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August 2012 Archives

August 2, 2012

Picking our models carefully

Bill Luse has an excellent post up about Wendell Berry's shallow positions on homosexual "marriage" and abortion.

Not having previously paid a whole lot of attention to Berry, I had nevertheless managed to pick up that he is considered an agrarian and is admired by some on the right, especially the paleo-right and trad-right, who are sympathetic to agrarianism and critical of capitalism. He also (as Bill mentions) was evidently admired by Russell Kirk. More about that below.

A little googling had shown me a while back something of the ambivalence of Berry's views on the abortion issue and also that he has been arrested outside of nuclear power plants. (An action he may have to repent of if he eventually decides, as evidently some environmentalists have done, that nuclear power isn't such a bad thing after all. But I digress.) I made a wild guess--on which I'm happy to be corrected, that Berry is not known for being arrested outside of abortion clinics.

So, not only did I disagree with Berry's over-the-top environmentalism, I also already suspected what the various quotations Bill has brought together confirm: Berry has his priorities totally reversed.

On the subject of environmentalism he is passionate. And he makes his life (and his wife's life) inconvenient in various ways in the pursuit of this passion. It's what he's about. On the subject of environmentalism, his words are "raping the earth." On the subject of abortion, he is detached, dispassionate, and wouldn't want, God forbid, to be thought of as being part of the pro-life movement. The claim (which Rod Dreher appears to take quite seriously) that this is because Berry doesn't like to be thought to be part of movements won't bear a moment's scrutiny, considering his unabashed willingness to be identified with environmentalism and anti-nuclear-ism.

What all this amounts to is that Berry never did think of himself as a conservative, is a lifelong Democrat, thinks shallowly about social conservative issues, and can't bear the thought of being thought to be passionate about a conservative movement such as the pro-life movement. "Raping the earth"--yep, that gets him riled up. Tearing babies into tiny pieces, not so much. He's just opposed to abortion "as birth control." But sometimes it's "necessary." Blah, blah. And as for homosexual "marriage," his comments are about as deep as those of a thoughtless sophomore. Maybe he could do better if he tried, researched the issue, thought more about it, but he doesn't try. Because, quite obviously, he really doesn't give a darn. That's not where it's at for him.

Continue reading "Picking our models carefully" »

August 3, 2012

Islam in America, from the Inside

Recent news in Syria is somewhat good for the “rebels” and bad for Bashar Assad. The opposition group, mostly centered around the Syrian National Council, SNC, is tentatively making plans for a post-Assad period, even though Assad is decidedly not done. He has just now received a promise of more aid from Russia, that usual helper of disgusting Middle Eastern regimes opposed to Western practices. I don’t know to what extent the newcomers are in tight with certain terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, as is the Assad regime. Maybe little, from what I can tell.

On a very related front, Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser this year published “A Battle for the Soul of Islam, An American Muslim Patriot's Fight to Save His Faith”. Dr. Jasser is a medical doctor in the US. He is the son and grandson of two notable Syrian patriots of the 1940’s to 1960’s, men who loved the ideas of freedom and their religion of Islam, who had to flee Syria with the rise of the Assads in order to survive. They came to the United States, where Zuhdi was later born. So Zuhdi Jasser is both a born and bred American, the son of a very pro-freedom, pro-American immigrant family, as well as a cradle Muslim who loves his religion. He served honorably in the US Navy as a doctor, and then went into private practice.

If you read this book, you quickly realize that Dr. Jasser is not a professional writer. His language is simple and straightforward. He doesn’t worry about especially nice turns of phrase, nor of styles that will catch millions of readers. His thought is all on the content, the message.

And the message is challenging. He is very clear that the American (and generally Western) Muslims have, by and large, missed a huge opportunity and duty. They failed to rise to the occasion of the 9-11 attacks (and later attacks) to repudiate and disapprove the notions that Islam calls for holy war against all the West.

