October 2014 Archives
October 2, 2014
Islam is not a net gain for America
I thought of calling this post "Islam is Bad for America" but then decided to be more tactful.
The most recent incident of Sudden Jihad Derangement Syndrome is another uncomfortable reality check, one in an endless stream of uncomfortable reality checks, for those who want to characterize Islam as a Religion of Peace and Muslims as the natural allies of Christians.
I suppose one could argue that it is not an uncomfortable reality check, since something becomes a reality check only if allowed to act as one, and those who are deeply committed to their illusions that "real Islam" is peaceful are not about to be checked by reality, no matter how grisly.
October 5, 2014
What's Up With Jahi McMath
In January of this year, I wrote this about the Jahi McMath case:
This cannot and will not go on indefinitely. It is not true that a dead body can be sustained forever by a ventilator. Eventually, usually fairly rapidly, the heart stops functioning and cardiac arrest occurs, despite full ventilator life support.
My own opinion is that the longer it takes for that to happen, the more questionable was the original diagnosis. My empirical faith in zombies that live for years with literally zero brain function, including zero brain-stem function, etc., is at an extremely low ebb.
It's nine months later, which is a long time in terms of alleged total brain death. Not only has Jahi McMath not suffered cardiac arrest, her family and several doctors claim the following:
--She has undergone menarche (the onset of menstruation).
--She has electrical activity in her brain.
--She has blood flow to her brain.
--Her upper brain has large areas of structural preservation.
And, most controversial of all,
--She moves her foot and hand on command.
October 7, 2014
Roe V Wade All Over Again
Yesterday the Supreme Court refused to hear appeals in so-called “same-sex marriage” cases coming out of Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia. In those cases, federal appellate courts had ruled in favor of various plaintiffs who argued that state constitutional bans against so-called “same-sex marriage” were some-how unconstitutional (presumably using the same iron-clad reasoning we saw coming out of the Roe decision) and now the Supreme Court has refused to hear the various State’s appeals to those decisions.
October 9, 2014
Anglican wussery on abortion
The title does not refer to the present Church of England. There, you might respond, it is no surprise at all to find wussery on the issue of abortion. I'm sorry to say, however, that this post is about an open letter by a priest in the Anglican Church in North America, by its origins a much more conservative denomination. The ACNA is a spin-off of the ECUSA. They left amidst a fair bit of church drama surrounding the ECUSA's wholehearted endorsement of homosexuality. Officially the ACNA is pro-life (see here).
Unfortunately, at least one of its priests, Fr. Thomas McKenzie, is somewhat confused on the moral nature and urgency of the slaughter of the unborn. And that's putting it nicely.
October 10, 2014
Disturbing expert closed-mindedness on Jahi McMath case
Dr. Paul Graham Fisher is one of the expert witnesses who concluded ten months ago that Jahi McMath was dead in virtue of neurological criteria--that is to say, had suffered whole brain death. Now, for reasons that are utterly obscure to me, Judge Grillo has asked Fisher to be the "independent" expert to evaluate the new evidence being brought forward by Jahi's family. That simply doesn't make sense. As my recent post on this subject shows, I have some sympathy for Judge Grillo, who is in a legally unprecedented situation. But why in the world would you place this matter in the hands of the very same person who drew the brain death conclusion in the first place? It seems evident that such a person has an inherent conflict of interest, however hard he might try to set it aside. And it's not as though a new determination has to be made by convincing the same person who thought she was brain dead nearly a year ago. Why would it have to be that way? There must be many experts who are truly new people to the entire situation and who could be asked for comment on the new evidence. So this is, in my opinion, a huge misstep by Grillo.
Unfortunately, Fisher is only confirming concerns about his open-mindedness by his entire approach to the evidence.
October 12, 2014
Disgusting Behavior & Double Standards
This article speaks for itself. Pro-free-speech people get licenses for public demonstrations and put on silent rallies in 10 or more cities. Gay activists attack them in most or all of the cities. Police basically don't do their job to ensure that the peaceful demonstrators get to express themselves peacefully when they have a license to do so, and instead allow gays to disrupt things, are verbally and physically abusive, and basically act like barbarians.
It has been the case for at least 20 years that the gay agenda is supported by groups that - regardless of how you actually feel about the gay agenda itself - normal people would feel very uncomfortable being around and would be positively unhappy having them over for dinner, because they are DISGUSTING. They think nothing of treating fellow citizens with any kind of abuse that might stifle expressions ordinary common sense. Reminds me of Germany's Brown Shirts before Hitler had taken the official reins of power.
