What’s Wrong with the World

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January 2012 Archives

January 1, 2012

Spreading the love

Shame on me for not keeping up with the HPV vaccination controversy, but a friend has sent me an email provoked by this opinion article in the National Catholic Register, and by an NCR reader's response to it:

The article written by Maricela P. Moffitt and John F. Brehany, two leaders of the Catholic Medical Association (“HPV Immunization for Boys,” Nov. 20), has left me confused. It states the following: “HPV immunization can be an ethical option for individuals and parents to choose. Of course, no one should choose a means of protection in order to purposely facilitate immoral action. But the Church does not demand that individuals be made to suffer the full effects of their bad judgments. And healing and preventing diseases, no matter what their source, are acts of mercy.”

Now, if this is in fact official Church teaching, could someone please tell me how this would be morally acceptable but using contraception as a means to prevent an STD, such as HIV, is not? It appears there is an inconsistency here. And what about the cooperation-in-evil aspect of it all? Does not allowing an immunization for a disease that can only be contracted sexually suggest support for promiscuity and/or premarital sex?...could someone please explain to the Register readers how permitting the HPV vaccine is not an act of cooperation in a grave evil? I find this article confusing and potentially scandalous and would like clarity.

Continue reading "Spreading the love" »

January 2, 2012

The Three Best Buys in Naples

(1) M.A.N.N. - i.e., the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli.

Arguably the single greatest collection of antiquities in the world, including the Farnese collection of monumental sculpture taken from the Baths of Caracalla and elsewhere in Rome, plujs the matchless frescoes and mosaics recovered from the various Vesuvian sites - Pompei, Ercolano, Oplontis, Boscoreale & Stabiae. Ridiculously cheap at 6.50 Euros.

(2) Take-out pizza.

Avoid anyplace that advertises itself to tourists. Strike out on your own and look for locals queing up. You'll be rewarded with the best pizza you've ever even imagined, starting at about 2.50 Euros for an individual Pizza Margherita that will probably be more than you can eat at one sitting, cooked fresh in a wood-fired oven while you watch.

(3) Capodanno

New Years in Naples just has to be seen (and heard) to be believed. And even after you've seen (and heard) it, you still might not quite believe what you've just seen (and heard). The real madness begins at about dusk - 5 p.m. or so - and gradually escalates, for the next seven hours, until the big explosion at midnight - at which point you won't be able to hear yourself think, for about an hour or two.

No charge for this last. But be sure to pack some ear-plugs!

January 5, 2012

An Apology

A few days past, I made mention, in comments, of the blogger "Unamused" and his blog "Unamusement Park," citing him as a useful source of information on racially motivated black-on-white violence, while warning about his "truly foul language." Various regulars then took me to task for this mention of such a frightful racist.

I then wrote up a lengthy apologia in which I tried to explain what I would have taken to be the obvious fact that to mention somebody's blog while warning about his "truly foul language" hardly counts as an unqualified endorsement.

But, in all fairness, I thought I ought to revisit his blog before posting said apologia. So I took a couple of hours out of my day in (amazing and wonderful) Siracusa, Italia, to review his last few months of postings.

Well, what can I say, but this: I am deeply ashamed of what I said about his supposedly "foul language," and I am even more deeply ashamed of the treatment he has received here at WWWW - for which I apologize, without reservation.

The scandal of the cross

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

I Corinthians 1:22-24

Several months ago, my Irish friend David Glass drew my attention to an additional argument for the resurrection of Jesus Christ to which I had not previously given sufficient consideration--the argument from the scandal of the cross.

'Twould be time-consuming to relate all the verses in which the Apostle Paul glorifies, glories in, and declares salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ. The above is only one. Galatians 6:14 is another.

This is really rather remarkable, when you think of it. In Jewish thought, based on Deut. 21:23, being crucified indicated that one was cursed of God. The Romans and pagans thought of crucifixion as a shameful thing as well. These were not, it must be emphasized, cultures that revered the underdog or the anti-hero (more about that below). Yet the Christians identified with the cross of Christ. Baptism itself was a symbol of the believer's death (followed by resurrection) with Christ.

It simply will not do as an explanation for this to say that the early believers venerated and revered Jesus and made up some cockamamy story about salvation from sin through his death and the glory of his cross because they thought so highly of him. That isn't the kind of thing they would normally be expected to do at all. Venerating and praying at his tomb, very plausibly. Distancing themselves from him out of fear for their own skins, even moreso. (See St. Peter's denials.) But glorying in the cross? Not a chance.

The cross was a scandal, a stumblingblock. In fact, we find in the dialogue between Justin Martyr and Trypho that the curse on anyone who hangs on a tree was a sticking point in Christian witness to the Jews in the second century.

It's interesting to realize how anachronistically people approach the Christian attitude toward Jesus' death. Skeptics do it, and we Christians let them get away with it. In our own time, all sorts of causes, secular as well as religious, make vigorous use of martyrs (or "martyrs"). Anyone who is killed and whose death can be appropriated for a cause becomes a kind of posthumous hero, so that assassinating a politician is usually a sure way of making sure that he is venerated and that his name is used as a talisman. Anti-heroes and noble victims are all the rage for modern and postmodern man.

When skeptics talk about the disciples immediately after Jesus' death, they may refer to them as "revering their dead rabbi" or words to that effect. To the modern mind there is nothing particularly strange in the theory that Jesus' followers should have dreamed up out of whole cloth the idea that their crucified rabbi was God or at least was in heaven with God and could save them from their sins by belief in his name and by the power of his death. But this is projecting our own attitudes onto the first century.

