What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


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

« February 2011 | Main | April 2011 »

March 2011 Archives

March 1, 2011

The Kimyal receive the New Testament in their own language

This is an inspiring video:

The Kimyal People Receive the New Testament from UFM Worldwide on Vimeo.

After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.... (Revelation 7:9-10)

Here at What's Wrong With the World we are dedicated to the "defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ." There is a real sense in which the Kimyal are not part of that civilization, yet in another sense they are.

Continue reading "The Kimyal receive the New Testament in their own language" »

March 3, 2011

Franklin County, OH--sued for taking Islam into account

Child Protection Services officials in Franklin County, OH, have been sued for, among other things, documenting the fact that parents whose children were removed because of violent abuse were Muslims. The officials concluded that the mother and stepfather severely beat the 16-year-old son for "not being a good Muslim." The daughters were also removed after the parents allegedly forced them to work excessively long hours in the family store and failed to provide proper medical care; because the daughters were not placed in a Muslim foster home, one of them actually (I know this will shock you) chose to sing in the church choir of her foster family.

In return, the family sued the agency in 2006. (The case must be moving very slowly to be in the news in 2011.) The judge has dismissed charges against everyone but one case worker, who has been grilled for having noted in the case file, in relation to the conflict between the parents and the son, that the parents were "strict Muslims." The family's lawyer asked her whether she would have noted that parents were "strict Christians." (Ya think?) Naturally, the case worker answered that she might have done so in parallel circumstances.

If the name "Franklin County, OH" sounds familiar to you, it should. That was the county in which the Rifqa Bary hullabaloo took place, or at least from which it started. It was noteworthy that Franklin County CPS refused to investigate Rifqa's allegations of her father's threats against her and also that both the judge and the social workers were adamant that Islam not be brought into the case in any form, despite the fact that Rifqa herself insisted that Islam was relevant and was the cause of her father's threats.

I imagine that many local agencies would take the same line that Franklin County took in Rifqa's case. It didn't require much more explanation than a general desire not to rile the Muslims. But the fact that there was apparently already one punitive lawsuit taking place because Franklin County dared to notice the role of Islam in a child abuse case does also have some explanatory force. The burned child fears the fire.

HT: Jihad Watch

March 5, 2011

Catholic hospital dehydrating immigrant woman to death

As Wesley J. Smith says, for shame. Forced exit goes to a new level in the United States: An ostensibly Catholic hospital, Georgetown University Medical Center, is presently dehydrating Rachel Nyirahabiyambere to death against the unified wishes of her family and without even the legal fig leaf of claiming that this is what she "would have wanted." The reason given is naked cost rationing. The court refused to appoint an attorney for Rachel herself and instead appointed an unrelated guardian for her who had been selected by an attorney paid by the hospital. This faux "guardian" expressly justifies her unilateral decision to dehydrate Rachel on cost grounds:

Hospitals cannot afford to allow families the time to work through their grieving process by allowing the relatives to remain hospitalized until the family reaches the acceptance stage, if that ever happens,” Ms. Sloan said in an e-mail. “Generically speaking, what gives any one family or person the right to control so many scarce health care resources in a situation where the prognosis is poor, and to the detriment of others who may actually benefit from them?”

That's a guardian? No, a guardian is supposed to be concerned for the best interests of the ward! This is utterly horrible and scandalous. May God judge those who are doing so. Rachel is still alive at this time. We can pray that the family will somehow obtain legal help allowing some sort of emergency stay of the death sentence. And the local bishop should revoke the hospital's "Catholic" status.

March 6, 2011

The zero-sum game

More than one article on the recent High Court ruling in England about Mr. and Mrs. Johns's desire to give foster care has focused on the irony: In a country with an actual establishment of religion, the judges ruled that Christianity has "no place" in the law in England. An irony indeed. But the real story, which is to say, the really urgent story, is to be found not in that irony but in the title of the linked piece: "Christianity isn't dying, it's being eradicated."

Mr. and Mrs. Johns were not asking on the basis of the Anglican establishment and a central role of Christianity in English law that they be allowed to provide foster care. They were asking on the basis of common sense and, for what it's worth, the fact that British non-discrimination law supposedly includes religion, that they not be discriminated against as foster parents merely because of their belief that homosexual acts are wrong--which they rightly call "normal, mainstream, Christian views." They were asking that they be able to continue to offer the foster care they had previously offered for many years, to the benefit of many children.

What the judges' ruling really means is not merely that Britain no longer recognizes an establishment of religion as having any particular force in law. That probably went without saying a long time ago. What their ruling means instead is that aggressive, anti-Christian secularism with a pro-homosexual component is itself the state religion of England and that dissenters from this state religion will be disfavored by the state.

Continue reading "The zero-sum game" »

March 7, 2011

Thanking God for Free Speech and Dead Soldiers

In re Snyder v. Phelps, the Supreme Court ruled in Phelps' favor. He's the founder and pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church, coming to us, I believe, out of Topeka, Kansas. He and his rowdy band can contine to hurl epithets and wave offensive signs (e.g., "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "God hates fags") at soldiers' funerals. Local ordinances can keep them a certain distance from the scene, but they can't be made to shut up. Mr. Snyder was initially awarded several millions in damages for "invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress," (sounds like a tort claim that could only be upheld, I presume, by denying WBC's right to free speech) but that was overturned by the next court up and every court thereafter.

