Thursday, May 13, 2010

A "Duty to Die"?

by Thomas Sowell

One of the many fashionable notions that have caught on among some of the intelligentsia is that old people have "a duty to die," rather than become a burden to others.

This is more than just an idea discussed around a seminar table. Already the government-run medical system in Britain is restricting what medications or treatments it will authorize for the elderly. Moreover, it seems almost certain that similar attempts to contain runaway costs will lead to similar policies when American medical care is taken over by the government.

Make no mistake about it, letting old people die is a lot cheaper than spending the kind of money required to keep them alive and well. If a government-run medical system is going to save any serious amount of money, it is almost certain to do so by sacrificing the elderly.

There was a time-- fortunately, now long past-- when some desperately poor societies had to abandon old people to their fate, because there was just not enough margin for everyone to survive. Sometimes the elderly themselves would simply go off from their family and community to face their fate alone. But is that where we are today?

Talk about "a duty to die" made me think back to my early childhood in the South, during the Great Depression of the 1930s. One day, I was told that an older lady-- a relative of ours-- was going to come and stay with us for a while, and I was told how to be polite and considerate towards her.

She was called "Aunt Nance Ann," but I don't know what her official name was or what her actual biological relationship to us was. Aunt Nance Ann had no home of her own. But she moved around from relative to relative, not spending enough time in any one home to be a real burden.

At that time, we didn't have things like electricity or central heating or hot running water. But we had a roof over our heads and food on the table-- and Aunt Nance Ann was welcome to both. Poor as we were, I never heard anybody say, or even intimate, that Aunt Nance Ann had "a duty to die."

I only began to hear that kind of talk decades later, from highly educated people in an affluent age, when even most families living below the official poverty level owned a car or truck and had air-conditioning.

It is today, in an age when homes have flat-panelled TVs, and most families eat in restaurants regularly or have pizzas and other meals delivered to their homes, that the elites-- rather than the masses-- have begun talking about "a duty to die."

Back in the days of Aunt Nance Ann, nobody in our family had ever gone to college. Indeed, none had gone beyond elementary school. Apparently you need a lot of expensive education, sometimes including courses on ethics, before you can start talking about "a duty to die."

Many years later, while going through a divorce, I told a friend that I was considering contesting child custody. She immediately urged me not to do it. Why? Because raising a child would interfere with my career.

But my son didn't have a career. He was just a child who needed someone who understood him. I ended up with custody of my son and, although he was not a demanding child, raising him could not help impeding my career a little. But do you just abandon a child when it is inconvenient to raise him? The lady who gave me this advice had a degree from the Harvard Law School. She had more years of education than my whole family had, back in the days of Aunt Nance Ann.

Much of what is taught in our schools and colleges today seeks to break down traditional values, and replace them with more fancy and fashionable notions, of which "a duty to die" is just one.

These efforts at changing values used to be called "values clarification," though the name has had to be changed repeatedly over the years, as more and more parents caught on to what was going on and objected. The values that supposedly needed "clarification" had been clear enough to last for generations and nobody asked the schools and colleges for this "clarification." Nor are we better people because of it.


Left Is Certain of Tea Partiers' Motives, but Finds Terrorists Inscrutable

by Dennis Prager

While it cannot be proven, there is little reason to doubt that many on the Left are disappointed that the Times Square bomber didn't turn out to be the "white male" he was originally identified as.

This allegation may be wrong, but it is made on the basis of compelling evidence.

There is a perfectly clear pattern on the Left -- the normative Left, not just the "far" Left -- that denies the obvious when it comes to Islamic terrorism. Take, for example, Maj. Nidal Hasan, who murdered 13 fellow soldiers and tried to murder the 32 others whom he wounded at Fort Hood, Texas.

For days after the murders, liberal-Left commentators and mainstream media reports attributed Hasan's mass murders to everything but his Islamic beliefs -- even though it was known that he yelled out "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is the Greatest") just as he began his shooting.

As "Hardball's" Chris Matthews announced, "It's unclear if religion was a factor in this shooting," and then added, "He makes a phone call or whatever, according to Reuters right now. Apparently he tried to contact al-Qaida ... That's not a crime, to call up al-Qaida, is it?"

The New York Times "Week in Review" article on the shootings was titled "When Soldiers Snap." As I wrote at the time, "The gist of the article was that Maj. Hasan had snapped -- even though he had never been in combat. He snapped in advance. Just two sentences in the article were devoted to the possibility that his motives were in any way relatable to his Muslim faith."

NPR'S Tom Gjelten offered the novel explanation that Hasan, who had never been in combat, may have suffered from "pre-traumatic stress disorder." Again, psychology, not religion.

