What’s Wrong with the World

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March 2008 Archives

March 4, 2008

Classic Literature of Twentieth-Century Conservatism* (Updated)

Tyler Cowen poses the question, "Which 20th century classic of American conservative political thought has held up best?" Cowen's inquiry is circumscribed so as to exclude works of economic theory, the treatises of foreign conservatives (albeit not those who emigrated to the United States), and, of course, works which preceded the Twentieth Century. Additionally, Ross Douthat provides his selections and observations. These conditions seem eminently reasonable, though I would, as a reactionary, quibble with the qualifying "has held up best", inasmuch as this condition places the accent on factual, as opposed to normative, criteria. It is at least conceivable that, owing to the vicissitudes of history, those works which will exert an enduring influence on American conservatism ought not exert that influence. Would we want to reflect back upon our epoch fifty years hence, only to realize that some screed penned by Ann Coulter proved more consequential for actually-existing-conservatism than some magisterial disquisition? I think not.

What follows, therefore, is my non-exhaustive list of ten twelve authors, and those works from their respective oeuvres that ought to shape conservatism going forward, which is not to argue that the contents of these books, in their respective totalities, would receive my approbation. In no particular, programmatic order:

Continue reading "Classic Literature of Twentieth-Century Conservatism* (Updated)" »

March 5, 2008

Buckley's Triumph

Buckley.jpgWilliam F. Buckley, Jr.’s greatest triumph was over Communism, that cruel system of “Liberalism in a hurry” which enslaved half the world, cowed half the rest, and thoroughly poisoned the high intellectual endeavors of man down to this very day.

In his lifetime this wicked system was overthrown, and praise God for it. The walls came tumbling down. So upon learning of the great man’s death, I thought it proper to return to his work under this head — to his work back before it was a triumph but rather an arduous struggle, demanding intellect, dexterity and perseverance. It was these, exercised by Buckley and all the great Cold warriors, which made the triumph possible.

Continue reading "Buckley's Triumph" »

Kindling for the Bonfires

Evil is a privation, a want or lack of some good or multiplicity of goods. This principle also finds applicability in the sphere of knowledge. There are books that, by virtue of their publication and continued existence, so corrupt, distort, and occlude the perception of reality that they decrease the sum total of knowledge in the cosmos; these are books that function as intellectual black holes, actively negating knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, leaving the void of ignorance and depravity in place of these. It would have been better for all the world had they never been written, or, having once been written, that they had been consigned to the flames, so that we could discuss the temperature at which ignorance burns.

I'll not impose upon this the artificial and unworkable constraint of an arbitrary number; the number of such desolators of the mind is as the sand upon the shore. We shall content ourselves with whatever number of such works we happen to submit.

My initial submissions: The collected works of the Marquis de Sade - Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, 120 Days of Sodom, Juliette, etc. It matters not that some philosopher or critic somewhere has written of his transgressive problematizing of this or that, nor that some poet or philosopher may have written something clever under the influence of de Sade. To the flames, go.

Submissions welcome.

March 6, 2008

Some bad news for California home schoolers

A California state court has handed down a ruling that, if not overturned, is bad news for home schoolers in the state.

The Home School Legal Defense Association was not involved in the case. The family in question were not HSLDA members, and HSLDA says that it's still digesting the legal issues but considers the ruling prima facie incorrect and hopes to help in an appeal.

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March 8, 2008

Annotated bibliography of historical apologetics on line

I'm pleased to announce that an annotated bibliography of apologetics works from the late 17th through the 19th centuries is now available here. It contains links to the works in question, available in the public domain.

It is entirely the work of my husband, Tim McGrew, in one of his areas of specialization. He has been working on it for some time before being satisfied that it's ready to be made public. But he is very interested in making these works more widely available. The men who answered the Deists in their own time get far too little credit nowadays and deserve to be more widely known and read than they are.

Pastors, youth leaders, and professors who work with Christian young people could do far worse than to familiarize themselves with some of the apologetic work that was done in the past. Those who have an interest in apologetics should acquaint themselves with the pre-20th-century material so as not to reinvent the wheel.

Feel free to pass this link on to others who might find it useful.

