February 18, 2017
Forgive me for a post that isn't tied together by a theme. Unless it's the theme of this entire blog: What's Wrong With the World.
First, in case you haven't heard, the State Supreme Court of Washington just ruled that Barronelle Stutzman broke the law and discriminated on the basis of "sexual orientation" by refusing to give florist services to a homosexual "wedding." Washington State even has a Defense of Marriage law, but the justices said that that has nothing to do with it. She now faces possibly crushing costs, including paying the legal costs of her opponents. ADF Legal is talking about appealing to the SCOTUS. Even if Neil Gorsuch were confirmed, that doesn't tell us what SCOTUS would do, not least because the court tilted left even when Justice Scalia was alive and might very well rule along the same lines as Obergefell that it's perfectly wonderful for homosexuals and their weddings to have protected class status at the state level and, hey, while we're at it, they must have it at the federal level too. Because of the 14th amendment, of course.
If you're not reading the Babylon Bee, you should be. They make you laugh when you want to cry. Dark humor and funny, biting satire. Their satiric headline after the recent ruling: "New Registry Allows Engaged Same-Sex Couples to Decide Which Christian Florist to Put Out of Business."
I saw the ever-witty Frank Beckwith, my former blog colleague, comment on a Facebook thread: "I had been under the impression that flower arranging was an act between consenting adults."
Er, yes. But then again, with anti-discrimination ordinances in place, is anything an act between consenting adults? Pretty much any service offered to the public can be compelled under "public accommodations" laws, so...
February 14, 2017
I went through college as part of an ROTC program that granted an officer commission upon completion of my degree. I received my commission as a Marine Corps Second Lieutenant in January of 1992, and I went through The Basic School the same year.
If "The Basic School" conjures images of Full Metal Jacket in you, back up the truck: That movie depicted Basic Training, which is what enlisted people go through. TBS, a.k.a. "The Bummer Summer", is officer training, designed to make you well-rounded and capable of leading in any military occupational specialty, or MOS. It is, generally speaking, a continuation and amplification of the education officer candidates got in the ROTC program, and especially the Officer Candidate School session held during the summer before our senior years. The instructors never made us do push-ups until we threw up: It wasn't that kind of training. The iconic memory, for me, was doing a nine-mile run in combat boots, and then doing mapping problems so the staff can see how well we could think while fatigued.
While not exactly cerebral, Marine Corps officer training contains a significant amount of warfighting theory at the strategic and tactical levels.
That's right: We read books.
February 8, 2017
Philosophers like to philosophize, and surprisingly enough, they are not all immune from the influence of "the current." If a new movie comes out exploring an old subject, you will find that somewhere, some philosopher has decided that this requires that he write something new about it. That wouldn't be a bad thing in itself, but it is a bad thing when philosophers come to the wrong conclusions about a type of thing that has been hashed out long ago, and it's especially odd if they do so in a way that implies that this time it's different because of the peculiarities of the case at issue in the new movie, book, etc.
I have been surprised to find something of this phenomenon occurring concerning the new Scorsese movie, based upon a book by Shusako Endo, Silence.
February 1, 2017
In the Netherlands, a female doctor knew that a patient with dementia had previously said she would want euthanasia "when the time was right." Then she developed dementia and wasn't able to tell anybody that the "time was right."
So the doctor went ahead and decided on her own that the "time was right." The patient, over 80, was "exhibit[ing] signs of fear and anger" and sometimes wandered around her nursing home at night. So the doctor deemed that she was "suffering intolerably."
The doctor didn't want to distress the patient (remember, she was already exhibiting signs of fear!) by telling her, "Okay, I'm going to give you a lethal injection now." So instead she drugged her without her knowledge in her coffee, then started to give her the lethal injection.
That's when things got messy.
January 29, 2017
I’ve avoided saying much about neo-reactionaries or the alt-right since I wrote a long piece about both last year, but with the election of Donald Trump being credited by some as a triumph of the alt-right I thought I would use a very thoughtful piece by a chastened liberal to revisit some alt-right ideas and see whether or not they merit new consideration.
Professor Daniel Gordon teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and while I haven’t studied his academic work, judging from this essay I’m going to analyze below and his current position in heart of liberal academia, I get the sense that he comes from an older tradition of more humane scholarship – he’s the kind of liberal who actually wants to understand his conservative opponents and/or doesn’t like the radical (and often ignorant) Left that has taken over campus activism and in many cases, academic scholarship.
