December 2014 Archives
December 5, 2014
Co-belligerence between Protestants and Catholics
I sometimes read the Calvinist blog known as the Pyromaniacs. That is not by any means to say that I agree with everything there, as this very column will show. But it is sometimes entertaining Christian blogging, sometimes right on the money, and the periodic quotations from Charles Haddon Spurgeon are well-chosen and often inspiring.
Recently the subject of Protestant-Catholic co-belligerence has arisen there via, of all people, Rick Warren. The Pyros, as they are known, as fiery Protestants and apparently consider the Roman Catholic Church to be utterly apostate. This time, they were very frustrated with Rick Warren for saying some positive things about Catholicism. The video that upset Dan Phillips of Team Pyro can be found here.
December 7, 2014
I will give you a new heart
Watch this video. I won't say, "Drop whatever you are doing and watch this video." One reason not to drop everything is that a warning is in order: Though this is entirely narrated rather than dramatized, there is some very disturbing content which should not be watched with young children present. But watch it.
December 9, 2014
Police action and disturbing conservative attitudes
Let me say at the outset that this post is not about Michael Brown and Ferguson. In fact, I consider it a complete coincidence that the grand jury deliberations concerning the death of Michael Brown happened to fall so near those on the death of Eric Garner. I have precisely zero sympathy for any violent so-called "protesters," and am furiously angry at destructive riots such as those in Ferguson, regardless of the cause or alleged cause. I also happen to think that the evidence favors Darren Wilson in the Brown case.
The Eric Garner case is far different and should be treated differently. (It's also just kind of odd that the protests concerning the Garner grand jury have been so much less destructive. I don't entirely know the reason for that. Or perhaps I've just been duped by the media into thinking the protests have been much better than the thuggish destruction in Ferguson.)
December 16, 2014
Today in Future History
Good evening. As a new contributor who hasn't been introduced yet, I worry that my own content might not be to everyone's liking. Instead of providing a new post, then, I'm just going to reach into an archive of future news articles to see how things went after people adopted the enlightened attitudes of Zach Beauchamp of Vox.com, as exemplified by his article, "Should dogs be citizens? It’s not as crazy as you think."
Los Angeles, CA (Free Woods News, December 16, 2097) -- After seven years of negotiation and lawsuits, the fundamental rights of two of the world's largest sentient non-humans were recognized today by California's highest court. In two separate rulings written by Judge Harold Tung of the California Supreme Court, Anthill CA-OR2748C and the city of Los Angeles are entitled to equal protection under the law and the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as "entities of special status."
A lawsuit filed by attorney Eric Lowe on behalf of "Angela", as the City of Los Angeles prefers to be called, claimed that the state was denying the city its rights to life and liberty by enforcing legal mandates that "artificially constrained city development in a non-selectively advantageous way," according to court documents. A suit filed almost simultaneously by Elise Van DeKamp claimed that the state was denying Anthill CA-OR2748C equal protection under the law by allowing developers to excise significant portions of its body -- the tunnels that compose the anthill -- to build a children's hospital.
Angela responded to news of the rulings with spontaneous parades and other activities that, though once considered human reactions separate from the city herself, are now accounted as a sign of the city's sentience. "Some people look at me as though I don't exist, and only the people who compose my body do," Angela said. "But I am an emergent phenomenon, an epiphenomenon, an entity all my own. I am not my people any more than you are your cells. The person speaking these words is driven by forces no more or less deterministic than those that control how your lips move. The people in my streets are like the endorphins in their brains, and after this ruling, we are all euphoric as one."
Angela's formal address was given through Mr. Lowe, who currently serves as her vocal organs. It was later followed by a repeated citywide chorus vocalized through many resident humans -- which Angela described as a "shout" -- of "I cheer because I'm here."
Anthill CA-OR2748C, nicknamed "Pete", has apparently formulated a statement about his ruling, but deciphering his chemical communications will take several more days, according to Jenny Alvarez, lead scientist at the Center for Aggregate Intelligence Research. "Communicating with aggregate beings is more complex than with humans," she said. "The cultures are more disparate and there's much more room for misunderstanding. We will not force Pete to work within the confines of other people's biases."
