Friday, January 25, 2008

Marriage, RIP?

This article at The Cato Institute pronounces marriage as we have known & idealized it to be dead. The institution is shattered, wrecked, blown to flinders, and we need to come up with something to shore it up and possibly take its place. Consider:

So there is no reason to give up on building successful marriages — but we won’t do it by giving people outdated advice about gender roles. We may be able to bring the divorce rate down a little further — but since one method of doing that is to get more people to delay marriage, this will probably lead to more cohabitation. We may also be able to reverse last year’s uptick in teen births and return to the downward course of the late 1990s and first few years of the 21st century — but not by teaching abstinence-only to young people who if they do delay marriage are almost certainly going to have sex beforehand.

The second lesson of history is that the time has passed when we can construct our social policies, work schedules, health insurance systems, sex education programs — or even our moral and ethical beliefs about who owes what to whom — on the assumption that all long-term commitments and care-giving obligations should or can be organized through marriage.

And what will take the place of marriage, as a societal building block? Why, our proggy betters, securely ensconced in the seats of power, that's who:

Of course we must seek ways to make marriage more possible for couples and to strengthen the marriages they contract. But we must be equally concerned to help couples who don’t marry become better co-parents, to help single parents and cohabiting couples meet their obligations, and to teach divorced parents how to minimize their conflicts and improve their parenting.

The right research and policy question today is not “what kind of family do we wish people lived in?” Instead, we must ask “what do we know about how to help every family build on its strengths, minimize its weaknesses, and raise children more successfully?” Much recent hysteria to the contrary, we know a lot about how to do that. We should devote more of our energies to getting that research out and less to fantasizing about a return to a mythical Golden Age of marriage of the past.

Thus does left-wing radicalism present itself as a disease masquerading as its own cure. If it hadn't been for liberationists of various stripes heedlessly kicking the supports out from under the edifice of society these past 50 years, we wouldn't be in this fix. Someday they'll learn: an ounce of tradition is worth a ton of government.

H. L. Mencken has this doped out nearly 80 years ago:

To propose that marriage be abandoned and half-marriage substituted is like advising a man with a sty to get a glass eye. He doesn't want a glass eye; he wants his own natural and perfect eye, with the sty plucked out. All such reformers forget that the real essence of marriage is not the nature of the relation but the performance of that relation. It is a device for time-binding, like every other basic human institution. Its one indomitable purpose is to endure. Plainly enough, divorce ought to be easy when the destruction of a marriage is an accomplished fact, but it would be folly to set up conditions tending to make that destruction more likely. Too much, indeed, has been done in that direction already. The way out for people who are incapable of the concessions and compromises that go with every contract is not to fill the contract with snakes but to avoid it altogether. There are, indeed, many men and women to whom marriage is a sheer psychic impossibility. But to the majority it is surely not. They find it quite bearable; they like it; they want it to endure. What they need is help in making it endurable.
-- H. L. Mencken, "Divorce" The New York World, Jan 26, 1930

Footnote: The author is a professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, same radical hothouse that the late Rachel Corrie came from.

PC (USA) condemns Hamas rocket attacks on Israel

It's sad to regard this as something that would be surprising, let alone encouraging. But such has the moral credibility of mainstream protestant denominations eroded in recent decades, that the sight of them actually siding with Jews over terrorists is a reason to sit up and take notice. More background here.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

McCain wins South Carolina Republican primary

It's because of Mike Huckabee's ridiculous "fried squirrel" comment. He should have known that, in this day and age, us health-conscious Southerners much prefer baked squirrel.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The New York Times and those crime-prone veterans....

The other day Karl at Protein Wisdom called b.s. on The New York Times' new series on crimes committed by returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. You may permit me to be so immodest as to link to my earlier post on the subject, pointing out that even NPR, from time to time, can break from that hoary old template. (Of course, very soon thereafter NPR introduced a war funding segment with a soundclip of Country Joe McDonald performing at Woodstock, but hey...)

So yes, it's a hackneyed, hoary cliche, the amoral, maurading, kid-next-door-turned-trained-killer image is. But did you know this slander goes back even further than Vietnam? Getta loada:

During a period when veterans were big news, every time an ex-soldier got himself in a jam the fact that he was a vet was pointed out in the headline. An ordinary killing or assault seldom rated the front page, but if it involved a jealous veteran or battle-fatigue case, it could be sure of a prominent play. The newspapers that did this pointed out that it was good journalism; people were interested in veterans and everybody likes to know personality angles on people who do spectacular things. But the sad fact was that such headlines gave added impetus to the rumor that always appears in every country after a war--that the returning soldiers are trained in killing and assault and are potential menaces to society.

