Balkinization  

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Richard John Neuhaus

Andrew Koppelman

I only saw the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus (who died the day before yesterday) speak once, at a conference at Harvard on abortion in late 1994. I was decidedly out of place at that conference, since I’m a strong defender of abortion rights, but I decided to go (I was living in Cambridge at the time, so it wasn’t much of a trip) and see what I could learn. I kept my mouth shut and behaved myself.

The conference was held in the Ames Courtroom at Harvard Law School, a large, gorgeous room with high ceilings and big windows. (I’ve found some photos of the room here.) I was struck by how out of place the dedicated pro-lifers were in this lush and opulent space; there was a strong sense of being outsiders, besieged in a culture that did not value what they valued. I was particularly struck by the large number of children and babies in the room. Normally, at academic conferences such as this one, a crying baby would be as misplaced as a giraffe, but in fact the panels were able to proceed very well, with the occasional baby noise hardly any distraction from what was said. If a baby started crying loudly, the parent carrying it (not always the mother) would quickly exit the room. It was clear that many of the people there didn’t have childcare and needed to bring their kids along, but I also took the presence of children to be a defiant statement: see, we value young life and accommodate it in our daily doings, as most of the people in our benighted culture emphatically do not. And I thought there was a good point being made, one that was particularly poignant to me at the time because I was the father of a toddler: our culture could be a good deal more accommodating of small children and their parents than it is.

I was also struck, though, by the juxtaposition of this conference with another one that I had attended in the very same room less than a year earlier. That was a conference called “Stonewall at 25,” celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising that began the modern gay rights movement. That meeting, too, had a political agenda, defending gay rights, less than 10 years after the Supreme Court had declared in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986) that the states had the power to criminalize homosexual sex.

The second time, there was a weird feeling of déjà vu. Each time, I could feel the group’s sense of being a besieged minority, trying to defend values that were misunderstood and despised by the larger world. Each time there was a palpable feeling of relief at for once being in a room of like-minded and sympathetic people. (As I said, I kept quiet at the abortion conference.) I was struck by the thought that both groups were right to feel its minority status, but that each group was mistaken to the extent that each tended to view the other as paradigmatic of the dominant point of view that they were struggling against. Of course, neither is dominant, and both remain marginal.

I came away feeling that both groups were good, decent people, and that we ought to find some way for both to be able to live in the same country. That’s more easily done with respect to gay rights than abortion, since the only way to end the alienation of the pro-lifers is to massively invade the autonomy of other people. But I came away with a sense of tragedy about my conflict with them.

Father Neuhaus gave the closing address at the abortion conference. I remember being struck by his eloquence, even though I disagreed with nearly everything he said. His view of the world wasn’t mine; his views on abortion and homosexuality struck me as bizarre, but he did as good a job as anyone has of making me understand what those issues look like from that political perspective. I particularly remember being struck by how he addressed the palpable sense of frustration in the room. I’m pretty sure that these are nearly his exact concluding words: “We should not mourn, rather we should be glad that we are not God. We should be glad that God is God.” In front of an audience that was inured to political defeat – the 20th anniversary of Roe v. Wade had just passed – he aimed to forestall despair, and I thought that this was a lovely way of putting his point, one that connected even with an agnostic like me. I was glad that he was there, and I’m sorry he’s gone now. Writing from the other side of the cultural divide, I am grateful for adversaries who are thoughtful and articulate, and I’ll miss him.



Comments:

Technically, this is the second time Neuhaus has died. No, really. However I'm sad to hear that this time we are parted from him.

I agree that he was thoughtful and articulate. More than articulate: gifted in articulating, communicating, explicating. He did not in my judgment always use his gifts in undivided pursuit of the truth, but he came closer than any who might be comparable.

One unfortunate fact is his and related views and scholarship were hijacked by Dubya to pretend that his politics had the moral high road. This is not Neuhaus's fault but I would that he'd rejected such an unworthy, ignorant, fool of a champion of his values. It's too late for that now.

But I close with enormous respect for Neuhaus, and thanks for his tireless work as an exponent of them in wonderful, powerful, lucid prose.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua . . .
 

A goodbye from First Things, the journal Neuhaus founded, along with a collection of obituaries, is here.
 

Good riddance. Neuhaus was an unreconstructed bigot who hated women who had the audacity not to be subservient baby factories, and hated gays and lesbians. Cloaking these opinions with religion does not make them more respectable, it makes them less, because it involves lying that some made-up supernatural power endorsed one's stupidity rather than it merely being one's own.

You can dress up ignorant intolerance in beautiful, florid Catholic natural law language, but it is still ignorant intolerance. Neuhaus is lucky that his religious beliefs were false-- for God were truly of the nature that he believed, such a deity would surely send this man to hell for attempting to ruin the lives of so many of his fellow human beings.
 

Neuhaus is lucky that his religious beliefs were false-- for [if] God were truly of the nature that he believed, such a deity would surely send this man to hell ... .

