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• People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has announced that men seeking to spay or neuter their pets are eligible for a free vasectomy in solidarity with their soon-to-be sterile dog or cat. The winner will be selected based on how well he argues that “his sterilization will most benefit both humans and animals.” The group kindly offers the essay prompt, “Why should peta neuter you?”

“Disappearing wilderness, vanishing water resources, and pollution is the price that future generations will pay for more human births,” peta’s website explains, “while losing their lives is the price that millions of homeless dogs and cats pay when guardians neglect to ‘fix’ their companion animals . . . . And with a global population of almost 7 billion humans, more of our species could use a (voluntary) snip too.”

We could have told you that human beings need to be fixed. But we think we mean something different than peta does.

• We’ve made fun of North Korea dictator Kim Jong-Il, author of the classic work Theory of Dancing Art and classic dances like “Army and People United in One Mind Around the Leader,” works neglected, we suspect, by western dance companies. But as comical as the man is, he presides over the most viciously anti-Christian regime in the world. The situation for Christians there is “horrific,” reports WorldWatchList’s ranking of the fifty worst countries.

“There are many risks for Christians, most of them deadly,” WWL reports. Nowhere else in the world will “most” and “deadly” appear together like that, even in Iran, which ranks second. When the police discovered a secret house church, for example, three members were immediately sentenced to death and the other twenty sent to labor camps.

Christianity is, nevertheless, growing slowly. The Catholic news service Agenzia Fides estimates that 400,000 North Koreans (2 percent of the population) are secretly Christian. WorldWatchList estimates that 50,000 of them are suffering in the country’s hellish labor camps.

Kim Jong-Il is still amusing. But a man can be a monster and a buffoon at the same time.

• Rounding out WorldWatchList’s bottom five are Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia. Iraq is eighth (your tax dollars at work), and its treatment of Christians degenerated the most of any country on the list in the last year. WWL doesn’t remark on this, but 41 of the 51 countries on its list are Muslim countries, including numbers two through nine and eleven though thirteen. Five of the others are Communist, three Buddhist, one Hindu, and one (tied for fiftieth with Malaysia) is Russia.

Russia”new to the list, making its way on because it has gotten worse in the last year”is hard to define. “State officials are publicly supporting and protecting the Orthodox at the expense of the other denominations,” WWL reports, but they say the real problems are the FSB (the former KGB), local officials, and Muslims.

Still, Russia only sits in WWL’s “some problems” category. Thirty years ago it would have sat close to where North Korea sits now, and countries like Bulgaria, East Germany, Romania, Poland, and Albania would have joined it near the bottom. Very few people thought these countries would ever change, that totalitarianism was too total, too complete, ever to fall. But they did change. Thanks be to God. Pray for North Korea, Iran, and all the rest.

• The Rev. Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, is outraged, but then he usually is. When a few months ago the National Portrait Gallery removed a video showing large ants crawling over a crucifix, he declared, “This is religiously based censorship, pure and simple, and it’s reprehensible.”

The good reverend, a minister in the United Church of Christ, then lectured the video’s critics about artistic freedom. “If some people believe a show like this offends their religious sensibilities, the answer is for them not to go to it. They should not have the right to control what art the rest of us can see.”

We’re wondering how exactly this qualifies as censorship. All the critics did was exercise their own First Amendment right to free speech and criticize the National Portrait Gallery, which receives substantial public funding, for including the video in an exhibit. The gallery then removed the video voluntarily. Anyone who wants to see it can easily watch it on YouTube. Any private art gallery can show it. Lynn could put it up in the AU foyer instead of a Christmas tree.

The separation of church and state, in the absolutist way Lynn understands it, has to mean the separation of irreligion and state. Whatever ants crawling over a crucifix is supposed to mean, we’re probably safe in saying it’s some sort of criticism of Christianity. It takes sides in a religious controversy. In other words, it’s a religious work. If Lynn were consistent, he would have joined the critics in demanding its removal.