The case was argued before the Supreme Court on Phelps' behalf, successfully, by his daughter Margie, a member of the flock and an attorney. She thinks such things as that the explosion of the space shuttle Colombia and the mass murder of Americans on 9-11 were God's will. Whatever that means. One gets the sense she means "God's punishment." She also said of little 9 year old Christina Taylor Green, one of those murdered during the Tuscon shooting that wounded Congresswoman Giffords, that the child was better off dead, and her church wanted to picket that funeral too. (I don't know what stopped them.) Oh, and President Obama is going to hell, and is "most likely" the Beast spoken of in Revelation. Asked if she saw any difference between a fallen American soldier and the Al-Qaeda terrorist who kills innocents, she said that yes she did: the soldier is worse.

She may be right that America is rapidly spiraling down a hellhole, but for some reason this doesn't make me rejoice in the deaths of soldiers and 9 year old girls. Maybe I just don't read the Bible right, or adequately understand the beauty of free speech no matter how foul its form.

Margie Phelps' interview with Chris Wallace:

March 9, 2011

Civil discourse

Perhaps the liberals can tell us one more time about how the conservatives are the ones who drag down civil discourse. The FBI has recently arrested Theodore Shulman for persistent threats "transmitted across state lines" against a whole range of pro-life writers and bloggers. In the course of the threats he taunted his victims by telling them that the FBI would do nothing about his actions. Frankly, given the current administration, I'm rather pleasantly surprised that he was wrong.

Let's hope he's put away for a good, hard stretch.

(Cue commentators saying that Shulman isn't a liberal and that this has nothing to do with politics.)

HT: Scott W.

March 10, 2011

In Defense of Public Media


The prospect of de-funding National Public Radio, long controlled by the political Left, understandably has many conservatives and libertarians salivating with glee. De-funding may be a good idea at this point - it's possible that the present system is beyond reform - but ultimately the goal ought to be the funding of public radio and television that truly works in the national interest.

Government has a vital role beyond lawmaking and law enforcement. Charged with "promoting the general welfare", the state helps to set the moral, cultural, and even the spiritual tone of the nation. Public media can be valuable component of this program, a powerful force for influencing culture and the common good. A genuinely conservative government will not neglect to employ its advantages. Let's take a look at some of those advantages.

Continue reading "In Defense of Public Media" »

Cans of worms

This post is no doubt going to open various cans of worms, but things have been a bit quiet here at W4 lately, so a few cans of worms may not do much harm.

Ed Feser recently put up this brief post about Frank Beckwith and Intelligent Design. (See also here.) In reading some responses to a link to Feser elsewhere (on Facebook, to be specific), I was struck and puzzled by a certain approach to this topic. Here's how the response goes, approximately: "The courts were right to ban the teaching of intelligent design in science classes, because ID is by definition not science [insert your favorite demarcationist riff here], so it's a violation of contract, or fraudulent, or academic malpractice, to teach ID in a science class. There would be no problem if it were taught in a class labeled 'Metaphysics' instead." (These statements remind me of this article in First Things by Robert T. Miller from 2006.)

When people say these kinds of things in this context, they are ignoring something. (Miller, to be fair, does a bit better, but he does seem to me to fudge somewhat on the matter.)

It is not unconstitutional to teach in Course A content that should more properly be taught in Course B.

Now, full disclosure--I think all this demarcationist talk is misguided (there goes one can of worms). So I don't grant the premises of the criticism of ID as "metaphysics rather than science" anyway. But even if one did grant them, why in the world is all this high-falutin' talk about mislabeling classes and metaphysics being brought up in the context of a constitutional argument? Schools and teachers teach subject matter of dubious relevance in classes funded by public monies all the time. Has anyone noticed the prevalence of bare-faced political advocacy in humanities classes for the past several decades? We can understandably object to such proceedings, but there's nothing unconstitutional about them.

It wouldn't be an "establishment of religion" to teach metaphysics in science class even if the philosophers who try to make this demarcation were right. This shouldn't need to be said, but since this "ID should be called metaphysics" trope has become increasingly common, especially among, I'm sorry to say, Catholic ID-haters (there goes another can of worms), it gets brought out and proudly displayed whenever someone starts talking about whether ID should be able to be taught in public schools. But in that context, it's just a change of subject.

March 11, 2011

Guest Post: Obama and the Defense of Marriage Act


By Tony M

On February 23, President Obama managed to do an extremely effective end-run around the middle-of-the-field blocking that stands between his pro-homosexual “same sex marriage” agenda and the state of law and jurisprudence in the country. Obama told the Justice Dept. to stop offering arguments on two same-sex marriage cases: Pedersen v. OPM (2nd Circuit) and Windsor v. United States (1st Circuit). Each of these are challenges to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that says that for federal purposes, “marriage” means only a union between one man and one woman. While the President says that the Justice Dept. will continue to enforce the law, it will no longer defend its constitutionality in court. Justifying his former as well as current actions, Mr. Obama insists that although the former Justice Dept.'s defenses of the act, based on the “rational basis” standard, were reasonable, the proper testing standard is a higher level standard, such as the “compelling reason” standard, and it cannot pass that test.

