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October 2008 Archives

October 1, 2008

Pro-life issues--suicide and profiting from one's crime

Pro-lifers are understandably disturbed about a recent court ruling in Wisconsin that those who assist in suicide can profit from doing so by inheriting from the person who commits suicide. The court decision of the state court of appeals is here.

At issue is the applicability of a Wisconsin law (854.14) that expressly bars from inheritance those who "unlawfully and intentionally kill" someone else. Linda and Megan Schunk were the wife and daughter, respectively, of Edward Schunk, who had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. They took him home on a day trip from the hospital, drove him to a cabin, provided him with a loaded shotgun, and left him. He used the shotgun to kill himself. They were beneficiaries under his will, and other children of Edward who were not beneficiaries argued that Linda and Megan should not inherit because of the state law just mentioned. Linda and Megan petitioned for summary judgement in their favor--that is, they petitioned against the claim that there must first be a trial to determine whether they had in fact assisted Edward in his suicide. Linda and Megan denied that they had assisted Edward in committing suicide, but they argued, via their lawyers, that even if they did assist in his suicide, they could not be barred from inheriting under the law in question.

Continue reading "Pro-life issues--suicide and profiting from one's crime" »

October 5, 2008

It was a Bank Panic

I think people still don't understand what Secretary Paulson was faced with a week ago Thursday.

It was a bank run.

Actually, it was a bank panic, since a bank run applies to one bank and a bank panic is when it is widespread and happens to many banks at once.

We did not have the threat of one, but one actually underway, with all that that implies: disappearing savings accounts, following the Joads west with all remaining possessions packed into the car, etc.

We have not had a bank panic like that since the Great Depression.

It was not a visible bank panic, with physical lines of people outside of physical banks. It was an invisible bank panic, with computerized lines of people and mostly institutions outside of the computer network doorways of the banks.

This bank panic was stopped by one thing, and one thing only: Secretary Paulson's promise that (1) money market funds will be backstopped, and (2) $700 billion would be allocated to sop up all the illiquid mortgage paper clogging the system. This should work, and if it works and is left to be run well it will even be profitable, though the delays introduced by the criminally negligent House of Representatives last Monday have done irreversible damage.

So yeah, swallowing the "bailout" is a bitter pill, and it is unfair, and it sets terrible precedents, and it will be abused and misused in every conceivable way (even though run properly, with less interference by Congress rather than more, it could be profitable and could reduce the national debt), and all that. It was the worst thing to do, except for all the alternatives.

And yes, it may not be the last and final major intervention required.

What made this bank panic different from the ones during the Depression was its invisibility to everyman. You didn't see the lines; you didn't see the "bank tellers" involved in millions of transactions each second during that two hour period. That is a big problem with modernity: our relentless capacity to hide bad news and atrocity behind computer network cables, carefully prepared media presentations, and sanitarily marked medical waste bins.

Using the defibrillator was the easy part. Reforming our lives will be the difficult part. And if we don't reform our lives, we'll just end up in the emergency room again.

A Dissent from CSL on love and marriage

I've been recently re-reading some portions of The Four Loves. I don't remember having very strong views about this book when I read it years ago. There certainly are some excellent parts, especially when he talks about the love of God.

But on the subject of love and marriage, it simply will not do. I think the biggest underlying problem here is that Lewis had at that time too rigid a view of what it meant to love one's spouse. He may (we can hope) have gotten more information later when he fell in love and got married himself. But at the time of writing The Four Loves, he seems to have thought of love between man and wife as either a mere tempest of emotion--hence, transient and unimportant--or as the settled unity of many years--hence, and by definition, impossible at the beginning of marriage. This view of Lewis's is quite evident in the following passage from a letter (April 18, 1940):

Continue reading "A Dissent from CSL on love and marriage" »

