December 2010 Archives
December 1, 2010
Disinviting Islam: Part II - Proposals
A number of specific policies for dealing with domestic Islam have been proposed since 9-11, mainly by pundits well outside the political mainstream. A few of these proposals have already been discussed at length by the contributers and commenters here at W4. As Lydia McGrew reminded me yesterday, the first and most obvious thing to do is simply to enforce our own just laws, many of which are winked at, flouted or ignored in the name of sensitivity to Islamic cultural practices. Beyond this fundamental beginning, I’d like to summarize what I consider to be the best and most realistic proposals in order to create a practical guide for political action on the national level.
1. Halt Muslim immigration. This policy should be specifically directed at the immigration of Muslims, from any nation, and not simply at immigration from Muslim states or from states known for their Islamic extremism. (According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations there are an estimated 7 million Muslims in this country, along with almost 2,000 mosques and Islamic centers, forming what amounts to an impenetrable Islamic sub-culture on American soil.)
2. Halt the issuance of all student, religious and immigrant visas to Muslims, and revoke those presently in effect. (Of the 48 Islamic terrorists apprehended between 1993 and 2001, only 12 were in the country illegally.)
The Fed's own "document dump."
Well, the Federal Reserve has, under orders from Congress, released a huge mass of data on its extraordinary interventions into the financial sector during the height of the crisis, from 2007-2009. These documents make for interesting reading. In a word, the Fed was throwing money at everything that moved. Never has “lending of last resort” been realized so radically. The variety of institutions partaking of the acronymic cacophony of lending facilities and other devices is something to behold. I was amused to see that Harley-Davidson was a regular participant in a commercial paper lending operation. Motorcycles and shadow banking: an interesting business amalgam. Then there is the sheer size of these loans to the big banks. We’re talking about firms borrowing $15 or $20 billion in overnight loans, every night, for weeks. And foreign banks no less than domestic ones were clinging to the Fed for dear life. The documents leave no doubt that the private banking system was in ruins. Here are several good summaries of the documents.
Relatedly, Martin Wolf of The Financial Times has an excellent column yesterday describing in overview the crisis in Europe. What’s going on is that private obligations are being converted into public obligations: government and finance are merging. This is a historical and global trend, most acutely evident in Europe right now.
December 2, 2010
Youth, Separatism, and Jihad in Sweden
Another one bites the dust
Another Muslim "moderate," that is.
I couldn't resist this brief post:
An imam in Germany has been arrested for beating his wife so badly that he broke her nose and shoulder and gave her numerous cuts and bruises. He's charged with grievous bodily harm. He tried to resist the police when they came to his house to rescue his wife from him. It's alleged that he shouted the Koranic verse justifying wife beating while beating her.
He is an official "moderate" who recently gave a lecture at a Catholic University called "An Islam which distances itself from violence," and he has been receiving government protection from extremists because he's been calling for Muslims to "reject radical Islam."
I tell ya', you can't make these things up.
December 3, 2010
Austria stands up to the Turks ... and for the Church!
Alas, I am stunned and inspired. The tide is finally turning, even in decadent old Europe. Pray it isn't too late.
Disinviting Islam: Part III--Christian Charity
Is there something un-Christian about the idea of disinviting Islam here in America? Are we not, as Christians, supposed to desire to help people? Josh McDowell, who produced a "Sharia Love" Youtube video snarkily criticizing the Acts 17 missionaries for getting arrested in Dearborn, can be fairly said to exult in the fact that Dearborn is a Muslim enclave. Now, McDowell says, we can be foreign missionaries without going outside of the United States. Having turned part of the United States into a foreign country, we can go and be missionaries there quite easily. (Listen to the radio interview.)
Even if McDowell's way of putting things (including his love of sharia) seems to be going too far, it still might be argued that stopping Muslim immigration and other similar proposals, such as those in Part II, evince a lack of charity toward our Muslim fellow men. Interestingly, the missionaries McDowell was criticizing are also resistant to the idea of keeping Muslims out of America. (See my discussion with David Wood here by searching for my name in the comments.) It seems that it is difficult for those Christians who have the deepest heart for helping Muslims and reaching Muslims to agree that America should have fewer of them, and it might seem that this should make other Christians stop and think twice about proposals to disinvite Islam.
