Thursday, 9/24/15

  1. An exception that proves a rule
  2. Another take on shrinking middle class
  3. Abuse of language/Abuse of power
  4. Taboo!
  5. Papal madness!
  6. Media beat cops: Nothing to see here. Move along now.

1

Hadley Arkes is back in the news, sorta, as he’s never been a limelight hog. I’ve had immense respect for him for 30+ years. He’s among other things an interesting exception “proving” the supposed rules that “prolife” is an exclusively Christian conviction.

Arkes was Jewish (I don’t recall if the reputation was “cultural,” “observant,” “highly observant” or something else) when I first noted his natural law arguments against abortion. He did eventually become Roman Catholic, for reasons I don’t recall having heard or read. Maybe it was an epiphenomenon, but the phenomenon was an ardently and persuasively prolife Jew.

2

I propose that we define the middle class as a set of financial attributes and assets that were widely considered an attainable norm in the 1960s. If prosperity has indeed been rising for the past 50 years, households should be able to not just meet these twelve minimum thresholds, but greatly exceed them.

  1. Meaningful hospitalization/healthcare insurance
  2. Significant equity (25+ percent) in a home
  3. Income/expenses that enable the household to save at least 6 percent of its income
  4. Significant retirement savings: pensions, 401Ks, IRAs, etc.
  5. The ability to pay all expenses over the medium-term if one of the primary wage-earners lose their job
  6. Reliable vehicles for each wage-earner
  7. The household does not require government transfers or subsidies to maintain their lifestyle
  8. Ownership of non-real estate assets such as family heirlooms, tools, etc.
  9. Time and money to invest in children (enrichment, extracurricular clubs/training, etc.).
  10. Leisure time devoted to the maintenance of physical/spiritual/mental health
  11. Continual accumulation of human and social capital (new skills, new markets for one’s services, etc.)
  12. Family ownership of income-producing assets such as rental properties, bonds, businesses, etc.

The key point here is that propping up a precarious façade of debt-funded consumption does not qualify as middle class. To qualify as middle class, the household must actually own wealth that won’t vanish when the investment bubble du jour pops, and won’t be wiped out by a medical emergency.

(Charles Hugh Smith)

3

I am a watcher, an observer, I’ve begun to feel as if I am watching the world, our culture, turn into a hallucinogenic baby of the perverse marriage of 1984 and Brave New World, but instead of straightforward flip-flops (“war is peace”) as a means to political control, it is clownish, celebratory warpings of natural law and nature as a means to soul-control. Creating fortresses sounds attractive, because I am frightened—the mask of sanitary individualism and creative moral license is coming off, and the maggot-ridden face of each is becoming clearer and clearer.

We live not in a culture oppressed by one party’s lies; we live in a culture in love with the ability to lie to itself. “Abortion is about me and my body” is just one. “Happiness is what makes me feel satiated” is another. “Tolerance is supporting whatever you want, Caitlyn.” Joseph Pieper could say, “I told you so” because indeed we are seeing abuse of language as abuse of power, but now at a level and ubiquity that is unprecedented, much more fundamental than anything I’ve experienced in reading history or culture-watching prior.

(T. Renee Kozinski; H/T Rod Dreher)

4

An internet provocateur published a piece by a pedophile who says he’s never touched a child but admits to the urge. The piece has stirred controversy, with defenders and detractors on the right as well as, no doubt, the left.

Jonah Goldberg is a detractor. I think some of his rationale is weak, but this hit me as a good point:

You nod to the idea that social taboos have their place, but the main thrust of the essay is to attack the social stigma against pedophiles. I am hard pressed to see what good can come of that. For that reason alone — though I can think of others — I think [provocateur] made a mistake running that piece.

No doubt it is a cruel fate to be born having a sexual desire for children.  But I cannot see how the net sum of suffering in this world would be lessened if we were to have a more accommodating and tolerant attitude toward pedophiles. I’m not a big fan of slippery-slope arguments, but this seems like one place where they apply.

Taboos, like any bright and clear rule, will create winners and losers. That in itself is no argument against a taboo. Launching a campaign — and that’s what [provocateur] was doing — to lighten the taboo against pedophilia is not, to my mind, commendable.

Provocateur, of course, made no mistake. It has stirred controversy with its clickbait, increased hits, and mapped the path to further controversy — which is all provocateur has ever really been good for.

Rod Dreher has some thoughts, too, at “The Pedophile’s Orientation,” questioning the soundness of “lack of consent,” the customary modern basis for condemning child molesting.

5

Papal visits always generate some hysteria, but usually the excitement is confined to the ranks of the parish councils, youth ministries, and energetic college students who pack buses and stadiums to spend a few hours in the presence of the Holy Father. This time it’s different. It’s the liberal-dominated media and the secular-progressive political establishment that’s gone batty over Francis … In Francis, American liberals see a lefty pope onto whom they can project their dreams of a popular backlash against the stultifying bigotry of right-wing religious conservatives.

… It seems unlikely in the extreme, as some on the right have alleged [and many on the left seem ardently to hope – Tipsy], that the aim of his papacy is to undermine traditional teachings on morality or in any way do harm to the Church he loves and to which he has dedicated his life. That so many believe otherwise is an indication that we are hopelessly addicted to viewing the world through the binary lens of American politics. One thing’s for sure: Pope Francis is tone-deaf about how his remarks play in American political context. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it doesn’t constitute an existential threat to the Church.

… Lost in the hype surrounding Francis’s visit has been the real reason behind it. After his address to Congress, his Madison Square Garden mass, and his rally in Central Park, he will go to Philadelphia to oversee the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families—a celebration of the “sacred bonds” of traditional marriage.

(Matthew Hennessey at City Journal)

Among the “liberal-dominated media,” in uncharacteristically blatant form, was NPR’s worse-than-lame effort to explain “How Pope Francis Clashes With Both Democrats And Republicans, In 1 Graphic.” I’m an NPR fan (which conclusively proves that I’m no “movement conservative”), but this was as badly biased as I can ever recall from NPR.

6

On the left’s fury at Carly Fiorina’s gauntlet downthrowing, someone has finally written what I didn’t take the time to write.

But mainstream media have spoken: “Nothing to see here. Move along now.”

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.