While he couched the issue (using the Attorney General) as a limited legal one, make no mistake: this move, the entire point of this maneuver, if it stands, is to have the impact of removing all legal impediments to gay marriage. It may take a couple more years and a few more chess moves, but the intended results are as clear and nearly as certain as anything in politics can be: that there will be no federal impediment to gay “marriage”, and any state impediment that you could imagine will run into such enormous problems that almost all of the states will cave in. That’s the idea, at least.

Continue reading "Guest Post: Obama and the Defense of Marriage Act" »

March 12, 2011

Double Trouble, or Double Effect?

A couple of weeks ago at First Things' On the Square blog, George Weigel defended the prinicple of double-effect against attempts to apply it to the Phoenix case, in which Bishop Olmstead determined that St. Joseph's hospital had carried out a direct abortion. The argument in favor of applying it is presumably that the woman's life was in imminent danger, and that therefore the baby could be aborted as an unfortunate and foreseen, but unintended, bad effect of saving the woman's life, an unquestionable good.

Continue reading "Double Trouble, or Double Effect?" »

Follow-Up: Rachel Nyirahabiyambere being fed and hydrated

Wesley J. Smith has contacts. This can be a very good thing. He reports today via his contacts that Rachel Nyirahabiyambere, the woman I wrote about here, is alive and being fed and hydrated again. She went for over two weeks without food or fluids, but her children managed to obtain legal help, and a court has ordered that her food and fluids be restarted. Where things will go from here is anyone's guess. Is this merely a reprieve or a long-term block on the blatant attempt to kill her as a "useless eater"? I don't know. But for now, this is very good news.

Mere Libertarianism

I have long thought of myself, and sometimes described myself, as a sort of libertarian. But when I hear what other people have to say about it, sometimes I wonder. Both critics and proponents of libertarianism always seem to be saying things about it that go way beyond my understanding of the position.

For example, my former co-blogger Zippy Catholic seems to associate libertarianism with the pursuit of absolute autonomy - of a society (if it could be called that) of "free and equal supermen." And my present co-blogger Jeff Culbreath apparently sees it as a sort of "cult" of the individual and of property.

On the other hand, "liberaltarians" like Brink Lindsey and Will Wilkinson seem to believe that it represents some sort of advance for libertarianism when people not only stop imposing various traditional mores by law, but actually start celebrating the transgression of those mores.

All this seems wrong to me. I don't find notions of absolute autonomy very compelling, or even very comprehensible, and I certainly don't pine for a world of free, let alone equal, supermen. Nor do I see anything sacred about "the individual" or "property," as such. And while I think that libertarianism requires one to leave everybody from neo-nazis to transvestites in peace, it certainly doesn't ask one to love, or even to tolerate, them, if that means anything beyond leaving them alone.

So I guess my idea of "libertarianism" must be relatively minimal - what one might call, with apologies to C. S. Lewis, "mere" libertarianism. I'd describe it kind of like this:

Continue reading "Mere Libertarianism" »

March 14, 2011

Witness for a New Century

In the current (Spring) issue of Houston Baptist University's The City, I review Richard Reinsch's book Whittaker Chambers: The Spirit of a Counterrevolutionary, from ISI Books.

Chambers’ profound worry was that all this brute materialism and reductionism would conquer by means of the Communist enterprise. He was wrong in that baleful judgment. But he was not wrong in fearing that the resistance to Communist would corrupt the West by forcing it to absorb and embrace much of Communist doctrine. Thus his famous antipathy for Ayn Rand. Thus his strong critique of Austrian economics. As Reinsch puts it, “Self-interest becomes despotic when it is no longer governed by the higher and nobler obligations of love, sacrifice, and the numerous loyalties that exist in a humane society.” A wholly materialist opposition to Communism would erect its own version of the “vast, impersonal force and order, a system without sacrificial love or mercy, the person realized in a state of masterful sovereignty over self and others not similarly clever or acquisitive.”

In this light Chambers’ essay on St. Benedict in Clare Boothe Luce’s excellent collection Saints for Now (still available through Ignatius Press) stands as the most concise statement of his teaching. I fancy that there are few greater essays written in the 20th century than this one. In it, Chambers speaks of “three great alienations of the spirit ... [which] can be seen at their work of dissolution among ourselves, and are perhaps among the little noticed reasons why men turn to Communism. They are: the alienation of the spirit of man from traditional authority; his alienation from the idea of traditional order; and a crippling alienation that he feels at the point where civilization has deprived him of the joy of simple productive labor.”

There is much to learn from that essay, and all of Chambers’ writings. Here is a man who, despite his earthy participation in the 20th century, still instructs us (if we let him) in the 21st. We whose sudden privation is precisely a result of our abstraction of wealth from human things, we who profess salvation by technique, can profit much by Chambers’ instruction.

Read more; the issue is viewable online. Or just subscribe here.

Insert Foot

I can't help admiring Lawrence Auster, for his sheer cussedness. But, really this is too much:

"How do the Darwinians explain the prevalence of male baldness in much of the white race (the Irish being the big exception)? That a man 50,000 years ago had an accidental genetic mutation which caused him to lose his hair, and the women in his tribe were more attracted to him with his bald head than to all the other hairy men, and so he had more offspring than the hairy ones, and so the genetic mutation for baldness spread through the population?"

Well, ummm, no, Larry - I don't think that's how "Darwinians" would try to explain male pattern baldness.

