continue reading "Someone finally answers the question: Is Obama a Socialist?" »

November 11, 2010

Alan Roebuck on "Conservative Evangelism"

Here is an article by Alan Roebuck on the concept of "conservative evangelism" that is likely to give rise to some interesting discussion. Roebuck's idea is that political conservatism should have close ties to Christianity, both as to content and as to methods. He identifies two key propositions at the heart of contemporary liberalism that really do deserve to be stressed: 1) God is unknowable, and 2) The greatest commandment is that thou shalt not discriminate.

The first of these is connected to the whole "naked public square" idea--Since all religious beliefs are irrational, the public square must be naked. See my article on this subject here. Christians play into it when they attack evidentialism in apologetics and push blind faith. Such an approach simply "enables" (to use a jargon term) the Cuomo "personally opposed, but..." cop-out in matters of public policy.

The second of these is like unto it. If God either does not exist or cannot be rationally known to exist, then all views must be treated as equal. Of course, no one really believes this, so we have the zero-sum game of liberalism in which, as we have recently discovered in the UK, it is Christians who are considered "unfit parents." We could here insert a tedious list of instances of the intolerance of liberalism. Nobody can really not discriminate. But certainly the First Commandment of liberalism uses the principle that God and hence moral truth are not truly rationally knowable as a heavy-handed excuse for demanding that we not discriminate against nor even dare to criticize mascot groups and ideologies favored by our liberal masters--Islam, homosexuality, etc.

Too often, Christian conservatives play along with the non-discrimination principle as well. When was the last time that you heard a mainstream conservative say that we should discriminate against Islam? When was the last time that you heard a mainstream conservative defend job discrimination against sexually active and proud homosexuals?

Christians and even conservatives are eager to insist that they do not discriminate and oppose discrimination. See here (you can search for my name in the thread), for example, for a discussion between me and David Wood, one of the Dearborn Four (for whom I have great respect), on the subject of Muslim immigration.

Roebuck's article is worth reading, if a tad long. His unabashed conservatism and his willingness to link religion and politics are refreshing.

The murderer at the door

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Lying is always at least venially sinful. The standard objection to this claim is the dreaded “murderer at the door” example, which is supposed to show how “intuitively” implausible the hard-line position on lying is. In this post over at my own blog, I explain why the “intuitions” in question have no force. (By the way, if it is venially sinful even to lie to the murderer at the door, then a fortiori it is at least venially sinful to lie to your children about Santa Claus. Q.E.D.)

November 13, 2010

Are they taking the "play acting" lie one notch up?

When California schools had students take Muslim names and recite Muslim prayers as part of cultural education, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge on First Amendment grounds. Though I have not had a chance to read the opinion directly, summaries imply that the excuse given in the lower court ruling left standing was that the activities involved were mere simulations and that therefore the curriculum did not really violate strictures laid down by previous First Amendment jurisprudence.

One hardly needed to be a brilliant pundit to think of some obvious questions: What if they had been taught to memorize and recite the Lord's Prayer or the rosary? What if they had banners on the walls saying "Jesus is Lord"?

But matters in the world of liberal jurisprudence go farther than that. More recently there has been a disturbing extension of the claim that educational institutions may "compel speech" if they have a "legitimate educational purpose" in doing so. Briefly, a judge ruled that Julea Ward could be compelled to a) counsel homosexual clients and b) affirm their lifestyle in the course of the counseling as part of her practicum in a counseling program. The judge expressly cited a "play-acting" case in which the court permitted a state school to require a Mormon girl to utter obscenities and to take the Lord's name in vain in plays as part of her training as an actress. As I pointed out at the time, it's a very ominous extension to take a precedent in which a person was compelled to say things only as part of acting and to apply it to a case where a student is required to affirm things contrary to her own beliefs in real-life situations such as counseling. This would seem, I said, to mean that a school could say that it had an "educational interest" in compelling a student to attend a church and actually participate--genuinely as far as anyone could tell to the contrary--in the religious activities.

Well, we may have some more data on that...

Continue reading "Are they taking the "play acting" lie one notch up?" »

The latest issue of The Christendom Review...