October 14, 2014
The zero-sum game: Christian college may lose accreditation for Christian moral policy
Having accreditation is a big deal to a college. If a college does not have accreditation, students cannot transfer credits from that college elsewhere. Graduate schools and employers are likely to consider a degree from that college to be worthless. Students cannot take National Merit scholarships to that college. Students cannot get student loans or grants to go there. A non-accredited college is worse than a second class citizen in the world of higher education. A degree from such a school may well be considered worse than useless, at least for many purposes.
The threat of losing accreditation is therefore also an extremely big deal.
Now, the zero-sum game moves up to a new level: Christian colleges may start to lose their accreditation with regional accrediting agencies, and one college almost certainly will, if they refuse to allow their faculty and students to engage in homosexual sex acts.
Yep. That's what I said. The moral behavioral standards that, whether consistently enforced or not, are on the books at most remotely serious Christian colleges in the country now present a risk of loss of accreditation.
October 17, 2014
Good witch hunts
I've been thinking lately about witch hunts at Christian colleges. I've had contact with several very conservative colleges in my time, and I know well how difficult it can be for faculty not to have tenure and to face the possibility of being fired over small deviations from school doctrine on unimportant points. It does not foster a good academic environment for people to have to worry that they will lose their jobs if they have the "wrong" views on the order of events in eschatology, for example. And the more or less "fire at will" atmosphere on some Christian college campuses can just as easily be used to penalize conservatives who want to uphold the school's traditional identity as to penalize liberals who want to tear it down.
October 18, 2014
What We’re Reading: “Drink, ye harpooneers!”
Among the world’s literature of set-piece oratory in fiction, poem or drama, the American could do far worse than to assert his own pride of place, on the basis of Captain Ahab’s oathbearing flourishes when, having revealed to his crew the true purpose of their voyage, he swears them to “this indissoluble league” of vengeance against the White Whale.
“Advance, ye mates! Cross your lances full before me. Well done! Let me touch the axis.” So saying, with extended arm he grasped the three level, radiating lances at their crossed center; while so doing, suddenly and nervously twitched them; meanwhile glancing intently from Starbuck to Stubb; from Stubb to Flask. It seemed as though by some nameless interior volition, he would fain have shocked into them the same fiery emotion accumulated within the Leyden jar of his own magnetic life. The three mates quailed before his strong, sustained, and mystic aspect. Stubb and Flask looked sideways from him; the honest eye of Starbuck fell downright.
“In vain!” cried Ahab; “but, maybe, ‘tis well. For did ye three but once take the full forced shock, then mine own electric thing, that had perhaps expired from out me. Perchance, too, it would have dropped ye dead. Perchance ye need it not. Down lances! And now, ye mates, I do appoint ye three cup-bearers to my three pagan kinsmen there — yon three most honorable gentlemen and noblemen, my valiant harpooneers. Disdain the task? What, when the great Pope washes the feet of beggars using his tiara for ewer? Oh my sweet cardinals! your own condescension, that shall bend ye to it. I do not order ye; ye will it. Cut your seizings and draw the poles ye harpooneers!”
Silently obeying the order, the three harpooners now stood with the detached iron part of their harpoons some three feet long held barbs up before him.
“Stab me not with that keen steel! Cant them; cant them over! know ye not the goblet end? Turn up the socket! So, so; now, ye cup-bearers, advance. The irons! take them; hold them while I fill!” Forthwith slowly going from one officer to the other he brimmed the harpoon sockets with the fiery waters from the pewter.
“Now, three to three, ye stand. Commend the murderous chalices*! Bestow them, ye who are now made parties to this indissoluble league. Ha! Starbuck! but the deed is done! Yon ratifying sun now waits to sit upon it. Drink, ye harpooneers! drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful whaleboat's bow — Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all if we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!”
Moby Dick is a famously undisciplined work, full of all manner of literary diversions and larks that appear to detract from the pacing of the story itself. A chapter in the latter half of the book announces this outright: “There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method.” Some of this may be ascribed to an intense desire to convey, as best as human writing can, the true experience of whaling, which project could not possibly be attempted without supplying some real feeling of monotony, repetition, even boredom. We cannot suppose men who, in the infancy of industrial development, departed from little Nantucket for the hunting grounds of the hugest game, compassing every sea on earth, on multiple expeditions a single one of which consumed a twentieth of their earthly lives — we cannot suppose such men would tell tales noteworthy for their brevity, or for their alacrity in getting to the conclusion. Thus Melville’s great novel has turned off many a reader with its detailed discursions into everything from the natural history of the whales to the technical methods, circa the mid-19th century, of skinning and processing a slain leviathan.
