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Some Things Said… (December 07) (Number 3)

An eyewitness at the high school said the Muslim students attacked their Christian peers after unidentified people pulled out two foundation blocks of a high school mosque under construction.

Area Muslims joined the attacking students, resulting in the deaths and damages in the city, including the burning of dozens of homes belonging to Christians. — excerpted from a news article at Compass Direct News as found at 12.14.07

Regulatory Commissars: Living too long

In another triumph of government healthcare over accepted clinical treatment standards and the Hippocratic Oath, the federal government is demanding repayment of hundreds of millions of dollars from hospices that exceeded arbitrary Medicare reimbursement limits because they enabled residents to live longer than permitted by the government. Possessing no sense of humanity, the federal government’s retroactively assessed reverse charges are being sent to hospices that already spent the funds delivering care for the terminally ill in prior years.

The result of this retroactive Medicare reimbursement diktat is that many hospice providers will be put out of business. Perversely, the unintended consequences of this bureaucratic meddling will reduce the number of hospice facilities and encourage the remainder to withhold care while simultaneously demanding premium increases. It is rarely clearer that government healthcare and its cost-control rationing is a prescription for an early grave. –from an unidentified source, as submitted by Mark Zaveson, 12.10.07

The Heart of Conservatism

For many conservatives, the birthday of the movement is Nov. 1, 1790 — the publication date of Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France.” Burke described how utopian idealism could lead to the guillotine, just as it later led to the gulag. He rejected the democracy of the mob and argued that social reform, when necessary, should be gradual, cautious and rooted in the habits and traditions of the community.

Some of Burke’s contemporaries took these arguments further. “I am one of those who think it very desirable to have no reform,” declared the Duke of Wellington. “I told you years ago that the people are rotten to the core.” And this affection was returned. Wellington took to carrying an umbrella tipped with a spike to protect himself from protesters.

But there is another strain of conservatism with a birthday three years earlier than Burke’s “Reflections.” On May 12, 1787, under an English oak on his Holwood Estate, Prime Minister William Pitt pressed a young member of Parliament named William Wilberforce to introduce a bill for the abolition of the slave trade. Wilberforce’s research found that the holds of slave ships were, according to one witness, “so covered in blood and mucus which had proceeded from them in consequence of the (dysentery) that it resembled a slaughterhouse.” Enslaved Africans on the ships attempted to starve themselves to death or to jump into the ocean. Wilberforce thought this suffering a good reason for reform.

A later conservative, Lord Shaftesbury, fought against conditions that amounted to slavery in British factories, rescued child laborers from chimneys and mines, and worked for improved sanitary conditions in British slums. In 1853, for example, the citizens of Dudley, England, had an average age at death of 16 years and 7 months. “I feel that my business lies in the gutter,” said Shaftesbury, “and I have not the least intention to get out of it.”

Both Wilberforce and Shaftesbury considered themselves Burkean conservatives; Wilberforce was a friend of Burke’s and a fellow opponent of the French revolution’s wild-eyed utopianism. Wilberforce and Shaftesbury were gradualists, not radicals. They hated socialism and rejected the perfectibility of man.

But both were also evangelical Christians who believed that all human beings are created in God’s image — and they were deeply offended when that image was degraded or violated. Long before compassionate conservatism got its name, the ideas of compassion and benevolence were central to their political and moral philosophy.

Other conservatives dismissed these reformers as “saints,” prone to “fits of philanthropy.” But according to historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, these saints and others like them achieved “something like a ‘conservative revolution’ — a reformist revolution, so to speak — that permitted Britain to adapt to industrialism, liberalism and democracy without the violence and upheavals that convulsed the Continent.”

…This history is directly relevant to modern debates. In some conservative quarters we are seeing the return of Burkeanism — or at least a narrow version of it. These supposed Burkeans dismiss the promotion of democracy and human rights as “ideological,” the protection of human life and dignity as “theological,” and compassionate conservatism as a modern heresy.

…A significant portion of Americans are motivated by a religiously informed vision of human dignity. For them, compassion is not merely a private feeling but a public commitment — as public as the abolition of slavery or the end of child labor. And they are looking not for another Wellington but for another Wilberforce. –excerpted from an article by Michael Gerson, in the Washington Post, 12.12.07

The managerial age…

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of “Admin.” The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern. –C. S. Lewis

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