Tuesday, 2/11/14

    1. I Recant
    2. And while I have the mike, did I mention I’d like a pony for Christmas?
    3. Spiraling downward or upward
    4. Indiana’s first-rate Amicus brief
    5. Cheap grandstanding versus costly leadership

1

I recant my assumption that Woody Allen is guilty as charged in Nicholas Kristoff’s column.  His defense and Dorothy Rabinowitz’s reminder of context outweighs the circumstantial evidence of his relationship with Soon Yee Previn and his nihilistic remarks. It outweighs other things, too.

Although my law practice no longer includes divorce, others in my firm handle such matters. I should have recognized the pattern, but was taken in because the alleged victim is still saying the same sort of thing decades later. (What else would she say?)

2

Speaking of child sexual abuse, the Wall Street Journal has an extended tu quoque defense of the Roman Catholic Church against a U.N Report. It seems that U.N. “Blue Beret” Peacekeepers sexually abuse those they’re sent to protect, about which the U.N. is not at all transparent. Touché!

But there’s some substance hidden within the accusations of hypocrisy, too:

[H]ypocrisy is just one of the problems with this 16-page report on the Holy See, which further assails the Vatican for not subordinating itself wholesale to a much broader U.N. agenda. For example, the report calls for the Vatican to drop its opposition to adolescent abortion and contraception, condone underage homosexuality, and use its “authority” and “influence” to disseminate world-wide a roster of U.N. views and policies that run counter to those of the Catholic Church.

The real issue here is that whatever changes the Vatican and the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics might consider, the U.N. is supremely ill-qualified to serve as a guide. The body that produced this report is the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. Its job is to monitor compliance with the U.N.-engendered Convention on the Rights of the Child, a lengthy and intrusive treaty that went into effect in 1990.

When the Holy See became one of the early parties to this treaty, it did so with explicit reservations meant to safeguard its own authority and religious character. Now the committee, in its report on Wednesday, is pressing the Vatican to “withdraw all its reservations and to ensure the Convention’s precedence over internal laws and regulations.” The committee’s recommendations are nonbinding but can influence public opinion. In this report the Vatican is publicly shamed—and then urged to redeem itself by bowing before the altar of the U.N.

The Vatican has responded to this U.N. satrapy with a statement that its headline-grabbing report was “unjustly harmful” and went beyond the committee’s competencies “to interfere in the very doctrinal and moral positions of the Catholic Church.” Pope Francis [1] might want to consider that it is precisely to avoid gross intrusion by unaccountable U.N. “experts” that the United States has signed but never ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This treaty has less to do with children than with political power plays, and a fitting reform at the Vatican would be to walk away from it.

It’s not worth tracking down the link, but I’m pretty sure I explicitly added child sexual abuse to my list of things that are “evils” rather than “problems.” I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but my conviction would make me resistant to intrusive solutions fraught with side-effects. One such intrusive solution is the U.N. panel’s smug and overreaching suggestion that the R.C. Church do a 180 on multiple matters of sexuality.

Darned if I know how that’s supposed to reduce child abuse, but when you’ve got the microphone and the TV camera’s, go for the gold!

3

Wow. This reflection on the heroin-induced death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman:

Things have never been better in the realm of the measurable. But the human soul has no gauge. It has no quantity and so no self-respecting scholar will come near it. This world is better than it has ever been, so long as we forget that we have souls, and hearts that beat despite being broken.

This is not a brief against progress. I have the luxury of this lament because I do not have to spend all my hours scratching out subsistence. I am only trying to say that something has gone missing. We aren’t measuring wrong things, it’s just that we’ve forgotten what is immeasurable. And if we cannot remember this part of humanity, we will turn every good thing against ourselves. Man is, in the end, a creature who flees pain.

And where may he run, to be free from a life that is, by every scientific measure, less painful than ever, yet somehow more inviting of despair?

I have run many places and never found refuge. At best I’ve achieved brief forgetfulness, the price of which is recalling, when you come back to yourself, what you did to forget. I do not know the shape of hell, but I think it is a spiral.

Rod Dreher brought it to my attention, and with his current Divine Comedy obsession, agreed that hell is spiral but so is the path out.

Sometimes people strain to fit the news into their obsessions. Sometimes those who do so are frauds and humbugs. But I think Rod Dreher hit the bullseye. And I’m now following Sand in the Gears, Tony Woodlief’s blog.

4

[R]edefining marriage as nothing more than societal validation of personal bonds of affection leads not to the courageous elimination of irrational, invidious treatment, but instead to the tragic deconstruction of civil marriage and its subsequent reconstruction as a glorification of the adult self. And unlike the goal of encouraging responsible procreation that underlies traditional marriage, the mere objective of self-validation that inspires same-sex marriage lacks principled limits. If public affirmation of anyone and everyone’s personal love and commitment is the single purpose of civil marriage, a limitless number of rights claims could be set up that evacuate the term “marriage” of any meaning.

(From the Summary of Argument in the Brief Amicus Curiae of Indiana and other states in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) This is really a good brief. I’m proud of Indiana’s Solicitor General for his work on it, and pleased that Greg Zoeller signed on. No wonder Indiana is one of the states, in Morrison v. Sadler, that didn’t fall for the ACLU line, advanced in the Hoosier state unsuccessfully by their excellent and ubiquitous counsel Kenneth Falk.

5

For the Left progressive sexual politics plays the role anti-communism used to do for the Right. Back in the day rousing people to defend freedom against the threat of socialism was an applause line that kept the social conservatives from Main Street and the laissez-faire proponents from Wall Street focused on what they had in common. It was a unifying commitment that helped hide deep differences.

Gay rights and the politics of sex (“war on women”) works pretty much the same way for Democrats …

There are reasons to favor gay rights. I think they’re misguided and that movement pressing them forward is waging a war on the weak by dismantling the moral wisdom of the ages. But I can understand and even empathize with the reasons why some of my friends support same-sex marriage. It’s a nice dream that envisions everyone able to live and love as their hearts desire. Moreover, I’m forgiving of their insensitivity to the destructive consequences. Misguided, blinding moral certitude is part of the human condition, sadly.

But what I can’t endure is the Selma Analogy. Gay rights is the single easiest and most convenient commitment for today’s Left. There is no George Wallace, no Klux Klux Klan, no seething resentment ready to punish Democrats who posture as courageous crusaders. In today’s political environment, gay rights carry no liabilities, involve no dangers, and require no sacrifices.

(R.R. Reno)

I’m grateful for this insight. My mind tends to stop at “The Selma analogy begs a lot of questions,” but Reno’s right that Holder (and his boss) risk almost nothing politically by their aggressive extension of the Windsor decision, while pretending that doing so is world-class courage in today’s great civil rights struggle. How different from what the Democrats risked – indeed lost – when Lyndon Johnson, the corn-pone Texan somehow, counter to type, did the right thing.

After I wrote this, but before publication, Rod Dreher pulled and commented on the same material under the heading “Gay rights as anti-communism.” He pointed out that there’s no issue in American today that’s as lethally contentious as was civil rights in the South 50 years ago.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.