Continue reading "Islam in America, from the Inside" »

August 6, 2012

On a controversy you may be wondering about

Some commentators may be wondering (well, okay, maybe not), "Where has Lydia been for the last few days?" This is where I've been. Debating about, of all things, whether it should even be a debatable question that some human beings are really subhuman. Odious topic. I had hesitated to blog about it either on my personal blog or here at W4, hoping that things might take a better turn. In the end I have decided to put up a post about it at Extra Thoughts in order to publish a final comment of mine that was otherwise not going to be published at VFR. Comments to this post are closed and are redirected to Extra Thoughts, where moderation is enabled. Mere personal attacks on Lawrence Auster will not see the light of day, and I probably won't bother publishing borderline cases of that either, even if they contain other more substantive content (it is impossible to edit comments in Blogger--it's either publish or not publish), so don't waste your time writing such comments. If you are interested in what's been going on or in this issue, the story is told briefly at Extra Thoughts, with full links to the relevant threads at VFR which readers can follow themselves if they are so minded.

August 7, 2012

A victory, for now, against the HHS Mandate

I'm Johnny-come-lately, as so often, on the latest stories, but in case you haven't heard: A federal court has enjoined the application of the HHS mandate to a private business owned by individuals who object on grounds of conscience.

In all the quite legitimate concern for religious organizations and for the Obama administration's invidious attempts to redefine religious liberty, privately owned businesses have to some extent been overlooked. They are not even putatively, under any interpretation, protected from the Obamacare mandate, and unfortunately I don't see anyone holding rallies or letter-writing campaigns for them.

I admit to being pleasantly surprised by this ruling and to having my fingers crossed that it survives appeal. My impression has been that often private businessmen who are not running a self-described "religious" organization have little protection for their consciences. I certainly don't expect them to be protected from laws that require them to recognize civil unions, to give spousal benefits to homosexual partners, and the like. Perhaps my pessimism there is a result of the extreme deference our court systems pay to the god of "nondiscrimination."

Continue reading "A victory, for now, against the HHS Mandate" »

August 9, 2012

What Have I Learned From The Internet

Due to some recent disagreements between contributors and commenters here at What’s Wrong with the World, I was reflecting on internet discourse in general and on my own experience of coming across arguments that have made me uncomfortable and which I was inclined to dismiss or disagree with when I first read them. Generally speaking, these arguments came from fellow conservatives, because I can only spend so much time on liberal websites before I start pulling my hair out or finding too many errors of fact or omission to make it worth my while to keep reading.

I thought it might be instructive to highlight a specific example of a blog argument that has actually helped me change my mind about an issue, with the caveat that this argument probably wouldn’t have had the same effect on me if I hadn’t already returned to the Christian faith. Nevertheless, even as a Christian I remain with respect to foreign policy something of a hawk and someone who generally falls within what might be considered the mainstream Republican consensus of “a strong national defense” or a “willingness to project American power abroad.” Historically speaking, looking just at the 20th Century, I’m also someone who would defend our involvement in both World Wars, Korea (I wanted MacArthur to keep going), and Vietnam. So with that as background, it should not be surprising that I’m someone who never thought much or very hard about our decision to drop the two atomic bombs on Japan. Like Paul Fussell, who famously wrote the definitive justification for using those terrible weapons, I was content to say with him “Thank God for the Atom Bomb” and leave it at that. After all, didn’t these bombs save American lives and lead to Japan’s surrender and defeat?

Continue reading "What Have I Learned From The Internet" »

August 12, 2012

A person's a person, even if he makes a profit

This is a follow-up to this post.

Wesley J. Smith notes that the Obama administration did not argue only that a corporation cannot have a religious liberty interest--a questionable proposition when put forward in that sweeping form. The administration went farther and argued that simply engaging in for-profit activity as a so-called "secular" business means that the businessmen in question lose any claim to a religious liberty violation by federal law. This is a remarkable position.

