November 2015 Archives
November 2, 2015
The Wisdom of the One-Child Policy
I don't know that I have ever heard a more reprehensible set of opening paragraphs.
By finally backing away from its one-child policy, China would seem to be opening the gates again to demographic expansion. But it may prove an opening that few Chinese embrace, for a host of reasons.
Initially, the one-child policy made great sense. The expansion of China’s power under Mao Zedong was predicated in part on an ever-growing population. Between 1950 and 1990, the country’s Maoist era, the population, roughly doubled to 1.2 billion, according to U.N. figures. Deng Xiaoping’s move to limit population growth turned out to be a wise policy, at least initially, allowing China to focus more on industrialization and less on feeding an ever-growing number of mouths.
November 3, 2015
The more things change
Over three years ago I wrote about the Obama administration's shabby treatment of blind activist Chen Guangcheng, who escaped from house arrest and found his way to the U.S. embassy, only to be almost thrown back to the wolves.
This week a post at the Public Discourse goes back to that time and gives a few more details.
November 9, 2015
What the country needs now is more Matt Walsh
I know conservative Christians who feel squeamish about Matt Walsh. There's just something too combative about him, too brash, too offensive.
Lately I have been thinking about the major, salient reason why Walsh represents what conservatism needs more of, summed up in one word.
Let me state a principle that seems obvious to me but apparently is not obvious to everyone else: It's very important that people think right about things, and this includes being horrified when reason calls for horror and outraged when reason calls for outrage. It also includes knowing what we should be doing with ourselves instead of committing and excusing atrocities. (I'll get to the latter in due time in this post.)
In several areas of our country (abortion being one), reason has left the stage long ago, and outrage was not far behind. Hence even pro-lifers wince at the thought of showing pictures of aborted babies or calling abortionists "baby killers." Walsh recalls us--Americans, conservatives, pro-lifers, any sane people who happen to be left out there anymore--to our better selves by reminding us that we need to be capable of horror and outrage.
November 11, 2015
Will history be made in the Jahi McMath case?
Back a while ago I discussed the case of Jahi McMath, who was diagnosed as having suffered "whole brain death" and for whom a death certificate was issued on that basis.
Here's what I said initially:
Is Jahi alive? I hate to disappoint my readers, but I simply don't know. I am not committed to either side on this empirical matter. On the one hand, it still seems to me possible that there is a genuine condition in which all parts of the brain really do cease to function while the rest of the body is temporarily sustained by ventilator support. On the other hand, my confidence in that proposition has been seriously eroded over the past few years by revelations like those mentioned above concerning temperature regulation, growth, and pain responses. Moreover, the lawyer for Jahi's family claims (without giving details of the evidence) that Jahi's body is regulating its temperature. If true, this is evidence of hypothalamic function. And I'm sorry, but it's simply verbal legerdemain to claim that a person's entire brain has ceased functioning when recognized sub-organs of the brain are continuing to function! Even construing matters in a narrowly legal fashion, by the plain meaning of the Universal Declaration of Death Act, if Jahi's hypothalamus is still functioning, she hasn't suffered whole brain death.
Let me make something else clear: This cannot and will not go on indefinitely. It is not true that a dead body can be sustained forever by a ventilator. Eventually, usually fairly rapidly, the heart stops functioning and cardiac arrest occurs, despite full ventilator life support.
My own opinion is that the longer it takes for that to happen, the more questionable was the original diagnosis. My empirical faith in zombies that live for years with literally zero brain function, including zero brain-stem function, etc., is at an extremely low ebb.
November 12, 2015
#White Lives Matter?