It's actually a (mildly) interesting question: why does male pattern baldness exist? Is there a "Darwinian" explanation?

Heck if I know - but, knowing evolutionary theorists as I do, I'd be willing to bet that they can come up with a dozen or so reasonably plausible hypotheses in about as many minutes.

Apparently, our Larry thinks that the existence of male pattern baldness is simply inexplicable, absent the intervention of the God of the Gaps.

March 15, 2011

Contract killing

As Wesley J. Smith points out, when he was in law school he was taught that X's agreeing to be murdered does not make killing X legally something other than murder. And a good thing, too. Well, as usual, the UK is leading us into a new world. In Brave New Britain, that isn't true anymore, evidently.

Michael Bateman put a bag over the head of his wife Margaret and pumped in gas to kill her. She was in a lot of pain that wasn't getting properly treated because the moronic medical establishment didn't diagnose her broken pelvis. (It was discovered after her death.) She was also depressed about not being able to do normal things like taking showers. That's it. She wasn't dying, if you think that's a relevant consideration. (I don't.) So she and Michael planned her death, and he killed her, because she apparently couldn't do it herself. The prosecutor has declared that it "isn't in the public interest" to prosecute Michael, presumably because Margaret agreed to be murdered.

In the current context of recent posts, I'm almost afraid to ask whether mere libertarianism would mean that agreeing to have yourself killed with plastic bags and gas means that everything is A-okay and no prosecution should be carried out against your killer. I'm pretty sure I know the answer. And that, folks, is just one reason that, while I'll defend small government all over the place, I don't carry a libertarian card.

March 16, 2011

Privatizing Highways


"The main objective, after all, is to develop a truly free market in highway service, and that requires that only those projects that are seen by investors as promising a reasonable prospect of making a return on total investment be built ... So there is a case for radicalism -- for legislating that government will get out of highways and phase down the taxes that currently support them. Henceforth they will be funded by investors charging tolls and subject to competition."

One way in which urban areas have been said to subsidize rural areas - and "blue" states to subsidize "red" states - is by the funding of roads and highways. Thinkers as diverse as libertarians and distributists, from Milton Friedman to John Medaille [Correction: Medaille does not propose privatizing highways. Please see note at bottom of entry. - JC], have proposed the privatization of highways as a means of correcting the perceived inequity. Their shared belief is that those who use highways should be the ones who pay for them, and those who do not use them should not have to pay for them. Besides, don't highway subsidies result in too many highways? As Cato's Peter Samuel argues in "Highway Aggravation: The Case For Privatizing The Highways", and as every good conservative understands, "projects that would not fly without subsidy usually should not fly".

(By the way, the Cato article linked and quoted above is not without some valuable insights and is well worth a read. On the matter of traffic congestion, Samuel writes: "At least three-quarters of the increase in traffic has nothing at all to do with population. It has everything to do with women and young people getting their own cars. That explains why areas of the country with little population growth have not been spared the upsurge of traffic on the roads.")

Continue reading "Privatizing Highways" »

March 18, 2011

More on the Zero-sum game

Not all sociological developments are predictable. This truism is nowhere illustrated more strikingly than in the way that the homosexual agenda has become the vehicle for the totalitarian liberal agenda--systematic discrimination against Christians and the tearing down of all that remains of normal and conservative society and resistance to liberal ideologues' control.

I think it would have been hard to predict this development, or at least the extent and speed of it. Thirty years ago, feminism seemed set to play that role, and indeed, feminism has helped a great deal. But for sweeping totalitarian precedents like the recent blocking of the Johns couple in Britain from providing foster care or the expulsion of Julea Ward from EMU's counseling program, the homosexual agenda has been the catalyst. It has been made clear now, as I have said elsewhere: This is a zero-sum game. Christians who hold traditional moral views on homosexual acts are going to be targeted, flushed out, forced to say shibboleth, or driven out of all manner of professions and roles in society, including, as in the Johns case, providing care to children--a particularly ominous portent. And it would have been hard to predict that that particular ideology would play that central role here in the early twenty-first century.

In fairness, I should say that an old high school teacher of mine, Mr. Blinder (if he ever reads this, hi, Mr. Blinder!) did move in the direction of predicting it. My conservative Christian high school took a field trip to the Illinois capitol building for a rally against the Equal Rights Amendment. I was a bit of a smart aleck and, standing in the rotunda before the rally, I tried to suggest that perhaps the ERA had some value in the way of guaranteeing "equal pay" for women. (I don't know where I'd picked up this phrase, and I actually had no idea what I was talking about.) Mr. Blinder snorted. He pointed out that laws already on the books dealt with that issue and then uttered these prophetic words, "This is part of the homosexual agenda. It's supposed to open the way to homosexuals getting married." I note: This conversation occurred, if I recall correctly, in 1980. As a matter of fact, the Hawaii Supreme Court did cite the state's ERA in support of same-sex "marriage." (Mr. Blinder was here echoing Phyllis Schlafly, whom we saw at that rally. Her prediction was also borne out by the Massachusetts decision on same-sex "marriage," as discussed by Volokh here.)