Cross-posted at Extra Thoughts

March 9, 2008

A Brief Note on the Idea of a Public Orthodoxy

It is difficult to imagine literal book burnings being undertaken anywhere in America, save by a handful of eccentrics - though it is, of course, worth observing that mere eccentricity is no blemish on a man's character, at least not necessarily. A man may stand in contradiction to his times, and yet those times may themselves stand in contradiction to reality, being unreal, possessed of innumerable illusions and fantasies. In a less atomized, transient stage of our history, it might well have been possible to conceive of a small town or hamlet, somewhere in the vast expanses of our nation, taking a stand against some piece of salacious or pernicious literature, confident that it would be difficult to circumvent the ban. That time, some might argue, for the good, but mostly for ill, given the proliferation of "literature" of a type once proscribed under obscenity codes, has passed for the nonce. Protections once afforded to political and religious discourses, though not to sub-rational performances and displays, have been extended to cover these latter, while signs of contraction in the original protected sphere have been observed. Few limitations are imposed upon obscenities of any type, and yet it is illegal to air certain types of political discourse within two months of an election.

All of these things, however, are beside the present point. For, while we may speak somewhat jestingly of consigning certain works to the flames, what we are doing, if we do so reflectively, is expressing the conviction that there either is, or ought to be, a public orthodoxy, and that it is preferable that this orthodoxy be explicit when necessary. The rationale of any sensible book-burning - to continue in this vein - is simply that a society which reposes upon certain determinate traditions and customs may proscribe assaults upon these foundations that, in prudence, are deemed sufficiently grave or provocative, particularly likely to occasion scandal. No society is obliged to extend its protecting shelter, nor the dignity of "right", to its own subversion, and the means thereof.

Without belabouring the point, the singular and salubrious virtue of actually consigning to the flames some pernicious piece of writing is that of honesty: the declaration that there obtains, if fact, an orthodoxy which we mean to uphold. That act announces that there shall be no confusion, no ambiguity; certain ideas and the practices they sustain are excluded as inimical to a way of life. Now, the American settlement, which extended the freedoms of speech and religion to actual political, cultural, and religious discourse, rested upon a tacit understanding: America was a broadly Christian nation, at least in the cultural sense of the term, and this understanding established boundaries, however spacious, within which these freedoms were exercised. The Mormons were compelled not merely to abandon the pagan practice of polygamy, but to desist from the propagation of the doctrine, and this on Christian grounds. Seditious literature was confiscated, and its promoters sanctioned, and so forth. The American settlement was latitudinarian, though capable of firmness, and even the former quality was rooted in history. That older America would leave the dissenter and heretic to his rantings; but, goaded and provoked, would take an emphatic position. The older America, that is, would still declare, "Here we stand." Would still, that is, exhibit the virtue of honesty and clarity in self-definition and defense.

Continue reading "A Brief Note on the Idea of a Public Orthodoxy" »

March 10, 2008

End the Abomination

Of Daylight Savings Time, that is, a horrid inconvenience inflicted upon the American people by government, originally acting on behalf of corporate interests hoping to ensnare us further in the nets of consumerism, and to gain extra time for trading on London markets. John J. Miller explains:

I recently wondered exactly why we observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). For some reason, I had harbored a vague notion that it had to do with farmers.

Well, it turns out that DST had nothing to do with farmers, who traditionally haven't cared much for it. They care a lot less nowadays, but when the first DST law was making its way through Congress, farmers actually lobbied against it. Dairy farmers were especially upset because their cows refused to accept humanity's tinkering with the hands of time. The obstinate cud-chewers wanted to be milked every twelve hours, and had absolutely no interest in resetting their biological clocks—even if the local creameries suddenly wanted their milk an hour earlier.

As Michael Downing points out in his new book, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, urban businessmen were a major force behind the adoption of DST in the United States. They thought daylight would encourage workers to go shopping on their way home. They also tried to make a case for agriculture, though they didn't bother to consult any actual farmers. One pamphlet argued that DST would benefit the men and women who worked the land because "most farm products are better when gathered with dew on. They are firmer, crisper, than if the sun has dried the dew off." At least that was the claim of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, chaired by department-store magnate A. Lincoln Filene. This was utter nonsense. A lot of crops couldn't be harvested until the morning dew had evaporated. What's more, morning dew has no effect whatsoever on firmness or crispness.

Perhaps farmers should take one for the team—i.e., put up with DST even though they don't like it because it keeps city cash registers chinging into the twilight. Yet the contention that DST is good for business is doubtful. It may help some businesses, but it also stands to reason that other ones suffer.

