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Tag Archive: Boston Globe

So what the blank could possibly go wrong?

Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012 (10:31 pm), by John W Gillis


[Video] Quote of the Day for Friday, September 28, 2012. Illinois State Senate candidate Barbara Bellar putting some context around the Affordable Care Act:

 

Now that I’ve figured out what was wrong with my video embeds, I’m on a roll…

As funny as this is, Bellar is actually softballing the problem of the plan’s utter lack of attention to the need for doctors in order to provide government care, what with stories like 83 percent of doctors have considered quitting over Obamacare floating around. And it’s not just sheer numbers, but the fact that ObamaCare doubles-down on the screw-turning inflicted upon general practitioners. The inevitable result of this will be the increasing specialization of the doctors that remain in the work force, producing an escalating shortage of actual opportunities for “care” for all the folks who’ve been assured by the government that they’re “covered”.

Even the progressive siren Boston Globe recognized this pattern emerging in the wake of the implementation of RomneyCare in Massachusetts, reporting two years ago that primary care physicians are getting harder to find. And that’s in one of the world’s great medical hubs! Good luck to the rubes in fly-over country. OK, so that links to a Boston.com-based blog, not the Globe per se, and just because they report it about RomneyCare’s unwanted, unintended consequences doesn’t mean they’ll report the problem when it is being generated, in spades, by Obama’s program, but you get the drift. This “Patient Protection” scam is one idiotically-conceived boondoggle.

Initial Thoughts on Reactions to Fast & Furious and Obamacare Developments

Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 (11:48 pm), by John W Gillis


Very interesting day in the political world, with the Supreme Court handing down its judgment on Obamacare, and Congress finding Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress for his evasive shenanigans trying to cover up the background to the “Fast & Furious” program – the first sitting US Attorney General to receive such an honor. How now to prosecute him becomes quite a conundrum, since the department he runs is responsible for such prosecutions, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Neither finding is very surprising to me (the first admittedly more than the next, however). But I find the behavior around the situations fascinating – and pretty much irrational. For starters, the big topic of conversation in the news space and blogosphere has been the Obamacare decision. Now, I’m not surprised by that in the least, and there are even some very good reasons for it (such as the fact that the contempt vote happened late in the afternoon, in contrast to the SCOTUS decision, which was read shortly after 10:00 AM).

Then there are the blatantly partisan motivations to factor in. For example, The Boston Globe’s boston.com site had a Breaking News!!! alert at the top of their page as soon as the Obamacare finding was released, where the story has remained all day – now complete with “analysis” of how “Obama scores win”. Well, not so fast, but I’m getting ahead of myself again. In contrast, news of the Holder verdict took the better part of an hour to show up at all, and was presented as a small, second-rate story, which at this point late in the evening – though still amazingly on the home page – has slid down below not only about a dozen and a half Obamacare story links, but half a dozen links (plus embedded video) concerning the Boston Celtics’ draft picks, and a story about US Rep John F. Tierney’s brother-in-law calling him a liar. At least it still ranks above the MBTA reversing a commuter rail surcharge decision. It’s just hard not to picture cowardly ideological snake oil salesmen (propagandists) laying out the pages of that august publication.

But the truth is that the Holder story is a much bigger deal. Despite the incessant protestations of the professional leftists that the contempt vote was politically or even (may God heal their shriveled little souls) racially motivated, this criminally insane operation Holder is trying to hide the origins of is a very big deal. If this ends up being traced back to Obama himself, which is looking more and more likely every time the stakes are raised and Holder doesn’t buckle, it will be Obama’s Watergate – especially if any evidence surfaces that it was even partially motivated by a cynical desire to advance the left’s agenda of opposition to gun ownership by citizens. A good man is dead, and the entire republic is not stupid enough to get buried under a dump truck full of liberal smokescreens about a “botched operation” that actually went pretty much according to plan, even if the corpses were not supposed to include border patrol officers.

