January 2011 Archives
January 1, 2011
Hegelian Mambo strikes again
In a useful series of posts (see here and here, for example), Lawrence Auster has been chronicling the shameful acquiescence of too many conservatives in the advancement of the homosexual agenda in the military.
The recent congressional vote is incorrectly known as "the repeal of DADT," but I will not refer to it that way, as that implies that there was a "DADT law." Bill Clinton defied Congress, which had expressly outlawed homosexual service in the military, and instituted the DADT policy as the liberal policy of its day. Shamefully (more below on this), George W. Bush did not return to following the actual law as written, and hence people came to be under the misimpression that DADT was "the law" and was the "new conservative" policy, the new line to be held and defended. Hence the recent repeal of the ban on homosexuals in the military was referred to incessantly and misleadingly as "the repeal of DADT."
This point is related to what I think was an important reason for the despair and silence of so many conservatives, or "conservatives": Bush's inaction. After Bush came into the White House and did nothing to return us to the pre-Clinton situation, to actually attempting to exclude homosexuals from the military, it became evident that, in all probability, no one was ever going to do this. If conservatives pounded the pavement, knocked themselves out, and elected a Republican President, it wouldn't matter. This was now water under the bridge. And meanwhile we were subjected to the postmodern spectacle of open homosexuals serving in the military and complaining about the fact that they couldn't serve openly in the military. One commentator at VFR claims--and I completely believe this and would have guessed as much--that pro-homosexual brainwashing has already been in place in the military under the rubric of training to avoid "sexual harassment."
This was a status quo that it was difficult to get very excited about defending. And how many people were prepared to say that Bush messed up, that we needed to go back and reinstate the actual Congressional policy? How radical that would be. One would be a voice crying in the wilderness.
Meanwhile, over a period of decades, America got used to the idea that homosexual service in the military was a fait accompli, and Americans were made to feel unendingly sensitive about doing anything that might seem to insult these brave "service people." And the faux "conservatives" like Goldberg et. al. have no interest at all in actually being social conservatives.
January 4, 2011
Austin Farrer, C.S. Lewis, and the craft of words
From Austin Farrer's eulogy for C. S. Lewis:
A familiar prayer in commemoration of benefactors declares that God is to be praised as well in the dead as in the living; and to praise God in the dead is to honour the excellence of his handiwork in them. It is no business of ours to sit in judgment or to strike the balance of merit; how much of the virtue we praise was the gift of fortune, how much the product of effort or self-discipline is a question with which we have nothing to do. God is the supreme cause of every positive effect, whatever the means he employs to bring it about; we glorify the Creator when we mark the glory in his creature.
Every human being is a marvel, for is it not a focus into which the world is drawn? Yet minds differ vastly in force or range, and spirits in life or feeling; and the first thing I am moved to say about the man we commemorate is that he had more actuality of soul than the common breed of men. He took in more, he felt more, he remembered more, he invented more.
He gave without stint, to all who seemed to care for them, the riches of his mind and the effort of his wit; and where there was need, he gave his money. I will not say what I know about his charities. When he had entered into any relationship, his patience and his loyalty were inexhaustible. He really was a Christian--by which I mean, he never thought he had the right to stop.
January 5, 2011
Elite and "out of touch"
Back in October, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Charles Murray (co-author of "The Bell Curve") warning of the rise of a "new elite". Murray writes:
We know, for one thing, that the New Elite clusters in a comparatively small number of cities and in selected neighborhoods in those cities. This concentration isn't limited to the elite neighborhoods of Washington, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley and San Francisco. It extends to university cities with ancillary high-tech jobs, such as Austin and the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle.
With geographical clustering goes cultural clustering. Get into a conversation about television with members of the New Elite, and they can probably talk about a few trendy shows -- "Mad Men" now, "The Sopranos" a few years ago. But they haven't any idea who replaced Bob Barker on "The Price Is Right." They know who Oprah is, but they've never watched one of her shows from beginning to end.
Talk to them about sports, and you may get an animated discussion of yoga, pilates, skiing or mountain biking, but they are unlikely to know who Jimmie Johnson is (the really famous Jimmie Johnson, not the former Dallas Cowboys coach), and the acronym MMA means nothing to them.
They can talk about books endlessly, but they've never read a "Left Behind" novel (65 million copies sold) or a Harlequin romance (part of a genre with a core readership of 29 million Americans).
They take interesting vacations and can tell you all about a great backpacking spot in the Sierra Nevada or an exquisite B&B overlooking Boothbay Harbor, but they wouldn't be caught dead in an RV or on a cruise ship (unless it was a small one going to the Galapagos). They have never heard of Branson, Mo.