The only reason I have heard given for the perpetuation of this inanity, once the absurdities of the original justifications have been cleared away, is that people simply like returning home during daylight, or enjoy the later sunsets, which afford the illusion of extra time in the evening. To this, I say: Get up earlier; go to work earlier; and come home earlier. In doing so, you will reap all of the benefits of DST, without inflicting a needless inconvenience upon others, whose biological clocks, and those of their children, are not your playthings.

Ecrasez l'Infame!

Here is the link to Downing's book, Spring Forward.

March 11, 2008

Not a Furtive Exploration of Scandal-Porn

I have but two things to say concerning the Eliot Spitzer brouhaha, beyond the seasonally-appropriate observation that pride, and particularly inordinate pride, goeth before the fall. First, having heard some talking head interviewed on one of the morning news programs - I attribute my inability to recollect his name to my sons, who were busily behaving as toddlers behave - state that Spitzer's offense was a "victimless crime", I must demur. The notion of a "victimless crime", a sort of pseudo-offense existing in a netherworld between actual criminality - on the liberal conception, acts which either inflict physical harm or psychical harm, this latter upon certain classes of super-special persons - and those transactions between "consenting adults" that only prudes oppose, is a myth. It could not be otherwise, given that "consent" is itself a myth, a fiction that liberal modernity has conjured, consistent with its underlying nominalism, in order to transubstantiate certain types of acts into certain other types of acts. The ontology of moral acts, however, cannot be changed by mere thought, which is all that "consent" really is - the lie one tells oneself that something evil or unjust is not so, because one thinks it not so.

In the case of Mr. Spitzer, the matter is plain: prostitution entails both the reduction of the payee to so many quanta of utilitarian satisfactions, expressible as an exchange-value, the instrumentalization of her body, and the payer's participation in this objectification, by which, on the one-flesh principle, he also instrumentalizes his own body. The commodification of sex, and of the human body in sexuality, is an existential denial of personhood, inasmuch as it presupposes an untenable and quasi-gnostic dualism of self and body. And to thus thing-ify oneself and another is to be both victim and victimizer. Society ought to, at least, stigmatize such acts so as to inculcate the lesson that persons and things belong to different ontological categories.

Second, I associate myself fully with the comments of John Zmirak, with reference to Spitzer's diabolical attempt to coerce the consciences of the religiously orthodox, the culture of death's parody of ex opere operato. Hopefully, the scandal will weaken his administration sufficiently to prevent the implementation of a policy of persecution.

As for Spitzer himself, one may hope that he will do well by himself and his family, though the failure of his abortion legislation is most devoutly to be desired.

March 12, 2008

Corporatist Blackmail (and Whining)

Shorter Bill Gates: "The failure of the Congress to grant permission to my company to subvert the professional middle classes by importing cheaper labour only means that I have to subvert the professional middle classes by outsourcing their jobs. Heads, I win; tails, they lose. But having to outsource their labour looks overly penurious, while importing foreign programmers looks so progressive and cosmopolitan. So can we please shaft the American people my way?"

Globalization: recreating the sociology and socio-economic stratification of the Third World in the First World, courtesy of the plutocracy and its running dogs.

Buckley, Chambers and the West

Buckley%20books.jpgCall me an eccentric or a crank if you must. Accuse me of tilting at windmills like old Don Quixote: But by all that is holy I will do what I can to insure that so enormous an event as the passing of William F. Buckley, Jr., shall not be swamped by the tormenting transience of the blogosphere, and by so insignificant an event as a presidential election.

Being the eccentric that I am, I had been for almost ten days reading precisely nothing but Buckley (with one brief interlude of Oakeshott-on-Hobbes). Most of the Atlanta Public Library’s collection of Buckley nonfiction is now at my house, though I cannot hope to compete with the beautiful picture presented by my friend Kevin Holtsberry (at right).

So ten days of Buckley — and then Odyssey of a Friend arrived at my local branch, and Buckley retreated (though he never vanished) to make room for the greater man.

Odyssey of a Friend, as most Conservatives know, is a collection of letters, sent by Whittaker Chambers to Buckley during the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was published by the latter, after the former’s death. The rough sketch of a great work of history and philosophy, a book which Chambers never completed, emerges from these riveting epistles. Its haunting lineaments are unmistakable, but most of its specifics are lost to us.

