What’s Wrong with the World

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

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April 2013 Archives

April 1, 2013

Remembering Lawrence Auster (1949-2013)

Readers will no doubt have marked by now the passing of Lawrence Auster, at 3:56 AM on Good Friday.

Lawrence was a fighter by nature, fearsome to foes, a lion of the traditionalist movement in America. To the extent that such a movement exists at all, Larry (as his friends knew him) was a foundational figure who has left a lasting mark on our world. His work inspired affection, admiration, and, of course, bitter opposition. He was treated coldly by a post-War conservative movement that had moved decisively in the direction of accepting and accommodating basic liberal premises, premises which Larry spent two decades of his life exposing and criticizing with an uncompromising ferocity.

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April 2, 2013

Studies on home schooling

This article on home schooling and studies thereof is rather interesting. A few comments:

The author tentatively suggests that perhaps a weakness of home schooling is that it doesn't sufficiently prepare students for the "soul-destroying" regimentation of life outside the home. She specifies two areas where this might be the case--deadlines and pointless (or apparently pointless) rules.

I would say that these are different. On the one hand, if parents are not forcing their children to meet deadlines, that's a problem. They should. I always point this out as a caution to parents who are about to start home schooling: Be sure that your child has projects that he has to turn in by a particular time. You might do a lot more of this in high school than in grade school. That's entirely appropriate. But make sure that he does it. Home schooling needn't mean schooling without any discipline. The same goes for making your students finish tests on time. Force them to learn how to do timed testing, even if this means having them do some standardized testing (or preparation using prep books) when this isn't strictly necessary. It will be good for them.

Pointless or apparently pointless rules are a bit different and do present a conundrum. The dilemma is this: You, as a parent, want to be a good boss, a good ruler. Good bosses or rulers don't make up stupid, counter-productive, or pointless rules just to haze their employees or subjects. (At least, I would argue so.) But in the world your kids will sometimes have to work for people who do demand a kind of mindless conformity. Do you need to pretend to be such a boss in order to prepare your students to work for such a boss?

I could not bring myself to do that, because it would seem to me to be wrong. My entire goal is to be as Solon-like as possible in my interactions with my children, including my interactions with my children as my students. I can't set that aside and deliberately be a jerk or a tyrant for a few days (or weeks, or months) just to teach them to work for jerks or tyrants.

But by the same token, I'm disinclined to say that it would be better for them to be in a school environment where they have to obey rules that I truly think to be poor rules just to "learn to do it."

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April 4, 2013

Protecting the born

For a long time, led by the estimable Hadley Arkes, pro-lifers have been trying to pass laws that would protect born children who survive an abortion.

One such law, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, was passed at the federal level in 2002. A problem with that law, however, is that it contained no penalties for doctors or hospitals that violated and hence no enforcement provisions. Arkes' own hope was that a favorable administration would enforce it on an case-by-case basis by threatening to withdraw federal funding from specific hospitals (such as the infamous Christ Hospital in Illinois about which Jill Stanek testified) that violated its provisions.

One problem with this type of "enforcement" is that it would change from one administration to the next. As far as Arkes' specific suggestion of threatening loss of federal funds to specific hospitals, even the Bush administration was apparently not willing to be quite that blunt, but it did make some attempts, as outlined in this extremely interesting document (which I discovered only a few days ago) to interlock BAIPA with other federal provisions so as to make states and hospitals responsive to BAIPA in some fashion.

First, the Bush HHS argued that the provisions of EMTALA applied in the case of a child born alive at a hospital as a result of an attempted abortion. That is, the child's existence and need for assistance was in that case an "emergency," and doctors should respond appropriately to give the child aid or else be in violation of EMTALA. Second, they argued that a child who was not given assistance because of surviving abortion would be a case of child neglect and that therefore states were responsible under federal law requiring states to prevent child neglect (CAPTA) to have policies in place to report and respond to such situations.

These attempts were actually rather clever, but it is not clear that they made much difference. Jill Stanek, for what it is worth, is dubious and believes that fatal, born-alive abortions still continue at hospitals. It is certainly unlikely that the Obama administration is making any attempt to find out the state of the situation.

