What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

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May 2011 Archives

May 1, 2011

Divine Mercy, Human Justice

On this last day of the octave of Easter, the Catholic Church celebrates the Divine Mercy in a special way. This feast of Divine Mercy recognizes 2 things especially: that our Lord specifically asked for the faithful to worship Him by reference to His mercy, and that it is mercy more than any other “attribute” of God that shines forth as expressing His life and perfection and love in regard to creation. Regarding the former, there are any number of websites devoted to spreading the particular model of prayers respecting Divine Mercy, including the novena, and the Divine Mercy image. Our Lord made it known to the Church, especially through St. Faustina Kowalska, but also through other means, that He wants us to throw ourselves on His mercy with a lively hope and faith in its unlimited power. God especially wants us to call forth forgiveness both for ourselves and for others by pleading for mercy on behalf of the whole world and all of us sinners.

In reflecting on who God is, we can be perfectly free in extolling His mercy and love above every other attribute.

Continue reading "Divine Mercy, Human Justice" »

May 2, 2011

"I've got to be there because this is a moment in history that you don't want to miss."

It turned out to be worth missing. Advice to Western women: stay out of Islamic countries, and don't ever, ever marry a man hailing from one.

On that euphoric day when Egypt's Hosni Mubarak relinquished the power of his presidency, and many Americans seemed to join their hearts with those of Egyptians in the street yearning for the fresh air of freedom, CBS reporter Lara Logan was made a prisoner by a mob of freedom-loving Egyptian males who brutally assaulted her physically and sexually, apparently determined to draw and quarter her by hand. The perpetrators have not been found, and it is unlikely that anyone is looking for them. Logan is convinced that had she not somehow been saved, she would have died. She is married and the mother of two very young children. At last she tells her story:

The transcript is here. Follow-up video on this page.

Burn in hell Osama

With the American bullets that felled Osama bin Laden, we might perhaps conjecture that a Jihadist age has come to its end. It was an age of discovery for the West — the brutal discovery that Islam was not dead by only quiescent through the late decades of modernity. The instability of profound spiritual energy coupled with extreme material privation could not last. The insult of the infidel West’s prosperity and the Dar el-Islam’s backwardness bred a resentment that burst forth with the terror of September 11. But that terrible razzia could never be followed or even imitated. It remains, nearly ten years later, singular.

Hard men like those who brought down this legendary Captain of Jihad have made the large-scale, spectacular razzia nearly impossible for the Jihad. Long may they succeed at the same.

Really closing this chapter of this ancient struggle, however, will demand careful thinking and above all historical thinking. It will demand a recognition about the extraordinary historical duration of the Jihad’s threat against free nations and free peoples. It will demand a realization, as I have said many times, that when dedicated, enterprising and resourceful men are making war against you in the name of their religion, you are embroiled in a religious war.

This realization has eluded many Americans for a decade. As I wrote seven years ago:

We have spent nearly three years trying to develop a suitable euphemism for religious war — and it has not gone very well. We have declared war on a method of warfare. We have declared war on a tendency within a religion, or . . . a tendency within all religions. I suppose next we shall declare war on a tendency within a method of warfare, or a method within a tendency. Some have even argued that we ought to declare war on a moment in time, namely the “premodern.”

September 11, in a word, exposed the modern West’s extreme confusion about history and religion, and extreme forgetfulness about the old antagonist of Islam’s holy warriors.

The Jihadist pressure has morphed in the last ten years. The big, spectacular razzia is not much open to them anymore; only the smaller-scale outrage like Ft. Hood. But more importantly, in various places in the West, Islam is poised to be the de facto source of legislation and enforcement and justice in the community. From the Parisian suburbs that are said to be “no-go” for the police, to neighborhoods in Scandinavia where sexual assaults on local women by Muslims go unreported and uninvestigated, to Dearborn, MI, where several Christians have been jailed for public activities obviously protected by the Constitution: the ancient dhimmi compromises are strongly in evidence all over the West.

Success in this next age will require clarity about the nature of the Islamic doctrines with which we can have no fellowship, as a people, a nation, a structure of law and mores, as a country, under God, indivisible. The doctrine of holy war, which pronounces all unbelievers the legitimate targets of treacherous violence, and all infidel political forms deserving of treason and sabotage designed at overthrow; the doctrine of holy subjugation, Jim Crow for infidels, which so arranges the social state as to inflict upon the subject unbeliever humiliation and oppression: these are wicked and intolerable doctrines that have no place in America, or in any free land. It is high time our law reflected this.

Before that, of course, our public mind must reflect it. We Americans have got to come to grips with this being a permanent and protean threat.

And above all a moral and religious one.

"I do not concern myself with great matters, or things too wonderful for me."

Psalm 131:1 is not, perhaps, ever going to be a popular credo for bloggers.

