Monday, September 22, 2008

Authoring a Crisis

While Barack Obama assigns the blame for Wall Street's current woes to eight years of "George Bush's failed policies" Kevin Hassett at tells a different tale. Hassett recounts the history of the Fannie and Freddie crisis and lays the blame squarely at the feet of the Democrats in Congress, particularly those, like Senator Obama, who have been on the take from these failed institutions throughout their political careers. After recapping events leading to 2005 Hassett writes:

What happened next was extraordinary. For the first time in history, a serious Fannie and Freddie reform bill was passed by [Republicans in] the Senate Banking Committee. The bill gave a regulator power to crack down, and would have required the companies to eliminate their investments in risky assets.

If that bill had become law, then the world today would be different....But the bill didn't become law, for a simple reason: Democrats opposed it on a party-line vote in the committee, signaling that this would be a partisan issue. Republicans, tied in knots by the tight Democratic opposition, couldn't even get the Senate to vote on the matter.

That such a reckless political stand could have been taken by the Democrats was obscene even then. The SEC's chief accountant, Peter Wallison, wrote at the time: ``It is a classic case of socializing the risk while privatizing the profit. The Democrats and the few Republicans who oppose portfolio limitations could not possibly do so if their constituents understood what they were doing.''

Now that the collapse has occurred, the roadblock built by Senate Democrats in 2005 is unforgivable. Many who opposed the bill doubtlessly did so for honorable reasons. Fannie and Freddie provided mounds of materials defending their practices. Perhaps some found their propaganda convincing.

But we now know that many of the senators who protected Fannie and Freddie, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Christopher Dodd, have received mind-boggling levels of financial support from them over the years.

Throughout his political career, Obama has gotten more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from employees and political action committees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, second only to Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee chairman, who received more than $165,000.

Clinton, the 12th-ranked recipient of Fannie and Freddie PAC and employee contributions, has received more than $75,000 from the two enterprises and their employees. The private profit found its way back to the senators who killed the fix.

There has been a lot of talk about who is to blame for this crisis. A look back at the story of 2005 makes the answer pretty clear.

Oh, and there is one little footnote to the story that's worth keeping in mind while Democrats point fingers between now and Nov. 4: Senator John McCain was one of the three cosponsors of S.190, the bill that would have averted this mess.

Nevertheless, who do you suppose is going to be blamed by the media and by voters come November?


The Duty to Die

A U.K. Telegraph article begins with these jarring words:

Elderly people suffering from dementia should consider ending their lives because they are a burden on the NHS and their families, according to the influential medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock.

This is disturbing not least because it sounds as if a presumably intelligent ethicist is suggesting that people with dementia are nevertheless capable of making a reasoned decision about what to do with their lives. Actually, as we'll see, what she's suggesting is much more sinister than that:

The veteran Government adviser said pensioners in mental decline are "wasting people's lives" because of the care they require and should be allowed to opt for euthanasia even if they are not in pain. She insisted there was "nothing wrong" with people being helped to die for the sake of their loved ones or society.

The 84-year-old added that she hoped people will soon be "licensed to put others down" if they are unable to look after themselves.

Her comments in a magazine interview have been condemned as "immoral" and "barbaric", but also sparked fears that they may find wider support because of her influence on ethical matters.

Lady Warnock, a former headmistress who went on to become Britain's leading moral philosopher, chaired a landmark Government committee in the 1980s that established the law on fertility treatment and embryo research.

A prominent supporter of euthanasia, she has previously suggested that pensioners who do not want to become a burden on their care-givers should be helped to die.

Lady Warnock claims that dementia sufferers should consider ending their lives through euthanasia because of the strain they put on their families and public services.

If people should be given the choice whether to dispose of their life when they become a burden how long will it be before people are told they have a duty to end their lives when they become a burden? Evidently it doesn't take long at all since Lady Warnock takes that very step just a few paragraphs on:

Recent figures show there are 700,000 people with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's in Britain. By 2026 experts predict there will be one million dementia sufferers in the country, costing the NHS an estimated 㿏 billion a year. Lady Warnock said: "If you're demented, you're wasting people's lives - your family's lives - and you're wasting the resources of the National Health Service.

"I'm absolutely, fully in agreement with the argument that if pain is insufferable, then someone should be given help to die, but I feel there's a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they're a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die. "Actually I've just written an article called 'A Duty to Die?' for a Norwegian periodical. I wrote it really suggesting that there's nothing wrong with feeling you ought to do so for the sake of others as well as yourself."