The self-proclaimed Most Transparent Administration Evah is going to have to release those documents they’re hiding to Congress, or risk a serious constitutional crisis. The only real question will be whether they are damaging enough to sink Obama’s presidency (and, needless to say, his reelection chances). Fast & Furious (or Gunwalker, as I first heard it called last year) might turn out to be the one thing schoolchildren know about Barack Obama 100 years from now (or more likely the only thing besides the fact that he was the first black president of the USA, a fact which will eventually be the answer to a trivia question). That would be a shame, because he has done so many other things to advance the cause of statism against the commonweal of human freedom and lawfulness, and those lessons should be learned and not forgotten.

On the contrary, the SCOTUS decision this morning, despite all the public hoopla, was really pretty much a non-event in terms of the ACA act itself. I’m not saying important decisions weren’t made, but everything remains pretty much the way it was yesterday, except that the Feds don’t have the power to punish non-conforming states by withholding Medicaid funds under Obamacare, and Commerce Clause activism has been legally circumscribed in a manner that departs significantly from the court’s trajectory over the past several decades. The first change very well might (further) doom the program fiscally, and the second establishes a much-needed, critical restraint on the cancerous spread of federal statism on the whole. Not insignificant points, either, but hardly fodder for naïve leftist victory dancing, or for anti-leftist tirades against Chief Justice Roberts for his “betrayal” of conservatism (which, of course, completely misses the point of his or SCOTUS’ role as constitutional referee). While I admit that it would have been easier if the whole law were shot down by the court, and that legislative repeal is likely to be difficult and at best partially successful, the fact is that Obama is going to have to carry this “tax” law with him as a political albatross through November, while Mitt Romney can stand on the side and say: “If you want to get rid of Obamacare, you have to get rid of Obama”. Sometimes the easiest answer is not the best.

Time permitting, I will try to take up these SCOTUS decision reactions in more detail later on, because I do find them fascinating, and almost universally wrong-headed in just about every conceivable way.

“She had no free will’’

Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2010 (11:44 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Thursday, December 16th, 2010:

Local man quoted in today’s Boston Globe, after he and his lawyers completed a successful $152M shakedown of tobacco company Lorillard, Inc., in a suit alleging the company was responsible for his mother’s smoking-related death at 54 in 2002:

“She was addicted,’’ William Evans said today. “Obviously, had she had a choice, she would not have smoked, and the record was clear about that. She made over 50 attempts to try to stop smoking and she was addicted. She had no free will.’’

Had she had a choice? She had no free will?

Is there a more brazen example of the lunacy that has spread its tendrils from the sanctimonious halls of academia into the barrios and slums of the modern underclass? It’s bad enough to not be able to grasp the difference between not having self-control and not having free will. It’s bad enough to go looking for a convenient third party to blame your problems on. But when a society allows this kind of legal larceny to go on, nobody’s means are safe from a clever enemy – and when the government is in on the scam like this, there is no place to turn for justice, except for a crapshoot appeals process within the same system that abets the larceny.

Mr. Evans may be a very rich man today, but the rest of us are just as much poorer – and in more than greenbacks. OK, he’ll probably never actually collect, but the principle of the whole stinking thing still stands…

Mandating Two More Years of Vapid Futility?

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2010 (11:46 pm), by John W Gillis


Quote of the Day for Sunday, December 12th, 2010:

Boston Globe staff writer James Vaznis reporting on the latest round of hand-wringing concerning the performance of urban public school districts in the state:

Within Boston, the state identified 40 percent of eighth-graders at risk of not earning a high school diploma with their classmates in 2014. But that estimate may be low, Boston public school officials said. The district’s graduation-tracking system, which, unlike the state’s, examines several years of data and grades, indicated that just 19 percent of this fall’s ninth-graders were on track academically.

The biggest ticket being advanced to address this predicament? Raising the legal drop-out age from 16 to 18! So saith a “special state commission” in a recommendation commissioned last year, and presently under examination by Gov. Patrick’s office and “key legislators.”