And in fact, based just on the sober account in, say, Luke followed by Acts of the disciples' actions, Jesus' death did not motivate the disciples in any such way. The cross was not, all by itself, some sort of glorious symbol to them of the significance of Jesus. On the contrary, they themselves indicated that it was because of his resurrection that they preached forgiveness of sins through his name. It was because, on their view, God the Father had vindicated Jesus of Nazareth by raising him from the dead that Jesus of Nazareth was to be worshipped and that his death had saving significance. It was only because of this belief that Paul gloried in the cross. The belief that Jesus was vindicated by a resurrection miracle performed by God the Father is a much better explanation for the disciples' embracing and glorying in the cross than any alternative explanation that involves their not believing that he was raised up from the dead. Hence, if there is no plausible way that they could have come to believe this as firmly as they did without Jesus' actually being raised from the dead, the resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation of the fact that Christians, following the example and teaching of the Apostles, are not ashamed of the cross of Christ.

January 6, 2012

War against baby girls

The Global War Against Baby Girls” is the striking title of the lead essay in the new number of The New Atlantis. Therein Nicolas Eberstadt assembles some impressive evidence to defend the accusation entailed in the title. His demographic calculations demonstrate a very unnatural distortion of “the population composition of the entire human species” on an unprecedented scale. Most of this distortion, of course, derives from the most populous parts of the world, above all China, where social engineering of the atheistic variety reached its zenith. However, India, Latin America, elsewhere in Asia, and the West have joined this grand project in enlightenment: the experiment of producing a planet far more densely populated by unmarriageable males whose female siblings were executed before birth. According to Eberstadt, the numbers already extend into the 30 million range; in other words, larger than the entire NYC metro area.

One would think that this sort of thing might interest those liberals so exercised by the effect of human engineering and techne on the various “compositions” of the earth. If the fractional composition of our atmosphere (as viewed from the position of temperature) is so pressing an issue as to necessitate the introduction of vast global bureaucracy by which to make our penance for the distortion of natural processes, what can explain their general insouciance concerning a compositional distortion more immediately related to humans?

One would also think that a world beset by the burden of debt obligations extended, by public authority, as promises to the aging generations, on the assumption of the productivity of the rising generations, might find something to ponder carefully in the deliberate and ruthless culling of those rising generations.

One would further think that some interest might attach, given our captivation with the sources of private income and wealth, to an industry providing elective medical procedures of a particularly gruesome nature, often in contravention of local statutory law, for a not inconsiderable price. The innocence of our skeptics of private enterprise concerning the profit motive in this service is conspicuous. If you want to break up shale formations to recover natural gas, in order to sell at for a profit, you’re a dirty capitalist and polluter; if you want to break infant skulls in the womb for a profit … crickets.

It turns out that curiosity about such matters is not a leading quality of our leading liberals. It is convenient for them to maintain dogmatically that abortion is a second- or third-order matter with little bearing on social life or policy. Mr. Eberstadt demonstrates, from a new and troubling angle, the plain pulverizing falsehood of this view.


January 7, 2012

The Puzzling Wedding Feast

The Gospel reading for today’s mass is the wedding feast at Cana (John 2). Lest anyone grow complacent in their understanding of this passage, may I bring forth some troublesome aspects to this particular story?

Mary was invited, as was Christ and his disciples. This was the very beginning of his ministry, before he had revealed himself in his own miracles. At this point the only knowledge we have for sure of signs and wonders is John the Baptist’s testimony and the Father’s declaration at the baptism in the Jordan River. Why was Christ invited along with the disciples? One might suppose 4 possibilities, and I don’t have a clue if any of them is right:

1. Christ was invited, and then he specifically asked to bring his disciples.

2. The wedding was for a couple so closely related to Jesus that they knew what he was about and assumed he would want to bring along these new people.

3. The wedding couple (or their parents) were already disciples themselves and so naturally enlarged the scope of their guest list.

4. The custom of “invitation” was much more flexible than ours, and taking along a dozen friends wasn’t so weird.

Continue reading "The Puzzling Wedding Feast" »

January 9, 2012

Dr. Seuss meets the blood libel

I very recently learned about a little brouhaha that's been going on for a while when someone sent me a link to this article. It's about someone I know of in quite another context--Philosopher Brian Leiter.

As near as I can get the facts, they go approximately and briefly like this: Brian Leiter is a colleague (that is, at the same university) and buddy of John Mearsheimer, of The Israel Lobby fame (or infamy). Mearsheimer wrote a positive blurb for an unpleasantly bizarre little book called The Wandering Who by a Brit named Gilad Atzmon. The book, inter alia (and there are plenty of alia), implies that we should not entirely reject the blood libel against Jews in the Middle Ages. The blood libel, of course, is the claim that Jews kill or killed Gentile children to mix their blood with matzos at Passover.

Mearsheimer was strongly criticized (one should hope so!) for writing the blurb but refused to back down from it. Leiter leaped to Mearsheimer's defense without, it appears, doing his homework very well. In the course of that defense of Mearsheimer he implied that Atzmon is not an anti-semite and that therefore the criticisms of Mearsheimer for endorsing Atzmon are hysterical right-wing smears. This defense of Mearsheimer and, in the course of it, defense of Atzmon, resulted in Leiter's being named by Alan Dershowitz in the above article as someone who is helping to make anti-semitism acceptable in the mainstream.

Got that?