The older I get, the more I realize how little right I have to an opinion about most things. The realization typically lasts a few seconds, and then I resume pontificating on every topic under the sun. The fact is that much of what I present as knowledge is better described as dubious impression; and much of what I present as reasoned argument is better described as instinct and prejudice. I'm working on changing my style, but there it is.

That doesn't mean everything I say is worthless, of course - I consider my impressions, instincts and prejudices to be pretty close to the gospel truth - but consider yourself warned: caveat emptor.

Continue reading ""I do not concern myself with great matters, or things too wonderful for me."" »

May 4, 2011

Something about Rwanda you haven't heard

This is new: As if Rwandans hadn't been through enough in the last few decades, the Rwandan government is setting up a shiny new male sterilization campaign with a goal of 700,000 vasectomies--"voluntary," of course. Hmmm.

A twist that I had not anticipated: The sterilization campaign is being bundled with a mass adult circumcision campaign for purposes, allegedly, of preventing the spread of disease. But this story, which does not appear to be from a source opposed to the program, gives the following frank quotation from the Minister of Health, Dr. Richard Sezibera: "We included circumcision because it allows us get to the men’s reproductive system and in the process we advise them on condom use and vasectomy.”

(Hello? Any liberals out there left with a civil libertarian bone in their bodies? Are you creeped out yet?)

There is one slightly confusing aspect to the PRI story. The line to the effect that many in the army will regard "it" as an order actually seems to have referred initially to the circumcision campaign in the army which began in 2008. See this cached blog post, from which the line seems to have come. PRI is conjecturing that, as the circumcision campaign was pushed in a dubiously voluntary manner in the army originally, this continuation of the campaign to the next stage planned by the government--the vasectomy stage--will be dubiously voluntary as well. The conjecture is probably sound, but the use of the quotation in the PRI story, preceded by the phrase "While many Rwandans balk at the idea of being sterilized," is misleading, implying that the original statement that "correspondents say many in the armed forces will regard it as an order" actually applied to sterilization, when in fact it applied to circumcision.

The vasectomy initiative is being assisted by two population control groups funded by the United States, IntraHealth International and Family Health International. The Family Health International web site contains the following gem of a quotation about another aspect of their work in population control in Rwanda (emphasis added):

This study addresses a possible intervention to help address the high unmet need for family planning among women during the extended postpartum period. The study trained immunization providers to provide women bringing their new child for immunization shots to understand when they might be at risk of an unintended pregnancy and to refer them to a family planning provider. Baseline data collection (March-June 2010) included 795 women more than six months postpartum who were attending vaccination services and 63 immunization and FP providers. . These data will be analyzed in comparison to the follow-up data, which will be collected in June 2011. The intervention is part of a growing global interest in the potential for integrating family planning and child immunization services.

Is that "intervention" as in "staging an intervention"? It would be, of course, an infinitesimal drop in the U.S. deficit bucket, but cutting funding for this kind of organization would be a nice place to start.

May 5, 2011

Post-Constitutional America

This fascinating exchange between Paul Cella and Lydia McGrew delivers much for conservatives to ponder. Consider Paul's remarks:

The main thing between you and me, Lydia, is that I have made my peace with Social Democracy while you have not ...

Right now, and for the foreseeable future, what I want has to pretty much be set aside. There is no plausible arrangement of current-day American politics that gives me what I want.

It seems to me that effective political action must take a different form than insisting on pie-in-the-sky "Roll back the New Deal" Goldwaterism. Effective political action entails, rather, something more like "getting aligned in coalitions arranged to oppose some fatal new innovation," in other words, the conservative position should be the position laid out in The Federalist, supply the defects of democracy by democratic means.

The idea of raising a governing majority to actually roll back the New Deal is quixotic fantasy. Even in the most fiscally conservative moment in recent history, the idea of simply removing all the social democratic infrastructure of the New Deal is not even being broached by GOP politicians. Not even Sen. Rand Paul proposes it.

If Paul's assessment is correct, then American conservatism has a problem - a crisis of identity from which there is no turning back. This was all but inevitable at some point. Any conservatism which attaches itself irrevocably to a specific temporal order or document is not long for this world.

But more importantly, America has a problem: the Constitution is dead. Now what?

The primary value of the Constitution, in my opinion, was not that it made certain Progressivist schemes difficult or unattainable, but that it confined all parties to a process which contained a lot of conservative wisdom. But if our politics no longer depends upon the orderly, intelligible and predictable process imposed by the Constitution; if instead we are merely subject to the wills of competing powers, all of which are quarreling factions of the Left more or less hostile to our goals; if the balance of those powers is arbitrary and, in the end, irrelevant; and if a return to constitutional integrity is truly a practical impossibility, the "quixotic fantasy" Cella believes it to be -- suffice it to say that the survival of post-Constitutional America, in whole or in part, will depend upon post-Constitutional thinking on the part of conservatives.

