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...and anyone else who likes a (relatively) decent short romance: This collection comprises my short romances written since 1995. Sex? Yes, a little. Love? Yes, quite a lot. And optimism about the human heart and soul.
Only $0.99 at Amazon. Enjoy!
This column by Kurt Schlichter has gotten a lot of attention from the DextroSphere. It’s worth your time to read it in full. Schlichter’s tone is openly combative toward the Left, its spokesmen, and its iconic institutions, but buried beneath the overt message is another one of even greater importance. Here are the passages that really bring it forward:
[W]e have a GOP establishment that’s too wimpy to take its own side in a fight, much less humanity’s – or ours. No wonder a walking punchline like Donald Trump is walking all over them.
And we don’t need any more decorum cops like Mitt Romney sucking up to the libs and their MSM buddies by adopting their memes and chiding the likes of Ted Cruz for telling the truth. Hey, giving $150 billion to the Iranian mullahs means Obama is giving money to terrorists. That's called “the truth;” maybe you squishes ought to try it out instead of whining when GOP voters respond to it from others.
In the above Schlichter implies that the Republican Party’s Establishment is only a component in a larger, essentially unitary Establishment. And indeed, it is so. It provides a perfect explanation for its major figures’ hostility to boat-rockers such as Ted Cruz. Had we been alert to the possibility that the kingpins of the Left and the Right might join forces sub rosa, we might have had a chance to prevent it. Were more of us awake to current political reality, the GOP’s treatment of the Tea Party caucus and conservative “troublemakers” generally would confuse no one.
However, confusion and the concealment of power-brokers’ motives is essential to the advancement of totalitarian oligarchy under a veneer of democratic self-government.
It’s been observed by commentators with a much larger readership than mine that what most Trump backers like most about him is his combativeness, and the contrast it makes with GOP luminaries’ hypercautious, civility-above-all-else, don’t-make-the-New York Times-angry approach to doing business. That also applies to many, perhaps most, of the backers of Ted Cruz. Were a few more genuine fighters to make themselves heard nationally, the pattern would be clearer. As matters stand, the Establishment and the media are able to dismiss Trump, Cruz, and their backers as marginal players in the national political dynamic. More, the facility with which their detractors can marginalize them – Trump as the “angry outsider” in a time of anti-“insider” sentiment; Cruz as the “feisty Latino” of merely regional appeal – helps to deflect attention from the substance of their campaigns.
If you’ll allow me a quick swerve of focus, let’s consider Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Few persons anticipated Sanders’s entrance into the race for the Democrats’ nomination, and fewer still expected the substantial degree of enthusiasm he’s garnered. Yet there were clouds over the Hillary Clinton campaign from the very first. We ought to have seen them in such phenomena as the speculation about a Biden candidacy and the calls to draft Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Clinton, to put it as briefly as possible, is the Establishment’s choice for Democrat nominee, and those on the Left committed to the ideology rather than to the Democrat Party have known it all along.
The speculations about a second Clinton / Bush showdown in November 2016 are ultimately about whether America’s political Establishment will succeed in euchring all the fighters – the men of conviction and courage – out of the running. That is, indeed, the Establishment’s aim: to perpetuate the state of affairs that has existed since the election of John F. Kennedy, whose elevation to the White House began the dominance of federal politics by a quiet coalition of Yankee and Rimster political baronies.
There are tensions within that coalition, as there are within every coalition, but the members are united on one overarching rule: No boat rocking. Sudden, convulsive changes are the enemy of every Establishment. What is an Establishment but that assemblage of persons and institutions that have gained dominance over The Way Things Are – the group that has contrived to take the helm of the ship of state and steer it to its members’ profit and security?
Anyone who dares to raise a sincerely angry voice about any important aspect of the status quo is a boat rocker: a threat to the Establishment that must be neutered before he can mass enough sentiment behind him to compel a major change.
Even when nominally focused on a narrow issue, a major change to existing political arrangements is always widely destabilizing. Consider all the following thinkable major alterations to federal law:
Any one of those ideas would shake the American Establishment to its foundations. What the destruction of the One Ring did to Barad-dur would pale in comparison. Accordingly, should a candidate other than Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton gain his party’s nomination, the Establishment will make it quietly clear to him that its support is conditional on an enforceable promise that should he win, he will not act effectively to promote any such initiative.
The Establishment doesn’t control the votes of private citizens, though it strains mightily to bias public opinion against boat-rockers. Thus, there is a possibility that someone who has demonstrated political courage and determination, such as Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, will secure the GOP’s presidential nomination. Should Governor Walker get the nod through the primary process, an effort to pre-constrain a Walker Administration would begin at once. We the People would not be permitted to see that operation. Neither would it be guaranteed to succeed immediately, such that President Walker would be neutered from his first day in office. But it would be real and ongoing.
A great deal of Establishment control of the federal government is exercised by Cabinet members and “advisors.” The “inside Washington” mystique makes it difficult for a president-elect to select as major figures of his administration persons not steeped in that culture and its premises. Thus, a fighter in the Oval Office would be encysted with Establishment figures from the start of his tenure. Those “flappers” would perpetually counsel the president against any policy or initiative that might rock the boat. They would work to exclude from the president’s consciousness any individual or proposal that might countervail Establishment policy.
It happened to Ronald Reagan; it would surely happen to Scott Walker, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz. If not futile ab initio, resistance would be difficult at best.
To sum up: working to change the system from within it has never faced such long odds. There are no guarantees in politics, of course; it’s still remotely possible that a fighter in the Oval Office could mobilize significant changes back toward Constitutional governance. But it’s not the way to bet.
There are more promising directions for freedom advocates than conventional political involvement. One is private action: the weakening of the Omnipotent State by seizing its supposed duties and discharging them through voluntary mechanisms. Another is the pursuit of off-the-grid status, whether complete or partial, such that one’s public profile is minimized. A third, flight, remains problematic for the present, though progress in geoformy (e.g., the construction of artificial islands) and private spaceflight hold out some hope for the future.
To those straining to put a sound conservative fighter in the Oval Office: May God smile upon your efforts. But don’t kid yourselves about the size and power of the forces aligned against you. They’ll do whatever it takes to keep the boat steady. They’ve proved remarkably good at it for half a century and more.
No mention of immigration, alas. One commenter, The Raven, wrote, "She's for amnesty and said Trump doesn't represent her when he attacked the Mexican government and criminals. She said he doesn't represent her or her party." Vdare.com and NumbersUSA will have that story in due course.
They've all got to come clean on sealing the border, amnesty, employer verification, and deportation or it's no deal for me. The Rs will barf up Jeb given half a chance and it's definitely time to break furniture (i.e., third party time) if none of the GOP candidates can see wide open, mass immigration -- and the existing mass of illegals already resident for decades -- as the existential threat that they are. A foreigner is a foreigner is a foreigner.
Yes. All illegals have to return home and take their anchor babies with them. If they want to "keep their families together" it's their responsibility to take their kid(s) with them not our responsibility to accommodate people who have the gall to wander over our border thinking that we then owe them something. We own nothing to invaders. The anchor baby concept is another constitutional joke foisted on us by the Supreme Court anyway.
H/t: Drudge Report, 8/3/15.
Every tick on this chart (total public debt) is a lie:
U.S. government bonds promise payment but, in the end, it will never happen. None of that debt will be paid for, unless it's by following generations, whose enthusiasm for the consumption preferences of their ancestors is not the stuff of legend.