Dilan, are you qualified to debate theology with Neuhaus? Maybe Neuhaus' bigotry and hate were justified by his made-up supernatural power, in which case the latter might send him to heaven.
 

Dilan, you're not doing a particularly solid job of proving which side of the debate is truly "hateful." My guess is Neuhaus himself was much more tolerant of dissenting views than you'll ever hope to be.

But it sounds like you don't spend much time speaking with people who have a different conception of moral virtue, so it's hard to fault you for your intolerance.
 

Henry:

I don't claim to know the nature of God. But I do know that whatever She is, She has nothing whatever to do with the rituals of organized religions which have evolved over centuries and have been shaped by the political needs and desires of church leaders and their flocks. We don't know what's really true (and can't know, because despite what people say, it is pretty clear that God doesn't intervene directly in human affairs), but it's pretty clear that a lot of things are false.

Bill:

When the Southern Baptists endorsed discrimination against blacks and slavery, would you have claimed that anyone who criticized their beliefs was intolerant?

I am perfectly tolerant of Catholicism, including the tiny minority of Catholics who endorse Neuhaus' positions. I would never want to use the law to prevent Neuhaus or any other right wing Catholic from practicing his or her faith, no matter how bigoted I think it is.

But in contrast, Neuhaus wanted to use the guns of the state to force gays and lesbians and women and doctors into jail because they didn't happen to conduct their lives in accordance with Nuehaus' prejudices.

And they are prejudices. This isn't simply a disagreement about "moral virtue". It's perfectly clear that there is nothing "unvirtuous" about putting a penis inside a man instead of a woman. It's perfectly clear that using a condom to prevent the spread of HIV IS virtuous. Nuehaus, for some reason, had a deep seated, perverted prejudice against gays and liberated women.

He, of course, had a First Amendment right to that prejudice, and I strongly believe that it should be tolerated. But tolerance isn't the same thing as either immunity from criticism or the right to throw people into prison for offending you.

This was an evil man, who believed in evil things, and he should not be mourned.
 

Neuhaus wanted to use the guns of the state to force gays and lesbians and women and doctors into jail

Citation, please? Let's start with forcing gays into jail.
 

Anyone who thinks abortion is murder *should* call for doctors and women who abort to be convicted of murder.

That's the only consistent approach.

As someone not thrilled by abortion but determined that it should be legal, I think that such candor would benefit the pro-choice movement, because however many Americans are uncomfortable about abortion, they don't want their daughters executed for getting abortions.

It's the "reasonable" pro-lifers who are the more dangerous, because they have the same goals as Neuhaus, but mask them.
 

jpk:

How about this one?

http://www.outsports.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=12726

That's right, Richard John Neuhaus, proud supporter of Bowers v. Hardwick.
 

I don't claim to know the nature of God. But I do know that whatever She is, She has nothing whatever to do with the rituals of organized religions ... . [I]t is pretty clear that God doesn't intervene directly in human affairs... .

Dilan, your reference to a "made-up supernatural power" leads me to infer that you are an atheist, and, as I am too, I hate to quibble with you. But, as atheists, we lack standing to opine on God's sex, on whether he, she, or it has anything to do with rituals of organized religion, and on whether God intervenes directly in human affairs. The people who fantasize that there is a supernatural power have every right also to fantasize that God mandates or endorses their rituals and intervenes in their affairs. We may join the conversation only if they claim empirical evidence for their beliefs, but they generally don't.
 

Henry, I'm an agnostic. I have no idea what the nature of God is. But I know what She isn't. (She isn't "male", which is the reason I call Her a She.)

As for Neuhaus' fantasies, he does indeed have every right to fantasize that God in fact has a penis and mandates male heterosexual dominance.

My problems are twofold: (1) when he stops trying to persuade people and starts trying to use laws to enact his theology, things are a lot different, and (2) bigots are still bigots (indeed, they are worse bigots, because they aren't just claiming their own authority) when they cloak their claims with religion, and religious bigots don't get a free pass from any criticism.
 

The post is a useful window to the other side. They aren't just strange irrational sorts from a different planet.

Still, the fact that a "bizarre" sentiment is somehow done in a "eloquent" way shouldn't impress too much. Bigots don't just rant and rave. Blandness of evil, and all that. Eloquence in the service of bigotry in fact can be particularly dangerous.

I fear stereotypes about the other side might have led RN to be given too much credit, even after one speech.

I do wonder about the "we should be glad that we are not God" bit. It seems that side wants to do just that. Their God tells them so, so even if the God of others disagree, it is not enough.

They are not God, but act as God's conduits, a distinction that at times not much of a difference. In fact, seems like they are the ones guilty of blasphemy at times.
 

I realize that this is getting off-topic, but Dilan said that he is an agnostic, and I said that I am an atheist. I think it helpful to recognize three categories.

