May 20, 2013
Well, the stakes might not be as high as they were in late 19th Century France, but that doesn’t mean intellectuals of goodwill shouldn’t be on record in this day and age regarding our own Dreyfus-like affair. Instead of anti-Semitism, however, our elites these days seem to suffer from a different medieval problem (with none of the greatness of the medievals!) – they are hunting for witches and if one pops up (the signs are easy to spot – anyone who professes a belief in the reality of race or the reality of racial differences in IQ) they must be discredited and hounded out of polite society.
Wesley J. Smith has more or less beaten me to nearly all of the analysis you could want on the recent cloning dystopian “breakthrough” and on the outrageous degree of scientific obfuscation going on in the media about it. See here, here, here, here, and here. But just in case you don't read Human Exceptionalism religiously (and if you are interested in life issues, you should do so), let me give you a quick version. But really, go and read Wesley's articles. They're extremely informative and include more information than I am going to get to here.
If you read some headline that said “Human Cloning is One Step Nearer,” or something like that, it's a lie. Human cloning has now occurred. An article has just been published by scientists working in Oregon describing successful human embryo cloning followed by killing.
If you read an article that said, or that you understood to be saying, “For the first time, scientists have converted human skin cells into embryonic stem cells without killing embryos,” that's a lie. In fact, it's a lie twice. The first lie is that the scientists in the recent cloning event reprogrammed skin cells into embryonic stem cells without killing embryos. Actually, they did create embryos, by cloning. Then they killed them. Then they harvested and studied their embryonic stem cells just as they would with IVF embryos they were killing for ESCR.
The second lie is that this is the “first time” anyone has done anything that could or should be called “making skin cells into embryonic stem cells.” As a matter of fact, that's a pretty darned good description of making iPSCs, which are embryonic-like stem cells that can be made without either creating or killing embryos. It's been done already for quite a while now, but the leftists don't like iPSCs as much as ESCs just because no embryo-killing is required for them and just because cloning is more sexy and is opposed by The Right, so they'd rather mis-describe clone-and-kill and make it sound like clone-and-kill is the first-time ethical breakthrough that was actually accomplished already in the reprogramming of skin cells to iPSCs without any cloning. Are you following?
The above news-story sentence in quotation marks is not taken directly from the Fox news story. It is a combination of the implications of several sentences. The actual sentences go like this. Please notice how incredibly misleading the second one is.
In a major medical breakthrough, researchers at the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) have for the first time ever successfully converted human skin cells into embryonic stem cells – via a technique called nuclear transfer. [snip] Fortunately, the SCNT method bypasses these ethical dilemmas, as the donated eggs are never actually fertilized. [snip] This [keeping the cell in metaphase longer] keeps the process from stalling and encourages the cell to ultimately develop into a stem cell.
Pro-lifers reading quickly might be excused if they think this was some sort of ethical as well as scientific breakthrough. The story is an instance of shameful and deceptive obscurantism.
May 14, 2013
"A just verdict. The jury has rightly convicted #Gosnell for his appalling crimes, ensuring no woman is victimized by him ever again."
@PPact (Planned Parenthood), May 13.
(H/T James Toranto.)
Really, there's not in my lifetime been any bunch of people more dependent for their sustenance upon euphemism and, more than that, upon the thing not said, than the ghouls of the abortion industry and the advocates who serve as their public face. This is also noticeable in the fact that its non-public advocates are such reliable liars and systematic dissemblers.
And to think, the phrase "collateral damage" was so loudly mocked and criticized by the professional high-dudgeon specialists of the American left back in 2001-03.
Last week, disturbed by the length of time the jury was taking to deliberate in the Gosnell trial, I woke up one morning, sat up, and spontaneously said aloud, "He's gonna walk."
Thank God that pessimistic pseudo-clairvoyance is not a reliable belief-forming mechanism.
Kermit Gosnell, who should have been convicted of even more, has been convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three infants. He has also been convicted of numerous lesser charges.
Now he should receive the death penalty. (An aside: Someone said on my Facebook wall yesterday that he hoped that Gosnell would repent and be saved instead of being executed. I do not think it should be "instead," though I'm all in favor of repentance and conversion. There is no good argument from, "So-and-so was converted after his conviction for a heinous crime" to "So-and-so should not be executed.")
I'm not really all that interested in debating how many abortionists actively kill born-alive infants a la Gosnell. My own suspicion is that most of them who perform late-term abortions either entirely dismember or else rely on aborting early enough and then simply neglecting to death those infants born alive. (Yes, I know that they inject a drug to stop the heart, but it sometimes doesn't work.) If they abort early enough, neglecting to death should take only a couple of hours, max. It's gruesome and unnecessary to ask how much "better" this is than stabbing them in the back of the neck.
However, here is eyewitness testimony against Shelley Sella, a former co-worker with the infamous George Tiller, that she committed active, post-birth infanticide (stabbing a 35-week living, born baby in the chest). Apparently she has never been prosecuted and is still practicing. Tiller was neater than Gosnell. He cremated all the bodies. There are no doubt some more Gosnells out there.
In any event, abortion consists of direct, fatal, and extreme bodily assault on an unborn child. From a moral and even psychological point of view, nobody who cuts up live babies for a living is likely to boggle at stabbing one after it is born. It would be entirely a matter of fear of prosecution that would prevent post-birth, active, bloody infanticide of infants born alive.