The truth, we suspect, is that the Rev. Barry Lynn doesn’t really care about the separation of church and state. What he cares about is advancing secularism, and screams of protest at any religious voice in the public square are a great way to do it. Never mind that these voices are often merely asking that the religion of irreligion be subject to Lynn’s view of the First Amendment.

• Stop us when we complain about Fr. Richard McBrien (as we’ve said before, but then, alas, there are a lot of reasons to stop us). An online video channel run by Georgetown University features a clip with Jesuit faculty reflecting on the university’s institutional mission. Fr. Ryan Maher, S.J., associate dean and director of Catholic Studies, says “Our job as educators and as priests is not to bring God to people, or even to bring people to God. God’s already there and the people are already there. Our job, our way of living out our educational vocation, is to ask the right questions, and to help young people ask those questions.”

God is there and the people are there, sure, but the “theres” there are not necessarily, as the beginning of Genesis and all of human history demonstrate, the same place.

• “To help young people ask those questions” is not exactly a line out of John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University , Newman believing that the Church had some answers to give. Fr. Ryan rejects the connective function of Catholic education. As John Paul II put it in Ex corde ecclesiae , “By means of a kind of universal humanism a Catholic university is completely dedicated to the research of all aspects of truth in their essential connection with the supreme Truth, who is God.”

In “The Public Square,” the editor reflects on the academic desire for “critical thinking””Fr. Ryan’s “asking the right questions””and insists that we must embrace many things in love if we are ever to understand them. That is true for the student. Fr. Ryan’s cheery dismissal of “bringing people to God” raises the question of what the teacher ought to do.

Teachers know truths their students do not. That’s why they are paid for teaching. Among the things the Catholic professor knows is at least the outline of that “essential connection” to which the pope points. Of course the teacher must teach his students to look at things closely and to question them carefully. But he must also tell his students about the things he loves, the things he does not question.

• Writing in the Wall Street Journal , an investment officer declares Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged (more like an illustrated comic book without the pictures than a novel) “a plea for the most fundamental American ideal”the inalienable rights of the individual.” As one of our bloggers writes on our weblog “First Thoughts”:

What are “rights” in a universe where there is no morality other than what can be derived from the value one places on one’s own life, and no metaphysics other than materialism plus some more or less trivial residuum to allow for sense perception and volition? If rights are not correlative to duties that transcend our will”and on Rand’s view it is a matter of first principles that there are no duties transcending the will”then what are they? And how can they possibly be “inalienable” if one is morally subject to no will above one’s own?

Readers will know that we are no fans of Rand and her particularly crude individualism and high school atheism. But we bring this up because it’s such a nice example of a typical secularist move: to use relativism, however dressed up, to sweep obstructionist absolutes away, and then to turn around and claim absolutist authority for their favorite ideas.

• Some people, to our surprise, don’t think much of Bertie Wooster’s “gentleman’s personal gentleman.” Writing in The Telegraph , Sebastian Faulkes accuses Jeeves of mere conservatism. Jeeves fights to preserve the rules that “may seem trivial, but not to him: Someone must ensure that it all remains the same, and the task falls to Jeeves.” In The Spectator , Alex Massie accuses him of selfishness. If Bertie happened to meet a girl he should marry, not that that’s likely, “Jeeves would find a way to ensure that the happy match never took place either. In addition to being something of a cold, rum fish he is something of a dictator too.”

Even the estimable Alan Jacobs disses Jeeves. Jeeves, he insists, lets Bertie get into trouble to “increase chaos”so that his own skills will appear all the greater when he steps in to make matters right. In this reading Jeeves remains a godlike figure, but not the embodiment of pure Grace: Rather he becomes a trickster God, the kind that Thomas Hardy feared is running the universe.”

We’d much prefer to think with W. H. Auden that Jeeve’s, like God, looks on Bertie’s complete dependence and says, “‘Thank you very much, sir. I endeavor to give satisfaction.’” There, says Auden, “speaks comically”and in what other mode than the comic could it on earth truthfully speak?”the voice of Agape, of Holy Love.”