By now, I hope that many of our readers have seen the news about middle-aged white men and women – they are dying in record numbers! Actually, to be more accurate and less sensational (not that this ever stopped the left!) the mortality rates for middle-aged white Americans had risen since 1999, in contrast to the patterns for every other racial group and for residents of virtually every other affluent country. Rising substance abuse, including alcohol-related disease and painkiller overdose, was the main cause of the disturbing trend. This was presented in a research paper by the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton (Deaton recently just won the Nobel prize) and although there is some controversy over how big the mortality rates are when age groups are broken down into individual cohorts, there is no question“that death rates among middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. slightly increased, even while corresponding death rates in other countries declined by about 30%,”even if those rates started leveling off in 2005 (while the rates for white women continued to climb!)
November 15, 2015
Vive la France!
Jihadists have again besieged Paris, loosing upon that great city a cacophony of gunfire and slaughter at some six different locations. This included one especially depraved operation at a concert hall, reminiscent of the 2002 massacre at the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow, carried out by Chechen jihadists.
Let us have none of the slinking cant which suggests that this perfidy does not arise out of the authentic doctrines of the Islamic religion. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The rottenness of this particular fruit exceeds the most capacious power of verbal description.
Liberals in the West will now begin scrambling for scapegoats, as in January they comforted themselves with blaming provocative cartoonists and Jews. Prominent draftsmen will discern new ways to elucidate how any criticism, let alone righteous denunciation, of treacherous gunmen who fill the Parisian evening with hot lead, amounts to “punching down.” Academics will commence to clamber over one another to preen their relativistic ennui over the whole unpleasantness.
The enervation of the West by such relativism will, alas, very likely be evident in virtually every statement by leaders such as Francois Hollande, David Cameron, and Barack Obama, the latter a man who not so long ago promulgated the canon that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” In his first statement on the Paris slaughter, Obama waved around the “universal values” phrase that refutes itself, since Islam (a huge part of the world) does not share them.
November 19, 2015
There's a lot to be said for the First Amendment
While the world looks on appalled at the murderous antics of ISIS, other antics do not cease.
In Australia (in Tasmania, to be specific), the Anti-Discrimination Commission has called the Catholic bishops' conference to answer a case against them on the grounds that they distributed a booklet criticizing same-sex "marriage." This, the Commission agrees with a "transgender" plaintiff, constitutes a possible breach of the law through “conduct that is offensive, intimidating, insulting or ridiculing of Ms. Delaney and the class of same-sex attracted people.” I don't have a copy of the booklet, but I seriously doubt that "Ms." Delaney was mentioned anywhere therein!
No, what we have here is a direct attempt to tell Catholic bishops that they can't publish a booklet on a moral matter, because their views disagree with leftist orthodoxy and hence by definition constitute "discrimination." The term "discrimination" now acts as a portmanteau term for anything that offends homosexual activists, even when no discrimination in, say, employment or the offering of services is alleged.
November 20, 2015
Right Principles, Wrong Application
I must say that I am amazed at the notions sometimes ringing and dinging around in the heads of clerics, even those at the very top of the food chain.
Back in August, Pope Francis, upon being asked about waging war against ISIS, rightly mentioned the Catholic basis for just war theory: it is in principle morally correct to use force to defend against unjust aggression.
“In these cases where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” Pope Francis told reporters.
In the wake of the Paris attacks, the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin also came out in favor of using force on ISIS. He also reiterated what has become what I call the “Vatican Diplomatique Trope” on waging war. As framed by Pope Francis in August:
“I underscore the verb 'stop.' I don't say 'to bomb' or 'make war,' (but) 'stop it,'” he said in response to the question, posed by CNA and EWTN News Rome bureau chief Alan Holdren.
November 22, 2015
Observe and remember
It behooves the patriotic man to examine his leaders, or prospective leaders, with a careful, jaundiced eye, in the immediate aftermath of an act of vile treachery like what the world witnessed on Nov. 13 in Paris.
Do their hearts break with anguish, no less than their chests ache with hunger for justice?
Or do they, quailing, reach for barest platitude, leave unsaid what most needs saying, and lash out at others who possess clearer words and better courage?
Again by their fruits you shall know them.