1: The person who affirmatively asserts the non-existence of God. Since one cannot prove the non-existence of anything, this assertion requires a leap of faith.

2. The person who will not make a leap of faith, but, because there is no empirical evidence for the existence of God, does not believe in God. This person acknowledges that God (or unicorns or Santa Claus) may exist, but does not take the possibility seriously.

3. The person who does not believe in God but considers the existence of God to be a serious possibility (although he probably does not consider the existence of unicorns or Santa Claus to be a serious possibility).

I consider person #2 to be an atheist (and I am an example of person # 2). Some people, however, consider person # 2 to be an agnostic. I think it unfortunate that English does not contain three words to cover the above three categories.
 

I'm not sure about the contours of Henry's definitions, realizing the matter is off topic.

When we speak of "God," we generally mean a certain entity. We aren't talking Zeus. This alone is problematic, since Dilan makes assumptions about rituals and such and who knows, e.g., "God" or a panel of gods DO exist, are flawed individuals or whatever, and therefore DO support flawed things. In fact, if one reads the Bible, it seems that "God" there does just that.

Anyway, talking about the commonly accepted definition of "God," we might be able to logically argue that such a "God" does not exist. One can point to the problem of evil, the "explanations" under a God simply not impressive, or other things.

"affirmatively asserts the non-existence of God" ... I don't think I take a "leap of faith" when I affirmatively assert there is no Santa Claus as usually understood. A man who delivers presents to everyone on Christmas and the like. Or, when I say that the earth is not the center of the universe. Unicorns are different, since it is a more limited matter.

Definition #1 is best used with a wide definition of "God," where it might work. Still, we would use the word "faith" in a pretty broad way. I would not be able to affirmatively assert that I am not married to Angelina Jolie without a 'leap of faith.'

Since words like "God" or "religion" often are wrongly defined narrowly and with some laziness, I do appreciate Henry's attempt to clarify the term. It is also arguably somewhat on topic when the subject is the death of a religious figure.
 

Neuhaus said: "People really think that on [Lawrence v. Texas] they have a winner."

I'm sorry, Dilan; where's the part where Neuhaus supports the state jailing gays?

Indeed, where in your cited item does Neuhaus call for jailing anyone? The above is his entire quote in the item.

If Neuhaus really called for the state to jail gays, that's news to me. Please cite your sources.
 

here, Neuhaus said that he would allow Texas citizens to criminalize homosexuals having sex with each other.

He opposed Lawrence v. Texas. The ruling overturned a law that criminalized, with prison terms etc., gays having sex with each other. He "supported" local option to do this. I wouldn't be surprised if he also directly supported such laws as necessary for public morality.

As to the doctor comment, I assume some research would show he thinks abortion should be illegal, which would involve putting doctors in jail who perform them. In fact, Wikipedia notes he was "liberal" until Roe.

Though "Roe" was a pregnant women, abortion cases often involved doctors criminally liable for breaching laws RNS wanted on the books.
 

here, Neuhaus said that he would allow Texas citizens to criminalize homosexuals having sex with each other.

He sure does. Which is not what you claimed.

Can you back up your claim? If not, will you have the decency to retract it, apologize, and stop misrepresenting Neuhaus?
 

He sure does. Which is not what you claimed.

Sure it is. I don't buy the distinction between opposing Lawrence and supporting sodomy laws unless a person goes on record and quite forcefully opposing discrimination against gays.

The reason is because of the reality that a lot of people on the right support a heck of a lot of gay bashing, and have simply learned to emphasize in their public statements the legalistic issues such as whether the Due Process Clause prohibits sodomy laws.

Bigotry against gays is repellent. If someone isn't condemning it, and is endorsing a legal position that would enshrine it into the law, I think it's fair to conclude that the person is a bigot.
 

Very well, please do believe whatever you want. Belief without evidence is cheap; just ask Dubya. The fact is you have repeatedly failed to support your claims about Neuhaus, and now have failed to apologize for misrepresenting him.

Although my views happen to be far from his, I like his clarity, nuance, humor, scholarship, and quality of writing. Let's face it, the boy can write. If you want to differ with him, there's plenty to differ with in what he did say; there's no reason to differ with what he didn't.
 

"Belief without evidence is cheap"

Dilan said that RN supported arresting gays and doctors who performed abortion. He supported laws that did just that. Said laws were enforced with police with guns.

The fact they were selectively enforced (my link has him saying he dislikes arbitrary laws, but said laws were by practice just that, even in Texas), which was if anything worse. Especially when they were enforced with violence or selectively against people local cops didn't like. What more "evidence" do you want?

As to him writing well and being charming/humorous, that's nice and all, but bigots can write well, be charming etc. They also can, in some fashion at least, be "nuanced."

One of the things about "Dubya" that really rankled was when he supported amending the Constitution in the promotion of anti-gay bigotry. I felt it was like spitting on the document.

Many like him too, including those who disagree quite strongly with his views. Oh well.
 