• Sensibly, the government of Canada provides recent immigrants with a guide to help them navigate the dos and don’ts of their new culture: Drive on the right side of the road, learn the words to “O Canada,” practice saying “eh?”, patronize Americans”things like that, we imagine. Discover Canada also informs them that “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honor killings,’ female genital mutilation, forced marriage, or other gender violence.”

Obvious, we would have thought. Liberal MP Justin Trudeau agrees, but insists that it’s wrong to call these actions barbaric . “There’s nothing the word ‘barbaric’ achieves that the words ‘absolutely unacceptable’ would not have achieved.” He admits that even he would call female circumcision “barbaric” in casual conversation, “but in an official Government of Canada publication there needs to be a little bit of an attempt at responsible neutrality.”

We suppose the word barbaric achieves nothing that the words absolutely unacceptable would not have achieved”except, that is, explaining why these actions are absolutely unacceptable.

• “The tax went up, and we started selling ten times as much. Bloomberg thinks he’s stopping people from smoking. He’s just turning them on to loosies,” says Lonnie Warner, known to his customers on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan as “Lonnie Loosie” for selling single cigarettes on the street. Doing so is a misdemeanor, the New York Times reports, and Mr. Warner has been arrested fifteen times in the four years he’s been doing this, resulting in some stays for a few days in Riker’s Island. He and his two partners each make from $120 to $150 a day.

The city and the state have created his market for him: “The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has outlawed smoking in restaurants, bars and playgrounds, and outside hospital entrances. Even city parks, beaches, and pedestrian plazas are now off limits to smokers. Then there have been successive rounds of taxes”the most recent one, a $1.60 rise in the state tax in July”that raised the price of a pack of cigarettes to $12.50 at many Midtown newsstands.”

We may be biased, writing for a magazine founded by a man who loved his cigars, but still, this kind of story leaves us torn. On the one hand, even minor breaking of a trivial law encourages disrespect for the law, but on the other, trivial laws imposed by people who criminalize other peoples’ vices (Bloomberg does not seem as concerned for peoples’ livers as he is for their lungs) also encourages disrespect for the law.

People naturally react when pushed too far by the state”banning smoking in bars ? What possible business is it of the city’s if people smoke in bars ? If Bloomberg wants to impose this kind of restriction, he bears some responsibility for encouraging people to break the law”this law, and others more important. Mayors, provoke not thy citizens to wrath, as St. Paul might have said.

• Man, people have trouble with “man.” It’s sexist, patriarchal, excludes women, etc. But our friend Anthony Esolen, who in this issue reveals the secret language of the New American Bible , points out that often no other word will do. “The word man is concrete, individual, personal, and universal, uniting all people in one, without losing focus upon the singular.” Try, he suggests, to replace the word “man” in the title of William F. Buckley’s famous book, God and Man at Yale , with something generic.

How about God and the Human Race at Yale? Can’t work. They can’t all fit in New Haven, and besides, the individuality is lost. God and Humanity at Yale ? But the individuality is still lost, and now even the collective group, since humanity names a quality first, as does divinity . Then there might be God and People at Yale. But that won’t work, since people is not a universal term, nor is it individual, nor does it suggest the same formality as does the word man .

None of the alternatives work. God and Humankind at Yale gives up the individuality and the concrete singular. God and the Person at Yale keeps the individuality but makes it indefinite, and loses the universal to boot. God and Man and Woman at Yale introduces a distinction of sex where none was intended and thus skews the whole meaning of the title. Esolen concludes: “Nothing will do to balance singular with singular, and person with person, while retaining the universal sense, but the simple and straightforward God and Man at Yale .”

•Speaking of Esolen and the New American Bible , it really is as bad as he suggests. And so are many of the translations of the missal.

For example, the collect for Ash Wednesday. Here’s the Latin: Concede nobis, Domine, praesidia militiae christianae sanctis inchoare ieiuniis, ut, contra spiritales nequitias pugnaturi, continentiae muniamur auxilio. A translator with an interest in accuracy renders the English this way: “Grant us, Lord, to begin our active service in the camp of the Christian army with holy fasts, so that we who are about to do battle against spiritual wickednesses may be strengthened by the help of continence.”