...is now online, wherein you can read a fine essay by Lydia's 'dearest husband' (don't worry, she's got only one), Tim McGrew, who describes the spiritual evolution of perhaps the most prominent evolutionist of his time, George John Romanes. Another beautiful reflection comes from sometime W4 commenter Beth Impson, who looks back at a not-quite-forgotten little classic by John Gardner, and in the process reminds us of the first impulse and final purpose that gives (or ought to give) birth to art that is true and lasting. Painter, novelist, poet and screenwriter William Mickelberry takes apart Peter Taylor's "Venus, Folly, Cupid, and Time," and one of Beth's former students, Millie Jones, shows great promise as a poet, proving that very good things can come out of a Christian college.

And then there are the magnificent paintings of Chicago resident Nanci Mertz-King. We offer a pretty fair selection, and one was especially included for the pleasure of Michael Bauman. He'll know it when he sees it.

There's some other good stuff, too. An essay by Andy Nowicki attempts to reconcile a scriptural difficulty with Christian morality, and riveting fiction from Rick Barnett, an excerpt from a forthcoming novel, describes a world in which the government has "gone Darwin".

Enjoy.

[Update]: It's appalling, I know, but I forgot to mention the collective thanks we owe to Todd McKimmey's web genius, without which this fairly worthwhile thing could not get done.

November 15, 2010

What counts as a lie?

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Does saying “Fine, thanks” when asked how you’re doing count as a lie if the truth is that you have a headache? How about putting on your best poker face during a card game? And why should anyone care about Jesuitical hair-splitting over when a mental reservation is justifiable? One more post on the subject of lying before we all let it lie for a while.

November 17, 2010

Review of The Grand Design

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People keep asking me what I think of Stephen Hawking’s recent remarks on religion. I refrained from public comment because I was reviewing Hawking’s latest book The Grand Design (co-written with Leonard Mlodinow) for National Review. The review has now appeared, in NR’s November 29 issue. It is available online to NR subscribers, and should be on the newsstands any time now. If you are not a subscriber, please do the good people at NR a favor and pick up a copy.

Posts on TSA security at Extra Thoughts

I've decided to handle the outrage of the TSA's fascistic grope-or-naked-picture-scan regime at my personal blog. I have posts here and here. Comments are moderated, and I moderate pretty frequently, though I may not respond to every comment.

Two legal questions are uppermost in my mind: First, why have we not yet seen a Fourth Amendment lawsuit directed at the TSA, given precedents that require a warrant for other searches? Second, on what legal pretext is John Tynes being "investigated" and possibly facing an $11,000 fine (plus more in legal costs, no doubt) for having refused the security procedures, given that he was willing not to fly? Who put such a law in place, and how can we get rid of it? (Notice that this means that if you enter the airport and get in line for your flight, you can be required on pain of fine to allow your child to be touched all over by a stranger or scanned by radiation that carries cancer worries. You can be required to do this on pain of fine even if you express a willingness to leave the airport and not to fly.)

One more comment: I am sick unto death of the utterly stupid (yes, I call it stupid) comment, "But how else are we supposed to stop terrorists who carry bombs in their underwear?" If you think there is no other way to stop them than by having innocent men, women, and children scanned by machines producing naked pictures or intimately touched by government agents, then you either lack imagination or you are wearing ideological blinders.

Fly the all-too-friendly skies

I fly infrequently and almost always for personal reasons, though the looming drums of business trips are not ever very far off. That means I frequently fly with members of my family. After purchasing tickets a few months ago for a recent trip, I started reading about TSA's new safety procedures at the airport checkpoints. Suffice to say I was none-too-pleased with what I read, even after factoring in the general exaggeration and panic that sets in around such things.

We were fortunate. Neither I or my daughter were subjected to anything other than the standard metal detector in either direction, even though we witnessed full pat downs in progress at both the security checkpoint and at the boarding gate. (Think you're out of the woods once you get through security? Think again. The blue-gloved ones are now doing more frequent gate checks.)

