March 2014 Archives
March 1, 2014
The Glory of Lost Causes: Gaily in the Dark
Last fall I reposted a post from the old Enchiridion Militis, this blog's ancestor, called "The Glory of Lost Causes." The glory of lost causes is a very important theme. Jesus said "In the world you shall have trouble. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world."
In this world many good causes will be, in the earthly sense, lost. Yet fighting for them is important nonetheless, for their significance is more than earthly. I had long known the brief quotation which is now at the right side of this blog, under the cross: "The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark." But only recently did I read its larger context in Chesterton's "The Ballad of the White Horse." Here is that larger context. (See Tony's comment last fall for another good quotation from the same poem.) Read it and have your resolve and your heart strengthened.
Tony's Testy Terminology
A friend many years ago once made a glossary of terms used in a manner specific to one small environment - our alma mater. In this glossary he gave both the "official" definition, i.e. the denotation of a term, and also the actual, common usage (or connotation). Being one too many times much too irritated by double-edge or, two-faced usage of terms in the public forum, I decided to borrow this approach for my own glossary. Enjoy, and feel free to propose new terms, denotations, and connotations - everyone can play!
Denotation: what is “in practice”
Connotation: what is “in practice” insofar as it is under consideration by the intelligentia. What is in practice by the non-elite is not "praxis" unless the elite approve it (or create it).
Example: In practice, Joe the Plumber will spank his 8-year old for mouthing off, but the modern Christian praxis has been to expend more effort crafting clever explanations for departing from the Biblical admonitions for corporal punishment.
March 6, 2014
The Lawless Administration Does the Right Thing the Wrong Way
Home schoolers around the world are rejoicing in the unexpected news, after some hair-raising twists and turns to the case, that the Romeike family will not be deported. Here, in brief, is what has happened:
As followers of the case know, the home schooling family from Germany had come to America and had applied for asylum. (You know, wanting to be here legally and do things in a legal and official way.) At first, an asylum judge ruled that they qualified for asylum because they were being persecuted in Germany for being home schoolers. The Obama administration spent money appealing the case, arguing that they did not qualify for asylum. I wrote about the case before here, pointing out (what is sometimes overlooked) that the asylum laws concerning "persecution for group membership" apparently say that if you "should" not have to change a particular trait or behavior, this counts as an "immutable" trait or behavior, which opens the door to asylum for people such as the Romeikes. A higher asylum court sided with the administration and overturned the lower court's ruling. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, and just a few days ago, SCOTUS refused to hear the case, thus leaving in place the ruling against the Romeikes.
Things looked grim, but within a short time after the ruling, the Romeikes' lawyer received a phone call from the DHS stating that the family had been given "indefinite deferred status" and therefore would not be deported.
So why am I only partly happy?
Liberals always deny science when it's necessary for liberalism
The celerity with which Western liberals besmirch the name of their own gods is extraordinary. Right now they are busy blackening the good name of empirical science. No philosophical conservative ever had any problem with empirical facts, but it has always been useful to liberal agitprop to imply otherwise and write polemics about the conservative War on Science. So liberal sanctimony on this matter has long been tiresome, but these poor fools have only more recently crowned sanctimony with blatant hypocrisy and obscurantism.
To review, here are three immediately grave matters of public import, upon which many liberals fulminate with manifest, almost inarguable, anti-science derangement.
Human carbon emissions. If your desire is to reduce carbon emissions, an obvious opportunity present itself: the economies of scale, innovation, geology and law combine to insure that almost any possible unit of Arab, Venezuelan, or Russian fossil fuel that is replaced by American, Mexican, Canadian, in a word, North American fossil fuel, will result in a reduction of human carbon emissions. That liberals oppose policies to take these opportunities means that either they (a) don’t care about reducing carbon emissions, or (b) don’t care about what empirical fact tells us about reducing carbon emissions.
Human biodiversity. When a good Yale liberal like Amy Chua is denounced by an ignoramus in Time magazine as a filthy racist, merely for assembling evidence about certain fascinating details of human biodiversity, we can rest assured that liberal officialdom has no desire to wrestle with the empirical details that cluster around family, inheritance, gene expression, culture, flourishing and prosperity.
Human embryology. If a man of veterinary science disgorged himself of the opinion that at six weeks, we don’t really know if this horse embryo is really a horse, he would be instantly recognized as a quack and not a veterinary scientist at all. If a primate biologist were to express doubt as to what exactly healthy male-female procreative copulation produces at six weeks, he would be an immediate object of amusement and parody. Nevertheless, innumerable liberals who adopt just such a manifestly erroneous opinion about human embryos, carry on quite as if they haven’t pronounced a flat rejection of the facts of science. Personhood theory is the very opposite of science. The lineaments of Human Development are well known enough to put to rest the question of when a new member of the species appears.
These points established (and many more could be added), I see no reason at all to credit for even a moment the standard liberal narrative concerning science. I am well aware, of course, that this liberal narrative is superficially regnant in our culture, but I am quite unmoved by it. The comical sanctimony of liberals upon this subject is precisely the bluster of a buffoon whose fraud has reduced him to bullying. No one who stands athwart human embryology is going to lecture me on the place of science in American politics.