Here’s the approved translation from Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours : “Lord, protect us in our struggle against evil. As we begin the discipline of Lent, make this day holy by our self-denial.” Not untrue, of course, and not exactly trivial (evil is evil) but, you know, a little thin for a prayer at the beginning of Lent. No active service, no camp, no army, no fasts, no battle, no wickedness, no strengthening, no help, no continence. Plus a slightly self-flattering idea that we can make the day holy.

• A New Jersey woman who recently bought what one might call an, ah, anatomically comprehensive massage (“glutes and breasts” in the language of the trade) at a Jersey City health club has filed a complaint of criminal sexual contact against her masseur. The massage was legal and the masseur properly licensed, but she says she only allowed the massage because, as she told the police, she “was under the impression that it was a regular practice,” and besides, she thought the masseur was homosexual.

The facts are, as always, disputed, and we must admit to being unclear on what would constitute criminal sexual contact in such a circumstance (and please don’t tell us). Special certification is, apparently, needed to perform breast massages, and this the masseur did not have.

But the woman evidences an odd sense of morality, if an inadequate sense of modesty. She recognizes the power of lust. She sees that the problem isn’t primarily the intimate contact”doctors have to be even more intimate”but the desire for it.

•In India, reports The Economist , the ratio of girls to boys being born is getting worse, though in other ways”life expectancy, literacy”the life of those who do get born gets better. The country is losing 600,000 girls every year, a number that in eighteen years will mean ten million missing women”missing wives and mothers. India now has only 914 girls six and under for every 1,000 boys.

India, the magazine notes, doesn’t have a one-child policy like China’s, a policy that tempts parents to make sure their one child is a boy. And poverty doesn’t explain the ratio either. Some of the richest states have the worst ratios, because parents there can afford ultrasound exams. Sex-selective abortions are already illegal. But, the magazine confidently declares, the problem “can be corrected.”

But will it, and why? The magazine doesn’t really seem so confident that it can. It makes a few appeals to persuasion and a vague claim that giving women more education and better health care might change attitudes, and points to the example of South Korea, which seems to have reversed the trend.

There are undoubtedly economic and social causes the state might affect, but, as the magazine notes, a lot of the wealthier states abort more daughters than the poorer ones. We would say the way to save the lives of unborn girls is to change the way people think about human life, and that is a conversion the government cannot force. The earliest Christians changed the world, in part by not killing the baby girls as the pagans did, because they saw the world differently than the pagans, because they had met Christ. Revealingly, perhaps, Christianity in South Korea has been growing for decades.

• In one of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter stories, Lord Peter puts off someone about to discover his identity by insulting him (if we remember right, by making fun of his teeth). It’s a great trick. Make people angry, and they won’t notice what’s right in front of their noses.

“The Florida Legislature”and extreme social conservatives across the country”are taking rules and regulation off of businesses and adding them to uteruses,” Howard Simon, the Florida ACLU’s executive director, explained in a press release. “People who really understand and respect personal freedom have to do something. Maybe telling lawmakers that your body is really a business is the best way to get them to leave it alone.” (Business owners will wish that they were indeed so free of oversight.)

So the Florida ACLU has come up with a new gimmick: issue a “Declaration of Incorporation,” similar to ones issued to businesses, for the uterus of any woman who requests one. In any case, thirty-eight years after Roe v. Wade , some pro-choicers still don’t understand the thinking of their opponents. Most people believe that government can stop people from infringing on the rights of other people. Pro-lifers believe abortion violates the rights of the unborn child, a human being entitled to legal protection like everyone else.

It’s a simple difference. But it’s also one pro-choicers don’t want to face, because the facts seem against them. Even when the child is only an embryo, it’s still, reason and common sense tell us, a human being. Realizing this, the pro-choice side prefers to keep framing the abortion debate in terms of privacy, individual rights, and personal autonomy”now with a little class resentment thrown in to anger people and stop them from seeing the unborn child.