Imagine that! Mandating two more years of vapid futility for kids who, according to this report, have by eighth grade been suspended from school as many as 30 times, and who average – average! – a 25% absence rate.

How can any sane person think that requiring indifferent – if not hostile – teenagers to sit in a public school classroom for two additional years is going to be of any “educational” benefits to the kids in question, or especially to the other kids who actually want to be there to learn something? The only ones who’d benefit from something like this are the liberal social engineers whose workloads and paychecks would be beefed up with additional public expenditures: school teachers, case workers, social workers, probation workers, etc.

Of course, it would also give everyone involved the opportunity to throw their hands up in the air and say:”We did everything we could… we have no idea what went wrong!”

Benedict XVI on Condoms & Gigolos

Posted: Saturday, November 20, 2010 (4:08 pm), by John W Gillis


Benedict XVI, quoted on the possible justification of condom use in an upcoming book by German journalist Peter Seewald: "Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs Of The Times," as excerpted in today’s L’Osservatore Romano:

“There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility.”

Boy, is this likely to grow legs! The AP has the story, and the Boston Globe is spinning it with the headline: “Pope: condoms can be justified in some cases”.

No doubt, this comment will be welcomed by many on the left as a kind of Trojan Horse (couldn’t resist!) introducing contraceptive mentality into the Church’s moral reasoning, beginning with an interpretation that asserts the comment “condones” condom use in some situations. But by the same logic, we could also say that the pope is condoning male prostitution, at least in some circumstances.

Of course, neither claim would be true. What Benedict said is not very remarkable at all. He is merely indicating that evil comes in degrees of complexity, and one may find the path toward the good entails several steps of reasonable yet still deeply flawed standing, before reaching something that could be identified as an objective moral good.

BenedictXVI kids This may appear to be an acceptance of the concept of embracing a lesser evil, but it really proposes just the opposite: the embrace of a lesser good. There is an important distinction in the subjective sphere between choosing a recognized evil – no matter how “lesser” – and choosing to mitigate evil, even according to a consequentialist calculus. Nonetheless, the limits of subjective understanding do not provide a license for suppressing the reflective critique of objective reality, especially in the realm of moral truth. The contraceptive use of condoms is still objectively immoral, as is prostitution – male or otherwise.

Despite what folks are bound to encounter ad nauseum in the mainstream press over the coming days (not to mention from the dissident wing within Catholicism), Church teaching has not changed. One can always hold out hope that the coming kerfuffle will prove to be an occasion for many to come to see the Church’s moral doctrine to be not so much a set of prohibitions as a guide to genuine personal and communal fulfillment, both now and forever.

For a perspective on Benedict’s teaching on condoms in Africa commendably lacking in hysterical short-sightedness, see medical anthropologist Edward C. Green’s much-discussed WaPo article from March 2009.

Fraudulent? Does That Matter?

Posted: Monday, September 1, 2008 (12:29 pm), by John W Gillis


Few things make me feel like I was born on the wrong planet as much as the blatant denial of the meaning and authority of reality – that is to say, the reality of objective truth. This is truly a malady of modern human reason, and it seems to be rampant – maybe even epidemic. There are days I’m sure I’ve seen everything, then there are days, and I think this is one of those days, when I’m almost afraid to look out the window at the world for fear of the lunacy I might encounter.

I came across a startling statement in a Boston Globe article a couple months ago or so, which I decided at the time to let slide without comment, but the story reappeared last week, and fits too well into a pattern with some other recent stories, suggesting that we have inadequate cultural resources at our disposal, on account of our social penchant for subjectivism, with which to deal seriously with personal fraud.

The statement came from a 71 year-old Massachusetts woman named Misha Defonseca, in an article discussing her ongoing troubles with an American publisher named Jane Daniel, in which Defonseca offered what she must have thought was a serious explanation for fabricating the story behind a book she wrote at Daniel’s urging. Defonseca claimed to have been a young Jewish girl who escaped the Nazis and was raised by wolves in the Ukraine, among other adventures. The book was huge commercially in Europe, and was even made into a film in France, but the story was a complete fabrication. Defonseca isn’t even Jewish, never mind the bit about the wolves.

