What’s Wrong with the World

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July 2013 Archives

July 3, 2013

The U.S. Military vs. conservatives

I caused a certain amount of consternation in certain quarters by venturing to say, here, that the U.S. military is not a good place for conservative Christian young men.

I've been meaning for some time to blog this story about Master Sgt. Nathan Sommers. According to Sommers, his superiors in the U.S. army

--asked him to remove political bumper stickers from his private car which were negative toward Obama (they later backed down on this one specific demand, after Sommers got legal counsel),

--told him he could not silently read a book by David Limbaugh or another book by Mark Levin while in uniform or where other military members might see him and be offended by his choice of reading material,

--promoted him but then reprimanded him in a document for featuring Chik-Fil-A sandwiches at his promotion party and mentioning (on Twitter) that he was doing so partly "in honor of" the Obama/Holder refusal to defend DOMA. (He was told that he couldn't tweet anything "bordering on disrespect of the President.")

--personally warned by an officer that his tweets were deemed offensive and that some considered them racist (!)

--received a bad efficiency report, apparently for said tweets,

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The Church of Cliches

Last week, during the kerfuffle over the ridiculous SCOTUS rulings on so-called "same-sex marriage", our readers may have missed the fact that one of the Catholic Churches esteemed Archbishops decided to wade into the immigration debate with some learned comments on American "identity".

Now, lest you think I'm being sarcastic and dismissive of Archbishop Gomez, I want to note upfront that I really do accept the fact that good conservatives will have differing opinions about what to do about illegal and legal immigration and that prudential concerns will cause people of goodwill to disagree. Our former blogger, Jeff Culbreath, and I certainly did not agree on every aspect of immigration policy; but I respected his position because I knew he came to it after careful consideration of both the facts and the moral questions involved.

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July 4, 2013

Professor Mansfield's academic epigrams

Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield, writing elegantly in The Claremont Review of Books, recommends perusal of a particular study undertaken at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Undertaken, he hastens to add, without cooperation from the college. Nevertheless, “Peter Wood and Michael Toscano . . . in a comprehensive new study, ‘What Does Bowdoin Teach?’ the first of its kind and probably destined to be the best, [show] in the practices and principles of one college what political correctness in our time has done to higher education in our country.”

Mansfield is a writer of notable subtlety; unpacking his seriatim steps of analogy and logic requires care and concentration. It’s well worth doing so. He occupies a unique position in our age: Harvard University’s most prestigious conservative. He also occupies a particular range of grandeur in the Straussian academic constellation. This constellation (a formidable net of nebula and globular clusters) is not known for the clarity of its features, but rather than intricacy of their structure.

In his more topical writings, however, Mansfield favors a concision that culminates in some superb epigrams:

“Today’s liberals do not use liberalism to achieve excellence, but abandon excellence to achieve liberalism.”

“A liberal arts education, the study says, has become an education in liberating oneself from the liberal arts.”

“The report sums up the Bowdoin curriculum of equal courses as having a certain ‘flatness’ and tending toward ‘entropy,’ where faculty and students share the undemanding practice of self-expression, and the uninterest in teaching of the former joins with the uninterest in learning of the latter.”

Read the whole thing.

(Some more discursive reflections are below the fold.)

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July 6, 2013

“If I die in Raleigh, at least I will die free”

Are readers familiar with Darius Rucker’s current country hit “Wagon Wheel”? Lady Antebellum backs him up. Here’s the video:

No points for guessing who wrote the tune originally.

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July 10, 2013

Veto, Governor Brown!

Wesley J. Smith keeps us informed on the progress of the culture of death and human exploitation. California's legislature has passed AB 926, which legalizes the direct purchase of human eggs from women.

Human eggs, as Smith has repeatedly pointed out, are ounce for ounce probably the most valuable commodity in the world right now. Biotech companies urgently want them for cloning and other embryonic experimentation, and of course IVF clinics want "high-quality" eggs in order to make human embryos for their clients. I wrote here about the direct selling of human embryos that some IVF clinics are now engaging in.