• As Advent and the use of the new translation of the Novus Ordo draw nearer, the critics and their journalistic allies grow daily more exercised. As we write, Time has just published a piece by its Latin American bureau chief, who complains of “embittered conservatives, including Pope Benedict XVI, who want to take the Mass back, at least partway, to the Latin of the more rigid and remote Tridentine tradition.” We would have thought Benedict is perhaps the least embittered man on earth, but we’ll let it go.

At least he does not sound as bitter as this writer, who goes on: “It’s sad when Rome’s cassocked scholars subordinate their intellectual gifts to church expediency. The specious logic they use to justify an all-male priesthood (none of Jesus’ apostles were women, they argue) is one example, and the new missal seems another.”

The writer doesn’t actually argue the point. He just declares (embitteredly?) that changing “one in being with the Father” to “consubstantial with the Father” isn’t “thoughtful translation; that’s just theological arrogance.” Exactly how it’s arrogant, much less theologically arrogant, is unclear to us.

The journalist, who is presumably a writer as well, ought to know one of the basic tricks of the trade: If something is difficult to understand”a theological mystery say, like, oh, the inner life of the Trinity”the writer may make his description more opaque, might use unusual language to point the reader to the difficulty and to protect him from wrongly assuming he understands it. So, we suggest, with the use of “consubstantial.” The use is not arrogant. It’s humbly admitting that we speak of a great mystery.

• “I have huge admiration for Jesus Christ and for his incredible compassion for all people.” So says Theresa Rebeck, who has written a play being produced by the University of Delaware. O Beautiful is, according to the breathless New York Times writer, “a satirical look at the politics of the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, and the failed Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, as dramatized through the abortion story and a related, fictitious incident of bullying at a high school.” The director, predictably, jokes about having to hide, and everyone frets about protesters.

We’re just so upset that we can’t get down to the university to see it, but we think we’ll be watching paint dry that day. Jesus, it turns out, is pro-choice.

Alice: Did you ever say, “I’m Jesus, and I say that stupid girls who let guys talk them into going to the back seat of their cars have to have babies?” Did you say that ever?

Jesus: No.

Alice: All you talk about is, be nice to each other! You never said nobody’s allowed to have an abortion.

Jesus: No.

Alice: So can I? Can I? Can I?

Jesus: Honestly, I ” I don’t really have an issue with it.

Jesus later accompanies the young woman “on a road trip to Connecticut”with Big Gulps in hand”to evade Delaware’s parental consent laws on abortion.” Very funny, this satire. Jesus’ “incredible compassion” seems to have its limits.

Anyway, Rebeck and the University of Delaware wouldn’t do this to Muhammad. Heck, they wouldn’t do it to Al Franken, or Ted Kennedy, or Barack Obama. They wouldn’t even do it to Joe Biden. They don’t make fun of their saviors.

• Joseph Weiler, last year’s Erasmus Lecturer (see his “The Trial of Jesus,” published in the June/July 2010 issue), reflects on “how Christians may break out of their self-imposed ghetto in today’s Europe” in a new book unfortunately not published in this country. The always useful Australian website Mercator.net published the essay from Exiting a Dead End Road , and in it Weiler, though Jewish, chides Christians for accepting a separation of faith and reason and the privatizing of their faith, for becoming “compartmentalized homo religiosus .”

Worse, he writes, is Christianity “stripped from its ritual artifact, from its awe in the presence of the ineffable, where ecclesiology is considered outside peel, and the kernel is reduced to ethics with no more. Where the content of one’s religious life is no more than (the hugely important) commitment to an ethical life” and “my community of faith becomes indistinguishable from an ethical community.”

The believers’ ethics do not distinguish them from others, because they cannot claim any monopoly in ethics. “The category which is uniquely religious, that has no equivalent, indeed is incomprehensible in a secular world, is holiness.” Believers must transmit “the institutions, structures and processes in the life of communities of faith that will normalize and centralize that message. This would require effort, commitment, resources and will not be achieved quickly.”