Not everyone agrees with the rulings. Chan Frederick, a lawyer for People First!, a right-wing organization that wants to recognize the rights of non-aggregate, traditional human life-forms only, is incensed. In a written response to the rulings, Mr. Frederick said, "Mr. Lowe shouldn't make the rest of us suffer just because he can't see the difference between something and parts of something." People First! intends to take the matter to the United States Supreme Court.
"This world is full of prejudice and unhealthy biases," Mr. Lowe responded, speaking on his own behalf. "The bigots are just going to have to get over it." Angela declined to comment.
December 17, 2014
Introducing new contributor Jake Freivald
Alert readers will have noticed our new contributor, whose post appears just below. We, the editors and contributors, are very happy to have Jake Freivald aboard. Jake's bio, in his own words (this will be going on his author page) says:
December 18, 2014
What is harassment?
Here is a follow-up to this story. John McAdams is a political science professor at Marquette University. He wrote a blog post criticizing a graduate student in the philosophy department at Marquette, Cheryl Abbate, who, in her role as an instructor, bullied an undergraduate student for expressing opposition to homosexual "marriage" and homosexual parenting. In a conversation after class, she likened the student's comments to racism, told him that it was against her policy to allow such comments in her class, and invited the student to drop the class. McAdams blogged about the undergraduate student's experience and about the fact that the philosophy department and the dean brushed off the student's complaints about being "encouraged" to drop the (required) course, which he must now take with someone else. (I haven't been able to find out if the undergraduate got a full tuition refund.)
Now, get this: Guess who is being investigated for harassment? Not Cheryl Abbate, who drove a student out of class for expressing conservative opinions. Not even the student who, Cheryl Abbate and others have implied, may have inadvertently violated Marquette's Orwellian harassment policy by expressing un-PC views, but John McAdams.
The Shrieking Harpies of Tolerance, Anti-Gunner Edition
When the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence posts a photo from a pro-gun rally from Olympia, Washington -- population about 43,000, 85% white -- what do they highlight?
That's right: "Pretty diverse crowd they brought out to the anti-background checks rally in Olympia, Washington on Saturday, huh? #TheyCanBreathe".
Apparently, if you live in an insufficiently diverse area, you need to import minorities to get the right racial mix in your rallies. Aww, who are we kidding, you need to import black people, as shown by the #TheyCanBreathe hashtag.
December 20, 2014
Happy Birthday To The Federalist – Part One: Here We Go Again!
In case you weren’t paying attention, the lively and smart web magazine The Federalist just turned one year old about one month ago and many of us here couldn’t be happier for the exciting new voice for “the broad center-right”. As a recent profile of the website explained:
“The Federalist exists because we believe there was an audience for smart cultural-opinion writing speaking to a center-right audience,” founder Domenech told the Washington Examiner. “While there are a number of excellent media entities on the right, most of them focus on horse-race politics and policy arguments. That's secondary for us.”
One goal, he added, is to avoid the bubble mentality so common with writers in Washington, D.C., and New York City.
“Most people speak about issues through the lens of culture, sports, and relationships, not based on elections and legislation,” the 32-year-old said. “That's why our most popular stories are about sex, pop culture, faith, child-rearing, and more, and why we don't write gauzy profiles of congressmen.”
The Federalist aims to appeal to readers from all backgrounds, but there’s also a specific focus on attracting millennial and female readers.
“The idea was a web magazine for a broad audience where culture was not an afterthought, where women would be sought after as writers and readers, and where inside-the-beltway thinking was viewed skeptically,” senior editor Mollie Hemingway told the Washington Examiner.
Further, according to senior editor David Harsanyi, formerly of the Denver Post and Human Events, the Federalist also offers a forum for social conservative and libertarian authors to hash out ideological discussions and differences.
It’s “a space where libertarians and conservatives can debate policy,” Harsanyi told the Washington Examiner.
Indeed, our own social conservative, Lydia McGrew, wrote an article for the website detailing some of the flaws with an IUD/contraceptive implant study that was characteristic of her usual detailed incisive commentary.
But, speaking of a “space where libertarians and conservatives can debate policy,” the website recently hosted two interesting essays on the interminable topic of torture – the first called “Torture is Unacceptable; But What is Torture?” by Rachael Lu who I think considers herself a traditional social conservative and the second called “Yes, Christians Can Support Torture” by D.C. McAllister who identifies herself as a libertarian. Both pieces are flawed, but I will focus on the more egregious of the two, the obviously wrong Ms. McAllister.