There is no point in denying the fact that there is a tension here between two things--1) the desire in the short term (more on that below) to preach the Gospel to as many Muslims as possible, to give, in the short term, as many Muslim women as possible the opportunity to seek freedom from evils such as beating and FGM, and to give, in the short term, as many Muslim children as possible an opportunity to witness what is good in American life and possibly to choose to break free from Islam as they grow older and 2) the desire to protect Americans from Muslim violence and to protect American culture from Muslim invasion and negative change.
December 4, 2010
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
My jaw already dropped over this story several days ago when I first learned of it. I've only been waiting to post it until the Islam series was fully launched, because it is on a completely different topic.
I still find this hard to believe, but here it is in cold, hard pixels:
Manhattan is going to start a federally funded pilot program intended to procure more kidneys for transplant. Here's how it will work: The people running the program will monitor 911 calls and dispatch chatter via radio. They will discover from this when someone has collapsed and is in danger of death from apparent or possible heart failure. If an EMT arrives and declares the person dead, the procurement team will rush to the scene where they will have a brief window of time (fifty minutes from declaration of death) to obtain confirmation that the suddenly dead person is on a donor registry and to obtain consent from relatives who happen to be present. The story is unclear as to whether family consent is sufficient even if the person is not on an organ donation registry. (If the person is already on a donation registry, would family consent be necessary?) After getting the required paperwork, the (very new) body will be put into a special ambulance and hooked up to a machine to keep it oxygenated, then rushed to a hospital where the kidneys will be taken.
Oh, and somewhere in that narrow window of time they will also fit a lightning-quick evaluation by a police detective to make sure that there is not going to be a criminal investigation for which the body might be needed.
Imagine the scene: Your previously healthy husband has just collapsed at the dinner table. You frantically call 911. The EMTs show up and declare him dead on the spot. Nothing they can do for him. Sorry ma'am. You are in shock, hardly even able to take in what has happened. Suddenly, entirely uninvited, a whole additional team of complete strangers shows up at your home. They start trying to comfort you, and you try, in your state of shock, to figure out who all these people are. Then they start asking you whether your husband was signed up to be an organ donor. You don't know. Not that you know of. The two of you really hadn't talked about the matter. Look, you ask, is it true? Is he really dead? Can't anything be done? No, ma'am, no ma'am. He's been declared dead. Now, about those organs. Our computer records show that he is listed as being on the registry. He could give the gift of life to someone else. Do we have your permission? Can we take the body? There isn't much time, you see, to get this done. Just sign here, ma'am...
And off they go with his body, in some haste, to get the kidneys.
December 6, 2010
A bureaucratic response to outrageous Muslim demands
In my original post in the Disinviting Islam series I pointed out examples of outrageous Muslim demands for special accommodation by employers and by those serving the public.
One of the purposes of some of Jeff's policy suggestions (though not the only purpose) was to make it clear that such accommodations do not have to be made.
A different route to that particular goal would be this: Since enforcement bodies such as the EEOC and various civil rights commissions have wide latitude to decide what constitutes "reasonable accommodation," a determined administration at the federal level could make a large difference to such accommodations, especially if the federal move encouraged copy-cat moves at the level of state bureaucracies.
I herewith present a suggested informational open letter to be written by the head or heads of enforcement agencies for non-discrimination laws. See what you think of it:
December 8, 2010
Maybe if we just ask Texas to invade ...
December 9, 2010
Don't Fence Me In
(Great minds must think alike. I was already thinking about this post before Jeff put up his previous one.)
A Western song goes like this:
Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don't fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don't fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze,
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever but I ask you please,
Don't fence me in.
I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in.
I've heard it said that the American pioneer spirit is the enemy of civilization and "community," and I suppose the cowboy spirit expressed here would be even more so. The focus on freedom is, in contemporary jargon, "in your face." I would guess that no woman, in particular, can hear old Bing sing "Don't Fence Me In" without raising her eyebrows. "Oh, yeah, buddy? You ever want to be married? Have children? Is that hobbles and fences? You're going to have to settle down sometime or die alone, and we'll see how you like that."