After the experience, I felt compelled to write to Southwest Airlines. Here is a copy of the letter:

Southwest Airlines
P.O. Box 36647 1CR
Dallas, TX 75235

To Whom It May Concern:

I would like to thank the crews and staff of Southwest Airlines for making my most recent trip a comfortable, pleasant and an overall enjoyable experience. I am continually impressed by Southwest’s ability to present a consistent and best-in-class product. If I were to fly by choice and for personal reasons, I would consider Southwest first above all other airlines.

But it is with regret that I write this letter informing you of my intention not to fly voluntarily again on your airline or any other. Though Southwest Airlines has proven itself to be an exemplary carrier, the experience with airport security and the TSA have soured my travelling experience as a whole.

The latest TSA procedures that include the full body scanners and “enhanced” pat downs are demeaning, invasive and in many cases, dangerous.

I have a 4-, nearly 5-year old daughter who is just now grasping the concept of what appropriate touching by strangers entails. Explaining to her the process raised both our anxiety levels to something I don’t consider healthy for either of us. It was bad enough trying to guide a child through the security process at airports these days without the pressure of the new security methods, but this has finally caused me to rethink my willingness to fly.

In their latest push to appear effective, the TSA has finally overstepped its bounds and has embraced procedures that subject innocent consumers of your product to a humiliating and degrading process. In the end, the only way we as consumers can hope to effect change is to alter our travel habits and hope the drop in business will result in the arm twisting required to reverse some of these egregious choices by those entrusted with our security.

Thank you for providing many miles of excellent travel experience. I hope that someday, and soon, we as law-abiding citizens can regain the ability to both travel by air and maintain our dignity.

Sincerely,

Todd McKimmey

November 19, 2010

Hard questions persist.

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What if virtually every variety of debt security were still overvalued? What if, to put it another way, the aggregate demand for debt securities had fallen off dramatically and never returned to its pre-crisis state? What if virtually every imaginable mechanism of accounting legerdemain, every method of budgetary chicanery, every generous wink-and-nod easement, every facility of subtle support for usury, had been employed in the effort to prevent the pain of that massive loss in demand from being felt?

Back up a step. What if, right alongside an unprecedented rhetorical attack upon and regulatory harassment of business enterprise, we were living under an unprecedented coddling of finance capitalism?

Well, these are tough questions that I do not propose to answer with any finality. But I do think that, at the highest levels of financial sophistication, the global political economy is still in such a state of flux and disorder that any statement pretending toward finality ought to be treated with the utmost skepticism. Thus I do think that we must strive by all the means of our appointment, to apprehend that the political economies of the world are still adrift in uncharted seas. Uncertainty still reigns supreme; and we all must be ready to observe and record facts that may well disturb our prior certainties. We have to keep these sorts of questions open, and maintain a hardy skepticism of that ideological frame of mind which would close them prematurely.

Consider the absolutely extraordinary reversal in the political-economic dynamics between the US and Europe. To me is a truly staggering feature of the last six months. Something has really put the scare in European leaders; to the extent that real honest-to-goodness fiscal austerity, far from being merely proposed in oratory, or recommended by wonky analysts, is actually being implemented, right in the teeth of the usual union-led demonstrations. Meanwhile, the US has only gotten as far as a few lower-level pols and former pols throwing out some austerity-like ideas. On the American Right, the newest hotshot — a paunchy and pugnacious Governor of New Jersey — is only just now pressing openly (and then only at the state level) for the kind of policies that European leaders like David Cameron and Angela Merkel have started to implement at the national level. Then there is the old union-friendly paleo-Left in America, those aging social democrats of Marxian cast: these guys have spent their entire careers praising European redistributionist politics, and now the poor fellows find themselves driven by events to curse and harangue the same.

Continue reading "Hard questions persist." »

What's wrong with fetal tissue research

In this entry I told in detail the sorry tale of how fetal tissue research, and federal funding for it, dropped off the American political landscape with the election of George W. Bush and his decision to fund fetal tissue research.

For that reason, and oddly, I'm a bit heartened to see Wesley J. Smith stating the position I disagree with on this subject--namely, that aborted fetal tissue research is ethical. His bothering to state that position is itself at least an acknowledgment that the question is worth discussing.