On Fox News, Geraldo Rivera said, "I don't know what motivates him ... He could have had a toothache and gone off because of that."

And this time, the same thing happened, with one exception: For two days, it was assumed a "white male," shorthand for non-Muslim, non-minority American, tried to blow up passersby near Times Square in Manhattan.

New York city Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this to Katie Couric on CBS News on May 3: "If I had to guess 25 cents, this would be exactly that, somebody who's homegrown, maybe a mentally deranged person or someone with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something, it could be anything."

It's OK for liberals to speculate that a terrorist might be a Right-wing white American opposed to ObamaCare (aka a tea partier). It is the rather more likely scenario of an Islamic terrorist that liberals not consider, let alone publicly express.

Moreover, only an individual whose politics forces him to deny the obvious can deny that people like Bloomberg hoped that the culprit not be a Muslim, but rather a conservative white American.

Even after the terrorist, Faisal Shahzad, was apprehended, and after he confessed, the liberal-Left world almost never mentioned his religion, and many tried to blame it on factors unrelated to his religious beliefs. As with Nidal Hasan, the culprit in Shahzad's case was the terrorist's psychological state. This time, it was the stress he experienced over his house going into foreclosure.

Thus the Washington Post's Ezra Klein wrote on May 4: "You of course don't want to speculate on why someone 'really' did something. The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex. But it's a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors ..."

Widely ridiculed -- in the comments section of the Washington Post itself -- for what he wrote, the next day, Klein tried to do undo the damage to his credibility: "In case there's actual confusion ... I do not believe that foreclosure leads to terrorism."

I think that most honest observers would argue that all the confusion was on Klein's part, not the readers'. But, in any event, even in his explanatory column, he made no reference to Shahzad's religious beliefs as the terrorist's motivation.

Instead, he re-emphasized that it was impossible to even speculate what Shahzad's motive might be: "Speculating about why a terrorist commits a terrorist act is a mug's game ... People who desire the murder of innocents qualify, I think, as pretty disturbed."

Klein was not alone on the Left associating home foreclosure with Shahzad's attempted mass murder. Annie Lowrey, an editor of Foreign Policy, wrote: "I think it's a bit above my pay grade to speculate on the broader sociological meaning of this. But for what it is worth, the arrested subject of this past weekend's Times Square bomb plot is a homeowner in the midst of foreclosure."

And a long background piece on Shahzad by the Associated Press -- the most widely reprinted news source in America -- had the title, "Times Square bombing suspect's life had unraveled." Not one of the article's 1,076 words mentioned Shahzad's Islamist beliefs as even a contributory factor. It was all about his economic misfortune and his walking around depressed.

This is but one more example of how Leftism permeates the upper echelons of American (and Western) society and has people mouthing sentiments that those not on the Left regard as morally absurd.

The best chance America has in retaining its greatness, let alone its exceptionalism, is to understand the Left. And the Left's explanations for what makes a Faisal Shahzad or a Maj. Hasan seek to slaughter Americans are key to understanding the Left.

A defining characteristic of the Left is its inability to identify -- and therefore confront -- evil: from Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich's expressions of support to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, to decades of Leftists around the world praising Cuba's Fidel Castro, to the mainstream media's denial of moral culpability to the arsonists, murderers and rioters in Los Angeles over the Rodney King verdict ("Understanding the Rage" was the title of the daily Los Angeles Times special section devoted to the riots), to the universal liberal outrage at President Ronald Reagan's characterization of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire," to the Left's virtually unanimous hostility to Israel.

The Left's inability to identify the religious beliefs of Islamic terrorists and instead ascribe their murders of Americans to the terrorists' psychological tensions and economic problems -- while at the same time utterly certain that conservative white Americans have only the most vile motives -- is an expression of the Left's failure to recognize and confront real evil.

Just remember this: If Shahzad had not been identified as the would-be bomber, the mainstream (i.e., liberal) news media and leading Democrats would have told us repeatedly that a white male -- surely a conservative white male -- was the Times Square terrorist, and that we should therefore be looking suspiciously at our fellow Americans on the Right, especially those attending tea parties. For while liberals claim not to know the motives of Muslim terrorists, they are always certain of conservatives' motives: racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.

When, one day, the Left exits from history's stage, its epitaph will read: "Those who do not understand evil will not understand good."


Who decides what 'marriage' means?

by Jeff Jacoby

WHEN CONGRESS PASSED the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, same-sex marriage did not exist in the United States. Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's 4-3 decision finding a right to same-sex marriage in the state constitution, was still seven years in the future.

But the crusade to fundamentally redefine marriage was already in progress, and Washington understood that once gay marriage was legalized anywhere, the crusaders would go to court to demand that it be recognized everywhere. So Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act to make two things clear: First, that no state could be forced to deem a same-sex couple "married" merely because another state did so. And second, that as far as the federal government and federal law were concerned, "marriage" would continue to mean what it had always meant: the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife.

