Friday, August 25, 2006

Get Me One, Too

Mona Charen at NRO passes along a letter that was purportedly sent to Senator Sarbanes of Maryland and which now seems to be making the rounds on the 'net:

June 7, 2006

The Honorable Paul S. Sarbanes
309 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510

Dear Senator Sarbanes,

As a native Marylander and excellent customer of the Internal Revenue Service, I am writing to ask for your assistance. I have contacted the Immigration and Naturalization Service in an effort to determine the process for becoming an illegal alien and they referred me to you. My reasons for wishing to change my status from U.S. Citizen to illegal alien stem from the bill which was recently passed by the Senate and for which you voted. If my understanding of this bill's provisions is accurate, as an illegal alien who has been in the United States for five years, what I need to do to become a citizen is to pay a $2,000 fine and income taxes for three of the last five years.

I know a good deal when I see one and I am anxious to get the process started before everyone figures it out. Simply put, those of us who have been here legally have had to pay taxes every year so I'm excited about the prospect of avoiding two years of taxes in return for paying a $2,000 fine. Is there any way that I can apply to be illegal retroactively? This would yield an excellent result for me and my family because we paid heavy taxes in 2004 and 2005.

Another benefit in gaining illegal status would be that my daughter would receive preferential treatment relative to her law school applications. If you would provide me with an outline of the process to become illegal (retroactively if possible) and copies of the necessary forms, I would be most appreciative.

Thank you for your assistance.

Your Loyal Constituent,
Pete McGlaughlin

Having passed the immigration bill to which Mr. McGlaughlin refers, our august senators have succeeded in making it even harder to believe that they are the "best and the brightest" of America's political class. Mr. McGlaughlin reveals them for the lightweights that they are. Perhaps one day we'll succeed in making an IQ test a qualification for being elected to Congress.

I hope if Mr. McGlaughlin gets one of the requisite forms for changing his status that he passes one along to me.

What is Conservatism? Pt.II

As a followup to yesterday's post titled What is Conservatism? Pt. I let's look at Russell Kirk's classic work The Conservative Mind, in which he lists a number of conservative principles. Here are five of the most important along with a bit of explanation:

1. Belief in a transcendent order or natural law, which rules society as well as conscience. Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems. Most conservatives hold that religious belief is the foundation of a just government. It doesn't guarantee that government will be just, but few, if any, governments which explicitly abandon the transcendent order will be just.

2. Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarianism of most radical systems. Conservatives generally maintain that excellence is achieved by a relative few and that those few should not be held back by economic or social disincentives or other constraints. The attempt to "level" society by, for example, grouping students in schools homogenously, holds back the very best and does nothing to help the slower students.

3. Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a "classless" society. Equality before God, and before courts of law are recognized by conservatives, but in every other sphere inequality reigns. Attempts to conform people to the Procrustean bed of a classless society are harmful to everyone involved and result in a culture in which its most productive members are stifled and repressed. Conservatives embrace an elitism based upon values. Some values are better than others and some ways of living are better than others. The idea of a classless society is as impractical as the idea of a sinless society. As long as some people are more intelligent, more ambitious, more industrious, and more disciplined in their personal lives than others there will be classes, and there should be.

4. Persuasion that freedom, property, and religion are closely linked. No one makes this connection more forcefully than Tocqueville in Democracy in America. No society is free if the people are not free to own property and to worship as they please. Likewise, freedom, for Tocqueville, requires religion, at least the Judeo-Christian religion, as a foundation. Tocqueville writes:

"Freedom sees religion as the companion of its struggles and and triumphs, the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its rights. Religion is considered as the guardian of mores, and mores are regarded as the guarantee of the laws and pledghe for the maintenance of freedom itself."

"Despotism may be able to do without faith, but freedom cannot."

5. Resistance to the idol of change and a trust in custom and tradition. The wisdom of the ages is not to be lightly set aside. Change for change's sake is a foolhardy experiment. Reform is only genuine reform if it takes into account what we have learned about human nature over the centuries. Traditions bind people together and add meaning to their lives. To seek to overturn traditions, as the left tirelessly endeavors to do, is to seek to dissolve the glues that give us cohesion as a society.

Kirk also lists a number of liberal principles among which we might mention these four:

1. Belief in the perfectibility of man and illimitable progress. Conservatives hold to the view that man is fallen, deeply flawed, inherently sinful. Liberals believe that man is inherently good and, to the extent that he is corrupted, he is so by his environment. It is a tenet of the liberal faith that if man could be situated in the appropriate socio-economic environment all social pathologies would disappear.

2. Contempt for tradition. The key to our continued advance is to cast off the shackles of mindless custom. The liberal, confusing social progress with simple change, makes an idol of progress (even to the point of calling himself a "progressive").

3. Political, social and economic egalitarianism. Private property and personal wealth are the chief causes of man's corruption. The former should be abolished and the latter should be redistributed. The existence of socio-economic classes imply that some men are superior to others and should therefore be abolished. Liberalism, despite its emphasis on diversity, leads to a homogenized culture wherein everything is levelled to the lowest common denominator.