The socialist paradigm is crumbling and the soaring public debt in all Western countries is simply the graphic evidence of the tragic Great Lie that overtook Western man since the dawn of the last century. Every tick on the graph of public debt above is proof of the Lie. The maneuverings over Greek debt to stave off operation of the iron laws of arithmetic (ILA), not to mention eternal truth, should similarly be seen for what they are: utter desperation.
But there were plenty of warning signs for Krugman and the world. A big one was the self-proclaimed adherence to Marxism by the leaders of Syriza, the governing party in Greece. I am not writing as a knee-jerk conservative here. I am willing to admit that it is possible to hold many political and economic views without immediately qualifying for the Flat Earth Society, but Marxism does not fall within this range of the allowable.Mr. Barris should have said "imbecile, willingly self-deceptive, a liar, or a committed enemy of liberty." Other than that quibble, he states bedrock truth.
There is no doctrine in the social sciences that has been more thoroughly debunked, in both theory and practice, than Marxism. It is not possible to be a true believer in Marx unless you are an imbecile or willingly self-deceptive. In either case, this does not make you an ideal negotiating partner, something to bear in mind when you are deciding where to place your sympathies in the battle between Greece and the troika.
As the "flat earth" link in the quoted text above suggests, alas, humans are capable of focusing on single points of data and thereafter excluding all contrary evidence. The single data point in question in modern times is the cry of our victorious statists, "We are not heartless capitalists. We know how to take care of you and there is no downside whatsoever."
 of their hideous reign in parts of the world, is simply not seen. And where some residual decency survived in the countries not buried in violent revolution, the violence has been muted, but the tyranny progresses nonetheless to the ultimate degradation. The very latest effort of the Europeans to create a world-class government has resulted in the European Union, a contemptible authoritarian monstrosity, whose leaders have nothing but contempt for the wishes of the people over whom they rule and whose substance they waste.
 "For euen when wee were with you, this wee commanded you, that if any would not worke, neither should he eate." 2 Thessalonians 3:10, New Testament, KJV.
 "Destroying the Village to Save It – A Brief Post Mortem on Greece." By Roger Barris, Acting Man, 7/29/15.
 "The Red Terror in Russia 1918-1923." By Sergey Petrovich Melgounov, 1924 (?). An excerpt:
At Kertch the Bolshevists organised what they called "trips to Kuban," when the victims were taken out to sea, and drowned, and their terror-stricken wives and mothers flogged with [whips of horsehide] or, in a few cases, shot along with their sons or husbands. And for a long time bodies of such women, with babes still clasped to their breasts, could be seen lying outside the Jewish cemetery at Simferopol. At Yalta and Sevastopol stretcher patients were carried from the hospitals, and shot.Pp. 78-79.
See also "The Record of the Red Terror." By S. Melgunoff, Current History, 1927.
Politics: n. from poli: “many;” and tics: “loathsome little bloodsuckers.” – Origin unknown.
P. J. O’Rourke nails it to the barn wall:
All politicians hate people. Politics is a way to gain power over people without justification for having that power. Nothing in the 11,000-year history of politics—going back to the governing elites of Mesopotamia—indicates that politicians are wiser, smarter, kinder, more moral, or better skilled at any craft (aside from politics) than we are.
But political rulers need the acquiescence of the ruled to slake the craving for power. Politicians hate you the way a junkie hates junk.
Read it all. No excuses.
Good morning, Gentle Readers. Having just passed an unusually good weekend, I’m without sufficient bile to produce one of my customary tirades. So have a few...what does Thomas Sowell call them? Passing thoughts on the random scene? Something like that, anyway.
The slow but steady downtrend in the dollar prices of the precious metals has a number of folks in a tizzy. Is this the start of the long-awaited catastrophic deflation? they ask one another and me. I suppose it might be, but as long as national governments continue to acquire gold and silver, I intend to do so as well. After all, the dollar and its competitor currencies are controlled by those governments. Their masters know better than I, or any other private individual, where value is most reliably stored.
It comes as no surprise to me that the U.S. Navy is considering levying charges against Lieutenant-Commander Timothy White for daring to fire his personal sidearm at the gunman who killed four of his fellow servicemen:
We can’t have such untrained, irresponsible types using firearms in such a dangerous manner, now can we? Some innocent Muslim terrorist might get hurt!
I’ve received a couple of emails requesting pictures of the Fortress of Crankitude’s newest cats. Accordingly, here’s Chloe:
...and here’s Zoe:
After all, the whole point of the World Wide Web is the circulation of cute pictures and videos of cats, isn’t it? Why else would we value broadband access so greatly?
Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination continues to lead both the field and the political news. I can’t see why anyone would find this so surprising. Haven’t we been hearing how disgusted Americans are with “insider” politicians for years now? Isn’t it rather likely that that distaste helped to fuel the rise of Barack Hussein Obama, a nonentity from nowhere? Besides, we’re a year away from the actual selection of a nominee. That gives the press plenty of time to choose our candidate for us.
In that regard, I’d be unsurprised if the press were to assist Trump in gaining the GOP’s nod. Their function, as we all know well, is to select the Republican candidate least likely to defeat the anointed Democrat...and there’s no one more defeasible than King of the Crony Capitalists Donald “three wives, four bankruptcies, and lots of donations to Democrats” Trump.
The Left often succeeds at telling people to ignore the evidence of its misdeeds. Indeed, on occasion a Leftist will tell you, quite baldly, that you don’t mean what you just said, and expect you to defer to his assessment of your convictions. A commenter at PJ Media tells us:
Back in 2009 then chairman of the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, the late Francis Cardinal George, relayed the conversation he attempted to have with President Obama about abortion. It didn't get very far because Obama kept insisting he had no differences with Cardinal George on the issue of abortion. Cardinal George kept saying that wasn't true and Obama kept insisting they were in agreement.
The injunction against the Center for Medical Progress is part of that pattern. A thousand verbal reports on Planned Parenthood’s obscenities pale before a single video of a PP staffer dickering over the sale of fetal organs...and that pales in comparison to the videos of a fetal dissection that we’ve already seen. Therefore, the Left must prevent the circulation of any further videos, leaving only verbal attestations to these horrors, which they can simply contradict as loudly and obscenely as possible.
Say, has anyone bothered to obtain Sandra Fluke’s opinion of the Planned Parenthood videos? She is America’s foremost expert on contraception, after all. And isn’t infanticide really just a form of post hoc contraception?
“You have to be a little crazy to go into show biz,” as a character of mine once said. And when we reflect on the personal proclivities of such Hollywood luminaries as Tom Cruise and Angeline Jolie, there does seem to be adequate evidence to support her contention. Yet some of these marginal lunatics are also skilled entertainers. Cruise, whose off-the-silver-screen antics are the stuff of legend, continues to make exciting movies that draw large crowds. The most recent Mission: Impossible flick is one such...and the 53-year-old actor continues to do many of the stunts himself, which is something for us aged types to ponder over our Cheerios® and Geritol.®
I’m pleased that there’s been no aversion to the “Quickies” pieces I’ve been producing. Now that I have the time to stay more or less on top of developments, I’m frequently struck by some passing news item that stimulates one such. It provides a pleasant sort of punctuation to a writer’s life.
Twitter is often the source of such seeds. Yes, I’m on Twitter: @fporretto, for what it’s worth.