May 6, 2011

The gag order on immigration

I sent this letter to The Editor of Claremont Review of Books:

I read William Voegeli’s essay on Gov. Jerry Brown and his father with eager interest. As usual, it is thoughtful and well-organized, like its several predecessors on the decline of California.

These articles have been useful and engaging. I learned a great deal from them.

But I do find it really quite extraordinary that a writer could dedicate such time and effort (his research has obviously been extensive) to examining the signs and sources of Californian decay, and almost never mention immigration. I count one total reference to immigration in all three very long essays that Mr. Voegeli has contributed to CRB.

A similar blackout of the subject was accomplished by The Economist: 11,000 words on “where California went wrong” with essentially no engagement, and indeed barely a mention, of the immigration crisis.

For a comparable scale of studious negligence of a difficult problem, imagine a whole series of essays on blue-state budget troubles that never mentioned public sector unions. Or imagine a series of articles on the collapse of the black family that never mentioned Aid to Families with Dependent Children or Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Frankly, among recent myopias, this resembles nothing so much as the haze of willful ignorance that descended over American minds soon after September 11th on the question of the Islamic religion. For several years it was simply forbidden, on the Right and the Left, to point out that our enemies were all inspired to treacherous war by the dogmas of the Mohammadan faith. Fortunately, that haze has lifted to a considerable degree; while discussion of such matters still elicits emotional overreactions, there is no longer such an instinct to self-censor.

But it would seem that the implicit gag order remains in place on immigration. It is plain to me that a writer of Mr. Voegeli’s caliber is really not capable of failing to notice that enormous influence of mass immigration on California’s woes. It can only be a deliberate choice to ignore. This is a puzzle to me.

Anderson on Mueller

Ryan C. Anderson of Public Discourse, the accomplished website of the Witherspoon Institute, has written a two-part extensive review of John Mueller’s Redeeming Economics that ought to be read in full by everyone who claims to give a hoot about liberty and virtue and truth. This is quality stuff.

May 7, 2011

Irish subjugation

Here’s a long essay that incisively examines the ruinous financial crisis in Ireland, which is above all a banking crisis. Unlike Greece, this is not a public sector problem. In Ireland, free enterprise excesses, extreme excesses rightly compared to the most reckless of gambling, were crowned by craven policymaking to issue in national penury. The author’s excellent summary of the Irish agony concludes by exhorting Irishmen to realize that their most pressing antagonists are bankers, foreign creditors, and their hirelings; which hirelings apparently include the US Treasury Secretary, according to this account. Mr. Geithner, we read, vetoed a deal brokered by the IMF that would have forced Irish bank creditors to take a major haircut. Ireland, instead, would be put in subjection to those creditors by means of a bailout designed above all to put the fear of God in Spanish bankers and financiers. Very complicated stuff, but if you can wade through it all (and the author’s supple and engaging prose will help you do this), you will come away enlightened.

May 9, 2011

WJS on ethics, law, and ESCR in Europe

Evidently there's a European law that a patent cannot be obtained on a product that requires the destruction of human embryos to produce. This is big stuff, because patenting ESCR lines is important to making money out of ESCR. A judge applied the apparently straightforward law in a straightforward case ruling that ESCR lines are not patentable, and predictably, the left is going ballistic.

Wesley J. Smith has a post that is just beautifully logical. Smith takes apart one rant on the subject by an ESCR advocate who uses the usual ad misericordium ("They're blocking my cure") along with junk science ("All the cells in your body are potential embryos") while completely ignoring the straightforward legal issue.

As Smith points out, the judge was applying the clear law to a clear case. The judge needn't be ethically opposed himself to ESCR to make the scientific and legal points that he made. Exactly. And I'm glad Smith doesn't feel squeamish about saying, sensibly and logically, that it's quite possible for a judge to do this, that judging isn't just all about applying one's own ethical beliefs to cases. In many cases judges aren't supposed to act as the "wise men of the village," deciding what we all must do. Sometimes they really can just make decisions based on external facts and written law, as in this case.

My favorite quotation in Smith's post is about the junk science:

The sophistry about every cell being capable of becoming an embryo is the old junk biology gambit that has to do with SCNT human cloning, in which a nucleus from a cell is used–with an enucleated egg–to create an embryo asexually. That doesn’t mean each of our cells is a potential embryo. If one wants to use the analogy, it means that each of our cells is a potential sperm.

I wish I'd thought of that myself in some discussions years ago with a friend who had been influenced by the "cells you brush off when you take a shower" nonsense: "If one wants to use the analogy, it means that each of our cells is a potential sperm."

May 10, 2011

What can one hope for from a pro-choicer?