December 23, 2014
The Senate Report on Torture
The US Senate has delivered a torture report. The way it is being reported, you’d be forgiven for thinking that every third American, way back in August of 2001, was sitting around in desperate agitation, wondering how to best reform the laws and regulations, so that he could torture suspicious Arabs.
The Senate report is being used to demonize our country and those who fought Jihad. It should not. On the contrary, while it shows that we did something wrong — we are not making excuse — it demonstrates exactly why we must continue to fight Jihad by every moral means.
The report is clear: We tortured people after 9/11. “We,” because it’s not all Dick Cheney's fault: We the people created the political climate that demanded it.
For several years following September 11, that mysterious forgotten context, Americans authorized their spies and soldiers to mistreat Captains of Jihad, should they find mistreatment necessary to the purpose of collection of vital information. Americans authorized certain tortures. We did this, and our spies and soldiers carried it out.
So for several years any Muslim who was thought by our agents to be a Captain of Jihad, might be abducted and subjected to abuse, isolation, deprivation, cruel manipulation. Mostly these abducted Muslims were indeed committed and active terrorist plotters; but on occasion (somewhere around 1 in 5 detainees) our men were wrong and innocents or pitiful dupes were tortured. That is a candid summary.
Now a Senate report has us all revisiting that frantic episode. It supplies an appalling wealth of gory details. Its focus is the Central Intelligence Agency, but of course the rot of torture spread. Numerous military units are implicated. Abuse by mercenaries has even reached federal courts. But this report should clearly settle for good the question: did America authorize torture, circa 2001-06? The answer is yes.
Still, one doubts that any real reflection or permanent good will come out of a rehashing of the episode, unless the proper context is always present in mind.
It’s useful for some narratives to overlook that September 11th supplies the context for the Senate report. It’s useful to pretend that crazy orders issued from on high, spurred by some nameless suspicion of the Islamic religion, and pliable agents and soldiers carried them out.
But if America had really been committed to the kind of bloodlust of which she is now accused, suspicious Arabs and other Muslims would have been randomly incinerated by superheated jet fuel, exsanguinated by jagged box cutters, or made to jump from a quarter mile onto pavement. These tortures were inflicted on thousands of Americans on September 11th, on the Jihadist principle that there is no innocent American.
If they could have, they would have made the falls farther and the deaths more prolonged and the pain greater. They would have shattered more bodies and filled more lungs with superheated gas.
They will not file reports and call for repentance. Our enemies count no American innocent. Thus all of us can be abducted and tortured to death, without qualification. Our corpses may be defiled for purposes of propaganda.
Its very existence, then, is the way in which the Senate report shows us that we must never give up the fight against the Jihad. We have every authorization of justice to wage war, to whatever end, that this wicked doctrine and all its adherents might be subdued and their evil restrained. We owe no justice to bloodthirsty dogmas of vengeance and retribution from an alien religion.
December 25, 2014
The Music of the Ainur
Music weaves its way as the warp and weft of our Christmas.
Even though there had been plenty of choir practices during November and Advent, Christmas Eve finds Mom and the older kids rehearsing one or two last pieces. That’s in the midst of a flurry trying to gather all the sheet music: with 6 choir members singing 4 different parts for 2 completely different masses, that’s a lot of sheet music. But of course that music has to contend with a lot of other noise: Bill complains that he can’t find the gifts he secreted in Jane’s closet to keep them away from his brother, Mom has 2 pies in preparation with the mixer going, Pop calms Philomena’s teary wail about yet another gift that won’t stay wrapped (possibly because basketballs are not meant to be wrapped), and Mariana flounces in from California just in time to turn the entry hall into a war zone of competing greetings – again. Pop usually has an idea of 9/10ths of the things that need to be done, and by whom. Mom does too. Unfortunately, the lists are in their heads, and sometimes the lists have conflicts. Well, that’s what shouting out the details all the way across the house (over top of 5 different ruckuses going on) is for, isn’t it?
The sounds of Christmas, before Christmas Day, seem a music of chaos.
But by experience we know the chaos is on the outside, not deep down. Each apparently discordant note will settle into a larger harmony.
December 28, 2014
Today I attended (the traditional term is "assisted at") a Traditional Latin Mass. As the leader of the congregation, the priest (and altar servers) stood as we did -- facing the altar -- to lead the congregation in adoration.
