Wednesday, November 30, 2011


As a general proposition, Western Europe, Japan and most of the Muslim world - and especially Iran - are "Zombie Nations" that have committed national suicide. Demographically speaking, they are the living dead, and we should be aware of this fact when we are dealing with them.

This is the cheerful point of a fascinating book I just read, titled "How Civilizations Die," by David Goldman.

"Population decline is the elephant in the world's living room. As a matter of arithmetic, we know that the social life of most developed countries will break down within two generations." So begins the book, which develops themes from turgid U.N. population studies into an absorbing and sobering picture of the chaos likely to envelope the world over the next 75 years.

The problem is that large swathes of the world's population have stopped having children, or stopped having them in numbers sufficient to replace the current population. Birthrates in every Western European nation, and all of the western former Soviet republics, have fallen well below replacement level. Replacement levels vary, depending on a variety of factors, but world wide the level is around 2.3 children per female. Any rate that is less than 2.0 is well below replacement level, no matter where you are.

The sad reality, as the author points out, is that the rate at which a population has children is not a scale with evenly distributed consequences. It is not like walking down the cellar steps, when at each step you are one foot closer to the bottom and one foot further from the top. Instead, it is more like walking down steps to the bottom of a deep pool. There is a world of difference between being 6 inches above water and 6 inches below. One is alive and the other is dead.

There are three startling aspects of the book. The first is included within the parenthetical following the title, "And Why Islam is Dying, Too." Iran is facing national extinction in the very near future because, in one generation, its population has gone from having 6-7 children per female to less than 2. The Iranians are quite aware of this, and spend a lot of time fretting about it. So do the Turks, who face the same problem. We in the West, however, go on assuming that because they are Muslim nations they are having babies like mad.

Not so.

As these nations have become more literate their birthrate has dropped to the same level as Western Europe's - that is, down to the "catastrophic" level on the birthrate speedometer. The difference is that it took Western Europe hundreds of years to reach this state, while most of the Muslim nations of Northern Africa and the Middle East have managed to do it in one generation.

Having children at less than replacement rate creates an "inverted population pyramid," in which the number of working age people keeps getting smaller compared to the number of elderly dependents. A poor society reaches crisis stage more quickly than a rich society - there's less money to cushion the fall - but neither one can support the inverted pyramid for very long. At some point any society having children at less than replacement level topples and collapses, as did Rome, and before it, Greece.

Here are "diamond-shaped" population pyramids for Hong Kong and Japan, from 2006, reflecting a fall of their total fertility rate below replacement levels 30-40 years ago:

From "World Population Collapse: Lessons for the Philippines" by Gregory D. Gaston

The diamond-shaped population graph means that people with jobs will have to support relatively few children and a relatively few elderly. This contributes to an economic boom, since workers get to keep a bigger share of their earnings than if they were supporting lots of kids. This works great, for a little while, like swimming underwater with your snorkel.

But the next generation has a big problem. They will have far fewer workers supporting a larger and rapidly growing number of older dependents. And they are unlikely to start having lots more children, because that will make their lives even more burdensome, in the short run. Thus, once you start down this road it is very difficult to reverse course.

The second startling aspect of the book is the speed at which this collapse happens. One hazily thinks of this as a possibility "out there" somewhere. Quite the contrary, the Turkish president has announced that his country will collapse by 2038 unless people start having 3 children. Like right now. Ahmadinejad has said the same kind of thing in Iran. As the book points out, Westerners think this is all nutty fanatical Islam talk, but sadly, the math is quite correct, give or take a few years.

By the last half of this century, Western Europe and the western tier of former Soviet republics will be in the process of social collapse as a result of their below replacement birthrates. Some countries will collapse sooner, some later, some will have more money or more immigration or smarter financial planning. But in the end they will all be sucked down the demographic maelstrom. At least they will if they don't change their childbearing habits immediately and radically. Not a likely prospect.

The third startling aspect of this book is that demographers have identified two key contributors to the decline of birth rates: increases in female literacy and a decrease in religious faith. Thus, for example, there are only two traditionally Western nations that are still having children at replacement rate: the United States (just barely) and Israel, both of whom have near universal female literacy but also have relatively high levels of religious faith. And within those nations, the people contributing most to replacing our populations are religiously zealous people.

When women in a rural and backward society become literate, the desire to have children takes second place to the economic possibilities opened up before them. Even more significantly, when people lose their faith they lose their desire to have children, at least enough children to allow the society to survive. The only factor that has consistently counteracted the tendency of female literacy to depress birthrates is fervent religious faith.

In Iran, only about 2% of the population go to mosques regularly. It is not the case, as is commonly supposed, that the population is radically religious. Far from it. The ruling elite is, but that's about it. Iran is about as religious as France, which is to say, not at all.