Sympathy for the French is not enough. #PrayforParis is not enough. Our statement of solidarity must be unmeeching. Hearts break and chests ache for justice. If not both, you are not worthy of leadership.
Over the last two weekends, all over the US (notably at the Army-Tulane and the LSU-Arkansas games), football players have defiantly carried both American and French flags to the center of the field before kickoff. A simple gesture, but a profound one.
Do you not think that many Frenchmen who hear of these tributes, this American solidarity, might find themselves, at least for a moment, warmed in their hearts and welling up with gratitude; as, for instance, we Americans felt likewise when the British Crown ordered that “The Star-Spangled Banner” be played at Buckingham Palace on September 12th, 2001?
Every last Frenchmen (every last Englishman), just like every last American, who believes in government, believes that its first task is to secure us from foreign aggression. The French may be a proud and difficult people, but in this there is an undeniable unity. Brotherhood and fraternitè. The first task of the Republic is to preserve us from harm.
Concretely: Should M. Hollande, in addition to current airstrikes, abjuring delay and Obama’s dithering, determine to dispatch French tanks, mobile artillery, close air support (have we sold them some A-10 Thunderbolts? — if not, we should), naval assets, ballistic missiles with super-payloads, and soldiers carrying rifles into hostile territory — into the territory of Islamic State — this American will raise the Tricolor and salute the French Parti-socialistè.
Let the French socialist do what the American socialist has not the guts to do.
November 24, 2015
On Questions of National Importance, I Feel Compelled to Respond...
Archbishop Cupuich, here in Chicago, decided to weigh in on the Syrian refugee crisis with the following open letter to Chicago Sun-Times readers (this is how the letter was printed in its entirety):
The evil visited upon Paris by Islamic State terrorists will never be fully understood. One hundred thirty innocent people lost their lives, and hundreds more were wounded. Today, their families languish in unspeakable suffering, as do the families of the 43 men and women who were also murdered by an ISIS suicide bomber in Beirut a few days earlier.
The entire world stands with the victims of these atrocities. We cannot know the pain of their loved ones. We can only pray for their healing, and that they may be comforted by God’s grace.
Still, even as we decry these heinous acts, we must guard against the temptation to give in to the fear and the panic that terrorists groups such as ISIS seek to sow. In the days since Paris, some Americans have called for us to break our promise to the global community that we would help resettle just 10,000 of the 4 million Syrian refugees who have had no choice but to flee their homes. These are mostly women and children who have risked their lives to escape unimaginable terror and persecution in the Syrian civil war and at the hands of the Islamic State.
Critics worry that some of these refugees might be ISIS agents. While the sincerity of their concern cannot be called into question, we must do our best to separate facts from fear — particularly when it could mean closing our door on thousands of innocent people who are running for their lives. America should not give ISIS the victory it wants.
Here are the facts. If you want to enter the United States, doing so as a refugee is already the longest, most difficult process that exists. The security screening process for refugees is more stringent than the process for foreign tourists, students, businesspeople or anyone else. It takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months or longer, and involves the FBI, Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Defense Department and the State Department. Your biometric data is checked against law-enforcement databases. You must pass a battery of interviews. And if you’re from Syria, the process is even more rigorous.
The United States has already found room for the nearly 800,000 refugees who have resettled here since 9/11. And since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, the United States has accepted about 2,000 Syrians. Over the entire period of refugee settlement since 2001, our security apparatus has kept us safe. Why, then, should we turn away people who pass such a rigorous process? How can we look the other way, as they huddle with their children in foreign lands with barely any shelter, clothing or food?
We must not. These are our neighbors. They look to our nation, a city on a hill. They look to our cities, cities such as Chicago, which have been made stronger not in spite of our diversity — but precisely because of it. What would our community be without our Latino brothers and sisters, our Polish brothers and sisters, our Irish, Italian, German, Greek, Scandinavian, Filipino, Chinese and Korean brothers and sisters? Out of many, we are one. That’s America. How many of us come from families who endured countless struggles to make a better life for their children and grandchildren? We, too, are refugees.
