What’s Wrong with the World

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April 2012 Archives

April 2, 2012

A court case to watch

While we all had our eyes on the oral arguments at SCOTUS recently on a more famous case, word came of an extremely bad decision handed down by a federal judge in Massachusetts.

The short version: The HHS used to have a contract with the USCCB to run anti-trafficking programs to help women who have been trafficked into prostitution in the United States. The USCCB contracts specified that no sub-contractors under them could provide contraception or abortion "counseling or referrals" (or, presumably, actual contraception or abortion). The judge ruled that for the HHS to contract with a Catholic organization that put these allegedly "religiously motivated" restrictions on sub-contractors constituted an establishment of religion. Let that one sink in for a moment.

Richard Garnett at NRO has an excellent legal take-down of the decision, which it would be gilding the lilies for me to add much to. Some choice quotations from Garnett:

This is the wooliest of wooly-headed reasoning. For starters, it would not violate the Establishment Clause for the government to decide its human-trafficking funds should not be used, by anyone, to pay for abortion- and contraception-related counseling. To understate the matter, the government is not required to subsidize or support abortions, and opposition to abortion is no more suspect because many religious believers oppose it than opposition to human trafficking is suspect because many religious believers oppose it.
Next, it is not the case that the religion-inspired policies and practices of institutions that receive public funds somehow become, for constitutional purposes, the government’s own policies. If Judge Stearns were right (and he certainly is not), then it is unconstitutional for a Catholic school that receives some special-education-related or school-lunch funding for low-income students to have morning chapel or First Communion classes. If Judge Stearns were right (and, again, he isn’t), the federal government would be required to forbid any religious institutions that participate in “charitable choice” and “faith-based initiative” programs from taking religious-mission into account when hiring.

This article also has a quotation from Steve Wagner, a former director of the HHS human trafficking program, pointing out that it would have been illegal anyway for federal funds to be used for abortions because of the Hyde Amendment. Wouldn't it? Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Is the Hyde Amendment going to be the next ACLU target? Or is the weaseling taking place here on the grounds that the USCCB also wouldn't allow them to provide "counseling or referrals"? One wonders if that's supposed to mean that counseling and referral for abortion is now some sort of federal right even while federal law prohibits use of federal funds to pay for abortion! Or is it only "unconstitutional" to block such funding if done by a religious organization? As Garnett says, the wooliest of wooly-headed reasoning.

I cannot let this opportunity pass to draw a moral: Stay as far away as possible from dependence on government money. Now, to be clear, our current totalitarian federal government is only too happy to go after religious people and organizations that aren't taking federal money. So this is not a route to some sort of full safety. They will still come after you. But you are a lot more vulnerable, and have been more vulnerable for a long time, if you take government money. This is all the more true if your organization's very existence becomes dependent on government money.

One reason I bring this up, at the risk of seeming un-ecumenical, is that Catholic organizations, like mainline Protestant organizations but generally unlike fundamentalist Protestant organizations, have always sort of yearned for a comfortable, mutually beneficial relationship with the government, including the federal government. "Look at Europe!" we're often told. "Look how they fund Christian schools!" Yes, and how's that workin' out for you?

It's not like there haven't been plenty of warnings. This federal court ruling is just another.

April 5, 2012

Good Friday


Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
that man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted!

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered.
For man's atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy life's oblation;
thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
for my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
not my deserving.


...In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

T.S. Eliot, "East Coker"

April 7, 2012

Easter 2012

This is our fifth Easter post here at W4. Over the years we have had poetry and art work. Here are the four Easter posts from 2008-2011.

While I generally shy away from sweeping statements, this one is true: Easter is the most important day in the Christian year. The sign given by God in the resurrection was meant to be the sign by which all men could know that Jesus Christ was God and that his message was true. By means of the resurrection God witnessed that Jesus was the Messiah whom the prophets had foretold and that forgiveness was to be preached to all men through his name. The disciples got started on that on the day of Pentecost, and they did not waver in their mission as eye-witnesses of his resurrection, no matter what persecutions and threats they encountered.

T.S. Eliot spoke of "the point of intersection of the timeless with time." Christians do use the word "mystery" for such moments, moments when eternity and time touch. But it is important, when the mystery in question is a miracle, that we not take "mystery" to mean "something you must believe in unjustifiedly." In fact, the whole point of a miracle is to give you a reason to believe. Christianity connects the prose and the passion.

In that vein, here are some new links. Tim McGrew has begun a series of lectures that is being gradually put on Youtube, with Powerpoint slides for the video. In case you haven't seen/heard them, here they are:

Part 1: Who Wrote the Gospels?
Part 2: External Evidence for the Truth of the Gospels and Acts
Part 3: Internal Evidence for the Truth of the Gospels

And if you'd like something short, a fifteen minute interview from last week on the resurrection with a New Zealand radio program.