October 7, 2008

October 7, 1571: Lepanto

The Turks, in Chesterton’s rousing verse, had by the late 16th century, “dared the white republics up the capes of Italy,” and “dashed the Adriatic round the Lion of the Sea”: the Ottoman Empire was master of the eastern Mediterranean, and nowhere upon that “inmost sea of all the earth” was the might of the Turk, his great navy, and his dread shock troops the Janissaries, not felt. The great Christian city upon the Golden Horn, which for a thousand years had resisted the protean armies of the Crescent — the Greek city that called itself the Second Rome — had fallen a century before in a great shock to the Christian world. Venetian power (the Lion of the Sea) on the Albanian coast had suffered grievous blows. Malta, under the Knights of St. John, had by great valor and some good fortune narrowly escaped defeat and ruin; Cyprus, a Venetian possession, had not been so lucky. Massacre and enslavement was her fate. (But resistance endured to the end: on a ship full of young slaves, destined for the harems of leading Turks, a young woman of fierce pride would endure no such dishonor: she set fire to the vessel’s powder magazine.) In July of 1571, the fortress town of Famagusta on Cyprus had fallen after a year-long siege, and its Venetian ruler, his terms of surrender wantonly betrayed, was subjected to an unspeakable torture and humiliation. The Agony of Famagusta rang like a tocsin throughout Christendom; and on a cool October day in the Gulf of Corinth, the menace of the Turk on the Mediterranean was delivered a blow from which it would never fully recover.

The Battle of Lepanto can justly lay claim to being one of the single bloodiest battles ever fought, on land or at sea. Indeed, it was both: for the collisions between, on the one side, Italians and Spaniards, along with some German mercenaries, and on the other, Janissaries and Turkish conscripts; collisions which rapidly degraded into the great congestion of an infantry battle on the interlocked the decks of hundreds of galleys. 40,000 men lost their lives that day, more than 150 every minute. But it was also an enormous and complex naval encounter, where superior leadership and tactical maneuvering on the Christian side played a crucial role.

Continue reading "October 7, 1571: Lepanto" »

October 8, 2008


I made a commitment to myself last week, labouring as I was - and still am - beneath the combined weight of a handful of (temporary) declining health indicators, to the effect that I would not write, among other abstinences. Why wrack one's brain for blogging matter when one is already fatigued? Nonetheless, no commitment is made but that is soon put to the trial, and I fear I must announce the buckling of my resolve to despair quietly and retire early each evening. I'll endeavour to split the difference, writing something, but keeping it short; I'm only cheating a little.

All I want to state is the following: Obama's association with William Ayers, whatever its nature and duration, is relevant to this particular election, at this juncture of American history, if and only if an Obama administration is likely to be staffed with terrorist Commie retreads from the halcyon days of the New Left. Which it won't be. It will, should things come to that pass, be staffed by the policymaking elite of the center-left of the American establishment, which some might say assuredly would be worse than a McCain administration staffed by the policymaking elite of the center-right of the American establishment; but, in reality, the respective halves agree on 95% of the strategy and quibble - though we exaggerate the significance of these disputes, imagining them to be moments in a rolling Ragnarok between, say, McGovernite socialists and Defenders of the American Way - over 15% of the tactics. The dispute, to the extent that there even is a dispute, over Iraq is part of that miserable 15%, because both parties, and both candidates, are committed to an hegemonist view of the American position in geopolitics, each adding a slight inflection - not even a dialect - to the common tongue of Indispensable Nationhood. That is merely one example, and true to my half-hearted commitment, I'll not belabour the point.

Continue reading "Exhausted" »

It's hard to believe...

...but, apparently, I will live out my days in a world where Margaret Mead - Margaret Mead - is remembered by seemingly intelligent people as something other than one of the biggest frauds and dupes of a century rich in frauds and dupes:

For me, experiencing stuff like this is like what it would be for a liberal to live in a world where the Nazis won.

Except that the music is trashier.

October 9, 2008

Another One...

...for the "beyond parody" files:

Britain's Daily Mail reports that:

"A gardener has been ordered by council chiefs to remove three foot high barbed wire ringing his allotment - in case thieves scratch themselves climbing over it...

Continue reading "Another One..." »

October 10, 2008

Douthat on the Ayers Strategy

Then the subject turns to the Presidential race - and if the news channel behaves the way the McCain campaign clearly hopes it will, the first thing you'll see is a short feature on how John McCain has cut a new anti-Obama ad featuring Ayers, Ayers and more Ayers. It's possible that this inspires you to think: Man, that terrorist-sympathizing Obama can't be trusted in an economic crisis. In that case, Steve Schmidt, Andy McCarthy and sundry others are political masterminds, and I am a plain fool.

But I don't think I'm a fool. I think McCain looks, to our hypothetical undecided, utterly disconnected from what's happening in the world, and the details of the Ayers connection, however troubling they might be in another context, blur away into a broader impression of a flailing, desperate, out-of-touch candidate. At this point, the McCain camp seems to be taking its cues more from the liberal caricature of past conservative campaigns - that they've all been fundamentally unserious exercises in culture-war button-pushing - than from the campaigns themselves. It's as though they're being paid under the table by Thomas Frank to goose his book sales and vindicate his thesis.

As I've stated in another of the comment threads on this theme, that I've arrived at the same analysis of the situation as the co-author of a recent book that could be described as 'applied neoconservatism for the Twenty-First century is indicative of the disarray of conservatism: the battlefield is a rout, and, in the melee, people who might otherwise disagree with respect to substantive proposals at least discover, in their flight, that they agree on the causes of the rout. Republican stewardship of the American economy, which has accelerated the globalization producing such traumatic dislocations for middle-class Americans, has by that very consequence lent some measure of credibility to left-wing canards; it is as if, at a time when middle-class incomes have stagnated - which they have, during the Bush years - the Republican party, via its economic policies, sought to prove the truth of those left-wing canards. Douthat's book, Grand New Party, is an attempt to redress this failing of the GOP's public philosophy. Now, as if to compound this disconnect from the circumstances of the very voters the GOP requires if it is to succeed, the Republican presidential candidate pursues a campaign strategy which seems calculate to validate left-wing assertions of ritualistic bad faith.

What more can be said? This is a recipe for disaster.

October 11, 2008

Stratfor on Iran, Russia, and America Geostrategy

In comments downthread, I asseverated that the American foreign-policy establishment would like to shift gears - bearing in mind that such shifts of policy, particularly after momentous commitments such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - may require several years of unwinding and transition in order to effectuate. I advance the contention not as a certitude, but as an hypothesis, much as Stratfor's analysts are doing. Below are excerpted two essays published by that firm during the preceding two months.

Continue reading "Stratfor on Iran, Russia, and America Geostrategy" »

Prolife issues--Assisted suicide in nursing homes in Switzerland

Via Wesley J. Smith comes word of a new front being opened in the culture of death: In Switzerland, pro-death groups (literally, pro-death) seek to force nursing homes to allow them access to patients to assist them in committing suicide.

Apparently some doctors in Switzerland retain professionalism, and the suicide group Exit says there have sometimes been "showdowns" with doctors when they have shown up to help patients kill themselves on the premises. Since in Switzerland it has been declared a legal right to kill yourself (even if you are mentally ill), Exit claims that nursing home directors and doctors must be forced to allow them to "help" patients die.

Continue reading "Prolife issues--Assisted suicide in nursing homes in Switzerland" »

October 14, 2008

Review of Modern Times

Bob Dylan has just released a new album, but I’m behind the times, and have only recently completed my review of his previous album, Modern Times (2006). Two years late, but here it is.