The conviction of Kermit Gosnell is a small measure of earthly justice. May it be only an earnest of justice to come--for Gosnell and for many others, including those who do all their killing within the womb. May the Gosnell case bring more and more people to recognize the evil of abortion.
May 11, 2013
Sometimes, one really hates to be right. Two and a half years ago I warned that we are moving, in the United States, toward a state in which Christian witnessing is demonized under the heading of "proselytizing." My impression is that this attitude has long been held by secularists--that it is inherently offensive, even inherently deeply wrong, ever to try in any way to convince someone else to accept a religion that is not presently his religion. And my impression also is that in Europe this idea that all such behavior should be called "proselytizing" and by this means dismissed as unacceptable is more widespread than it has heretofore been in America. But, just as our current administration wants to redefine freedom of religion to mean only freedom of (private) worship, so here: If you want to be a Christian, shut up and get back in the closet, and maybe we'll tolerate you. Only private, even secret, religion is acceptable. That way we can feel proud of our sophistication and not hang our heads with shame over the crudity of religion in our country when we hang out with our British and European secularist buddies.
Now the U.S. military is getting into the act with newly published Air Force regulations designed to discourage "proselytizing" by military personnel.
Before I go any further, a few words about the alleged misrepresentations concerning the role of Mikey Weinstein of the (misnamed) Religious Military Freedom Foundation in all of this.
May 9, 2013
Due to the errors this morning, I've migrated the site to a newer database server. There may be some slowdown while everything gets settled into the new platform.
May 7, 2013
This is a cause for rejoicing. Rarely do the good guys have sufficient legal oomph to push and to keep on pushing until the petty powers that be have to give in. This time, they did. Kudos to lawyers Robert Muise and David Yerushalmi.
Long-time readers will remember my coverage (see here for one of my longest posts) of the shocking arrest of missionaries Nabeel Qureshi, David Wood, and Paul Rezkallah in Dearborn, Michigan, several years ago when they were merely standing on a public street discussing the deity of Jesus Christ with a group of Muslims.
Now, three years later, the City of Dearborn has settled a constitutional lawsuit out of court for an undisclosed sum of money and an apology posted on the city's web site. The city has also revoked comments that implied that the missionaries were doing something wrong.
From last year, I already had evidence that David Wood and his companions are now being allowed to speak peacefully with Arab Festival participants. My guess is that the city will have to continue that this year and not arrest Acts 17 missionaries.
The remaining clouds on the horizon are:
--Answering Muslims has reported that there have been proposals to move the Arab Festival indoors. This might make it easier to punish those who come to speak about Christ at the festival.
--The fourth person arrested at the time in 2010, Negeen Mayel, was in fact convicted of the bogus crime of "disobeying an officer." Her "crime" was public videotaping and not instantaneously putting down her video camera when ordered to do so by a policeman. Perhaps in part because of her conviction (the three men were acquitted in their breach of the peace trials) and perhaps in part because she did not wish to pursue the suit, Negeen does not appear to have been a party to the constitutional lawsuit that has just been settled out of court.
--The American Freedom Law Center representing the missionaries is continuing to press a suit against the Arab Festival, which refused to settle out of court. This doesn't bode well for the outcome if the festival is in fact moved indoors.
May 2, 2013
This story evidently got going in February, but I just recently learned of it. New York City, not having anything better to do, is suing various Hasidic stores for posting the following dress code:
No low-cut neckline
Allowed in this store
Reports state that the ground for the suit is that the stores are allegedly discriminating on the grounds of religion! Yes, you got that right. The claim is that they are trying to impose their religious norms on customers, hence, they are discriminating on religious grounds against customers who don't share their religion.
Now, that, to me, is the story. Stupid lawsuit by city is bad enough, but that argument is extremely troubling. As others have pointed out, plenty of stores have for a long time required shirt and shoes to receive service. Moreover, fancy restaurants have highly specific dress codes. Nobody tells any of those places that they are discriminating on the grounds of religion. There are also still on the books public decency statutes that would, for example, prohibit public nudity. So evidently what is motivating this lawsuit is that the alleged motivation for this dress code is religious, which makes this dress code "religious discrimination."
That's a very bad precedent. If you tell your customers to dress in a certain way to be stylish or classy-looking or so as not to drag down the worldly reputation of your restaurant, Bloomberg's minions consider that, shall we say, kosher. But if we happen to know that you are religious and that your motive for your basic and rather minimal modesty-related dress code is religious, then you get sued. What this means is that if you try to apply any code of decent behavior or modesty in your business establishment, even a prima facie reasonable one, you will be allowed to do so only to the extent that your motive for that reasonable standard is not religious. The minute your motive is thought to be religious, then you can't ask anything of your customers.
The claim that this is an enforcement of the store-owner's religious dress norms is false in any event. Actual Hasidic women do a lot more than just not wearing sleeveless dresses, shorts, and low necklines in public! The dress code here falls far short of the Hasidic businessmen's own religious standards.
So what happens next? If public nudity becomes more common and a known-to-be-Christian businessman puts, "No nude customers will be served" on the door, is his motive presumptively religious, and can he therefore be sued for religious discrimination against all those non-Christians who want to shop in the buff? This is now not a merely satiric question.
April 30, 2013
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.
April 26, 2013
Home is where the Truth is
by KENNETH W. BICKFORD
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.
April 24, 2013
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?
April 19, 2013
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"?
April 17, 2013
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.
April 16, 2013
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.
April 12, 2013
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...