A blessed and joyous Easter to all our readers at W4!

April 9, 2012

Totalitarianism marches on

Michael Farris of HSLDA is writing a new article and put a sneak preview of it, a small section, up on Facebook. In that way I became acquainted with a totalitarian trend in our law schools. (A friend recently said to me that he would have thought that law school was the last bastion of apolitical objectivity in the academic realm. I'm afraid somewhat bitter laughter is appropriate there.)

Catherine J. Ross, Professor of Law at George Washington University, has written an article entitled "Fundamentalist Challenges to Core Democratic Values: Exit and Homeschooling." It's part of a journal symposium with the ominous title "Families, Fundamentalism, and the First Amendment." I haven't yet obtained a copy of Ross's entire article, but this is the blurb at Lexis. (Yes, it really does cut off just there.)

This Essay explores the choice many traditionalist Christian parents (both fundamentalist and evangelical) make to leave public schools in order to teach their children at home, thus in most instances escaping meaningful oversight. I am not primarily concerned here with the quality of academic achievement in the core curricular areas among homeschoolers, which has been the subject of much heated debate. Instead, my comments focus on civic education in the broadest sense, which I define primarily as exposure to the constitutional norm of tolerance. I shall argue that the growing reliance on homeschooling comes into direct conflict with assuring that children are exposed to such constitutional values.

I begin with a brief social and legal history of homeschooling in the United States during the twentieth century and then discuss the dominance of religiously motivated parents among homeschoolers in contemporary America. Section II shows that homeschoolers make broad claims for exemption from state oversight that are not warranted by the constitutional doctrine on which they rely. In Section III, I argue that the state's interest in educating children for life in a pluralist democracy trumps any asserted parental liberty interest in controlling their children's education. Finally, in Section IV, I argue that where parents do not live together and share legal custody of their children, the state should articulate a preference for formal schooling over homeschooling when the parents disagree. I urge states to engage in far more stringent oversight and regulation of homeschooling than exists in ...

Sounds charming, doesn't it?

Here is the further money quote that Farris cited:

Many liberal political theorists argue, however, that there are limits to tolerance. In order for the norm of tolerance to survive across generations, society need not and should not tolerate the inculcation of absolutist views that undermine toleration of difference. Respect for difference should not be confused with approval for approaches that would splinter us into countless warring groups. Hence an argument that tolerance for diverse views and values is a foundational principle does not conflict with the notion that the state can and should limit the ability of intolerant homeschoolers to inculcate hostility to difference in their children—at least during the portion of the day they claim to devote to satisfying the compulsory schooling requirement.

Is that clear enough, you intolerant bigots?

By the way, based on this article by one Robert Reich, I conclude that "exit" is a term of art which refers to kids' growing up to disagree fundamentally with their parents, especially on matters of religion. Liberal "theorists" seem to like to use it because it sounds like a technical psychological health word that refers to an important rite of passage and because it makes religious or conservative parents sound like they want to keep their children chained up in a dungeon somewhere. You know, some parents honor-kill their children. Some pray for them and are heartbroken if they leave the faith. Some home school or send them to religious schools to try to prevent "exit." It's all part of that fundamentalist plot to keep Autonomous Individuals from believing what we, the Supermen, want them to believe. From the regime we Supermen want to create, there is, of course, no exit.

It all reminds me quite a bit of some citations in this article, which has been around for a while and which all home schoolers should read.

What it comes to is this: Having failed to show that home schoolers aren't doing a good job academically, having failed to show that home schooled children turn out incapable of tying their shoes and otherwise living in "the real world," liberals are taking off the velvet glove to reveal the iron fist. The bottom line is just simply that they dislike home schooling for the very reason that a great many home schoolers like it, namely, that it permits parents to opt out of the leftist ideology in which leftist ideologues wish to indoctrinate all children. How dare we? So now leftist ideology is just going to be defined as "core values for democracy," and on that basis parents will be told that they can't teach anything contrary to this religion in their home schooling program.

Occasionally when some avant garde academic publishes something outrageous, there's a temptation to say, grimly, "Well, at least they haven't gotten around to legislating that."

No? Actually, in Canada, they very nearly have. Let me introduce you to Bill 2 in Alberta, which was just recently and possibly only temporarily defeated. Specifically, let me introduce you to some remarks made about the bill by Donna McColl, a representative for the education minister's office:

"Whatever the nature of schooling – homeschool, private school, Catholic school – we do not tolerate disrespect for differences,” Donna McColl, Lukaszuk’s assistant director of communications, told LifeSiteNews on Wednesday evening.