The author goes on to point out that theories of rational social and political behavior break down when a "player" becomes convinced (rightly or wrongly) he is about to die. Someone with 3 months to live often views the world - and risk-taking - quite differently from someone not faced with death.

The same for societies. Sometimes they accept their fate and die quietly, but often enough they get frantic and engage in near hopeless wars in a last-ditch effort to survive.

Not a pretty picture, but a fascinating book. I could not help remarking the fact that since the time of the Rev. Thomas Malthus the elite in Western society have obsessed about over-population as the great demographic catastrophe facing civilization.

This obsessive notion has been systematically falsified by events for the past two centuries. The prophecies of doom have proven, in the event, to be precisely wrong. Curiously, this has not stopped the caterwauling prophesies, or the enormous push to reduce birthrates. These efforts have proven "successful," by and large, except among the deeply religious and the illiterate.

With "successes" like these, who needs failures?

A curious side-note: looks like Pope Paul VI got it just exactly right in Humane Vitae, and his many and sundry critics got it, well, dead wrong. Have a look here.

So on we march, off the cliff's edge, the elites in government, academia, and the media urging us onward, ever onward, in the precious and holy name of global population control, while the actual catastrophe we face is not a population explosion but an implosion, with its attendant Demographic Zombie Nations (DZN) lurching about in spasmodic death throes.

The prescribed "cure," it turns out, is far worse than the "disease."

"Oh, the humanity . . ."

- Radio announcer Herbert Morrison's famous words
while witnessing the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Nancy Pelosi says Catholics have a "conscience thing." She says Catholic health-care providers are ready to allow women to "die on the floor" rather than provide an abortion.

All this cropped up as part of her steadfast opposition to amendments to the federal healthcare law. The amendments provide a "conscience exemption" for employers (like the Catholic church and social agencies) who don't want to pay for abortions or abortion counseling, either directly or through insurance.

Ms. Pelosi says these amendments let hospitals “say to a woman, ‘I’m sorry you could die’ if you don’t get an abortion.” She says her opponents “may not like the language,’’ she said, “but the truth is what I said. I’m a devout Catholic and I honor my faith and love it . . . but they have this conscience thing’’ that puts women at physical risk. For more on Ms. Pelosi's "conscience" comment, take this link.

"This conscience thing." Really? And liberals mocked Bush The Elder for talking about the "vision thing?" I suppose we have to give Ms. Pelosi a break, since she's from California. They struggle with a lot of concepts out there, like, whatever? Maybe we should call it the "conscience thingy."

Catholic health care providers strongly disagree with Ms. Pelosi, not about the conscience thingy, but about putting women at physical risk.

Ms. Pelosi and her peeps want to force the Catholic church and hospitals, and other people morally opposed to abortion, to provide abortion and abortion counseling coverage in the health insurance that they are compelled to provide under Obamacare. There will be no "choice" about providing abortion coverage. Here is some coverage of President Obama's take.

A few comments. First, the reporting on this subject is an example of "tabloidalism," a word I just invented. Tabloidalism is only vaguely concerned with whether a Kardashian wedding is in fact a fraud, or whether Brad and Angelina really are splitting. The truth is not the story; the story is the story.

Just so with Pelosi and the "conscience thingy." The concern does not seem to be with the truth (or falsity) of what she says, but with the posturing and name-calling. People want to be entertained.

Of course, one crucial difference between Kim Kardashian's wedding and the health care exemptions is that the exemptions are about life and death, genocide, and religious freedom. That's all I'm talking about.

The tendency toward tabloidalism is part of the eternal struggle over what people want versus what they need. For instance, lots of people want cocaine, but they don't need it. And lots of people don't want religion, but they do need it.

What they want may be expedient, but what they need is truth. This was Pontius Pilate's test, and he flunked, as would most of us. He asked "what is truth?" when confronted with Truth in the flesh. When confronted with a choice between eternal Truth and what I want, I tend to fall over myself grasping what I want, while torturing my conscience until it tells me what I want to hear.

The technical term is concupiscence. Anyway, tabloidalism indulges what we want at the expense of what we need.

In 99% of life's circumstances, there is truth and there are lies, and you can determine which is which. It just takes a little work. The other 1% of the time is spent listening to tenured professors talk about ludicrously unlikely hypotheticals in which truth and a correct moral choice are unclear.

Back to Ms. Pelosi. In Nancy Pelosi's view, allowing people to refuse to provide abortion services for others is "savage:" “When the Republicans vote for this bill today, they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor and health-care providers do not have to intervene, if this bill is passed. It’s just appalling.” For more on Ms. Pelosi's "savage" comments, here you go.