Another source of the discursiveness lies in what might be called Melville’s efflorescence of imitation. For instance, the following few chapters after this very speech by Ahab openly emulate Shakespearean forms, with stage direction, formal soliloquys and all. Starbuck’s sad lament provides a taste:
Horrible old man! Who’s over him, he cries; — aye, he would be a democrat to all above; look, how he lords it over all below! Oh! I plainly see my miserable office, — to obey, rebelling; and worse yet, to hate with touch of pity! For in his eyes I read some lurid woe would shrivel me up, had I it.
[ . . .]
Oh, God! to sail with such a heathen crew that have small touch of human mothers in them! Whelped somewhere by the sharkish sea. The white whale is their demigorgon. Hark! the infernal orgies! that revelry is forward! mark the unfaltering silence aft! Methinks it pictures life. Foremost through the sparkling sea shoots on the gay, embattled, bantering bow, but only to drag dark Ahab after it, where he broods within his sternward cabin, builded over the dead water of the wake, and further on, hunted by its wolfish gurglings.
But before the playful theater emulations and all the discursions that follow, there is Ahab’s unforgettable speech and the fire that undergirds. This is the center of the book. Here there few no digressions; all is concentrated, galvanizing disclosure; dialogue and mostly sparse description, owing more to density of meaning than ornateness of elaboration.
It is, as I say, perhaps America’s highest achievement in the category Oratory in Fiction. Readers may now commence to offer their own nominees, or belittle mine.
* Some texts render it as “Command the murderous chalices!” and I cannot say which version I prefer, though I should like to know which version is the true one from Melville’s hand.
October 19, 2014
A Tale of Two Cities
It was the clearest of times, it was the most confused of times.
It was the free-est of times, it was the most enslaved of times.
Those who have eyes to see can see the workings of Satan more clearly than ever before, those whose eyes are untrained can be puzzled and in doubt even about simple and straightforward matters (is murder wrong?, is sodomy just another form of love?)
This age gives men the most freedom of any age of man, but men use it to become more enslaved to sin than ever before.
What we have here is the City of Neo-Pelagian Consequentialists and the City of Christians.
The mid-stream “Relatio” for the Synod on the Family in Rome gives every appearance (if you know how to read between the lines), of attempting to push an specific agenda: that the Church can accommodate a gradualism of approach to perfection, a gradualism of a certain sort. In addition to being an agenda mostly made up in smoke-filled back rooms rather than the positions of the Synod Fathers themselves, this gradualism allows that persons (and couples, and families) can normally and fruitfully be expected to progress from a situation, (or relationship) that is evil in many respects but encompasses a good of some aspect, and gradually grow into another aspect of good, and then another aspect of good, and yet another, and so on until it eventually approaches to perfection.
From the moment that the order of creation is determined by orientation towards Christ, it becomes necessary to distinguish without separating the various levels through which God communicates the grace of the covenant to humanity. Through the law of gradualness (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), typical of divine pedagogy, this means interpreting the nuptial covenant in terms of continuity and novelty, in the order of creation and in that of redemption.
October 20, 2014
That didn't take long
It took about a week from the imposition of homosexual "marriage" by judicial fiat in Idaho for the issue of forcing ministers to perform same-sex "weddings" to arise.
Now, let me make something clear up front, because we're getting some carping about the allegedly misleading nature of the story as told in conservative media. (I'm seeing it on Facebook, even among sympathetic people.) No, the city of Coeur D'Alene is not telling all ministers within their jurisdiction that they have to perform homosexual "marriages." More on how the distinction is made in a moment. And no, the city hasn't yet actually arrested or brought charges against the particular couple in the story. Rather, the couple's pro bono attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom has, wisely in my view, given the circumstances, acted pro-actively to prevent the city from doing so.
October 23, 2014
Another day, another jihad attack
Sometimes I wonder why I do not, here at W4, more meticulously record the various jihad terrorist attacks in the West. I missed one last week. Maybe one just gets bored, because the pattern is so repetitive. Maybe I'm also bored at the prospect of possibly having to argue again with liberal readers that, yes, it is about Islam. Yes, this is a pattern. Yes, the religion is the problem.