December 10, 2010
The Fate of the Glastonbury Thorn
The Glastonbury thorn has been hacked this year on the very day that a sprig of it is traditionally taken to the Queen.
I can't quite get from the stories whether there is enough of the trunk left for this token of the type to survive. (Readers, what do you think?) Evidently the intention is instead for it to be replanted from cuttings that have grown elsewhere in the town as it was after Cromwell & Co. hacked it down during the English Civil War.
I don't think the director of the Glastonbury Abbey (why is a woman the director of the Glastonbury Abbey?) should be calling this act of vandalism "mindless," as if it were perpetrated by androids. But that's the way crime is always spoken of nowadays. Nobody commits crimes. They "happen" or they are "mindless."
One story, which I can't seem to find again now, implied that there may be no prosecution even if the perpetrators are found, because there was no preservation order on the tree. So vandalism isn't illegal by itself in England anymore?
I hope they catch them and punish them to the full extent of the law, such as it is.
Ed Feser's Aquinas
Just concluded a pair of introductory philosophy courses wherein I used Ed Feser's Aquinas as a required text. Here's my Amazon review:
December 12, 2010
The TSA and constitutional abdication
One of the acts of George W. Bush that caused me to lose respect for him was his signing the McCain-Feingold bill, which he had campaigned against, while at the same time stating that he thought parts of it were probably unconstitutional.
Since he had sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, it seemed, and seems, completely wrong for him to do that.
The only explanation I could think of at the time was this: He was punting to the courts. Rather like Nancy Pelosi telling us that we need to pass a law to find out what's in it, GWB was saying that he needed to sign a law to find out whether it was really unconstitutional or not. He thereby rendered at least partially meaningless his oath to uphold the Constitution, for if the Constitution is really so arcane and its relation to laws really so inscrutable that he has no responsibility to refrain from signing those that he thinks probably violate it, this evacuates one of the most significant ways in which the President might be expected to uphold the Constitution--namely, in his role in the passage or non-passage of legislation. In other words, GWB was engaging in a shockingly irresponsible act of constitutional abdication.
December 13, 2010
The myriad three-monkey mosques
For those who argue that we should not have a negative view of Islam generally but rather should go about, in the manner of the ants who helped Psyche, knowledgeably picking apart the grains and seeds of "good Islam" from "bad Islam," Robert Spencer notes an interesting trend. This, with reference to the Portland, OR, bomber:
[D]espite Mohamud's avowedly Islamic motivations, the Imam Yosof Wanly of the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center in Corvallis, Oregon, followed a predictable and oft-repeated pattern when he downplayed Mohamud's connection to the local Muslim community. Every jihadist who has ever lived for any time in the United States has been simultaneously a devout and informed Muslim by his own account, and by the account of the local mosque leaders, someone they seldom saw and who was at odds with the larger community when he did show up. It raises a large question that no journalist ever has the wit or courage to ask: if these jihad terrorists really had little or nothing to do with their local mosques, and if their understanding of Islam differs so sharply from that of the area Muslims, where did they learn the version of Islam that impelled them to attempt mass-murder of infidels?
And here the same pattern comes again in the case of the Swedish Muslim suicide bomber, about whom the Swedes are so carefully refusing to "jump to conclusions." On the one hand, his friends in Sweden seem to think that he was "radicalized" by an Egyptian imam that he met in Luton, England.
Wahab became interested in radical Islam in the town just north of London, where he met his wife, reportedly the same age as him and also a Swedish citizen.
"He got to know an Egyptian imman [sic] at the mosque in Luton," a friend of the family told Expressen, adding that during his time there "he became another person. It's hard to say how. He changed and became more restrictive."
When he returned to Sweden in 2005, he had a beard, cut contact with his old friends and led a withdrawn life.
On the other hand, the people at the mosque in Luton say they threw him out for his "extremist" views. Where's the mysterious Egyptian imam? Did he get thrown out, too? Does anyone admit he was even there? Nobody knows nothin'. This despite the fact that Luton is known as a hotbed of extremism. They must be throwing lots of people out of the mosque there.