“You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life, you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction,” she added.

According to McColl, Christian homeschooling families can continue to impart Biblical teachings on homosexuality in their homes, “as long as it’s not part of their academic program of studies and instructional materials.”

“What they want to do about their ideology elsewhere, that’s their family business. But a fundamental nature of our society is to respect diversity,” she added.

Pressed about what the precise distinction is between homeschoolers’ instruction and their family life, McColl said the question involved “real nuances” and she would have to get back with specifics.

But in a second interview Wednesday evening, McColl said the government “won’t speculate” about particular examples, and explained that she had not yet gotten a “straight answer” on what exactly constitutes “disrespect.” She did say that families “can’t be hatemongering, if you will.”

Sounds like she'd been reading Ross, doesn't it? In fact, the resemblance between McColl's comments and Ross's prescription is so striking that I'm inclined to say it isn't a coincidence. That doesn't actually need to mean that McColl read Ross's article. What it could mean is that this sort of talk is much, much more common than the rest of us realized in a certain academic milieu, and that McColl and Ross are both either products of or part of that milieu and are just telling us what the liberal elite has in mind for us as the new normal.

Note that Ross's article and the near-passage of Bill 2 are mutually corrective of certain tendencies to complacency. On the one hand, when anything crazy comes out of Canada, American lefties who want to cry, "Peace, peace" (lulling us crazy conservatives into silence until they're ready to snap the trap shut) will tell us that everything is different in the United States and that nothing that happens in Canada is relevant. To that, Ross's article is an important corrective, because she is writing specifically and explicitly in an American legal context and in an American law journal.

On the other hand, as already noted, the actual existence of Bill 2 and of McColl's remarks thereupon shows us that this totalitarian proposal is no mere paper tiger. Real legislation is being drawn up to put it into effect. We can hope that First Amendment challenges in the United States would stave off any such legislation, but we cannot be sure of that. Obviously, the law professors are working hard to find ways around that.

Confirming both of these points is this case in New Hampshire, in which a judge adjudicating a parental dispute ordered a girl out of home schooling and into public schooling specifically on the grounds that her views reflected her mother's views too closely. Note too how this dovetails with Ross's prescription that the courts use the opportunity to interfere in education provided by divorce cases to force children into public schooling. The broad power of courts in divorce situations, a power created by dispute between parents, to micromanage children's lives and education for the "best interests of the child" places such cases largely outside the ambit of the First Amendment.

What we can be sure of is that direct regulation of home school content to enforce "tolerance" is a goal of a not-inconsiderable slice of the left-wing intelligentsia and that it will come to the United States as soon as they are able to make it happen.

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

Update: Thanks to a reader who has sent a link to an electronic copy of Ross's entire article. It's a peach.

April 11, 2012

Intolerance will not be tolerated


"Whatever the nature of schooling – homeschool, private school, Catholic school – we do not tolerate disrespect for differences”

and this...

Hence an argument that tolerance for diverse views and values is a foundational principle does not conflict with the notion that the state can and should limit the ability of intolerant homeschoolers to inculcate hostility to difference in their children

from the previous entry made me think of this. Enjoy a little light relief, especially if you haven't seen it yet.

April 13, 2012

Dearborn at it again. A hold harmless agreement to engage in religiously controversial speech?

The city of Dearborn, Michigan, is at it again. Pastor Terry Jones wants to speak in Dearborn across from a large mosque and has applied for an event permit to do so. Dearborn is trying a rather novel method of refusing: Jones and his associates were told that they cannot get the event permit unless they sign a sweeping hold harmless agreement. You can read the proposed agreement here.

As far as I can tell, the main import of it is that if they are killed by infuriated Muslims while Dearborn's finest deliberately do nothing, Dearborn won't be sued. In other words, it's to be open season on Christians with the gall to speak in a Muslim zone. The agreement says that Jones and co. understand that "these risks could result in damage to property, personal, and/or bodily injury or death, including injuries or death to the individual participants."

The wording is sweeping enough that it seems that it could also indemnify the City of Dearborn against suit if they take an active role in stopping the Christians--for example by simply arresting them right off the bat on trumped-up "disorderly conduct" charges, committing a color of law violation against their First Amendment rights. The agreement says that the Christians

RELEASE AND FOREVER DISCHARGE the city of Dearborn … and its officers, employees, and agents, from any and all claims, liabilities, or lawsuits, including legal costs and reasonable attorney fees, resulting from their activities on City of Dearborn property.