Continue reading "Dr. Seuss meets the blood libel" »

January 10, 2012

Why the government should "be in the marriage business"

The every-fourth-year-ly hoopla about a certain politician whose name rhymes with "Don Tall" has brought into view a slogan (perhaps I may say a "canard") which evidently is this politician's position--namely, that "government should get out of the marriage business."

As so often happens in political discourse, as long as this is a slogan, it sounds good (I guess, to some people) but is contentless, and political enthusiasts repeat it mindlessly. So let's try to get a bit clearer. What would it actually mean to "get the government out of the marriage business"? As far as I can see, if we want to be clear, we should say instead that someone who advocates this thinks that civil marriage should be abolished. That doesn't sound nearly so unthreatening. It sounds rather radical, in fact. That's because it is.

At the federal level, abolishing civil marriage would mean abolishing all manner of tax statuses and social security connections. "Married" would no longer be a category under which you would file taxes, and "your spouse who cares for your minor children" would no longer be able to get any of your social security benefits after you die.

Really, this entry would get too long if I tried to list all the common law implications of abolishing civil marriage. If a "spouse" with no civil status greater than that of a common-law spouse were treated in cases of intestacy exactly as a civil marital spouse is presently treated, then the court would merely be reinventing the notion of civil marriage (to all intents and purposes), which would mean that the government was "in the marriage business" after all. If we really tried to be consistent with the notion that the government isn't "in the marriage business," then presumably in cases of intestacy the spouse (where "spouse" could not even be defined and could be understood only in terms of a person with whom one had gone through some private ceremony, perhaps in a church) would not have any special claim on the deceased's earthly goods. What would the court do to reinvent the wheel? Oh, I dunno. Maybe automatically give all the worldly goods to blood kin, treating the common-law spouse as a mere friend. Maybe grudgingly treat the common-law spouse as kin but only on a par with blood kin. Who knows? It would be the wild West of common law, hundreds of years of common law having been shaken up by the abolition of legal marriage. And the same, mutatis mutandis, for hospital visitation, rights of guardianship in the case of an adult's incapacity, and...oh, yes, children.

Now, young men, I'm speaking to you. I'm especially speaking to young erstwhile conservative men who, for some reason, have started taking the above slogan seriously. Maybe you've done this because of an increasing enthusiasm for "Don Tall." Think with me, here. Imagine that you are married and have a child. If you are already married and have a child, that will be easy to do. Guess what? If government were to "get out of the marriage business"--that is, if civil marriage recognized by the government were abolished--you would have no more presumptive parental rights over your child than if you had gotten your girlfriend pregnant without bothering to marry her. If that doesn't concern you, it certainly should.

Right now, married fathers automatically have parental rights. They are presumed to be the father of the child. They don't have to adopt their own child (there's a concept for you!). They don't have to present DNA evidence to a court to establish parental rights. If a court wants to challenge your parental rights as a married father, the burden is on the court to terminate or undermine those rights. The burden of proof is not on you to establish that you have those rights. Things are quite different if you are a single father, though just how different seems to vary a bit from state to state.

What if your wife were to die? Would you automatically be the person raising your child as a widower? You would now, if you are civilly married. That's because government is "in the marriage business." If civil marriage were abolished and the government did not automatically recognize your parental rights as a married father, who knows?

In case you haven't noticed, single mothers tend to have more trouble with CPS and other intrusive government agencies. If you're a libertarian, you should be thinking very hard about the protection that the remnants of government recognition of the family afford for the privacy of citizens.

Any thinking person who knows anything about law ought to realize (as this blogger, with whom I would doubtless have many disagreements, points out) that it isn't actually practically possible for the government to "get out of the marriage business." It's a fuzzy libertarian dream without any clear meaning. If civil marriage did not exist, the courts would have to invent it.

But as usual, some of libertarianism's worst problems arise when we start even thinking about children, and it's at that point that "the government should get out of the marriage business" becomes a true nightmare. (Well, if it weren't a nightmare enough to imagine yourself blocked from decision-making about the care of your dying wife because you're "just a friend" who only married her in a "purely religious" service.)

Can we scrap this slogan? Oh, and while we're at it, let's please, please scrap a similar idea that I've run into from one conservative or another suggesting that conservatives should "boycott" civil marriage. Do that, and you'll lose some of the few rights and freedoms you currently have left for your family. So don't do that.

The government should stay in the marriage business. Which makes it all the more important for conservatives not to sidestep the defense of marriage. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

January 13, 2012

A legal question

Lit. crit. has noticed the existence of Southern gospel music, I'm sorry to say. As an English PhD, I hold that it's a sad day when the literary theory crowd notices the existence of anything good, and especially of any of those good things that involve a human sub-culture with its own special quality. Some assistant prof. in an English department has decided to write a book in, inter alia, "queer studies" about Southern gospel. Tenure seeking, perhaps? Because it deserves all the obscurity it can get, I hesitated to write a post that mentioned it.

However, since we have a few legally savvy people here, I did have one question that readers may be able to answer. Can he get away with using the photograph he has on the front cover without permission? The cover photo features four Southern gospel singers: Left to right, Scott Fowler, Mark Trammell, Glen Dustin, and Danny Funderburk. I think we can safely say that it would be a cold day in hell before these men would have given their permission for their images to be used on the cover of this book. Moreover (see below), since they are professional singers they make their living in part by the use of their own image to advertise their own products. Aren't there such things as publicity rights (which La Wik defines as "the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness or other unequivocal aspects of one's identity") to prevent this?