There is, Weiler concludes, “an additional way, The Way, in which faith in the Almighty and his goodness can find its most expressive affirmation.” It’s not a way distinguished professors at major law schools usually commend. It is a way

in which the pro-vita world view can find its best and visible and joyous manifestation; in which holiness in its most direct form, sharing with the Almighty, the Holy One Blessed be He, in the very act of continuous creation may take place; in which the materialist seduction at its most invidious and narcissistic can be resisted; a way which is open to each and everyone of us, in celebration of our autonomy, liberty, and dignity.

Pro-life? Make life! It is giving birth with abundance and finding joy in the large family and struggling to raise our children worthy of the gift of life. If you were to ask me for a sign that the walls have come down, that will be it, more important than anything else”hundreds of strollers before every place of worship.

• A certain kind of environmentalist seems to think that we exist at the pleasure of the planet. Most of them are ardently pro-choice, and some go so far as to say human beings may be involuntarily sterilized to save the planet from the effects of overpopulation. But we wonder: If we exist at the pleasure of the planet, at whose pleasure does our planet exist?

• Just when we were despairing over the sad trajectory toward irrelevance that characterizes the academic mandarins of the Catholic Theological Society of America, a friend forwarded a recent statement by German theologians: The Church in 2011: A Necessary Departure . The proximate cause is the sexual abuse crisis that rocked Germany and other European countries last year. They “appeal for an open dialogue””one “without taboos””that aims at making the Church relevant again and call for “reform-oriented reforms.”

One hardly needs to read on to know the agenda, but it’s a short document, so why not? And indeed it does not disappoint, or more accurately does not fail to disappoint in the way that so much of liberal Catholicism ends up disappointing. What do we need to renew the Church? Democratic church governance, married priests, women priests, an affirmation of same-sex partnerships, and remarriage after divorce. (The American reader may respond: “You mean Episcopalianism? And that’s working well, do you think?”)

One item pretty much sums it up. The document calls for “rights” that must be given to the faithful so that they can litigate against the authority of the Church. The German theologians think that Catholics need to be protected against the Church’s “self-justified moral rigorism,” which is a fancy way of saying that Catholics should be insulated from the moral and spiritual discipline vouchsafed by Christ to the apostles and their successors.

It’s a departure, all right, as in a departure from Christianity to take up residence in the hyper-individualism of secular modernity. That doesn’t make the Church relevant; it makes her superfluous. In all fairness to the liberal Catholic theologians in America, we’re duty bound to say that they are rarely as foolish as their comrades in Germany seem to be.

• Some “Scathingly Witty Insults by Famous People” drawn from one of those web sites that collects interesting trivia. We think of them as a guilty pleasure.

From C. S. Lewis: “She’s the sort of woman who lives for others”you can tell the others by their hunted expression.”

From Jack E. Leonard: “There is nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won’t cure.”

From Bill Wilder: “He has van Gogh’s ear for music.

From Andrew Lang: “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts; for support rather than illumination.”

From Faulkner on Hemingway: “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

From Hemingway on Faulkner: “Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

From Winston Churchill: “He has all of the virtues I dislike, and none of the vices I admire.”

And finally, the famous exchange between Churchill and George Bernard Shaw. Shaw: “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend. If you have one.” Churchill: “Cannot possibly attend the first night, will attend the second . . . if there is one.”

• “Many anti-abortion activists believe that human life and, therefore, pregnancy begin when the human egg is fertilized,” Gail Collins claims. ( Many ? Are there any who don’t?) “This isn’t the general theory,” she then informs us in her New York Times column. “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines pregnancy as beginning with the fertilized egg’s implantation.” We might point out that’s like saying a long trip begins when the family checks into the hotel for the first night.

We’ve heard of a lawyer trying to settle a divorce case when the father wanted joint custody of the children and the mother wanted primary custody. They were making no progress, until he realized that the mother just wanted to say she was her children’s primary custodian, and he offered her exactly the same arrangement as before with the terms changed. She agreed. The father got the substance of joint custody and she got to tell people the court had given her primary custody.