A little while ago Wesley J. Smith had this post about a truly creepy web site (funded by the State of Massachusetts) that contains happy talk about abortion for teens in Massachusetts. The site features a fictional, smiling teenage girl named Maria who, with her upbeat friends, tells young readers how they can use the judicial bypass option to circumvent Massachusetts' parental consent laws. Sort of like The Electric Company. Only with abortion.

Maria tells the kids, "Abortion is more common than you might think and safe and effective though some people may experience temporary discomfort."

One of her friends says, "It may be really hard for you to imagine talking to either your parents or a judge about getting an abortion, but there are people who can help you through it." (No surprise: The "people who can help you through it" means Planned Parenthood, to whom the sites' teen visitors are directed.)

Another one says, "This really can be done and young women do this all the time here in Massachusetts."

A poster for the site hangs in the office of a public school nurse (and I'll bet she's not the only one). The principal responds to criticisms of the site by saying that he's glad that at least it's sponsored by the state. That means it's probably providing "balanced information."

Well. Leaves one almost speechless, doesn't it. Perhaps their slogan should be, "Yes we can!"

My question is this: Suppose you told a pro-choicer about this site in the hopes that it would influence him somehow towards the pro-life position by shocking him with its extremism. What would you hope would happen, and why?

Continue reading "What can one hope for from a pro-choicer?" »

May 13, 2011

Too Proud for Gratitude

The memoirs of Russell Kirk contain an amusing anecdote about Dr. Bernard Idings Bell, a canon of the Episcopal Church, and a young man who wanted to teach at the college over which he presided.

To Bell, when he was president of St. Stephen's, came young Robert Hutchins, son of the president of Berea College, seeking a post as an instructor in English literature. Bell, who knew the elder Hutchins, inquired of the young man why he wished to teach. "Do you love English literature, Mr. Hutchins, or do you feel a vocation to teach, or what is your motive?"

"I want to earn enough money to put myself through law school," Hutchins answered, his arrogant head held high.

"Why should you earn the money?" Bell asked. "That's an awkward way to go about it. I know that college presidents do not get large salaries, but your father has many wealthy friends, any one of whom would be happy to lend you the money for law school; once successful as a lawyer, you could pay back the sum. Why not do that?"

"Because," said Hutchins, sustained by much self-assurance, "I don't mean to be obligated to anyone." Clearly he anticipated approval of such fine Emersonian self-reliance.

"Then, Mr. Hutchins, we don't want you at St. Stephen's."

Young Hutchins was angry: "Why not?"

"Because, Mr. Hutchins, we don't want anyone in this college who is too proud to be obligated to anybody."

I am convinced that the general run of liberals and libertarians are motivated by a fear of gratitude. Or put another way, a fear of obligation, for gratitude always imparts some degree of obligation, however small - even if only a prayer. For the liberal, society's obligation to meet his needs and make him happy relieves him of any need for gratitude: society (i.e., the state) is only doing what it is required to do in justice. For the libertarian, if the individual can and should "pull himself up by his own bootstraps", then of course there is no one he needs to thank, no individual or group to whom he owes anything.

By contrast, the authentic conservative tradition in the West, owing to its Christian roots, leaves room for gratuitous, unmerited favor - what Burke named and Kirk championed "the unbought grace of life". (Please, friends, treat yourself by reading the material at the link.)

Life is not a zero-sum affair. Most of us receive much more than we deserve, more than we could possibly "earn" without help. For the proud, this condition of being openly indebted to God and to men is personally humiliating, and typically issues in various manifestations of resentment (liberalism) or denial (libertarianism).

When I left home after high school, I stayed with my great aunt and uncle for three years while attending community college. Their help to me was indispensible. I once told Uncle Lou that I would try to repay them. He told me, "Don't repay us, Jeff. Just do the same for somebody else."

May 16, 2011

The head of the IMF is scum

Please read my friend Victoria Coates on the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, recent of infamy for, while fleeing justice for the sexual assault of a maid, being pulled off a flight to France by New York's finest; back at the high-class hotel, where this crime probably interrupted important thinking on the bailout of Portugal or Spain or whatever country is next, this spokesman for globalization showed his quality as a man.

May 18, 2011

Moral Authority

I had an interesting discussion with a friend last week about the concept of hypocrisy and the injunction of Our Lord to take the beam out of our own eye that we may see better to take the mote out of our brother's eye. The question that arose was this: Suppose that Person A is secretly committing some sin. Does this mean that he "has no right" to tell Person B that that activity is a sin?

It's a tougher question than you might think. Let's say that the thing definitely is a sin, let's say even a serious sin, and that Person A knows this quite well even though he is secretly committing it. We can hardly say, if the issue comes up in conversation between him and Person B, that he should not tell the truth or that he should condone the same sin in Person B. So it seems, on the one hand, that he does have a right to say that the action is a sin.

On the other hand, we have not only Our Lord's injunction about removing the beam but also a pretty strong intuition that there is something unpleasant and hypocritical about A's telling B that this is a sin while secretly committing it himself.