Here are what seem to me a few relevant quotations from the Illinois Code on the subject (since the book was published by the University of Illinois Press):

"Identity" means any attribute of an individual that serves to identify that individual to an ordinary, reasonable viewer or listener, including but not limited to (i) name, (ii) signature, (iii) photograph, (iv) image, (v) likeness, or (vi) voice.
a) A person may not use an individual's identity for commercial purposes during the individual's lifetime without having obtained previous written consent from the appropriate person or persons specified in Section 20 of this Act or their authorized representative.

I realize that the University of Illinois Press probably has its own legal eagles giving advice, but it's just barely possible that the use of this image was based on the assumption that Southern gospel artists aren't overly blessed with cash and wouldn't want to pay a lawyer to make a fuss. I would point out, however, that in case of a suit, section 55 makes it probable that the court would award attorney's costs to the prevailing party. And given what appears (to my non-professional eye) to be the clarity of the law on the relevant point, it might never need to come to a suit. Just a friendly letter from a lawyer requesting that they cease and desist the commercial use of these singers' images ought to be enough. If that fails, section 50 provides for a restraining order. Moreover, if punitive damages are sought, it should be relevant that the, er, nature of the book makes it plausible that people viewing the image and reading the blurb might think (untrue) things about the men pictured on the front cover which would be commercially damaging to them as professional singers in the Southern gospel milieu.

What do my readers think?

January 14, 2012

In Extremis Santorum

No sooner had the news hit that Rick Santorum had finished in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney in Iowa than the sexual liberation emergency alarm system sirens began going off throughout the land. A columnist at Salon.com screeched that "Rick Santorum is coming for your birth control." At National Review, another columnist shrieked back that No he isn't. In fact, Santorum himself screamed (okay, not literally) to Bill O'Reilly that he didn't want to illegalize contraception:

Someone asked me if the states have the right to do it? Yes. They have the right to do it, they shouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t vote for it if they did. It doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to do it. As you know, Bill, you’re a Catholic, [the] Catholic Church teaches contraceptive [sic] is something you shouldn’t do. So when I was asked the question on contraception I said I didn’t support it.
It's easy to get lost in all the "its," isn't it? The first 'it' presumably refers to a hypothetical state attempt to outlaw birth control, which I take Santorum to mean that if it happened in his state, he would oppose the effort. The second 'it' probably refers to the use of such control, which Santorum doesn't support because of his Church's prohibition of 'it.' (To which the Catholic Bill responded that this prohibition was "made by men," bringing to Santorum's face a look of incredulity but no interruption.) The third 'it' is the 1965 Griswold decision itself, which Santorum does not support, believing that the Supreme Court made up a new constitutional right to privacy not previously known to exist outside the emanations of the penumbras which point to 'it.'

Continue reading "In Extremis Santorum" »

Broncos vs. Patriots


On Sunday Tebow threw a bullet across the middle, hit Demaryius Thomas in stride, and watched the gifted receiver stave off tacklers in an electrifying 80-yard pass play that gave the team a victory and a date with the Patriots in Foxborough, tonight, in the AFC Divisional Playoff game.

Watch this play here [beware the ads that precede it though].

Tim Tebow proved his mettle as a passer to many doubters and restored his own confidence, putting firmly behind him the three game losing streak with which he led the Broncos into the playoffs. Added to his devastating potential as a running-back*, his demonstrated potential as a passer secures his place as a dangerous and valuable NFL starting quarterback.

The emergence of other young players is a further source of encouragement. Thomas looks like the big strong speedy target he was advertised to be coming out of GA Tech. The delay in his development may derive in part from the offense he played in college: Tech’s triple-option leaves room for only a handful of throws each game. Thomas put up great yardage but his number of actual catches was way down compared to a WR out of a more standard offense. So in addition to several injuries, including a blown Achilles tendon, Thomas is still learning how to catch the ball.

Young Broncos propel a pretty effective outside pass rush. Von Miller in a cast is better than the average OLB. Meanwhile, Robert Ayers had a great game on Sunday, and the undersized but robustly named Elvis Dumerville continues his effectiveness.

The Broncos will have to get a safety to replace the great Brian Dawkins, and another RB to complement Willis McGehee, arguably the comeback player of the year in the NFL. They still need good runstoppers on defense as well: almost anyone can run on this defense.

But all that is in the future: an emphatically bright one for the Broncos. For the present, there is a chance to upset Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the formidable New England Patriots — a chance essentially no one expected.

* The TD run on Sunday, where Tebow scored from 8 yards out, was a play of ancient grace and power, timing crowned with brutal force: the left guard, Zane Beadles, pulled and blocked right; as there was no handoff to delay the runner, which was the 240-pound Tebow, the Broncos contrived to deploy many hundred pounds of human muscle into the Steeler backfield, a pulling guard and fullback-size QB, in a couple seconds. The chance of even a good defense stopping Tebow, led by a 300-pounder 4 yards downfield before he’s touched, may be illustrated in the hilariously impotent lunge made by Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu to stop him short of the goal line: a desperate attempt that barely even phased Beadles, Tebow’s escort on the play, who stood like a stonewall as Polamalu crumpled well short of the quarterback.

Watch this play here.