I take it that the "their" in "their activities" refers to Jones and his organization. Nonetheless, color me cynical, but if the city officers behave in an otherwise litigable way when Jones & Co. show up to speak against Islam, could that not plausibly be taken to be a claim that "results from" Jones's own actions on Dearborn City property?

Either way, this seems completely unreasonable. On the most charitable interpretation, the agreement amounts to an unsubtle implication that Muslims will be allowed to harm the unpopular Christian speakers with impunity.

Legal eagles, have you ever heard of anything like this before? "We'll technically allow you to speak, but you can't sue us for anything whatsoever that happens in connection with your speaking." Much less, "You can't sue us for anything that we do in connection with your speaking." It's a new one on me, but maybe I just missed some other city's use of such an agreement to tell unwelcome speakers to get lost.

Thomas More Law Center is suing Dearborn again, bless 'em. We'll see how this latest sharia struggle plays out.

April 16, 2012

More from our bioethics friends--choice devours itself [CORRECTED]

Ho, hum. Another day, another outrage from the bioethics community. This one (or pair of 'em) gets a choice devours itself award. Remember that choice devours itself when you start by offering something as a benefit to a particular group and advertise it as good for them as a matter of their choice and end up forcing it on the "beneficiaries" or turning a blind eye when that is done. Forced or high-pressure abortions, complicity in sex slavery, forced or coerced euthanasia and "assisted suicide," and the like.

In this case, the wonderful "choice" is in-vitro fertilization cum pre-implantation diagnosis. (In case you need a refresher, that's when you toss embryos into the bioincinerator after checking them for, and finding, defects.) All about giving parents choices, you know. But some brainy bioethicists have decided that, actually, you have a duty to use pre-implantation diagnosis if you are a carrier of a serious (whatever "serious" may include) genetic anomaly. In fact, the law should impose this duty on you:

Janet Malek, of East Carolina University, and Judith F. Daar, of Whittier Law School, in California, argue that eventually the law should and will impose “a duty on IVF-reproducing parents to maximize the well-being of their future offspring by all reasonable means.” Why? The authors cite three reasons: increasing the child’s well-being, expanding his or her self-determination, and reducing inequalities.

So it's all about your choice, except when it's not.

But there's more. In the same hot-off-the-press issue of The American Journal of Bioethics Rosalind Ladd and Edwin Forman criticize Malek and Daar on the grounds that they "do not go far enough." Ladd and Forman argue that the duty to use pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (and to discard embryos with the problem) extends to all parents who carry a serious genetic anomaly. But, ha!, since you can't use pre-implantation diagnosis unless you use IVF, all such parents have a duty to use IVF to procreate. Isn't that neat?

Continue reading "More from our bioethics friends--choice devours itself [CORRECTED]" »

April 19, 2012

Choice devours itself: Sweden wants to ban raising your kids at home

Ah, the glorious choices feminism was supposed to offer women. The opportunities! The empowerment! Put your kids in daycare and have a career because it's your choice to do so.

I remember almost twenty-five years ago meeting a Russian woman (this was before the fall of the Soviet Union, I emphasize) who was telling me how wonderful Communism was because it had liberated women. I told her that I didn't want to be liberated, that I wanted to have children and stay at home with them. She was almost literally unable to comprehend this. She kept saying over and over again things like, "But in Russia you would have a choice. You would have the opportunity to have a career." (I have no idea why, in the mid-80's, she believed that somehow this was not true in the United States. Perhaps because she had met me and assumed I was brainwashed and typical of American women at the time?) Telling her that the choice I wanted to make was not to have a career simply did not compute.

Well, the next time someone lectures you on the "softness" of Euro-socialism, or perhaps even chides you for referring to a country like Sweden as socialist, please note: Sweden is becoming my Communist acquaintance's dream. Some of us have already heard about Sweden's totalitarian and utterly committed attack on home schooling. Home education is illegal, and that's that. See here for more links and information.

But mandatory daycare, too, is on the horizon if not already here. In this article, along with more details on the persecution of home schoolers, we learn this:

Parents are pressured to put their children in daycare at age one.

"One mother told me when she went with her 18 month son to his medical checkup, and he was not in daycare. They said, 'Oh, your son is not in daycare? But he has to go to daycare. He needs that and you need to work,'" Himmselstrand told CBN News.

"The argument they give about this is that every child has a 'right' to daycare. This is not a right that parents are allowed to interfere with."

HSLDA translates from this link (which is in Swedish) the following argument for compulsory three-year-old daycare: “We cannot allow parents to deny their children the right to go to pre-school.”

The idea of children as free-standing actors in relation to the state, which enforces its own ideas of their "rights" against their parents, is not a new one. HSLDA has been warning about it for a long time. Sweden seems to have few qualms about a fairly extreme interpretation of the concept of the "rights of the child." A child has a right, in essence, to be separated from his mother.