Continue reading "Buckley, Chambers and the West" »

March 13, 2008

Religion in the Public Square--How can they try to keep it out?

W4 reader Mike Dagle has set up a new blog called "Being Appeared to Bloggishly." I wish I'd thought of that blog name myself.

His first series of posts (here, here, and here) concerns the use of religious beliefs in politics. Mike is definitely more conversant with the literature on all this than I am, and so I will confine myself to dealing with what I might call a "generic naked public square" (GNPS) view as he helpfully summarizes it, rather than attributing this view to any particular writer. Mike summarizes the GNPS principle (which he opposes) as follows:

Since we ought to respect our fellow citizens we should give them reasons for limiting their autonomy that they can accept from their own perspective. Some sort of public justification is required.

What I would like to do is to throw out some possible interpretations of the GNPS principle and to point out that they are either false or else, in the case of the last one, plausibly true but applicable to rule out religious beliefs in the public square only if we grant an invidious and highly questionable assumption.

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A Note on Technology, Labour Arbitrage, and the Legitimation Crisis

Commenter Blackadder, in the thread following my earlier post on Bill Gates, analogizes technology and labour arbitrage, arguing that both can be regarded as placing downward pressure on wages, but that both actually increase efficiency and outweigh such pressures. In the first instance, though the available figures are all over the map, it would seem that, at best, real wages have risen only marginally since 1970. Some analyses show a gradual decline from the early Seventies, with perhaps a brief upward blip in the late Nineties, followed by a decline throughout the Bush era. Whatever the case may be, the meager result, at best, for so much destructive creation, is disappointing and suggestive of futility.

Second, regardless of these seemingly contestable figures, present conditions are ultimately unsustainable. The inexorable logic of globalization, of the economic path the establishment has chosen for us, cannot be thwarted. And, in this connection, it is worth observing the asymmetries of technological development and labour arbitrage, as well as the ways in which they converge under the conditions of globalization. The dynamics of technological change and labour arbitrage are sufficiently different, and the effort to associate or even equate them under the rubrics of efficiency only illustrates the reductionism of most economic analysis.

Labour arbitrage, for one thing, results in a direct competition for employment, among persons of roughly comparable skill sets, across national boundaries, boundaries which also divide nations of markedly differing levels of economic development, cultural norms concerning a 'good life', and so forth. For the prospective employee from the hitherto more advanced nation, there really isn't much to be done, once the decision has been made to hire the lower-wage competitor. He can reconcile himself to a lower standard of living, to downward mobility, or he can undertake some combination of retraining or skills augmentation. The former, however, is not always feasible, for a variety of reasons, and not even the latter offers grounds for confidence; new skill-sets or innovations, once they have been diffused throughout the market, are readily transferable, meaning that the process will begin afresh. Routinization, whether of technique or knowledge, is endlessly duplicable, and only affords the basis of further rounds of arbitrage. The fundamental dynamic of this process is downward wage pressure, simply, since the initial condition involves comparable skill-sets, with the decisive difference being the wage each of their bearers is willing to accept.

Continue reading "A Note on Technology, Labour Arbitrage, and the Legitimation Crisis" »

March 14, 2008

Dept. of Not Sure We Should Go There

Via Rod Dreher:

I'll confess to having a mild Luddite streak, which ranges from indifference to antipathy, where some modern technology is concerned (somehow, I suspect that this will not be altogether surprising to everyone); hence, while I can perceive the benefits of such technology, I harbour ambiguous premonitions of the possible misuses of a mature version of the technology. Regardless, the video clip is fascinating, in a tech-geek sort of way.

March 16, 2008

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag, vol. MMCXVI

A Mexican consular official, apparently provoked by an American demonstration protesting his government's complicity in illegal immigration flows, permits himself to speak freely:

Once more, the meaning of the post-nationalism and economism of the American establishment is not that parochial sentiments and atavistic loyalties have been transcended, but that America has disarmed before the revanchist sentiments of others. American cosmopolitanism simply means that the nationalisms of others predominate. If I might paraphrase Chesterton, no man will be willing to sacrifice, and perhaps yield up his life, for nothings such as the free movement of capital and labour; but men will sacrifice for their nation - their people and culture and world-image of these in history, and the reclamation of 'lost territories', associated with national honour, has always been a prime motivation. A decadent state, inclusive of the political and economic establishments of a country, will war against the nation over which it rules, seeking to efface the world-image that has nourished and sustained it - and will employ the nationalisms of others in the process.