Smith argues that even if one considers abortion to be murder, it doesn't follow that aborted fetal tissue research is any different from the use of the organs of murder victims for transplant.

Well. That opens the whole question of whether vital organ transplant is ethical. I have real questions about that, ranging from worrisome analogies to cannibalism to serious questions about whether "whole brain death" ever actually occurs and whether it can be reliably detected in the absence of cardio-pulmonary death. But waive those. Really. Waive them.

For the sake of this entry, let's assume that it could be ethical under at least some circumstances to take organs for transplant from a murder victim.

So what's the difference? First (as I said in comments on Smith's entry), the aborted child is being murdered legally. Hence, the use of the fetal tissue is connected with an already socially somewhat approved and legal procedure. The use of the cells in beneficial medicine serves further to legitimize that killing procedure in the public mind. The analogy would be to taking organs from legal euthanasia victims or to taking organs in some futuristic scenario from disabled five-year-olds who have been legally killed in “clinics.”

Second, the organ donor has been at least for some period of time treated as a patient, even if he was a murder victim. He was brought to the ER, where at first he was a patient before he was declared to be "wholly brain dead" for transplant. And, at least in theory, there was no collusion between those who killed him and those who planned to use his organs. The aborted child has not ever been treated as a patient. His body is delivered to the scientists or to middlemen by his murderers. Josephine Quintavalle points out here that abortionists deliberately kill children in ways likely to preserve their brain tissue when they know that the tissue will be used for research.

The medical professionals doing this particular research knew in advance that their tiny fellow humans would be killed, will have asked permission from the mothers involved, and will have made every effort to ensure that the brain tissue was harvested according to their exact scientific requirements.

Continue reading "What's wrong with fetal tissue research" »

November 21, 2010

The Transparent Fraud

Showing off his well-known gift for understatement, Lawrence Auster demonstrates, to his own satisfaction, that "libertarianism...is a transparent fraud." And he does it in only 18 sentences, which I have numbered, below, for easy reference:

Continue reading "The Transparent Fraud" »

November 23, 2010

New form of bureaucrat-written legislation in Obamacare

Wesley J. Smith has a fascinating discussion of an aspect of Obamacare I haven't seen discussed elsewhere. (Maybe I need to get around more, though.) Here's how it works, in brief: An independent, unelected panel writes, in essence, legislation to meet target Medicare spending. Congress is required to introduce this legislation, which is put on a special fast track through committee. If Congress doesn't pass, by a particular date in the year, the bill or a substitute bill that meets the financial targets, the unelected panel's recommendations automatically take effect. They are exempt from administrative or judicial review. And (is this even possible?) the law itself that sets up these powers for the panel contains a self-preservation clause: It can't be changed without 60 votes in the Senate.

Smith argues that this goes beyond even previous powers allocated by Congress to bureaucrats. As far as I can tell, he's right. More conservatives should be blogging this.

November 24, 2010

Police state--TSA can order local police to arrest you

See the entry at my blog.

Can Janet N. really just start doing this anywhere she pleases--bus stations, train stations, etc.--at will?

I'm having a lot of trouble getting out the words "land of the free."

It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord

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Psalm 92

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:

To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,

Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.

For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.

O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.

A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.

When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:

But thou, LORD, art most high for evermore....

**********************************************************************************

A blessed Thanksgiving Day to the readers of What's Wrong With the World.

November 26, 2010

Holy manna

When I was a small child, I sang at the mission in Chicago, though I don't remember what any of the songs were. I vaguely remember the time a fight broke out between two of the men, and I just went on singing. My parents told that story over and over again and thought me very brave, but it never occurred to me to stop. What did frighten me was the water fountain. Some trick of the light made the water look beer-colored from the stage, and to my overactive imagination it seemed that this was a sign that Something was Wrong whenever one of the men went back to get a drink.

Eventually my father and I stopped going to the mission, and what seemed like many years passed. Really, it was only a few. In my teens I began attending the church that also ran my high school, and the church sent a group once a month on a Monday (as I recall) to be in charge of the service at the mission.