As for the new “thin” Oreos, I’m unimpressed. They’re only seven calories less than a standard Oreo, you can’t twist ‘em apart, and they don’t soften in milk. What’s the point?
Being a retired engineer, I can’t help but be sad about the untimely demise of the “hitchhiking robot.” The experiment was inherently interesting, and the robot struck me as more amiable than about three quarters of the people I routinely encounter. The story of its fatal battery puts me in mind of a fake news squib I read some years ago, about a gorilla that escaped from the Bronx Zoo only to be beaten to death by muggers. Having at one time lived in the Bronx, I had to double-check that piece to see if it was truly a satire. I doubt persons familiar with the City of Brotherly Violence – and you know who the “brothers” are, don’t you, Gentle Reader? – would doubt the linked story for an instant.
And with that, it’s back to agonizing over Statesman. Till soon, Gentle Reader.
But, they mean well.
It’s time to face reality. And to start working on a Plan B.
 "The latest government trust fund to go bankrupt." By Simon Black, Soveriegn Man, 7/31/15.
I’ve had some occasions on which my physical perceptions were humorously reinterpreted by what I think of as the “pigeonholing function” of the mind. That function takes perceived objects and attempts to categorize them as already-established kinds of things. This is a known operation of the mind, a built-in labor-saving device we all have, not something that happens only to me...but now and then, my pigeonholer makes an amusing mistake.
For example, shortly before I retired, I was driving home from work, passed an insurance broker’s offices, and about three seconds later hauled my car to the curb with a “Say what?” reaction. It seemed certain that the marquee beside his office said:
But of course, it really said Specializing In The Homeowner, as I discovered when I walked back to read it at close range.
I had another one a few minutes ago: a Web ad which, when it first registered on my consciousness, seemed to say:
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what it really said. After I stopped laughing, I spent several minutes trying to figure out how a “reverse marriage” would work. Would the reverse spouses have sex with everyone except one another? Would they share housekeeping expenses with all their neighbors and friends, but not with one another? And what about the children? Think of the children!
“The mind is a strange and wonderful device.” – Actor John Agar, in some cheesy science-fiction flick or other.
It’s not bad enough that a “judge” revealed as an Obama appointee and a major Obama bundler should think he can trump the First Amendment with a prior-restraint injunction against the Center for Medical Progress. No, via InstaPundit, we have a new outrage to free-expression rights:
Denver prosecutors have charged a man with seven counts of jury tampering after they say he tried to influence jurors by passing out literature on jury nullification on Monday.
Mark Iannicelli, 56, set up a small booth with a sign that said "Juror Info" in front of the city's Lindsay-Flanigan Courthouse courthouse, prosecutors say.
The Denver District Attorney's Office says Iannicelli provided jury nullification flyers to jury pool members.
Jury nullification is when jurors believe a defendant is guilty of the charges but reject the law and return a not guilty verdict.
How is this even possible without a specific charge that the accused tried to influence the vote of one or more specific jurors, or the verdict of one or more specific juries? The brief article cited here doesn’t provide any indication that Iannicelli did anything but pass out pamphlets that contain wholly correct information: i.e., that a juror cannot be punished for his vote regardless of in which direction it goes. How is this jury tampering?
The Denver D.A. who leveled those charges deserves removal from office and subsequent disbarment. Will it happen? Probably not; the rest of the legal profession will laager up around him. Moreover, judges are notoriously hostile to the concept of jury nullification. Criminal defense lawyers who mention it during a trial are often cited for contempt or worse.
Colorado recently enacted some of the worst anti-gun-rights laws in the nation. Despite punitive recalls of two of the legislators involved, those laws still stand. Perhaps the state’s political elite fears the black eye that would come from the nullification of those laws. I can’t help but wonder: Were Ayn Rand alive and writing Atlas Shrugged today. would she site Galt’s Gulch in Colorado?
It’s gratifying to note that the scandal ignited over Planned Parenthood’s sale of fetal organs has developed “legs” to confound and frustrate PP’s supporters. Some of those supporters have given vent to highly intemperate “refutations” less indicative of conviction than of...something else. But what else?
I’m not the only one to notice. The comments on the article linked above include this one:
That video reeks of panic. She's trying to cover it with anger, but you can see through that, to the panic. They're taking heavy incoming fire, they've taken a hit below the waterline, and they know it.
I love the smell of panic in the morning.
...to which another commenter replied:
...And beneath the panic is likely profound guilt. The more loudly and belligerently pro-abortion a woman is, the more convinced I am she's trying to drown out her own haunted conscience.
Either or both the first and second commenters might be right. However, there are several possible fuels for such fury.
One that comes to mind immediately is remorse about poor life choices. Many women have come to regret decisions made early in life, for example prioritizing career and social life over marriage and children, that they cannot unmake. There is a correlation, albeit not a strong or conclusive one, between early abortion and subsequent inability to carry a child to term. Also, a woman who has passed her prime childbearing years without marrying and having kids has reduced her options for marriage, as most men are still drawn more strongly to younger and more fertile women than to their older and less fertile sisters. One common response to such recrimination against one’s younger self is to externalize it by redirecting it into anger at those who would dare to question such choices. The external enemy can be punished, whereas one’s younger self is lost forever...as are the possibilities she eschewed.
Second, we have a wound to one’s moral self-esteem. This is extremely important on the Left, whose allegiants have been taught to regard themselves as morally superior to us on the Right. (Cf. Thomas Sowell’s “assumption of differential rectitude.”) When one is contradicted on a topic where one’s moral self-assessment is bound up with one’s position, righteous anger is a natural response...which, of course, is not to say that the furious one is somehow vindicated by her fury.
Third, as the first commenter suggested might be true of Rebecca Watson, is strategic political posturing. but many who react with fury toward opponents of abortion are doing so not out of sincere emotion but from a strategic vision. They know how central abortion on demand is to the overall worldview and agenda of the Left. Should that tenet of their ethos be invalidated, much of the rest will crumble with it.
Fourth, as the second commenter noted, is the possibility of moral self-doubt. Many women (and not a few men) harbor considerable guilt over having indulged in abortion. They’ve never been completely convinced of the acceptability of the act. They work hard to suppress such guilt, and cannot stand to have it surface. Once again, externalizing the guilt as rage against those who dare to disagree helps to keep it from consuming oneself.
All of these motivations come into play in any public airing of the atrocities attendant upon a regime of abortion on demand at any stage of gestation.
It being a Sunday morning, and my mood therefore being more contemplative than at most other times, it’s incumbent upon me to suggest that some of our raging opponents, while their fury doesn’t validate the positions they espouse, are nevertheless fitting subjects for a dollop of compassion.
I speak from a Catholic perspective, of course, but beyond and beneath that, I speak as a veteran of several poor life choices and the attendant regrets. To repent of one’s erroneous ways and sincerely resolve to reform is far more likely, and far easier, when one is not drenched with external condemnation or derision. The hyper-polarization of contemporary political discourse, of which the fusillades over abortion are a major component, has surely retarded many souls from admitting to their faults, repenting of them, and leaving them behind for better attitudes and practices.
Among the reasons this would be wise is the old saying that a drop of honey will attract more flies than a gallon of gall. But more than that, it is not given to us to judge the souls of others. We may condemn behaviors; we are forbidden to condemn men. There’s only one Judge competent for that.
It can be hard, especially when practiced toward those who snarl and snap at us: yet another deplorable aspect of the flying-lead political wars of our time. But it can also be both constructive and supremely gratifying. Verbum sat sapienti.