Defonseca’s troubles with Daniel don’t really interest me – it is a tawdry story without any redeeming characters – but her explanation for the fraud she perpetrated floored me when I read it in the Globe:

“This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving,” Defonseca said in a statement released by her lawyers.

What on earth is that supposed to mean? Not only did a 71 year-old woman think this statement up, but her lawyers apparently thought it could somehow garner sympathy! What if they’re right?

It’s important to understand that she did not make the story up to publish in a book for profit; she had been telling the story for years to anyone that would listen. She has spent half a lifetime feeding off the attention her “fantasy” has attracted her (not to mention the large sums of money earned over the past decade or so), and yet now that her hoax is revealed, she shamelessly tries to cling to her story by subjectivizing the grounds for judging her actions. As long as she wants the story to be true, she figures she can continue to perpetuate it at some level, denying any culpability, with no concern for the many people she deceived, no sense of genuine repentance, and no apparent understanding that the truth matters. By her own words, her life has become so intertwined in this lie that she cannot extricate herself.

In a world in which the public order has repressed religious authority as being unreasonable and oppressive of individual freedom, we see in this embarrassing episode the worst elements of religious self deception and irrational, delusional pretense coming to expression in the hope-forsaken framework of the psychologized modern mind, with its pathetic appetite for self-esteem and “affirmation,” trapped in a prison of relativistic subjectivity that is incapable of distinguishing fantasy from reality. Reality (that is, the truth) plays such an inconsequential part in her chosen shade of existence that she will likely go to the grave without ever comprehending the evil she has contributed to the world through her shameless dishonesty. But perhaps even sadder is that she has completely lost her own self in the process.

This is, after all, not her story at all, even as she so desperately wants to believe it is. It is the story of someone who never existed, the story of no one at all. It’s the story of nothing – it’s not even a story; it’s a fraud – it’s not real. Her story, indeed, can never be known, because her existence has been emptied out meaninglessly, replaced by a fraud that has no reality, no existence. No one will ever know her, because her story can never be told; eternally lost in the fog of deceit and moral corruption, she doesn’t even know herself.

Truly, the saddest thing about the indulgent “identity” culture of modernity’s narcissistic bent is that identity can never be found in the mirage of self-seeking, only lost:

Thus says the LORD:
What fault did your fathers find in me that they withdrew from me,
Went after empty idols, and became empty themselves?
Jeremiah 2:5 (NAB)

Somewhere, there are those who, as young Jewish girls, did go through the horrors of Nazism, who must feel nothing but shame for this woman, who cannot manage to be ashamed of herself.

Celebrity Gossip and Moral Reasoning (part 2)

Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2008 (11:45 pm), by John W Gillis


Subjective Objectivity is the nonsense name I give to the nonsensical, widespread phenomenon in contemporary society of viewing the world through the narrow lens of one’s own experience, and assuming that such personal experience defines the norm for reality. This view is cut straight from the cloth of what Pope Benedict XVI has famously called a dictatorship of relativism.

Typically, when pressed to defend the personalized opinions that emerge from such self-centered thinking, most believers of the doctrine will retreat into relativism, claiming that such personal experience only represents “my reality,” not reality on the whole. But the end result can only be essentially the same: It is, for all intents and purposes, the belief that I am the center of the universe (or at least “my universe,” whatever that means), and that my experience is the measure by which reality should be measured. The careful thinker will note that this reducing of reality to experience is actually nothing but the repudiation of the very notion of reality, per se.

The most typical form I see this logic take can be captured in the image of a parent rationalizing his acceptance of boorish behavior in his children by telling himself: “I did the same thing, and I turned out OK – therefore it must not be that bad.” Here we see the self declared the measure of morality. There’s no room to admit that there may actually be some objective reality of morality, against which behavior – mine or my children’s – should be measured. And even more importantly, there’s certainly no room for self-criticism. No right, no wrong; only: I’m OK with it, or I’m not OK with it – judgments which are considered in the light of the potential for cognitive dissonance between an aspiring moralism and the platitudes of an ethic of self-esteem run amuck.