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April 6, 2013

For Want of a Nail

From small mistakes come large failures. Or, as Aristotle puts it, a small error in the premises may lead to a grave error in conclusions.

I have been listening to the Supreme Court oral arguments on gay “marriage” – 2 days of arguments, one on Prop 8 from Calif, the other on DOMA and an estate tax marital deduction. Among many smaller thoughts, one thing stands out that is remarkABLE but is absolutely, utterly unremarked by both sides, and illustrates perfectly the way a cultural attitude shapes gaps in perception: In all of the comments about Prop 8 and DOMA, nothing by either side (so far as I have heard, anyway) allows one to think that both these laws allow gays to get married. You would think that both laws state: Homosexuals cannot marry. That’s false. NEITHER LAW stands in the way of gays getting married. The mantra of the gays is that they are being blocked from marriage, which is a civil right. Utter hogwash.

Of course gays can get married. In all 50 states, any man who is of age and unmarried can marry a woman who is of age, not closely related, and not already married. That includes gays. A gay man can marry a woman. A lesbian woman can marry a man. The law does not pick out homosexuals and say “homosexuals cannot marry”. The law doesn’t even ask if you are homosexual. You can be gay, straight, bi-sexual, or whatever, the law _does_not_speak to whether you can get married. It only speaks to the gender complementarity of the people marrying. Any gay man can marry a woman, just as any straight man can marry a woman. Any lesbian woman can marry a man, just as any straight women can marry a man. There’s no discrimination against homosexuals in THAT. Equal before the law.

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April 10, 2013

Killt Him a Bar

The old song informs us that Davy Crocket killt him a bar when he was only three. When I was a child, we kids at the Christian school thought it very daring to reinterpret the phrase as "killt in a bar when he was only three."

Richard Ahlstrand, of Auburn, Massachusetts, killt him a bar the other day, and the police aren't happy about it.

Mr. Ahlstrand, age 76, was stocking his bird feeders when he heard a noise. He went back inside and got a shotgun and returned, to find himself suddenly charged by a black bear. Goodbye, black bear. One might think this would be a cause for rejoicing, as Mr. Ahlstrand is, you know, a human being, and hence of more value than many sparrows, much less black bears, but not so. He's being charged with illegally killing a bear, illegally baiting a bear, and failure to secure a firearm.

Evidently keeping a large gallon of birdseed outside on one's property for refilling the bird feeders is "baiting a bear," according to the police. One wonders what holding a picnic in one's back yard would be, on that reasoning.

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April 12, 2013

Friday miscellaneous link roundup

Readers will have gathered that I am on Facebook. This sometimes presents me with an embarrassment of riches for blogging, yet it's an odd effect that actually I blog less. That's partly explicable by the fact that I do spend some time actually on Facebook, reading my friends' links and making pithy comments and "likes" and what-not, all of which takes time.

It's also a function of the embarrassment of (sad) riches itself. I say to myself, "I should blog about that...and that...and that..." and since there isn't time to write something thoughtful about all of them, I end up writing about none of them. This is unfortunate. So, rather than "saving up" stories for possible later, longer treatment, and to promote them just in case some of you haven't heard about all of them, herewith a link roundup with a sentence or two about each. This is a hodge-podge to end all hodge-podges. It also occurs to me that there is nothing to stop me or any of my esteemed colleagues from writing more about any of the stories later. Comments can be on any of the stories. In no particular order...

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April 16, 2013

Various pieces of news from the medical ethics world

This article confirms what I said here about the difficulty of enforcing born-alive infant protections. The testimony of many nurses shows a pervasive pattern of overt discrimination against premature babies in withholding life-saving treatment based on the fact that they have survived abortions. One of these accounts also shows evidence of an underestimate of the child's age, suspiciously given as "23 weeks," which is just under what many hospitals would consider viable. Given that abortionists' assistants deliberately manipulate ultrasounds and lie about gestational age, this is significant.

The nurse from Labor and Delivery walked into our unit carrying a blanket and stating “This is a prostaglandin abortion. He has a heartbeat so we brought him over.” The baby was placed under a radiant warmer and I was told the rest of the facts. The gestational age of the baby was given to be 23 weeks by ultrasound. The mother had cancer and had received chemotherapy treatments before discovering that she was pregnant. The parents had been told that their baby would be horribly deformed because of the chemotherapy.

