Feb 292012

I was born without vision in one eye.

The right eye was severely amblyopic.  Surgery shortened the muscle to correct the problem, but, I’m told, by that time my visual cortex had learned to reject the information from that eye.  I see a very little in the right peripheral field.

I’ve never found it a big deal.  I driven a car safely for over 40 years, without an accident. As you might imagine, there are things I can’t do – play baseball or tennis, for example (watching me attempt to play tennis is excellent diversion).  One reason I enjoy the Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse team is that the simple act of tossing and catching a little ball in a little net at the end of a stick while running is absolutely astounding to me.  And there are compensations.  I wasn’t tempted to waste any money on The Phantom Menace in 3D.

Now come some folks calling themselves “ethicist” who have developed a theory to support what sounds like a very crude undergraduate joke (“selective post natal abortion”).  They have a very elaborate vocabulary to hide their conclusions, but in plain speech they declare that some babies born with severe problems such as (but not limited to) Down Syndrome cannot possible have a full “human” life (by standards that they and other professional “ethicists” have developed), will be burdens upon their parents and eventually upon society, and therefore may be killed after birth.

As usual, those who object to this sort of thinking, often noisily and firmly (and it is right to sometimes raise one’s voice) are being treated as primitive, foolish, and unsophisticated.  Here are some of the comments selected for derision:

   “These people are evil. Pure evil. That they feel safe in putting their twisted thoughts into words reveals how far we have fallen as a society.”

    “Right now I think these two devils in human skin need to be delivered for immediate execution under their code of ‘after birth abortions’ they want to commit murder – that is all it is! MURDER!!!”

    “I don‘t believe I’ve ever heard anything as vile as what these “people” are advocating. Truly, truly scary.”

    “The fact that the Journal of Medical Ethics published this outrageous and immoral piece of work is even scarier”

Pretty mild and unthreatening, actually.  Firm, certainly.  The second merely assumes the same right that the authors grant themselves, to define who is human and worthy of life.  Crudely put, but just a reductio ad absurbum.  The editor (and, by the way, simply repeating a very bad idea often does not make it a good idea) defending the paper would have us accept the authors’ argument that there is no “moral difference” between fetus and newborn.  If this can be argued, then it should be obvious that there is little “moral difference” between a fetus and a child of four or five, maybe older.  Both are dependent on adults for their survival, probably incapable of surviving on their own.  And that might well be true of any individual human being at any age.  The flaw is the creation of an arbitrary standard, and the horrifying prospect that this arbitrariness raises.  If self-appointed mandarins, the “ethicists,” have taken it upon themselves to define what is a worthy human life, and to propose the elimination of the unworthy, there’s no obvious end to their wantonness.  We’re supposed to listen politely, when derision and revulsion are more appropriate responses.  That there is no end to the process of defining unworthiness is obvious.  “Lose your legs in defense of your country?  Can’t be burden on us, you know.  Can’t play baseball?  Oh, that’s too bad.  You’ll miss such an essential part of childhood.  Go stand in that line over there.”

At least one of the purposes of law is to defend us from one another.


Hat tip:  MCJ

Feb 212012
 Posted by at 4:00 am
Feb 202012
 Posted by at 7:45 am
Feb 122012

The other day I left a comment on another site in discussion of Don McClean’s American Pie.  I cited my memory that in 1968, my last year in high school, my English teacher wasted a couple of days on the song and that I had never listened to it willingly again.

It’s a very vivid and visual memory: I recall the desk, the blackboard, the small class (it was a small high school, and the senior “honors” section – maybe 10 students), and the boxy, monoaural, industrial record player (note to self.  Are there any audio snobs left, and what are they snobbish about?), and the teacher’s sleep-inducing (can’t actually close your eyes in a class that small) monologue.  I recall his discussion of Buddy Holly and the other crash victims, and so on and on.

American Pie was released in 1971.  Oopsie.

So whence this memory? Continue reading »

Feb 092012

One of the questions of the year in college basketball is, Will Northwestern Make the NCAA Tournament For the Very First Time Ever?  This is in its way a refreshing change from the Question of previous years, even decades: why does Northwestern play basketball?  With a forever winning percentage of 41% (under 40% if the vaguely respectable Carmody years are excluded), that was not an unreasonable question.  Northwestern men’s basketball has flirted with mediocrity a few times but on the whole been dismal.  There were times during the tenure of the excellent women’s basketball coach Don Perrelli when the outcome of a match game between the women’s and men’s team would have been . . . interesting.

But the football breakout year of 1995 changed many things, and that included expectations for men’s basketball.  Eventually Bill Camody was brought from Princeton, and very gradually the team’s season record began to improve, ending the last two years with identical 20-14 records.  These records were, for some reason unknown, insufficient for an invitation to the NCAA tournament.  Nonetheless, no one has ever done that before at Northwestern.  This “failure” to be invited of course infuriates a certain type of fan, who wants more more more.  Like every coach that ever was, Carmody has his faults, but he’s certainly to be praised for making sure that the team isn’t embarrassing, is actually rather good, and usually has at least a couple of players who are fun to watch, and not in the Red Skelton/Dick van Dyke sense of “how can he do that to himself and not get hurt?”  John Shurna is on track to become the leading scorer in Northwestern history soon, Drew Crawford can dominate, and so on.  As usual, the team is thin, and the less said about the so-called big men the better, but at this point in the season, the tournament hopes are still alive, if a little feverish and weak.

With 8 games left, the Cats are 14-8, 4-6 in the conference.  Barring more injuries (a famous Northwestern problem), the remaining schedule seems to put the Wildcats’ fate in their own hands – 5-3 is attainable (beat Iowa twice, Purdue, Minnesota, and Penn State).  That would make NU 19-11, more importantly .500 in the conference at 9-9.  Splitting the remainder gives them 18-12, 8-10, and I think that’s harder.  Everyone in the Big 10 or whatever it calls itself now is beatable this year, and just about everyone has risen up to smite someone improbable.  Can it happen?  Well, of course.  Will it?  Hard to see the future is.

Feb 012012








This supposed mock up of a publicity poster has been floating around.  Seeing it, I could not believe it to be serious, not ironic, not a joke.  I realize that the completely committed radical progressive is marked by a complete absence of humor, but this was too much to be believed.  Yet this site, whose author is by not on the ACNA side of the discussion, seems to accept the authenticity of the image.  On the other hand, no one has bothered to cite an original source, and several searches using image search bots did not find the original.  So I’m going to withhold further comment.  While it’s hard to believe that even Episcopalian progressives are this tin-eared, they might be.  I still prefer a provenance.

Feb 012012

I’ll give just about anything Sam Neill is in a try.  The stated premise to his new show, Alcatraz, from the J. J. Abrams shop, was intriguing.  Alcatraz prison was closed after everyone one the island disappeared.  Now they’re all reappearing.

After four episodes, it’s little more than Law and Order:  Time Travel Unit.  Horrible people doing horrible things horribly, getting caught after doing enough horrible things to fill up the hour, and giving the audience a teensy tiny hint that Something Bigger might by going on.  There’s no suspense because the premise requires that the baddies get caught.  The hints at Something Bigger aren’t intriguing enough to put up with the predictably horrible behavior and actions that go before.  The returned bad guys do not appear disoriented, bewildered, or perplexed.  They just go right on being horrible.

So, sorry Sam, sorry Jorge.  Alcatraz has been demoted to something to watch while biking or ironing or cleaning the TV room or brushing the dogs, if nothing else is queued up.