And a mother has a duty to work. Thus the beneficiaries of feminism are now to be compelled to accept its vision, willy-nilly.

Choice? We don't need no stinkin' choice.

See Sage's sage comments on Sweden and home schooling, here.

HT for daycare pressure story, VFR.

April 20, 2012

Five Years Ago


Five years ago, while credentialed scholars could recommend infanticide with impunity, it was not legalized widely in the West.

Five years ago religious liberty was less menaced by busybodies and ideologists.

Five years ago the aged, the decrepit, the mentally infirm were better protected in law; and their serpentine executioners more exposed to penalty of law.

Five years ago sharia law was less anchored in proto-legal agreements and rulings. The US Code was less conformed to the Law of Muhammad.

Five years ago the faithful Catholic or otherwise pro-life nurse was more at liberty to decline participation in the slaughter of the unborn.

Five years ago coercion of conscience on points of human sexuality was an ominous prospect; today it is a legal precedent.

Five years ago no one imagined that unless every Catholic is paying for it, contraception is not available; today that is the principled doctrine of the federal administration.

Five years ago the fraudulence of Tolerance was less evident; and its tyranny less accomplished.

The last five years have seen a lot of things wrong with the world.

Five years ago, What’s Wrong with the World was launched. We took our name from a book by the great G. K. Chesterton (pictured above). We sought to emulate his unique fusion of laughter and polemic, critique and appreciation, humor and outrage, love and fury.

Despite the gathering clouds, darker and more intimidating now than in 2007, our policy reposes on the old verities that Chesterton so ably defended. We stand for Liberty. We stand for Order. We stand for Life. We stand for Family. We stand for Common Sense. We stand for what’s left of the Old Republic. Above all we stand for the Cross of Christ, and go gaily in the dark.

Below the fold is a lightly edited version of the first post to appear at this website. It describes the paradox that despite all these provocations and alarums, Conservatives retain a unity; they are the party of grateful men.

Continue reading "Five Years Ago" »

April 23, 2012

Liberals. I hate these guys

(With apologies to Indiana Jones, and yes, it's hyperbole.)

I've recently been reading The Small Woman, Alan Burgess's 1959 biography of missionary to China Gladys Aylward. I was so fascinated by the included story of David Davies, one of her colleagues in China, which I hadn't previously encountered, that I tried to do a little googling to find out more about him.

First, part of Davies's story from The Small Woman: David Davies was an indomitable Welsh missionary to China during the Japanese occupation. In 1939 he left Gladys Aylward in charge of various refugee relief efforts being run by the missionary compound in the contested city of Tsehchow and escorted his wife and family to the relatively safer (though already Japanese occupied) Chinese coast. He then returned secretly and by convoluted paths, against Japanese orders, to the mountain region, walking approximately 1,000 miles on foot, to take up his work again in Tsehchow where he believed his duty lay.

Davies was insistent on a principle of complete neutrality for missionaries, a principle Aylward at first shared but later abandoned in practice. Gladys was a naturalized Chinese citizen, and she was persuaded by personal knowledge of Japanese atrocities, by her loyalty to China, and by the arguments of a Colonel in Chiang Kai-shek's intelligence to agree to spy for the Nationalist Chinese against the ruthless Japanese invaders. Burgess does a good job of portraying Aylward's ongoing ambivalence about this decision, a tension created by a conflict with her own initially pacifist version of Christianity.

Not long after Davies returned to the danger zone, the Nationalists retreated from Tsehchow in the spring of 1940. At the same time the Japanese placed a bounty on Gladys Aylward's head; obviously, they had learned of her activities working for the Chinese military. Both Gladys and David Davies were intending to stay in Tsehchow when the Japanese came to occupy it; they had done so before and survived, though on that earlier occasion Gladys (who wasn't yet working for the Chinese) was badly beaten. Neither was intending to leave this time either, but at the last minute, as the Japanese were actually entering the city, Gladys made up her mind to run, persuaded in part by having recently learned of the reward offered for her capture. She ran first to Yangcheng, to which she had already sent about a hundred Chinese orphans. She now evacuated the children in a famous and dramatic month-long journey over the mountains to relative safety and stable care in territory more firmly in the hands of the Nationalists.

Back in Tsehchow, Davies was captured by the Japanese, who were determined to force him to admit that he was a spy. They tortured both him and two of his Chinese companions. They killed both of the Chinese, crucifying one and beheading the other. Davies was beaten and tortured over a period of a year or so and eventually released after two years of imprisonment. He promptly went to the coast and, upon finding that his wife and children were in a Japanese internment camp, gave up his own opportunity to be repatriated to Wales and instead stayed with his family in the camp until the end of the war.