January 15, 2012

Children should be born into a family

This is a follow-up on this post. I wanted to highlight something in reply to commentator Matt, who implied in a couple of different comments that anyone concerned with governmental interference should be at least as worried about the very existence of requirements for getting a marriage license as about the issue I raised--the loss of parental rights by married fathers. He even implied that the reply that I gave concerning marriage licenses--namely, that the requirements now are not onerous or unreasonable and that hypothetical later unreasonable requirements would have to be passed by statute and do not make getting marriage licenses unacceptable government intrusion now--could just as well be applied to...parent licensing:

But I don't understand at all why having to apply to get married at all is the way it should be while having to apply for some particular sub-privilege of [it] is a travesty. I'm not remotely convinced by the handwave of 'we'll cross that bridge when we come to it', because this reasoning could be employed in the service of any argument we could possibly make on the subject. 99% of the time, for instance, there is actually no dispute about a father taking responsibility for his children, because no one else wants responsibility for them. So then, if the process of taking responsibility for children were no more onerous than obtaining a marriage license today, it becomes acceptable by our premises. Of course, we would oppose any further unwarranted restrictions on this process...
I replied thus:
Because it's much, much more objectionable, dangerous, and statist for there to be existing children whose married parents don't already and automatically have custody over them than for there to be an existing love (and even commitment) relationship, even what is in the eyes of God a marital relationship, between two adults that has not yet been officially recognized by the state.
I want to expand on this a bit. Anyone who attempts to make a parallel between a marriage license and a parent license utterly fails to take into account the very notion of marriage as the creation of a family. And the point of the state's recognizing marriages as a way of establishing recognized families is so that children can be born into them. The married couple whose marriage is civilly recognized have created a sphere set up in advance for the reception of children. It is a place within which the family can carry on its life and its business, within which the parents can raise the later child or children and pass on their values. It is a place, a legal space, prepared to receive later children of the marriage.

Children should be born into such a space. They should be born into a legally and socially stable environment already prepared to receive them. They should be born into a family and a home. A child already in existence whose parents are not already recognized as a family by the state is in a custodial limbo, which is not a good place for a child to be. It is not a situation into which a child should be deliberately brought. To bring the child into that space and then require either married parent to "apply" to have his parental rights recognized is to imply that the child is the creature and property of the state, which gives out custody to the parent or parents as a privilege. This is a very serious falsehood.

It really surprises me that these things should need to be said. I can only guess that perhaps the reason they need to be said is that we have gotten away from the whole notion that making a marriage is making a family (even before children come along) and that the state recognizes marriages not chiefly to make the adults involved feel as though their romantic love is getting three hearty cheers but chiefly to establish stable, recognized families into which a child can be born. Marriages are the foundation of history.

January 17, 2012

A Cross of Euros

Things have turned dire again in Europe. Hard on the heels of credit downgrades at France and Austria last week, S & P’s just downgraded the credit rating of the Eurozone bailout fund, a news item that carries a whiff of hilarity to it. Euro-TARP needs a bailout!

European financiers are hopeful the new bailout fund, established more recently and said to be more formidable, will surmount its predecessor’s feeblenesss. For that matter, European financiers are also still hopeful that the Germans will relent; that Frankfurt will open the ECB monetary spigots; failing that, they are hopeful that China might possibly be persuaded to swoop in to aid Europe; that the IMF will quietly assume central bank-like powers and make creditors whole; or that some other monetary authority (maybe the Federal Reserve!) will likewise mount its prized steed and ride to rescue of high finance.

These financiers are an excitable lot.

The press reflects the panic. Doomsayers abound. The poor Financial Times is reduced to a desperate prayer than the new Italian technocrat will prevail on German leaders to be less stingy; and the New Statesman to a suggesting that the UK’s government go ahead and “launder a euro bailout through the IMF.”

The Europeans, despite their panic or perhaps because of it, are forging ahead with austerity. Austerity means budget cuts on social spending and tax hikes. Its purpose is to ameliorate the enormous imbalances between output and liabilities that characterize so many Eurozone economies. (Also the US and Japan.) The problem is that austerity inclines to the contractionary: it lowers the denominator in those debt-to-GDP or deficit-to-GDP ratios, thereby weakening the effect of any budgetary reduction in the numerator. In some cases austerity’s consequence is even worse: markedly less revenue along with less output, that is to say, a larger numerator and smaller denominator.

Continue reading "A Cross of Euros" »

January 18, 2012

Pray for the persecuted church in Pakistan

The rule of law simply does not exist in certain parts of Pakistan, at least when it comes to Christian victims. In that context, horrific persecution of Christians by their Muslim "neighbors" goes on unchecked. It includes the kidnap and torture (for ransom) of children, sacking of churches, and rape. One of the "offenses" for which children were beaten (hey, at least those particular children weren't kidnapped and tortured) was singing too loudly and offending Muslims. (Compare Jihad Watch's repeated point that Christians kept in dhimmitude are forbidden to ring bells that the surrounding Muslims can hear.) Police authorities are, to put it mildly, unmotivated to stop or punish these evils. Christians are leaving Karachi as fast as they can, but these are poor people. Emigrating isn't exactly a simple matter.

One of the stories mentions an attempt to "promote meetings of reconciliation" between Christians and Muslims. Um, sure: Group A beats, kidnaps, and tortures the children of Group B and destroys its places of worship; Group B does nothing of the kind to Group A. So what we really need is a meeting of reconciliation between these opposed groups. I don't think so. The situation calls for official keepers of the peace, official posses, and official hangmen to protect, rescue, and avenge the innocent. But in Muslim Pakistan, that's not likely to happen.

Meanwhile, let us pray for our brethren under persecution from merciless Islam.