How do we accommodate both of these intuitions?

I have no great answers to this and would be interested in reader thoughts. My scattered thoughts on it include these:

--If Person A is in a position of great authority, especially Christian leadership, he should resign that position until this grave sin is not only repented but is a thing of the past in his life. He should not continue living a double life. A Christian leader should be exemplary in the purity of his life. St. Paul makes this clear repeatedly.

--If Person A has not confronted the fact that he must stop this sin, his conversation with B in which the subject comes up should serve as a wake-up call. The very sense of discomfort that he should feel while solemnly telling B that this activity is wrong should show him that he absolutely must get his own house in order, must confess this sin and put it behind him.

--Our sense that A "has no right" to speak out against this sin may arise from a sense that perhaps A is not being honest, that he must not really believe that this is a sin if he continues doing it.

--Perhaps A should refrain from anything other than personal conversations about the wrongness of the sin--should refrain from writing or giving speeches about it, for example. On this one I'm more shaky, and I don't have a strong rationale for the advice.

Readers, what do you think?

Capitalism and hatred of debt

Lydia writes, in the gratitude thread below:

I wonder sometimes if it is sufficiently appreciated: A strong free market advocacy combined with a hatred of debt (both individual and national), a tough-love, no-bailouts attitude, and praise for independence and self-reliance would, if consistently followed, entail a whole lot of belt-tightening at the level of individuals, families, corporations, and the government.

I believe the central statement to be incontrovertibly true. Combining free market principles with “hatred of debt (both individual and national),” supposing that from hatred we can derive antagonistic policy, would surely issue in a period of belt-tightening the likes of which few of us have ever seen. Moreover, I share Lydia’s suspicion that this is insufficiently appreciated, though for very different reasons than she does.

What I wonder about is whether folks grasp how radically at odds with fundamental aspects of American Capitalism is this notion of “hatred of debt.” Permit me to lay out a few facts:

(1) For at least 30 years, American sovereign debt — that is, fixed-income securities issued to investors on the credit of the US Treasury — has comprised the basic pricing mechanism of capital markets worldwide.

(2) Fix-income securities have steadily gained in dominance, prestige and complexity over the past few decades alongside American economic dominance. As a very knowledgeable friend pointedly told me: “The public stock markets are where the smarter guys dump their garbage when they’re done with it.” It’s the various debt and derivatives markets where most of the action is.

(3) While government debt (“risk-free” in industry parlance) forms the basic pricing mechanism, against which all other instruments are compared, fix-income securities markets are, paradoxically, characterized above all by the intense application of private ingenuity, technological innovation, and concentrated competition.

(4) The fixed-income securities industry has for decades drawn talent from all walks of American life, from the celebrated halls of academia to the smoky backrooms where the cardsharks gather, to refine and perfect its trading activities.

(5) The fixed-income securities industry finds its largest and most reliable client base in the mass of pension, money market, 401k and suchlike funds, which are the instruments of middle class American retirement savings.

Continue reading "Capitalism and hatred of debt" »

May 20, 2011

Waterbound

I had the pleasure of corresponding with Dirk Powell a few months ago on various topics. He's one of those thoughtful liberals who, in spite of his politics, has a traditionalist-leaning "front porch" personality. He wrote this timely song, and here are the words:

Continue reading "Waterbound" »

May 21, 2011

A democratic people must abide restraints

The condition of man under a free government, according to Lincoln, resembled that of man in the Garden of Eden. His freedom was conditional upon denying to himself a forbidden fruit. That fruit was the alluring pleasure of despotism. “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is not democracy,” Lincoln wrote on the eve of the joint debates. A democratic people must abide by certain restraints in order to be a democratic people. The moment they cast these off they cease to be democratic, whether a change takes place in the outward forms of their political life or not. Lincoln said he would not be either slave or master. But what was true of Lincoln’s will was a reflection of the conviction in Lincoln’s mind that “all men are created equal.” People could not be expected long to abstain from the forbidden fruit who did not believe that this abstention was in accordance with a higher principle than their own pleasure. If the pleasures of freedom come into competition with the pleasures of despotism, they cannot survive on the basis of their pleasantness alone. That, we have seen, was Jefferson’s and Lincoln’s explicit judgment and it would be a rash man who would deny that they were correct. Lincoln’s analysis of the problem of popular government in the Lyceum speech had long convinced him that if the choice of free government rested only on the appeal of such government to the passions — i.e., to the pleasure of the people — it would not long endure. The Lyceum speech demonstrated how the highest ambition of the loftiest souls, hitherto believed capable of gratification only in a monarchic order, might be achieved in the perpetuation of a democratic one. It recorded the discovery in the soul of “towering genius” that the highest ambition can be conceived as consummated only in the highest service, that egotism and altruism ultimately coincide in that consciousness of superiority which is superiority in the ability to benefit others. But what is true of the superior individual is also true of the superior nation; and Lincoln argues in the course of his debates with Douglas that the freedom of a free people resides above all in that consciousness of freedom which is also a consciousness of self-imposed restraints. The heart of Lincoln’s case for popular government is the vindication of the people’s cause on the highest grounds which had hitherto been claimed for aristocratic forms. In the consciousness of a strength which is not abused is a consciousness of a greater strength, and therewith a greater pride and a greater pleasure, than can be known by those who do not know how to deny themselves.