All of this information is in Burgess's book. Though Burgess appears not to be a Christian, he treats the story of David Davies as a triumph of the human spirit. So stirring is his rendition of the tale that I couldn't help wondering why there wasn't a movie, perhaps from the Hollywood glory days of the 1950's or 1960's, about Davies, to match The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, which is about Gladys Aylward. It's possible, though, that Davies's story would have been too gruesome for a movie of that time period, and perhaps it's just as well one was not made.

Well. Trust the despicable media of the United Kingdom not to be able to leave things at that.


"David Davies" missionary China

into Google, and up pops this link about a 2004 documentary about Gladys Aylward. (I can't help noting in passing the fact that whoever wrote this summary is so illiterate that he thinks "infamous" means "famous.")

So what is the BBC's take on the story of Davies? David Davies's sufferings and the death of his companions were Gladys Aylward's fault. In fact, this version of the same story is headed "Heroine's actions 'led to atrocities'." They are obviously reasoning that if Gladys hadn't spied for the Chinese, the Japanese wouldn't have had reason to think that an associate of hers might be a spy, and then they wouldn't have imprisoned and tortured Davies and killed his Chinese Christian friends. See? So it's her fault. Her actions "led to atrocities."

How many things are there about this BBC spin that are either stupid or morally twisted?

Well, let's start with the fact that the Japanese were perfectly capable of accusing Western missionaries of being spies on zero evidence and treating them accordingly (where "accordingly" should be interpreted in terms of the type of conduct for which the Japanese were justly infamous in WWII). The story of Darlene Deibler Rose, captured by the Japanese in Indonesia, is much like that of Davies. You might almost think we were talking about a relevantly similar set of brutal, irrational, torturing conquerors. Burgess seems well aware of this and takes Davies's treatment and that of his Chinese companions to have been the result of Japanese irrationality, a determination to believe what they were going to believe about a Western missionary captive. (We might also remember that Davies had gone to great trouble to return to the region against Japanese orders, which could have been enough for them to leap to the conclusion that he was up to no good.)

Continue reading "Liberals. I hate these guys" »

April 26, 2012

The body blows keep on coming [Updated]

Lying behind several of the points in the Editors' post below on the changes in America from five years ago was this simple point: Five years ago we did not have in power a politically ruthless administration determined to make political war on the American people and the American way of life. Recently Lawrence Auster has said that you can "begin to sense the impatience" of the liberals in this country:

The liberals want to get rid of us. They may not have yet articulated that thought plainly in their minds, but that is what they feel, and that is why they are not bothered by the astonishing manifestations of all-out liberal tyranny in the last three months, such as the birth control mandate...

This is true. There used to be a saying, probably meant to downplay the true evil of Communism: "A Communist is a liberal in a hurry." Well, our liberals are more and more in a hurry these days. Power has gone to their heads, and they are going to use it to the hilt. One really cannot keep up with the breathtaking moves. No doubt they know that. Who has the money, time, and energy to bring lawsuits against all of their abuses of power? And the administration will be able to use taxpayer money to defend themselves. Moreover, the arguably unconstitutional power already granted to the government over the past decades was to some extent just sitting around waiting to be used. No one knows how to use it like a leftist.

Here are two of the latest. Are these "against the rules" as the rules of executive power have been gradually interpreted? Who knows? But I can say this: They are unjust laws, and they are beyond all doubt and question against the concept of limited federal government as envisaged in the American founding.

1) The Obama administration directly attacks what is left of family farm life and culture in this country by planning to outlaw children's helping their parents with many farm chores they were previously permitted to do. Moreover, the 4-H is no longer going to be permitted to give safety training to minors. That task will be reserved for, you guessed it, the federal government. Not being a farmer, I can only guess at what this means in practice, but it sounds extremely sweeping. Just from having read novels all my life I can get some clue of the way in which this strikes a blow at the normal, gradual, humane process by which the children of farmers are taught by their parents to be farmers themselves, to handle animals. Yes, even to slaughter animals or treat them for illnesses. (The article points out that children would under the new rules not be permitted to see veterinary practice.) Family apprenticeship for kids is out. The bond between young and old is to be broken. The liberals' hatred of such quintessentially American institutions as 4-H and the family farm is to be given a powerful weapon for destroying these entities. The federal government is to be all-in-all to the rural youth of America. The more you think about it, the worse it gets.

This needs to be recognized as the act of all-out ideological warfare that it is. As I have said, I consider this to be an unjust law. I say no more on the subject of whether farmers should obey it or not.