March 10, 2014
The wild world of 14th amendment jurisprudence
Apropos of Paul's point that unborn children, once recognized as persons, qualify for the 14th amendment's provision of the equal protection of the laws, I decided to revisit a post of mine from the very beginning of this blog. I'll probably quote some of it and add some.
Here's the strange thing: Even if you are undeniably a person, the 14th amendment under present jurisprudence doesn't really give you the equal protection of the laws. Which is a bit of a problem, to put it mildly, because that's certainly what it sounds like it grants. Here is my mildly snarky summary from 2007 of the way that constitutional reasoning has gone:
The 14th Amendment says that states may not deny to any person the equal protection of the laws. This seems to mean that the states can't treat people unequally by law. But how can we possibly apply that, since all laws involve treating people unequally? A law against theft treats thieves differently from non-thieves. So what are we going to do? Hey, I know. Let's create three stages of scrutiny that the federal courts will apply to state laws, based on whether or not the state laws treat people unequally on the basis of "suspect categories." The most glaringly suspect category will be race or national origin, because the 14th Amendment was originally passed for the purpose of protecting former slaves. But gender is now also a suspect or semi-suspect category, and being disabled is becoming a suspect category as well. If your state law treats people unequally on the basis of something that hasn't been designated a suspect category, your state is in luck. That law only has to pass minimal scrutiny or the "rational basis test" by the federal courts if challenged as unconstitutional. But if your law treats people unequally on the basis of something designated a suspect category, then it has to pass strict scrutiny, which means it's prima facie unconstitutional, and you'd better have an overwhelmingly important state interest that it serves or it's going to be struck down. Intermediate scrutiny is somewhere in the middle.
March 17, 2014
Minimum Wage Increase - Just Proposal?
President Obama and Harry Reid want the federal minimum wage level to rise to $10.10 per hour within 3 years. Whatever else is the case with such a proposal, such as whether they are doing if for political reasons only (pandering to their base, for example), the merits of the proposal itself should be discernible. And, indeed, the Congressional Budget Office (supposedly neutral scoring agency that is supposed to tell us what the likely result of bills like this will be) has said what we should expect from a bill like this. It short, it would raise about 900,000 families above the federal poverty line, and hit about 500,000 low-wage workers with losing their job. The increase would also impact low-wage workers in high-income families: about 35% of the people benefiting directly from the wage hike would be in this class, whose family income is 3 to 6 times the poverty line.
Is that just?
March 20, 2014
Dallas Fed goes to Mexico City
Richard W. Fisher is the President of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. He is also among the dissenters from the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee policy of loose money.
He also grew up in Mexico City, where he returned this month to deliver a speech of some considerable consequence.
Fisher delivered this speech en español , so far as I can tell, and his praise for the progress of Mexican economic liberty is only the more striking for having been endorsed by so prominent a figure as the President of the Dallas Fed.
Mexico deserves abundant praise for reforming toward free markets and free trade and free labor. The careful auditor or reader of this speech probably detected a concealed text. The business environment in Mexico may well be better than that of America.
A sobering thought.
But let me say with all assurance that I do not for a moment begrudge Mexico gains in this area. Let liberty reign in Mexico! If America should falter on this course to free labor, free trade and free markets, let Mexico raise that noble banner in her stead.
Considerable weight has been laid upon Pres. Fisher’s comments concerning quantitative easing and interest rates, and of course his characterization of potential asset bubbles as “eye-popping.”
It should be recalled that Fisher is Texan. He subtly reminded the Banco de Mexico that Texas now pumps more oil than Mexico. All the more reason to cheer the Mexican turn toward economic freedom in opening up energy to foreign direct investment.
The Federal Reserve is dialing back its QE. It has also turned over $300 billion in profits to the Treasury. That’s deficit reduction, though of a curious sort.
Let us hope two things at least: that Fisher’s pessimism concerning loose money is misplaced, and that Mexico continues on the course he so warmly and justly compliments her on.
March 23, 2014
This is not the rule of law
This is not a post I wanted to write.
You may have seen a headline (I forget where I saw that one) that Michigan just legalized homosexual "marriage." It's a lie.
No, dear reader, Michigan did nothing of the sort. A federal judge, District Judge Bernard Friedman, said that Michigan's voter-passed constitutional amendment stating that the state must recognize only one-man-one-woman pairings as marriage is unconstitutional. That's what some news agency chose to call Michigan's legalizing homosexual "marriage." (By the way, that constitutional amendment must have been another one of those evil effects of democracy...)
March 24, 2014
Contemporary Invocations of Moloch are Not Fanciful
Before the very gates of the golden city Hannibal fought his last fight for it and lost; and Carthage fell as nothing has fallen since Satan. The name of the New City remains only as a name. There is no stone of it left upon the sand.
Another war was indeed waged before the final destruction: but the destruction was final. Only men digging in its deep foundations centuries after found a heap of hundreds of little skeletons, the holy relics of that religion. For Carthage fell because she was faithful to her own philosophy and had followed out to its logical conclusion her own vision of the universe. Moloch had eaten his children.