Here's the legislation Ms. Pelosi finds "appalling:"

"Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require any health plan to provide coverage of or access to abortion services or to allow the Secretary or any other Federal or non-Federal person or entity in implementing this Act to require coverage of, access to, or training in abortion services."

Read the whole bill here. You can read a summary of the issues here. You can read a summary of the voting on this bill here.

In fact this "appalling" vote was not "to say that women can die on the floor and health-care providers do not have to intervene . . ." The legislation simply denied the federal government the power to require the Catholic Church, and others of like mind, to fund abortions, abortion insurance coverage, and abortion training.

Outrageous. Appalling. Savage. Slaughter of the Innocents.

Wait, no, that was Herod killing all the babies in Bethlehem. That's Ms. Pelosi, standing up for Americans' right to slaughter their children. And the American people's right to compel everyone to pay for abortion, no matter their "conscience thingys."

So confusing. Anyway, Ms. Pelosi's a peach. But what does she mean she's a "devout" Catholic? Maybe she's using "devout" in a very special way, as in a "mortally sinning" Catholic? I never knew "devout" could be used that way.

Ms. Pelosi's Lesson for Today: It's okay for big-shot politicians to lie when they are trying to preserve the sacred right to commit genocide.

50 million dead children since 1973. I wonder what My Generation will be named? Probably not the "Second Greatest Generation." Maybe "The Savage Generation?" How about "The Suicidal Generation?"

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


"We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?"
Mother Teresa

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive." C.S. Lewis

I had a friend who, a few years ago, told me that since all I could do was criticize, I needed to get out of the way and let the new Administration roll up its sleeves and get to work.

Well, my friend, there have been lots of Progressive sleeves rolled up the last 2 1/2 years. We have a Progressive President who has been busy borrowing money to pay out a King Kong sized Progressive stimulus to just about everyone. We have taken 10 trillion in debt and increased it to 14.5 trillion in 2.5 years, based on promises that this would stimulate the economy.

The President and his economic advisers promised that by this point in time the economy and unemployment would have turned around. I'm afraid not.

The stimulus has failed. The economy stinks, unemployment stinks, government indebtedness stinks, and each is stinking worse every day.

Candidate Obama came into office because people wanted him to fix the economy. In every measurable way this Administration has failed to improve the economy. By his own campaign rhetoric, President Obama should be a one-term President. See the video.

In order to see the future under Progressivism, President Obama's ideology, let us look at one of the sectors of society where Progressives have been in control during the last generation: the American public school system.

A bit of personal history here. Eternal Optimist attended a small religious private school for part of his high school education. A college friend of my parents paid the tuition; I still thank him.

EO also attended a public high-school in Big Cold Town (BCT). Typically, far more money is spent on each student in public schools than in the kind of small religious private school I attended.

In the public school, EO's acquaintances did not spend time studying in the evening. Rather, they spent their time at a local shopping center, purse snatching and stealing car stereos.

During class, EO's acquaintances kept up a low-volume commentary on their sexual exploits. When they got tired of this, they would dwell on the alleged homosexuality of one of their favorite victims.

Periodically these acquaintances were excused from class on some sham or other in order to go get high. At the time I thought the teachers were idiots. Today I realize the teachers were just happy to have these fellows stoned. They were less disruptive that way.

EO tutored one of his fellows for a history exam. This fellow was by no means the most felonious of EO's acquaintances. During this tutoring session the fellow and his girlfriend were unfamiliar with the term "fascist." EO mentioned Benito Mussolini. Blank stares. Adolf Hitler: Crickets.

EO managed to explain where Europe was, and that there had been a big war over there back in the 1940s. We missed a lot of nuances, such as Hitler's rise to power and the economic consequences of the Treaty of Versailles.

One conclusion EO came to while in high-school was that these mopes did not belong in school. They were openly contemptuous of learning and did everything in their power to make life miserable for all those around them.

Society (in the form of me and other students) would have been better served if some Marine had whipped their mope asses routinely.

The cause of all this misery was the idiotic system set in place to "govern" the students, which had done away with the idea of prompt, effective discipline, including expulsion.

By the way, not that it should matter, but the mopes about which I am speaking were all white kids. Progressives may need to re-read that fact, because by now all good Progressives have questioned whether I am a racist. That is what Progressives do when someone criticizes them.

Progressives go to places like Exeter, Amherst, and Brown. Must be nice. There Progressives murmur sweet Progressive nothings to one another and establish social policy for the rest of us, the consequences of which they avoid for themselves.

President Obama, in true Progressive fashion, does not send his children to a public high school, but does insist that the poor people living in Washington, DC, should be good sports and send their kids to public school. He scrapped the voucher system the people voted in so they could avoid sending their kids into the crapulous, pustulant, scrofulous DC public school system.