But maybe not. Maybe, in other words, they're just lying.
December 15, 2010
Economic houses upon the sand.
The old verities of economics, outstripped by events, are revealed as impostures. Perhaps the most basic imposture is that of supposing economics a science capable of the precision and predictability of the physical sciences. Upon this sandy foundation were erected numerous structures of modeling and forecast, great gleaming houses of impressive design and craftsmanship; but, like the old Sunday School song, when the rain came down and the floods came up, the houses on the sand went SPLAT!
December 16, 2010
I direct my readers' attention to an interesting interview with Paul Kengor, author of Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century . The interview is broken into four parts (here, here, here, and here), none of which is very long, so don't feel put off by the number of links. Kengor's remarks are all very interesting, but I was especially struck by what he said about the churches that harbored the SDS thugs and also about Frank Marshall Davis.
I have no other really profound analysis to offer, but I do have a provocative question: Is the duping of the religious left continuing, or can we comfortably regard this as a piece of over-and-done-with history of the Cold War?
December 17, 2010
One of Jeff Culbreath's suggestions for opposing the Islamicization of America was to use the "nature abhors a vacuum" principle and to make Christianity public. Just how radical a proposal was this?
Well, federal inspectors have ordered a bank in Perkins, Oklahoma, to remove crosses, a Bible verse, and the message, "Merry Christmas, God with us" from the teller's counter. The feds said that they violate a clause in federal bank regulations prohibiting "...the use of words, symbols, models and other forms of communication [that]... express, imply or suggest a discriminatory preference or policy of exclusion." Just how far this would go, of course, nobody knows. If they'd just had the words "Merry Christmas," would the feds have said the same? Maybe. Who knows? Nor should the feds have the power to shut down these expressions of religious sentiment in a small-town bank in any event. Naked public square? You bet. Government enforced. And it isn't just for public schools anymore.
Update: I had nothing profound to say about this incident, except to express disgust. Lawrence Auster did much better than that, and his comments on this topic are so apposite that I am borrowing them immediately:
I am always saying that the rule of non-discrimination, if followed consistently, means that no distinct society or culture can exist, no distinct human individual or human family can exist, no distinct species or organism can exist. Nothing can exist, since all things, in order to exist, must be different from, and thus be distinguished and discriminated from, other things. [Written in 2009 and applied today to this story.]
So, for people in a community to be Christian (whether believing Christians or even just “cultural” Christians), for them to put up signs in a bank saying “Merry Christmas, God With Us,” and for them to display a Bible verse at their website, are not allowed because these acts are discriminatory. By virtue of existing and being expressed in a community or institution, Christianity, Christmas, and the Bible are discriminatory and exclusive of that which is not Christian. And therefore they must be prohibited.
Of course, the rule of non-discrimination is not applied to everyone equally. Nonwhite and non-Western minorities get to express their cultural and religious particularity all they want, and even receive government funding to do so. Thus there are Islamic charter schools in this country, public schools formally promoting Islam. But the inconsistent application of the rule of non-discrimination is not the point. The point is that the rule of non-discrimination must destroy everything to which it is applied. And the liberal order applies it to Western culture and all its institutions, in order to destroy them.
Update 2: Feds back down. Some days the knight wins. Good for all the people who expressed outrage, including Congressmen. [HT to reader Al for the link.]
December 20, 2010
Pro-choice they're not
The Obama administration is working to overturn Bush-passed HHS regulations that try to give some teeth to existing federal conscience protections for doctors and nurses who do not wish to participate in abortions. (The regulations require institutions to certify their compliance and also provide an avenue of recourse for doctors and nurses who have grievances related to the conscience protections.)
This is particularly relevant since a federal judge has ruled that Cathy Cenzon-DeCarlo has no private cause of action against--i.e., cannot personally sue--a hospital that blatantly forced her to participate in an abortion by threatening her with loss of job and possibly loss of nursing license. The federal judge claims that the only mechanism for enforcement of the conscience protections in federal law is the action of the federal HHS. Meanwhile, Barack Obama's HHS says that it is working to remove the HHS regulations that enforce the conscience protections! In fact, the Obama HHS is even delaying a different lawsuit on the grounds that they are working on revising the regulations to rescind the conscience protection enforcement.