There are so many quintessentially American things that few members of the New Elite have experienced. They probably haven't ever attended a meeting of a Kiwanis Club or Rotary Club, or lived for at least a year in a small town (college doesn't count) or in an urban neighborhood in which most of their neighbors did not have college degrees (gentrifying neighborhoods don't count). They are unlikely to have spent at least a year with a family income less than twice the poverty line (graduate school doesn't count) or to have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian. They are unlikely to have even visited a factory floor, let alone worked on one.
Taken individually, members of the New Elite are isolated from mainstream America as a result of lifestyle choices that are nobody's business but their own. But add them all up, and they mean that the New Elite lives in a world that doesn't intersect with mainstream America in many important ways. When the tea party says the New Elite doesn't get America, there is some truth in the accusation.
January 6, 2011
Jumpin' posts [Updated]
Things have been hopping lately a bit in the apologetics blogosphere. Richard Carrier, a skeptic who has reinvented himself recently as an expert on probability, had an interview with Luke Muehlhauser (with whom I had an interview not long ago) in which he airily dismissed Tim's and my work on the resurrection and Bayesian probability as (please excuse the term) "crappy." Evidently there has been a certain amount of rejoicing over this among skeptics who had begun to be a bit worried by our work and by my interview with Luke. I discuss the particular criticism and respond to it at my personal blog here.
Probably most W4 readers interested in Philosophy of Religion already knew about all of this, but in case you didn't, I thought I'd direct you to the action. Links provided in that post. Enjoy.
Update: Both Richard Carrier and Luke Muehlhauser have apologized in the comments to the post at my personal blog. See our interaction there.
January 9, 2011
O'Reilly Pontificates, factually, on the Factor
This compels a certain bewilderment:
1. If he is correct that abortion was a crime in colonial times (I love it when things rhyme), then no, abortion was likely not a liberty the Founders intended to protect, BUT...
January 10, 2011
On January 9, 2011, within six hours of each other, these two pictures were taken. One shows Atlanta, GA; one shows Vail, CO.
The testing time is coming
Some of us who really are social conservatives are wondering what in the world Sarah Palin was thinking when she "retweeted" (I can't believe this term has now become part of our political discourse) the, shall we say, unpleasant comments of one Tammy Bruce, a pretend-conservative lesbian (why would anyone believe that this person is conservative?) apropos of people opposed to homosexuals in the military. Palin isn't saying anything, while Bruce is strutting about telling everybody that, among other things, it means that Palin condemns the CPAC boycott by social conservatives because of the inclusion of GOProud at CPAC! That's pretty amazing: It would be more plausible for Bruce just to say that Palin agreed with Bruce on the issue of homosexuals in the military.
And I have to admit, that hypothesis is certainly significantly confirmed by the "retweet." Short of "Palin's Twitter account was taken over by mischievous liberal friends or family and she doesn't want to admit this" or "Palin mindlessly retweets things she disagrees with and just assumes people will figure it out and then doesn't clarify when the people she disagrees with go about boasting that she agrees with them" it's difficult to see what else it could mean. I suppose there's also, "Palin mindlessly retweets things she just thinks are mildly interesting and thinks people might want to think about and then simply can't be bothered to clarify when the person she retweets goes about telling everyone what she supposedly thinks about CPAC." The third is what you might call the second-place runner-up in terms of explanatory power for the evidence, but I just threw in the other two for laughs.
It's not looking good. Here, apropos of the same topic, is the VP debate clip between Biden and Palin on homosexual issues, in which they end up by celebrating their agreement. (HT Jeff Culbreath) My own interpretation is this: Biden means to be enthusiastically endorsing civil unions and all other aspects of the homosexual agenda short of homosexual pseudo-marriage. Palin means to be condemning homosexual "marriage," sort of flirting with civil unions without making any clear statement, and saying nothing about everything else, leaving herself the opportunity to make it up as she goes along later. The obvious follow-up question, which unfortunately is not asked, is, "What do each of you think of civil unions?" I wonder what the answers would have been.
January 11, 2011
Mass murder in Tucson and the Left's base opportunism.
The Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley sent out a campus-wide email reflecting on the mass-murder and attempted assassination in Tucson, AZ. In this note, he states, “I believe that it is not a coincidence that this calamity has occurred in a state which has legislated discrimination against undocumented persons.” There is of course not a scrap of evidence to support this asseveration. It is bare and unrepentant calumny.
The black irony is that the Chancellor’s bigotry extends to the victim herself. For Rep. Giffords did, in fact, support the Arizona immigration law.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, said her constituents were “sick and tired” of the federal government failing to protect the border. The current situation is “completely unacceptable,” she said.
Giffords defended the Arizona law. She acknowledged the concerns about the bill's constitutionality but said it is a “clear calling that the federal government needs to do a better job” securing the border.
Meanwhile, we have prominent liberal commentators continuing to push the “right-wing vitriol” slander right in the teeth of all the actual evidence we have. My friend Pejman Yousefzadeh has been collating the dreadful facts of this smear.