Police records show that World War II veterans committed no more and no fewer crimes in proportion to their numbers than the rest of the citizenry, and after a while most reputable newspapers stopped headlining veterans every time they got into trouble. Of course, journals that have always been noted for morbid and spectacular reporting, and that keep more of an eye on quick circulation than accuracy and fairness, still continue the odious practice of saying "CRAZED VET RUNS AMOK" when some character with a load of gin under his belt breaks a bar mirror.
-- Bill Mauldin, Back Home, 1947

Yes, we still have those kinds of journals today; they've always been around, doing their bottom-feeding thing. They just didn't always used to be The New York Times.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tim Blair has cancer

Terrible news indeed.

Atlanta has topflight cancer care, so he could come and visit me. OTOH, I'd then have to take him out pub-hopping, and I'd be really embarrassed to have a cancer patient drink me under the table.

We're pulling for you, mate.

How to get your creationist letter published in the newspaper

The creationist website Answers in Genesis has been having a terrible time getting their letters printed in the newspapers since their "museum" opened, to widespread derision. They complain about it at length in the article linked below, and then offer this to any of their fellows in a similar pickle:

Here are some pointers that, if followed, will increase your chances of getting a letter published:

1. Check the maximum number of words the paper will allow for a letter. If you have some scientific, engineering or similar credentials, you might want to call the opinion page editor at the newspaper and ask to be considered to write a guest column instead. You may be given twice the length of a letter to the editor. Important pointer: many letters are not accepted by papers because they are too long. Always find out what length the paper will accept.
2. Try to submit your piece within one or two days of the evolutionist article/letter appearing. Submitting it three or more days later makes the topic “old news” for many editors. The likelihood of your letter appearing in the paper diminishes each day you wait to submit it. (Thus, emailing your letter to the editor is better than using the mail; do not, however, send it as an attachment.)
3. Do not use inflammatory language. Be respectful (yet firm).
4. Have someone with excellent writing skills proof your letter before sending it.

And, most importantly,

Be absolutely sure to be accurate in what you write. Double-check your facts and main points against what you find at this website (using our powerful search engine) and other reputable sources.

Somebody enable their irony settings, please!

Friday, January 11, 2008

To stone or not to stone?

Is stoning women taken in adultery permitted in Islam? Four Florida Muslims try to lawyer the question away, here.

Remember, class: it's only a tiny minority of Muslims that want to subjugate us all. The vast majority of peaceful moderate Muslims merely wish to scold us for noticing.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Kenya election violence

My church shares our building with a Kenyan congregation, and they are really hurting with all this violence. So say a prayer for peace over there, it's ugly and, as strongly Christian a nation as Kenya is, it needn't be.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

First Things blogger whiffs a hanging fastball

Sally Thomas, whose previous output I'm not familiar with, post this rather pointless piece about a crude juvenile book.

I am the last person in America to have heard of Walter the Farting Dog. [...] While neither of us is exactly a lace-encrusted Victorian holdover, we shared a grandmother who could not bring herself to mention the name of any bodily function whatsoever and therefore spent our childhoods being ordered to wash our hands before long car journeys and church. Our more up-market great-aunt used routinely to inquire of us as seven-year-olds whether our noses needed powdering. None of this particularly mystified us; it was how people talked in the South. We assumed it was how all people talked, everywhere.[...] Here is a plot summary:
1. Some kids bring home a dog from the pound.
2. You know the title, so already you know what’s wrong with the dog.
3. Dad wants to get rid of the dog.
4. The very night before the dog goes back to the pound, some burglars break into the house.
5. The dog overpowers them, to put it with nose-powdering delicacy.
6. Hooray, we love Walter, Walter can stay, the end.

Ms. Thomas records her ambivalent reaction, or lack of:

So it was not that I was shocked, exactly, to learn of the existence of a children’s book about a farting dog—merely interested, you understand.

I've nothing against rather pointless blog posts--obviously, if you've been reading for awhile--but I saw the perfect kicker to this one. G. K. Chesterton had the number of shock artists way back when. Dig:

Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which you are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being shocked. It may be that your grandmother was an extremely lively and vital animal, and that you are a paralytic.

What a great aphorist he was...

New media bias quotes of 2007

Just in case you haven't had your fill of year-end roundups, here's the Media Resource Council, with their annual slew of self-damning media quotes, in this handy .pdf file, and in this page of links to incriminating video.

Actually, with the advent of talk radio, and as the internet age has progressed, the annual roundup of these quotes has become less interesting. The MRC is becoming a victim of its own success in exposing liberal media bias. The MSM has adapted to being scrutinized for slant, nowadays. Many of these quotes are from opinion shows and such, rather than from straight news. I personally don't get too aggravated at finding a liberal opinion in a liberal's column. I mean, we don't get mad at George Will for having an opinion, do we? Why get mad at Bill Maher, then? So go ahead and enjoy these, and be grateful that you young whippersnappers never had to throw your remote at Walter Cronkite, and feel like you were the only one in the world who felt the same way.

And speaking of best of the year quotes, keep an eye on Blair's place. His annual collection of Aussie groaners has appeared more sporadically in recent years--I think he's gradually phasing it out, unless he's publishing it elsewhere--but it's worth the suspense once it does appear. So far, all he's offered up is this and this.