2) Unrelated except in the sense that it is also a breathtaking act of tyranny and ideological warfare, which our Federal Masters do "just because they can"--The EEOC has ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applies to "transgender persons." This is quite amazing. First of all, if we care at all about legislative intent (which sometimes has been applied to the Civil Rights Acts), it's quite outrageous to claim that Congress has ever intended that non-discrimination statute with its reference to not discriminating "on the basis of sex" to mean "not discriminating on the basis of claiming to be the opposite of one's actual biological sex." Obviously, the sex discrimination aspects of the federal non-discrimination law were meant to be a sop to the feminists. They were meant to prevent discrimination against women. That's got a whole set of problems all its own, of course, but the application to "transgendered persons" is a joke interpretively.

Second, let's remember, what is often forgotten, that as of yet federal non-discrimination law does not unambiguously apply to homosexuals, to "sexual orientation." That is why the homosexual lobby works so hard to put such laws in place at the state and even local level. The non-discrimination agenda for homosexuals has generally been treated as less extreme than the non-discrimination agenda for transsexuals. (I am not granting that it is in some objective sense "less extreme," only that there has been an ordering to these things in the way that they have come up in and been treated in American politics.) The latter is more recent and more "progressive." The EEOC is obviously flexing its muscles. As usual, liberals just hate, hate having to go through a cumbersome process of actually getting a new policy voted into law by a whole bunch of elected representatives. Who needs that hassle? They'd rather carry out their agenda through much smaller bodies of radical judges and bureaucrats. And they hate the democratic process even worse if they have to engage in it at lower political levels. They have been thirsting for a federal law banning "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation" (which, yes, for all you foolish, naive people out there, does mean on the basis of sexual acts) for a long time. If the EEOC can simply enact federal non-discrimination law for "trans persons" by executive fiat, why not for "sexual orientation"?

Tyranny isn't just around the corner anymore. We've gone around the corner. Tyranny is here now, in our beloved country, which once was the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Under entirely appropriate pressure from the Daily Caller and the outrage occasioned thereby, the Obama administration has withdrawn the proposed new labor regulation for farms. Long live representative democracy and the freedom of the press!

April 27, 2012

Wesley J. Smith fills a much-needed role

(I'm going to take a page from our friend Fake Herzog and put this entry in the form of a letter.)

Dear Wesley,

As you know, I've been a long-time fan of your blog Secondhand Smoke and often link to it and make my own comments on the stories you highlight there.

It's recently come home to me even more strongly just how important your place is in the world of philosophy and ethics. Here's the problem: The philosophical field of ethics seems to be irremediably corrupt, especially in bioethics. It is completely dominated by Peter Singer, Julian Savulescu, and their ilk, and the gatekeepers aren't allowing anything else. It is particularly difficult when a young philosopher might be inclined to accept human exceptionalism partly because of his own religious background; of course, religious premises are treated as entirely out of bounds.

I don't actually accept the proposition that religious premises are out of bounds. I believe that religious belief can be rationally grounded and, moreover, that it is crucial that our young Christian philosophers not be running about with "split minds," doing naturalist philosophy on weekdays and going to church on Sundays. We should integrate our worldview, and our well-supported religious beliefs should play a role in our ethical theory.

However, this doesn't negate the importance of the natural law, and as a sheer matter of psychological and practical fact, if Christian philosophers really believe that the only route to a humane ethics passes through propositions about the truth of Christianity, it is unfortunately all too likely that they will, at least for purposes of all discourse in their professional world, abandon humane ethics. This is especially true for young philosophers just getting started and under pressure to conform to Singer-esque assumptions. And it's still more true for those who have been, sad, sad to say, raised in our Western public school systems as "men without chests," in C.S. Lewis's words--men out of touch with the Tao, whose moral sensibilities have not been trained in basic humane principles about mankind and human nature.

This is where you come in. Though I imagine you wouldn't put it this way yourself, I see your role as that of restating the Natural Law for a post-Christian world. By starting with your principle of human exceptionalism, which as you point out can be supported by simple observation in a non-religious fashion, by assuming that there is such a thing as objective truth in ethics, and by not being intimidated by the zeitgeist, you are able to move past the anti-human and inhumane ethics of the contemporary philosophical world. You take your principles about the specialness of each human being, regardless of capacities, and you apply them to the particular, real-world cases. And as an outsider who does not depend for his bread and butter on the approval of the philosophical establishment, you are able to do this without fear or favor. This is an indispensible role.

