This Just In

Overwhelmed with information, we often miss revealing tidbits in the news that can be so enriching to our appreciation of life as it is lived early in the 21st century. Herewith, for your delectation, some items you may have missed from early 2008.

Overwhelmed with information, we often miss revealing tidbits in the news that can be so enriching to our appreciation of life as it is lived early in the 21st century. Herewith, for your delectation, some items you may have missed from early 2008.

As a parent, how can I
not be against wasting food? Inside Higher Ed (January 30) reports that Colby College in Maine, acting in loco parentis, feels the same way. School authorities have taken away cafeteria trays from the students. The reasoning is impeccable: If the students do not have trays, they cannot carry as much food to the table. Thus, less food will be wasted. This is a terrifically innovative idea, but it needs to be taken a step farther. How about removing the dishes in which the students carry the food, and eliminate food waste altogether? I would try this at home, but my youngest child does not mind eating off the floor — and I can’t remove the floor.
Apparently, in loco parentis was not in the vocabulary of departing William and Mary College president Gene R. Nichol who resigned when informed his contract would not be renewed (Washington Post, February 13). In October 2006, Nichol first gained fame when he insisted on removing the cross from the school chapel because he wanted the space to be welcoming to all. Admittedly, the cross is not all that welcoming — it certainly was not to Jesus, who was crucified on it. In fact, it is kind of a demanding, upsetting thing.
Far more welcoming to all was the "Sex-Workers’ Art Show," held on campus with "prostitutes and strippers performing and provoking discussion about their jobs." A lot of thoughtless observers have probably not considered asking strippers about what they think they are doing. Do they know they are disrobing? Why would they possibly do such a thing? Here was a great chance that Nichol thought the students should not miss, so he refused to cancel the show over alumni objections because of "freedom of speech." Think back on all the years during which strippers and prostitutes were harried and discriminated against. All they really needed to do was give a little talk about their jobs to obtain their due under the Bill of Rights.
Nichol probably should not seek employment in Malaysia, where gender-related problems are a touchy issue, especially in the only state run by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (Washington Post, January 26). It appears that the checkout lines at the grocery stores in the northern state of Kelantan were unisex. Imagine the distress caused to unsuspecting shoppers who, innocently carting a couple of gallons of milk to the register, discover the person in front of them is from a different gender! Having once gone to an all-boys school, I can relate to the shock.
Therefore, the solons of Kelantan have ordered, and will enforce, separate checkout lines for men and women at all supermarkets. (Can you imagine the difference in the magazine racks?) But what about the shopping area itself? What if opposing genders meet at, say, the butcher’s counter? To prevent gender contamination, how about a section for steer meat and another one for cows? I will have to consult a botanist to figure out the gender proclivities in the vegetable world.
As was well-reported, prominent members of the physics faculty and a group of students calling themselves the "Physics Collective" protested Pope Benedict XVI’s scheduled visit to La Sapienza University of Rome to inaugurate the academic year (Washington Times, January 16). Proving they did not understand their own university’s name, the decidedly unwise collective claimed on its Web site that Benedict "condemns centuries of scientific and cultural growth by affirming anachronistic dogmas such as Creationism, while attacking scientific free thought and promoting mandatory heterosexuality." Let’s see. The students were created male and female, and that’s the pope’s fault? Phone home, kids — your parents did that to you. The only thing the pope says is mandatory is chastity, and therein lies the rub against which they rage.
As part of the protest against the pope’s visit, homosexual and transvestite students were organizing a "procession for denied rights." Purportedly, they were doing this freely. Or are they simply fettered to their passions, making their actions, well, mandatory?
The good news is that Americans, unlike Europeans — certainly unlike some confused members of the Physics Collective — still like babies, and lots of them. According to Associated Press (January 15): "Bucking the trend in many other wealthy industrialized nations, the United States seems to be experiencing a baby boomlet, reporting the largest number of children born in 45 years." There were nearly 4.3 million births in 2006. While Hispanics accounted for nearly one-quarter of all U.S. births, non-Hispanic white women and other racial and ethnic groups were having more babies, too. Apparently, there has been nothing like this since the end of the baby boom in 1961. AP reports that "the United States has a higher fertility rate than every country in continental Europe, as well as Australia, Canada and Japan."
The fun starts as to the reasons why. The experts think it might have to do with "a decline in contraceptive use." Indeed, birth requires conception, so that makes sense. Also, "a drop in access to abortion" works since born babies are alive (mostly). If you know any tautologies, you can be an expert, too!
"Poor education and poverty" are my favorite explanations for the high birth rate, especially since we are the wealthiest country in history. I am so poor and stupid, I have four children. I only wish I were stupider, though some people do not think that is possible. But wait: Nan Marie Astone, associate professor of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University, says in the article that "Americans like children. We are the only people who respond to prosperity by saying, ‘Let’s have another kid."’ I take that back. Now I wish I were richer.
However, the Wall Street Journal reports that some single women are choosing to freeze their eggs, rather than procreate now. It’s called "oocyte cryopreservation" and costs from $9,000 to $14,000. The Journal reports that one customer "keeps a laboratory photo of her eggs, which she calls her ‘maybe babies,’ tacked to her home-office bulletin board." (I wonder how she feels about stem cell research?) Each maybe-birthday, the eggs look exactly the same! Thanks to refrigerated fertility, they achieve a kind of maybe-immortality. Unless maybe-mom gets involved in cryogenics for herself, however, the march of time may deprive her of maybe-single parenthood.
Another maybe-mom, who thinks the procedure eases the pressure from family members to have children, asks, "What’s the alternative?" Well, let’s think. Even Dr. Nichol might have something to suggest here.
The depth of analysis is staggering in a BBC report probing the motivations of the lone trader, Jerome Kerviel, who lost French bank Société Générale more than $7 billion in unauthorized trades (Wall Street Journal, January 25). For motivational insights, the BBC conducted a probing interview with Nick Leeson, whose losses at Barings Bank in the mid-1990s ruined one of Britain’s oldest merchant banks. Why, they asked him, would someone do such a thing? His penetrating answer: "The thing that I wanted, and I’m sure that this guy wanted as well, was success. Success was the thing that drove him on . . . . Probably his biggest fear is the fear of failure."
There you have it. The BBC actually paid for that. I have always desired success and feared failure; the only thing I can’t figure out is how I missed out on the unauthorized trades.

Robert R. Reilly was a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and served as his liaison to the Catholic Church. He is a frequent contributor to and Crisis magazine.


  • Robert R. Reilly

    Robert R. Reilly is the author of America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding, forthcoming from Ignatius Press.

    Orthodox. Faithful. Free.

    Sign up to get Crisis articles delivered to your inbox daily

    Email subscribe inline (#4)

Join the Conversation

in our Telegram Chat

Or find us on

Editor's picks

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00

We must raise $60,000 to fund our work and continue offering the most incisive commentary in the culture wars.

Will you please make a donation today?

Share to...