January 19, 2012

The Holocaust revisionist with "respectable" friends

This is a follow-up to this post. As before, comments are directed to a moderated venue. Subsequent to writing that post, I did more research on the British anti-semite whose book was lauded by allegedly respectable political scientist John Mearsheimer and who was defended (in the course of defending Mearsheimer) by philosopher Brian Leiter. I am indebted to this post by Pejman Yousefzadeh for links to this additional information. I put this information into the comments in Extra Thoughts on my earlier post, but I think it deserves more attention than that is likely to get.

One of the questions that arose in the course of Mearsheimer's and Leiter's defense of Mearsheimer's blurb was whether or not Atzmon, the author of the bizarre book that Mearsheimer blurbed, is either a Holocaust denier or Holocaust revisionist. Mearsheimer, in the course of doubling down and refusing to budge, stated unequivocally:

I cannot find evidence in his book or in his other writings that indicate he 'traffics in Holocaust denial.

Notice that this concerns other things Atzmon has written, not just the book Mearsheimer blurbed. Like Leiter, who blandly declared Atzmon (on the basis of extremely brief research) a "cosmopolitan" rather than an anti-semite, Mearsheimer declares him no Holocaust denier at all.

In the very first comment on Mearsheimer's post defending himself (and Atzmon), a reader attempted to provide more data. The reader provided a partial quotation and a link. I am here providing a longer quotation with a different link to the same post. Here is Atzmon on the Holocaust (emphasis added).

It took me years to accept that the Holocaust narrative, in its current form, doesn’t make any historical sense. Here is just one little anecdote to elaborate on:

If, for instance, the Nazis wanted the Jews out of their Reich (Judenrein - free of Jews), or even dead, as the Zionist narrative insists, how come they marched hundreds of thousands of them back into the Reich at the end of the war? I have been concerned with this simple question for more than a while.


I am left puzzled here; if the Nazis ran a death factory in Auschwitz-Birkenau, why would the Jewish prisoners join them at the end of the war? Why didn’t the Jews wait for their Red liberators?

I think that 65 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we must be entitled to start to ask the necessary questions. We should ask for some conclusive historical evidence and arguments rather than follow a religious narrative that is sustained by political pressure and laws.

If this is not "trafficking" in Holocaust denial, I'm not sure what would count. In my earlier post I pointed out that Atzmon plays the post-modernist and says that he "neither affirms nor denies" the Holocaust. That's bad enough. Oddly, the postmodern mask seems to have slipped here. He's talking about "historical sense" and saying in so many words that such Holocaust details as the desire of the Nazis to eradicate the Jews from the Reich and the existence of a death camp at Auschwitz do not make historical sense. Yet I have no evidence that Mearsheimer and Leiter have revised their opinion on the subject or on Mearsheimer's endorsement of Atzmon, despite the fact that this information was made available to Mearsheimer. If readers have evidence that either Mearsheimer or Leiter has done a 180 and repudiated Atzmon, do post that evidence in comments at Extra Thoughts.

January 20, 2012

Blocking the mentally disabled from receiving organ donation

This is a slightly tricky post for me to write. As my regular readers know, my position on vital organ donation is ambivalent at best and anti- at worst. I might be open to live donation of a kidney from a relative, though even there I have questions because of the dangers to the donor of going the rest of his life without one kidney. So-called "dead donor" donation is, really, a huge problem. You can see this page for many of my posts on that subject.

However, what has come out recently is sufficiently important that I think the donation issue should be set aside when discussing it. For one thing, live donation from a relative is what the parents are proposing and hope will be possible, and that is the most defensible form of vital organ donation. For another thing, the ramifications of what they have run into, especially just now in our national life, are much wider than organ donation.

The post that has kicked off a firestorm on the pro-life internet, which you may have already seen, is here. Here is the AP story. Briefly, parents of a mentally disabled child being treated a CHOP claim that, after the child's regular doctor gave them the impression that their child was eligible for transplant, they were expressly told in an interview with a doctor and a social worker that their child could not receive a kidney transplant because she is "mentally retarded" and because of her "quality of life." The social worker also cited the concern that in thirty years (if the parents themselves are dead by that time) the child would not take anti-rejection medications. Here are some quotations:

In the middle of both papers, he highlighted in pink two phrases. Paper number one has the words, “Mentally Retarded” in cotton candy pink right under Hepatitis C. Paper number two has the phrase, “Brain Damage” in the same pink right under HIV.


I put my hand up. “Stop talking for a minute. Did you just say that Amelia shouldn’t have the transplant done because she is mentally retarded. I am confused. Did you really just say that?”


I point to the paper and he lets me rant a minute. I can’t stop pointing to the paper. “This phrase. This word. This is why she can’t have the transplant done.”


I begin to shake. My whole body trembles and he begins to tell me how she will never be able to get on the waiting list because she is mentally retarded.

A bit of hope. I sit up and get excited.

“Oh, that’s ok! We plan on donating. If we aren’t a match, we come from a large family and someone will donate. We don’t want to be on the list. We will find our own donor.”

“Noooo. She—is—not—eligible –because—of—her—quality– of –life—Because—of—her—mental—delays” He says each word very slowly as if I am hard of hearing.


[The social worker] smirks a little. “Well, what happens when she is thirty and neither of you are around to take care of her. What happens to her then? Who will make sure she takes her medications then?”

Continue reading "Blocking the mentally disabled from receiving organ donation" »

January 22, 2012

Demographics and political economy

Here is a memorable little essay by a Canadian economics professor demonstrating that behind even very sophisticated economic systems lie the brute facts of demographics. It begins this way:

As you get older, your productivity will, eventually, decline. If you live long enough, you will reach a point when you can no longer provide for yourself.