Problem is, the hyperovulation and harvesting process is unpleasant for women and can even be dangerous, so it's difficult for the vultures and body-sellers to get "enough" eggs for their purposes. Previously California has prohibited the payment of sums of money in excess of a woman's actual expenses for the egg-harvesting process. A.B. 926 would change that and allow outright buying and selling of human eggs.

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July 13, 2013

Kudos to our friends in Texas

It would be remiss of me, having the time to say something, to say nothing about the recent goings-on in Texas. C.S. Lewis said (in the character of Dr. Dimble in That Hideous Strength) that as time goes on things become more clearly differentiated, and in particular, evil becomes more evil. That has certainly been true here. The forces of death have come out as what they are. They have been vile, obscene, and utterly willing to abandone any notion of actual law and democratic process. It's about power, baby. Or no baby. Satan, yes, babies, no.

I've been watching on Facebook as various friends reported from Austin on the shenanigans of the left--the filibuster for infanticide, the shout-down, the reschedule by Governor Perry (to whom kudos), the intimidation, the vile signs and chants, and at last, the passage of a more restrictive state abortion law regarding abortions after 20 weeks' gestation.

I have not read the text of the law. Because Doe v. Bolton has never been struck down, I can only assume that, like all laws of its type, it contains a "health of the mother" exception that has to cover "psychological health." Readers, please correct me if I'm wrong on this.

Here I want to record a change in my own opinion on this subject: I'm now more inclined than I was twenty years ago to believe that even bills that contain such a "health of the mother" loophole do indeed prevent abortions at the stage to which they are directed. While it is possible for abortionists like the infamous George Tiller to use such an exception to perform many abortions, there are also would-be abortionists who won't bother to try to keep business as usual going. Moreover, putting extra "burdens" on the "health" exception can push more abortionists out--such as requiring second opinions.

I also have some hope that there will be actual enforcement in Texas.

We should thank God for our brethren in the pro-life cause in Texas who have come out and have stood up to the forces of death. To show up and support the passage of this law took courage in a good cause, and we can always use more of that. God bless you, gents.

July 16, 2013

The Philippines goes the wrong way

I reported here on a proposed population control law in the Philippines, and I got some follow-up information today. As I said there, the chief purpose of the law is to open up sex education in the schools and to required the government to propagandize its citizens on limiting their number of children to only two. It looks like people who want to get married have to go through some kind of sex and birth control education.

Well, that law has passed, and at this point the only possibility of its not being put into effect is that the Philippine Supreme Court might declare it to be in conflict with the Philippine Constitution. Not being an expert on the Philippine Constitution, I don't know how strong that case is, but for all I know it might be true that the law is in conflict with the Constitution.

There's one charming little draconian aspect of the law I read about only today: One of the prohibited acts is "maliciously engaging in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this law." Isn't that nice? Living in a country without a first amendment to protect criticism of the government must be so peaceful and traditional. You know, when the government can pass a sex education and population control law and forbid anyone to criticize it lest they be charged with spreading misinformation about the benign intent of their leaders.

July 18, 2013

Choice Devours itself: Old ladies don't really choose to accept spoon feeding

Wesley J. Smith draws attention to this appalling article.

Canadian Margot Bentley was, when she was compos mentis, a big advocate of euthanasia and other pro-death ideas. She wrote up an explicitly pro-death living will directing that she be euthanized if she could no longer recognize her children and also that she not be kept alive by "heroic measures" or "artificial means" as well as that "no nourishment or liquids" be given to her if she were "beyond recovery." Now she has Alzheimer's. Since Canada isn't (yet) Holland, Alzheimer's patients are not euthanized even based on previous statements that they want to be. (Good.) And as it turns out, Margot Bentley doesn't require any "heroic measures" or "artificial means" to receive nutrition or liquids. She's being spoon fed and is taking the spoon feedings.

Or, as the National Post article puts it, she is "kept alive only through regular spoon feeding." You know, like babies are "kept alive only through regular bottle feeding." The National Post also snippily informs us that Vancouver has no "shortage of seniors" who are dying more handily than Margot, so obviously there is something wrong here.

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July 24, 2013

No political bumper stickers in D.C. parking lot?