Few women came with our group, and few women were needed. Our men--teens and adults--preached and led the singing, and at the end our men were the ones most needed to pray with those who came forward. There were few women in the audience.

I must have been about fourteen years old when it happened. The only other woman with our group, one of my school teachers, had already gone to pray with someone.

Then she came forward--I do not know her name--and it was my turn. I believe one of the boys had to signal me before I realized what I had to do. I went into a side room with her, we sat down on two metal chairs, and a gulf yawned between us.

No one had told me ahead of time what to do or say, though my head was full of Bible, theology, and theory. All the words went out of my head. I do not think I asked her name or told her mine. (At this time, I believed that I would be a missionary someday.)

Her hair, I remember, was red. She seemed to me very old, much, much older than I. Now I think she may have been as much as thirty. Her face had perhaps once been pretty but was ravaged by I knew not what griefs, and on her bare legs there were sores. Perhaps I exaggerated them. No doubt I stared. She tucked her legs under the metal chair as if to hide them.

I asked her why she had come. Choosing her words with care, looking at me sideways, she said that she had been bad, that she had done bad things, that she would try not to do the bad things but then would do them again. I do not remember what I said. It seems to me likely that I would have launched into a devastating treatise on "how you can know that you are going to heaven," and yet in my mind when I think of that night there is a great silence, and I think perhaps this once I did not say that. We prayed together. I do not know what we prayed.

And that is all. In this life, I will never see her again, nor she me, and I do not know if I did her good or harm or neither. But I have not forgotten her, and perhaps she has not forgotten me.

A few months ago when I spoke to my father he was pleased that, despite his poor health, he was able to go to the mission the previous Monday with the church group.

Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God.
Will you pray with all your power while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down.
Brethren pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Crossposted

Study Questions - Aquinas & Nietzsche

A.K.A. matter vs. anti-matter!

With final exams fast approaching, in my Intro. Phil. course, I've been working up a set of questions which may, or may not, appear, in some form or other, on the test.

Descartes is still giving me a lot of trouble. But I think I've come up with a pretty good set of questions on Aquinas & Nietzsche, at least, and I think they might provide a few moment's amusement for some of our regulars.

Please note: I'm NOT asking anybody to answer ANY of these questions, let alone the whole lot. On the other hand, if any of them are obvious clinkers - ill-formed, unnecessarily ambiguous, or what have you, I'd like to find it out from y'all before I find it out from my students. IOW, suggestions welcome.

Assigned texts:

Edward Feser: *Aquinas*

Friedrich Nietzsche: *On the Genealogy of Morals* - Preface & First Essay

So here it goes:

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November 28, 2010

Sunday Guessing Game: the saint you must become

Question: Who is the author? Rule #1: no research. #2 and all following are identical to #1.

We are advised to meditate on the lives of the saints, but this precept orginated in the ages when meditation was a more precise and arduous activity than we are tempted to think it today. Heavy apparatus has been at work in the last hundred years to enervate and stultify the imaginative faculties. First, realistic novels and plays, then the cinema have made the urban mentality increasingly subject to suggestion, so that now it lapses effortlessly into a trance-like escape from its condition. It is said that great popularity in fiction and film is only attained by works into which readers and audience can transport themselves and be vicariously endangered, loved and applauded. This kind of reverie is not meditation, even when its objects are worthy of high devotion. It may do little harm, perhaps even some little good, to fall day-dreaming and play the parts of Sir Thomas More, King Lewis IX or Father Damien. There are evident dangers in identifying ourselves with St. Francis or St. John of the Cross. We can invoke the help of the saints and study the workings of God in them, but if we delude ourselves that we are walking in their shoes, seeing through their eyes and thinking with their minds, we lose sight of the one certain course of our salvation. There is only one saint that Bridget Hogan can actually become, St. Bridget Hogan, and that saint she must become, either here or in the fires of purgatory, if she is to enter heaven. She cannot slip though in fancy-dress, made up as Joan of Arc.