On March 30th, Ty Burr published a piece in the Boston Globe arguing that immorally behaving pop stars can be positive “anti-role models” for children. I thought the piece was so misguided that I decided to write a three-part refutation of it, of which this is the second part.

The first and third parts both deal with what I see as errors in Mr. Burr’s presentation of the nature and character of morality (part one argues that Mr. Burr is mistaking cynical judgmentalism for morality, which it decidedly is not; in part three I will attempt to show that genuine morality must be rooted in virtue – something utterly lacking from the landscape of Mr. Burr’s presentation). This second part presents what I believe is the ethic at the root of his misunderstanding of morality; the facilitating principle that led him down the path to his conclusion: Subjective Objectivism. Below is quoted what I believe to be the key paragraph in understanding the source of Mr. Burr’s moral confusion:

In part, that pit you feel in your stomach is generational business as usual. Mothers and fathers wonder where have all the good examples gone, forgetting that our own parents tore their hair out over the music and movies we loved. I recently gave my 11-year-old daughter grief over the bawdy lyrics to Flo Rida’s “Low” just as Led Zeppelin came on the oldies station promising to “give ya every inch of my love.” Game, set, match.

I barely know where to begin unpacking the naivety in this short paragraph. Game, set, match? The implication there is that, since the father is as guilty as the daughter, which leaves the father without the leverage of a moral high ground, the situation of the daughter must not be so bad after all – because God forbid the father admit the obvious. I guess conspiracy is better than hypocrisy.

Mr. Burr’s moral (and aesthetic) sensibility, it would seem, was forged in the pop culture of recent decades, and he has apparently not moved beyond that woeful inception. So his conscience is, predictably, as dull as that of the culture that shaped it. Vulgar trash is just normal fare, and so when his nascent moral sensibility is startled by a new kind of vulgarity, it can be easily assuaged by associating it with the good ‘old familiar vulgarity that enjoys the privileged status of “normal.”

What is conspicuous by its absence is any sense that Mr. Burr’s parents, in tearing out their hair, may have been right. That possibility just doesn’t seem to be on the table. Generational business a usual, he calls it. But that’s a sham. First of all, this particular generational dynamic has only been around for as long as pop culture has been around, and that’s only a handful of generations. Human civilization goes back a bit further than that.

Secondly, what we are actually seeing as this generational dynamic plays itself out in contemporary history is not simply a repeating pattern, as “generational business as usual” attempts to imply, but a cyclic shift toward ever more debased forms of popular art, combined with quickly retreating resolve to oppose it. More and more so, the parents (even grandparents) are simmering in the same stew as the children, and as is apparently the case in Mr. Burr’s household, they are increasingly unequipped to even attempt to provide a moral alternative to pop vulgarity.

The end result of this is that we leave our culture’s children in the pernicious stew of degrading entertainment that is pornographic, violent, and dehumanizing in many, many ways. No, it has not “always” been this way, and the fact that today’s parents have been soaked in an earlier version of the same slumgullion not only doesn’t excuse the negligence, it should provide us with a knowing sympathy of just how devastating this trash can be to the growth of a young human person. But we can only understand that if we can get past this idiotic notion that our personal experience is the standard the rest of the world should live up to, and embrace the truth that we need to get over ourselves; to submit ourselves to being open to being transformed by beauty, truth, and goodness.

ΑΩ

Celebrity Gossip and Moral Reasoning (part 1)

Posted: Friday, April 4, 2008 (12:05 am), by John W Gillis


If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning.”

The preceding quote from Catherine Aird is always good for raising a laugh, and there’s a certain ring of truth to it. Having read the Bible, I’m well aware of the kind of role horrible warnings can play in human history. But any real estate agent will tell you that location is everything. Translation: context matters – a lot.