Reader Untenured makes a shrewd comment in an earlier thread about the relationship between leftism and the homosexual agenda:

I think this is part of the reason why the homosexual movement is so near and dear to (certain) leftist's hearts. A major theme among leftists in the Marxist tradition is that social arrangements that seem normal, natural and inevitable are in fact contingent, malleable, and arbitrary. Hence all of the late-vintange art and literature that portrays normalcy in a critical light in order to get people to "see" absurdity in the everyday and to open them up to the possibility of "radical" political and economic transformation. To destroy the idea that the family is a normal and inevitable social arrangement is about as foundational an act of "radical" political transformation as is possible. In this respect, the homosexual movement has much of the same tone and tenor of the Marxist-left.

Continue reading "More on the Zero-sum game" »

Weapons nearest at hand

During this period not a trace of class warfare is to be seen. This concord may have been sincere. One sole passion paramount to other passions pervaded all classes: a spirit of resistance to the government as to the common enemy, a spirit of opposition throughout, in small as well as in great affairs, assuming all kinds of shapes, including those which disfigured it.

Some, to resist government, laid stress on what remained of old local privileges. Here a man stood up for some old privilege of his class, there another for some special right of his profession. In his ardor everyone grasped the weapon of argument nearest at hand, even when it was the least suited to him. It almost seemed as if the object of the impending revolution was not to destroy but to restore the old regime. For it is difficult for individuals carried along by great movements to see amongst the causes the real motive by which they themselves are moved. Who would have imagined that the passion which caused the assertion of all these traditional rights was the very one which irresistibly led to their complete abolition?

— Tocqueville, The European Revolution, 1857 (unfinished second volume of The Ancient Regime and the Revolution).

In Remembrance

Today is the sixth anniversary of the judicially ordered murder of Terri Schiavo. Lydia wrote an article for Touchstone a couple of years ago (not available online) based on her longer, and thoroughly devastating, review of the judicial proceedings at The Christendom Review, and for which she received a grateful response from Terri's father, now deceased. Not long after Terri's death, she wrote a letter to the editor of First Things, responding to an article by Robert Miller. You'll find it slightly over halfway down the page, along with Miller's response.

And there is my own reflection at Touchstone, from March 2005. I still think of her a lot, and hope other people do too.

[Update]: I neglected to mention that Lydia's TCR article draws heavily on witness testimony, the complete transcripts of which are available online (and possibly anywhere else in the world) only here.
[Up-update]: And her Touchstone article, "Road to a Kill," is now available here.

March 20, 2011

A lesson for the world

At the same time when the third estate was invited to participate in the assembly of the nation, it was accorded an unlimited facility to express its complaints and declare its requests.

In the cities which were to send deputies to the Estates- General, the entire population was called upon to give its advice about the abuses to be corrected and the demands to be made. Anyone might express his grievance in his own way. The means were as simple as the political procedure was bold. Down to the Estates-General of 1614, in every town, and even in Paris, a large box was placed in the market place to receive the complaints and opinions of anyone, which a committee sitting at the Hotel de Ville was to sift and examine. Out of all these diverse remonstrances a document was drawn up which, under the humble title of “Grievances,” expressed with the greatest liberty and frequently with singularly bitter language the complaints of all and of each.

[. . .]

In 1789 the third estate to be represented in the Estates- General no longer consisted, as in 1614, of the urban bourgeoisie alone but of twenty million peasants scattered over the whole kingdom. Until then these had never taken any interest in public affairs; for them politics was not even the accidental memory of another age: it was, in every respect, a novelty. Thus ancient liberties were being extended to new people with their ancient effects in mind, and the results turned out to be the exact opposite of those of three hundred years ago.

Meanwhile, on a certain day, the church bells of every rural parish of France called the people to the market place. There, for the first time in the history of the monarchy, they were called upon to compose what was still called in the medieval fashion the cahier of grievances of the third estate.

In those countries where political assemblies are elected by universal suffrage, every general election must deeply involve the people unless their freedom of voting is a lie. But here not only a universal vote but a universal deliberation and inquest were to be taken. Every citizen of one of the greatest nations in the world was asked not what he thought of this or that particular problem but what he had to say against every law and every social and political institution of his country. I think that no such spectacle had ever been seen before.

Continue reading "A lesson for the world" »

Guest Post: The Scandal No One in the American Church is Talking About

By Jeffrey T. Singer

[Our good friend Jeff Singer has just launched his own blog: "ImNotHerzog". In celebration, we're happy to host this guest post. Please RTWT, and then please pay him a visit! - SB]

Millions of Catholics living in America are liars and the Catholic Church, at all levels, from the U.S. Bishops to priests in local parishes, is not speaking out publically about these lies. Perhaps those who are lying have confessed their sins and the priests, through individual pastoral care, are urging repentance and a change of heart to live in truth and make amends to those who have been deceived – somehow, though, I doubt it as I think we would notice the change.

What the heck am I talking about?

Continue reading "Guest Post: The Scandal No One in the American Church is Talking About" »

March 21, 2011

Speaking of Illegal Immigration...

It seems that some folks at the New York Times are all bent out of shape, because a few illegal Haitian immigrants, who have been convicted of crimes in the U.S., are getting repatriated - and finding conditions in their country of origin not at all to their liking! Behold:

Ughhh. "Embedding disabled by request."

So you'll just have to follow one of these links:



Take your pick - you will be richly rewarded with one of the all-time masterpieces of unintentional hilarity.