DOMA was not controversial. It was passed by robust bipartisan majorities -- 85 senators and 342 representatives -- and readily signed by President Bill Clinton. Moreover, it was replicated at the state level almost everywhere: 45 states define marriage as the union of male and female, 30 of them in their constitutions.

But five states and the District of Columbia do allow same-sex couples to marry, and the crusaders' strategy to redefine marriage by judicial fiat proceeds. Which is why Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the legal organization that successfully litigated Goodridge, was in federal court last week, urging a judge to rule that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional on the grounds that it discriminates against gay and lesbian couples.

Attorney Mary Bonauto, lead counsel for the gay and lesbian group, told US District Judge Joseph Tauro in Boston that by restricting the federal definition of "marriage" to opposite-sex couples, DOMA unfairly relegates married same-sex partners to second-class status. Not only that, she claimed, it negates "the longstanding deference of federal to state law in determining the marital status" of individuals claiming federal benefits.

But neither objection holds water.

The 1996 law does not "single out" same-sex marriages for invidious purposes, as GLAD argues in its brief, nor does it "deny their existence" in order to strip same-sex partners of rights. DOMA simply does what countless other federal laws do: It defines basic legislative terms. Considering how frequently the words "marriage" and "spouse" are used in federal statutes, rulings, and regulations, it is nonsensical to claim that Congress has no right to clarify their meaning -- as nonsensical as claiming that Congress is barred from defining "wetland" or "endangered species" or "disability."

To be sure, an individual state is free to adopt an irregular definition of marriage -- or anything else -- for purposes of state law. But it doesn't have a constitutional right to impose that definition on the rest of the nation. Massachusetts could decide, if it wished, to recognize martial-arts studios as institutions of higher education, and to make them eligible for state-subsidized education loans. Plainly, that anomalous definition of "higher education" would not be binding on the federal student loan program. By the same token, Massachusetts can decide (or be required by its supreme court) to treat same-sex partners as married spouses. But it can hardly insist that its definition of "married spouses" trumps that of the federal government and 45 other states.

Bonauto argued that until DOMA came along, the federal government had always allowed the states to decide who was legally married. "The only thing that changed here," she told Tauro, "was who was going to marry."

But the overriding national interest in the fundamental meaning of marriage is a precedent Congress established long before 1996.

In the second half of the 19th century, Congress acted time and again to shut down polygamy, which the Mormon Church at the time encouraged. Beginning with the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, signed by President Lincoln in 1862, Congress moved aggressively to establish monogamy as the only lawful form of wedlock in the United States. Eventually Congress would go so far as to require voters, jurors, and public officials in Utah to take an anti-polygamy oath, and it would make a permanent ban on polygamy a condition of Utah statehood.

The Defense of Marriage Act understandably sticks in the craw of those who want marriage to mean something the vast majority of Americans have never accepted. But is the longstanding national definition unconstitutional merely because some people reject it? The federal courts have never said so before; there is no good reason for them to say so now.


Australia: Register of UNMARRIED relationships in NSW?

The man who will be the state's attorney-general if government changes at next year's election, Greg Smith, went down with the metaphorical ship late on Tuesday night, when the Legislative Assembly voted overwhelmingly to establish a register for unmarried couples.

The register is to make it easier for such couples (opposite-sex and same-sex) to qualify for de facto status but is seen by some to be a back door into a blazing world of permissiveness.

While the government voted along party lines, the Coalition declared a conscience vote on the legislation. Cue Smith: "For too long the debate about marriage … has been dominated by ideological pontificating," he told Parliament. "The passing of this bill will be another increment in the undermining and destruction of marriage and the traditional family."

After managing to get in a reference to the Alamo (!), Smith claimed: "The supporters of marriage and the family feel like the occupants of strife-torn Derry during the troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s."

Also opposing the legislation were Michael Richardson (Lib), Greg Aplin Lib), Katrina Hodgkinson (Nat), Malcolm Kerr (Lib), Wayne Merton (Lib), Andrew Stoner (Nat), John Williams (Nat) and Thomas George (Nat).

The bill, which was to be presented to the Legislative Assembly last night, is not certain to go through. Before the session, the Premier, Kristina Keneally, who has been referring to the bill on Twitter as "My Govt's Bill" (even though she herself did not vote on it), tweeted the following: "My Govt's Relationship Register Bill, endorsed by my cabinet & caucus, risks defeat today in upper house at the hands of Barry O'Farrell."

But even Keneally must see that a conscience vote hardly constitutes a concerted effort to defeat "her" - or any - bill.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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