May God bless and keep you all. (Betcha didn’t see that coming, eh?)
be willing to support any reduction at all in the record annual dispensation of new green cards and new foreign worker visas.The offices referred to are those of:
* * * *
Not one Republican leadership office was willing to even reply to the question. Every GOP leader’s office refused to answer, to express any support for reduced future immigration, or to offer any thought at all on the subject. It appears that not one of these public servants was even willing to engage on the issue of historic immigration transforming the electorate, school systems, and labor markets.
As described by Congressional aides who spoke with Breitbart News, while Republicans had an aggressive nationwide push to pass Obamatrade, they have never had a similar media nationwide campaign to protect their constituents from unpopular, uncontrolled immigration: not on sanctuary cities, not on H-1B abuses, not on executive amnesty, etc.
One GOP aide said: “Republican leaders will not, I repeat, will not ever message on how immigration is hurting American workers because they support and want their business buddies to get more foreign workers.” 
I understand differences of opinion on life's issues. No one has a lock on reality or perfect understanding of complex issues. Debate and careful study are always a prerequisite. That said, however, it simply beggars the imagination to witness the degree to which the wholesale importation of foreigners from third-world countries who have no exposure to or understanding of the legal and cultural traditions of this country is seen as an unarguable good, something a priori of immense benefit.
The concept that they should be denied entry and discouraged from further entry by military means appears to be entertained only by idiots, neo-Nazis, heartless monsters, and all manner of disreputable persons.
We in the West are afflicted with a virulent disease that numbs the brain, saps all courage, and causes us to pursue the death of the white race and the civilization it created. Never would the founders of this country have envisioned that the United States would come to be ruled by cowards and fools with nothing but contempt for their fellow citizens and the Constitution and an unchallenged determination to rule by intimidation, force, and lies.
Some small number of us is waking up to the contempt expressed by the ruling class. The fate of Mr. Trump will be interesting. as he resembles slightly some of the occasional outsiders in China who sprang out of nowhere to lead vast armies against the emperor. (I do not equate the views of the Tai Ping leader to those of Mr. Trump. The point is what can happen when nations decay.) He appears to be waffling on amnesty so he may yet prove a disappointment. Gov. Walker shows some stiffening of views on immigration but he has uttered the absurd phrase "our broken immigration system" in the past – which I would not do at sword point – so he's suspect, one must conclude.
And that will drive events.
Perhaps these are sentiments before their time that will amuse the deep thinkers who believe they've got it all under control. But I'm betting good money that what the sellouts have engineered for our country will soon enough give them a taste of what Mars does best.
A sad and alarming thought, it's true, but then who would have thought that what the Framers and Ratifiers set in motion would drown in the perfect storm of ruling class hubris, stupidity, and connivance at total power.
And monstrous betrayal.
 "No Congressional GOP Leaders Will Support Reducing Immigration." By Julia Hahn, Breitbart.com, 7/31/15.
[The recent explosion of the Planned Parenthood scandal has moved me to post the following piece, which first appeared at Eternity Road on March 18, 2005 -- FWP]
Here are the facts, as your Curmudgeon has them:
In 1990, Teresa Schindler-Schiavo's heart ceased to beat for several minutes. The resulting hypoxia caused severe brain damage, which left her helpless, unable to care for or feed herself. Doctors recently appointed by Florida courts have called her condition a "persistent vegetative state."
However, according to several witnesses, Terri still responds to various stimuli. She can't speak, and may not recognize specific persons or elements in her surroundings, but her sensorium is not yet wholly disconnected from her brain. Nor does her brain appear to have lost all its non-autonomic functions.
Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, has petitioned to have Terri's feeding tube removed -- in effect, to starve his wife to death -- on the representation that she would have wanted it that way. He contends that she clearly expressed that desire to him, though no written records of such a desire exist. That is, there is no "living will" for Terri Schindler-Schiavo.
After protracted hearings and appellate decisions, the Florida courts have granted Michael Schiavo's request that Terri's feeding tube be removed. Unless federal authorities step in to prevent it, this will bring about Terri's death by starvation, a process that could take up to two weeks.
Several Congressmen are attempting to use Congress's subpoena power to delay the inception of this process of execution. Whether the Florida principals and the courts that have backed them will yield to superior federal authority remains to be seen.
For some years, Michael Schiavo has been living with another woman, who has borne him two children. He and Terri are spouses only in the eyes of the State. Yet he has refused to allow divorce proceedings that would transfer guardianship of Terri to her parents.
Michael Schiavo also stands to benefit monetarily from Terri's death. The amount is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. A philanthropist, sensing that this might be the true reason Michael wants Terri to die, has offered to buy her life for $1 million -- that is, to pay Michael Schiavo $1 million if he will only relinquish guardianship of his helpless wife. The offer was refused.
The Florida courts that granted Michael Schiavo's petition to starve his wife to death made a finding of fact, based solely on Michael's representations that Terri would have asked to die in these circumstances. Several persons who knew Terri testified that this was not the case, but to no avail.
Never before in the history of the United States has a man been sentenced to be slowly tortured to death.
Let's be perfectly candid about what Michael Schiavo intends for his helpless wife: he wants her dead. His claim that she would want the same is hopelessly tainted by his pecuniary interest in her demise. He insists on killing her even though the sole legal way to get her into her coffin is to subject her to two weeks of excruciating torment.
Were a condemned serial killer to be sentenced to the same ordeal, every civil-rights and humanist group in the country would be up in arms. Nay, it would arouse every such group in the world. Such groups cannot abide the death penalty even for men convicted of the most heinous crimes. The United States would be castigated in every organ known to Man for its callousness, its brutality, and its lack of respect for human life.
Strangely, those groups have been quite silent about the plight of Terri Schindler-Schiavo. A few have even trumpeted the "right to die" mantra, as if they possessed telepathic time-travel powers that allow them to read Terri's desires retroactively from this point in time.
Your Curmudgeon will note in passing that the overwhelming majority of those groups also proclaim a "woman's right to choose" -- to choose to kill a helpless, fully developed infant whose head has already entered the birth canal and who is on his way to beginning the adventure of life. Some also condemned Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, preferring to let dictators who had murdered uncounted thousands of helpless persons remain in power rather than allow American soldiers to liberate their subjects by force of arms.
As the years roll past, your Curmudgeon becomes ever more powerfully struck by the prescient insight of the great Clive Staples Lewis.
In his novel That Hideous Strength, Lewis paints a nightmare landscape of a fictional Britain that's fallen wholly to the mercies of the worst men in the world. Men who desire to torture and destroy as ends in themselves, but who have become skilled at representing their atrocities as "experimentation" or "remedial treatment." Men who lust for power over others as no other men have ever lusted, and who would raise a dead sorcerer from the grave to get it, but who would never admit that their "scientific outlook" could be conjoined with belief in a demon-conjuring wizard. Men whose loyalties have been so completely perverted that they've relocated entirely away from the human race, and away from life itself.
As the novel's villains struggle to bring the reanimated Merlin into their fold, we are shown that a process centuries long is nearing completion. The process began with the displacement of reverence for innocent life by an ethic that deemed all things, and all lives, to be clay in the hands of human potters, to be shaped according to their untrammeled desires. It took time to evolve, because even those who most strongly advocated it had to shake off the restraints of tradition and upbringing; as Lewis puts it, their inherited morality stood firm against their intellectual rationalizations for the evil they'd sought to legitimize. But once their successors had cast off the fetters of tradition and lingering social disapproval, nothing stood in their way.