You cannot bake bread when you are young, bury it in the ground, and then dig it up and consume it when you are old. In your golden years, you must rely on someone younger and fitter to bake bread for you.

In every society, the old have some claim on the resources of the young. Only the nature of the claim varies.

From this, in syllogistic fashion, the author unpacks some implications for modern political economies.

Continue reading "Demographics and political economy" »

January 24, 2012

Tuesday Verse

Behind every ring of the old cliché
“We’re not getting any younger,”
Heard constantly today —

Is a terrible secret
Which, baffling the modern mind,
Lies concealed inveterate.

The surface truth, plainly enough,
Admits not of gainsay or dissent,
Seems to well conclude the stuff.

Yet gradually does it appear,
To focused reason, to rooted thinking,
That few errors indeed are more dear

Than this: supposing little children,
Like sad small adults, sunken and downtrodden;
Oppressed by the burden —

The burden of approaching expiration:
The old serpent with his death,
And his gospel of acquisition.

For with the laughter in falsetto
That filters down the hall
To our tired ears comes also:

News that falsifies the old cliché
By reminding the dull adults,
That slow-witted cretinous company —

Recalling to their minds
What bad theory took away
And cliché unjustly confined —

That we’re all getting younger
Indeed every last one,
Whose destiny is bound up with the young’uns.

For a newborn babe,
In becoming a three-year-old,
His awakened mind lacks naught but age;

Or a cute little girl
On the verge of being well and truly
A young woman, for all men a flag unfurled.

‘Tis simply true that a child youth gains
Brains and body age
But hardly become decrepit or tamed:

O the child in growing youth gains
In him society procreates
In his flowering the cliché faints.

Every parent, no matter how aged
Or oppressed and dragged down
Need only think to his child as a babe

To say to himself in all truth
That “younger indeed I’m getting:
The babe in my arms was proof.”

January 25, 2012

Fighting Roe: Whence, what, whither?

This slightly hysterical article in Slate alleges that Roe v. Wade is no longer in practice "the law of the land" because of various pro-life pieces of legislation that have been (or even just might be) successful at the state level.

Well, would that it were so. But let's not get too excited too fast. After all, our pro-death opponents are not satisfied unless every woman everywhere has easy access to an abortion for whatever reason, and they'll howl that we're abrogating women's "constitutional rights" if we rein in a quodlibetal abortion license.

Several of the items Slate brings up, though examples of good legislation which will, God willing, save lives, are not direct challenges to Roe and its infamous companion, Doe v. Bolton. These include waiting periods and informed consent laws, some apparently even requiring women to be offered an opportunity to view an ultrasound of the unborn child. (Slate makes it sound like the woman must actually be shown the ultrasound, which appears to be incorrect. This summary by Guttmacher just describes offering the woman the opportunity to view an ultrasound.)

However, the prohibitions on abortion after fetal pain (which the statutes list as twenty weeks) are more plausibly challenges to Doe. This is because, at least if they are all like Idaho's, they apparently contain only a very narrow health exception which could not plausibly be applied to "mental health" or financial situation. Slate frets about the failure to file suit against such bills, but in August, a couple of months after the Slate article came out, such a suit was indeed filed, apparently focusing on the absence of the desired sweeping health exception. I don't have an update on the status of that suit; if a reader does, please post that in comments.

Continue reading "Fighting Roe: Whence, what, whither?" »

January 27, 2012

I'm a purist, but I'm not an attack dog

Away back four years ago when John McCain was running for President, I took a certain amount of flak for saying that I wouldn't vote for him based on his position on human ESCR. He'd been a vocal proponent of it, had never changed his mind, and in fact that continued in a rather flagrant fashion right into the presidential race. I'm not going to recap all of that, but suffice it to say that I was not shy about saying, on blogs, why I wasn't going to vote for him, even to keep Barack Obama out of the Oval Office.

I argued then, and would argue now, that we conservatives need a line in the sand on particular issues, particularly issues of social conservatism. My biggest grief at that time was that my fellow conservatives seemed to have no such line. It was, "I'll vote for the lesser evil no matter who he is." I wrote pieces on the nature of a vote arguing that one should at least be willing in some sense to endorse a candidate if one is going to vote for him. None of this, "I'm going to vote for Hitler if the other guy is worse" stuff. Remember: You'd be horrified (I hope you would) to find a campaign sign for Hitler on your front lawn.

Okay. I stand by all of that. But by that same token, I think I need to be willing to take some flak from the exceedingly purist right for the following statement: I'm going to vote for Rick Santorum in the upcoming Republican primary. In fact, I'm not even remotely ashamed to be doing so. That's why I'm blogging it. In fact, I'd put a yard sign for him on my front lawn.

Don't bug me with whether he's electable or not, because frankly, I don't give a darn. Especially not in the primary. Primaries used to be about voting for the candidate who most closely represented your views. If and when he loses the primary, I'll make up my mind about whether I can in good conscience vote for whoever wins. That'll be then. This is now.

The purist case against Santorum is based on on several of his past actions. One is that he allowed his arm to be twisted by the party machinery into campaigning for the odious Arlen Specter against Toomey, a conservative primary challenger. Another is his voting for funding Planned Parenthood in Title X omnibus legislation. A third is his voting for the FACE bill.

