Reader Mail

The Krugman Method

A special exchange: Nina Mollet vs. David Hogberg. Also: Terri Shiavo and the Right to Die. Plus more.

10.26.03

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TERRI SHIAVO AND THE RIGHT TO DIE
Re: George Neumayr's The Chic Culture of Death:

In "The Chic Culture of Death," George Neumayr has, with his usual brio, written about the slippery slope that American society faces with the right to die and the efforts to provide a constitutional framework around the euthanasia movement. But implicit in such arguments is the question of who will decide. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will judge the judges?) From what I have read, I would not wish to be old and sick and live in the Netherlands. But there is also another story here.

One of the most significant changes in the Catholic Church since Vatican II has been the fundamental altering of the Society of Jesus, a.k.a. the Jesuits. They were trained as scholars and clerics and sent to missions far and wide, often serving as papal shock troops. Their orthodoxy and devotion were unchallenged, until the baleful effects of modernization appeared to undermine that dedication.

One example of that change it is to be found in the words of Father Kevin Wildes, S.J. The very idea that Father Wildes would conflate water and bread as "extraordinary" means to keep someone alive, begs the question of what means are ordinary. True, we must allow that Father Wildes is at Georgetown University, which is Catholic in name only, but to misrepresent the Church's historical position on what is acceptable to maintain life is ... strange, to put it mildly. One could be callous and remark that the problem with this Jesuit are the Jesuits.
-- Vincent Chiarello

I think you are well aware that the true Catholic perspective is that Terri Shiavo has an absolute right to life until God the Father takes her home naturally. The Shiavo case has been at the forefront of Catholic Radio for months and the pressure brought to bear by devout Catholics has had a significant impact on the turnabout on this case. The Catholic Church has been sufficiently vilified for the scandal brought on by homosexual priests, to paint the Church based on the ranting of one non-conforming priest is unjust. I cannot speak to your personal spiritual convictions; however, whatever bias you may hold should not cause you to misstate the positions of the many devout Catholics the world over. The U.S. Catholic Bishops have a long history of leftist ideology that is in conflict with the Catholic Theology. Many of us look to Pope John Paul II and the tradition of the Church for direction on our faith. Perhaps it is time that those with anti-Catholic bias address the true teaching of the Church and assess the teaching of the current Pope and his predecessors and ignore the Bishops who are at variance with those teachings.
-- Sam Kain

Ted Koppel's definition of "vegetative" is as convoluted as Bill Clinton's definition of "is." I wonder how many vegetables in Koppel's refrigerator can follow a balloon, smile, and interact in any fashion with humans. The answer probably depends upon what he has ingested.
-- Jenny Woodward
Bloomington, Indiana

Your article really rang a bell. Although not a product of the "Jesuit tradition" myself, my wife and her family are all very active alums of Marquette and Georgetown. I have met more than a few of the "good fathers" (including a past president of one of these schools). What a crew of bums and misfits. I know of a senior Jesuit who personally dissuaded a young man (a close friend of mine) from considering the priesthood because "if he had it to do all over again, he would have never done it..." This from a man whose considerable lifestyle, education and position in life came to him through his association with the SofJ. They should be disbanded. Too bad nobody has the guts to call for this publicly.
-- Thomas Wronski

THE KRUGMAN METHOD
Re: David Hogberg's Notes From an Instalanche:

In response to the question David Hogberg's recently posed on your website about Paul Krugman's October 21 New York Times column: If suggesting that Mahathir's remarks are calculated to keep a good economy going is not excusing anti-Semitism, what is?

Suggesting that Mahathir's remarks are calculated to rally the support of anti-Semites is not excusing anti-Semitism. This is nonsense.

Krugman was explaining that leaders in largely Muslim countries are getting points from throwing out red meat of this sort. He wasn't condoning it. He thinks that American foreign policy is contributing to worldwide anti-Semitism.

If you want to question Krugman's column sensibly, try engaging with the actual issues he raises: Is it true that anti-Semitism worldwide has increased? Is it true that it has increased as a result of American foreign policy? Has the level of Mahathir's anti-Semitic rhetoric risen in the last two years? Does he do it more than he used to? Does he say more extreme things than he used to? Are other leaders in that part of the world using more anti-Semitic language than they were before?

Krugman could be wrong about the thesis of his column, although it seems fairly obvious to me that our recent policies have exacerbated anti-Semitism throughout the world. But the thesis of his column is not, "it's okay for Mahathir to talk like this." His thesis is, "Mahathir is talking like this because it pays for him to do so in terms of public support, and the reason it pays so well can be traced back to stupid American foreign policy."

I think Krugman should have organized his column differently, it was just too sophisticated. The New York Times, my 6th grade teacher used to say, is written at a 6th grade level. But this column is at a college level; the words are not obscure, but the logic is more complex than you usually encounter in newspaper columns. In other words, this column was written for people who already have a clue. It was clear to me reading it that it would be too easy for his enemies to mischaracterize his comments. After all, it's not the first time he's run afoul of the right-wing smear machine.

Suggesting that Paul Krugman would condone anti-Semitism is absurd. As he mentioned in a comment today on his website, most of his grandfather's relatives died in Treblinka. Krugman is one of the most intelligent and courageous writers of our day, and I'm sure he is getting tired of the ad hominem attacks and would welcome people wrestling with the substance of his essays for a change.
-- Nina Mollet
Juneau, Alaska

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