The moment had come for Hell's final advance against Man. The convergence of two mighty engines of death -- the reduction of a life to a mere bag of chemicals judged entirely by instrumental criteria, and the worship of power without regard for its source, its aims, or its uses -- could begin.
Over the millennia, men have killed one another in uncounted millions. It's not new, or particularly noteworthy, that one man should want to kill another -- not even that a husband should want to kill his wife, whom he's sworn before God and man to protect. What is new is the accelerating approval and support for such a desire among the "intellectual elite," including judges appointed to do justice, defend the innocent, and protect the helpless.
Europe is deeply mired in this trend. The Netherlands is the standard-bearer for "assisted suicide," and for the deliberate execution, with medical concurrence, of inconvenient babies and oldsters. The horror stories are legion -- so many, in fact, that the horror of them has begun to create calluses over our emotions. One can only hear about so many such villainies before stopping one's ears.
Europe is also the rallying point for the condemnation of the death penalty. The lives of men who've maliciously and unjustifiably destroyed the lives of others are therefore valued more highly than the lives of the helpless and utterly innocent.
America has been a bastion against this sort of viciousness...until now. European thinking -- utilitarian valuation of the "quality of life" of helpless persons by third parties -- has reached these shores and formed a beachhead. The abortion wars, as serious as they've been, were only a preliminary, a shelling of our moral defenses to soften them for a decisive breakthrough.
The Terri Schindler-Schiavo case will be that breakthrough, if Michael Schiavo gets his way.
Some have protested that Michael Schiavo must be sincere, since he was willing to turn down a million dollars for his wife's life. This does not follow. Once he'd made his representation that Terri would have wanted to die, Michael could not possibly back away from it in the face of a monetary inducement; that would have constituted an admission that he wants her dead specifically so that he could grab her money, and that he was ready to yield in the face of a better offer. Similarly, he has to resist all attempts to divorce him from Terri, and the Schindlers' impassioned pleas for a transfer of guardianship. To concede guardianship to anyone determined to keep Terri alive would implicitly admit that it was no wish of Terri's that mattered, but rather that he wants her dead for his own convenience. Either admission would indict and convict him of conspiracy to commit murder through a judicial process.
Terri Schindler-Schiavo's life matters to her husband-in-name in precisely one way: it's a barrier to something he wants. His willingness to sacrifice her is a declaration that in service to his ends, even the murder of the helpless woman whose well-being lies in his care is an acceptable means. It's a pledge of allegiance to the death cults.
This sickening story has a few scenes yet to run. Whether Terri Schindler-Schiavo will survive it is known only to God. But anyone willing to open his eyes can easily see that elements of opinion and organs of government here in the United States are aligning with the death cults.
Florida courts have ratified Michael Schiavo's desire to kill his helpless, innocent wife.
Groups that claim to hold life as sacred, that protest in droves at every execution, and that condemn the use of American military power regardless of the justifications or the delicacy of its application, are standing aside, content to watch as Terri is tortured to death.
Low creatures such as Peter Singer, so-called "ethical philosopher," have argued that creatures such as Terri have no right to life that others are bound to respect.
And as in Lewis's That Hideous Strength, the legions of Hell look on in delicious anticipation.
Never underestimate the tenacity of the would-be tyrant:
After backing down amid concerns she wanted to regulate political speech, and even new sites like the Drudge Report, the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission has renewed talk about targeting campaign and political activities on the internet.
Ann M. Ravel, discussing election regulation during a speech in New York, suggested it was time to produce "thoughtful policy" targeting internet political activity. She also expressed frustration that her last bid was met with "threatening misogynist responses to me."
She was speaking at a day-long conference hosted by the Brennan Center for Justice, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and the Committee for Economic Development when she was asked about regulating the internet, Google and Facebook....
When the Democrats on the FEC first raised the possibility of regulations, opponents feared they were going to target conservative groups, activities and news sites. A proposal to delve into the issue died in a 3-3 vote....
But in answering the question this week, Ravel indicated she wants to pursue regulations. "It would be under the purview of the FEC to look at some of the issues that arise in new media and the impact of new media, in particular with respect to disclosure and ensuring that there is no corporate contributions, for example excessive contributions or contributions to a particular candidates for example," she said.
The FEC is not a non-political body. It conforms to the agenda of whoever is in power – typically, whichever party controls the White House. And as we can see, they never kill an idea for suppressing dissent all the way: head chopped off and a stake through its heart.
What do you think, Gentle Reader? Time to lock and load? Got a lamppost picked out for this aspiring dictatress? If you’re not feeling your inner Patrick Henry struggle and surge yet, how much more will it take?
[F. J. Dagg has returned with another piercing short story. James, we can’t get enough of you. Keep ‘em coming! -- FWP]
She was plump, and though not yet thirty appeared middle-aged, and her lips moved slightly as she read “Ministry of Child Development” in great, bold letters above the immense building’s entrance--she had been here only hours earlier, yet needed to reassure herself she was at the correct location. As directed, she had dropped her twelve-year-old son here at 8 AM--a sore trial for one accustomed to lying abed late--and was now returning at 5 PM, again as directed. Upon reaching twelve years, all children were comprehensively tested in order for the State to set them on the correct path.
“So how’d he do?” the woman asked the Ninth Assistant Deputy Coordinator to the Regional Sub-Under-Secretary to the Fifth Minister of Child Development, Northeastern Sector.
The bureaucrat’s lips parted, but she did not immediately speak. Then she smiled and said, “Your son’s results presented us with a...a special case.”
The woman grunted and stared dully.
“Yes, well...the fact is his verbal scores were extraordinary.”
The woman frowned.
“...by which I mean perfect.” The bureaucrat glanced at the monitor on her desk. “Our records show no other child having achieved a perfect verbal score. Can you tell me who the father is?”
The woman’s face twisted in a sly grin. “Now, I ain’t one o’ them prissy kind o’ gals what keeps track o’ every...”
“Oh, I’m sure, but we would like to know...if you can remember.”
The woman’s face became a caricature of concentration. “Well, that woulda been...” Her eyes narrowed as she counted on her fingers. At last she looked up. “It was prob’ly the white one.” The bureaucrat made an expression the woman couldn’t read and tapped her keyboard.
“...but I’d say the boy’s like that ‘cuz of them books, prob’ly.”
“From that old liberry buildin’ other side o’ town. Place is fallin’ down, so’s I told him to stay clear of it, but would he listen?”
“I see...,” said the bureaucrat.
The woman went on. “Always goin’ on about things what happened a long time ago. All them different countries, and wars, and music, and fancy pitchers...and books. Ha ha. Readin’ books ‘bout books...how wack is that?
The bureaucrat began to speak, but the woman, with a sudden, vaguely guilty look, cut her off.
“All the other kids is good, though! ‘Tween gov’m’nt school and TV, they turned out OK.”
The Ninth Assistant Deputy Coordinator, etc., etc. nodded approvingly.
The woman’s eyes glazed and she shook her head slowly.
“Nobody can say I didn’t try. His teachers give me them pills...said they’d straighten him out...calm him down, ‘n’ all, but they didn’t do no good. Now I think back on it, maybe he hid ‘em an’ didn’t take ‘em at all. He’s smart, all right...too smart, maybe.” She shook her head again.