Of these, the last is in my opinion the worst, and I would like to see him say that it was unconstitutional and wrong. On the other hand, it's a) water under the bridge, not the kind of thing that has much connection to future action and b) something he was probably bamboozled into thinking blocked only "violent" protestors and the like. So it was billed at the time. Not a good vote, but the fact of it in the past of a Congressman who is enthusiastically, not to say pushily, pro-life right now does not cross my bright line.

The funding for Planned Parenthood is not good, and he has defended voting for the bill in debates. What I would like to see is for him to be on-board with defunding Planned Parenthood in the future. Now that the campaign among pro-lifers has gotten going for that purpose, my guess is he will get on-board with it, despite his defensiveness about past votes. These omnibus bills are the very devil. They're a kind of cancer on our legislative life and no doubt have tripped up many otherwise good Congressmen. The horse trading that goes on is incredible, and they include a grab bag of stuff. He should reconsider his defensiveness, but his having voted in the past for one of these monster bills that, inter alia, includes funding for PP does not cross a line for me. Moreover, the existence of the Hyde amendments which allegedly block funding for abortions per se has probably been used by party whips as a successful argument to many a pro-life congressman to vote for such omnibus bills. It is only recently that pro-lifers have seen it as realistically within their sights to block the allegedly "non-abortion" funding that still goes to PP from government coffers.

The campaigning for Specter was to my mind, even at the time, a tragedy for Santorum. Yes, it meant that he didn't have the courage to say no. Not everybody does have that courage all the time. The pressure he was under was intense, and no doubt the action was portrayed to him as a necessary and virtuous thing, to keep a Republican majority in the Senate. I took a certain grim and probably wrong satisfaction against the Republican leadership from the fact that that didn't work out for them. At all. As strategy, it stunk. Plus it was unprincipled. But I felt sorry for Santorum. And he's paid. The voters punished him.

This is a candidate who speaks up loudly and clearly, right now, about both abortion and opposition to the homosexual rights agenda and who I believe will and would take action in those areas if elected to office. And he takes flak for it (and downright nastiness) from the liberal media all the time. He even gets barbs about it from at least one fellow Republican campaigning against him who has said that he "Can't stop talking about gay people." To my mind, that's a kind of recommendation. That is the kind of thing that pro-lifers and social conservatives have been wanting for a long time.

I'm going to vote for him. It would be just as cowardly of me not to say so because I've made my stand on the Internet with conservative purists and don't like the thought of what they might say or think about me as it would have been in 2008 for me to hide my refusal to vote for McCain.

January 28, 2012

Follow-up: I like this ad

Follow-up to my previous post. I like this Youtube ad.

If you are a social conservative (please note the man and woman getting married and the beautiful child in the womb) and don't have an allergy to American patriotism, I think you will like it too.

Social conservatives, those of us on the unabashed American right, are tired of being told to go to the back of the bus by our supposed "own" party. When was the last time we had a presidential candidate who appealed this directly and unashamedly to our values, including our social values, to what we stand for? I can't remember the last time.

January 29, 2012

Kidnapping by Officials is OK if They Don't Know the Law

In the past I have tended to give police and law officials the benefit of the doubt in their using police powers to make arrest and such. I think I am going to have to retract that, or at least put up a huge caveat. And I now think that maybe bad reasoning, and bad perception of reality as expressed in legal decisions, is a fully satisfactory basis for removing judges from the bench. The 9th Circuit needs to have several judges removed from its ranks, and replaced with people who have a connection with reality.

The court ruled last September that telling a homeowner “let me in or I will take your kids away from you” can constitute an action against which there is no legal remedy, even though the person making the threat has no authority to enter the home and the homeowner is perfectly aware of it, and is (in real time) being affirmed in that by his lawyer. So, effectively, threatening kidnapping in order to be given an open door to home invasion, is OK.

Facts of the case :

Continue reading "Kidnapping by Officials is OK if They Don't Know the Law" »

January 31, 2012

Update on Julea Ward case

There is for the moment good news in the Julea Ward case against Eastern Michigan University. I wrote at length about that case for The Christendom Review, here. Briefly, Ward was expelled from EMU's counseling program for refusing to engage in counseling which affirmed a homosexual lifestyle. In the course of deciding whether to expel her, the faculty gave her the option of undergoing a reeducation program to change her religious views, which they regarded as incompatible with professional counseling practices. Federal District Court Judge George Sheeh rendered summary judgement in favor of EMU, meaning the case would not even go to trial. Now, the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit Court has overruled Judge Sheeh and returned the case for a jury trial with a stinging opinion.

A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems based on a phantom policy as the price for obtaining a degree…. That [Ward's] conflict arose from religious convictions is not a good answer; that her conflict arose from religious convictions for which the department at times showed little tolerance is a worse answer.

Ward was willing to work with all clients and to respect the school’s affirmation directives in doing so. That is why she asked to refer gay and lesbian clients (and some heterosexual clients) if the conversation required her to affirm their sexual practices. What more could the rule require? Surely, for example, the ban on discrimination against clients based on their religion (1) does not require a Muslim counselor to tell a Jewish client that his religious beliefs are correct if the conversation takes a turn in that direction and (2) does not require an atheist counselor to tell a person of faith that there is a God if the client is wrestling with faith-based issues. Tolerance is a two-way street. Otherwise, the rule mandates orthodoxy, not anti-discrimination.

The EMU case will not be the last case in which advocates of the homosexual rights agenda attempt to impose their views as orthodoxy. Eternal vigilance being the price of freedom, as it is, we can be thankful for the ADF, which is representing Ward. Now the case goes to trial, and it bears watching. (Question: Will Judge Sheeh be conducting the trial? How could one find out?)