Thursday, August 9, 2012

  1. A Rabbi goes to bat for his tradition – and mine.
  2. Two cheers for sequestration.
  3. The Secret Unity of Muslims and Sikhs.
  4. America’s Enlightenment, and Evangelical, Foundings.
  5. NIMBY and The Good Life.
  6. The Absurdity of Categorical Discrimination Bans.
  7. Geddoutahere!


I’ve become increasingly interested in the Orthodox Christian tradition (variations aside) for preparation of the human body after death and its subsequent burial. For a reference point, the tradition is similar to Jewish burials – minimal delay, no embalming, simplicity – and also involves, ideally, preparation of the body by family or parish. It’s also similar, in the avoidance of embalming, to the “Green Burial” fad.

But Indiana requires the involvement of  funeral director (it’s one of only eight states that do), in a fairly blatant instance of protectionism. So I’m heartened to see this report of a Rabbi challenging a similar Pennsylvania law.

Go, Rabbi Wasserman! Win one for traditionalists everywhere!


Is sequestration really that draconian? CATO says “no.”


I have discovered the secret, little-known commonality of Muslim and Sikh: they don’t deserve to be shot.


America, one might fairly say, had two foundings: the first under the Enlightenment guidance of its rich intellectual founders, and a second with the popular, evangelical Second Great Awakening, which flamed a quarter century afterward. Ever since, the two have, like the Lamanites and the Nephites, been at war for the soul of the country, with the politics not always easily predictable … Over time, the spiritual descendants of the Awakening have sought to annex Enlightenment doctrines, chiefly through the claim that the Founders were not skeptical Enlightenment deists but passionate Evangelical fundamentalists, while the Enlightenment-minded have tried to annex the Awakening’s passionate energy to their causes, as in the civil-rights movement, where black churches became the emotional engine of what was, on its face, a legal argument about public facilities.

I, Nephi: Mormonism and Its Meanings.


In The True and Only Heaven Christopher Lasch spoke of the

assumption that insatiable appetites[,] formerly condemned as a source of social instability and personal unhappiness, could drive the economic machine—just as man’s insatiable curiosity drove the scientific project—and thus ensure a never-ending expansion of productive forces.

This departure from an older assumption “came when human needs began to be seen not as natural but as historical, hence insatiable. As the supply of material comforts increased, standards of comfort increased as well, and the category of necessities came to include many goods formerly regarded as luxuries.”

Lasch’s phrase “standards of comfort” gets us very near the heart of the problem. In a very short time we have become a people incapable of imagining that our current standards of comfort (or living) are temporary. Our ease has been soporific. It doesn’t occur to us that future historians might sketch our standards as aberrations.

Not In My Back Yard (But Pass Me The Good Life, Please) The little essay, all of which I recommend, closes “We’re all crying NIMBY, but we’re all still sucking away at the formerly plump, now desiccated, tit of energy. No wonder the cries are muted.”


A reminder that the egalitarian/nondiscrimination mania is nothing new in America:

When Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s, he found that democratic principles animated nearly every aspect of American life. What struck him most was what he called the equality of conditions among the people. Perhaps surprising to most Americans today, he found that love of equality—not freedom—was “the ruling passion of men” in the U.S. Tocqueville feared that the more the principle of equality takes hold of a society, the more pressure there is to see everyone as essentially identical. When equality reigns, any form of discrimination is bad because it classifies the other as somehow different. To discriminate seems absolutely un-American.

Nevertheless, discrimination can be just and warranted, and we’re likelier to discriminate rightly if we recognize that than if we delude ourselves (yes, I mean “delude”) that we don’t discriminate at all.

A personal example. When our fair city added “sexual orientation” to its Human Relations Ordinance, it first paused (upon my challenge to define terms) to define sexual orientation: “homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality, by orientation or practice, by and between consenting adults.” Thus did it discriminate against pedophiles (and others, no doubt, as the list grows of those seeking the status of persecuted sexual minority) by withholding the protection of the Human Relations Ordinance from their predilection.

I’m not saying that discrimination between consensual adult sex and pedophilia was unwarranted. One is definitely more reprehensible than the other. But proponents of the ordinance heatedly and absurdly denied that they were discriminating at all, and denied that there was even a tacit message that “homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality, by orientation or practice, by and between consenting adults” were at least minimally acceptable, in contrast to omitted predilections. That makes “gotcha” and sundry other mockeries perfectly appropriate.

If discrimination is categorically bad, why should the admittedly reprehensible pedophile enjoy less protection from civil and commercial ostracism than anyone else? Just because we like piling on, and savor our opportunities for a 2-minute hate?

Or why shouldn’t we just pass a Human Relations Ordinance that says “nobody shall discriminate against anybody, for any reason, in employment, housing and public accommodations”? [Hint: How vindicated and affirmed would the gay lobby feel if such a categorical ban were passed?]

Too many of our elected officials have no surer guide than a wet finger to the wind, however much they feign high principle and try to master the rhetoric that signals True Conviction. They richly deserve our scorn.


Sometime, I wish Courts didn’t have to explain there decisions. A simple “get outa here!” should have been enough for this libel lawsuit.

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.