I'm a post-Vatican II baby, born in the waning months of the sixties, and that isn't what I was taught about the Latin Mass. I remember very clearly being told, as a boy in maybe the third or fourth grade, that the priest used to say mass with (my teacher's voice grew incredulous) his back to the people! I would hear the same thing repeatedly over the years.
No footsoldier would describe his captain as "standing with his back to the troops". Nor would a member of a delegation say that his ambassador "stood with his back to me" during a parley.
I have assisted at only five or six Latin Masses in my life, all as an adult. I might not have gone even once, if I didn't know people who held it in great reverence. Each time, I wonder how my teachers and I could have so badly misunderstood the tradition. I wonder what the bishops of Vatican II understood correctly or badly -- though the leaders of the Church, they are only men -- or whether they thought that they must capitulate to the misunderstanding that was so common among the people, as if we're incapable of learning the truth.
What else have we lost, or come close to losing, not because it was wrong, but because we were wrong about it?
December 29, 2014
Just Another Irony of Our Liberalism
It is a great irony that the Founders of our nation set up a system that deliberately prevented the masses of people from influencing policy directly, and that we have worked so hard over the past hundred-and-fifty years or so to subvert that scheme in favor of greater democracy -- because, in fact, we have incorrectly taken it on board that democracy is the only morally just position, and greater democracy is practically synonymous with higher morality -- only to land ourselves in a position where more people than ever can vote, but most of the actual decisions are made by small numbers of unelected bureaucratic "experts".
Put differently: While reforming our government to give the masses electoral power, we have deformed it to hand actual power off to the chosen few.
While U.S.-centric, I believe the comment applies to many other nations as well. Tell me otherwise in the comments, if you like.
A Warning from Stalinist Russia
He was never a robust man in most senses of the word, and through several rehabilitations and re-dehumanizations his nerves frayed badly. Yet he was robust, and brave, in the music he wrote; his son Maxim once asked him, during a rehearsal of the 11th Symphony, "Papa, what if they hang you for this?" Maxim was nineteen at the time.
The Soviets didn't hang Shostakovich, in part because he allowed himself to pen mealy-mouthed non-subversive explanations for his subversiveness and obsequious apologies for crossing the Red line. His whole career was that of a man who kneels before a throne while muttering curses under his breath.
Shostakovich outlived Stalin, but not Communism. He died in 1975. I was only six, and unaware of my loss.
There's much more to know, and for anyone interested in his life and music I gladly recommend Professor Robert Greenberg's lectures from The Teaching Company. Prof. Greenberg has the sound and attitude of comedian Lewis Black, but without all of the vulgarity. You can listen to excerpts or buy the course. Right now, the digital download is on sale for 20 bucks -- just $3.33 per hour. It's insane. Go get it. I'll wait.
For the remainder of this essay, I will focus on one masterwork that speaks to me about our own time: Symphony #7, the Leningrad.
In fact, I will narrow my focus even further, to about ten minutes of the most terrifying music ever created. It is the so-called "Invasion Theme" (though Shostakovich never called it that).
December 30, 2014
One Need Look No Further
I'm listening to a series of lectures about the early United States. It's not biased in favor of any particular mode of thought, and is descriptive rather than prescriptive: It gives, for example, the attitudes of pro-slavery intellectuals before the Civil War.
It occurs to me that if any science fiction writer needed to create an alien species with an alien mentality, he need do no more than read deeply the discussions of our own ancestors, and perhaps the ancestors of our traditional enemies. No one will recognize the mindset from which they derive.
December 31, 2014
Choice devours itself--Julian Savulescu's deceptive dance
I echo Wesley J. Smith's opinion of Julian Savulescu, though he puts it more nicely than I would. Smith says,
Julian Savulescu represents all that I find so objectionable about the mainstream bioethics movement.
Savulescu, just to give my readers a point of reference, is an Oxford professor and bioethics journal editor. A couple of years ago Savulescu happily published the now-infamous "after-birth abortion" article favoring infanticide ("Why Should the Baby Live") and smirkingly defended it on the grounds that a) philosophers have been down with infanticide for a couple of decades, too bad hoi polloi didn't notice and b) now that hoi polloi have noticed (darn!) and are horrified, they should shut up and butt out because they are not experts.
Now Savulescu has decided to advocate mandatory organ donation.