Ty Burr wrote an Ideas piece published in the Boston Sunday Globe this past weekend that I found quite disturbing. The basic premise of the piece was that Mr. Burr thinks his two young daughters are learning important life lessons – moral lessons – from watching the travails of celebrity starlets. At the root of this mistaken belief is the evidence that his children watch, with thorough (and probably dramatic) disapproval, the predictable flame-outs of their popular heroines, and are therefore able to stitch together a kind of cause-and-effect moralism that links either certain behaviors, and/or perhaps celebrity itself, with eventual failure – moral and practical.

There are at least three fundamental flaws in this line of reasoning. The first stems from a lack of understanding of the quite central role of “flame-out” in the ongoing spectacle of merchandised gossip, commonly referred to as “news,” that I like to call “Celebrity Psychopath of the Week.”

My term is intended to be understood very broadly, as a sarcastic mockery of the marketing that propels the product (and it is nothing if not a product). It doesn’t require an existing “celebrity,” it can create them, and the almost ritualized debasement of these unfortunate souls takes place through an ordeal that can take considerably less or considerably more than a week. The point is that they are held up before the public eye to be the object of gossip, the object of projected psychological needs for both attention and punishment, and, ultimately, the object of ridicule and contempt. They are, in a nutshell, scapegoats.

Not all celebrities fall into the scapegoat trap, and as I mentioned above, you don’t need to be a celebrity to become a scapegoat (becoming one will grant the celebrity, however fleeting), but it does seem to be a fundamental characteristic of the notion of celebrity in liberal society, and existing celebrities make excellent scapegoats – especially ones that are most successful in attaining the power of “stardom.” Our culture loves to see the successful fail – and fail miserably (especially those whose success is rooted in sensuality, as opposed to, say, hard work).

The truth is, we build them up to tear them down. This thought is by no means original to me, nor can it be seriously challenged. We couldn’t tolerate the failure of all our celebrities – our social fabric would collapse – but let’s be very clear: we require a steady diet of falling out, of failure, of those people, who make us feel insignificant, losing their marbles and getting their comeuppance. Celebrity Psychopath of the Week. I don’t know if OJ Simpson or Michael Jackson had the longest running tenure starring in this ongoing ordeal du jour, but there is always somebody starring. Always.

Why is this not a good moral classroom for Ty Burr’s daughters (or for mine)? If it’s behavior that adult society engages in routinely, shouldn’t it be considered appropriate for girls (OK, that line is a setup for a forthcoming post!)? Even at the level of common sense, the answer to the question should be obvious. I’m dumbfounded to realize that anyone might think that engaging in celebrity gossip can build up the moral fiber of a young woman – or anyone else.

However, I’m willing, for the sake of argument, to provide a brief argument as to why celebrity gossip cannot provide a genuine moral education. In fact, I can state it extremely briefly: gossip is sinful, and sin is immoral, not a means to moral growth. Some may find that explanation overly brief (and too similar to the argument from common sense – let’s call it the argument from common decency), so I will (briefly) extrapolate.

The voyeuristic obsession with celebrity in and of itself is grounds for serious moral criticism, but to focus specifically on the judgmentalism that Mr. Burr seems to think represents a moral victory over the implicit threat that these fallen starlets might by poor example lead his children over the precipice of moral doom, I have to point out that the soap opera of Celebrity Psychopath of the Week is psychologically rewarding because it allows the (paying) audience to satisfy both envy’s lust for vengeance, and pride’s appetite for contempt. It lacks any semblance of charity, and it uses the troubles of other wretched human beings for self-satisfaction.

For as much as it might satisfy certain human desires, and provide what is undoubtedly some kind of a framework for developing moral norms, it must be said that scapegoating is morally repugnant, and spiritually devastating. Cynicism is not morality.

I will follow up on this post, to address the other two major flaws I see in Mr. Burr’s evaluation: the problem of subjective objectivity, and the problem of defining morality without reference to virtue.