Flippantly, I might merely set down a single sentence to compose my judgment — “He’s still got it” — and leave it at that. More mischievously, I might merely quote the final verse of “Spirit on the Water,” one of this album’s finer selections:

You think I’m over the hill
You think I’m past my prime
Let me see what you got
We can have a whoppin’ good time

— I could do either of these things, thereby render a useful review of the album, and spare the reader my further cogitations. But what fun would that be?

Continue reading "Review of Modern Times" »

October 16, 2008

Site Downtime on October 24th

On October 24th between 12 midnight and 6 am, What's Wrong with the World will be offline while the hosting provider upgrades some central networking infrastructure. Overall downtime is anticipated at no more than 1 hour but that hour may fall at any point within the maintenance window.

The closet is your private place, redux

The title of this post is boldly stolen from my esteemed colleague, Zippy Catholic, who used it for an inaugural post of his at this very blog about a year and a half ago. It seemed so perfect for this post that I could not resist but have added "redux" to it and trust that he will not mind.

Probably a number of my readers have already heard about the case in Massachusetts a couple of years ago in which parents, Mr. and Mrs. Parker, were denied an opt-out for their five-year-old from discussions and promotion of homosexual "marriage." The problem began with the child's being sent home with a "diversity bag" containing a book about a girl, her father, and her father's homosexual partner, all of whom live together and are treated in the book as a "family."

Continue reading "The closet is your private place, redux" »

October 17, 2008

New Contributor

We are pleased today to welcome to What's Wrong with the World a new Contributor, the esteemed philosopher and theologian Ed Feser of Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. We have Lydia to thank for cajoling him into joining us. They were colleagues at the late great Right Reason. Prof. Feser's writings have circulated widely. His bio is here. He is the author of four books, including, most recently, a polemic against that obnoxious faction known as the New Atheists, whose project is to assail religion wherever its principles are advanced most ineptly and studiously ignore it where its principles are advanced most competently. Accordingly, we can expect these dutiful scholars to pay Prof. Feser no attention at all.

In any case, we shall pay the professor and his incisive defenses of right reason plenty of attention. We might even ask his opinion of Bob Dylan.

The unbearable lightness of being Christopher Buckley

By now you may have heard that Christopher Buckley, son of the late William F. Buckley, Jr., and until yesterday a columnist for his father’s magazine National Review, has declared himself an Obama supporter and resigned his position at the magazine. His reasons? McCain has “changed,” Buckley tells us, having become “irascible and snarly” in the course of a failing campaign; “his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises,” and his attack ads are “mean-spirited and pointless.” Buckley also dislikes McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate.

Continue reading "The unbearable lightness of being Christopher Buckley" »

October 20, 2008

Time for Civil Disobedience in Victoria, Australia

Most pro-lifers are familiar with the argument that there is no such thing as being called upon to disobey the current abortion regime in the United States, because the current abortion regime doesn't require anyone to participate in an abortion.

Welcome to Abortion Regime, Stage 2: In Victoria, Australia, a law just passed last week that says, inter alia,

1)If a woman requests a registered health practitioner to advise on a proposed abortion, or to perform, direct, authorise or supervise an abortion for that woman, and the practitioner has a conscientious objection to abortion, the practitioner must--(a) inform the woman that the practitioner has a conscientious objection to abortion; and (b) refer the woman to another registered health practitioner in the same regulated health profession who the practitioner knows does not have a conscientious objection to abortion.

Got that?

Continue reading "Time for Civil Disobedience in Victoria, Australia" »

October 21, 2008

What the heck is a proportionate reason, anyway?

Folks may not agree with my particular conclusions about voting in the upcoming Presidential election, but maybe we can make some progress in mutual understanding of what constitutes a proportionate reason for engaging in remote material cooperation with evil. Inspired by an inquiring commenter, I give you the following:

Suppose we are contemplating doing act X in order to block a big evil E, where X is not intrinsically evil but doing it involves remote material cooperation with evil.