November 29, 2010

Disinviting Islam: Part I--the need

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This post inaugurates a series co-written with my colleague Jeff Culbreath on the topic of disinviting Islam. Each individual post will be written by one of us, allowing us each the freedom to state opinions with which the other might not agree in every detail, but allowing us to show our general agreement on the topic by rolling out the series as a joint project. The first part will argue for a need to disinvite Islam. Part II will make policy suggestions. Part III will address the question of Christian charity.

It is no secret to the readers of What's Wrong With the World that I have expressed elsewhere, as has Jeff Culbreath, the position that Muslim immigration to the United States should be halted and that measures should be taken to make it clear that the religion of Islam is not just another religion and is not welcome in the United States.

Why, to begin with, should we disinvite Islam? To go into detail on all the reasons that could be adduced would take far, far more than a blog post, and much spadework has been done on this issue elsewhere. Indeed, one of the reasons that Robert Spencer's work is so valuable is that he has given all the ammunition necessary for the argument that Islam is incompatible with American values and that, e.g., our current non-discriminatory immigration policies are dangerous and out of touch with reality. Whether and to what extent he has personally made a point of the immigration issue is a question that is relatively unimportant in comparison with the sheer quantity and quality of detailed work he has done that supports, de facto, a restrictionist position.

In relatively brief compass, then, for so large a topic:

I. We should disinvite Islam because unrestricted Muslim immigration and/or a large Muslim presence in the United States unnecessarily increases the danger of terrorist attacks on American soil or on American airplanes.

It should not really be necessary to talk about this, nor should we have to document it at length. Please, do not waste our time with talk of Timothy McVeigh. Muslim attacks have taken place or have been intercepted before taking place time and time again in recent years against American citizens on American soil or airplanes, from 9/11 to Nidal Hasan to the Christmas underwear bomber to the plot against the fuel lines at JFK to a plot to bomb the subways in D.C. to the New Jersey Muslims planning to train abroad to commit terrorism at home--the list goes on and on and on. The most recent as of this writing is, of course, Somali immigrant Mohamed Osman Mohamud, the would-be Christmas tree bomber, but he won't be anywhere near the last. Jihad Watch, with typical dark humor, refers to such terrorists as "misunderstanders of Islam," and googling that phrase at Jihad Watch turns up a huge number of highly informative posts, a compendium of the acts and plans of those "misunderstanders" of the Religion of Peace here and abroad.

It is folly to try to tell us that this has nothing to do with Islam. This is not a matter of abstract argument. Tell it to the perpetrators, and let us know how that's working out for you after a few more plots and attacks. And tell it to all the air travelers and victims who have paid the price for multiculturalism in loss of time, loss of privacy, and loss of freedom, not to mention loss of life.

Really, point I is almost too easy to substantiate. It is so easy to substantiate that the really religiously committed multiculturalist tacitly acknowledges it when, as in the case of General Casey, he implies that the deaths of Americans really don't matter all that much, that non-discrimination is more important than saving lives. We should be willing to die for the religion of non-discrimination--no airport profiling, no sacrificing of diversity in the military, no matter what the cost. One blogger has said as much, calling on the people of the West to be "brave" by refusing profiling on airlines, because "it is more important to you to preserve an open and tolerant society than to survive this trip." (Link HT: VFR)

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November 30, 2010

Suicidal liberalism

"Suicidal liberalism" is something of a catch phrase. It's old news that liberalism is suicidal. But I'd like to highlight a couple of examples here so that we conservatives can look soberly at the very real possibility that our liberal leadership and their liberal followers would prefer that we die, that they die, that large numbers of people die, rather than that anything be done that goes contrary to their first and greatest commandment: Thou shalt not discriminate.

I already mentioned in Part I of the Disinviting Islam series a rather amazing statement by a liberal blogger: "[I]t is more important to you to preserve an open and tolerant society than to survive this trip."

By this time we should know that this is not all that atypical. It has resonances in General Casey's shocking statement, a statement that should have lost him his job and made him a pariah with all patriots, "[W]hat happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here."

And now, in the wake of the Portland attempted Christmas tree bombing, we have more examples.

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