Dilan said that Neuhaus supported arresting gays

And putting them in jail. Yes.

Neuhaus supported laws that did just that.

Sorry, despite repeated requests, no one has produced evidence that supports this assertion.

my link has him saying he dislikes arbitrary laws, but said laws were by practice just that, even in Texas

If you mean this link that's not what he said. In fact, he provides two arguments against anti-sodomy laws: (1) "not everything immoral can or should be made illegal", and (2) in his judgement, in some cases "attempts to pass or enforce such a law would cause severe damage to the common good." He also adds a nuanced argument: for Texas, it is up to the people of Texas to decide, not him.

The context is also useful: a reader of his journal First Things is asking, yes or no, does he support anti-sodomy laws? If he took the position repeatedly attributed to him here, his answer would be yes, and that would be a citation supporting assertions such as the above. He does not say yes. He goes a long way toward saying no. We may guess he disappointed his reader and his supporters, and I'm sure he knew that. But it was his principled and rational position, expressed clearly and well, that even if you did oppose sodomy there are times where you should forbear to criminalize it or even attempt to do so.

That's what he wrote.

It would in my opinion perhaps be helpful to critics of Neuhaus if they read what he wrote.

I've stated it before, I'll say it one more time, and then I'll let it rest: my views are far from Neuhaus's. But I will listen with much patience to what he has to say. I am out of patience for those who put words in his mouth. If you want to criticize him, fine -- I'll probably join you in most criticisms -- but criticize him, not some straw man you pretend is him.
 

The fact that everything immoral shouldn't be criminalized is not very big of a submission. Yes, lying shouldn't be criminal, nor coveting your neighbor's wife. Or, not honoring your God as one should. Scalia etc. would find this fine to say.

Unlike these things, for which I assume RN didn't think Texas should have an option making illegal (might be wrong), he "supported" Texas making certain acts of homosexuals having sex illegal.

As I said, in Texas, the enforcement was arbitrary, even though he said he opposed arbitrarily applied laws. [I noted that he takes this position, so yes, I'm aware of it.] But, this is how sodomy laws were applied. History bears this out quite clearly. He still "supports" such local option.

He opposed a Supreme Court ruling that would block this path. He supported the state having the power to have police with guns arrest homosexuals having sex.

Furthermore, as Dilan notes, the result of his stance IS the arresting of gays. No matter how much "nuanced" we use to ignore cause/effect.

Likewise, are you saying that he didn't want abortion illegal? This includes, as Dilan noted, arresting the people who perform them. This is what illegal means.
 

The context is also useful: a reader of his journal First Things is asking, yes or no, does he support anti-sodomy laws? If he took the position repeatedly attributed to him here, his answer would be yes, and that would be a citation supporting assertions such as the above. He does not say yes. He goes a long way toward saying no.

No, he doesn't.

Here's how you say "no". You say the following words, or something like them:

"I think people who want to throw homosexuals in jail are sick bigots. I think laws that authorize the government to do so are awful and unjust, and I oppose them with every fibre of my being. Homosexuality may be a sin, but gays and lesbians are equal citizens under the law and we have no business trying to use government power to make their lives miserable or force them to change." And then, if you want to defend the constitutionality of sodomy laws, I will accept that you aren't a bigot.

That's not Neuhaus. And there's a reason for that. It gets back to an old saying of the civil rights movement that he was once a part of. "If you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

Neuhaus was part of the problem. And he was part of the problem because he hated gays. (He hated liberated women as well, but that's another story.) And he trafficked with people who hated gays. He made political alliances with people who hated gays. He was never going to offend them by condemning homophobia.

If we are ever going to stop gay bashing in this country and enshrine equality without regard to sexual orientation, we have to make what Neuhaus stood for just as unacceptable as the ideas of those who defended racism and Jim Crow the South on legalistic grounds while refusing to condemn the bigotry of White Southerners.

That's what Neuhaus was. He was a man who hated gays and lesbians. Saying it in a beautiful, florid fashion, with copious references to the great tradition of Catholic intellectuals, doesn't purify the garbage that he believed in. And defending Texas' right to have sodomy statutes on the books, in the end, is defending any state's right to discriminate against gays and ruin their lives. All because Mr. Neuhaus believed in a fairy tale.

No, sorry, this man was a horrible man. And his ideas will one day be just as discredited as the views of the racists he once fought against.
 

You're throwing the word "evil" about as though the word has some absolute meaning.

Tell me -- are critics of abortion "evil"? Are proponents of abortion rights "evil"?

How is "evil" a meaningful term without reference to God?

Was Charles Manson "evil," or was he simply making lifestyle choices that happen to be different from the ones you and I make? If Osama bin Laden gets his hands on a million nukes and destroys the planet, is that "evil," or is that just his way of fulfilling Allah's will as he sees it?
 

I am throwing the term "evil" out because that is a word that is too often used by conservative Catholics to describe the views of their opponents.