A proportionate reason to do X obtains when (1) X is reasonably effective in stopping E without being excessive, and (2) stopping E does not produce evils and disorders graver than E.

Folks tend to make a reasonable case for (2): that is, they make a reasonable case (lets stipulate, in case you disagree) that McCain winning does not produce evils and disorders graver than those which would follow from Obama winning.

Continue reading "What the heck is a proportionate reason, anyway?" »

October 22, 2008

The Amazing Disappearing Embryo

Back in May, NRLC was mentioning the fact that John McCain has been an enthusiastic supporter of ESCR. Well, not exactly in those words. But in some words, with as much downplaying as possible.

Since then, we have had an ad, interpreted by an official campaign spokesman, reaffirming that support for the benefit any ESCR supporters who might be worried.

Here is the present NRLC candidate comparison chart. (HT: Zippy) What's missing?

Continue reading "The Amazing Disappearing Embryo" »

October 23, 2008

If the Emperor has no clothes, is he still the Emperor?

In the comments of a post on my personal blog, Steve G writes:

Zippy DOES have a position that is compelling to me, but I haven’t seen him argue it as forcefully as the negligible vote position. His more compelling argument is that the whole electoral process is a myth, or a sham, that we take part in. That it’s not to choose a leader, but to validate the ‘system.’
To which I replied:

That the election itself is primarily about choosing the kind of leader we want is a myth; a myth connected to the fact that our votes do not exert a significant influence over how we are governed, but exert a large influence over our acceptance of things done in our name. The election itself isn't necessarily a sham, any more than a coronation pageant for the king is a sham. Under the mythology of what elections are about it is a sham, but it is the mythology itself which is a sham not the election itself.

More generally, a lot of the damage which occurs to us under the rubric of voting for mass murderers has to do with reinforcing the lie of what elections are really about.

October 24, 2008

Election season comic relief

This is to help us all lighten up. Bob Hope in Ghost Breakers.

HT: Esteemed husband

October 25, 2008

Boiled Frogs, Redux

Professor Michael Bauman comments in Lydia's post:

[The political Left] own[s] the schools and colleges; they own the Senate, the House, and soon the White House and Courts; they own entertainment; they own the news media; they own the laboratories; they own everything -- even lots of the churches. They ran the board on us, and it's not an accident.
I think that is right. And I think a key reason why is because where the Left is going is where political liberalism naturally goes, and we on the Right are for the most part liberals too. This is not merely an airy philosophical observation, but an eminently practical one. "Conservatism" is in our time not conservatism but right-liberalism: political liberalism with a few 'conservative' unprincipled exceptions. The exceptions are unprincipled in the sense that they are not founded in our liberalism, and we for the most part don't recognize their incompatibility with our own liberalism. For a while that meant that 'conservatism' was classical liberalism; now it means, for the most part, culturally 'big tent' neoconservatism. In general it means 'whatever liberalism was about 30 or 50 years ago'.

So looking beyond the election of this very moment, the way to beat the Left politically, and (among other things) effectively save the children being massacred by the acolytes of Moloch -- the only way to beat the Left politically, as an eminently practical concern -- is to stop becoming the Left, through a quasi-Hegelian process which seems to take about two generations. As Lydia observes, the hard Left has a whole core worldview which anchors it and which it will not give up for anything. The Right has nothing of the kind: the political Right is basically a classical liberalism / neoconservatism which is nominally against abortion and a few other enumerated issues. Think for a moment of the laughable dissonance of the term "hard right" in our culture: in general it brings up images of failed projects of modernity, not images of a viable political movement drawing members from respectable parts of society.

As long as that remains the case, 'conservatism' will be the tail on the dog. And as long as 'conservatives' are willing to support liberals like McCain just because he tepidly throws them a few policy bones, conservatism will be not merely neutralized, but will remain complicit in the inexorable march of liberal modernity/postmodernity.