So wrote G.K Chesterton, in Chapter 7 of The Everlasting Man. One cannot help thinking of it, and of modern man's worship of his god, efficiency, when he reads this story from the Telegraph:
The bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found.
Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat.
So babies who were murdered in the name of freedom and, ultimately, commercial efficiency, were then recycled as fuel for the very facilities carrying on with those murders. So also were stillborn babies whose parents, we are informed, were advised that their remains would be "cremated."
Two things to note:
March 26, 2014
More Rule of Law Distortions
Lydia made an important point about “rule of law” regarding how state officials and judges are treating same sex “marriage” in the aftermath of Windsor. They are basically treating the SC decision as a license to do whatever they want to upset traditional marriage laws, when the SC itself didn’t say that was the import of Windsor, in fact refused to say that. They appear to simply not care about following the law.
Here is another way that Windsor was basically an(other) axe to the concept of rule of law. The administration under Obama is going about seeing what Windsor implies for other purposes than just estate tax rules. One of the big areas is employee benefits, including health care and retirement benefits. Interestingly, the retirement benefits rules actually pose a richer area for dilemmas to develop, because of a general federal / state doctrine of law: when Congress writes a comprehensive law (usually under the Commerce Clause) to absorb a whole subject matter, that law overrides state law on the same subject rather than just implementing additional rules thereon. The Employees Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) enacted in 1974 to put retirement law under a national footing did that.
Because of Windsor, the feds are giving effect to SSM for the purposes of federal pension law. ERISA is a comprehensive federal law that encompasses a number of married persons provisions. For instance, it requires that a pension plan that offers pensions to employees must include in the contract that the pension will also pay to the spouse of an employee. When the pension plan offers optional forms of benefits, the spouse must sign off on any form of benefit that would reduce her benefit.
March 28, 2014
Still think it isn't a problem that suicide is legal?
Two years ago I wrote this post about the striking down of a Georgia law that made it a crime to advertise for assisting someone's suicide. The judges reasoned that advertising for assisting suicide couldn't be illegal since suicide isn't illegal in Georgia. Strangely enough (and to my mind, inconsistently) they said that the Georgia legislature could outlaw actually assisting a suicide but couldn't outlaw advertising one's assistance, unless the advertisement actually got takers and the assistance actually took place!
Now we have a case in Minnesota where a perverted male nurse talked people into committing suicide and broadcasting it to him by webcam because he enjoyed watching. (You really cannot make this stuff up.) Minnesota has a law against assisting suicide (unlike Georgia) but also includes in the law "advising" or "encouraging" suicide. It is these words, and this fiend's conviction, that the MN state Supreme Court has just struck down on First Amendment grounds. (Reminding us that state courts also can make use of the federal constitution to justify their rulings.)
The case has been returned to the trial court to see whether any of the accused's actions rise to the level of assisting a suicide.
Now look at this bit in the WSJ article:
March 29, 2014
Winning and Losing with Hobby Lobby
Writing for The American Conservative on the recent arguments before the Supreme Court in Hobby Lobby case, Prof. Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame assures us that he hopes the Christian firm wins its case; but the searing critique he levels against the company’s business model must leave many readers in some doubt as to his sincerity.
“Hobby Lobby is a significant player,” he asseverates, “in a global economy that has separated markets from morality.” It operates “in a decisively secular economic world.” In addition to being “almost wholly disembedded from any particular community,” Hobby Lobby’s business model, “like that of all major box stores,” is dedicated to, among other shady things: economies of scale, standardization, aggressive price-cutting, and reliance on cheap overseas producers. Deneen concludes this portion of the polemic with a doozy of exaggeration: the setting for his local Hobby Lobby is “about as profane imaginable a place on earth.”
Considering very recent news only, one might object that British hospitals have rather dramatically demonstrated to the imagination how much more profane a place may be. Hobby Lobby may be surrounded by ugly concrete and aging, decrepit strip malls, but one doubts it is heating stores with the incinerated flesh of slaughtered innocents.
March 31, 2014
The hatred of human limits
Via Wesley J. Smith come two depressing items. I do not write about them merely to depress but to draw a parallel between them which may be instructive.
The first item is this story about a woman in her 80's who starved and dehydrated herself to death over a period of sixteen days with the help of her friends. Why did she do it? Because, though she had no diagnosed illness, she was increasingly troubled by fatigue and was sad about not being able to continue traveling the world. What was it all about? Control. The news story says it without blinking:
Loss of control was something Conlon feared and sought to circumvent.
If you think that isn't a sufficiently good reason to dehydrate yourself to death, you're right. If you, upon reading the story, think this attitude led Dorothy Conlon to be controlling and selfish in relation to others, inducing her friends to sign promises not to call 911 and to act as a cheering team to take her through to death, putting her friends through a hell of qualms of conscience and horror as they watched her slowly die, you are onto something.
Dorothy's religion appears to have been the hatred of limits. When we absolutely refuse to accept limits for ourselves, there is no limit to the evil we accept into our own hearts and are willing to impose on others.
Which leads me to the second item: