Tuesday, 22 December

21:36

Christmas? Not in my country. That's just (a $20,000) fine. [Catholic Sacristan]

There are plenty of Grinch awards that could be won this year by repeat offenders: ISIS; Boko Haram; etc.

This year's Grinch Who Stole Christmas Award goes to... the Sultan of Brunei.
12/22/2015
Brunei bans Christmas, violators can get up to five years in prison (and fines)
Backed by the country’s Islamic leaders, Brunei’s sultan has banned Christian symbols and celebrations. Violators can be fined US$ 20,000 or get up to five years in jail. The authorities fear Christmas might “damage the aqidah (beliefs) of the Muslim community." However, some have dared to challenge the ban on social media with the #MyTreedom hashtag.
Bandar Seri Begawan (AsiaNews) – Brunei, a sharia-ruled small sultanate in Southeast Asia, continues to ban Christmas. Muslims and non-Muslims who celebrate in public Christmas can expect a fine of $20,000, up to five years in prison, or both.
Brunei’s sultan outlawed the Christian festivity last year on the grounds that celebrating it "excessively and openly" could lead his Muslim population astray. Since then, local Islamic religious leaders have backed him.
Christians and others can still celebrate Christmas, but must do so in private and have to warn the authorities beforehand.
The list of offensive practices include: using or wearing Christian religious symbols like the cross, lighting candles, making Christmas trees, putting up decorations, wearing Santa hats, singing religious songs, and sending Christmas cards.
For Brunei’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, "enforcement measures are . . . intended to control the act of celebrating Christmas excessively and openly” because they “could damage the aqidah (beliefs) of the Muslim community." (The same language used in an attempted defence of the policies previously enacted: Brunei explains its Christmas celebration ban.)
Undaunted, some people in the Sultanate have challenged the ban by posting Christmas pictures on social media using the #MyTreedom hashtag. The same is happening elsewhere, even in countries like Saudi Arabia, where Christian symbols and festivities are also outlawed.

Apparently, the concept of double-standard eludes the Sultan's and his princely brother's grasp. While expecting (demanding) their subjects to conform to sharia, or some version of it, he and Prince Jefri live what some informed people describe as debaucherous lives.
http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/sex-lies-and-sharia-law-the-secret-life-of-the-sultan-of-brunei/news-story/6eac970ff7aa06716f95356a5470d3f4
60 Minutes report [April 26, 2015]: CLICK HERE ***Warning—report contains descriptive language of an explicit nature***
Hypocrisy, perhaps? Apparently, the misbehaviour of the royal family is not injurious to the beliefs of Brunei's muslim citizens. Or, if it is, no one there is talking about it. In Brunei, it is a crime to criticize any member of the royal family.
Since independence, it has become a developed country. Almost 70 per cent of its population is Muslim and ethnic Malay. About 13 per cent is Buddhist, mostly ethnic Chinese, followed by indigenous people and other minority groups. Christians are about 10 per cent, 70 per cent from the Philippines, 20 per cent from Indonesia, and 10 per cent indigenous. About 10 per cent of the population does not profess any religion.
One wonders if Buddhist public celebrations are proscribed, too?
2015 FreedomHouse report: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/brunei
A letter, perhaps, to the Canadian High Commissioner in Brunei, Marina B. Laker, expressing concern for universal human rights, or the lack thereof, in Brunei?

5th Floor, Jalan McArthur Building
No. 1, Jalan McArthur
Bandar Seri Begawan BS 8711

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 2808
Bandar Seri Begawan BS8675
Brunei Darussalam

Tel.: (673) 222 0043
Fax: (673) 222 0040

20:27

Lewis, Chesterton, and Card on Our Tolerance for Mystery [Unequally Yoked]

I had the pleasure of speaking at Doxacon (a scifi/fantasy convention for theology nerds) in November, and the audio of my talk (“Chesterton, Lewis, and Card on Worldbuilding and Our Tolerance of Mystery”) is now available for streaming!  Here’s the prècis: When a reader picks up a fantasy or science fiction novel, he or she [Read More...]

18:56

Silent Flesh [Incarnation and Modernity]

  It is striking that for all that was prophesied, the very reality of God becoming man takes place in silence, as though the full symphony of the prophesies, the long history of exiles and returns to promised lands, the lavish canticle of canticles and the ceaseless litany of mercies that has been sung from Eden to Nazareth has been paused. The Word fills the solitude of the ages. The Word becomes […]

16:15

Fr Ratzinger, von Balthasar, and demolishing the bastions [LMS Chairman]

IMG_9261
Veneration of the relic of St Edmund: from
St Edmund's College, Ware.

Considering the reactions (mostly on Twitter) to my post about Fr Ratzinger's 1969 remarks about how once all the 'edifices' and 'privileges' of the Church had been completely wrecked, 'a great power will flow' from the Church, it strikes me how difficult many people find recognising liberalism when they see it. Even after all this time, many people with conservative, even traditional, instincts, don't really grasp what liberals are all about.

It should be obvious that the 1969 passage is an expression of liberal views; it is a perfectly clear, indeed a classical exposition of them. In his (much criticised) early book, Principles of Catholic Theology, Fr Ratzinger wrote:

The fact is, as Hans Urs von Balthasar pointed out as early as 1952, that … she [the Church] must relinquish many of the things that have hitherto spelled security for her and that she has taken for granted. She must demolish longstanding bastions and trust solely the shield of faith.

This is, clearly, the same thought as that expressed in the passage I quoted in the earlier post. Far from him regretting the loss of the Church's institutional baggage, as one might call it, Fr Ratzinger thought it was necessary and good.

This is simply the application to the Church of what political liberals have been saying since Rousseau, and are saying today more loudly than ever. Destroy the institutions, destroy the structures, customs, traditions and expectations of traditional society, of morality, of the family, and of the state, and a great awakening, a great liberation, a great flowering of humanity will take place. Haven't we all heard this? And isn't its absurdity sufficiently evident?

Political liberals like to say that what they call 'the nuclear family' and 'capitalism' are 'intrinsically oppressive'. They are no more friendly towards the extended family or to small-holders: Stalin and Mao reconfigured industry to serve the state rather than shareholders, but faced with people living traditional, pre-industrial, ways of life, felt the need to starve and machine-gun them by the million. No, liberals hate 'feudalism' even more than they hate 'capitalism', because its social institutions are more powerful, and for the liberal therefore by definition more powerfully oppressive. Since they don't believe in Original Sin, it must be the oppression from these 'structures' which is stopping everything from being wonderful.

Don't blame the Communists for not planning how things should be organised after the revolution. Don't blame secular liberals for not thinking through how children will be brought up once divorce, contraception, welfare, and gender theory have finished off the institution of marriage once and for all. Don't blame liberal Catholics for not thinking how young people will acquire the Faith without systematic catechesis or habituation into pious practises. These are not chance omissions. They honestly believe that no one needs to worry about that glorious future. Without the crushing of the human spirit by the institutions of oppression, it will all be wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Don't you see? The dawn is breaking! If obstacles remain, they will be destroyed just as the first opponents of the Revolution were! Oh yes, we may have to break a few eggs to make the omelette, but it will be worth it.

We know this story, and we know it has been tried - oh, how it has been tried - and it always fails, because the most potent obstacles to peace and harmony are within us, the selfish and disordered desires of fallen human nature. Of course there have been oppressive customs and institutions over the centuries, and the Traditionalist is faced with the complex and subtle task of reforming and purifying while maintaining, strengthening, and passing on, the institutions which have grown up, because while they can be abused, they exist to limit the opportunities for crime and sin and to cultivate virtue and facilitate mutual aid.

The crisis of the Church mirrors the crisis of Society, because the revolutionary ideology which has been destroying the Church's institutions is no more than a religious variant on the revolutionary ideology which has been gnawing at the vitals of secular society for two centuries and more. Society's crisis of marriage and the family is matched by an ecclesial crisis, not only in the practise of marriage and the family, but in the theology as well. In both cases, numerous 'conservatives' are determined to resist what the liberals want to do tomorrow, while accepting what the liberals did yesterday, and accommodating what the liberals are doing today. We need to see things more clearly than that; we need to work not for a slowing down of the revolution, but a restoration of those 'edifices' or 'bastions' which sustained the life of our predecessors.

What are we talking about? Practises and customs, institutions and laws, which incarnate the Faith, proclaim it to others, bind the Catholic community together, and help the individual to live a good life. Fish on Fridays, head coverings for ladies in church, the Angelus, Catholic schools and hospitals, canon law, and above all the Traditional liturgy, as well as the institutions of Natural Law like the family, and of Divine Law like the Sacraments and the Church herself.

Why would anyone prefer to live as Catholics without the full range of such things, given the choice? Because in some confused way people like von Balthasar and the young Fr Ratzinger, not to mention the more hard-line liberals, thought they made for rigidity and unhealthy regimentation, contrary to spontaneity and authenticity. (No doubt they made an exception for those 'bastions' established by Natural and Divine Law, though this exception seems arbitrary from the point of view of liberal ideology.)

The liberal objection to the 'bastions' is based on a grain of truth in the way things were done in a certain period, perhaps, plus a mountain of Romantic and Rationalist ideology. Habitual and formal actions can be the most heartfelt things we do; they can be the ones most expressive of our deepest commitments. Think of solemn promises, such as wedding vows, or habitual expressions of affection. They are formal because they are important; they are habitual, because they have become part of our very souls.

Bishop Fulton Sheen addressed the argument about the demolition of bastions very well with a little parable [from Chesterton, I'm told: see the combox]. (I've heard him tell it in a recorded talk, but I found the text online on Rorate Caeli blog.)

"In the midst of a great sea there was an island with a great wall, a high wall. On that island lived children, who sang and played. One day some men came to the island in a rowboat. They called themselves 'liberators' and said to the children, 'Who put up these walls? Who built these barriers? Can you not see that they are restraining your freedom and your liberty? Tear them down. Be free.'

"The children tore down the walls. Now if you go back, you will find all the children huddled together in the center of the island, afraid to sing, afraid to play, afraid to dance, afraid of falling into the sea!"


IMG_9067
Distributing Holy Communion, celebrating Mass, receiving priestly ordination:
the priestly life in a stained glass window at St Edmund's College, Ware.

See also the Position Paper on the Extraordinary Form and Western Culture.

Support the work of the LMS by becoming an 'Anniversary Supporter'.

16:13

The History of Eastern Christian Historical Writing [Eastern Christian Books]

I'm looking forward to teaching a course next year on the uses and abuses of history, focusing on Christian-Muslim relations and the ever-misunderstood Crusades, which the lovely inhabitants of ISIS keep banging on about in their propaganda. So historiographical questions have come to preoccupy my attention and thinking more and more over the last few months. I am therefore especially interested in this recently released volume in multi-part series: Sarah Foot and Chase F. Robinson, eds., The Oxford History of Historical Writing: Volume 2: 400-1400 (Oxford UP, 2015), 672pp.

The volume has chapters on, inter alia, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syro-Arab, Syriac, Arab, and Byzantine histories. About this book the publisher further tells us:
How was history written in Europe and Asia between 400-1400? How was the past understood in religious, social and political terms? And in what ways does the diversity of historical writing in this period mask underlying commonalities in narrating the past? The volume, which assembles 28 contributions from leading historians, tackles these and other questions. Part I provides comprehensive overviews of the development of historical writing in societies that range from the Korean Peninsula to north-west Europe, which together highlight regional and cultural distinctiveness. Part II complements the first part by taking a thematic and comparative approach; it includes essays on genre, warfare, and religion (amongst others) which address common concerns of historians working in this liminal period before the globalizing forces of the early modern world.

15:11

Chesterton’s anthropic principle [John G. Brungardt, Ph.L.]

chesterton_197Jaki’s Chesterton, A Seer of Science, is an enjoyable tour through the Englishman’s common sense understanding of the deliverances of science—it could almost be called a statement outlining his philosophy of science if that term did not conjure up such stodgy material by comparison to the vigorous wit Jaki’s lectures abstract from a variety of Chesterton’s works. A passage from the fourth chapter, “Champion of the Universe,” on Chesterton as cosmologist, captures the anthropic principle in a striking way:

The story of scientific cosmology since 1932 . . . had indeed been a quest for an ever firmer grip on the true shape of the universe. One aspect of that story is particularly Chestertonian, inasmuch as it now seems that the universe was structured from the start in a way so that ultimately man might dwell in it. Scientific cosmologists have been calling this for over a decade now, the anthropic principle. Chesterton in turn would say to them: “I kept telling you long ago and all the time that the universe was cozy.” Coziness could not have turned out to be a more cosmic quality.

Here, Jaki is indeed suggesting what Chesterton would say—the ‘quote’ is an imagined, yet effective, interpolation. This Chestertonian anthropic principle, like its scientifically informed and philosophically more precise version, sounds like both a tautology and a profound discovery at once: the universe is homey, the universe is cozy—it’s koselig. The cozy cosmos isn’t quite the image conjured up by the formal language of modern scientific cosmology—such domestic connotations are spoken in an entirely alien tongue. But the comparison is ancient: the universe as a house that requires the presence of intellectual beings in order to be complete; the material order exists for the sake of the intellectual order as its good. A more ample, Chestertonian cosmology could comprehend both languages in its ambit.


15:03

Wait, Mary and Joseph Were Illegal Immigrants? [Steeple and State]

mary and joseph refugees

This short video-message caught my eye a week or so ago. It artistically makes the connection between the Syrian refugees and the Holy Family en route to Bethlehem. The short is stylistically well done and epitomizes the stance adopted by many well-meaning Christians across America, namely that in charity we are duty bound to open our nation’s doors to the displaced. This video perfectly sums up the illogical, feel-good stance of those who would welcome the immigrant without a second–or perhaps any–thought.

The arguments in favor of throwing our borders wide open to hundreds of thousands of largely economic refugees are all based in blind emotion. It feels good to welcome the refugee. It feels warm and cozy and righteous. Coincidentally, but conveniently, it is also a very comfortable position, because it is the popular and posh position in the Catholic community. Why, you might ask? Catholic Charities gets $70 million a year from the federal government, so that might have an impact on the collective mood, but more on that later. Back to the crux of this particular video.

Comparing the refugees to a shelterless Joseph and Mary on the road to Bethlehem is superficially a great twist, but after a split-second of thought almost entirely contradictory. Joseph and Mary were on the road in direct obedience to civil authority! They were traveling to Bethlehem for the purpose of census data, specifically so the government would know who people were and where they were! In the incredible scheme of Divine Providence, the Roman mandate enabled God to come into the world in the most impoverished of circumstances. Jesus was teaching mankind a myriad of lessons in the manner of His birth, but one of those lessons was not to flout valid, earthly authority. In fact at no time in His entire life did Christ advocate disobedience to the law. Emotional arguments are almost always lazy ones. They are easy to make and they are easy to accept. It is harder to slow down and reason a problem out, but since God gave us a head, not just a heart, He probably expects us to take a moment and use it.

