Last week, I got some very good news—but it didn’t feel good at all. This week’s news was medically neutral, as these things are usually judged. But it felt incredibly sweet.
That sounds strange, so let me try to explain. Last week, I learned that the past two months of chemotherapy has been working: the latest round of films showed that two tumors on my lungs have shrunk slightly, and that no new bits of cancer are visible—not on my liver (which is where late-stage colon cancer tends to migrate), and not on my lungs. That doesn’t mean I’m cancer-free save for those two lung tumors. As I understand it, the odds remain high that there are small bits of cancer out there, including at least some on my lungs. But the films suggest that my chemo regimen can either kill those incipient tumors or stop them from growing. Which means my life expectancy just got longer by at least a year, and maybe more.
Like I said, it’s very good news. What’s not to like about a longer life expectancy when faced with a killing disease?
Continue reading "Living and Surviving--Stuntz" »
If you ever read the verses on bribes and gifts in the book of Proverbs, as I did for a Sunday school lesson last week, you will quickly run into apparent contradictions. “Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live,” instructs one verse (Prov. 15:27). But another that says “A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.” (Prov. 21:14). How can good bribes– or gifts, if you prefer– be distinguished from bad ones?
The easiest case is gifts simply to show respect or humility, as when the Magi brought gifts to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:11-12). These, the Bible makes clear, are good and often admirable.
But with gifts that expect or hope for something in return, distinguishing the good from the bad seems much harder.
Continue reading "Gifts and Bribes--Skeel" »
David Brooks argued in his column yesterday that traditional norms of thrift and frugality have been displaced in America by norms that “encourage debt and living for the moment.” Among the causes of this shift, he blames state governments’ promotion of the lottery, pay day lenders, credit card companies, and Congress’s own profligacy with debt. The column is well worth reading, as is the think tank report he discusses, “For a New Thrift: Confronting the Debt Culture.”
Two thoughts on these issues:
1) Gambling and Risky Debt. It seems to me that the state lawmakers’ aggressive promotion of lottery play, and the culture that creates, makes it much harder than it should be to criticize borrowers who gambled on subprime mortgages in recent years. The states themselves have been sending a message that rolling the dice is a good thing. (In a notorious New York ad from a few years ago, a mother poked fun at her hardworking daughter, saying there’s no need to study because the mother had bought lottery tickets).
Will the pernicious effect of gambling on financial responsibility be a big campaign issue this summer and fall? Not likely.
Continue reading "The Great (Debt) Seduction--Skeel" »
As I was reading the Supreme Court’s new Guantanamo Bay decision this weekend, I emailed my colleague Stephanos Bibas, a fine scholar and Supreme Court watcher, to see what he thought. After explaining why he thinks “the dissenters have a reasonably strong case” given among other things the historical limitations on the writ of habeas corpus, he said:
“the majority seems influenced by the long and open-ended nature of this war on terror. I can't help but think that the Executive's bungling of Guantanamo, with the Yoo memo and the refusal to budge an inch in conferring due process protections, has swayed at least Justice Kennedy to distrust unreviewable executive discretion here. It seems to confirm Jack Goldsmith's thesis in The Terror Presidency: by constantly pushing its power to the utmost and refusing to show any respect to good-faith concerns, the Bush II administration has provoked confrontation after confrontation with the Supreme Court and lost, ultimately weakening executive authority.”
If Stephanos is correct– and I personally think he is– the Supreme Court’s ruling that the enemy combatants at Guantanamo are entitled to full habeas corpus rights seems to me both understandable and wrong. It may also be a significant opportunity for John McCain.
Continue reading "McCain's Guantanamo Opportunity--Skeel" »
Suppose that one of the candidates needs to shake things up a bit in the coming weeks, to take a surprising position that could unsettle his base a little but offers promise with other constituencies. What might the candidates propose, consistent with their own values? Here’s one possibility for each.
For Obama, my pick would be school vouchers. Obama is heavily dependent on the teachers unions, as are the Democrats generally, so it’s very hard to imagine him supporting vouchers. But suppose he endorsed a voucher proposal that combined vouchers with increased funding for public schools, perhaps a dollar per student in increased funding for every dollar per student in vouchers. The teachers unions wouldn’t be happy of course, but the increased funding for public education would soften the blow; and a proposal like this might be attractive to Catholic and evangelical voters, and more generally to the lower middle class voters that Obama had trouble attracting in the primaries.
Continue reading "A Radical (?) Idea for Each Candidate--Skeel" »
Are secular university faculties prejudiced against evangelical Christians?
The folks at Volokh [link here] are having an interesting discussion about that question. The conversation was kicked off by a study that, I gather, shows that 53% of university faculty members view evangelicals negatively. Todd Zywicki says that figure suggests a measure of bigotry among those who teach in secular universities.
Having been a part of the secular university world for almost thirty years (counting my student days)—and having belonged to evangelical churches for more than twenty years—I’m quite sure that anti-Christian bigotry exists, and that its targets extend beyond evangelicals. But bigotry is not an on-off category; differences of degree matter. And while I have only my own experience to go on, my impression is that the amount and depth of hostility have declined sharply in the last couple of decades, and especially in the last several years.
Continue reading "Secular Universities and Evangelical Christians--Stuntz" »
Four months ago, on February 27, doctors removed a large tumor from my colon, along with a fair chunk of the surrounding abdominal tissue. The tumor had broken out, but they didn’t know how far the cancer had spread. Last Friday, June 27, four months to the day afterward—a different set of doctors took out two smaller tumors, one on each lung. The doctors also took out two even smaller growths that were too small to show up on films. But these other growths turn out to have been benign. So far as anyone now knows, my lungs are cancer-free.
It’s possible the news will turn out to be less positive. Once it breaks free of the organ where it finds its first home, cancer is like the proverbial bad penny: it tends to keep popping up. Eventually, metastasized cancers like mine usually kill their patients. Eventually, but not always—and not always soon.
That’s why cancer patients think differently about time than most other people.
Continue reading "Another Surgery--Stuntz" »