[. . .]

The price of American freedom, of all civil liberty, was fidelity to the faith that “all men are created equal.” Constancy to this was as necessary to the preservation of the paradise of American freedom as the obedience of Adam and Eve to God’s single prohibition had been necessary to that other Eden. Both gardens, alas, had their temptations. The existence of Negro slavery and the discovery of vast profits to be made from it led Americans to believe that all men are not created equal, after all, but that some are born to serve and some to be served. But let this conclusion enter, and force and fraud will, in fact, determine who shall serve and who shall be served. The mere existence of slavery, according to Lincoln, was not a fatal transgression, for the American people were not responsible for its introduction. The spirit of the Revolution had placed the institution far along the road toward ultimate extinction; but the spirit of the Revolution had passed, and a new “light” had dawned. In consenting to the extension of slavery the American people had succumbed to serpentine temptation. And now Lincoln, no less than Moses or the prophets, insisted that a time had come when the question had to be answered by every man, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”

Crisis of the House Divided, Harry V. Jaffa.

May 22, 2011

Choice devours itself--Routine "offer" of prenatal testing proposed as a legal mandate in France

A quick review of the way the "choice devours itself" phenomenon goes in the abortion arena:

1. The pro-choicer says that women should have the choice to abort or not to abort their unborn children, because they should be allowed to decide "what to do with their own bodies."

2. The pro-choicer believes that it's very important that women should have the choice to abort, specifically.

3. At some level, even if partially sub-consciously, the pro-choicer supports his contention that this choice is very important by imagining scenarios where abortion would be a reasonable, right, and responsible source.

4. The pro-choicer feels puzzled or even frustrated by the fact that some women do not have abortions even in these scenarios. Based on his own conclusion in #3, these women are being unreasonable or irresponsible.

5. The pro-choicer proposes that pressure be placed on women to abort in these scenarios, he excuses pressure that is being placed on women to abort, or he deceives himself by suppressing or ignoring evidence that women are being pressured to abort. Thus choice is no longer such a great thing or such an important thing to safeguard if the choice is not to abort.

I want to stress, again, that none of these steps are logically required. They represent a psychological and sociological trend that is intriguing and that comes up often enough to be worth noting.

The latest manifestation comes from France, where lawmakers are considering a bill that would mandate that doctors "offer" all pregnant women prenatal testing for birth defects.

Yes, yes, I know, it's just "offering," though it isn't just "offering" to the doctors. So much for the consciences of the doctors. But let's face it: Systematizing this sort of "offering" is systematizing a conveyor belt with the abortion clinic on the far end for women whose children are diagnosed as defective. I would instance here this heartbreaking letter received by blogger Dr. Gerard Nadal from a mother who felt herself hustled into aborting her child with Trisomy-18:

I’ve aborted a very much wanted pregnancy in the second trimester due to Trisomy 18. I was never fond of the “choice” then, and I still suffer the consequence of that “choice” now. It saddens me to think that the medical community whose mantra is to do no harm has become so callused as to the dignity of life that they feel they can choose who deserves to live or die. The medical profession has become nothing more than a scripted flowchart of if this, then do that. Pity the child whose prenatal tests result in termination. Once upon a time I thought that “high risk obstetrics” meant that these guys must really know their stuff to be able to handle the “hard” cases. Only now do I realize that “high risk obstetrics” is nothing more than a fancy term for abortionists to hide behind.

[snip]

I pray for the day that obstetricians present true options to a mother upon receiving an “incompatible with life” diagnosis. Don’t lead me down a scripted flowchart of “if this … then that … therefore terminate conclusion.”

Should the mother have stood firm against the "flow-chart" pressure? Yes, she should. But millstones are reserved for the doctors who took her along that path and gave her the distinct impression that no other options were open to her.

(If any readers have good French and want to read the proposed law, it's here. One of Wesley J. Smith's readers drew Smith's attention to the allegedly voluntary nature of the testing and says that the relevant section is Article 9. My French translation ability is confined to Babelfish. To me the selections I've translated from Article 9 seem a little unclear, but the impression I get is of an exceedingly streamlined and standardized process that involves taking all "high-risk" pregnancies and putting them through routine prenatal testing and counseling, with the woman's opportunities to get off the train present in theory but very plausibly not made clear to her.)