HT: Auster.

March 17, 2008

The Spoiled-Child Mentality in American Diplomacy

Sparks flew at the Transatlantic Forum in Brussels last Friday between Western and Russian participants over Kosovo. When French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner accused Russia of being responsible for the absence of a negotiated agreement between Belgrade and Priština, President of the Duma Foreign Policy Committee Konstantin Kosachov replied that it was not Russia’s stand which prevented the finding of a solution, “but rather the promise of the West to Kosovo Albanians that they would get independence sooner or later” which meant that “Kosovo Albanians were not motivated to look for a solution.” At this point yet another participant, former U.S. Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke, reacted by bursting into loud laughter. According to a Russian news report, Holbrooke and Kouchner then got up and left the room in the middle of the Russian representative’s presentation.

The same mix of haughty arrogance and plain rudeness was on display in Rome three weeks ago, where I attended a fairly high-profile conference on Kosovo organized by the geopolitical review Limes. Other panelists included the Undersecretary of State at the Italian foreign ministry, Famiano Crucianelli; the vice-chairman of the Italian Senate foreign relations committee, Sen. Alfredo Mantica; Limes’ editor Lucio Caracciolo; Jim Jatras of the American Council for Kosovo; and Serbia’s Ambassador to the Holy See Professor Jankovic.

A political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Gabriel Escobar, had accepted the organizers’ invitation to be one of the panelists – but then used his introductory remarks to berate them for not including any “Kosovars” in the panel. Having finished his tirade Mr. Escobar got up, turning his back on the Italian officials seated next to him, and left the podium, and the room, without a word of farewell. - Srdja Trifkovic, writing at the Chronicles website.

I have already written of the folly, arrogance, and mendacity of American policy in the Balkans, and so will not reiterate what already has been said. Suffice it to say that such puerile conduct on the part of American 'diplomats' is a fitting reflection of the imperial hauteur affected by American high officialdom, especially since the denouement of the Cold War: every American ukase is not merely to be obeyed without reservation - the expression of which is dishonestly equated with anti-Americanism - but is possessed of such solemn majesty and wisdom that to question it is to invite supercilious disdain, even laughter. Like St. Augustine writing of infancy, Spoiled-Child America waxes indignant when wiser souls deign to offer correction, regarding such free men as so many insubordinate slaves, and so revenges itself upon them by petulent displays and infantile mockeries. This is what one should expect from imperial diplomacy: a lurching from truculent bluster to low, dishonest, dirty intrigues to manifestations of arrested development; for empire is the political form in which enslavement to appetites is writ large upon the nation. And one never desires to come between a man or nation enslaved to mad passions and the object of those passions.

March 18, 2008

There oughtta be a law--isn't there already?

So, a librarian saw a man looking at child pornography on the library's computers. Her supervisor ordered her not to tell the police about it. She defied the order, told the police, and the man has been arrested. Let's hope he gets convicted and put away for a long time. Needless to say, more of the same was found at his home.

So the librarian got fired by the supervisor, who also got pretty pushy with the police, telling them in a phone call to call off their investigation, because the police have "no business interfering" with library matters. Betcha didn't know the public library is a law-free zone. Back off, cops. They can do anything they like in there.

All you legal eagles out there in readerland: Is there no crime called "obstruction of justice"? How about "witness intimidation"? Or is the latter a species of the former? Since possession of child pornography is (I am informed) a federal crime, wouldn't these be federal laws against obstruction of justice? What about California laws? And last: Doesn't ordering a subordinate, under implicit threat of job loss, not to call the police about a crime count as obstruction of justice, blocking the course of an investigation, or something of the sort?

I'm all in favor of prosecuting the supervisor. It sounds like a showdown with the librarians' pro-filth ideological association is very much overdue.

HT Cordelia's Shoes

The Weak Reeds That Pierce Our Hands

From time to time, I entertain a sort of running dialogue - with myself. No, I'm not crazy, at least not yet. What I am attempting to do in that dialogue is persuade myself that Western leaders and opinion makers could not betray the West, by incremental steps sometimes imperceptible, into the clutches of our adversaries - not by means of some nefarious conspiracy, but in consequence of their own imbecilic fantasies and delusions. Some part of me, cynical and melancholy though I am, is desirous that there occur no apocalypse of liberalism.