We know now that the shooter betrayed a deranged obsession with Rep. Giffords as far back as 2007, before anyone knew who Sarah Palin was and before most people even knew who Barack Obama was. We know that he had erected an occult shrine in his backyard, and spoke neurotically to friends about his fixation with dreams and his lunatic notions of controlling reality through dreams. We know that his derangement was evident to classmates and acquaintances, to the extent that several went on record to various authorities with concerns of violence. We have suggestions that the Pima County Sheriff’s Office was well aware of the young man’s instability before the shooting.
What we don’t have is a shred of evidence linking this wicked man to right-wing vitriol. The Pima County Sheriff’s irresponsibility in propagating this lie — which he began with his very first major presser, long before he had the facts in hand — should in all justice cost him his job and his reputation. Yesterday on television he made a half-apology, saying that he had been very emotional, which (it is supposed) explains his slanders of his countrymen. Similarly, no one will ever again persuade me to trust Paul Krugman to marshal facts honestly. If he will go on lying about this, of course he will not scruple to manipulate economic data.
Basically what happened here is that a young man sunk in depravity played out his lunacy in front of a grocery store, showing his bravery by targeting old folks, women and children; and in response to this outrage, parts of the Left went in for the most base opportunism, leveling wild accusations, passing on groundless insinuations, and for the better part of a weekend giving themselves over to bigotry, hatred and malice.
UPDATE below the fold.
January 12, 2011
If you have a desire to read my rather amateurish defense of the Boethian view of divine timelessness against the criticism that God would, in that case, not know what it is like to listen to music, see here.
Why we fight
This not easy to read, but it must be read.
January 14, 2011
A talk on undesigned coincidences in the Gospels
Here is an exceedingly interesting talk by Esteemed Husband, given in New Orleans last Sunday, on undesigned coincidences in the Gospels. This is an argument that was well-known in the nineteenth century but has, for no really clear reason, simply been forgotten as time has gone on. It is a cumulative case argument that the Gospels reflect, to an important extent, independent knowledge of actual events. Please note that this argument is quite independent of one's preferred answer to the synoptic question. That is to say, even if, e.g., Mark was the first Gospel and others had access to Mark and show signs of literary dependence on Mark, the argument from undesigned coincidences provides evidence for independent knowledge of real events among the Gospel writers. There are many more of such coincidences beyond those given in the talk.
Hopefully there will eventually be links to two talks given at New Orleans Baptist Seminary on Sunday night and Monday morning, including some of the same material and a good deal of additional material. My understanding is that there may be a small fee for those downloads when they become available.
January 16, 2011
Why it's helpful for the good guys to have lawyers
Vanderbilt University, in blatant violation of pertinent federal laws governing entities that receive federal money, was requiring prospective nursing students to sign an "acknowledgment" that they would participate in abortions. The ADF got on it. They supposedly couldn't sue on behalf of an applicant directly, because a federal judge has said that federal conscience protection grants no private cause of action and that violations must be dealt with directly by the federal government. But ADF did write to the HHS asking that they investigate the violation. Vanderbilt has backed off and sent out an e-mail removing the requirement for the "acknowledgment." Perhaps not surprisingly, they claim that it wasn't what it appeared to be. If you believe that, I have a Parthenon in Nashville's Centennial Park to sell you.
Some days, the knight wins.
A few years back, I was thinking about getting my sons involved in martial arts. I visited numerous martial arts studios, talked to instructors, and observed classes. Ultimately I decided against it for one reason: all the classes were co-ed. And much to my surprise, many of these had more girls than boys. My primary objection was that the boys would have been required to physically treat their female classmates very roughly, and that isn't an idea I wanted them to get used to. I'm trying to wrap my brain around the kind of father who has no problem with his sons kicking and punching and body-slamming girls, or even more inexplicably, with his daughters being roughed up this way by the sons of strangers. Parents might say, "Oh, I would never let Johnny hit a girl in real life. This is just training." Johnny, meanwhile, sees that the girls in this class are just as aggressive as he is (if not more so), and they don't mind hurting him, so any chivalrous instincts he might have had are rapidly undermined. We opted for fencing, which was also co-ed but did not involve physical contact.
One can't help but notice, too, that the leadership of many youth organizations is dominated by girls and women. (Just for fun, to confirm my intuition, the first random photo I came across of 4-H officers at a school in Kearneysville, West Virginia, pictured nine girls and no boys.) The push to make "leaders" of girls in every context has become a frenzied crusade. And it's not enough that females dominate co-ed groups: in 1988 the Boy Scouts of America capitulated and began admitting women as Scoutmasters. Today more than one-third of their volunteers are women. And it doesn't stop there. In 2009 the BSA began kicking around the idea of admitting girls to the rank of Eagle Scout and promoting more co-ed activities. No enclave of masculine socialization shall be allowed to stand if it purports, in any way, to be more serious than a ball game.