“Anyways, it’s got so you can’t make him even look at the TV no more, and all I ever hear nowadays is a lotta wack ‘bout what he calls ‘floss-fee.’ Crap like ‘Sock-tease,’ and ‘Play-dough,’ and ‘Shake-speare...,’” She emitted a braying cackle. “Howzat for a dumbass name, ‘Shake-speare?’” She rolled her eyes and the plastic chair beneath her creaked as she shifted her bulk. “But mostly he gets all excited ‘bout them foundered fathers...”
“’Foundered...?’ Oh, you mean the ‘Founding Fathers.’ Yes, I was coming to that.”
The woman droned on. “...boy can’t shut up about it...old times when people be fightin’ over ideas...instead o’ real stuff...‘n’ talkin’ smack ‘bout the gov’m’nt...” She glanced up nervously, then plunged on, “...and...and...had to do things for theirselves...” Her lip curled and she shook her head. “Lotta crazy talk.”
The bureaucrat folded her hands on the desk and her expression became grave.
“Of course. But...I’m afraid there’s also, well, some not so good news.” When the woman said nothing the bureaucrat continued. “Your son’s math scores were low...quite low.”
“No s’prise there. He hates them number shows the worst...the ones with them puppets, y’know?”
“Yes. Well, low math ability is very serious. Scores such as his would prevent one from becoming a Programmer, or a Facilitator...even at the lowest level.” Her expression became graver still, and she repeated, “Very serious.”
The woman stared blankly.
“But the most troubling thing was that he insisted on talking to the Examiners about the Founding Fathers. You mentioned them, do you remember?”
The woman shrugged and her eyes narrowed. “So how bad is it?”
The bureaucrat drew a breath. “I’m afraid we had no choice but to euthanize him.”
“Um, ‘put down.’ The law required that he be, ah, put down.”
The woman squinted. “You mean, like...dead?”
“I’m afraid so.”
The Ninth Assistant Deputy, etc., etc. essayed a sympathetic expression, while the woman’s face reflected surprise, puzzlement, and the shadow of something like sadness.
“Well...” the woman’s eyes went far away. Then all at once she brightened. “Well, anyways, I guess I won’t have to listen to no more wack about them foundered fathers!”
In 1928, when Al Smith, Governor of New York, mounted his unsuccessful campaign for the presidency, he quickly became nationally known for one of his favorite lead-ins: “Let’s look at the record.” Smith was an old fashioned Democrat, nearly as laissez-faire in his principles and policies as Grover Cleveland. His record in office testified to that. Had his opponent been anyone but Herbert Hoover, “The Great Engineer,” he probably would have won, and spared us the New Deal.
Looking at a politician’s record gives the best sense for what that politician will do in the foreseeable future: i.e., with the issues of the moment. Thus also with a political party: a party’s record in power is the best guide to its continued use of power.
And with that we turn to this cri de coeur from Erick Erickson:
We have passed the point where Nazi comparisons are inappropriate. In the latest video about Planned Parenthood, if you want to watch it, you will see an admission that some of the children are born alive before being killed and carved up — their bodies being sold essentially for scrap.
These are children. They entered into the world alive and were killed, chopped up, and sold bit by bit....
The Party of Lincoln that rose from the ashes of a Whig Party that would not stand up to slavery must stand up to this evil. The American public is staring evil in the face and it looks a lot like them. It must end. [Emphasis added by FWP.]
Well, what’s the Republican Party’s record for standing on its supposed platform principles? Since it gained control of both houses of Congress, has it done any of the things its spokesmen said it would do? Extrapolating from its record since 2010, would you expect Boehner, McConnell, and their minions to mount a serious campaign to outlaw even partial-birth abortions, the most horrific and reviled of all kinds? Failing that, would you put money on whether they’ll submit a budget that defunds Planned Parenthood and stand firm on it?
To those who’ve answered yes to either of those questions: Don’t all rush forward at once waving your Benjamins at me. I’m not sure I’d survive the paroxysms of laughter.
Please, God, send us a planetoid. Before I get too old even to cheer for it.
1. The Export-Import Bank
Ted Cruz is up in arms about it because according to him, Mitch McConnell said that there would be no “deal” to revive it. I can understand anger about being deceived that way, but deceit is as common in Washington as dandelions in my lawn. Besides, as a reason for high and public dudgeon, political mendacity pales in comparison to the larger issue. Why not be angry for a principled rather than a procedural reason: specifically, that the Ex-Im Bank constitutes a subsidy to certain kinds of businesses, paid for by private taxpaying citizens?
The Democrats have made hay out of “corporate welfare” for decades. I was pleased when the GOP began to own the issue and move against it. I suppose I should have known that it wouldn’t last.
2. The Planned Parenthood Videos.
The judge who enjoined the Center for Medical Progress from releasing any more of its clandestine videos of Planned Parenthood personnel contriving the sale of fetal organs has blatantly violated First Amendment protections of freedom of expression. It doesn’t matter whether the videos are eventually found to be slanderous; prior restraint has been held to be unConstitutional for decades.
The real issue here – the one that judge is so desperate to avert our eyes from – is that millions of Americans who approached the subject of abortion entirely in the abstract are being compelled to confront its logical implications. If an unborn baby is merely “tissue” whose fate is at the mother’s whim, then the sale of that “tissue” cannot be morally worse than its disposal. That the sale is being viewed as outrageous is “backfilling” the sense of horror about abortion itself, and therefore fueling anti-abortion sentiment in a fashion that’s proof against disguise by euphemism. The Left simply can’t have its sacrament defiled in this manner.
Has anyone bothered to note that it’s illegal to sell adult human organs, whether for transplantation or any other purpose?
I have a soft spot for animals. I make no bones about it. And while I’m anything but a PETAphile – animals cannot and do not possess a human being’s right to life, for reasons beyond the scope of this mini-rant – I dislike and deplore the killing of animals simply for sport. So I deplore the killing of Cecil, which has apparently been a subject of some controversy these past few days.
But note! Various Left-aligned groups are trumpeting to the skies about the “murder” of Cecil, to the extreme of threatening death to the dentist who shot him. The prevailing thesis on the Right is that these groups are desperate to distract the electorate from the several real outrages we would otherwise be up in arms about. It could well be true...but it could equally well be the case that the Left is more concerned about the death of Cecil than, say, the ongoing Planned Parenthood obscenity simply because Leftists’ only interest in babies is whether they can be indoctrinated to be obedient little Democrats.
Besides, Cecil was a Zimbabwean, and therefore ineligible to vote in U.S. elections.
4. Peeping Toms And Property Rights
Time was, it was an absolute principle of the law that the wedge of airspace over one’s legally owned land was a form of property. The owner could extend his structures into it without let or hindrance, and anyone who wanted to pass through that airspace simply had to cope. Alongside that, the use of a camera to invade the privacy of a neighbor – i.e., to photograph persons or items on his property against his will – was a criminal offense. Those were simpler days.
Apparently, the “drone” phenomenon has changed all that:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Hillview man has been arrested after he shot down a drone flying over his property -- but he's not making any apologies for it.
It happened Sunday night at a home on Earlywood Way, just south of the intersection between Smith Lane and Mud Lane in Bullitt County, according to an arrest report.
Hillview Police say they were called to the home of 47-year-old William H. Merideth after someone complained about a firearm.
When they arrived, police say Merideth told them he had shot down a drone that was flying over his house. The drone was hit in mid-air and crashed in a field near Merideth's home.