May 23, 2011

What's Wrong With Education

Today was graduation day for the students of California State University, Chico, a fact we were forced to acknowledge on the way to Mass this afternoon as we observed young people walking their neighborhood streets in caps and gowns, past front yards littered with hundreds of red plastic cups from the parties the night before. I remarked to the children, "This is the best I have ever seen the students dress", to which one replied "And it's still not very good", noticing the black gowns draped over jeans and ultra-casual shoes or sandals. Chico State has never fully recovered from its sordid reputation as the nation's premier "party school" due to an unfortunate 1987 designation by Playboy magazine. When I say "sordid", I mean it, and could tell you stories that would (or should) raise the hair on the backs of your necks. The overall atmosphere of the university is morally, spiritually, and intellectually toxic, due to both faculty and student influences, despite some bright lights here and there (some of whom we are blessed to know). It has undeniably brought some cultural "goods" to the community, and we gladly participate in these, but on balance the university has been a Faustian bargain and Chico would be better off if the place were razed to the ground.

All of this is by means of introduction to a deficiency in my own education which I hope soon to remedy, having never read John Henry Newman's "The Idea of a University". Whatever is going on in the CSU system, it isn't education, it isn't liberal in the sense of producing men set free by knowledge, and it certainly isn't worth the money coughed up by parents and taxpayers alike. Dr. Craig Bernthal is somehow permitted to teach English at CSU Fresno, and his article at The Imaginative Conservative titled "Newman’s ‘Idea’ and the Crisis of the Secular University" gets to the heart of the problem. He writes:

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Something Right with the World

Well, at least in my world...

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River Lily Alexis McKimmey, born 5/18. Happy, healthy and growing fast.

May 24, 2011

Medical "professionalism" and religion

By now a number of my readers will have heard of the case in England of a Christian doctor censured for suggesting to an adult patient that Jesus might be of help to him. This in addition to rendering ordinary medical treatment. The patient's mom (!) reported the doctor to the Committee for Public Safety from Christianity. (Okay, that's not really what it's called.)

Wesley J. Smith makes a number of sensible comments on this. Smith includes an anecdote about a doctor who did not offend him by offering him a New Age DVD.

The case of Julea Ward shows that we have a new idea of "professional standards" taking hold in the helping professions, and that among other things, these "standards" would mean that by definition any sort of religious brand or flavor of counseling or medicine is unprofessional and prima facie harmful. The British reaction to this doctor's brief mention of Jesus is typical of this approach.

Now, what's interesting about this and perhaps even more dangerous than we conservatives might realize is this: Most of us assume that there can be such things as self-consciously Christian schools, self-consciously Christian counseling practices and associations, and even perhaps self-consciously Christian medical practice--the latter coming up most notably in the case of medical missions with an avowedly evangelistic purpose, such as were much lauded in my childhood. (See this bookabout Viggo Olsen, medical missionary to Bangladesh, who was much admired in the church in which I was raised. I seem to recall that Dr. Olsen personally visited our church. When I was a little girl my own ambition was to grow up and be a doctor and join this ministry.)

It might seem that the definitions of "professionalism" in the helping fields that require not bringing up Christianity and above all never "proselytizing" would apply only to secular practices. But why should this limitation hold? If it really is harmful, manipulative, and unprofessional to mix religion and counseling or medicine, then that's that.

It therefore occurs to me to wonder: As these concepts of the value-free and especially religion-free professions take hold, what will be the impact upon self-defined Christian practices and ministries? Will they try to neutralize their approach? Will medical missionaries, where "missionaries" includes the desire to spread the Gospel, be defined out of existence? (I note, here, that when several "medical missionaries" were murdered by the Taliban in Afghanistan, their families strenuously assured everyone that they did not "proselytize" but merely gave medical care.) What about Christian counseling?

It's bad enough that people like Julea Ward cannot get secular counseling degrees. It would be even worse if they couldn't get Christian ones, either, and worse still if Christians developed a false conscience about spreading the Gospel while helping people in need.

Rarely, rarely comest thou, Spirit of Delight!

It's been quite awhile since I posted anything in my MCMYCL* series - so here's my entry for the year 1910:


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May 25, 2011

Review on Jihad

The key principles in the intellectual fight against the Jihad, so far as one citizen, having studied and argued the subject at length, may venture with confidence, are as follows.

First, that we never lose sight of the pulverizing fact that the doctrine of aggressive, treacherous war to inflict conversion or subjugation is wicked. If there be any justice in the universe, aggressive, unprovoked war of conquest and empire, must stand condemned.

Secondly, that we must never forget the twist of deceit, that sullen and serpentine lie, by which mere unbelief, mere demurral on the question set before the conquered by Islam’s conquering armies, is itself a provocation to war or subjection. Once the evangel has spoken, all those who have heard the call must repent, confess Submission, or answer for their provocation.