Alas, I believe that I'm am losing that argument with my pessimistic instincts, which suggest to me that, when the moment arrives, our leaders will sooner turn intolerant towards us, and our cultures, than acknowledge that, say, Islam is not a religion of peace.

Joseph Loconte, writing in the Weekly Standard of the film being prepared by Dutch politician Geert Wilders, you see, engages in the stereotypical hand-wringing and cleverer-than-the-messenger, who-should-be-shot posturing, which performance summons up all of those dark thoughts. His article is illustrative of everything that is wrong with the elite commentariat in the West, and why we cannot now rely upon them in this regard, and why they will likely continue to fail us.

Continue reading "The Weak Reeds That Pierce Our Hands" »

March 19, 2008

It's Not a Conspiracy If Done In The Open

In a characteristically acerbic and trenchant essay over at Chronicles, Thomas Fleming discusses the introduction of the Security and Prosperity Partnership as an issue in the late Republican presidential race:

Ron Paul’s most flamboyant gesture in defense of the republic (one in which he is joined by the estimable Duncan Hunter) has been the denunciation of what is sometimes called the North American Union. The NAU is an alleged plot to merge the three countries of North America—the United States, Canada, and Mexico—into a union that will function something like the European Union. If the first step toward unification is represented by the “NAFTA Superhighway”—a free-trade hole in the American border stretching from Mexico to Canada—the apogee will be the issuance of a new common currency, the Amero.

World government has been a treasured bugbear of the fringe right since the heyday of the John Birch Society, and the current conspiracy has supposedly been cooked up by the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bush administration, and the usual globalist suspects. In 2005, the CFR issued a report, “Building a North American Community,” whose aspirations were echoed in the Bush administration’s plan “Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America” (SPP), released after a meeting among George W. Bush, Vicente Fox, and Paul Martin. The plan, which is predicated on the idea that “our security and prosperity are mutually dependent and complementary,” calls for a joint task force to implement the goals: common security and a common market.

Representative Paul has denounced the SPP as “an unholy alliance of foreign consortiums and officials from several governments” that does not even enjoy the legal fig leaf of an official treaty. The more general conclusion he draws is that “decisions that affect millions of Americans are not being made by those Americans themselves, or even by their elected representatives in Congress,” but by “a handful of elites [who] use their government connections to bypass national legislatures and ignore our Constitution.”

Continue reading "It's Not a Conspiracy If Done In The Open" »

March 21, 2008

A New Sovereign Immunity

Quinn Hillyer, writing over at the American Spectator, has a brilliant idea, one which will, all at once, revive a flagging American economy, increase the profitability of American corporations, reward pensioners and investors, lower consumer prices, and eliminate the distorting effects of tax policy from decision-making. Interest rates will fall (how could they be lower, given the loose monetary policy of the Fed?) and outsourcing will end, meaning that this ultimate in supply-side cosseting is also the ultimate pro-labour policy. Everything will operate more efficiently, and we will all ostensibly be better off. Perhaps even cancer will be cured.

What is this miracle cure for what ails the American economy?

Eliminate the federal corporate income tax.

Yes, kill it entirely.

Continue reading "A New Sovereign Immunity" »

Can you try to murder a dying man?

First of all, a blessed Good Friday to our readers. I realize that any of you folks who are of the Eastern Orthodox persuasion are not celebrating Good Friday today, so I ask for your indulgence. I'll be wishing everybody a joyous Easter on Sunday, too, so this is a warning. (The wisdom of the Eastern Easter dating is, I must admit, rather evident just now where I'm located. We are having what may add up to be a record snowfall before Holy Saturday morning.)