But to be clear, yes, I think discrimination against gays and lesbians is evil. And I think that opposing condom usage when the result is millions of Africans dying of AIDS is an even greater evil.

Abortion, unlike bigotry against gays and lesbians, is a debatable issue. Bigots against gays and lesbians are evil in the same way that bigots against blacks were and are.

Finally, and most importantly, your question about how can evil work without God shows a smugness that is inherent in a lot of religious conservatives, as if religious fairy tales written by people who were too ignorant to know any better and simply wanted to control ancient populations define what is good and evil. No, human reason defines good and evil. Indeed, even the Catholic Church agrees with me on this one (subject to the theological belief that our intellects are inspired by divine law), a position that dates back to Aquinas.

That is a tangent though. The point is that gay bashing is immoral, evil, unacceptable, to be shunned shamed and condemned, and its practitioners need to be driven out of polite society and civilized discourse. Just as racists are. And that's why we must not mourn Richard John Neuhaus.
 

The man you're not mourning is not Neuhaus. He's a guy you made up.

Tell you what, you can not mourn the not Neuhaus. It might be more appropriate to do so in a thread devoted to the recent death of not Neuhaus.
 

jpk:

There are gays and lesbians in this country who get fired from their jobs, get kicked out of the military, can't get married, can't adopt children, and can't bring their partners into this country.

And the real Neuhaus-- not some guy I made up-- dressed up that bigotry in florid, intellectual language and helped make it respectable.
 

There are gays and lesbians in this country who get fired from their jobs, get kicked out of the military, can't get married, can't adopt children, and can't bring their partners into this country.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Indeed, I can verify some of these from firsthand knowledge.

And the real Neuhaus -- not some guy I made up -- dressed up that bigotry in florid, intellectual language and helped make it respectable.

That's a view that might be supportable.

Unlike your earlier claim.

May I suggest your criticisms of the man would be more interesting if they're supportable? If they're based on fact? If they don't describe some straw man?

Neuhaus is dead. Perhaps it's time to let the straw man die too.
 

As someone who did know RJN as a friend for almost 20 years; who spent many, many hours with him discussing just such topics as are being discussed here, I can say without reservation that Dilan has no idea what he talking about. RJN did not come to his positions from the starting point of prejudice/discrimination that marked many traditionally held views re: homosexuality or abortion, but rather he began from the starting point of the dignity of the the individual and worked out from there. Disagree with his conclusions if you want but at least have the courage of your convictions and base your arguments on a similarly well grounded thought and reflection rather than on the ad hominum and straw man tactics of the intellectually lazy. Dilan, and those who have used this space to slag and slander a good man would be better served by following his intellectual example.
 