Perhaps the new Congress should expressly create a private cause of action in relation to conscience protections. That would circumvent our lawless executive branch.
Can we impose morality?
Can we impose morality? Liberals and libertarians often hotly deny that we can. To them the imposition of morality constitutes one of the more egregious abuses of political power. Indeed, their hostile reaction is, not infrequently, the sum of their argument against a given proposal.
To me this has always seems a puzzling reaction. The logic is slipshod. How is it possible to govern at all, having forsworn all imposition of morality? The very interdiction against imposing morality is a moral statement. To say, “you can’t legislate morality” is to make certain (admittedly vague) claims about the kind of being that man is, and the nature of his political society.
In pulverizing fact, all legislation but the most superficial imposes morality. There is no getting around it. That’s what it does. The more substantive, the more strongly felt is the imposition. A legislative proscription of robbery imposes a distinctly moral framework, highly onerous to those inclined toward the robber’s trade. The claims standing behind progressive taxation are emphatically moral in character. The decision by Judge Walker in California, overturning Proposition 8’s prohibition on gay marriage, flowed from a highly refined moral philosophy, a body of doctrine concerning obligations and liberties not at all modest about its intentions. The Judge's opinion commenced start to finish in a tone of ringing morality and was greeted in the celebratory strains of moral justice achieved.
The preposterous notion that only one side of that debate is involved with the imposition of morality will not withstand a moment’s objective scrutiny. Despite this, liberals go on talking quite as if their side operated only from the strictest standards of sweet rationality and even technical legalism. (We are expected, I suppose, not to notice that Judge Walker’s opinion was regularly compared to the Civil Rights Act; perhaps the liberals would have us believe that said Act, too, was a mere technical legal victory.)
December 22, 2010
At semester's end, one of my students (whom I will call A.) inadvertently provided some Advent uplift by telling me her mother's story. The details are spare, in virtue of the circumstances under which the essay was written, but sufficient to the purpose, and which I now offer with A's express permission.
December 23, 2010
They're ahead of me [Updated]
It's interesting to be both ahead of the curve and behind the curve at the same time. At the beginning of this calendar year, I predicted that the National Right to Life would endorse an openly pro-choice candidate for President eventually and that they would call him "pro-life." Well, that hasn't happened quite yet. But what I didn't know at the time that I wrote that was that the Massachusetts Citizens for Life had already endorsed Scott Brown, an openly pro-choice candidate, in his Senate race, and that in the course of the campaign they said that he would be "a pro-life vote in the Senate." Isn't that a nice weasel phrase? We manage to imply that someone who obviously and openly isn't pro-life really is pro-life because of what we think he'll do. So I was ahead of the curve, because something very much like my prediction had already happened before I ever made the prediction, and I was behind the curve, because I didn't know that until a couple of days ago.
(I can't tell what position the National organization took on Brown. This site says that they contributed to his campaign some time in the last few years. And there is a confusing reference to their position on Brown in this article that I find difficult to decipher.)
I found out about MCFL two days ago because, much to my disappointment, the Human Life Review (which I have praised here and which I still think a worthwhile publication) ran an article by James T. Grady ardently defending MCFL's decision. It's hard to tell what Grady will think now that Brown has turned out to be a reliably liberal vote in the Senate. Perhaps the fact that he voted against Obamacare (which went through anyway) is somehow supposed to make it all okay.
Particularly absurd in the article is Grady's attempt to bring in the late Pope on his side. Here's how he tries.
December 24, 2010
Taking Stock of our Inner Scrooge
The unregenerate Scrooge got and gets a bum rap. Of course he was cruel, selfish, cynical, and unbelieving. But so are all of us, to the extent we fail to internalize the message of Christmas. Scrooge is the old Adam (and Eve) within everybody past the age of reason, saying secretly or not so secretly "Bah, humbug" to the vulnerability of God in the Christ Child. It is not obvious that our inner Scrooge is wrong. If it were, divine revelation would have been unnecessary.