It is also, as far as I can see, in direct conflict with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Ed Whelan of National Review has a lengthy discussion of the HHS mandate and the RFRA here. I haven't read every word, but at that time this preposterous claim regarding profit-making had not yet come out into the open from the administration, and it looks to me as though he doesn't address it. In any event, the text of the RFRA itself (which Whelan quotes) hits it out of the ballpark. The RFRA says that the federal govt. may not burden a person's exercise of religion unless it has to do so for a compelling government interest and has chosen the least restrictive way of doing so. There is not the slightest implication that the RFRA applies only to "houses of worship" or "pervasively religious institutions" or religious non-profits or any such highly restricted set. Rather, it applies to persons. Presumptively, it seems to me that this would at least include businessmen who make a profit and that it would be possible for the government to violate their religious freedom concerning the way in which they run their profitable businesses.

This administration is, to put it mildly, not overly concerned with the legality of its actions, preferring power over legal principle whenever it can get away with it. This just looks like another such example. The blatant disregard of the clear meaning of the RFRA and the desire to substitute their own entirely made-up ideas of how much they ought to be able to restrict the applicability of religious liberty are thoroughly typical.

August 15, 2012

Pro-death tennis

It looks like the Journal of Medical Ethics, which recently brought us the vocabulary item "post-birth abortion," is having a high old time.

I am relying on several summary reports, because the article in question and the responses thereto are not available in full on-line. But it appears that they have recently had a kind of mini-symposium centered around an article that advocates pulling "life support" (which, in the present legal climate in both America and Britain, includes food and water) from allegedly hopeless children against their parents' wishes.

The places where disagreement is allowed among the technicians of the culture of death are almost funny. Who is to say that no dissent is allowed? On the contrary, here we seem to have had a vigorous debate! Well, kind of...

Continue reading "Pro-death tennis" »

August 16, 2012

It's All Good...Not

We have a very lengthy and somewhat frustrating discussion dealing in part with the nature of evil acts, especially with regard to intrinsically evil acts and acts that constitute choosing the lesser of 2 evils, here. One of the things that made the discussion more difficult was that we ran into a lack of agreement about 2 items: what does it mean to call an act evil as opposed to intrinsically evil, and what do we mean by “intention” when we talk about intending the consequence of an act. This becomes particularly significant in the context of determining whether an act falls into the analysis of the principle of double effect, or PDE.

Just to refresh memories, the PDE standard stands on 3 more fundamental principles: (1) there are things that are morally evil, and things that are evil without being morally evil; (2) there are moral evils that are intrinsically wrong and moral evils that are not intrinsically wrong, and (3) It is wrong to do a morally evil act no matter what else applies, including (but not limited to) the consequences. What I want is to pick apart the first 2 in order to shed some light on how the PDE can be applied successfully.

Continue reading "It's All Good...Not" »

August 18, 2012

But it's different with Islam and government, see?

A police officer in Oklahoma has been disciplined for refusing to attend a Muslim prayer service. Not, I hasten to add, to provide security. Not, I emphasize, because the Muslims were in some special need of protection. No, the prayer service at the mosque was an "appreciation day" for law enforcement, and it went from being voluntary to being mandatory when it turned out that, surprise surprise, none of the officers wanted to attend. So Paul Campbell Fields was ordered to go and to bring two more policemen with him.

Lest there be any unclarity regarding the religious nature of this event,

a promotional flier for the event cited in the suit states the event would include meetings with Muslim community leaders, a tour of the center's mosque, talks on Islam, as well as a 45-minute prayer service.

It goes without saying that there is no question here of religious dialogue. The officers were to be there to listen quietly to the talks and to attend a forty-five-minute prayer service.

Frankly, I almost wish the policeman bringing suit were an atheist. That would bring out even more clearly the blatant parallels to other first amendment cases. You know, cases in which it was said that atheists couldn't even be asked by a government entity to stand still and behave respectfully for a single prayer opening a sports event or a graduation ceremony.

Now, you can say that such precedents were wrongly decided, and I would be inclined to agree. But the fact remains that here we have a local government entity, a city police department, demanding that its police officers go, not as part of their duty to protect the public but rather as some sort of "cultural" outreach, and sit through a lengthy set of events promoting Islam, including a forty-five minute prayer service. Under current First Amendment precedents, this policy should be a knock-down: Unconstitutional, unconstitutional, unconstitutional, and out. That the department would even try such a thing just goes to show the double standard, so blatant and so extreme that the phrase "double standard" does not even do it justice, between the treatment of Islam and the treatment of Christianity in our current public realm and by our current government entities.