Continue reading "Speaking of Illegal Immigration..." »

March 22, 2011

Just don't do anything Peter Singer wouldn't do

Well, now. Peter Singer has gotten himself all indignant that Priests for Life raised and used private charitable dollars to snatch Baby Joseph from the Canadian health care system and bring him to the United States. That was expensive, and lots of other children whom Singer would prefer to help could have been helped with "that money" (or that same amount of money) instead, if only everyone in the world would do what Peter Singer wants them to do.

Let's think about this: If someone like Rachel Nyirahabiyambere is left in the hospital and given food and water on someone's dime other than hers, her insurance's, her family's, or charity's, the indignant tell us that the family has no right to commandeer other people's resources to "keep their mother alive." In the Baby Joseph case, the money is coming from willing donors, but...well...somehow, that's not good enough.

See, evidently Priests for Life and their willing donors aren't being "rational," as Singer would use that term, with their dollars. They weren't efficient. Baby Joseph is expensive and may well die anyway. You could offer lots of other babies help for the price of one Baby Joseph. What's not to love? How crazy are these Priests for Life anyway not to choose the bulk deal in baby-saving?

Singer's arrogant indignation is almost laughable. How dare people give their own money to the wrong charity to help the wrong child? How dare Priests for Life solicit their money for this purpose? How dare they use their money in a way that Peter Singer wouldn't use it? Perhaps we need a "charity czar" to make sure charity dollars are all spent according to Singer's utilitarian calculus. Oh, wait. It wouldn't be charity then.

Choice for the parents? Phooey on that. They shouldn't have a choice to do the "irrational" thing even if that choice is granted to them by willing private donors. "This ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor."

Wesley J. Smith sums it up perfectly:

So, we see the real utilitarian agenda here. And we see the hollowness of Singer’s “preference” approach to utilitarian decision making. It isn’t parental empowerment. It isn’t family intimate decision making. Their “preferences” don’t matter in a futile care imposition. In other words, the consistent through line of Singer’s approaches is the death of disabled infants.

We don’t have to choose between caring for profoundly disabled individuals and helping children who can lead “healthy, happy lives.” In fact, such thinking reveals the profoundly bigoted heart that lurks within the passive prose of Singer’s utilitarian advocacy.

Related post here.

Getting Immigration Right


As a continuation of the conversation below, I thought it might be helpful to point out that the Catholic Church didn't suddenly discover the immigration issue in a fit of political correctness after the Second Vatican Council.

Pope Pius XII's Exsul Familia Nazarethena summarizes the Catholic position here beautifully:

"The natural law itself, no less than devotion to humanity, urges that ways of migration be opened to these people. For the Creator of the universe made all good things primarily for the good of all. Since land everywhere offers the possibility of supporting a large number of people, the sovereignty of the State, although it must be respected, cannot be exaggerated to the point that access to this land is, for inadequate or unjustified reasons, denied to needy and decent people from other nations, provided of course, that the public wealth, considered very carefully, does not forbid this."

The "natural law itself" urges that migrants and refugees be accommodated, considering that "the public wealth" does not forbid it. How "the public wealth" is defined and measured is bound to be hotly debated, but for Catholics that debate will be informed by traditional principles of justice and charity as applied to the common good, and will not neglect to safeguard the interests of the Catholic religion and its adherents.

The document is quite long, so I've pasted a few more relevant excerpts:

Continue reading "Getting Immigration Right" »

March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor, R.I.P.

Elizabeth Taylor was arguably the greatest of all Hollywood "stars" - the star to end all stars, one might almost say.

But was she a great actress? Was she even a good actress?

It would be easy to answer that question with a resounding "no." For example, her performance as Katharina in Zeffirelli's film of "The Taming of the Shrew" (1967) is, by any objective standard, perfectly dreadful - however irresistably watchable it may be:

Continue reading "Elizabeth Taylor, R.I.P." »

Thursday roundup

In April of 2009, a Florida judge struck down a local ordinance which prohibited wearing saggy pants in public, declaring the law "unconstitutional". (What, you didn't know that you have a constitutional right to walk about town with your pants around your knees? Consider yourself duly informed.) I blogged about a similar ordinance in 2007, but never followed up with the legal challenges. I know I should be outraged at stories of judicial insanity like this, but find myself wavering instead between despair and indifference. It's out of control, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Please tell me I'm wrong.


At the same time, one may be encouraged by other stories which suggest that reality and ordinary common sense are hard to exterminate. Despite the best efforts of America's liberal intelligentsia to promote women to the forefront of everything, male writers still dominate in the world of publishing. Naturally, the news isn't being taken very well by some:

"Ack. This is so sickening. It reminds me of how Joanne Rowling had to put 'J.K. Rowling' on her American books, because it was felt that boys wouldn’t read books written by a woman. Sickening, sickening, sickening." - Laura
"As long as FAMILY issues are treated as WOMEN’S issues, women will have fewer opportunities to contribute in other areas, because so much of their collective time and energy must be spent on FAMILY. As long as women in this country are treated as less fully human than men, men will have more opportunities to contribute, and they will perpetuate their own perspectives, often by promoting the work of other men over that of women." - Leslie Spitz-Edson


This article by Mark T. Mitchell at Front Porch Republic, on the relevance of Wendell Berry's agrarianism to life in the city, is well worth a read:

Our entire economy, our very culture of work, leisure, and home is constructed around the idea of easy mobility and the disintegration of various aspects of our lives. We live in one place, work in another, shop in another, worship in another, and take our leisure somewhere else. According to Berry, an integrated life, a life of integrity, is one characterized by membership in a community in which one lives, works, worships, and conducts the vast majority of other human activities. The choice is stark: “If we do not live where we work, and when we work, we are wasting our lives, and our work too.”