I want to take a moment to wish a merry Christmas to my fellow bloggers here at W4 (even to the missing Zippy, who is never forgotten), and to all the readers thereof, since, for the rest of today and tomorrow, I intend to recline in the bosom of family, as we offer thanksgiving for the Savior's birth. I wish I had something profound to say about the Incarnation, but I don't. It's such a small and ordinary thing - a baby, conceived out of wedlock and born to parents of straitened circumstance - yet so fills the heart it's almost too big for words. He, without whom "was not anything made that was made", takes flesh in his mother's womb and makes the world, in its old age, new again. Now you know indeed that every hair of your head is numbered, that the intricate machinery of every cell in your body, and every thought of your mind, and supplication of your heart is present (and precious) to His own. Now you know that your life's worth, from beginning to end, finds its promise confirmed in Bethlehem. Infinity in flesh wrapped round, He was born to die, to be put to death by his own children. Thus melancholy must ever be joy's companion in this season, this life, as the cross hangs over the manger. This seems a good moment to remember the millions of nativities that never were - that never escaped the darkness of the womb; to remember the lost and the lonely, and all those whose circumstances, like the Holy Family's, are desperate; and to say a prayer engendered by the hope of the Incarnation, that something will change, that someone's misery will have an end.
It often seems that the light of His coming flickers ever more faintly in a faithless and miserable world, but we must also remember that the image of a mother and child can change that world. It already has, else why do you celebrate?
God bless you every one.
December 27, 2010
The hyper-sensitivity of the fictional conscience
That profound-sounding title actually introduces a rather easy post (I think) for the lazy or exhausted days after Christmas when no one feels, or at least I do not feel, like blogging and am stumped for ideas.
This scenario comes from a lightweight and entertaining novel by an author who can write much higher-level novels--Ellis Peters. This one is called The Horn of Roland, and, the cover advertising to the contrary notwithstanding, it is not a "classic whodunit," as no one gets killed in the entire book, except in the back-story, and then only by Nazis. You can't have a classic whodunit without a body.
The backstory isn't exactly a plot spoiler, as it is told within the first couple chapters, and here it is. See what y'all think:
The End of Diversity
"Patriotism, not nationalism, should inspire the citizen. The ethnic nationalist who wants a linguistically and culturally uniform nation is akin to the racist who is intolerant toward those who look (and behave) differently. The patriot is a 'diversitarian'; he is pleased, indeed proud of the variety within the borders of his country; he looks for loyalty from all citizens. And he looks up and down, not left and right." - Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
The same author also wrote elsewhere - and I paraphrase - that a traditional Christian order fosters religious unity and cultural diversity, while modern societies demand cultural uniformity and religious diversity. This is a picture in which we can understand culture as something which, although inseparable from religion, is not at all reduced to religion, incorporating myriad customs and folkways rooted in the encounters and experiences of diverse people and places. (And let's make no mistake about the cultural uniformity being imposed on America today, despite all the Orwellian "diversity" talk. Even the "religious diversity" of modern society is nothing but a useful fiction, a sham, which can only end in the suppression of all religion.)
The United States, with its federalist version of subsidiarity built into the Constitution, might have been a workable approximation of Kuehnelt-Leddihn's vision. With a broadly Christian moral consensus and a limited role for the state, civic life could be conducted reasonably well without infringing too much on regional and local customs. Unfortunately, slavery and the Mormon question pushed the limits of this consensus almost to the point of breaking. In retrospect we can see how these two issues fatally undermined what was already a fragile unity, leading indirectly to our present woes.