Catholics value our tradition of welcoming the stranger. We know what it is like to be strangers, unwelcome in this land. In 1855, for example, Chicago elected an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic mayor. Near the end of the 19th century, some Chicagoans joined groups such as the American Protective Association, a secret society whose members promised never to hire Catholics who simply wanted to feed their families. This is our history, but it need not repeat itself.
On the very first trip of his papacy, Pope Francis visited refugees on the tiny island of Lampedusa, off the coast of Sicily. He spoke with and prayed for men, women, and children — Christian and Muslim alike — who had just made a dangerous journey across the sea in search of a better life. A year later, on World Refugee Day, Pope Francis said, “We believe that Jesus was a refugee, had to flee to save his life, with Saint Joseph and Mary.”
The season of Advent begins next Sunday. Christians across the globe will sing in anticipation of Jesus’ birth: O come, o come Emmanuel. “Emmanuel” is a uniquely powerful word. It means “God with us.” That was God’s choice — to be with us, to be born in a manger, down in the dust, soon to be on the run from certain death. But we, too, have a choice — and it’s not one we can run from. We can shun our neighbors in need, or we can embrace them. We can invite them to our table. And in doing so, uphold the values that founded the very nation we celebrate when we gather in thanksgiving to the God who chose to reveal himself to us as a refugee.
Archbishop Cupich was appointed Archbishop of Chicago on September 20, 2014, and was installed as the ninth Archbishop of Chicago on Tuesday, November 18, 2014.
I thought I'd share with you all the response I sent in to theSun-Times:
November 25, 2015
On Giving Thanks
The general thanksgiving in the Book of Common Prayer reads:
ALMIGHTY God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we shew forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
November 29, 2015
Choice devours itself--end of life, abortion, and contraception edition
I have three items to add to the "choice devours itself" list. To review, for those to whom this is relatively new: I coined this phrase not, as one might think, to refer to the totalitarianism of the left toward anyone who won't toe their line (as in cases of Christian bakers who are punished for not baking cakes for homosexual weddings, etc.) but rather to refer to the tendency to start forcing the supposed beneficiaries of various favored leftist "freedoms" to accept these "freedoms" even when they don't want them. These instances usually revolve around death and sex. I'll let the more Freudian sociologists make of that what they will. The leftist program starts by saying that it's so important to be free to do X (commit suicide, have an abortion, sell one's body, be promiscuous, etc.) and ends up pressuring, coercing, or outright forcing people to do these things, or looking the other way when they are unable meaningfully to consent or have refused their consent. I put into the "choice devours itself" basket the leftist spin surrounding forced abortion in China, for example.
The idea often ends up being that, if this person doesn't want X, he (or often, she) should want X. For example, if a woman doesn't want to abort her child conceived out of wedlock, she is being irrational, so it's okay to pressure her to abort, because that is allegedly the more rational decision. If a woman in a poor country with a "population problem," doesn't want an IUD inserted, she should, so heavy-handed programs to "encourage" the "choice" of such methods are a great idea.
Or, at a minimum, the presumption is supposed to be in favor of X and in favor of the conclusion that X (e.g., suicide) is freely chosen and that interfering or not cooperating would do more harm than good. Choice devours itself because the presumption in law and policy is switched to favor, e.g., death rather than life. For example, because the priority is not to prevent anybody from dying who "should" be free to die, the presumption should be that someone would want to die rather than that he would want to live. And so forth.
November 30, 2015
C. S. Lewis on the Extreme Peril Facing Humanity
This week what is reported as being the largest-ever gathering of world leaders is meeting in Paris to make plans to ostensibly combat global warming. I say ostensibly because I honestly don’t know whether these leaders even believe the hyperbolic rhetoric of global warming alarmists these days, but they certainly do understand political opportunity when it comes knocking.