Things are every bit as bad as Professor Bauman has stated rather eloquently here. Christians of good will have had their clocks cleaned politically for a long time now. That is because there are core parts of modernity which are set firmly against not merely Christianity specifically but nature generally, and we - that is, political 'conservatives' - are adrift in them. Unless and until we find our anchor political conservatism will continue to be nothing but a foil for the hard Left, a way station where men of good will can be held while being spoon fed acceptance of the latest hard-Left atrocity.

The reason we always lose even when we win is because we are frogs in a pot, being slowly brought to a boil.

A Few Good Men

Via Jihad Watch's Raymond Ibrahim comes this must-see video from the Arabic-language satellite TV station Al-Haya (Life TV). Al-Haya is, as Ibrahim describes it, a Christian missionary TV station aimed at converting Muslims. Ibrahim doesn't mention where it is based, perhaps deliberately. I would guess in the U.S., but it would be entirely understandable if the location were kept secret. The two hosts of the show "Daring Question," known only by their first names, take telephone calls from Muslims around the world about Islam and Christianity.

In this Youtube clip, subtitled in English, they receive a call from a Moroccan woman named Sana, calling from the UK. Sana has come to believe that Christianity is true but is terrified lest her husband find out, because she believes he will divorce her and take her children away from her. She cannot lose her children, she feels, and she wants her children to be Christians, too. The hosts pray for her and with her over the phone.

Continue reading "A Few Good Men" »

October 27, 2008

New blog by a pro-life physician

An e-mail correspondent just sent me news of this new blog by Eric Telfer, a physician with whom I have corresponded to my profit in years past. It looks good. (He appears to have comments disabled.) Warning: Disturbing abortion-related picture presently on the page.

HT Alex Pruss (from whose blog my correspondent learned of Eric's blog)

October 28, 2008

Where's my referral?

I have reported earlier on the new law in Victoria, Australia, that mandates that any doctor who has conscientious objections to abortion refer women who consult him on the subject to a doctor who has no such objections.

There seems to be a particularly insane liberal idea going about that a doctor who does not offer a woman such a referral is, or plausibly may be, "harming" her, since if such conscientious objections are widespread it may become difficult (heaven forbid!) for an abortion-seeking woman to get "access" to this all-important service. One commentator at Secondhand Smoke, speaking of a doctor who refused to provide a referral, literally alluded to the phrase, "Your right to swing your arm is limited by the point where my nose begins." Get that? Refusing to help a woman have her child terminated is like hitting her in the nose. Upon questioning, he was willing to qualify this a bit by saying that his point stands if it's genuinely hard for her to get an abortion as a result of the refusal of a referral. Poor lady.

What is supposed to happen in Victoria if all doctors have conscientious objections and hence have no one to whom to refer abortion-seeking women is, as far as I know, a question the law does not address. But the intent is clear: Pro-lifers are not to be allowed to prevent abortion by changing the culture so that doctors stop performing abortions and abortions become hard to get as a result. That would be hurting women. "A woman has a right to an abortion" is now to be taken with the strictest literalness: A woman has a right to be given an abortion by someone or other, and by golly, if you won't do it, you'd better make sure she can find somebody else who will.

Thinking about this particularly horrific craziness inspired the following thought: Liberals have succeeded in changing our culture in their direction quite radically, so that we conservatives have difficulty obtaining access to things and services we want. Herewith, I claim a right to some stuff that I'm having trouble finding. I demand access. If you won't give these things to me, I want a referral. Let's see if readers can add to the list.

Continue reading "Where's my referral?" »

October 30, 2008

Some brief arguments for dualism, Part IV

On my personal blog, I have been writing a series of posts summarizing in a relatively brief way some of the main arguments for the immateriality of the human mind. W4 readers might find them of interest. What follows is the latest installment of the series. Earlier installments can be found here, here, and here, with a related post here (though what follows is largely independent of these earlier posts).

Continue reading "Some brief arguments for dualism, Part IV" »