So we've slipped smoothly from the right to choose to die to the obligation to die. But Lady Warnock is not through. She also wants to see the decision taken out of the hands of the individual and placed in the hands of an "advocate", i.e. the state:

"If you've an advance directive, appointing someone else to act on your behalf, if you become incapacitated, then I think there is a hope that your advocate may say that you would not wish to live in this condition so please try to help her die. "I think that's the way the future will go, putting it rather brutally, you'd be licensing people to put others down."

So, in a few brief paragraphs we've seen the entire slippery slope unfold. From the right to choose to die, to the duty to choose to die, to having the state license people to decide you have to die. This is the brave new world envisioned by the secular left.

It reminds me of the insistence of some that Sarah Palin was irresponsible in not choosing to abort her mentally retarded son. From the right to choose an abortion we've "progressed" to the duty to choose an abortion. How long will it be before, as in Communist China, the state tells women they must have an abortion?

The one virtue in Lady Warnock's dark social prescription is that it is completely consistent with the basic assumption of secular leftism: There is no God but the state. Thus human life has no value except as it is valuable to the state. When people cease to be valuable to those who govern they should be done away with, like farm animals no longer productive for the farmer must needs be removed from the herd.

Perhaps it's convenient that the Europeans never tore down all of Hitler's extermination camps. Who knows but that they might be pressed into service yet again if people who think as does Lady Warnock ever manage to acquire political power.


The Party of Liberalism

An AP-Yahoo News poll found that one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks-many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles. See the results here, especially on page 21f, although I was unable to figure out how they arrived at the numbers for Democrats and Republicans from this data.

At any rate, if liberals feel that way about minorities what must conservatives think? The article says that:

Lots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too, but the survey found they weren't voting against Obama because of his race. Most Republicans wouldn't vote for any Democrat for president-white, black or brown.

No support from the survey was adduced to support either of these claims although a sidebar does show that Republicans harbor more negative views toward blacks than do Democrats.

The interesting thing about the survey, however, is not that Republicans tend to be more critical of blacks than Democrats, but that so many Democrats harbor opinions about blacks that are totally at odds with the party's reputation for liberalism.


Priestly Piffle

Gerry Coyne is an astronomer and Catholic priest whose views about God and creation seem a little out of step with those of his church. He recently gave a lecture at The College of New Jersey (formerly Trenton State College) in which he said that although he believes in God, and believes God created the universe, he cannot as a scientist believe in intelligent design:

"God gave the universe a certain structure so we could come about, but he didn't predetermine it. He created the universe and then let it go."

This is standard-issue deism which seems odd coming from a Catholic priest, but I suppose such theological tepidness is no less uncommon among Catholic clergy than it is among protestant clergy.

According to Coyne, it is the parents' duty to teach their child about God, if they want, but its not the science teacher's responsibility.

Well, yes, but what does this have to do with intelligent design? Coyne is neither stupid nor new to the debates over ID so one has to think that he's deliberately dissembling here when he implies that teaching ID in a science class would amount to teaching about God. As he surely knows ID is silent on who or what the designer of the cosmos is.

But let's play along. Suppose we agree with Fr. Coyne and banish ID and all of its intellectual cousins from the public school science classroom. Will we then be teaching nothing about God? Actually, no. By implicitly teaching that the universe and life came about by purely mechanical, naturalistic means we are tacitly teaching that God is neither necessary nor in any way relevant. We're subtly teaching, in fact, that if God exists he's little more than the same remote and impotent deity that Fr. Coyne believes in. How convenient.

Excluding God from the science classroom is not nearly as easy as Fr. Coyne thinks. Even if God is never mentioned students are still being taught theology. They're being taught that God has almost nothing to do with life as it has developed which is certainly a theological claim.

Freshman Stephanie Laurent got the message. Asked about the lecture she said:

"It was good. It really cleared up a couple of things I had been wondering about. Religion is abstract and you can't really touch it. Science, you could find evidence and actually believe that it's true. Religion only uses the Bible, and you can't really explain it."

This is depressing. It's certainly the case that its easy to believe a particular explanation if the only evidence you're allowed to consider is the evidence supporting that explanation. That's the state of affairs that Fr. Coyne wants to see prevail in our public schools.


Market Forces

George Will gives us a primer on the nature of capitalism and markets all centered around the lowly wooden pencil. It's a good read and important instruction for the student just beginning to develop an awareness of economics.

HT: Jason