Before I try to say something a little more interesting about Michael Zehaf-Bibeau's murderous rampage in Ottawa than, "Ho-hum, another day, another Muslim terrorist attack in the West," let me just mention a few statistical points to bear in mind at all times when the Usual Suspects say the Usual Things:
--From "Not all Muslims are terrorists" it does not follow that "Not all terrorists are Muslims." Not, mind you, that I am saying that all terrorists are Muslims, especially throughout history. But even if they were, that would still be consistent with, "Not all Muslims are terrorists." What is true is that right now a disproportionate percentage of people carrying out terrorist attacks in the Western world are Muslims.
--Related: From "Most Muslims are not terrorists" we cannot infer that it is not the case that Muslims are terrorists in numbers vastly disproportionate to their representation in the population.
--From "Most Muslims are not terrorists" we cannot infer that it is not the case that a disturbingly high proportion of Muslims in the West have terrorist sympathies. See this survey, for example.
--From "Most Muslims are not terrorists" we cannot infer that a disturbingly high proportion of Muslims do not support sharia, which is not the same thing as terrorism. This survey, again, is relevant.
October 25, 2014
Of public school teachers and purple penguins--the zero-sum game continues
I have been saying for a long time that the coercive GLBTQR)(*& agenda reaches a new level in interactions with transsexuals. The whole idea, which I believe some Christians have cherished, of saying, "We don't discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation alone" and then being left to get on quietly with whatever worthwhile thing you want to be doing is brought smack up against the reality that the "T" in the alphabet soup concerns someone else's bizarre public behavior. You are required to play along with that behavior.
I have also brought up the issue of teachers at public schools in conversations with people who have an (utterly unrealistic) idea of repealing non-discrimination laws (which will never happen anyway) and then recognizing "same-sex marriage" in a more libertarian legal context. What about teachers at public schools? Would they, even in that unreal libertarian landscape, face coercion to go along with a homosexual agenda? I think the answer is pretty obvious.
In the recent purple penguins brouhaha in Lincoln, Nebraska (of all places), we see those two points coming together.
October 27, 2014
Update on Coeur D'Alene wedding chapel
An update on this story. It appears that the city of Coeur D'Alene has backed down. Eugene Volokh has details here. The city attorney has decided that even being for-profit does not subject the Knapps to the non-discrimination ordinance.
But I want to back up for a minute to the "tempest in a teacup" claims and the "misrepresentation" claims. As recently as October 20, in an attempt to quell the alarm about the Knapps' business, the city actually implicitly affirmed that any for-profit wedding performance business is subject to the ordinance! The city attorney wrote a letter implying that the Knapps' alarm was unjustified since they are a religious corporation, but he apparently assumed that, if the Knapps' business is religious, it is also non-profit. (Shouldn't a city attorney trying to quell alarm do somewhat better research of the facts on the ground?)
Moreover, I see in Volokh's reporting, a complaint was brought against the Knapps for their "discrimination," just as they feared it would be, and the police did make contact with them about the complaint! So the phone call requesting same-sex "marriage" services was indeed followed by a complaint against them. Everything was proceeding on oiled wheels to try to get them charged with discrimination. Just precisely as they thought. I note that this was the point on which critics were implying that conservatives were overreacting--whether there was any actual threat of prosecution.
Now, it appears that the city attorney is stating that they cannot be prosecuted after all because their business is a "religious corporation," regardless of whether it is for profit or not.
So all's well that ends well? Well, if you happen to be running a registered "religious corporation" that performs only religious services, and hopefully if you are a minister performing weddings in your own church, even for a fee. If you're just a baker or a florist, not so much, as we all know.
But even as regards "religious corporations," let's be clear: All would not have ended well if the pro-active route had not been taken. Let's hope that the facts are not lost here: Events were proceeding toward a prosecution of the Knapps for violating the non-discrimination ordinance. Public pressure and a lawsuit forced the city to...er...research the matter and to decide that they should not prosecute. The best defense is still a good offense.
October 29, 2014
Was a patient declared brain dead ten years ago while breathing independently?
In the most recent Human Life Review a piece is reprinted from the HLR blog called "Coming to Peace with Brain Death." The title notwithstanding, the post actually indicates that the author, journalist Nona Aguilar, is far from being at peace with brain death.
She tells the story of her friend Richard, for whom she had medical power of attorney. Aguilar says that ten years ago her friend had a stroke. She was then strongly pressured by the hospital to agree to having his heart taken for transplant. The hospital told her that he was brain dead.