 

 

Further reading:

We cannot welcome all of the Middle East to the United States. See this post about making distinctions between those who are valid refugees of genocide and those who are economic refugees seeking greater freedom and prosperity. While the motivations of the majority of the latter group are laudable and understandable, it is not feasible for the West to accept them. More: Syria’s Refugees: Not All Are Equal

At the same time, the people who really need our help, the Christians and the minorities who are targeted by ISIS and are victims of actual genocide, are forgotten and possibly even discriminated against by our own administration. See Middle Eastern Christians Face Discrimination.

12:48

Isaiah on the Holy Family [Laodicea]

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down the just; let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour, and let justice spring up together.

(Cornelius a Lapide: “‘Opened’ is a metalepsis for ‘bring forth’.”)


11:58

Climate agreement welcomed by pope but pro-lifers concerned about language that promotes abortion [Voice of the Family]

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Pope Francis
Pope Francis with UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon

Pope Francis has indicated support for the final agreement reached on 12th December 2015 at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris. Tragically, the agreement contains language designed to promote abortion and contraception, even though the terms themselves are not used.

The Holy Father has spoken out against abortion on numerous occasions during his pontificate. In Laudato Si he said: “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.” Notwithstanding this the pro-life movement has often been forced to raise concerns about statements made by senior prelates that seem to be a departure from the Holy See’s former vigilance concerning language used in international agreements, which could further the pro-abortion, pro-contraception agenda of many national governments and aid agencies.

Speaking after the Angelus in St Peter’s square on 13th December Pope Francis said:

“The climate conference has just ended in Paris with an agreement that many describe as historic… Implementing it will require unanimous commitment and generous involvement by everyone”

He continued:

“With the hope that special attention for the most vulnerable populations is guaranteed, I exhort the whole international community to proceed on the path undertaken in the name of an ever more effective solidarity.”

The grim reality is, however, that the Paris agreement will in fact lead to an intensification of the assault on the most vulnerable of all populations: unborn children.

In the Paris agreement we find the following clause (our emphasis):

“Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity”

The terms in bold may initially seem innocuous to many readers but experience has shown that these terms are often used to advance a dangerous ideology.

  1. The Sustainable Developments Goals use “gender equality” and “empowerment of women” to advance abortion and contraception

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by nation states in September 2015, consist of 17 goals and 169 targets, which will determine the direction of international aid and action for the next fifteen years.

These goals are welcomed by the Paris agreement, in which the “conference of parties” unites in:

Welcoming the adoption of United Nations General Assembly resolution A/RES/70/1, ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.”

Goal 5 of the SDGs is to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. This goal includes the following target, to be achieved by 2030 (our emphasis):

Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences”

This target makes it clear that “sexual and reproductive health” is a critical element in achieving “gender equality” and “empowerment of women” despite the fact that some UN bodies, together with pro-abortion member states and organisations, interpret it as including abortion and contraception.

The United Nations Population Fund states that “sexual and reproductive health” includes access for all to “the safe, effective, affordable and acceptable contraception method of their choice”, which includes methods of contraception that are, or can be, abortifacient. The Population Fund also supports other methods of abortion, stating: “where abortion is legal, national health systems should make it safe and accessible.” Abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood openly consider abortion and contraception as integral to “sexual and reproductive health” including in materials aimed at teenagers. It is also a term which is used by the Obama administration to include access to abortion.

2. “Equality” used to promote abortion and contraception

The meaning given to “gender equality” and “empowerment of women” above is not unique to the Sustainable Development Goals; it is well-established in UN documents. This can be demonstrated by examining a report published earlier this year by the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), entitled General recommendation on women’s access to justice (23 July 2015).

The document specifically connects “equality” with the perceived need to legalise abortion. Paragraph 47 states:

“Criminal laws are particularly important in ensuring that women are able to exercise their human rights, including their right to access to justice, on the basis of equality… Some criminal codes or acts and/or criminal procedure codes discriminate against women: … b) by criminalizing behaviours that can only be performed by women such as abortion”

This argument is continued in paragraph 49:

“Women are also disproportionately criminalized due to their situation or status, for instance women in prostitution, migrant women, women accused of adultery, lesbian, bisexual, transgender women and intersex persons, women who undergo abortion or women belonging to other discriminated groups.”

In paragraph 51 the document proceeds to deploy calls for the abolition of discrimination as a means of directly calling for the legalisation of abortion:

“Abolish discriminatory criminalization, and review and monitor all criminal procedures to ensure that they do not directly or indirectly discriminate against women; decriminalize forms of behaviour that are not criminalized or punished as harshly if they are performed by men; decriminalize behaviours that can only be performed by women such as abortion; and/or act with due diligence to prevent and provide redress for crimes that disproportionately or solely affect women, whether such acts were perpetrated by State or non-State actors”

Furthermore, paragraph 24, which is found in a section entitled “Discriminatory laws, procedures and practices”,  speaks of “barriers” faced by “girls (including the girl child and adolescent girls, where appropriate)” in accessing “health and sexual and reproductive rights.”

3. “Empowerment of women” used to promote abortion and contraception

In paragraph 25 the document ” recommends that State parties”:

(c) Take measures to avoid marginalization of girls due to conflicts and disempowerment within their families and the resulting lack of support for their rights; abolish rules and practices that require parental or spousal authorization for access to services such as education, health, including sexual and reproductive health, as well as access to legal services and justice systems; and

(d) Protect women and girls against interpretations of religious texts and traditional norms creating barriers to their access to justice resulting in discrimination against them.

This text exemplifies the manner in which this term can be used by UN bodies to promote (i) attacks on parental rights, (ii) abortion and contraception (“sexual and reproductive health”), (iii) attacks on traditional moral norms and (iv) attacks on religious texts, which can include Sacred Scripture.

Conclusions

The language used in the Paris climate agreement is consistently used to promote abortion and contraception under the guise of “sexual and reproductive health”. For more than three decades the Holy See has opposed the inclusion of such terms in international agreements precisely because of the recognition that they are used to pursue an agenda which is destructive of human life and the family. The Holy See mission at the UN has raised concerns about the use of such terms as recently as September 2015.

However, over the course of the present pontificate Voice of the Family has had the distressing task of documenting the steady reversal of the Holy See’s former vigilance on this issue and the increasing incidence of the Vatican and international anti-life and anti-family forces working together, despite the Holy Father’s public condemnations of abortion.

The Paris agreement, especially taken together with the Sustainable Development Goals, gives further strength to calls for renewed efforts to ensure “universal access” to abortion and contraception.

Previous Voice of the Family commentary about the troubling incidence of the Vatican and international anti-life and anti-family forces working together:

Leading global pro-abortion advocates speak at Vatican conference, 28th April 2015

Vatican endorsement of UN Sustainable Development Goals threatens unborn children, 29th April 2015

Any discussion on the environment must stem from understanding that the family is the key to sustainable development, 21st May 2015

Voice of the Family statement on the encyclical letter Laudato Si, 18th June 2015

Launch of new encyclical by head of Catholic agency accused of funding contraception shows urgent need for reaffirmation of Humanae Vitae, 19th June 2015

Professor Schellnhuber: climate science and the population problem, 26th June 2015

African families gravely threatened by western governments, international agencies and Vatican departments, 18th August 2015

Synod fathers who compromise on contraception will be responsible for greater abortion, 6th October 2015

Voice of the Family statement: Parents are the primary educators of their children, 15th October 2015

Synod adopts alarming sociological approach in place of clear doctrine, 12th November 2015

‘Sacrilege’: Catholic leaders react to Vatican’s climate change light show, 9th December 2015

Cardinal Turkson: Pope Francis ‘has invited people to some form of birth control”, 10th December 2015

The post Climate agreement welcomed by pope but pro-lifers concerned about language that promotes abortion appeared first on Voice of the Family.

11:58

What makes a woman? [Oz Conservative]

Most readers will be aware that there has been a scuffle on the left between some of the older radical feminists and the transsexual movement - with the transsexuals winning hands down.

Elinor Burkett recently wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times defending the older feminist position. It's interesting how closely she follows typical liberal ideas in her argument.

The basic liberal idea is that society should be based on a principle of "equal freedom," meaning that the individual is to be equally free to choose for themselves who they are and what they do. This means that unchosen, predetermined qualities, such as our biological sex or our race, are thought of in negative terms as oppressive restrictions from which the individual is to be liberated.

This explains Elinor Burkett's first argument. She observes that when a transsexual man says that he has a female brain that many on the left applaud him, even though this suggests that there are real, hardwired differences between men and women that aren't self-determined:

Suddenly, I find that many of the people I think of as being on my side — people who proudly call themselves progressive and fervently support the human need for self-determination — are buying into the notion that minor differences in male and female brains lead to major forks in the road and that some sort of gendered destiny is encoded in us.

That’s the kind of nonsense that was used to repress women for centuries.

...By defining womanhood the way he did to Ms. Sawyer, Mr. Jenner and the many advocates for transgender rights who take a similar tack...undermine almost a century of hard-fought arguments that the very definition of female is a social construct that has subordinated us.

Elinor Burkett fears that if our biological sex - the fact of being male or female - is found to matter in some way, that there will be a limitation on how we as individuals chart our own individual destiny. It might mean, for instance, that a woman might not become a combat fighter in the army, because she was born a woman and not a man - something she cannot determine for herself.

It is difficult, though, to live by the liberal principle consistently. Our sex is important to our identity: it's not easy to see yourself as an "it". And it is clearly the case that being a woman does still matter for Elinor Burkett, no matter how feminist she is. And so her second argument is that transsexual men are undermining female identity.

She makes a good argument that this is so, and I will quote her on this shortly. But the point to be made here is that it is this very fact, that transsexualism undermines female identity, which makes it such a radically liberal force and which explains why it has so much traction in a liberal society. So this may not have been the best argument for Elinor Burkett to focus on if she wishes to win support from a liberal establishment.

How does transsexualism undermine a female identity? Well, if a man in his fifties is suddenly considered to be a woman, then all the things that women uniquely experience in life don't matter so much when it comes to what it means to be a woman:
People who haven’t lived their whole lives as women, whether Ms. Jenner or Mr. Summers, shouldn’t get to define us. That’s something men have been doing for much too long. And as much as I recognize and endorse the right of men to throw off the mantle of maleness, they cannot stake their claim to dignity as transgender people by trampling on mine as a woman.

Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity. They haven’t traveled through the world as women and been shaped by all that this entails...

Elinor Burkett is running a fine line argument here. She is arguing that it is bad for women to be defined by hard-wired biological characteristics, such as differences between the male and female brain, but good for women to be defined collectively by shared life experiences, both negative and positive (on the positive side she writes that she has "relished certain courtesies" that she has received due to her sex). Again, I can't see this as being persuasive within a liberal framework when the liberal goal is to sever the connection between our biological sex and what happens in our life.

Elinor Burkett then lists a series of very strange outcomes of supporting transsexualism. They are strange to me and perhaps to older feminists, but no doubt they seem radically chic to younger liberals and will become part of the liberal mainstream over time.

For instance, if men can be considered women, then it becomes non-inclusive to link womanhood to having a vagina. Therefore, this:
In January 2014, the actress Martha Plimpton, an abortion-rights advocate, sent out a tweet about a benefit for Texas abortion funding called “A Night of a Thousand Vaginas.” Suddenly, she was swamped by criticism for using the word “vagina.” “Given the constant genital policing, you can’t expect trans folks to feel included by an event title focused on a policed, binary genital,” responded @DrJaneChi.

WHEN Ms. Plimpton explained that she would continue to say “vagina” — and why shouldn’t she, given that without a vagina, there is no pregnancy or abortion? — her feed overflowed anew with indignation, Michelle Goldberg reported in The Nation. “So you’re really committed to doubling down on using a term that you’ve been told many times is exclusionary & harmful?” asked one blogger. Ms. Plimpton became, to use the new trans insult, a terf, which stands for “trans exclusionary radical feminist.”

In January, Project: Theatre at Mount Holyoke College, a self-described liberal arts college for women, canceled a performance of Eve Ensler’s iconic feminist play “The Vagina Monologues” because it offered an “extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman,” explained Erin Murphy, the student group’s chairwoman.

Let me get this right: The word “vagina” is exclusionary and offers an extremely narrow perspective on womanhood, so the 3.5 billion of us who have vaginas, along with the trans people who want them, should describe ours with the politically correct terminology trans activists are pushing on us: “front hole” or “internal genitalia”?

Similarly, there are transsexual women who identify as men but who still have functioning female genitalia. Therefore, to be inclusive means that abortion and contraceptive services can't be marketed to women alone:
Even the word “woman” has come under assault by some of the very people who claim the right to be considered women. The hashtags #StandWithTexasWomen, popularized after Wendy Davis, then a state senator, attempted to filibuster the Texas Legislature to prevent passage of a draconian anti-abortion law, and #WeTrustWomen, are also under attack since they, too, are exclusionary.

“Abortion rights and reproductive justice is not a women’s issue,” wrote Emmett Stoffer, one of many self-described transgender persons to blog on the topic. It is “a uterus owner’s issue.” Mr. Stoffer was referring to the possibility that a woman who is taking hormones or undergoing surgery to become a man, or who does not identify as a woman, can still have a uterus, become pregnant and need an abortion.

Accordingly, abortion rights groups are under pressure to modify their mission statements to omit the word woman, as Katha Pollitt recently reported in The Nation. Those who have given in, like the New York Abortion Access Fund, now offer their services to “people” and to “callers.” Fund Texas Women, which covers the travel and hotel expenses of abortion seekers with no nearby clinic, recently changed its name to Fund Texas Choice. “With a name like Fund Texas Women, we were publicly excluding trans people who needed to get an abortion but were not women,” the group explains on its website.

And what about those who are legally women but who consider themselves men? They can use female services but they don't want to be referred to as women:
Women’s colleges are contorting themselves into knots to accommodate female students who consider themselves men, but usually not men who are living as women. Now these institutions, whose core mission is to cultivate female leaders, have student government and dormitory presidents who identify as males.

As Ruth Padawer reported in The New York Times Magazine last fall, Wellesley students are increasingly replacing the word “sisterhood” with “siblinghood,” and faculty members are confronted with complaints from trans students about their universal use of the pronoun she — although Wellesley rightly brags about its long history as the “world’s pre-eminent college for women.”

Elinor Burkett shares the same underlying liberal theory as the transsexuals, but she is facing some unexpected loss of control in how the theory is played out. She liked the old way in which she got to be part of a movement in which women were defined as an oppressed group smashing apart oppressive social constructs to live liberated lives, in which women like herself could keep older privileges of womanhood but also have access to things they wanted in a more androgynous social setting.

But the theory has now reached a more radical moment, so that there is no longer a comfortable "women's movement," not when the notion of womanhood itself is in such flux. What now does it mean to be a woman? In our liberal society a woman's body doesn't make a woman, nor her distinct life experiences. Transsexuals reach back to traditional markers of femininity to make their womanhood distinct, but this isn't acceptable to feminists. Can you have a women's movement when there is confusion about what actually makes a woman?

11:21

The Way of Bethlehem [Transalpine Redemptorists at home]

The Way of Bethlehem is an Advent devotion which was composed, practised and promoted by Our Holy Father St Alphonsus.

During the novena of Christmas, 12 shrines are erected around the monastery, church or home, representing the mysteries of our Saviour's childhood.  At each station a short hymn is sung, there is a brief meditation and prayers before processing to the next Station.

Here are some photos of the Way of Bethlehem at our Monastery in Christchurch, New Zealand this year.

 All, children and adults alike, gather around the stational shrine to pray and meditate on the infancy of Our Lord.

The 10th Station: Jesus is freed from the swaddling-bands. 


 The 6th Station: Jesus is adored by the Magi.


 The 8th Station: Jesus flies into Egypt.

 The 10th Station: Jesus begins to walk, here represented by a pair of babies booties, kindly supplied by one of the families of the Chaplaincy.

The Way of Bethlehem is a wonderful means of preparing for Our Lord's coming at Christmas.  It can be found in full in our Christmas Hymn Book

11:07

Under-the-radar signs of progress in Vatican reforms [CatholicCulture.org - In Depth Analysis of Catholic Issues]

Have you noticed that as Christmas approaches, you spend less time reading news headlines? There are two reasons for that phenomenon. First, you have other things on your mind; you’re busy with your last-minute preparations for the great feast. Second, the people who usually make the news—the politicians and entertainers and corporate executives and religious leaders—all know that you’re busy. So they save their big splashy announcements for a time when they can command more attention.

08:30

Saint Iotharnaisc of Clane [St. Conleth's Catholic Heritage Association]

Today marks the feast of a Kildare saint, Iotharnaisc of Clane and below is a post from my own site Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae in which I have gathered together some information on his life. In the Irish sources our saint is linked with another holy man, Ultan Tua, but Saint Iotharnaisc is even better known in Scotland where his feast day appears in the early sixteenth-century Breviary of Aberdeen:

December 22 is the feast of Saint Iotharnaisc of Clane, County Kildare, whom we met last year in a post on Saint Ultan Tua. It seems that Saint Iotharnaisc also had a Scottish link, where he appears under the Latinization of his name, Saint Ethernascus or as Saint Athernaise the Hermit or the Mute of Fife. It is interesting that he retains his reputation for maintaining the discipline of silence in both countries. Dom Michael Barrett has an entry for Saint Ethernascus in his calendar of the Scottish saints:

22 St. Ethernascus, Confessor. 
FROM his retired life and spirit of recollection this Irish saint was known as "Ethernascus, who spoke not," or "The Silent." He was one of the chief patrons of Clane, in the county of Kildare. It is difficult to determine what was his precise connection with Scotland, but his office occurs with a proper prayer in the Breviary of Aberdeen. The church of Lathrisk, in Fifeshire, was dedicated to St. Ethernascus conjointly with St. John the Evangelist.

Dom Michael Barrett, O.S.B., A Calendar of Scottish Saints (Fort Augustus, 1919), 180.

Bishop Forbes supplies the collect for the day from the Breviary of Aberdeen:
ETHERNASCUS, C. December 22.— 
The Breviary gives only a collect. "O God, who didst will that the soul of blessed Ethernascus, thy confessor, should penetrate to the stars of heaven, vouchsafe that, as we celebrate his venerable birthday, we may, by his intercessions, be deemed of thy mercy, in respect of his merits, meet to ascend to the joys of his blessed life, through our Lord." There is an antiphon to the Magnificat, but no lections to the feast. 
In the Irish Kalendars, under this day, we find, in the Felire of Aengus— 
Itharnaisc nad labrae.
[Itharnaisc who spoke not.] 
In the Martyrology of Donegal, "Ultan Tua and Iotharnaisc, two saints who are (buried or principally venerated) at Claonadh, i.e. a church which is in Ui Faelain in Leinster." This is Clane, in the county of Kildare. 
He is of Lathrisk in Fife, where we find a church dedicated to St. John the Evangelist and S. Ethernasc by David de Burnham on the v. of the Kalends of August 1243.—(Regist. Priorat. S. And. 348; 0. S. A vi p. 15.) The name Lanthrisk, or Lathrisk, contains evidently the Welsh Llan, which we find in Scotland elsewhere, as at Lumphanan, and Panmure and Panbride— the p and l being interchangeable, as we find in the Spanish where plenus becomes lleno. It is quite in accordance with probability that a Kildare saint should be found in the Church of Kenneth Macalpin. Thus we have a Cellach, at once abbot of Iona and Kildare, who died in 865.—(Grub, Eccl. Hist. i. 168.)

Alexander Penrose Forbes, D.C.L. Bishop of Brechin, Kalendars of Scottish Saints, (1872), 334.

06:00

O Rex Gentium [The Rad Trad]



O Rex gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum; veni, et salva hominem quem de limo formasti.O King of nations, and their desired One, and the corner-stone that makest both one; come and save man whom thou formedst out of slime. 
O King of Nations! thou art approaching still nigher to Bethlehem, where thou art to be born. The journey is almost over, and thy august Mother, consoled and strengthened by the dear weight she bears, holds an unceasing converse with thee on the way. She adores thy divine Majesty; she gives thanks to thy mercy; she rejoices that she has been chosen for the sublime ministry of being Mother to God. She longs for that happy moment when her eyes shall look upon thee, and yet she fears it. For, how will she be able to render thee those services which are due to thy infinite greatness, she that thinks herself the last of creatures? How will she dare to raise thee up in her arms, and press thee to her heart, and feed thee at her breasts? When she reflects that the hour is now near at hand, in which, being born of her, thou wilt require all her care and tenderness, her heart sinks within her; for, what human heart could bear the intense vehemence of these two affections, - the love of such a Mother for her Babe, and the love of such a Creature for her God? But thou supportest her, O thou the Desired of Nations! for thou, too, longest for that happy Birth, which is to give the earth its Saviour, and to men that Corner-Stone, which will unite them all into one family. Dearest King! be thou blessed for all these wonders of thy power and goodness! Come speedily, we beseech thee, come and save us, for we are dear to thee, as creatures that have been formed by thy divine hands. Yea, come, for thy creation has grown degenerate; it is lost; death has taken possession of it: take it thou again into thy almighty hands, and give it a new creation; save it; for thou hast not ceased to take pleasure in and love thine own work.
From The Liturgical Year by Dom Gueranger 

05:18

The Years of Lyndon Johnson (9) [The Paraphasic]

VOLUME TWO: MEANS OF ASCENT
PART TWO: THE OLD AND THE NEW (CONTINUED)

One of the themes of Lyndon Johnson's early political career is debilitating illness.  Sometimes the exact nature of the illness is unclear (the phrase "nervous exhaustion" tends to be repeated); at other times, the illness is more definite — for example, Johnson's appendicitis at the end of his 1937 congressional campaign.  Often, sickness seems to be triggered my excessive anxiety or overwork.  The 1948 campaign for the U. S. Senate begins, for Lyndon Johnson, with a kidney stone.  Perhaps the cause of the stone was psychosomatic, perhaps not.  Johnson had passed kidney stones before.  But shortly after begins his campaign — a campaign he seems to have understood as the deciding political moment of his life — the pain sets in.  For some time he continues working (despite physical agony, lost of appetite, and persistent nausea), pretending that nothing is wrong.  One of his assistants is kept with him at all time to help him bear the pain.  His doctors inform him that if the stone does not pass (which it appears day by day less likely to do) he will have to have it surgically removed, or risk permanent kidney damage.  And the surgical removal of a kidney stone would have ended his campaign and his political future.

Caro chronicles the stone's progress in great detail.  Eventually, Johnson is completely incapacitated by the pain, hospitalized, and removed to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where a technique has been developed for non-surgical extraction of kidney stones.  After some worry about the feasibility of the operation in Johnson's case (his stone is lodged too far up the ureter for the operation to be guaranteed success), the extraction is successful, and Johnson returns to Texas to begin the great fight for his political future.

The campaign of 1948 is a fusion of the 1937 and 1941 campaigns.  As in 1937, Johnson works tirelessly to meet as many voters as possible.  As in 1941, he has apparently unlimited campaign cash reserves to draw on.  Coke Stevenson, his opponent, is an old fashioned conservative Democrat, whose sole platform is constitutional government, justice and the rule of law.  Stevenson prefers to stand, rather than to run.  He refuses to engage in name-calling, and he refuses to make any campaign promises, insisting that "the people know my record".  Despite all this, Stevenson was one of the most popular politicians in Texas history.  Johnson commanded no where near the same degree of respect among Texas voters.

The centerpiece of the Johnson campaign is the "flying windmill", a helicopter he uses to quickly get around the state. The windmill functions both as a convenience for Johnson (though not for his staff, who have to deal with the complex logistics of refueling and arranging landing sites), and a big draw to his public events.  In 1940s Texas, the majority of people have never seen a helicopter, and so Johnson's arrival in each small town becomes an attraction sufficient to draw the entire population.

Johnson exploits Stevenson's lack of political guile in order to attract conservative voters who would not naturally have supported him.  He comes up with lies about a Stevenson "Secret Deal" with the Labor Unions to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, and broadcasts them constantly on radio stations across the state, causing those who supported Stevenson to begin to doubt his good faith.  In time, this propaganda campaign, combined with Stevenson's persistent refusal (until too late in the campaign) to respond to Johnson's attacks, led to the frustration of the Stevenson campaign's funding efforts, crippling his organization.

(I am offering a substantially abbreviated account of the race, omitting some shenanigans that take place when Stevenson visits Washington, DC, and skipping over the first-round election, which eliminates all the candidates but Johnson and Stevenson.)

A major coup for Johnson is winning the support (and especially the financial support) of the big Texas oilmen — the ones who backed Pappy O'Daniel's gubernatorial campaign, and then arranged for him to win the '41 Senate race when they got tired of his administration.  Caro explains that, in order to win their support, Johnson had to take a page out of O'Daniel's book, and start delivering speeches in his (populist, rabble-rousing) style on the radio regularly.

The decisive element of the 1948 race ends up being none of the things mentioned, but the same thing that determined the victor of the 1941 race: organized voting fraud.  When election day arrives, the votes are counted and reported in.  At first, Stevenson has the lead.  Then the corrections come in, sometimes adding votes for Johnson, sometimes for Stevenson, but preserving the overall result more or less, with Stevenson ahead by several thousand votes.

Then the gap begins to close.  And finally, a couple of days after the election, when the ballots have all been reported, Johnson is ahead by 87 votes.

The votes that closed the final gap and won Johnson the election come in large part from a single precinct, which produces a "corrected" vote count well after its initial election night report, supplying two hundred new votes, all but one or two for Johnson.  When the election result is announced by the election board (though not yet made official, since that was the responsibility of the Texas Democratic Party — remember that because Texas is a one-party state, the election that counts is the primary election, and this is where all the real political fights happen), Stevenson is outraged, convinced that fraud has taken place, and decides to go down and investigate for himself.  First some assistants, then Stevenson himself, go down to Jim Wells county (home of the infamous Precinct 13 which decided the election) and demand to see their election materials.  For a minute, some of Stevenson's people are allowed to see it, and they use what they see to establish what everyone already suspects: that the "misreported" votes were actually added after the fact.  Not only were the additional votes all recorded in a different pen, they were recorded in alphabetical order and, when several individuals listed as having voted are asked by Stevenson and company, they explain that they did not.

Armed with this evidence, Stevenson makes his case to the state's Democratic Party officials, who are charged with announcing the final election result.  But Johnson is ready: first to use his influence with people in state politics to stop Stevenson's investigation, and then to use the courts to prevent Precinct 13's election box (with the evidence inside) from being opened and examined.  Unbelievably, Johnson wins: he gets an injunction barring the opening of the box (which is then appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, which upholds Johnson's side), and then he wins (by a single vote) the endorsement of the disputed election results by the central committee of the Democratic Party in Texas.  Lyndon Johnson is now a U. S. Senator.

Caro rounds out Means of Ascent with an account of Coke Stevenson's life after 1948.  This ends volume two.

05:06

Flies [Korrektiv]

1280px-Velzevul

               The power of flies; they win battles, hinder our soul from acting, eat our body.
                                                                          – Pascal, Pensees, 367

I hate the thing I cannot be and yet
I know I’m not wrong for I’m never wrong.
I count the stars and one alone has set

Me going – all the rest can go to hell.
I didn’t make the flies, but I had put
Their song to good employment. Now they dwell

With me – and I should know, being the lord
Of the buggers, they make an easy sell
For cleaning up a butcher’s yard. Byword

Of light itself – I was it! But no more –
I’ve got a kitchen kingdom, fleshy sword
And flyblown maw instead to tend. I’m sore

At heart and hate the Jews – and Romans too.
But they can play very well together, or
I’ll see them die in their attempts. Then, through

The gates I see that star. That goddamn star.
No fly left out, no maggot stranded – no!
So how can stars be any different? Sure,

The cretins eat putrescence put in front
Of them, but never question it. Their care
For me – it knows no bounds! Each accident

Of nature, each festering harlot of
Ol’ Babylon, every mother-loving runt
Of a whoreson tabbed. Then I look above….

I’m not waiting around. No. Time to move.

01:37

Sliding Down the Slippery Slope [The TOF Spot]

In the 90’s, nobody was arguing for smoking bans across college campuses. Nobody was publicly, anyway. The net gains and justifications for banning smoking from family restaurants was pretty strong. Kids who don’t have any choice about where to eat dinner would be going to these places, and inhaling second hand smoke. People who don’t smoke had severely limited options without being in closed rooms filled with smoke. Some pretty significant stuff. And could be viewed as completely different from bars (no kids), smoking lounges (a small subset of establishments), and public parks (outdoors). So there’s no continuum. There’s no slippery slope. These are fallacious.

And yet, here we are.
Ain'y no slippery slope here
The Slippery Slope Argument is often called the Slippery Slope Fallacy, usually by those favorably disposed toward the bottom of the slope and anxious to get there as quickly as possible with a minimum of tumbling and bruising along the way. But it is really neither a fallacy nor an argument.

On the One Hand

History is replete with examples of "give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile." The pre-war course of Hitler's micro-aggressions provides a nicely Godwinesque illustration of a slippery slope. Give 'em a Saarland, and they'll take a Bohemia. Recall also that Griswold v. Conn. legitimized the sale of contraceptives to married couples only, precisely on the grounds of the privacy of the marriage bond, and the thought that this might lead to unmarried couples using contraceptives was dismissed as slippery slopitude. Ho-ho, that will never happen! Likewise the forecast was poo-poohed that such availability would eventually weaken the whole concept of marriage and turn women into sex objects. And yet, here we are. So too the late Daniel Pat Moynihan's "defining deviancy down."¹

Hence, as Will Truman contends in "It’s 1987, And That’s a Slippery Slope Fallacy," a slippery slope is not ipso facto fallacious.
Notes:
1. Defining deviancy down.
"[O]ver the past generation, ...the amount of deviant behavior in American society has increased beyond the levels the community can "afford to recognize" and that, accordingly, we have been re-defining deviancy so as to exempt much conduct previously stigmatized, and also quietly raising the "normal" level in categories where behavior is now abnormal by any earlier standard"

-- "Defining Deviancy Down," The American Scholar, Vol. 62, No. 1 (Winter 1993), pp. 17-30

On the Other Hand

But neither is it much of an argument, as Tod Kelly responds in "The Slippery Slope of the Slippery Slope." He gives several reasons why SS's are poor arguments:
  1. They are largely dishonest and lazy attempts to “magic” away strong arguments against one’s position.|
    For example, "instead of rebutting the arguments in favor of same-sex marriage (Kelly writes), it is much easier to claim that it will lead to 'a world where people marry turtles.'"
    TOF: Maybe not turtles, but perhaps a Ferris-wheel, a roller coaster, the Eiffel Tower, a warehouse, a Laborador retriever, a pet goat, one's self, and minors.

  2. They are not really tools for convincing people who disagree with you that you’re correct; they’re simply a way to preach to your own choir — while potentially shrinking it.
    That legalized medical marijuana may open the door to legalized recreational marijuana may seem a very strong argument against it -- if you already believe smoking pot is wrong. But to those who believe medical use and recreational use are separate issues, it is not. (And if you believe blowing weed is good, then it's an inducement!)
  3. They assume a wholly static world where one does not exist.
    Slippery slope arguments are really pleas that we do nothing new because bad things might happen.
  4. They are entirely indiscriminate.
    "There is literally no position," writes Kelly, "no matter how innocuous or righteous, that a SSA can’t 'prove' will lead to the end of civilization as we know it."
    • Legalize marijuana today, and eventually you’ll legalize crack cocaine and heroin. But...
    • Refuse to legalize marijuana, and eventually you’ll use the exact same reasons to criminalize alcohol and cough medicine
Being a former quality engineer, TOF finds #3 and #4 to be features, not bugs. As we observed recently, it is a form of confirmation bias to deny slippery slopes tout court. One should always, for any proposal deviating from the status quo, consider what might go wrong, from either a botched implementation or a wholly successful one. Remember: most mutations kill the organism; most experiments end in failure. We call such considerings Failure Modes and Effects Analysis or SWOT analysis. (More on these later.) Change anything and it will get worse! Depend on it. No good deed goes unpunished. The only real question is whether the bad results of the change will be less bad than the bad results of continuing as-is.

On the Gripping Hand

Brandon Watson takes a third point of view (as does TOF). The responses to the Slippery Slope are as bad as many slippery slopes arguments. But the Slippery Slope is neither an argument nor a fallacy, but rather a challenge. Their purpose is to raise the question of whether a position is properly thought out in the first place.

Brandon distinguishes three different slopes:
(A) Causal extrapolations: These are what the phrase 'slippery slope' often seems to suggests to people's minds. This kind of argument is basically a causal prediction; 'if you keep doing this, you're heading to such-and-such bad consequence'.
[For example: that due to federally guaranteed student loans, the price of universities will rise to absorb the funds available, saddling a generation of students with a lifetime of crushing debts.]
(B) Motivational extrapolations: These are the camel's nose or thin-end-of-the-wedge arguments. They could all be summarized by the saying, 'If you give them an inch, they'll take an ell'. [T]hese are estimations of political strategy, not tendencies to effects. 
[For example, an argument against same-sex marriage might be predicated not on whether gay marriages will somehow entail women marrying inanimate objects, but that some of those pushing the boundaries are likely to keep pushing those boundaries. Or that many of those advocating medical marijuana are opposed to all drug laws and fully intend to see them all repealed.]
It is instructional to compare these two extrapolations to Moynihan's "altruistic" and "opportunistic" reasons for redefining deviancies. Moynihan gave as an example of altruistic redefinition the emptying out of the mental hospitals following the Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963, Kennedy's last public bill-signing. The supply of mental patients was overwhelming the number of beds [and trained caretakers] available in asylums. Just as the number of miscreants in Puritan New England always seemed equal to the number of stocks and whipping posts, the number of mental hospital beds limited the number of mentally ill that society could "afford to recognize." The asylums were closed, but the community mental health centers -- imagined as places where the ill could be drugged -- were never built. (The money vanished into block grants and was used for other purposes. Crazy people don't vote.¹) So the consequence -- a burgeoning "homeless" problem, to be addressed by "affordable housing" -- was a causal extrapolation of the well-intentioned act.

In Moynihan's opportunistic redefinition, a growth in deviancy makes possible a transfer of resources, including prestige, to those who control the deviant population. This control would be jeopardized if any serious effort were made to reduce the deviancy in question. This leads to assorted strategies for re-defining the behavior in question as not all that deviant, really. His example is the breakdown of the family consequent to no-fault divorce and the concomitant epidemic of single-motherhood, fatherless boys, and street crime (not to mention mass shootings, which blossomed in the 70s and 80s). But this opened up opportunities for sundry groups to champion (or bewail!) the situation, provided nothing substantive was ever actually done.
Brandon's third category of slippery slopes is different in kind: 
(C) Identifications of justificatory imprecision: These are about principles or precedents and conclusions that can be drawn given them; given such-and-such principle or precedent, there doesn't seem to be anything that prevents one from also concluding that such-and-such bad thing is good for the same reason.
[For example: If same-sex marriages are justified because... Consenting Adults! What prevents the same Consenting Adults argument from being used to justify polygamy or brother-sister marriage, et al.? It's not that gay marriage leads to the latter in a causal sense; nor even in a motivational sense (advocates of gay marriage are not by and large keen on incest). The issue identified here is that the justification to support X can be just as easily used to support Y. ]

A similar slippery slope was used against the Patriot Act. If we use this law to pursue terrorists, why cannot They use it to pursue drug lords, tax evaders, or Ma and Pa Kettle?
Note:
1. Crazy people don't vote. Or considering the outcomes of sundry elections, perhaps they do.

The Root of the Slippery Slope

Glass bottles made on an I/S machine
The root of the slippery slope lies in the number continuum. Consider a quality, such as the weight of a glass bottle made on an Individual Section (I/S) machine. The weight of the bottle is essentially determined by the cut off shears in the gobber. This snips of a gob of molten glass extruded from the furnace and drops it into the first mold. In multiple-mold sections, a needle splits the gob into two or three individual gobs. The one in the picture appears to be two molds per section.

Now, if the bottle are made at too high a weight, we will use more glass per bottle, which raises the material costs and the shipping costs. Therefore, you want to make the bottle as light as possible. Costs go up as weight goes up.

However, if the bottle is made too light, it becomes too fragile to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, leading to breakage. In the case of pressure ware (such as soda or beer bottles) the lighter bottle may under certain circumstances explode. This raises the possibility of lawsuits.¹ Costs go up as weight goes down, too. Just a different set of costs, is all.

Hence, you are caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. You want to make the bottle light without making it too light. You want to make it sturdy without making it too heavy. Adding the two cost curves together, give you a total cost curve, which looks like (but may not actually be) a parabola. Somewhere within the range, this parabola will have a minimum and this is your minimum cost point. Any deviation from this ideal weight in either direction will increase your costs.

Which is tough cases all around, because no machine or person will ever execute task exactly the same each time. There will always be variation due to a host of causes too fine and numerous to be worth identifying.² The good news is that (except in some circumstances) a little bit of variation only increases costs a little bit, and so it can be tolerated as a practical matter. The limits on the variation that can be tolerated are called (wait for it) the tolerance limits. You can draw two vertical lines on either side of the minimum cost point. Items inside the tolerance limits are acceptable, those outside are the work of Satan, expelled to the outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Note:
1. may under certain circumstances explode. For example: If you were to put a case of beer in your car's truck, park it in the hot Arizona sun all day, then at the motel that evening, pull some bottles out and shove them into a bucket of ice to cool them down. This is known as Thermal Stress.
2. too numerous to identify. Hence, we call the resulting variation "random," which means "we don't know the actual cause."

The Fatal Flaw

The fatal flaw in the tolerance concept can be seen by considering three bottles: A, B, and C. A is smack dab on target, B is just inside the tolerance limit. C is just outside. The rules tell us that we must treat A and B as if they were the same -- they are both "in spec" -- but everyone, including great-aunt Matilda, knows that B and C are more like each other in terms of cost and functionality than either one is like A. Therefore, C is referred to the Material Review Board, which is an official body formed to say "We didn't really mean it when we issued the specs." So C is shipped "on deviation." No one seems to notice or complain.

Sooner, rather than later, along comes D, which is a little bit further out of spec. If you accepted C, why not D, which is only a little heavier? Eventually, the tolerance limits are made of rubber bands, to be stretched as needed to accommodate that which was naturally produced, until finally some real clinkers get through, the customers complain, and the limits are made tighter than they were in the first place.

Measurements above the upper tolerance limit have been
recorded as being [just barely] inside just to avoid the hassle.
An alternative strategy is to relabel what was once out of bounds as if it was in bounds; as in the example shown to the right, where measurements out of spec have been recorded as in spec. SInce when people lie, they try to minimize the amount of lie, they fudge the data so that it is just inside the spec limit.

And that, mi amigos is the slippery slope. We draw a line in society and say "Beyond this lies deviancy," but then we encounter things that are only a little bit deviant and we remember that deviations also occur normally. We can either tighten the limits and anathematize things once considered OK. But that might include us, so we redraw the lines to tolerate the petty deviations and, eventually, come to regard these as "normal."

Currently, we are building prisons as fast as we used to build asylums -- and for many of the same people -- and yet they are stuffed to the gills. We are reaching the point where society literally cannot afford to regard many of those inmates as sufficiently deviant to occupy valuable prison space; so... victimless crimes,... non-violent offenders,... early release,...  Jack Abbott,... Willie Horton...

There is no such thing as a good deed... And no such thing as an evil deed. There are good impulses, there are evil impulses, and that is all. Half of the results of a good intention are evil; half the results of an evil intention are good. No man can command the results, not allot them.

SWOT!

So the proper course of any proposal is to thoroughly vet the foreseeable outcomes. What might be
  • the long term results, and not merely the short-term; 
  • the unintended consequences and not merely the intended; 
  • the side effects and not merely the main effect. 
You can rid your dog of fleas by setting him on fire. Fleas cannot survive elevated temperatures. Neither can dogs, of course, but by gum! you get rid of the fleas! By barring Italian immigrants to the US, you can keep out the Lucky Lucianos. But you also keep out the Enrico Fermis.

Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) is a systematic examination of a plan or design, component by component, in which we ask
  • How can this component fail? (Failure Mode)
  • What can cause this failure mode? (Cause)
  • What are the effects of the failure if it does happen? (Effects)
Then we rate the likelihood of the cause occurring and the severity of the effect. (There are other bells and whistles, but let's stick to basics.)  Using a simple Low-Moderate-High scale, the two dimensions of risk can be balanced against each other. Anything that is HH -- highly likely and highly critical -- is a signal to reconsider the whole idea. 
Slide from Oriel/STAT-A-MATRIX
 However, the overall intent is not simply to vote ideas off the island. It's to identify risks, so the plan may be altered to address the risks. For example, consider the pressure vessel and the risk of explosion.
A variety of mitigation actions have been suggested in order either to reduce the likelihood that an explosion will take place or reduce the severity of the explosion in case it does. When these actions are incorporated into the plan the Risk Matrix can be revisited. But there needs to be some confirmation that the actions were taken. Remember, when JFK closed all the asylums, the act required that neighborhood clinics be set up to keep the quondam inmates from becoming the homeless problem. But for the most part, these clinics were never built! Imagine if a private manufacturer had included a safety net in the design, but then never built it.

There are two flavors of FMEA, design and process. In dFMEA, we ask what could go wrong even if we achieve the design intent. In pFMEA, we ask how we can screw up in implementing the design. This is the difference between specifying too few neighborhood clinics to handle the load versus not building all the clinics that were specified. Between "doing the right thing" and "doing the thing right." This could be as simple (and as catastrophic) as omitting a comma in a do-loop instruction for a space probe. The comma was supposed to be there, but someone missed a keystroke. Bummer. 

Alas, even engineers will often perform FMEA in a perfunctory manner. Faithful Reader can understand that financiers and legislators may be less careful of such "Murphy Engineering" than product and process designers. TOF once assisted some folks in a financial institution to assess failure modes in several proposed new financial instruments and they were blown away. They had never heard of any such a thing.

Then there is the face-off. Describe the current state of affairs and the proposed future state. Then systematically assess the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of both. This is the SWOT matrix. Normally, the Advocates of Change look only at the Strengths of the proposal and the Weaknesses of the status quo; the Opportunities the proposal will open up and the Threats posed by letting the sleeping dogs lie. The conservatives do the opposite. This is the heart of confirmation bias and the disparagement of the slippery slope.
Slide from Oriel/STAT-A-Matrix
Surely it is a radical notion to suggest that Brilliant Ideas actually accomplish the goals they purportedly pursue!

References

1. (thesis) Truman, Will. "It’s 1987, And That’s a Slippery Slope Fallacy," Hit Coffee, Dec. 1, 2015

2. (antithesis) Kelly, Tod. "The Slippery Slope of the Slippery Slope," Ordinary Times, Dec. 4, 2015

3. (synthesis) Watson, Brandon. "Slippery Slope Arguments," Siris, Dec. 5, 2015

01:00

24. Dezember, halb 7 Uhr morgens! [BRUNONIS]

Normal 0 21 false false false DE X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Es ist dunkel in den eiskalten Gängen der Kartause. Über die wie zu Milchglas gefrorenen Fenster gießt der Mond silbern sein Licht. Überall ist diese ungeheure Stille, diese Gegenwart drinnen und draußen. Ja, die reine Wesenheit der Stille selbst atmet um uns und durchdringt uns wie ein Polarwind.


Pfortenkapelle La Valsainte im Sommer
Wir sind aus unserm geheizten Zimmerchen in die Kapelle der Brüder gegangen, in der eine einzige Kerze - wie ein vertrautes Signal - auf dem Altare brennt. Ein großer, weißer Bruder ist da, der die Vorbereitungen für die heilige Messe trifft. Jetzt kommt auch der Pater, der gleiche, welcher am Vorabend bei uns war. Er wird die heilige Messe für uns lesen.

Nach einem kurzen Gebet an den Stufen des Altares beten die beiden Kartäuser stehend das Morgenoffizium. Sanft und stark gehen ihre Stimmen in die unermeßliche Stille.

(Die Tage und Nächte in der Kartause von La Valsainte.
Pieter Van der Meer de Walcheren. Das weisse Paradies.)



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