I will be interested to see if I can get any follow-up on this case.

HT: Answering Muslims

August 21, 2012

Pro-life suites: A moment to watch in Texas

The strange "futile care" legal situation in Texas has been watched by pro-lifers for some years. It used to be that Texas hospitals could discontinue vital treatment and let a patient die after the judgement of an "ethics committee" (now there's a job for an aspiring young philosopher with no true moral compass) with no notice or opportunity for transfer. Mind you, this original draconian policy was simply a power the Texas hospitals arrogated to themselves, and at first there was a vacuum in the law. No law addressed the matter. When this became known, there was pressure on the legislature to do something. But there was much controversy, and eventually the best that could be secured was to force the hospitals to give the patients and their families ten days notice (rather than no notice) before pulling treatment. As Wesley J. Smith says,

Governor George W. Bush eventually signed the bill into law in 1999 after right to life groups agreed to the compromise, never dreaming that patient transfers would become almost impossible to secure.

This, by the way, is important history. Next time some outrage happens in Texas (like the one that, God forbid, may be about to happen, which is the real topic of this post), and some smart-aleck lefty sneers, "Well, guess who signed that law? George W. Bush. And the right-to-lifers approved. Why are you complaining?" you will know what to answer: The 10-day law was an improvement on the previous situation, and the good guys involved thought transfers would be possible to obtain. (Righteous anger, however, is warranted over the untoward and misguided interference of the Texas Catholic bishops in 2007, which prevented a genuine improvement in the law. WJS outlines that in the linked article.)

As far as I know, subject to correction, all of the high-profile cases so far in which the Texas hospitals have exercised their right unilaterally to withdraw life-sustenance have involved ventilator-dependent patients. Of course, there could be many cases involving nutrition and hydration that we simply haven't heard about, but all the ones that have made it into the news, as far as I know, have involved turning off ventilators against a family's wishes rather than slowly dehydrating a patient to death.

That may be about to change.

Continue reading "Pro-life suites: A moment to watch in Texas" »

August 22, 2012

Anti-dog sharia in Toronto

If you live in Toronto, if you own a dog, and if you know that Muslims are holding some sort of rally-protest-thing in your local public park, you'd better walk your dog somewhere else. That's what law-abiding citizen Allan Eintoss discovered recently. He happened to walk his dog Cupcake (fully licensed, on a leash, shots all up to date) in a public park where an Al Quds rally was taking place. I know that this will shock you, but Mr. Eintoss actually walked near some of the Muslims and even talked with some of them with Cupcake. Some actually petted the dog! (I guess their mommas didn't teach them that's unclean and evil.)

Then one of the men yelled at him that he was coming too close to "their women" with his dog. Two policemen came up out of nowhere, someone pushed Eintoss from behind, and (I know this will shock you again), Eintoss pushed back before the police grabbed him and handcuffed him. He was treated to a rant about how he was "inciting a riot" and had committed "assault." The police were quite uninterested in hearing about how Eintoss was himself the victim of a (minor) assault, nor in trying to find any evidence on that point. They were looking for charges with which to threaten him. They then offered him a "deal." (How's that? Walk your dog in the park near Muslims, and you're prima facie a criminal and have to accept a "deal" from the police.) He must leave the park immediately, and they would keep his name on record (as one of those troublemakers who walks his dog in the park, presumably) in case he should ever do such a thing when the Muslims had another rally, and they would in turn refrain from throwing him in jail where he would spend the weekend.

His 16-year-old son had to watch all of this, by the way. Cupcake showed her (?) vicious nature by not biting anyone or doing anything at all aggressive during this entire jackbooted travesty.

So Eintoss agreed to leave with his dog, and they graciously let him go.

Now, folks: If this isn't an application of sharia law to normal citizens living their lives peaceably in an allegedly free country, I don't know what is. And it would be nice to say, "Oh, Canada," but I've got a sinking feeling there are jurisdictions in America where it would happen, too.