I looked at the baby boy lying before me, and saw that from all appearances he was perfect. He had a good strong heartbeat. I could tell this without using a stethoscope because I could see his chest moving in sync with his heart rate. With a stethoscope I heard a heart pumping strongly. I look at his size and his skin — he definitely looked more mature than 23 weeks. He was weighed and I discovered that he was 900 grams, almost two pounds. This was almost twice the weight of some babies we have been able to save. A doctor was summoned. When she arrived the baby started moving his tiny arms and legs flailing. He started trying to gasp, but was unable to get air into his lungs. His whole body shuddered with his efforts to breathe. We were joined by a neonatalist and I pleaded with both doctors saying, “The baby is viable — look at his size, look at his skin — he looks much older than 23 weeks.”

It was a horrible moment as each of us wrestled with our own ethical standards. I argued that we should make an attempt to resuscitate him, to get him breathing. The resident doctor told me, “This is an abortion. We have no right to interfere.” The specialist, who had the responsibility for the decision, was wringing his hands and quietly saying, “This is so hard. Oh, God, it’s so hard when it’s this close.” In the end, I lost. We were not going to try to resuscitate this baby. So, I did the only thing I could do. Dipping my index finger into sterile water and placing it on his head, I baptized the child.

Note that the (female) resident in this case expressly stated that they "had no right to interfere" because "this is an abortion." No, lady, this isn't an abortion. This is a baby. The abortion is over. The story doesn't say in what year it occurred.

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April 17, 2013

An impossible situation

Yesterday I had been reading a rather annoying article, which I don't particularly feel like linking to, urging conservatives to present themselves (somehow) differently in the pro-marriage fight. The author was being fairly non-specific and was just urging pro-marriage activists to find a way to bill their fight as "progressive" rather than as "defending marriage." (Evidently he thinks the word "defending" won't focus-group well.)

Anyway, as I was cooking dinner I was asking myself, in a spirit of charity (!) what sort of "positive" efforts he might have in mind, so we could say we're being positive and progressive rather than negative and defensive. There was some mention of no-fault divorce laws, so I thought, well, maybe one idea was to try to roll back no-fault divorce laws. That this would be some sort of positive program of strengthening marriage that pro-marriage forces could try to take credit for. (Though honestly, in terms of self-presentation, does anyone really expect the public at large to think, "Oh, how nice, they're not just negative, they also are trying to roll back no-fault divorce laws, so now I feel better about the people who think marriage should continue to be between one man and one woman"? I don't think so either.)

Then it hit me.

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April 19, 2013

The jihad marches on (with a little Bayesianism thrown in)

Well, now we all know (hopefully) that the Boston bombing was not carried out by disaffected right-wingers targeting tax day.

And let me just throw in a little analysis here, prompted by an outraged (sensible) philosopher friend who called me up to vent a bit about the denseness of left-wingers: Let us please consider that (yes, yes, you can stop saying "Timothy McVeigh" now, even taking him into account) based on our past experience, the prior probability of a so-called "right-wing" terrorist was as of the beginning of this week, even before the revelations of last night about the identity of these bombers, much lower than the prior probability of Muslim terrorists. Now let's look at likelihoods. Yes, one possible motive for "right-wing terrorists" would have been objection to high taxes, and then April 15 might well have been targeted. But there were other descriptions of both the day and the event: It was a large sporting event with crowds and it was also known as Patriot Day in Massachusetts, which might have attracted foreign terrorists. So by no means did the likelihoods favor "right-wing terrorists" over Muslim terrorists, either. In short, "Muslim terrorists" was always the way to bet, but our dear readers will have noticed the deafening silence of our restraint here at W4 in the last few days.

Now we know that the suspects, who, by their subsequent actions have left little doubt that they really are the bombers, are Chechnyans. Can you say "Beslan"?