Police say the owner of the drone claimed he was flying it to get pictures of a friend's house -- and that the cost of the drone was over $1,800.
Merideth was arrested and charged with first degree criminal mischief and first degree wanton endangerment. He was booked into the Bullitt County Detention Center, and released on Monday.
What about the invasion of Merideth’s privacy by a camera-equipped spy device? Have the Kentucky gendarmes arrested the operators of that drone for their infraction, which is illegal as sin in every state of the Union?
This is injustice plain and simple.
5. No Exemption For Kinda-Sorta “Famous” Musicians
And “Morrissey,” whoever the BLEEP! he is, should have known better:
Morrissey claims a security agent at San Francisco International Airport “sexually groped” him before a flight this week.
In a blog post at the all-things-Morrissey website True to You, the musician says he was flying from San Francisco to London on July 27 and made it through regular security protocols, including a metal detector, with “no bleeps and nothing unusual.”
But then:Before I could gather my belongings from the usual array of trays I was approached by an “airport security officer” who stopped me, crouched before me and groped my penis and testicles. He quickly moved away as an older “airport security officer” approached.
The officer who sexually assaulted me was identified as the General Manager On Duty. Luckily I was accompanied by two members of British Airways Special Services, who were horrified at the sexual attack and suggested that I lodge a complaint. I asked if there would be any point in lodging a complaint since, as with any complaint against a figure in “authority”, the complaints are simply collected in order to protect the guilty officer should the matter go further. The British Airways Special Services employees assured me that a complaint was worthwhile, and so I filed the appropriate information.
Morrissey claims that when he tried to confront the offending security officer, he was repeatedly told, “That’s just your opinion.”
“Apart from ‘that’s just your opinion,’ he would not comment, even though, since the penis and testicles were mine and no one else’s, then my opinion must surely have some meaning,” Morrissey protested.
Oh, my! The gentleman is claiming ownership of his body parts! The right to exclude others from accessing them without his consent! What an innovation! What a daring excursion into property rights theory! What will he come up with next?
Say, do you think Famous Person Morrissey has ever thought about such an invasion of privacy and outrage to decency when it happens to someone else? I know which side of that bet I’d take.
6. A Question For My Readers
I did something on impulse quite recently, and the reaction was unexpected, to say the least. Allow me to tell you about it.
Last week I took a day trip out to continental New York – you know, the wilderness west of the Hudson River – to look at real estate that might be suitable for a retirement destination. I’d engaged the services of a realtor – let’s call her Jane – who graciously spent her entire day with and on me. We saw a number of properties, two of which struck me as eminently suitable. I took quite a lot of photos of them, thanked her, and returned to Long Island hoping that the C.S.O. might agree with me on one of the two.
Sadly, ‘twas not to be. The C.S.O. has declared, sine die, that she will not relocate. She’s grown too attached to our current house and its environs, and refuses to consider any of the advantages attendant upon departing this Godforsaken lump of terminal moraine.
That left me in a moral quandary. I’d inveighed Jane into devoting an entire day to me, on the representation that we were serious about buying a house. To discover that it had been a vain quest from the start, undertaken under a false pretense – by both of us, mind you, for I was as badly misled as she – left me feeling that I owed her something. So I sent her an Amazon gift card and a favorite CD of mine.
Well! You can hardly imagine the emissions about that, from Jane or the C.S.O. The former was unbelievably effusive in gratitude; as the saying goes, she stopped just short of asking to have my baby. The latter wanted to know if I’d gone bonkers at long last: “They work on commission, Fran! It’s just the way things are!”
If you were in my position – and God grant that you never are; I was middlin’ angry at the C.S.O. for days, a most unpleasant feeling – would you have felt as I did? Would you have done as I did? If not, what do you think would have been appropriate?
Have a nice day.
CSO: Welcome to Blue Moon Friday!
FWP: Yup. We have one this year.
CSO: Didn’t we have two last year?
FWP: I don’t think so. In a year with fourteen full moons, the months with two will be January and December.
CSO: And why is that, Mr. Former Cosmologist?
FWP: Because full moons happen 29 days apart. We can’t move ‘em around like holidays so folks can have three day weekends.
CSO: What? Can’t Congress do something about it?
FWP: Naah. It’s in recess.
Five blacks apparently objected to his pro-Confederate sympathies and followed him in their car. He was either run off the road or he lost control of his vehicle in the course of a verbal exchange with the other men.
He was a courageous man and a true original. RIP, brother.
The Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch are no doubt aware that I have an...odd sense of humor. However, even the most cynical among you might not have anticipated its most recent manifestation.
I was at morning Mass just a little while ago, listening to Father Charlie sermonize about the Parable of the Good Fish, when I heard him commit a blasphemy. What? Yes, a Catholic priest, my very own pastor, spoke scandalously, right from the pulpit! Well, I knew I had to say something about that. So I approached him after Mass, wearing my most solemn expression.
With one look at me Father Charlie knew at once that the subject was grim. “What is it, Fran?”
“Father,” I intoned, “as a priest you’re aware that to violate one of the really serious Commandments imperils one’s immortal soul. Thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not serve red wine with fish or wear white after Labor Day –” that got a start out of him – “yet what did I hear this very morning, from your own lips!”
His eyes widened as I paused for effect.
“ ‘Someone has gone out of their way to help you’ –? Really, Father?”
When he’d ceased laughing – it took a while – I grinned and said “I edit as well as write, you know.”
Yes, friends, Pronoun Trouble afflicts even the Catholic clergy. Watch for signs of it in your parish. Remember always: Eternal vigilance is the price of gender!
(Bruce Jenner's notions notwithstanding.)
[The reignition of the debate over the moral and legal acceptability of abortion, set aflame by the Center for Medical Progress’s videos of Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of organs from aborted babies, have impelled me to post the following, which first appeared at the old Palace Of Reason on December 17, 2003. -- FWP.]
In response to this Curmudgeonly tirade, reader Noah commented as follows:
When the right declaims a new gun control law, and argues that it's the first step along the left's quest to completely disarm the people, everyone laughs. But it's true.
When the left declaims a new abortion control law, arguing that it's the first step towards a complete ban on abortion, or birth control, or indeed the complete nationalization of the bedroom, everyone laughs. But mightn't it be true?
The proponents of each kind of law see them as "common sense", while the opponents see them as utter lunacy, the first step on a slippery slope to open tyranny.
The truth is that there *are* Republicans who would like to see everything but marital/missionary outlawed, just as there are Democrats (and others) who won't rest until every privately owned firearm has been melted down. Take a survey of how many states criminalize sodomy, oral sex, adultery, even fornication and cohabitation (best of all prostitution, 49 states last I checked).
I'm not saying I agree with this woman's ramblings, or advancing a position one way or the other on the partial-birth abortion ban. What I am trying to say is that it would be folly to dismiss her comments as standard leftist trash without sifting them for kernels of truth.
Well, your Curmudgeon isn't about to defend laws that criminalize private acts that involve only consenting adults. But in drawing his parallels, Noah has provided a striking case study in disparates, and in how their juxtaposition can becloud political thought.
The history of sexual regulation by law goes back to the earliest years of European-derived human presence on this continent. Nearly all of the first groups to arrive here were inspired by the New World's opportunity for them to practice their religions without being persecuted for it. Ironically, nearly all of them looked forward to the opportunity to enforce their religious beliefs with the power of the State. It wasn't freedom they sought, but the dominant position in a realm of their own -- if you like, the opportunity to indulge in religious oppression in favor of their own beliefs.
