Archive for June, 2008

Virute Conservatism, Health Care Policy and The Working-Class

June 30, 2008

Peter Lawler gives initial response to conversation at the recent President’s Council on Bioethics meeting.

The present system, where most people get the insurance from their employer, is collapsing. It’s incompatible with a dynamic economy and unaffordable over the long term. And when key “intermediary” groups can no longer do a job, it’s inevitable that some responsibilities devolve to individuals, and others to the government.

It lifted my heart to think that conservatives might join the conversation in a meaningful way, focusing on responsibility, subsidiarity, and market mechanism, while agreeing that constant motion in our society is making it hard to get by.




June 30, 2008

I’ve decided to share with readers, especially dearly loyal Athos, my review of Josh Mitchell’s Plato’s Fable: On the Mortal Condition in Shadowy Times. I had the pleasure of studying with Mitchell a few years ago. His next book is titled Tocqueville in Arabia, reflecting on the terror his students in Qatar feel about encroaching freedom and liberalization and the general questions of Islamic democracy.

In class Mitchell says his scholarship generally explores political theology in the West. By this he does not mean the liberationstyle theology of the past generation, feminist, third-word, etc. that passes in “progressive” seminaries. Rather Mitchell connects classic themes of political theory and theology, for example, by showing the influence of St. Augustine’s errancy of the soul concept on Tocqueville’s democracy. Mitchell’s extensive same-page footnotes often draw connections between philosophic writing and Biblical principles (with chapter and verse!).

For Rene Girard’s readers, this exploration of mimesis in political theory is familiar if in a distinct key. My explicit Girardian reflections appear after the review below.


New Habits

June 30, 2008

A colleague of mine at Close Up told students at beginning of our week-long democracy seminars to switch the wrist on which they place their watch. Such actions create a wedge of consciousness, he enjoyed explaining, which opens the mind to new ways of thinking for the week.

This New York Times article agrees. Here are two additional insights.

“Researchers in the late 1960s discovered that humans are born with the capacity to approach challenges in four primary ways: analytically, procedurally, relationally (or collaboratively) and innovatively. At puberty, however, the brain shuts down half of that capacity, preserving only those modes of thought that have seemed most valuable during the first decade or so of life.

The current emphasis on standardized testing highlights analysis and procedure, meaning that few of us inherently use our innovative and collaborative modes of thought.


Generations and Change

June 21, 2008

At age 33, I am growing more fascinated with the 2 decades of conscious memories and numerous history books and stories in my head. I’m still constantly exploring the past for more insight while passing on history to teens. I’m not simply repeating information and calling it teaching. I’m trying to be aware of my own awareness of the past, the various perspectives I’ve absorbed, and share that pleasing complexity in ways that inspire students to feel engaged in history’s direction, guided by love and justice.

Each tradition struggles to “pass on” values and wisdom to the next. This challenge is greatest, of course, in a movement, the Left, that tends to denigrate all prior generations. If only everyone joined us, the world would be remade wonderfully anew. This language common in Senator Obama’s speeches riles some thoughtful conservatives, like folks at No Left Turns. I wish he’d inspire without saying “this is our moment to remake the world as it ought to be.” That’s simply hubris and it will lead to quick disillusionment.

Maurice Isserman, reflecting on three generations of New Left leaders, ends this piece with the following:


The Al-Dura Affair Continues (sans Bullets and Cameras)

June 21, 2008

This icon of the Second Intifada continues to be debated in French courts, among other place.

Does extra footage suggest the likeli-hood of Palestinian gunfire as the culprit? Even a hoax with the child still alive?

JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) summarizes the recent shift of perspective from the Jerusalem Post writer Larry Derfner, once a total skeptic:

The upshot? Derfner agrees [that] the IDF and Jewish observers who say that al-Dura likely was killed by Palestinian fire, not by Israeli troops, but Derfner says there’s no evidence to show the boy’s shooting was staged:

In short, the French appeals court upheld Karsenty’s legal right to cry hoax. It by no means upheld the substance of his claim. There are light years of difference between the two.

Yet while it’s pure Jewish paranoia to claim that Enderlin and his co-conspirators knew all along that the Palestinians killed al-Dura, and it’s way beyond paranoia to think the Palestinians killed the boy deliberately or that he never died at all.

Richard Landes, an expert in medieval anti-semitic forgeries, has been following the issue for years at Augean Stables and Second Draft.


Philosophy of Harmonizing

June 21, 2008

That’s how I’ll briefly describe Charles Taylor’s enormous efforts that are rewarded here by 50 million Yen. Congrats Charles! You’ve earned around $2 million in prize money in the last year (including the the Templeton Prize). I think that puts you among the leaders. But how are your endorsements coming? (Hat Tip: Jacob Levy)

From the citation:

Dr. Charles Taylor is an outstanding philosopher who advocates “communitarianism” and “multiculturalism” from the perspective of “holistic individualism.”


“To Understand US Gov Support for Israel…”

June 21, 2008

“…rather than neutral or pro-Palestinian, one must study the sources of nonelite, non-Jewish support for the Jewish state.” — Walter Russell Mead (my new favorite author for God & Gold) in July/Aug 2008 Foreign Affairs Magazine

And this support is very broad. Walt & Mearshemeir’s Jewish Lobby plays into tropes of Jewish conspiracy against these facts of longstanding (1815-), Protestant Zionism (in both apocalyptic and progressive forms). Is it only from the perspective of the academia, Presbyterian committee meetings, and Dearborn, MI that US policy is “unpopular” and “irrational” and therefore a result of conspiracy?

Pithy Wisdom

June 20, 2008

I’ve tried to post a few things this past month but was stopped by lack of focus and blog vanity. I feel I must provide links, a decent picture, some insight, context, etc. When I started with a narrow idea it quickly ballooned and then popped.

Well, I hereby free myself from the limits that perfectionism requires and hope to feel the enjoy of completing something a few times a week.

Here’s the first of my favorites from “The Grain of Wheat” by Hans Urs von Balthasar.

The more we come to know God, the more the difference between joy and suffering becomes tenuous; not only do both things become engulfed in the One Will of the Father, but love itself becomes painful, and this pain becomes an irreplaceable bliss.