An interview with me

OK, I’m kind of embarrassed to be posting this, but the Washington Examiner did an interview with me.  It mentions you all at this “lively blog” twice, so I guess I should show it to you.  You can even see what I look like:

Credo: Gene Veith | Washington Examiner.

Human experimentation

Apparently, the climate of eugenics, euthanasia, racism, and “life not worth living” was current in the United States in the 1940′s, just as it was in Hitler’s Germany. Look what government scientists did in Guatemala:

U.S. government medical researchers intentionally infected hundreds of people in Guatemala, including institutionalized mental patients, with gonorrhea and syphilis without their knowledge or permission more than 60 years ago.

Many of those infected were encouraged to pass the infection onto others as part of the study.

About one third of those who were infected never got adequate treatment.

On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius offered extensive apologies for actions taken by the U.S. Public Health Service.

“The sexually transmitted disease inoculation study conducted from 1946-1948 in Guatemala was clearly unethical,” according to the joint statement from Clinton and Sebelius. “Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.” . . .

According to [Susan] Reverby’s report, the Guatemalan project was co-sponsored by the U.S. Public Health Service, the NIH, the Pan-American Health Sanitary Bureau (now the Pan American Health Organization) and the Guatemalan government. The experiments involved 696 subjects — male prisoners and female patients in the National Mental Health Hospital.

The researchers were trying to determine whether the antibiotic penicillin could prevent syphilis infection, not just cure it, Reverby writes. After the subjects were infected with the syphilis bacteria — through visits with prostitutes who had the disease and direct inoculations — it is unclear whether they were later cured or given proper medical care, Reverby notes. While most of the patients got treatment, experts estimate as many as one-third, did not.

The mindset that saw nothing wrong with this persists today in the broad acceptance of experimentation on human embryos.

HT: Webmonk

Schism among the atheists

The problem with atheists is that they can’t get along with each other and keep spinning off all of these different sects.

[Paul] Kurtz, an 84-year-old who names his dogs for free thinkers throughout history, is the exiled founder of the Center for Inquiry, which is devoted to promoting humanism and criticizing religion. He founded the center’s two affiliates: the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which investigates claims of the paranormal, like U.F.O. sightings and mental telepathy, and the Council for Secular Humanism, which promotes ethics and values without God.

And he started two magazines and a publishing house, Prometheus Books.

There are more famous opponents of supernaturalism, but none is an institution-builder like Mr. Kurtz, a retired philosophy professor. The Center for Inquiry, which assumed its name in 1991, until recently shared a budget of more than $6 million with its affiliates, and it supports campus groups, a West Coast office and branches in many American cities and in countries like England, Peru and Poland.

Which makes Mr. Kurtz’s fall Lear-like.

We are meeting in his home, not at the center, minutes away in this Buffalo suburb. In 2008, looking to spend less time running the center, he supported his board’s decision to hire Ronald A. Lindsay, a corporate lawyer from Washington, as chief executive. He soon regretted the decision. Mr. Lindsay “became very authoritarian and dictatorial,” Mr. Kurtz told me.

In June 2009, at odds with Mr. Lindsay, Mr. Kurtz was voted out as the center’s chairman. In May, he resigned from the board altogether.

According to Mr. Kurtz, there were two areas of conflict. First, he says, Mr. Lindsay changed the work culture. Whereas Mr. Kurtz had managed “in the spirit of a think tank,” Mr. Lindsay brought his legal background to bear.

“I am used to the academic life, where we don’t impose rules on employees,” Mr. Kurtz said, sitting in his living room. But Mr. Lindsay, he said, “set up a command system, said these are the rules and laws, and anyone who deviates from that will be investigated.”

Employees were interrogated for minor infractions, Mr. Kurtz said, and several were let go. “That is like Stalinism or the Inquisition,” Mr. Kurtz said. . . .

But Mr. Kurtz’s second complaint goes beyond internecine power struggles. He said that Mr. Lindsay was turning the center away from Mr. Kurtz’s humanist philosophy and toward negative, angry atheism.

According to Mr. Kurtz, skeptics must do more than just deride religion. “If religion is being weakened, what replaces it in secular society?” he asked. “Most of my colleagues are concerned with critiquing the concept of God. That is important, but equally important is, where do you turn?”

In books like “What Is Secular Humanism?” Mr. Kurtz has argued for a universal but nonreligious ethics, one he now calls “planetary humanism.” Its first principle is that “every person on the planet should be considered equal in dignity and value.” In his books, he explains how this principle can be derived from nature and from what we know of the human species.

And he contrasted his affirmative vision with recent projects under Mr. Lindsay, like International Blasphemy Day. (The 2010 version, held Thursday, was renamed International Blasphemy Rights Day.) Mr. Kurtz was also a vocal critic of a contest for cartoons about religion that included some entries that could be considered deeply offensive.

“Angry atheism does not work,” Mr. Kurtz said. “It has to be friendly, cooperative relations with people of other points of view.”

via Beliefs – Rift at Humanist Center Reveals a Deeper Division – NYTimes.com.