4. Complete trust in Reason. Moral truth is not to be found in dusty old tomes nor learned from addle-pated old clergy, but is to be discovered through the application of our intellect. Reason, not revelation, is the key to all the knowledge we need and of which we are capable. Conservatives, by contrast, point to the communist and fascist ideologies of the twentieth century as paradigmatic examples of the sorts of states and outcomes one might expect when man's intellect is given free reign in determining matters of right and wrong.

Maintaining Family "Honor"

This article dates from 2000, but it gives us a lot of insight into Muslim culture. It discusses the practice of "honor killings" and the social pressures placed on families to carry them out. It sounds, quite frankly, pretty depraved. Here's part of it:

The murder of women to salvage their family's honor results in good part from the social and psychological pressure felt by the killers, as they explain in their confessions. Murderers repeatedly testify that their immediate social circle, family, clan, village, or others expected them and encouraged them to commit the murder. From society's perspective, refraining from killing the woman debases her relatives. Here are five examples:

A Jordanian murdered his sister who was raped by another brother. The family tried initially to save its honor by marrying the victim to an old man, but this new husband turned her into a prostitute and she escaped from him. The murderer confessed that if he had to go through it all again he would not kill her, but rather would kill his father, mother, uncles, and all the relatives that pressured him to murder and led him to jail. Instead of killing his sister and going to jail, he said he should have "tied her with a rope like a goat and let her spend her life like that until she dies."

An Egyptian who strangled his unmarried pregnant daughter to death and then cut her corpse in eight pieces and threw them in the toilet: "Shame kept following me wherever I went [before the murder]. The village's people had no mercy on me. They were making jokes and mocking me. I couldn't bear it and decided to put an end to this shame."

A 25-year-old Palestinian who hanged his sister with a rope: "I did not kill her, but rather helped her to commit suicide and to carry out the death penalty she sentenced herself to. I did it to wash with her blood the family honor that was violated because of her and in response to the will of society that would not have had any mercy on me if I didn't... Society taught us from childhood that blood is the only solution to wash the honor."

A young Palestinian who murdered his sister who had been sexually assaulted: "Before the incident, I drank tea and it tasted bitter because my honor was violated. After the killing I felt much better... I don't wish anybody the mental state I was in. I was under tremendous mental pressure."

Another Palestinian who murdered his sister: "I had to kill her because I was the oldest [male] member of the family. My only motive to kill her was [my desire] to get rid of what people were saying. They were blaming me that I was encouraging her to fornicate... I let her choose the way I would get rid of her: slitting her throat or poisoning her. She chose the poison."

These testimonies are in line with the analysis of 'Izzat Muhaysin, a psychiatrist at the Gaza Program for Mental Health, who says that the culture of the society perceives one who refrains from "washing shame with blood" as "a coward who is not worthy of living." Many times, he adds, such a person is described as less than a man.

In some cases, the decision to commit the murder has a quality of being deputized. In the case of Kifaya Husayn opening this article, the victim's uncles actually appointed her brother to commit the crime on behalf of the family. The murderer in the fifth case cited above felt obliged to commit the crime as the eldest male of the family.

Murder has its intended social effect, permitting the family to regain its original social status. The murderer in the fourth case cited above went on to tell how almost ten thousand people attended his sister's funeral; once she was dead, society again embraced the family.

There are those who say that what's wrong for us is not necessarily wrong for people living in other cultures. I wonder if they'd say that after reading the above. Any culture which encourages, or even condones, the slaughter of young rape victims or, for that matter, the killing of any young girl for almost any reason, is sick to its core. It's a culture of death. These societies haven't progressed beyond the barbarisms they practiced as a way of life 4000 years ago, and Islam, apparently, hasn't been of much use in helping them to advance beyond their primitive savagery.

HT: Cheat Seeking Missiles.

<i>Arrivederci</i>, Dr. Coyne

It appears that the powers that be in the Vatican have finally wearied of the unfortunate pronouncements of their director of the Vatican Observatory, Dr. George Coyne, who delighted in speaking ex cathedra on the Darwinism/ ID debate in accents that were decidedly out of step with the views of the Church:

Pope Benedict XVI has replaced an evangelizing Darwinist, Dr. George Coyne, as director of the Vatican Observatory, according to Zenit News. A Jesuit with a doctorate in astronomy, Dr. Coyne in recent years made himself the public scourge of Darwin critics and scientific proponents of intelligent design. Increasingly his theology resembled that of "process theologians" who believe that God is still learning and could not have known what his world was becoming.

While media tended to avoid the pro-design statements of the pope over the past year (see "Is the Pope Catholic?"), they frequently sited the hostile remarks of Dr. Coyne, sitting at his office at the University of Arizona, as supposedly representing those of "the Vatican." That could not have been well-received at the Vatican in Rome. Rumors that Coyne might be replaced have circulated for months.

We await the inept but inevitable comparisons to Galileo. Meanwhile, you can find more on the cashiering of Dr. Coyne at the link.