This decades-long crusade against masculine culture and leadership has led to some bizarre but predictable results. For the first time in American history, male unemployment is an astounding 2 points higher than female unemployment. For the first time in history, women now hold the majority of managerial and professional jobs. For the first time in history, more women than men are graduating from college. For the first time in history, single and childless women earn more than their male counterparts. Etc.
What's happening here? What's happening is that men are dropping out ... of everything. Indeed, they were invited to leave, and being men they don't much like hanging around where they aren't wanted. The traditional American venues of socializing and making men out of boys - school programs, clubs, scouting - are rapidly drying up. It takes men to make men out of boys, and the men aren't there anymore. The civilizing possibilities of marriage are also lost on today's young men, because they aren't marrying either. All that remains is sports, and for today's masculinity-starved young men and boys, the more "extreme" the sports the better. A dual-track for men is therefore emerging: hyper-masculinity on the one hand (sports, gangs, money, sex), and placid effeminacy on the other. The great masses of ordinary males - who in the sordid and cynical world of "game" are known as "betas" - have few opportunities for masculine identity and are generally pushed to one extreme or the other. I believe this also explains, in part, the rise in male homosexuality, or at least the "need" to legitimize it's expressions.
Although young men have dropped out of sight temporarily, they haven't gone away. While some have reconciled themselves to their disadvantages in a feminist world, many others are stewing in unarticulated resentment, flying under the radar and coping with their lack of prospects through various unhealthy diversions. They are discontented but they don't quite know why. They have energy but no socially acceptable means of putting it to use. Co-ed America, therefore, is not going to last. All signs point to the return of patriarchy - but not the genteel patriarchy of Christianity with its quaint scruples about family and monogamy and chivalry and honor. Instead this will be a radically misogynistic patriarchy learned from video games and WWF, from internet pornography and Roissy: ruthless, violent, promiscuous, and cruel, like the paganism of old.
January 17, 2011
Putting Our Women in Harm's Way
No, not in war, but in the Peace Corps. An investigation by ABC's 20/20 claims that "More than 1,000 young American women have been raped or sexually assaulted in the last decade while serving as Peace Corps volunteers in foreign countries," and that some of the victims say "the Peace Corps has ignored safety concerns and later tried to blame the women who were raped for bringing on the attacks... Jess Smochek, 29, of Pennsylvania was gang raped in Bangladesh in 2004 by a group of young men after she says Peace Corps officials in the country ignored her pleas to re-locate her." These attacks have happened in Benin, Bangladesh, Haiti, South Africa, Georgia, and many other places.
January 18, 2011
What sanity looks like
A little noticed cause of the failure of gun control
I have often reflected on the extent to which opposition to gun control derives from the deep masculine instinct for defense, not so much of himself as of his wife and children. Even men who do not own a gun, and indeed have no serious intention of ever owning one, still feel within them a profound sense that their very liberty is bound up in their power to defend their household, to maintain it safely as a kind of sanctuary from a dangerous world for those whom they are called to protect.
It is true, of course, that liberalism is clueless about this. All these male hang-ups strike the liberal as positively bizarre. Nothing perplexes and aggravates the him more than evidence of felt obligations pertaining to men and not to women (and vice versa). To the liberal it is simply irrational for a man to oppose gun control on the grounds that, off at the end, he cannot be free if he cannot purchase a weapon for use in the defense of his home, where his wife and children reside. But the rationalism of the liberal is not the rationality of the world as it is. The technocrat who proposes to resolve violence by regulation of weapons, by reducing poverty (always imagined by liberals as the taproot of crime), and by filling the media up with happy talk about acceptance and tolerance, speaks a language so abstracted from the real concerns of citizens under threat from armed criminals as to be functionally worthless.
Consider the headlines this morning out of New Orleans:
The Monstrous Regimen
Apropos of Jeff C.'s latest, I note with some surprise that we here at WWWW seem to have missed this, at the time:
January 19, 2011
Dr. J. seriously misrepresented by the Kalamazoo Gazette [Updated]
Well, thank goodness I never blogged about this before seeing the follow-up, though it's taken me a long time to run across the follow-up.
I did, however, make a comment at Facebook to one person (and all his friends who could read the comment) and to at least one person in person (I can't remember who it was, though), about this story, taking the Gazette's report at face value. I now regret doing this and am using this post to set the record straight as far as possible.
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, of the Rutherford Institute, is a well-known Catholic and conservative writer and speaker. [Update and correction: Dr. Morse is actually with the Ruth Institute, a completely separate organization from the Rutherford Institute.] I believe she's known as "Dr. J." and will refer to her that way here.
This past October she spoke at a Catholic high school, and the local newspaper reported that she expressed support both for civil unions and for homosexual adoption.