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April 24, 2013

Things should be what they are

What should we, as conservatives, be trying to preserve and trying to pass down to our children? Many things, obviously. One thing that gets, to my mind, to the heart of what we should be trying to teach is a love of the genuine as opposed to the fake. Our culture wallows in the fake. Everything has to be new, everything has to have been thought of yesterday. This makes it difficult for young people to appreciate anything like a genuine and valuable cultural oeuvre with a history or a tradition behind it. Many of them have never been exposed to such a thing in their lives.

A "liturgy" that you made up last year because you think you're good at writing isn't a real liturgy. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Tridentine Mass are examples of real liturgy. Imperfect they may be in various ways, but they are human artifacts that represent real human history. Pastor Joe's Worship Ideas for Advent don't.

Here, however, we run into a difficulty: If you love what is real in human history and culture, you are going to come smack up against the fact that the ideas that made various undeniably real (in the sense I'm discussing here) and also worthwhile and beautiful (this may be more controversial) cultures and artifacts possible are in conflict with one another. How, then, can you give the proper appreciation to two or more traditions founded on incompatible ideas? And, if we acknowledge that all good things come from God and return to God, what does this say about God? How does God view incompatible traditions and their artifacts? And how will what is valuable in them be preserved in eternity?

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April 26, 2013

GUEST REVIEW: Home is where the Truth is


Home is where the Truth is


Journalist Gene Fowler once found a Holy Bible in the strangest of places—on a shelf, in the library of the notoriously irreligious W. C. Fields. “What the hell are you doing with that?” he inquired. Fields replied in his characteristic drawl “Been lookin’ for loopholes.”

Aren’t we all.

Rod Dreher’s new book, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, (subtitled “A Southern Girl, A Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life”) is ostensibly about the author’s sister, who tragically died of lung cancer at the age of forty-two. I say “tragically” because she never smoked, and I say “ostensibly” because, after all, her name is in the title and we do spend a considerable amount of time learning about her, about her relationship with her community and of the sometimes troubling relationship she had with her brother.

But there is so much more.

This is a book about loopholes. It is about humanity’s search for them, about the author’s search for them. It is about how some folks spend their whole lives looking for magical or scientific shortcuts around suffering and pain and alienation—and who receive in exchange for their troubles a spent life and a perfectly toned corpse.

It is a cautionary tale for those who have the very best things but who lack the community that perfects the enjoyment of those things.

But mostly it is a book about the example of Ruthie Leming, who refused to openly weep for her fate, who didn’t stare into the abyss of her unjustifiably shortened life with justifiable rage—who didn’t waste her time looking for loopholes that didn’t exist.

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April 30, 2013

The gendarmes of CPS

I note that it has been just about exactly a year since this post and discussion of the excesses of CPS.

Now we have a new story which you may already have heard: The Russian couple, Alex and Anna Nikolayev, in California who made the mistake of checking their baby into a hospital because of his flu symptoms. Their baby was later seized from their home by gun-wielding police who roughed up Alex a bit for good measure, simply because (gasp) they had discharged their baby from Hospital #1 and taken him to Hospital #2 for a second opinion without the Almighty Permission of those Godlike Beings--the medical personnel at Hospital #1. The docs at Hospital #2 okayed him to go home, but the ego-bruised docs back at Hospital #1 got their revenge, and the parents are now, after a hearing on Monday, pathetically grateful simply to be allowed to see their baby in the hospital any time they want. For a few days there he was in "protective custody" back at Hospital #1, presumably to prevent his horrible parents from kidnapping him and, y'know, taking him to the doctor or something.

I wish I could say that all's well that ends well, but it doesn't really. Baby Sammy is now going to be taken to Hospital #3 for a second (really a third) opinion, and maybe the doctors at Hospital #3 will agree to his going home. At some point he might need heart surgery, but it's unclear whether that is needed. His parents have had to agree not to take him home without permission, though. ("I do hereby solemnly swear that I will never take my baby away from the hospital without the permission of my betters, the doctors who Know Everything.") And they have had to agree to be "monitored" by CPS and to have a CPS visit in their home after Sammy is allowed to come home. Because parents are dangerous people and must be watched carefully.

We're told that his parents now have control over his medical decisions again, but in a sense that isn't really true, because of course any doctors can always call CPS again if the parents don't agree to what they want to do, or even if they dare to question it.

This is the stuff of police states.

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