Continue reading "Thursday roundup" »

March 25, 2011

A Canticle For Leibowitz

My text today, though I write of one book, is taken from a different book, though the two could scarcely be more different in style and tone. I introduce Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz with the words of Faramir, from The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien:

For myself...I would see the White Tree in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in Peace: Minas Anor again as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens:...War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Numenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom.

When this blog was in the planning stage, there was a discussion among the charter members as to what its name should be. One suggestion that came up was "The Order of St. Leibowitz"--an allusion to the book by Walter M. Miller.

It would have been an obscure blog name, hard to pronounce and likely to confuse, and it's just as well that we did not choose it. The predecessor blog to this on which several of us had written, Enchiridion Militis, had suffered from a title problem of that sort, and there was no reason to perpetuate it.

But the point behind the suggestion remains a good one. Miller's three-part novel--really, a series of novellas--is all about preserving what can be preserved, even in unlikely places. After a nuclear holocaust, the monks of the new Order of Leibowitz preserve the remnants of man's scientific knowledge, remnants they do not understand themselves but know to be important, in the desert of what used to be Utah. Through the hundreds of years the book covers, during which man drags himself back from the brink of destruction, rediscovers scientific learning and technology, and rebuilds civilization, the abbey remains. At the end there is, of course, another nuclear holocaust, but the Church has obtained a spaceship in which it sends away a group of children led by nuns and a representative of the Order, the last hope of the human race preserved by the Church which has preserved all else throughout human history.

The Latin Mass is a constant thread in the book (published in 1960, before Vatican II), and it provides a symbol of the continuity of the Church no matter what the rest of man may do. Miller even has some fun with the language; the second chapter contains a meditation by a monk, confronted with the mind-boggling phrase "fallout survival shelter," on the difficulties of English and the superiority of Latin.

Canticle is strange, funny, dark, and truly great; there is something ineliminably gritty about it, something even overwhelming. It is not for those who like lighthearted fiction. Pain and deformity are constants. The nuclear disasters have left many strange genetic sports indeed, called "the Pope's children" because the Pope has saved many of their lives by stern injunctions against killing them. Here, too, there is a gleam of Miller's dark humor, as the "Pope's children" are not particularly grateful--indeed, know nothing of the favor done to them--and end the first novella by killing and eating a monk returning through the desert from an audience with the Pope.

At the same time, Canticle is an intensely Christian book and never succumbs to despair. A powerful exchange between a priest and an arrogant da Vinci character in the second novella shows Christianity to be the truest humanism. Thon Taddeo, the great scientist, points out the window at a peasant who has just passed by:

"Look. Can you bring yourself to believe that that brute is the lineal descendant of men who supposedly invented machines that flew, who traveled to the moon...? Can you believe there were such men?...Look at him!" the scholar persisted. "No, but it's too dark now. You can't see the syphilis outbreak on his neck, the way the bridge of his nose is being eaten away. Peresis. But he was undoubtedly a moron to begin with. Illiterate, superstitious, murderous....Look at him, and tell me if you see the progeny of a once-mighty civilization? What do you see?"

"The image of Christ," grated the monsignor, surprised at his own sudden anger. "What did you expect me to see?"

Continue reading "A Canticle For Leibowitz" »

March 26, 2011

Fragment on Revolution

I have said (in what is probably an appropriation but I’ve forgotten the source) that a plutocracy is an aristocracy of wealth. It is a society where, martial valor having once been the source of rulership, wealth is now substituted as the source of rulership.

It is vital, in understanding this comparison, to recall that aristocracy was fundamentally a military form of government. The latter-day salons of Paris before the Revolution teemed with aristocratic hipsters playing at radical politics; they would soon lose their heads. The true fathers of the aristocratic and feudal form of government, however, were altogether sterner and more intimidating men. Their claim to rule was that they were the only men capable of raising an army and leading it in battle. And when barbarians or the Jihad or your blood-feud neighbors came with fire and steel, most folks quickly remembered that the martial form of government isn't wholly worthless.

It was the French Revolution that dealt a death-blow to this form of government, not so much by its ringing Rights of Man theories, but because it activated the middle and even the lower classes like nothing before in history. The energy unleashed in the Revolution convulsed the world for 25 years and (briefly) made France master of Europe.

Continue reading "Fragment on Revolution" »

March 27, 2011

Some are more equal than others

I dunno. I was always pretty much pro-police before I started blogging. But it really is not looking good.

Kalispell, Montana. Peaceful pro-lifers involved in the 40 Days for Life vigil at an abortion clinic. A man (apparently a man) comes by and throws some sort of incendiary at one of the pro-lifers. It goes off with a loud pop and bursts into flame just behind her. Pro-lifers call the police. Police Officer Hoover takes his sweet time about coming. When he arrives, he says he can't get any evidence from the debris and will call the city garbage folks to clean up the mess. He also charmingly tells the would-be victim that pro-lifers "should expect this kind of reaction if they’re protesting at the abortion business." Pro-lifers call his desk sergeant to complain about the lack of action and the obvious intention not to investigate and get a shrug from the desk sergeant. Desk sergeant refuses to do anything further. Thomas More Law Center is making a stink.