Republicans had to bludgeon the President into re-funding the voucher system in D.C. Oy vey. This hypocrisy keeps the NEA pushing millions into the President's re-election campaign fund.

If it sounds like EO maintains a chip on his shoulder, he does.

For a vision of America's future under Progressive ideology, you need only examine the raving success story that is American public education:

compulsory, hideously expensive, pathetically ineffective, impossible to jettison.

I'm just saying.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Friday I walked through the check-out line at WalMart and saw that Kim Kardashian had checked into rehab. Apparently her recent, much celebrated marriage was a hoax designed to make money. At first I thought Ms. Kardashian was going into marriage rehab, but then realized I was mistaken. Curious about the concept of marriage rehab, I did a little research and found there are indeed marriage rehab centers, which seems fitting, given society's gross failure to make marriage work.

Ms. Kardashian was not, it turned out, going into marriage rehab, but rather, a substance abuse program. These have become a kind of secular rite of penance.

It is sad that this is front-page news, read by millions. I realize people thirst for gossip, because exultation over the mess in which others find themselves has a kind of sick, tonic effect on one's own sense of self-worth. This is part of what makes blogging so popular. Profiting over this lust for gossip is on par with profiting from selling cocaine.

On a brighter note, the last few days have seen a spate of Memorials to saints. As these saints have not made the cover of the National Squalor recently, and are unlikely to anytime soon, I thought I would give them some love right here. The Eternal Optimist is just trying to do "his bit," as the English used to say during the War (that's WWII, for you younger folk). We are engaged in another kind of War, that has gone on for two millennia, and promises to continue for quite a while.

Without further ado, our recently Memorialized Saints:

Saint Josaphat
, born in a little town in then Lithuania (part of modern day Ukraine) in approximately 1580. He died at Vitebsk, Russia, on November 12, 1623, beheaded and shot. The Catholic Church celebrates his memorial on November 12. He spent his life preaching the gospel of Jesus throughout his homeland, living a poor and pious life, and earning a great deal of hatred over his success in converting people to Catholicism. Eventually his success at evangelization cost him his life. The Church celebrates a Memorial to St. Josaphat on November 12.

Saint Martin
, Bishop of Tours, in the province of Gaul (modern day France), was born in the Roman province of Pannonia (in modern day Hungary), about 316, and died at Candes, Touraine, in approximately 397. He entered the Roman army at an early age and was converted to Christianity there. Once he finished his time in the army he went to Gaul to study under St. Hilary, a famous bishop and theologian. St. Martin spent his life traveling among the pagan Gauls in the west and south of France, converting them to Christianity. For many centuries the memory of this kind and deeply virtuous man was revered in France, and his tomb was the site of pilgrimages. Sadly, the church that housed his tomb was sacked by Protestants during the Reformation, and then completely destroyed during the French Revolution. The revolutionaries built a road through the church to prevent its ever being rebuilt. Notwithstanding Revolutionary road-building, the Church remembers St. Martin with dignity and reverence, and celebrates his Memorial on November 11.

Saint Leo the Great
, Pope during the 5th century, was born in Tuscany of an aristocratic family on a date unknown, and died in office, as Pope, in 461. During his day the Roman Empire was beset by barbarian invasion and had largely disintegrated in the West, while the Church was beset by heresies that denied both the humanity and the "Godness" of Christ. The Church was plagued as well by bishops and priests who were lax in both their personal morality and in their Church practices, essentially making both up as they went along.

Leo is titled "The Great" because he addressed all of these issues at once during his Papacy. He intervened by personal appeals to deter Attila the Hun and other barbarians from invasion and destruction. He insisted on personal holiness and financial rectitude in his bishops and priests and followed up on this with intense energy and determination, fighting on many fronts at once. And he defined for the Church that Christ was both fully God and fully Man. Since Leo's day the Catholic Church has accepted this teaching as fundamental to its understanding of Christ and His work of salvation. The Catholic Church celebrates its memorial to St. Leo on November 10.

* * *

The saints remind us that human virtue and evil have not changed dramatically over the last several thousand years. We've gotten better at the technology of amplifying evil, but the basic impulses are the same.

Sadly, marriages arranged for the sake of money are nothing new. The Church is still plagued by bishops and priests who live immoral lives and teach rotten doctrine. Radical ideologues still trash religion, and jealous authorities murder pious religious people.

It is good to know that the "great [] cloud of witnesses" is watching and praying "how long, oh Lord?" up in heaven. Hebrews 12:1, Revelation 6:10. Here is a recent addition to the illustrious crew.