Today, looking up the link to that story with the intention of sending it to someone on e-mail, I was arrested by seeing in the Google summary that Dr. J. had responded in comments to the story and was saying that the story was causing confusion about her views. That's for sure! I would be hoppin' mad if a newspaper had misrepresented my views in that way.
January 20, 2011
Presumed consent proposed in Colorado
Colorado lawmakers are considering a presumed consent law. Anyone who gets a state-issued ID (any adult, I presume) would be presumed to have consented to be an organ donor unless he did something special on the paperwork. This is sort of like Facebook setting your default settings to something objectionable; you have to dig through and find the place to uncheck the box that says, "Oh, please, let everyone and his uncle grab my personal information whenever one of my friends plays Farmville."
Except in this case, the box you have to find to uncheck says that you've consented to be an organ donor.
I believe (but have not done enough research to be sure) that if this passes it would make Colorado the first venue in the United States to have a presumed consent law.
Now all they need is to put that together with the vulture squad pilot program from Manhattan (New York doesn't have presumed consent), and they'll be all set.
I don't know what chances the bill has to pass. Let's hope slim.
HT: Frank Beckwith
The houses of horror.
Yesterday it was reported that Kermit Gosnell, an abortionist, was arrested and charged with eight counts of murder. He was charged with the murder of babies who were fully delivered; he induced labor, delivered the babies and then stuck a scissors in the back of their necks and mercilessly killed them. Their first breath, was also their last. Lacking even the dignity of a human touch; no one holding their tiny, innocent hand coursing with life’s blood, as that life left their tiny bodies. Eyes opening, trying to focus for the first time and trustingly seek out the security of the face belonging to the voice they’d heard for many months inside the womb. Struggling to survive, as the will to live is strong, even in the most tiny and vulnerable.
He was not charged with the murders of babies he killed the same way - earning $1.8 million in one year alone for doing so - only inside the womb.
Gosnell’s abortion mill was a gruesome house of evil. When police searched Gosnell’s facilities, they found that “bags and bottles holding aborted fetuses were scattered throughout the building. Jars containing the severed feet of babies lined a shelf.” This grotesque cretin kept severed feet as some sort of macabre serial killer trophy.
The State of Pennsylvania knew this. And ignored it. Allowing him to commit murder, time and time again, for decades. Their reasoning? Inspecting abortion mills clinics and requiring that they have basic safety standards would result in “putting up a barrier to women” and their ‘choice’. The ‘choice’ is never explicitly said because by choice they, of course, mean the purposeful killing of a baby. Barbara Boxer and even our own President would have believed the same. Barbara Boxer believes that a right to life does not exist until a mother ‘chooses’ to take her baby home, alive, from the hospital. President Obama, when a state senator in Illinois, had more concern for abortionists than for the babies whose lives they snuff out. He cared more about protecting the vile excuses for human beings like Kermit Gosnell than the babies they were attempting to kill. He believes that babies who are born alive during an abortion attempt should legally be left to die. [read more]
Where can I get my coin?
He then alleged that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC before briefly becoming the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and his successor, Vice Adm. William McRaven, as well as many within JSOC, "are all members of, or at least supporters of, Knights of Malta."
[. . .]
"Many of them are members of Opus Dei," Hersh continued. "They do see what they're doing -- and this is not an atypical attitude among some military -- it's a crusade, literally. They see themselves as the protectors of the Christians. They're protecting them from the Muslims [as in] the 13th century. And this is their function."
"They have little insignias, these coins they pass among each other, which are crusader coins," he continued. "They have insignia that reflect the whole notion that this is a culture war. … Right now, there’s a tremendous, tremendous amount of anti-Muslim feeling in the military community."
This seriously sounds like the man was sauced. But it got me thinking, what would the old Crusading Knights of Malta look like today?
The Order was, by the 14th century, a warmaking institution. These were fighting men sworn to the defense of Christendom against the forces of Islam (i.e., the Turks). When all Crusading Kingdoms were defeated and ousted from the Near East, the Knights holed up at Rhodes, before retreating to Malta, where they hung on despite a massive assault in 1565.
They were independent of Rome and of national powers like the Hapsburgs. They were occasionally a real headache for conciliatory churchmen. They somewhat counterbalanced the business-oriented callousness of the Italian marine powers like Venice and Genoa, who were often content to placate the Turks and let threatened Christians rot in order to maintain trading relationships. The Knights’ seamanship was legendary. They were at every major naval battle of that age. They operated like pirates against the Turks. It was a bloody business, and they were tough SOBs. When the Sultan decided he had had enough of them, he dispatched a colossal force to drive the Knights from the sea for good. A great battle ensued and Malta defended her liberty.