To be honest, I would advise any young philosopher with any good moral intuitions not to specialize in ethics. The only exception to this advice might be if he could take his degree and then work in a traditional Catholic ethical milieu where natural law theory is well-respected, but how many people can do that? In the present economic and job market, it's not as though people thinking of going into philosophy can be as picky as all that in their school and job choices. But even if they are specializing in logic or epistemology or (especially) metaphysics, they are going to be surrounded by discussions that impinge upon the issue of human exceptionalism. If nothing else, such discussions will come up in the philosophy lounge when someone tries to tell them that they shouldn't be eating a chicken sandwich. And philosophers argue about everything.

So it's very important that there be a go-to place where those who have never been grounded in human exceptionalism can begin to get an idea of what a natural law ethics might look like in the real world and where those who have been so grounded can keep their weapons honed. For those purposes, I can't recommend Secondhand Smoke too highly.

Keep up the good work.

Lydia McGrew

April 28, 2012

Mass organized boycott

I indicated in a thread now well below that I have a lot of suspicion about the “take my ball and go home” mentality that prevails among many conservatives when it comes to electing our rulers. The detached observer can easily discern the self-regard and impatience from which it often springs. Such an observer will be struck by the impression he receives of folks who feel themselves quite fully entitled to politicians of virtue and probity. Alas, history does not disclose many examples bearing this out. You might live your life without ever setting eyes on a upright man in politics.

Part of the disagreement derives, no doubt, from differences concerning the nature of civic obligation. Does civic obligation apply with force sufficient to overawe, in most cases, the dictates of personal principle? Or do the latter constrain the former sufficiently to induce a wise reluctance to vote at all in many elections?

While I tend to subscribe to the Buckley Rule, so named for the late William F. Buckley’s dictum to support the most conservative candidate who is electable, I am cognizant of the necessity of unpacking what, precisely, one means in a given context by “electable.” The idea is susceptible to imposture like few concepts in democratic politics.

Endeavoring to avoid any impostures, allow me to set forth one form of electoral protest that I could definitely get behind: mass boycott. It appears that of both major candidates in the upcoming election, it will be true to say they have affixed their executive signature to health care bills that coerce the conscience of Roman Catholics by obliging them to underwrite contraceptives.

Now imagine the effect of a widespread and firm unity of Catholics in a determining not to cast a vote for either man.

Let it be proclaimed from the parishes and read out at mass: In good conscience no Catholic may cast a vote for either major party candidate. My children, you can’t vote in this election. Now that would turn a few heads.

Certainly the election could proceed without them; very probably a president would still be elected; nonetheless, a man taking the Oath of Office bereft of a single Catholic vote would do so under some considerable stain of bewilderment and anxiety. The boycott would surely bulk as big a story as the inauguration.

If even half of American Catholics, who normally voted diligently, joined the boycott — why, it would reduce to marvelous ruins every polling model, every worn-out cliché, every bad bit of babble that gets passed off as election commentary. What is the voting pattern for PA shorn of all its orthodox Catholics? How votes Colorado without all the pressure of Catholic orthodoxy preached and flung out in defiance by Archbishop Chaput, now of Philadelphia? I don’t know. And neither do you. This is a protest worthy of name. The touch of rampart and revolt thrills me.

So the day the Church calls for a boycott of elections, this Protestant will sign on without a lick of regret. But until then, I’m sticking with Buckley.

April 29, 2012

Only People Have Rights?

The Nancy Pelosi’s of this world are shown, yet again, to have no clue when it comes to how democracy actually is supposed to work here in this country (or anywhere else, if “work” means generically successful in organizing stable, fruitful society for generations on end). A couple years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the constitutionality of section 441B of Title 2 of the US Code (election law), put in place by the McCain –Feingold act of 2002, a legal mistake if ever there was one. This section was the one that introduced a direct suppression of free speech by corporations: it outlawed so-called “electioneering communications” within 60 days of a federal election by any corporation whatsoever. The law was considered problematic to begin with, and President Bush when he signed it did so with publicly stated misgivings about its constitutionality. Now that the SC has struck down this provision in Citizens United vs. FEC, Pelosi and crew are foaming at the mouth and calling for a constitutional amendment:

The People's Rights Amendment Section 1. We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons. Section 2. People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulations as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution. Section 3. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.

A brief glance at the first sentence provokes awe and wonderment, that supposedly savvy political operatives can so badly mis-align a mere 14 words, the second part of the sentence, against reality and political intelligibility. Forget, for a moment, that Pelosi is a liberal’s liberal, and you will notice that those words would strike down all sorts of rights dear to liberals. Like, for example, the freedom of all of the media corporations. The First Amendment’s protected freedom of press would cease to apply to the New York Times, but only to humans employed by the NYT. The corporate entity could not claim any relief from suppression of speech, and would have no standing to sue for protection of the press from government interference. Nothing in the 4th amendment would protect the NYT building from unreasonable searches.

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