Boys in blue, you're using up your blue sky.

Go Thomas More.

March 28, 2011

Fragment on Commercial Republic


I think we must look at the Constitution, technically speaking, as fundamentally a Hamiltonian-Madisonian document. This not merely because of these gentlemen's influence at the Philadelphia Convention, but because of the still more enduring influence of their work The Federalist.

Now, it is of course true that The Federalist has plenty to say, by way of illustration and reflection, on matters of wider interest than the technical features of the document it defended. I enjoy aggravating modern idealists by sharply pointing out how low an estimate of human decency Publius expresses in his writings. By no means can he be said to take a rosy view of all private enterprise. The Fall is a stark and staring thing to him, and in evidence above all in the mercenary instinct. This grittiness was surely the influence of Hamilton, who had a streak of pessimism in him; some of the first businessmen he met were slave traders in the Caribbean.

But how does Publius propose, in defense of the frame of government he devised, to answer this pulverizing fact human depravity? Well, since his direct purpose is confined to the frame he designed, the final answer to that question must be left to his allusions and suggestions, alongside the later writings and actions of the men who collaborated in his authorship. These were, after all, articles in the popular press set down with an expressed intent.

So, for the purposes of the The Federalist, we get a variety of arguments generally organized under the phrase “checks and balances,” which present a system where factionalism (depravity in political form) is obstructed by its very proliferation. There is the absolutely vital states-vs.-federal distinction, later weakened and broken down by SCOTUS encroachment. There is bicameralism, which shows its quality in comparison to the usual French unitary legislature. There is the combined energy and limitation of the Executive Branch (later, also, effaced or expanded, depending how you look at it, by court jurisprudence). There is the Electoral College, which further narrows a historically wide electorate. Etc.

Continue reading "Fragment on Commercial Republic" »

March 30, 2011

Roepke on economic determinism

The University Bookman reprints a fine essay on the German centrist Wilhelm Roepke that is apropos of our recent discussions here:

In 1946, as a student in Roepke’s seminar, I was invited to his home in Champel in Geneva, a great privilege. We got to discussing the war, just over, and the immense tragedy of it, and Roepke recounted an episode in which, during the war, he has met, quite by accident, his old friend and colleague, Ludwig von Mises. He remembered von Mises saying that if only the principles of free trade had been followed from the beginning, World War II might never have happened. I don’t recall Roepke’s exact reply to this, but he was, in effect, struck dumb. And he remarked to me that it was incredible that anyone with a fair knowledge of German or of European history could reduce the German question — the darkest and most sombre question of the age, with myriad roots reaching back hundreds of years — to a mere set of economic arrangements. For Roepke, this kind of economic determinism, though employed in the defense of capitalism, is just as fallacious as the Marxian version of economic determinism, directed to the justification of the dialectic. Both are wrong in equating society and history with the economy.

So it was, too, that Roepke, a man born in 1899, hence with one foot, so to speak, in the nineteenth century, could look back on that century and, confronting the gruesome horrors of the twentieth, find a great deal to admire. In particular, he often praised the signal accomplishments of the infant capitalist economy of the early nineteenth century. But he found much to condemn in the subsequent evolution of “historic” capitalism, with its incipient tendencies toward monopolism and giantism, its obsessive materialism, its drive toward mass production and the associated erection of a mass culture based on mass consumption. He deplored the attendant shrinking of the spheres still left to individual creativity and initiative and to the “unbought graces of life,” a Burkean phrase he was fond of citing. In historic capitalism, he saw also the seeds of a later full-blown hostility to the preservation of, the small organic community, of small industry, of the peasant farmer, of a way of life made to “the measure of man.”

If Roepke himself had an obsession, it was his passionate detestation of “the cult of the colossal,” of the accoutrements of an increasingly mechanistic, quantitative, super-efficient, perfectionist, and mathematized society. He saw this cult, expanded to a culture, as the progenitor of the mass man, spiritually starved, desperately bored, and hence critically vulnerable to the new pseudo-religions of nationalism and socialism, and of their variant species, brown or red.

Do go over and browse the new Bookman website. Lots of excellent content there.

Shouldn't we all be propositionalists?

The title is deliberately provocative. A big part of the problem is that a term like "propositionalist" is not well-defined in debates about politics. Propositionalism is supposed to be bad, and it's supposed to have something to do with believing that the essence of being American is believing certain propositions. Hence, supposedly, it involves ignoring things like the love of a place and culture.

But that's not really a definition. How much love of place is necessary not to be a propositionalist? What is meant by "culture," and doesn't "culture" have something to do with beliefs? (If someone is a Christian, that involves his beliefs and will necessarily influence his cultural practices, like praying to Jesus and going to church.)

So after the manner of boring analytic philosophers the world over, I propose that we disambiguate the term, separating it into propositionalism1 and propositionalism2. I say that propositionalism1 is naive and foolish while propositionalism2 is sensible and importantly right. Here we go:

Continue reading "Shouldn't we all be propositionalists?" »

March 31, 2011

Viva Cristo Rey!

A glimpse, perhaps, of the courage that may one day be required of us. God bless the Cristeros!