January 27, 2017
Years ago I was privileged to hear Alabama's Judge Roy Moore speak. During that presentation he ran a clip of his cross-examination for "acknowledging God." The man who carried out that cross-examination and Moore's eventual removal for retaining the Ten Commandments in the face of a SCOTUS determination of "unconstitutionality" was William Pryor, currently a front-runner for the next SCOTUS nomination.
The clip made a big impression on me. It was the impression of a man so wedded to the idea that the rules (as he perceived them) must be followed that he was tone-deaf to what I can only call creepiness. Specifically, the creepiness of asking a man if he will continue to acknowledge God and trying to get him in trouble for doing so. One got the odd impression that Pryor thought this was the only way to get a straight answer from Moore--by speaking Moore's language. If Moore was going to call it "acknowledging God" to continue to display the Ten Commandments, then Pryor was going to adopt that language in order to get Moore to admit that he would defy the Supreme Court. Something had gone badly wrong.
Yet when Pryor's name was mooted for a possible SCOTUS nominee, I nonetheless was cautiously optimistic. Why in the world would I feel optimistic at all?
January 25, 2017
For those of you who liked my recasting of Laetitia Amoris into Dean Martin's song "That's Amore", I offer you this rendition of the idea. More developed than mine, but mine came first. It's really pretty good, you should check it out.
On the serious side, we have finally had a defense of Amoris that is worthy of the name: it isn't filled with denunciations of those who have problems with it, it isn't filled with empty rhetoric, it addresses the real problems seriously, and it takes seriously both the ancient teaching and the more modern resolution of that teaching into decrees, canons, etc. It's by someone named Scott Smith.
I don't agree with everything in there, not by a good margin. I have made a few critical comments, and will be making more as we go along. I think Scott misses some significant distinctions, but he doesn't do it wrong-headedly, and by and large he is very careful to present the full rationale behind the problems he gives solutions for, not straw men positions. He and I agree on a fundamental point: Amoris has to be read through the lens of 2000 years of prior teaching, and anywhere it is ambiguous but only one sense is compatible with Tradition, you have to give it that sense.
January 24, 2017
It's always worth remembering that the worldview of the left is not, in fact, ultimately kind and gentle and loving. In particular, idealistic young Christians who are, shall we say, trying to learn from the left should remember this fact. What fellowship has light with darkness? The left has identified itself squarely with the murder of the helpless again and again, and this is no accident. It is the logical conclusion of an ethical worldview that devalues human life.
Some links that bring that fact home. In Switzerland, the Salvation Army runs a nursing home. They have been told that they will lose "charitable status" if they do not have the killing of their elderly residents (you know, "assisted suicide") carried out on-site. I don't know all the legal and financial ramifications of the loss of charitable status in Switzerland. Presumably it means the loss of any government funding. In the U.S. such a loss would also mean that donations are not tax deductible, that in-take of money is taxable, and (at a local level) that the property can have heavy property taxes levied. This would drive many charities out of business, precisely because they really are charities rather than for-profit entities and cannot afford to operate as the latter. Similarly, Quebec requires all hospitals and nursing homes, including those with a Christian identity, to offer euthanasia.
Ethical health professionals are thus faced with a devil's alternative--go out of business and leave the field to those with no qualms about murder, or participate in the killing. The only tertium quid is quiet, secret civil disobedience. But it is unlikely that that would be allowed for long. Any institution that refused a family's request for euthanasia for an elderly relative would doubtless be "outed" quite quickly and the "wrong" put right.
January 15, 2017
I have a new devotional post up at my personal blog on Jesus' words, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Feel free to comment in either location.
January 9, 2017
[To be sung to the tune of Dean Martin's "That's amore."]
UPDATE at Jan 17 below.
Those who have been paying attention to the shenanigans in the upper ranks of the Catholic Church know that there is a bit of a brawl brewing – or being played out in slow motion perhaps – following on Pope Francis’s release of Amoris Laetitia. What’s it all about? And what’s a Catholic to do about it all? This post is mainly to answer questions at least related to the latter – what’s is a Catholic to do in a situation like this. But I will touch on other questions.
First, the bare bones of events:
The Church held a synod on the family, in two parts. First part was in 2014, and it did not go quite the way the Pope wanted.
The second part was in October 2015, where the people the Pope put in charge of running it eventually elicited the required 2/3 majority approval for documents speaking their mind, more or less. These, too, were in some ways short of what the Pope hoped for.