So what would an organization like this look like today? Interesting question. Harassing and embarrassing the Egyptians and sheltering Copts? Cyberwar on CAIR? Constant annoyance of the State Dept and all diplomats everywhere? I can promise you it would annoy American policymakers. Probably they would have opposed the Iraq war as a major distraction from the real action. Probably liberals in 2003 would have discovered a Strange New Respect for the Knights of Malta.
Long live the Knights of Malta!
January 21, 2011
"Jews...more or less invented modernity..."
"It's become clear to me that the Fox commentator Glenn Beck has something of a Jewish problem. Actually, he has something of a modernity problem, and people with modernity problems tend to have problems with Jews, who more or less invented modernity (Einstein, Marx, Freud, Franz Boas, etc.)..."
And so on and so forth.
Long story short:.from Goldberg's point of view, if you've got a problem with modernity, you've ipso facto got a "Jewish problem" - cause Jews "more or less invented modernity." Either you love modernity, or you hate Jews.
At least, I think that's his point. Kinda sorta. More or less.
Choice devours itself--the pro-choice protection of Kermit Gosnell
The appalling story of "House of Horrors" abortionist Kermit Gosnell in Pennsylvania is something most of us prefer not to think about. And I am not in this entry going to include anything gruesome. The gruesome information is all out there and available.
I'm also going to take it as read that I do not believe that Gosnell's murderous business would have been non-murderous and okay if it had been clean and had followed state requirements for staff, equipment, cleanliness, etc., nor that if he had not been killing women by gross malpractice (repeatedly), everything would have been all right. Abortion is murder always and everywhere, and that is my well-known position.
However, Gosnell's particular murder clinic might have been shut down many, many years sooner, and possibly some lives (both those of mothers and children) saved if he had not been shamefully, blatantly, and repeatedly protected by Pennsylvania bureaucrats. In fact, since his building didn't have sufficient access for a stretcher, he could have been refused a license to operate in the first place.
January 23, 2011
The surprise of beauty
(Masked Chicken, you asked for a non-depressing post. This one's for you.)
Novelist Elizabeth Goudge said, though I seem not to be able to find the quotation now, that the quality of surprise is present in an encounter with all true beauty, and that if that surprise is not there, the beauty is counterfeit.
She was speaking of female beauty, physical beauty, but the same can be said of literary beauty and literary greatness.
A truly great work of literature should surprise you. It should surprise you the first time and time after time. "How can this be?" The double-take. The sudden or slowly growing realization that you are not dealing with just an ordinary book. It may come early in the work or only as it unfolds, perhaps at the very end. If there is not that element of amazement, in some cases an unanalyzable response, then I will go out on a limb and assert that either you are unusually dense or else you are not confronting a truly great work of art.
I have recently thought of this in connection with what is to my mind one of the great novels of Western literature--Chaim Potok's The Chosen.* It starts with a high school baseball game and a sports injury, but along about the time that Reuven Malter sits on the back porch and thinks about his time in the hospital, one begins to suspect the novelist's power. When Reuven sees and frees a struggling fly in a spider web, the suspicion becomes stronger. And by the time, much later in the novel, that he hears the world crying in the silence imposed between himself and his best friend, your eyes should be opening wide with that surprise--the genuine, unfeigned human response to artistic greatness.
What works of art--music, literature, sculpture--have invoked that response of surprise in you, readers?
*I do not mean similarly to endorse all of Potok's novels, the quality of which varies a great deal.
What Will You Say? - rationally, that is
Paul recently steered me to a post at Red State in which the author, Dan McLaughlin, seems to think he's found the "winning statistic in the same-sex marriage debate," the statistics coming by way of the New York Times via the Census Bureau. The statistic is important because
...even treated purely as a matter of quantifiable empirical social science, the legal debate comes down to whether there exists any rational basis for distinguishing the two relationships.(It does? If I recall, the judge in the California case summarily dismissed all rational defense of Prop 8 as irrational. Why? Because he said so, that's why.) Further,
The burden of establishing the complete absence of such a rational basis is on the proponents of court-mandated “marriage equality.” And new Census data makes that burden harder to carry.(Again, I'd point out that proponents of said equality didn't seem to be carrying much of a burden in California.)
January 24, 2011
The sexual constitution.
Last week I wrote about my suspicion that a little-noticed cause of the failure of gun-control is what we might call the masculine or fatherly instinct to protect the weak, felt most acutely when the particular “weak” in question are a man’s wife and children.
The ensuing conversation predictably divagated into a wider discussion of the human sexual constitution. So the context of the fatherly instinct to protect was expanded to include the whole tremendous question of gender differences and how they should be viewed vis-à-vis policy and the social state.
On one side of this debate, as I see it, we have people who, arguing from a wide variety of factual sources, employing various lines of reason from initial deductions, recognize gender differences as a matter of empirical fact of sufficient gravity to impact policy and the social state. They do not all reason from one source, nor do they all share the same presuppositions; on many other matters these students of the observable fact of a unified sexuality constituted by differences — what the rhetorician with a gift for imagery might call the “one flesh” union of man and wife — would not agree at all.