One can be forgiven for thinking the horses have left the barn and they aren't coming back. The 14th amendment, the "commerce clause", an irreducible mountain of jurisprudence and legislation, nearly a century of compulsory public education, the transportation revolution ("mechanical Jacobins", Kirk famously called the automobile), the reckless expansion of the franchise, the mass media, etc. - all have conspired to create what is arguably the first truly "mass culture" the world has ever known. Politically, it's impossible to imagine how the damage might be undone. The stakes are higher than ever. Political modernity demands that uniformity must be total in all but the most superficial things. The liberal alliance with Islam is not for the sake of diversity but is merely tactical, foolishly contracted in order to subdue old pockets of domestic resistance. Neo-conservatives long ago ceded the language of diversity to the multiculturalists; if they talk of culture at all, they only talk of marginally improving the mass, totalitarian culture that engulfs everyone. I suppose that's better than nothing, but it's still a surrender.
Is there a way out of the abyss short of some nightmarish calamity? Possibly, but it will require thinking, as the corporate trainers like to say, "outside of the box".
December 28, 2010
Making a virtue out of necessity
The human mind is so constituted that it is nearly impossible for people to admit that they are in a sub-optimal situation or that they have done something regrettable, much less wrong. So long, at least, as their physical needs are met and they are not in any obvious pain or immediate distress.
I do not know if women are more inclined this way than men, though I suspect they are. (Now there would be an interesting psychological study, if it could be devised. Much more interesting than a study on how eye movements correlate with political opinions.) I do find in myself a constant tendency to try to find something to hang on to in any situation, some way of saying, "Well, think how much worse it could be," or, "At least there's this good thing that came out of it."
In debates about public policy or private morality, this human desire to make a virtue out of necessity has another consequence: Whenever some act is already done, even if it was arguably a wrong act, if a child results from that act, we are told that we must not say that the act was wrong, on pain of making the child feel bad. The child is here now. The child is a good thing. What's done is done, water under the bridge. Don't judge, or you'll stigmatize the child.
Unfortunately, what this means is that all sorts of discussions about everything from fornication to technological reproduction don't take place, or take place only with constraint, because of a desire to make the best of things and because of a fear of hurting the feelings of the innocent.
December 29, 2010
Half in love with easeful death
In the same issue of Human Life Review that I mentioned here there is a valuable article by Mary Meehan called "Outfoxing the Grim Reaper." It's about suicide prevention. Meehan discusses new techniques in suicide prevention--she calls them "tricks," with no pejorative intention. They include what sound to me like good ideas such as asking the suicidal person to imagine himself years later, having gotten through the present crisis, giving advice to his present self.
Meehan also chronicles the disturbing aspect of some suicide prevention groups which, bizarrely enough, try to hold on to the "absolute non-judgmentalism" notion of counseling to such an extent that they consider it wrong to tell people that they shouldn't commit suicide! It's difficult to see exactly how one can be passionately committed to preventing suicide while at the same time refusing to advise people against committing suicide, while believing that any choice the client makes must be affirmed--in other words, while accepting the relativistic claptrap of modern counseling "standards." (See here.) It's unfortunate that anyone is trying to do so.
One thing that Meehan does not discuss, which surprised me, was the connection between suicide prevention and the suicidal person's perception that others are depending on him.
December 31, 2010
Long-time reader Jeff Singer passed along this very interesting essay on the financial crisis. The burden of the authors’ argument is that that the crisis resulted primarily from a failure of government, and they marshal a considerable amount of evidence to support this view. Most of it elaborates on what we know of the housing market collapse, adducing the vast collection of government interventions in the decades leading up to the collapse. The perfidy of the ratings agencies looms large, as does the reckless expansion of leverage, facilitated by Fannie and Freddie alongside private (but FDIC-backed) banks. Nor does the Federal Reserve’s easy-money policy escape critical notice.
But it seems to me that the authors give away much of the game near the middle of the essay. They provide a list of “six major government policies that together rewarded short-sighted collective risk-taking and penalized long-term business leadership,” and number 4 is particularly striking:
The FDIC, Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, and Congress undertook explicit or implicit creditor bailouts for large financial institutions starting in the 1980s (First Pennsylvania, Continental Illinois, the thrift industry, the Farm Credit System, etc.) and continuing to 2008 (Bear Stearns). These regulatory decisions led to an absence of creditor discipline of financial institution leverage and risk-taking (especially at Fannie and Freddie) and the “too big to fail” expectation of a government bailout.
Starting in the 1980s! Sweet sunshine, what a concession that this!