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A
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Incidence
Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. The incidence rate is approximately one per 1,000,000. The highest incidence is found in Britain, Australia and Belgium: 30 per 1,000,000 per year. For comparison, populations with high levels of smoking can have a lung cancer incidence of over 1,000 per 1,000,000. Incidence of malignant mesothelioma currently ranges from about 7 to 40 per 1,000,000 in industrialized Western nations, depending on the amount of asbestos exposure of the populations during the past several decades. It has been estimated that incidence may have peaked at 15 per 1,000,000 in the United States in 2004. Incidence is expected to continue increasing in other parts of the world. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age. Approximately one fifth to one third of all mesotheliomas are peritoneal.
Between 1940 and 1979, approximately 27.5 million people were occupationally exposed to asbestos in the United States.[ Between 1973 and 1984, there has been a threefold increase in the diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma in Caucasian males. From 1980 to the late 1990s, the death rate from mesothelioma in the USA increased from 2,000 per year to 3,000, with men four times more likely to acquire it than women. These rates may not be accurate, since it is possible that many cases of mesothelioma are misdiagnosed as adenocarcinoma of the lung, which is difficult to differentiate from mesothelioma.
Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure exists in almost all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos. In rare cases, mesothelioma has also been associated with irradiation, intrapleural thorium dioxide (Thorotrast), and inhalation of other fibrous silicates, such as erionite.
asbestos
is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven.
asbestos
has been widely used in many industrial products, including cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation. If tiny asbestos particles float in the air, especially during the manufacturing process, they may be inhaled or swallowed, and can cause serious health problems. In addition to mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a noncancerous, chronic lung ailment), and other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.
The combination of smoking and
asbestos exposure significantly increases a person's risk of developing cancer of the airways (lung cancer bronchial carcinoma). The Kent brand of cigarettes used
mesothelioma in its filters for the first few years of production in the 1950s and some cases of
mesothelioma have resulted. Smoking modern cigarettes does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma.
Some studies suggest that simian virus 40 may act as a cofactor in the development of mesothelioma.
Asbestos was known in antiquity, but it wasn't mined and widely used commercially until the late 1800s. Its use greatly increased during World War II Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos dust. Initially, the risks associated with
asbestos exposure were not publicly known. However, an increased risk of developing mesothelioma was later found among shipyard workers, people who work in asbestos mines and mills, producers of asbestos products, workers in the heating and construction industries, and other tradespeople. Today, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets limits for acceptable levels of
asbestos exposure in the workplace, and created guidelines for engineering controls and respirators, protective clothing, exposure monitoring, hygiene facilities and practices, warning signs, labeling, recordkeeping, and medical exams. By contrast, the British Government's Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states formally that any threshold for
mesothelioma must be at a very low level and it is widely agreed that if any such threshold does exist at all, then it cannot currently be quantified. For practical purposes, therefore, HSE does not assume that any such threshold exists. People who work with
asbestos wear personal protective equipment to lower their risk of exposure. Recent findings have shown that a mineral called erionite has been known to cause genetically pre-dispositioned individuals to have malignant mesothelioma rates much higher than those not pre-dispositioned genetically. A study in Cappadocia, Turkey has shown that 3 villiages in Turkey have death rates of 51% attributed to erionite related
mesotheliomaExposure to
asbestos fibres has been recognised as an occupational health hazard since the early 1900s. Several epidemiological studies have associated exposure to asbestos with the development of lesions such as asbestos bodies in the sputum, pleural plaques, diffuse pleural thickening, asbestosis, carcinoma of the lung and larynx, gastrointestinal tumours, and diffuse mesothelioma of the pleura and peritoneum.
The documented presence of
asbestos fibres in water supplies and food products has fostered concerns about the possible impact of long-term and, as yet, unknown exposure of the general population to these fibres. Although many authorities consider brief or transient exposure to
asbestos fibres as inconsequential and an unlikely risk factor, some epidemiologists claim that there is no risk threshold. Cases of mesothelioma have been found in people whose only exposure was breathing the air through ventilation systems. Other cases had very minimal (3 months or less) direct exposure.
Commercial
asbestos mining at Wittenoom, Western Australia, occurred between 1945 and 1966. A cohort study of miners employed at the mine reported that while no deaths occurred within the first 10 years after crocidolite exposure, 85 deaths attributable to mesothelioma had occurred by 1985. By 1994, 539 reported deaths due to mesothelioma had been reported in Western Australia.
Family members and others living with
asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing
mesothelioma and possibly other asbestos related diseases. This risk may be the result of exposure to
asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of
asbestos workers. To reduce the chance of exposing family members to asbestosMany building materials used in both public and domestic premises prior to the banning of
asbestos may contain
asbestos Those performing renovation works or activities may expose themselves to asbestos dust. In the UK use of Chrysotile asbestos was banned at the end of 1999. Brown and blue
asbestos was banned in the UK around 1985. Buildings built or renovated prior to these dates may contain asbestos materials.
For patients with localized disease, and who can tolerate a radical surgery, radiation is often given post-operatively as a consolidative treatment. The entire hemi-thorax is treated with radiation therapy, often given simultaneously with chemotherapy. Delivering radiation and chemotherapy after a radical surgery has led to extended life expectancy in selected patient populations with some patients surviving more than 5 years. As part of a curative approach to
mesothelioma radiotherapy is also commonly applied to the sites of chest drain insertion, in order to prevent growth of the tumor along the track in the chest wall.
Although
mesothelioma is generally resistant to curative treatment with radiotherapy alone, palliative treatment regimens are sometimes used to relieve symptoms arising from tumor growth, such as obstruction of a major blood vessel.
Radiation Therapy when given alone with curative intent has never been shown to improve survival from
mesothelioma The necessary radiation dose to treat mesothelioma that has not been surgically removed would be very toxic.
Chemotherapy is the only treatment for
mesothelioma that has been proven to improve survival in randomised and controlled trials. The landmark study published in 2003 by Vogelzang and colleagues compared cisplatin chemotherapy alone with a combination of cisplatin and pemetrexed (brand name Alimta) chemotherapy) in patients who had not received chemotherapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma previously and were not candidates for more aggressive "curative" surgery. This trial was the first to report a survival advantage from chemotherapy in malignant pleural
mesothelioma showing a statistically significant improvement in median survival from 10 months in the patients treated with cisplatin alone to 13.3 months in the combination pemetrexed group in patients who received supplementation with folate and vitamin B12. Vitamin supplementation was given to most patients in the trial and pemetrexed related side effects were significantly less in patients receiving pemetrexed when they also received daily oral folate 500mcg and intramuscular vitamin B12 1000mcg every 9 weeks compared with patients receiving pemetrexed without vitamin supplementation. The objective response rate increased from 20% in the cisplatin group to 46% in the combination pemetrexed group. Some side effects such as nausea and vomiting, stomatitis, and diarrhoea were more common in the combination pemetrexed group but only affected a minority of patients and overall the combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin was well tolerated when patients received vitamin supplementation; both quality of life and lung function tests improved in the combination pemetrexed group. In February 2004, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved pemetrexed for treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma. However, there are still unanswered questions about the optimal use of chemotherapy, including when to start treatment, and the optimal number of cycles to give.
Cisplatin in combination with raltitrexed has shown an improvement in survival similar to that reported for pemetrexed in combination with cisplatin, but raltitrexed is no longer commercially available for this indication. For patients unable to tolerate pemetrexed, cisplatin in combination with gemcitabine or vinorelbine is an alternative, although a survival benefit has not been shown for these drugs. For patients in whom cisplatin cannot be used, carboplatin can be substituted but non-randomised data have shown lower response rates and high rates of haematological toxicity for carboplatin-based combinations, albeit with similar survival figures to patients receiving cisplatin.
In January 2009, the United States FDA approved using conventional therapies such as surgery in combination with radiation and or chemotherapy on stage I or II Mesothelioma after research conducted by a nationwide study by Duke University concluded an almost 50 point increase in remission rates.
Treatment regimens involving immunotherapy have yielded variable results. For example, intrapleural inoculation of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) in an attempt to boost the immune response, was found to be of no benefit to the patient (while it may benefit patients with bladder cancer.
mesothelioma cells proved susceptible to in vitro lysis by LAK cells following activation by interleukin-2 (IL-2), but patients undergoing this particular therapy experienced major side effects. Indeed, this trial was suspended in view of the unacceptably high levels of IL-2 toxicity and the severity of side effects such as fever and cachexia. Nonetheless, other trials involving interferon alpha have proved more encouraging with 20% of patients experiencing a greater than 50% reduction in tumor mass combined with minimal side effects.
A procedure known as heated intraoperative intraperitoneal chemotherapy was developed by at the Washington Cancer Institute. The surgeon removes as much of the tumor as possible followed by the direct administration of a chemotherapy agent, heated to between 40 and 48°C, in the abdomen. The fluid is perfused for 60 to 120 minutes and then drained.
This technique permits the administration of high concentrations of selected drugs into the abdominal and pelvic surfaces. Heating the chemotherapy treatment increases the penetration of the drugs into tissues. Also, heating itself damages the malignant cells more than the normal cells.