Institutions of religion have always been hostile to sex. Sex is the earthiest of all earthly pleasures. Prior to the Industrial Revolution and what it brought in its train, it was one of the very few pleasures available to everyone. Any institution that wanted men to focus on the next world, rather than this one, would naturally frown on something so temporal, so universal, and so powerful.
Regional political power in the colonial era was usually united with some dominant religious sect, all the way into the early 19th Century. Of the original thirteen colonies, only one, Rhode Island, had no established church and no dictates in its founding charter derived from the doctrines of a particular faith. The clerical potentates of the colonies were quite as hostile to sex as any of their European predecessors had been -- and here, they had the opportunity to stamp the laws with their own preferences.
Alongside that, until quite recently there were substantial extra-legal risks involved in sexual indulgence. So the typical commoner had, not just the law and the admonitions of his local clerics to inhibit him, but also the possibility of rotting away from syphilis or conceiving children that would be his responsibility to feed and nurture. Marriage as it has been traditionally practiced originated to mitigate these risks. Long before religious hierarchies incorporated marriage into their theologies, it was well established as a force for social stability and the norming of sexual conduct.
Then came penicillin and the Pill. Advances in medical technology reduced the risks of sexual adventurism by orders of magnitude. Though new risks, such as herpes and AIDS, have arisen in the most recent years, these can also be held down by judicious choice of partners and attention to obvious signs of danger. With the rise of an ethic of privacy, made possible by the economic advance of the country, the laws against non-marital and non-reproductive sex, which had always been largely unenforceable, fell into neglect. What remained to inhibit us were the dictates of our consciences and the thunderings from the pulpits, neither of which has proved much of a barrier in practice.
Sex laws passed in the 18th and 19th centuries, driven by religious belief and protected from being laughed aside by forces entirely outside the law, dropped into the Slough of Irrelevance after 1960. Except for freak cases such as Lawrence v. Texas, which made news because they were freak cases, sexual regulation by law is dead in America -- and that is entirely as it should be.
Your Curmudgeon will allow that there are a very few Americans who'd like to bring back the whole legal regime, in full force. But they are a trivial rump, who will receive no respectful hearing short of an Islamic takeover. They are ignored by conservatives who appreciate individual rights and the supreme importance of laws that can be evenhandedly and uniformly enforced without violating those rights.
Compare the regulation of sex with the regulation of abortion, and a forest of differences springs up at once.
Sex, apart from rape and molestation, involves only consenting adults, presumed to be competent to make their own decisions and choose their own risks. That there are risks, even between partners who know one another well, cannot be denied, but a competent adult is expected to familiarize himself with them beforehand, make the appropriate mitigations, and shoulder the consequences should the dice not fall his way. Only one possible outcome of a consensual sex act necessarily involves a third party: conception.
The germination of a new life brings a new character onto the stage, one who was not allowed to read the script beforehand and is powerless to affect its ending. There is no question that he is a distinguishable presence; his DNA signature, his abilities, and his vulnerabilities differ radically from those of his parents.
The competent actors might not want him there. Indeed, they might have taken stringent precautions against his creation and were simply the "victims of bad luck." But there he is. The question before us is no longer about sex; it's about the rights of that third character, and what responsibilities the first two have toward him.
If the developing embryo is rightless tissue, morally no weightier than a tumor, then excising it and discarding it are morally neutral deeds. Surely a woman has the right to control her own body if in doing so she injures no one else's rights, just as she has the right to swing her arms freely if no one else's nose is in the way.
But if the presence in the womb is a human being with the same right to life as his mother, then to abort him -- to kill him -- is murder. It can only be justified in a "lifeboat scenario," where either the mother or the baby must inevitably die, regardless of anything that might be done by any involved party. The mother's prior intentions, and her disinclination to be a mother, are just as irrelevant as they would be once the baby has been born.
There are intermediate positions. Some argue that, until the baby is capable of living on his own, without support from the mother's body or some technological substitute, he cannot be held to possess rights, for no man has a right to the coerced support of another. Others argue that, even if all abortions are murder in principle, nevertheless, respect for the right of privacy requires that we not criminalize abortions before a certain point in gestation, as to do so would either require massive invasions of privacy, or would open the door to selective prosecution at some district attorney's sole discretion.
Let all of that pass. The central fact is that abortion has nothing to do with sex. The crux of the abortion debate is when the developing baby's right to life begins, and what can be done to protect it without incurring unacceptable costs.
If abortion has nothing to do with sex, then the debate over the legal status of abortion need have nothing to do with the legal status of sex.
Are there pro-lifers who seek the re-criminalization of abortion because they hope that it will inhibit sexual license? Yes, indubitably. But that particular motivation is not part of the political / legal debate. Indeed, your Curmudgeon cannot name even one person, public figure or private party, who's ever expressed that motive. He would regard such a position as unworthy and insincere, as would every other pro-lifer he knows. If the baby's right to life and the legal protection thereof are not the issues under discussion, there is nothing to discuss. We have had enough of laws against this because it "leads to" that.
It is illuminating to note that, while laws that regulate sexual conduct have had a controversial aspect for nearly two centuries, laws concerning abortion have only been actively discussed for about forty years -- that is, roughly since the development of oral contraception. Prior to that, the near-universal conviction was that abortion was absolutely wrong at any stage of gestation. If a man impregnated an unmarried woman, he was under an absolute obligation to do the right thing and marry her. If he would not do so and could not be compelled, the woman would simply have to bear the child, contriving as much privacy for her illegitimate birth as she could, and then arrange for the baby to be adopted.
The shift in attitudes arose because, once high-quality contraception that didn't interfere with sexual pleasure was available, sexual indulgence was inhibited solely by the possibility of contraceptive failure or negligence in contraceptive use. If only abortion could be legalized, even the remotest possibility of having to endure the shame of illegitimacy could be averted. The fear of the illicit abortionist, nicely dramatized in the movie Dirty Dancing, would cease to confine sexual appetites.
Herein lies the seed of the prevailing obfuscations. The crux of the abortion issue has never been sex, but the interest in the thing has been driven from the first by sexual desire. All Palace readers will know the history, from the critical 1973 Supreme Court decision to the present day.
Some day, another topic will relieve abortion of its "most contentious" title, because it will engage a desire even more powerful than the sex drive: the desire to live. The topic will be human cloning.
Imagine that it becomes possible for a human to reproduce himself parthenogenetically -- that is, without a contribution of DNA from another party -- and therefore to replicate his body perfectly. Human bodies are usually equipped with human brains and minds. The brain is the only portion of such a clone that would not be medically useful to its progenitor.
The clone would be a perfect source for every sort of transplant. If the law were to treat clones as having no rights of their own, they could and would be disassembled at will, to extend or improve the lives of those whose DNA signature they shared. Imagine how strongly men will desire that such a resource be available to them.
But if we omit the possibility of artificially induced brain death, such a clone would be human, in all relevant ways indistinguishable from any other. If he is acknowledged as such, to treat him as an organ farm for another person, denied an acknowledged right to life, would be clearly wrong: murder for medical reasons, under color of law.
The abortion controversy prefigures the cloning debate in its core issues, but will be a pale shadow of it in intensity.
So your Curmudgeon will ask: If the development of the clone were to involve a human womb, would the debate be about sex?
The rest, as they say, is an exercise for the reader.