We Americans tend to love our dogs. But the more we have concentrated populations of devout Muslims among us, the more situations of this kind we will have. (Remember, please, that there are taxi drivers who will refuse to take blind passengers with seeing eye dogs.) The more Muslim influence there is in our society, the more dog ownership will be marginalized and treated as scandalous and disgusting. "Keep your dog away from our women." And the police are only too happy to enforce the order.

I, for one, find that frightening.

August 24, 2012

This is not a game

Several years ago I blogged here about the case of Lisa Miller. Brief background summary: Lisa Miller entered into a lesbian civil union in Vermont with Janet Jenkins. During this civil union, Miller conceived and bore a child by using a sperm donor. The little girl, Isabella, was only eighteen months old when Miller left the relationship and formally broke it up legally. Miller converted to Christianity, left the homosexual lifestyle behind her, and fled to Virginia to keep her child away from Jenkins, who represented all that she had repented of and was now leaving behind. Jenkins, let us bear in mind, is not in any way related to Isabella and has not lived with her since she was eighteen months old.

Vermont courts, to whom the custody decision was ultimately given, treated the unrelated lesbian Jenkins as Isabella's "other mother" and insisted on unsupervised visitation, even though Jenkins was, from Isabella's perspective, a stranger. Isabella made some of these visits but was so upset by them (and alleged that Jenkins had bathed with her naked) that Miller refused to allow any more such visits with Jenkins, who had neither any natural claim on Isabella whatsoever nor any relationship with her. Eventually the custody judge decided to punish Miller for her intransigence concerning the unsupervised visits and ordered that Miller give Isabella over entirely, full custody, to live in Vermont with Jenkins. Late in 2009, Miller fled with her daughter, then age seven.

For several years I have wondered what happened and have prayed for them from time to time. In fact, I was sure we would hear of their capture at any moment.

Now we have news:

Continue reading "This is not a game" »

August 28, 2012

Scientific illiteracy in the NYT

We are being told these days from various and sundry quarters that scientific illiteracy is a great dishonor to politicians. I can't help wondering: Is it also a great dishonor to biology professors? How about biology professors who have a PhD in Genetics and are writing in the New York Times?

Greg Hampikian, Professor of Biology at Boise State University (PhD in Genetics, University of Connecticut, 1990, recipient of a NSF International Centers of Excellence Postdoctoral award, 1990-91), has written a piece that is such utter, scientifically false rubbish that it leaves one gasping. The op-ed ("Men, Who Needs Them?" August 24, 2012) is filled not just with fumbles or mis-speakings, not just with speculation presented as fact, and certainly not with controverted but mainstream science, but with outright misinformation.

This is feminist biology, and it ain't a pretty sight. It's difficult to know where to start, but perhaps I'll mention this one first: Hampikian triumphantly informs us that men are unnecessary for reproduction! He literally states:

[W]omen are both necessary and sufficient for reproduction, and men are neither.

Now, where I do work in the academic milieu (analytic philosophy), words like "necessary" and "sufficient" have definite meaning, and given that meaning, this statement is false. As the succeeding sentences demonstrate, what Hampikian is actually referring to (I won't let him off the hook by saying "what he means") is the fact that a father can be physically absent while reproduction and gestation take place, since (inter alia) frozen sperm can be used for reproduction after a man is no longer around or even dead. (He also says that human cloning is "just around the corner," but that is a mere promissory note.) What he says is that women are, presently, sufficient for reproduction and that men are not necessary. If Hampikian were an English professor, or maybe an Education specialist, I would advise him to leave words like "necessary" and "sufficient" to the hard-edged fields like Philosophy and the sciences, because he's obviously not competent to use them and might hurt himself, but...oh, that's right. Hampikian supposedly is a scientist.

But the necessary and sufficient fiasco is really only one small part of this trainwreck. There's lots more here, and Hampikian always goes on at some length, driving each piece of misinformation firmly into the reader's mind. He actually says that each of us was once an unfertilized egg! He then uses this utter biological falsehood as a trope for two paragraphs.

Continue reading "Scientific illiteracy in the NYT" »