Now: Wesley J. Smith has been blogging about the infamous case of a Dr. Roozrokh out in California. (See here, [unfortunately, the detailed news story linked from this article, which I read when Smith first linked it, has disappeared] here, and here. Here is the judge's opinion.) Dr. Roozrokh is going to trial for "dependent adult abuse." The allegation, attested by multiple witnesses, is as follows: Dr. Roozrokh is a transplant surgeon. He arrived at a hospital where a patient was going to be taken off life support so that a "non-heart-beating donation" could take place. This method, sometimes called the Pittsburgh Protocol, involves taking a person who is not brain-dead but is believed to be ventilator dependent off of the ventilator. When the person's heart stops beating, doctors wait for five minutes to see if he starts breathing or his heart stops beating again. If nothing happens, he is declared dead and the transplant team takes the organs. Only in this case, the patient actually wasn't so ventilator-dependent as all that, so he kept breathing. Everyone is agreed that protocols were flagrantly violated in that the transplant team was not even supposed to be in the room until the patient was declared dead by his own attending physician. But they were. And it just gets worse from there.

Continue reading "Can you try to murder a dying man?" »

March 22, 2008

Happy Easter

Wishing my esteemed fellow bloggers here at WWWtW and all our readers a most joyous Easter feast and forty-day Easter season.

Alleluia, He is risen!

Seven Stanzas At Easter

By John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that--pierced--died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

March 25, 2008

Intellectual Checks and Balances

James Poulos, writing at The American Scene, and commenting on Christopher Orlet's review of a candidate for the purifying pyres, observes the following:

But add the Wolfe quote ("an intellectual is a person knowledgeable in one field who only speaks out in others") and the Posner quote ("a successful academic may be able to use his success to reach the general public on matters about which he is an idiot") together, and you get a concept of the public intellectual that strikes me as not just unconservative but deeply impoverished and perverted. A public intellectual, according to this indeed rather popular concept, is either an expert working dutifully within the confines of his expertise or a fool at best and fraud at worst. Public thinkers who act as gadflies, daring to presume an entitlement to address the world whole, are not only dangerous but despicable creatures, the snake oil salesman of common discourse. Think as freely as you like in private, we are told, but in public, respect above all the great compartmentalization of knowledge that is the source of power for all management and bureaucratic order.

I'd be the last to deny the existence of pronounced strains of anti-intellectualism in certain quarters of the right, given the parlous and intellectually sterile condition of the right in this, the Eighth Year of Bush. Hence, I don't mean to defend the 'public intellectual', if by this is meant some person with a passion for some issue, about which he may know rather little, even if the positions defended by such a person should be 'conservative'. But it seems to me that Poulos strikes a euphonious series of tones. It is unconservative and perverted to defend the rigid demarcation of disciplines in this manner, and to invoke the 'authority' (in reality a kind of anti-authority) of the reductionism and rationalization that that classificatory scheme instantiates, precisely because managerial, bureaucratic culture is inimical to traditional culture. The former presupposes an instrumentalist approach to any given sphere of life, which necessarily vacates that sphere of (acknowledgement of) the substantive questions it embodies. Think of sex education, with its presupposition of the irresistibility of biological urges, such that the imperative is inculcating the knowledge of the 'safe' means of fulfilling them.

Succinctly stated, the conservative approach is to maintain a robust skepticism of all such dessicated simplifications, which often conceal moral and political commitments under a veil of (pseudo) science. Tradition, that is to say, is integrative. Expertise in one dimension of the human experience does not entail wisdom in the living of a humane life.

Which, in the end, is why critiques of the excesses of critical literary theory, often voiced by those outside the guild of theoreticians, sometimes by analytic philosophers, criticisms of the fads of 'digital biology' (which will only tell us how anything and everything evolved, and that at a high level of abstraction, and not how some specific thing, such as a mammalian eye, evolved), or analyses of utilitarian economics are valuable: even if they are articulated by putative non-experts, they not only caution us against fragmentation, but remind us that reason is a substantive, and not purely instrumental undertaking, a common human possession, and not a certification attached to specialized credentials. Or, we could attend to the actual arguments advanced, and eschew the easy ad hominems of, "But he doesn't have a degree in X." Rationality is no monopoly of the specialist, whose doctrines, when taken for a larger part of the whole than they are, become ideologies.

March 26, 2008

"Only the good die young, so I didn't go."

Email from the daughter:

Thought you might find this little story interesting. Shows why you should never "pull the plug." love you dad

I don't know about "never", but caution would seem to be in order. You've been declared brain dead, your family is saying its final farewell, and the doctors are standing by ready to remove your organs. Suddenly, you begin to move...