Thirdly, that our antipathy is primarily for doctrines, not men. Many millions of the Muslim faith in their hearts reject the above sophistries. Our American tradition counsels strongly for respect for those who do not believe as we do; Americans deserve the benefit of the doubt, even if they are beguiled by deadly sophistries.

But sophistries these doctrines are — stark staring sophistries bent on blood. All just men are called to denounce and execrate them.

Now, as a matter of prudence, it seems to me that the weight of law should be brought to bear against these doctrinal menaces. It should be pronounced illegal to agitate for Jihad in America, or to promote its instruments. Thus any attempts to implement sharia or dhimma by subterfuge, as we have seen in Dearborn, MI, should be met with swift appellate justice. If defiance persists, Congress should pass resolutions to the effect that, should a judge show undue solicitude or sharia or dhimma, he may as well expect an impeachment will be forthcoming.

We should always keep Precept 1 in mind: Jihad and its subjugation ancillaries are wicked and intolerable doctrines. They are profoundly antagonistic toward our American tradition of politics. There is no reason that a republican people should feel obliged to endure the machinations of this menace.

I’ve long thought that such doctrinal precision, anchored in fact and axiom, might have prevented reckless endeavors in speculative theory like the Iraq War. Likewise it might have helped prevent the collapse into fatal casuistry that characterized the formulation of detainee and interrogation policy.

May 26, 2011

Yet I Cannot Turn Away

Lawrence Auster asks, "Is Sailer able to defend his status-competion theory of white suicide?" So I think to myself, hmmm...that sounds interesting. Sailer has a "status-competition theory of white suicide? Please do tell!"

The more fool I. Several hours and several thousand words later, having followed all of Auster's links (almost all of them to himself) and plowed through all of the ensuing verbiage, it turns out that the answer is: No. Steve Sailer does not have a 'status-competition theory of white suicide' - or, at any rate, Auster offers no reason whatsoever to believe that he does.

The most striking thing about this whole one-sided fracas is that, in the course of multiple posts with dozens of comments spread over the last couple of years, nobody - not Auster, not Gintas - not even such doubters as are allowed to speak - ever once quotes anything by Sailer. The whole discussion takes place in a weirdly fact-free vacuum.

Once, and once only, Auster links to (though he does not quote from) a VDARE column by Sailer, dating from 2nd January, 2007: "White Guilt, Obamania, And The Reality Of Race" - which is apparently the locus classicus of this grand, all-encompassing "status-competition theory of white suicide."

Here are the relevant passages from that column:

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Leisure, Economy, and the American Dream

Geraniums are the hardiest of flowers around here. Aside from verbenas, roses, and a few bulbs, they are the only perennial flowers I have planted that have lasted more than a season. Presently the geraniums are in a spectacular bloom. At the moment I am looking at the bright red colors of a geranium that we once thought dead. It has come alive through the spring showers, lending its beauty to the white statue of Our Lady of Grace at its side, beneath a sprawling pine-like tree I have never bothered to identify. Beyond the fence our flock of red laying hens is wandering contentedly through the evening shadows in the orchard, feasting and fertilizing. Is it a sign of mental illness to be mesmerized by the sight of feeding chickens for, say, more than ten minutes at a time? Twenty minutes? One hour? I hope not. I keep the door of my office open just to watch them.

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May 30, 2011

Can we develop a sane child policy?

All of us know CPS horror stories. Parents whose children were taken by Child Protective Services for no good reason and, on the other side, children (sometimes in the course of custody battles) whose custody was granted to a parent credibly accused of abuse.

Sometimes it seems as though the only thing one can be sure of is that CPS will do, or try to do, the wrong thing. Though some of this may be a result of selection bias, one often gets the impression of a perverse illogic by which CPS will fail to protect when there is a truly abusive parent (or boyfriend or relative) but will create nightmares for perfectly normal parents and children.

This case
from Canada, which one would like to think couldn't happen in the U.S., is a fairly egregious example of judicial micromanagement: Judge Nicole Bernier (it would be a female judge!) ordered four children from a home schooling family into school and, in the case of children too young for school (down to age 3), into daycare so as to get what Judge Bernier calls "socialization." To add injury to injury, Bernier wants the children to go to public school so that they will be taught to read (or, as the case may be, not taught to read) by non-phonics methods!

Now, this is crazy. The parents have not been accused of abusing or neglecting their children. Judge B. (by whatever ill fate she was brought into these innocent people's lives) is just having a grand old time throwing around her weight and forcing them to raise their children as Judge B. would, presumably, raise her children. The notion of any sort of familial independence to make judgment calls about education is nowhere in the picture. (For the record, while I am a staunch advocate of phonics, I would consider laughable and pernicious the suggestion that some judge should interfere if parents were "caught" teaching their children to read by a look-say method.)

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