LCMS pastor, action hero

I haven’t read it, but I’ve got to.   Novelist Ray Keating has started a spy, adventure, thriller series whose hero is a pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  From a review by Russell E. Saltzman:

Here is a fun adventure romp, a first novel by former Newsday columnist Ray Keating. Stephen Grant is an ex-CIA agent with notches on his pistol who, with a little bit of angst, turns his back on his secret life and becomes, get this, a pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

We first meet Grant as he dispatches an opposing agent within the nave of a French Catholic church (because for discreet meetings between rival spies, the empty churches of Europe are ideal). Grant next shows up as pastor of St. Mary’s Lutheran Church on the east end of Long Island, where he slays an eco-terrorist who is trying to shoot choir members at rehearsal (not, from the description in the novel, that choir’s rendering of A Mighty Fortress didn’t give the effort some merit).

Well, after that, one thing sort of leads to another thing and pretty soon Pr. Grant saves the life of Pope Augustine from a knife-wielding priest shouting “apostate,” shares “decaffeinated black currant tea” thereafter with same (um, the pope, not the assailant), and at different stops along the way vanquishes liberal theologians, spars with arrogant media-types, and incidentally helps the Vatican advance an ecumenical initiative called “A Public Mission of Mere Christianity.” St. Mary’s, by the way, seems to be a parish that functions well in the pastor’s absence.

via Heroic LCMS Pastor Saves Pope » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

I’m buying it.  How can I not?  You buy it too and we’ll discuss it on this blog.

The legacy of Bonnie & Clyde

Arthur Penn died, the director of Bonnie & Clyde (1967).  Who besides me remembers when that came out?  It was a good movie, but it set some things in motion that resonate in Hollywood to this day.  For one thing, since it flagrantly flouted the Production Code (Hollywood’s self-policing limits on sex, violence, bad language, and immoral themes), that code was replaced the very next year with today’s permissive rating system.

Ed Driscoll resurrects an interview that leftwing journalist Rick Perlstein did for Reason magazine in 2008.  Perstein hails Bonnie & Clyde as a key “text” of the New Left.

Reason: You like to mix cultural history with political history. Bonnie and Clyde is one of the central texts in the book.

Perlstein: My theory is that Bonnie and Clyde was the most important text of the New Left, much more important than anything written by Paul Goodman or C. Wright Mills or Regis Debray. It made an argument about vitality and virtue vs. staidness and morality that was completely new, that resonated with young people in a way that made no sense to old people. Just the idea that the outlaws were the good guys and the bourgeois householders were the bad guys—you cannot underestimate [sic] how strange and fresh that was.

via Ed Driscoll » Easy Riders, Raging Boomers.

Notice that, to this advocate of the movement, the agenda of the New Left was not economic (like the old left) or even political (like the New Deal liberals).  Rather, it is precisely moral and cultural.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s pay

Why do federal employees generally report less job satisfaction than those in the private sector, even though their pay, benefits, security, and working conditions are generally better?  I suspect lots of reasons.  Here is a theory:

There may be yet another explanation for why federal employees have long been less satisfied in their jobs than their private sector counterparts, a new study highlighted in Slate Tuesday reveals. Researchers from Berkeley and Princeton found that workers who know what their peers make, especially if they earn below-median pay, are more likely to be disgruntled than their blissfully ignorant peers.

Some HR thinkers have argued that more transparency would lead to better motivation and overall job happiness. If that’s true, federal employees, who have access to databases, public records and water cooler chatter over who makes what, should be much happier than their private-sector peers. But they’re not, according to data from the Partnership for Public Service, and FedBlog’s Tom Shoop wonders if a lack of pay secrets might be one reason.

One might argue, as HR gurus have, that knowing how you stand among your peers would make you motivated to perform better, in hopes of earning more. But the Berkeley and Princeton researchers argue the opposite. The study authors emailed University of California employees about a new Web site that listed the salaries of all of the university system’s employees, and then followed up to see how they felt about receiving the new information. Those who made less than median incomes reported more dissatisfaction and were more likely to say they’d be looking for a job sometime soon.

But those who made more than the median incomes did not report any kind of higher satisfaction from making more than their peers. Rather, they likely assume they’re worth it, and see the data as little more than confirmation of their superiority.

The study is a reminder, Slate’s Ray Fisman notes, of the increasing recognition by economists that humans are actually quite social when it comes to economics. Our salary doesn’t just make us happy or unhappy if we can (or can’t) cover our mortgage or buy an iPad for our spouse for Christmas. Rather, we are constantly comparing ourselves and what we earn to those around us.

via PostLeadership: My coworker makes what?! (When knowing more is not a good thing) – Jena McGregor.

That is to say, we value money not just for what we can buy with it but for the status it confers.  And what bothers us in the workplace is not just our need for a higher salary, but the prospect of other people making more than we do.  Is there anything wrong with this, or is it an example of the economic implications of coveting?


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