Someone official can put any title they wish upon any reality they choose, but the title does not change the reality. With all due respect to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnancy doesn’t begin with the child’s implantation, but with his creation.

• If popular culture is any guide, some Americans don’t find polygamy as repellent as they used to. It remains a bad idea, even if some television shows try to make it look attractive. “Women in polygynous communities”polygyny is the precise term for what we usually call polygamy, when one male has more than one wife”get married younger, have more children, have higher rates of HIV infection than men, sustain more domestic violence, succumb to more female genital mutilation and sex trafficking, and are more likely to die in childbirth,” writes Brown University’s Rose McDermott in the Wall Street Journal . “Their life expectancy is also shorter than that of their monogamous sisters. In addition, their children, both boys and girls, are less likely to receive both primary and secondary education.”

And the arrangement is just as bad for the males. “Polygynist cultures need to create and sustain an underclass of unmarried and undereducated men, since in order to sustain a system where a few men possess all the women, roughly half of boys must leave the community before adulthood.”

And that, in turn, is bad for a society. “Such societies also spend more money on weapons and display fewer social and political freedoms than do monogamous ones. When small numbers of men control large numbers of women, the remaining men are likely to be willing to take greater risks and engage in more violence, possibly including terrorism, in order to increase their own wealth and status in hopes of gaining access to women.”

• As we said last month, the world can’t have too many good journals. Some of them appear on the web, and the addition to our staff of Matthew Schmitz reminds us to commend the Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse . He was its managing editor, working under Ryan T. Anderson, who, we should note, was formerly an assistant editor at this magazine and now serves as a member of our editorial and advisory council.

Public Discourse offers three substantial essays a week dealing with “ethics, law, and the common good.” The writers include many associated with First Things , like Robert P. George, Matthew Franck, Hadley Arkes, Robert T. Miller, Christopher Tollefsen, and Matthew Milliner, and a host of other very interesting people. You can find Public Discourse at thepublicdiscourse.com .

• We were in American’s second city recently, and events took us to Loyola University Chicago, where with a few minutes free we browsed among the journals at the main library. As you might imagine, we drifted toward the F s, wondering if this fine Jesuit institution subscribed to a certain prominent journal of religion, culture, and public life.

It didn’t. But do not worry. Loyola has not foresworn journals of moral and cultural significance. Its students are not bereft. On the shelves surrounding the spot where First Things should have been, we found Feminist Collections , Feminist Periodicals , Feminist Studies , and Feminist Teacher . You are no doubt thinking: all too predictable. And because predictable, evidence of a larger fact: The soi-disant progressives live on academic welfare.

We do not. We live on the interest of our readers and the gifts of our friends. Of which we would like many more. Send us (at ft@firstthings.com ) the address of someone you think will want to see First Things and we’ll send out a copy.

while we’re at it sources : peta: peta.org . Kim Jong-Il and the bottom five: members.opendoorsusa.org and fides.org , April 14, 2011. Barry Lynn: au.org , December 1, 2011. Fr. Ryan: Georgetown website, January 11, 2011. Rand: First Thoughts blog at firstthings.com , April 14, 2011. Jeeves: The Telegraph , January 30, 2011, The Spectator , February 7, 2011, and text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com , February 7, 2011. Canada: Toronto Sun , March 15, 2011. Loosies: New York Times , April 4, 2011. Massage: nj.com , March 24, 2011. India: The Economist , April 7, 2011. Florida ACLU: ACLU press release, April 5, 2011. New Missal: catholicculture.org , April 15, 2011. Theresa Rebeck: New York Times , April 13, 2011. Joseph Weiler: mercator.net , February 4, 2011. German theologians: memorandum-freiheit.de . Insults: buzzfeed.com . Gail Collins: New York Times , April 13, 2011. Polygyny: Wall Street Journal , April 1, 2011.

wwai tips : Joe Carter, Dimitri Cavalli, Meghan Duke, Anthony Esolen, Greg Forster, David Mills, R. R. Reno, Richard Smith, and Kevin Staley-Joyce.