I recently received a fund-raising letter from the Human Life Foundation, written by Maria McFadden. It contained this anecdote:

Just last week I heard from a friend of mine, Larry, who was attending a conference in Washington, D.C. Larry wanted to use the underground parking garage at the Ronald Reagan World Trade Center. Usually, you just flash your driver's license and pop your trunk open, and the attendant glances inside, then waves you on in.

This is standard post-9/11 security at the few federal buildings in Washington that have public parking. But what happened to Larry, a faithful reader of the Human Life Review, was different.

When Larry pulled up at the Reagan Building, he was told to wait. Four armed parking attendants surrounded the van. They asked him to take his driver's license out of his wallet so they could inspect it more closely. They asked him to open the van and they looked around in it.

He asked why the special treatment for him. One of the attendants pointed to the pro-life and pro-adoption slogans on the van, and said such political statements were not allowed in the building.

Larry asked the guards to call their supervisor, which they did. The supervisor approved the van to park, but forbade Larry to take anything out of the van into the building once parked.

Well, let's hope Larry didn't need a laptop or briefcase or, indeed, anything he couldn't carry in his pockets, for the conference he was attending.

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July 25, 2013

Upward mobility and the generational economy

This massive income mobility study has drawn considerable attention. Here’s a partial summary:

The team of researchers initially analyzed an enormous database of earnings records to study tax policy, hypothesizing that different local and state tax breaks might affect intergenerational mobility.

What they found surprised them, said Raj Chetty, one of the authors and the most recent winner of the John Bates Clark Medal, which the American Economic Association awards to the country’s best academic economist under the age of 40. The researchers concluded that larger tax credits for the poor and higher taxes on the affluent seemed to improve income mobility only slightly. The economists also found only modest or no correlation between mobility and the number of local colleges and their tuition rates or between mobility and the amount of extreme wealth in a region.

But the researchers identified four broad factors that appeared to affect income mobility, including the size and dispersion of the local middle class. All else being equal, upward mobility tended to be higher in metropolitan areas where poor families were more dispersed among mixed-income neighborhoods.

Income mobility was also higher in areas with more two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.

Regional variation in the U.S. turns out to be enormous:

In previous studies of mobility, economists have found that a smaller percentage of people escape childhood poverty in the United States than in several other rich countries, including Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Japan. The latest study is consistent with those findings.

[ . . .]

Yet the parts of this country with the highest mobility rates — like Pittsburgh, Seattle and Salt Lake City — have rates roughly as high as those in Denmark and Norway, two countries at the top of the international mobility rankings. In areas like Atlanta and Memphis, by comparison, upward mobility appears to be substantially lower than in any other rich country . . .

There was already ample reason to be skeptical of direct comparison between America and Europe; or rather between America and European countries. One finds it hard to imagine that the demographic, economic, geographic, and social state of tiny Denmark, with less people than metro Atlanta, is in any meaningful way apposite to the immensity of that same profile of the whole of America. Meanwhile, internal American comparison seems more promising. A remarkable opportunity presents itself for the enterprising scholar to compare Detroit and Pittsburgh, for instance.

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July 29, 2013

Criticisms of "capitalism"--in search of a contrast class

A persistent problem that I see in criticisms of "capitalism" is the unclarity in the use of that term, which in turn seems to be a result of the absence of a clear contrast class.

Let's take, for example, a criticism to the effect that "Capitalism over-values efficiency to the detriment of other important goods."

What does it mean? I ask this question in all seriousness, because the more I think about it, the more sure I am that I don't know.

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July 31, 2013

Whither friendship?

Anthony Esolen has an eloquent and painful requiem for male friendship here. It would be gilding lilies for me to try to reproduce it or indeed comment on it in detail at all.

Esolen is obviously quite right about the effects of the sexualization of male relationships on the possibility of intense, completely non-sexual male friendship.

I would note, too, that too many young people have been brought up without really being familiar with literature that both assumes and extols strong male friendship. I was lucky enough to have that literature and have tried to pass it on to my children. From the wonderfully productive male bonding in the Lord of the Rings to the less lofty adventures of Alan Quatermain (written by Rider Haggard), literature shows us this aspect of human nature. I always scorned people who fussed over there being "not enough women" in LOTR. That was because I got it. It had to be the way that it was. The women were brought in where they fit. And they certainly did not fit in the Company of the Ring.

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