What is the mesothelium?
The mesothelium is a membrane that covers and protects most of the internal organs of the body. It is composed of two layers of cells: One layer immediately surrounds the organ; the other forms a sac around it. The mesothelium produces a lubricating fluid that is released between these layers, allowing moving organs (such as the beating heart and the expanding and contracting lungs to glide easily against adjacent structures.
The mesothelium has different names, depending on its location in the body. The peritoneum is the mesothelial tissue that covers most of the organs in the abdominal cavity. The pleura is the membrane that surrounds the lungs and lines the wall of the chest cavity. The pericardium covers and protects the heart. The
mesothelioma tissue surrounding the male internal reproductive organs is called the tunica vaginalis testis. The tunica serosa uteri covers the internal reproductive organs in women.
What is mesothelioma?
mesothelioma (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without control or order. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs.
cancer cells can also metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum.
How common is mesothelioma?
Although reported incidence rates have increased in the past 20 years, mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer. About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma occurs more often in men than in women and risk increases with age, but this disease can appear in either men or women at any age.
What are the risk factors for mesothelioma?
Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma. A history of asbestos exposure at work is reported in about 70 percent to 80 percent of all cases. However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to
Asbestos is the name of a group of minerals that occur naturally as masses of strong, flexible fibers that can be separated into thin threads and woven. asbestos has been widely used in many industrial products, including cement, brake linings, roof shingles, flooring products, textiles, and insulation. If tiny asbestos particles float in the air, especially during the manufacturing process, they may be inhaled or swallowed, and can cause serious health problems. In addition to mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, asbestosis (a noncancerous, chronic lung ailment), and other cancers, such as those of the larynx and kidney.
Smoking does not appear to increase the risk of mesothelioma. However, the combination of smoking and asbestos exposure significantly increases a person's risk of developing cancer of the air passageways in the lung.
Who is at increased risk for developing mesothelioma?
asbestos has been mined and used commercially since the late 1800s. Its use greatly increased during World War II. Since the early 1940s, millions of American workers have been exposed to asbestos dust. Initially, the risks associated with asbestos exposure were not known. However, an increased risk of developing mesothelioma was later found among shipyard workers, people who work in asbestos. Today, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets limits for acceptable levels of asbestos exposure in the workplace. People who work with asbestos wear personal protective equipment to lower their risk of exposure.
The risk o f asbestosrelated disease increases with heavier exposure to asbestos and longer exposure time. However, some individuals with only brief exposures have developed mesothelioma On the other hand, not all workers who are heavily exposed develop asbestos-related diseases.
There is some evidence that family members and others living with asbestos workers have an increased risk of developing mesothelioma, and possibly other asbestos-related diseases. This risk may be the result of exposure to
asbestos dust brought home on the clothing and hair of
asbestos workers. To reduce the chance of exposing family members to
asbestos fibers, asbestos workers are usually required to shower and change their clothing before leaving the workplace.
What are the symptoms of mesothelioma?
Symptoms of mesothelioma may not appear until 30 to 50 years after exposure to
asbestos Shortness of breath and pain in the chest due to an accumulation of fluid in the pleura are often symptoms of pleural mesothelioma. Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include weight loss and abdominal pain and swelling due to a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. Other symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma may include bowel obstruction blood clotting abnormalities, anemia, and fever. If the cancer has spread beyond the mesothelium to other parts of the body, symptoms may include pain, trouble swallowing, or swelling of the neck or face.
These symptoms may be caused by
mesothelioma or by other, less serious conditions. It is important to see a doctor about any of these symptoms. Only a doctor can make a diagnosis
How is
mesotheliomadiagnosed?
Diagnosing mesothelioma is often difficult, because the symptoms are similar to those of a number of other conditions. Diagnosis begins with a review of the patient's medical history, including any history of asbestos exposure. A complete physical examination may be performed, including x-rays of the chest or abdomen and lung function tests. A CT (or CAT) scan or an MRI may also be useful. A CT scan is a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. In an MRI, a powerful magnet linked to a computer is used to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures are viewed on a monitor and can also be printed.
A biopsy is needed to confirm a diagnosis of mesothelioma. In a biopsy, a surgeon or a medical oncologist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating cancer) removes a sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist. A biopsy may be done in different ways, depending on where the abnormal area is located. If the
cancer is in the chest, the doctor may perform a thoracoscopy. In this procedure, the doctor makes a small cut through the chest wall and puts a thin, lighted tube called a thoracoscope into the chest between two ribs. Thoracoscopy allows the doctor to look inside the chest and obtain tissue samples. If the
cancer is in the abdomen, the doctor may perform a peritoneoscopy. To obtain tissue for examination, the doctor makes a small opening in the abdomen and inserts a special instrument called a peritoneoscope into the abdominal cavity. If these procedures do not yield enough tissue, more extensive diagnostic surgery may be necessary.
If the diagnosis is mesothelioma, the doctor will want to learn the stage (or extent) of the disease. Staging involves more tests in a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to which parts of the body. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment.
Mesothelioma is described as localized if the cancer is found only on the membrane surface where it originated. It is classified as advanced if it has spread beyond the original membrane surface to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, chest wall, or abdominal organs.
How is
mesotheliomatreated?
Treatment for mesothelioma depends on the location of the
cancerthe stage of the disease, and the patient's age and general health. Standard treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Sometimes, these treatments are combined.
Surgery is a common treatment for
mesotheliomaThe doctor may remove part of the lining of the chest or abdomen and some of the tissue around it. For cancer of the pleura (pleural
mesotheliomaa lung may be removed in an operation called a pneumonectomy. Sometimes part of the diaphragm, the muscle below the lungs that helps with breathing, is also removed.
Stereo Tactic Radiation Therapy also called radiotherapy, involves the use of high-energy rays to kill
cancercells and shrink tumors Radiation therapy affects the
cancercells only in the treated area. The radiation may come from a machine (external radiation) or from putting materials that produce radiation through thin plastic tubes into the area where the
cancercells are found (internal radiation therapy).
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Most drugs used to treat
mesotheliomaare given by injection into a vein (intravenous, or IV). Doctors are also studying the effectiveness of putting chemotherapy directly into the chest or abdomen (intracavitary chemotherapy).
To relieve symptoms and control pain, the doctor may use a needle or a thin tube to drain fluid that has built up in the chest or abdomen. The procedure for removing fluid from the chest is called thoracentesis. Removal of fluid from the abdomen is called paracentesis. Drugs may be given through a tube in the chest to prevent more fluid from accumulating. Radiation Therapy and surgery may also be helpful in relieving symptoms.
 

A small postscript: a recent item in Neuhaus's journal First Things unequivocally condemns our torture of prisoners:

However it was initiated—all the lawyerly vetting that went on, and all the jabber about military necessity and keeping America safe—Khalid’s torture ended up being nothing more than torture, and only that. Somewhere well before the one-hundred eighty-third trip to the waterboard, torture was no longer merely an unproductive means of coaxing information from a suspect. It became an impersonal bureaucratized process that swiped his individuality. It was a form of mental murder.The entire item is worth reading, and thoroughly. It makes the case that under any circumstances whatsoever, torture is wrong.

Where Condi recently went on and on about doing the "right thing" and you can't understand what that decision was unless you were there, the First Things item cuts through that nonsense. Torture is wrong, here's why, and your exceptions are "detached from necessity and morality, to say nothing of reality".

Shrub liked to take moral authority and crib language from Neuhaus and his school. But we can readily see he had a highly selective reading. As Tim points out, PGN's commitment to the dignity of the individual does not admit of selective interpretation, however convenient that might have been for those in power.
 

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