In April 2016, the Pope issued the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (hencefore, just “AL”) to the Church and the world based somewhat loosely on what the Synod said.
In preparation for a project I hope to work on in probability theory, I have prepared a partial taxonomy of undesigned coincidences. In the nature of the case, this is not going to be a rigorous taxonomy such as a set of mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive categories, for two reasons. First, there are fuzzy edges to what we include in the overall category of "undesigned coincidences." Second, sometimes it is somewhat arbitrary whether one includes a coincidence in one category or another, depending (for example) on whether one regards something as an "event" or a "detail," what counts as "the same event," and so forth.
Nonetheless, I think that a classification is useful. For one thing, it's useful for geeky types who have never heard of an undesigned coincidence and aren't satisfied with concrete examples. Some people work better mentally with general descriptions, or at least find them useful in addition to concrete examples.
A classification like this can help someone who has been introduced to the argument with examples only from one category to appreciate other kinds of undesigned coincidences as well.
Another useful thing about classifying undesigned coincidences is that it can draw our attention to what is usually most confirmed by a particular type of coincidence. For epistemological purposes, we want to be thinking about what is confirmed and how much it is confirmed when we use an argument.
January 2, 2017
California has decided to try the famed "Swedish solution" to prostitution--specifically, child prostitution.
The idea of the "Swedish solution" is that if you decriminalize the selling of sex by individuals while retaining criminal penalties for purchasing sex and for trafficking and pimping, and while offering lots of "support services" for those who don't want to be prostitutes, you will magically make prostitution disappear. Really. Google it and you'll see the paeans of praise to the Swedish solution. Color me skeptical about these reports from Sweden, and color me even more skeptical about the probability that decriminalizing children's selling sex will lower the incidence of child prostitution in California. Color me very, very skeptical.
December 30, 2016
In this post I mentioned that Mennonite missionary Timothy Miller has agreed to a plea bargain deal with the federal prosecutors for his having helped Lisa Miller. My thanks to Nancy Flory, a lawyer and writer for The Stream, who obtained the public documents in the plea deal for me. Some salient points:
--The maximum sentence, given what he has pled guilty to, is 5 years and a $250,000 fine. It seems unlikely that he will receive this sentence, though, since the judge is allegedly sympathetic and since Ken Miller received a lesser sentence though he didn't have a plea deal.
--He had to agree formally as part of the plea deal that Isabella is "the daughter of Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins" and that when Isabella lived here Janet Jenkins "had the parental right to visit" Isabella. One presumes he construes these "agreements" in a purely legal fiction sense: "Was the parent" in the sense that some court treated her as such and "had the right" in the sense that a court said she did. Still, it's grating to see that they worked that in there as one of the "agreed-upon facts" that he had to sign off on.
--The judge has some leeway at sentencing, but it's difficult to get a strong grip on exactly what the minimum sentence is. One part of the plea document says that the guidelines yield a sentencing range for this defendant of 21 to 27 months and a fine of $5000 to $50,000, though "the defendant understands" that he is "subject" to the maximum penalties. In other words, no guarantees.
--A different paragraph seems to be saying that, if Timothy "fully cooperates" (presumably between now and his March 23 sentencing hearing) the government may recommend to the judge a sentence between 12 and 18 months. I don't know whether time served would be included in that. One would like to think so. It is ominously fascinating to wonder what sort of cooperation they might be looking for between now and March, since both Ken Miller and Philip Zodhiates have already been convicted, but it's possible that this type of paragraph is routinely included in such plea agreements.
I've decided not to try to post the entire documents on-line, in order to get this post up more conveniently, but they are public documents, so if a reader wants them, feel free to e-mail me at my gmail address and ask for them.
December 28, 2016
I put up a post yesterday on marriage and contemporary young people at my personal blog. Feel free to comment in either venue.
December 24, 2016
It is a cliché to talk about hope at Christmas, but a couple of weeks ago during Advent, I heard an excellent sermon on the subject and so I thought I’d write our Christmas post about hope, however hackneyed or overdone it gets at this time. For the Christian, it is important to remember that hope is considered one of the supernatural or theological virtues (along with faith and love) contrasted with the natural virtues known by reason and available to all through hard work and habituation (justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude, etc.) Only through God’s grace can we experience true hope. When we begin to order our lives toward heaven and the things of heaven as our ultimate good (as Father, now Bishop Barron, who I was listening to put it, “we begin to gaze our soul toward the transcendent realm”) we start to experience the idea of Christian hope.