But they do differ strongly with the other side of this debate: those who believe that whatever the nature of gender differences in objective reality is, it is not of sufficient gravity to appreciably affect policy and the social state. Some of the folks on this side would no doubt argue that actual differences are just not relevant to political matters, and only barely relevant to most social matters, a kind of detail of human variety with no lasting importance; others will gesture toward the possibility of in-group differences exceeding group differences; still others of a Rousseauian bent are more animated by the idea of “getting past” what differences do linger, through a direct policy of leveling.
In any case what we have in front of us is a serious disagreement as to the constitution of being, perhaps one characterized by that opportunity for clarity and camaraderie that often attends a good and honest disagreement. In other words we might be in the presence of a fruitful disagreement.
What is Christian culture?
January 26, 2011
A local story about a high school "Gender Bender Day" prompted me to do a little internet research on the topic. The craze is sweeping the nation's high schools from Michigan to Iowa to North Carolina. On "Gender Bender Day" high school students are encouraged to cross-dress and imagine themselves as transvestites. I'm unclear as to whether the cross-dressing is voluntary or mandatory. In Fayetteville, North Carolina a homosexual student was actually arrested for resisting the dress requirements: those for whom every day is a gender bender seem to want the day off. Here's what it looks like at Santa Teresa High School in San Jose:
January 27, 2011
Choice devours itself--the "choice" of "suicide" for the demented
If suicide is truly chosen, isn't the person who chooses it supposed to be compos mentis? If you gave a mentally confused, elderly person suffering from dementia an overdose of drugs, would that be a case of his committing suicide or of your murdering him? One would normally think the latter, but apparently our advocates of "choice" have a different idea.
The death last autumn of George Brodigan, an 82-year-old Alzheimer's patient in Connecticut, is being billed by news outlet after news outlet as a case of "assisted suicide." His son, Bruce Brodigan, eventually turned himself in to police and admitted to "helping" his father to swallow a lethal combination of pills and alcohol. Brodigan the Younger has been arraigned for second-degree manslaughter.
Setting aside the question--and it does puzzle me--of his being charged with second-degree manslaughter rather than something stronger, I think we need to challenge strongly the statement that this was a case of "assisted suicide." Haven't we always been told that assisted suicide is a matter of helping "rational" people who want to end their lives but need help obtaining prescriptions or actually doing the deed? Brodigan the Elder was diagnosed with Alzheimer's four or five years ago. I have been unable to find any news story that contains any interviews or other information on the degree to which the disease had progressed or on whether he was mentally competent, but it is at least plausible that he no longer was. Certainly patients with dementia in general should not be considered to be "committing suicide" when someone else feeds them pills and alcohol!
The news story says that Bruce Brodigan "said his father 'confided in him that he had planned to take his own life before he became completely incapacitated.'" Not to hang too much on a verb tense, but I would normally interpret that to mean that George Brodigan confided this to Bruce Brodigan some time ago. (Not to mention the fact that as far as I can tell we have only Bruce's word for any such thing.)
Marriage, Personhood, and Al
"I'll answer for Al: marriage is whatever the state says it is."
Bingo! It's also more than that but that is for those who freely attach themselves to the various dispensations. Marriage is a cultural creation that is highly malleable.
Al, I hope you realize that your frank admission here slams the door on any possibility of dialogue with you and your tribe. Before saying adios, let's try just one more experiment in a final effort to discover some common ground.
Statement: "A person is whatever the state says it is."
Question: Agree or disagree? If you agree, the party's over. If you disagree, please tell me what a person is, how you know this, and why marriage is a creature of the state while personhood is not.
I suspect that our commenter Thomas Aquinas has you nicely pegged:
"So, we are now back to liberal superstition. The belief that history is moving in an inexorably moral direction except when it's not moving in an inexorably moral direction ... I get it. You want what you want when you want it, and principles are nice fictions to dupe the suckers."
January 28, 2011
For Rob G.
Here are my Bruckner videos, from most best to least best:
IV, Finale, coda:
January 29, 2011
Thomas More Center legal brief on Negeen Mayel
Thomas More Law Center has now appealed Negeen Mayel's conviction for "failure to obey the order of a police officer" in the Dearborn persecution of the Acts 17 missionaries. The legal brief is here. Here, here, here, and here are some of my earlier posts on the Dearborn arrests.