March 27, 2008

Lighter Fare

Abigail Lavin, writing in the Weekly Standard, reviews Oliver Lutz Radtke's Chinglish, a guide to misuses, miscues, and mutilations of the English language in China.

So far as I can tell, Chinglish falls into two categories: instrumental and ornamental. Instrumental Chinglish is actually intended to convey information to English speakers. Ornamental Chinglish is born of the fact that English is the lingua franca of coolness. Meaning aside, any combination of roman letters elevates a commodity--khaki pants, toilet paper, potato chips--to a higher plane of
chic by suggesting that the product is geared toward an international audience.

This is also a pop-cultural phenomenon in the Former Soviet Union, albeit on a much lower level of frequency. It typically involves nonsense phrases in English emblazoned on articles of
clothing, intended to convey an air of youthfulness and joie de vivre.

Such usages often aim for a certain effect, not so much of transgressiveness as of chic, though the means often veer off into the transgressive:

Continue reading "Lighter Fare" »

Lighter Fare II

Prima facie I find it difficult to fathom this level of hostility toward a mediocre rock band - and this is, in fact, what the group in question are: neither among the best nor among the worst in the genre, particularly by comparison to what else was current and on the Homogenized Corporate Radio playlists between 1997 and 2002 or so. I can comprehend being put off and scandalized, perhaps, by mediocrity, having spent seven years studying classical piano; but the hatred - even granting that Suderman is piling on the hyperbole - strikes me as excessive. Seriously, if we're talking about popular acts, past and present, thriving and lingering, there are legions of others far more deserving of detestation. Spice Girls, anyone?

Continue reading "Lighter Fare II" »

March 29, 2008

Anti-Postmodern Bumper Sticker Contest

Started here. More specifically, here.

Well, okay, it isn't exactly a contest, because I have nothing to offer for the best entries but electronic applause. But it could be fun to read the entries.

Pro-Pomo bumper stickers need not apply.

Suggestions may be placed in the combox here or over on Extra Thoughts. (Please excuse this blatant promotion of my personal blog.)

Why Artists Tend Not to be Conservative

Commenter thebyronicman has already stolen some of my thunder on this question, though I'll press on, undeterred. I'm not quite so negative about popular artistic forms/media/genres as about the culture considered as a totality. The culture as a totality is irredeemable, beyond even a glimmer of a hope of transformation. Partially, this is a reflection of the inexorable degradations of mass culture, particularly in an age of religious declension; partially, it is a reflection of the inevitably coarsening and anti-aesthetic impulses of commodification for mass markets; and finally, this is a function of the (contingent) nature of the industry itself, which not only facilitates commodification (the nemesis of all artistic sensitivity), but is, quite plainly, as thebyronicman indicates, a form of legalized racketeering. Even the so-called 'Christian' labels often engage in this racketeering, imposing extortionate contracts upon artists, who are often thereby compelled to produce schlock in order to continue in the industry.

Continue reading "Why Artists Tend Not to be Conservative" »

The Weak Reeds That Pierce Our Hands, and the Illusion That Makes Them Weak

In an earlier post,, I discussed the controversy surrounding Dutch politician Geert Wilders' film, Fitna, perceiving the animadversions of Joseph Loconte as characteristic of an establishment more interested in perpetuating its hallucinations than in either understanding Islam or protecting the societies it rules.

Well, the film was released, and subsequently suppressed at the original hosting locations, as Lawrence Auster explains. Apparently, the aggrieved parties, hewing to the example established during the Dutch cartoon jihad, sought to prove the arguments of those they opposed. "Slay all those who say Islam is violent", and all of that. In other news, the sun rose this morning, and will rise again on the morrow.

Rod Dreher has viewed the film, as have I, and is ambivalent, at best.

Continue reading "The Weak Reeds That Pierce Our Hands, and the Illusion That Makes Them Weak" »

March 31, 2008

Primitive Accumulation, Postmodern-Style

Catholic bishop Erwin Kräutler, of the Altamira diocese in the western Amazon region of Brazil, reportedly has a half-million dollar bounty on his head, all for opposing the dispossession of indigenous peoples and farmers by ranchers and other interests, debt slavery, and sexual slavery.

The situation may have a liberation theology angle, though this would seem not to be terribly pertinent, given that the abuses, economic and otherwise, are manifest. Resisting injustice is not Marxist praxis.

(HT: Henry Karlson.)