I've enjoyed reading through the brief and have learned a lot. In case anyone wondered, I am not a lawyer and do not play one on the Internet, but I find all of this very interesting. I have not had a chance to chase down any of the precedents cited and wish I had the time to do so. What I give here is a summary of the legal landscape as presented in the brief. Here are a few highlights:
--There is apparently a substantial body of precedent opposing the use of police power to stop people and detain them without at least some objective reason to think that they may have committed or may be about to commit a crime. It need not rise to the level of probable cause for an initial tier contact, but in order to detain the person, Mayel's lawyers argue, precedents hold that the officer cannot be acting without reason and that that reason must be related to unlawful conduct on the part of the person detained. If the policeman is detaining the person on a mere whim, the person doesn't need to stop, doesn't need to listen, doesn't need to answer his questions, and can even run away. Now, this is very interesting and is relevant to the application of those "failure to obey an officer's order" laws, because a lot of police officers seem to have a very different idea. In fact, the brief quotes at length from the testimony of the policeman who arrested Negeen, and he clearly thinks he can stop any completely innocent person, any time, demand that the person turn off a video camera, and detain and question the person at will, just because he is a policeman in uniform. Not so, says the brief.
When I was trawling message boards for information on these "failure to obey" statutes, I saw policemen referring to the following situations in which they would need to issue an order and require someone to obey:
1) A woman wants to run back into her burning house to rescue her poodle. The policeman needs to be able to stop her.
2) A policeman is carrying out an arrest on a person he has reason to believe is dangerous who may try to break free or harm a bystander. The policeman needs to be able to tell the bystanders to move along and not stand nearby during the arrest.
In neither of these cases, I assume, would the person receiving the order be about to commit a crime. On the other hand, in neither of these cases would the police officer be exactly detaining the person. Even the woman trying to rescue her poodle could presumably go somewhere else, just not back into the burning house. In any event, I'd love to have a talk with the lawyers who filed the brief about these kinds of "borderline" situations where it seems reasonable for an officer to issue an order to a law-abiding citizen.
I'm very glad, though, to see that there really are precedents indicating that a policeman cannot just grab you, grab your video camera, and interrogate you without anything remotely approaching a justification in terms of your having done something wrong.
January 30, 2011
Moot court exercise--animist establishment
Okay, legal eagles, have a little fun with this one.
The following situation actually happened in New Zealand:
A Christian youth group carried a barbecue on a youth group hike to the top of a mountain. There they had a cookout, had a nice time, presumably prayed and enjoyed the beauty of God's creation. When they came down, they were admonished by some sort of official in the Department of Conservation (i.e., a government agent) that they had been insensitive. The Maori regard the mountain as sacred, and cooking and eating food on the mountain is doing so "over an ancestor," which is offensive. (He added that it would have been different to carry food along and eat it for sustenance, a bit of animist cauistry that I'm sure will come in handy sometime.) The Christians apologized (which was foolish of them), and presumably they plan never to do such a thing again. The DOC says they are going to try to "build greater awareness" in the public of these taboos and that they "ask" climbers to "avoid standing" on the summit, because it's the most sacred part of the mountain.
Take this case; transport it to America. We'll imagine it's an Indian belief that the mountain is sacred. And just to make it really interesting, imagine that instead of staying in the realm of bullying bluff and bluster, where it is unclear what will happen if you blow them a raspberry and have another barbecue next weekend, the park commissioner and/or the relevant legislative body actually sets up regulations, with penalties, stating that no one is allowed to cook food on the top of the mountain or to stand in some marked-off area on the very summit of the mountain. Imagine that they do so expressly for the purpose of being sensitive to native "spiritual" sensibilities. (Of course, in the real world, they'd probably switch mid-stream, lie, and say that all this was needed to avoid forest fires and that standing on the marked-off part of the summit is too dangerous, but let's imagine for the sake of the thought experiment that they don't try that.)
By the logic of present American establishment jurisprudence, should such a regulation be regarded as an unconstitutional establishment of religion? Recall that Justice O'Connor's Lynch test, which some take to explicate and some take to replace the Lemon test, holds that an establishment of religion has taken place when a message of endorsement of a religion is sent telling "non-adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community."
January 31, 2011
In broad strokes my argument concerning the decline of the American political economy runs as follows (these are selections from an essay I wrote for Bill’s journal last year):
One Can Never Be PC Enough
The problem, it seems, is not with the relative unwillingness of women to contribute to such a selfless enterprise. No: it's with the competitive, fact-obsessed (can you say phallocentric?) internet-geek culture which, by its very nature, discourages the ladies from participating.
According to "Kat Walsh, a policy analyst and longtime Wikipedia contributor, 'The big problem is that the current Wikipedia community is what came about by letting things develop naturally...'"
Well, indeed. We can't have that, now, can we? I mean, "things developing naturally?" Why, there's no telling where that sort of thing might lead! It could mean the end of all life as we know it!! Possibly even a gold-based currency!!!
Is there any conceivable circumstance in which the great & the good of our day would congratulate men for doing more than their fair share?
Is there any conceivable circumstance in which they would criticize women for not pulling their weight?
Assuming that the answer to both questions is "no" - what does this mean?