September 2015 Archives
September 3, 2015
On Kim Davis
By now we all know who Kim Davis is. She's the Kentucky clerk who won't issue homosexual "marriage" licenses, despite a federal court order to do so. In fact, she refuses to issue any marriage licenses since the order came down, and one news report (which I cannot now find) stated that she has "ordered" her deputy clerks not to issue the licenses either. This story may provide some clarification on that last point, as it implies that licenses "issued" by her deputies are nonetheless issued in her name.
There are several interesting questions to discuss about Kim Davis's current situation and her refusal to obey the court order to issue same-sex "marriage" licenses. Her own marital past history isn't one of those interesting questions, so I'm going to deem discussion of it OT. Here are some of the actually interesting questions:
September 5, 2015
Andrew Klavan on the Devil at Planned Parenthood
I don't always embed videos at What's Wrong With the World, but when I do, they're Andrew Klavan videos.
Okay, that's an exaggeration. And in fact, we usually don't embed videos, because it interferes with the visual ambience. But this is so darkly awesome (probably don't watch it with your little children around, because it's a bit scary) that it deserves to be posted for your Saturday afternoon.
Kim Davis, Metaphysics, and the Public Square
I decided to post the body of this new piece about Kim Davis at my personal blog, but feel free to comment on the content in either location.
September 6, 2015
ISIS and the European Refugee Crisis
We recently moved back to Budapest, Hungary, where I have lived for going on 9 years (which is also one reason I have not been blogging much lately). The first thing we noticed when we came back was the unusually tight housing market. Usually there have been lots of places to rent in Budapest, but this time it was hard to find and prices were much higher than in previous years even after inflation. Then about a week after we arrived we started hearing about the thousands of refugees pouring in from Syria and other places in the Middle East. One of the major international train stations in Budapest had become a virtual refugee camp, including families with babies and small children basically living there. According to reports, many of them had WALKED from Syria to Hungary. Try that on Google maps. It says it’s about 2,600 km from Syria (depending obviously on which part) to Budapest, and 539 hours to walk. That’s almost two months walking 10 hours a day.
September 10, 2015
Example Number 4,987,334,201 of Bad Statistics
Except that’s not really accurate. Rather far from. The reality is more difficult to state, and does not imply that they are simply “barred” from “contributing to the economy”.
First of all, what is a “criminal record”? Even that is a little bit nuanced and murky. If you look online, at least one definition says it means the record of your convictions for crimes. But that’s NOT how the term is generally used. Another site says it includes ALL of your records with the police, including traffic violations. But that too is not how the term is used. In the employment area, it is generally used to refer to mean your record of arrests, charges, and convictions, and employers generally neither ask about nor care about your traffic violations. But you don’t have to have done a crime or be convicted of a crime to have a criminal record. So, what is the truth here?
What is true is that somewhere (nobody seems to be able to state a definite number) upwards of 65 million people in this country have been arrested / charged with a crime. Because they have been arrested, there is or was a police record of them (a “record” more significant than your record of speeding tickets). With arrest, some go on to be charged, tried, and either are convicted or plea guilty. That latter number is not the 70 million cited in the headline.
September 12, 2015
Keeping 'em honest
I have never been a great fan of non-discrimination laws, particularly public accommodation laws. We have certainly seen their egregious abuse in the cases of the bakers, the florist, and the photographer. Even if one says (correctly) that "sexual orientation and gender identity" are bizarre items to add to such specially protected lists, and even if they were taken back off, I still tend to think that such laws do more harm than good, involving government in micromanaging every aspect of hiring or accepting a contract, attempting to delve into hidden motives, and in the end more or less requiring affirmative action in hiring so as to avoid costly lawsuits.
But despite my libertarian-ish leanings in that regard, I have also always said (as far as I know, consistently ever since I have been blogging) that it is completely appropriate for Christians and other non-PC groups to demand that such laws be applied to them consistently, otherwise we get the worst of both worlds: The baker is forced to bake the sodomy-celebrating cake, but the Christian employee can be harassed and fired for his un-PC, "bigoted" beliefs. That, of course, is what we often get anyway, and that status of ideological dhimmitude for us "bad guys" is exactly what the left wants. The left revels in double standards while usually not quite admitting doing so.
Hence I never blame Christians who have been obvious victims of discrimination for pointing this out and even engaging a lawyer. Craig James is entirely within his rights to do so, for example.
The latest case of this kind, cum happy ending, comes from a customer denied service in Illinois.
September 14, 2015
Legal chaos continues in Rowan County
Here's the latest, which I find interesting as a legal geek and also find a relief as a supporter of Kim Davis.
Davis's office has apparently typographically altered "licenses" issued at her office so that they do not refer to her either by name or by title. They do not state that they are issued under the authority of the county clerk but rather "pursuant to federal court order" with a number of the court order. Davis has openly (in a press appearance this morning) questioned the legal validity of these "licenses," as well as of the "licenses" issued against her protests in her absence, which apparently did say (falsely) that they were authorized by the county clerk. This amounts to a "proceed at your own legal risk" notification to anyone who attempts to contract civil marriage using one of these forms.
I find it interesting that her deputies were fine with this and apparently expect federal Judge Bunning not to care that the "licenses" have been altered to this extent. The governor himself, through his lawyers, has already piously pointed out that Kentucky law requires licenses to be issued under the authority of the county clerk and to be uniform throughout the state. These pieces of paper do not meet either of those criteria. One would almost think the governor (who refused to call a special session of the legislature to alter the forms) wants Kim Davis in jail.
Does Judge Bunning just want symbolic "licenses" even at the cost of legal dubiety? Apparently so.
But while we're at it, let's have no cant to the effect that Kim Davis has been the one challenging the "rule of law." The legal chaos right now has been created by SCOTUS, directly. Indeed, this is how it often works when a law is "struck down" by the Supreme Court. It's a form of hostage taking. The previously existing law, which had everything laid out in an orderly fashion, becomes allegedly null. There ensues a legal no-man's-land, and the relevant legislature feels in duty bound to write a law (which they might otherwise have conscientious objections to) that complies with both the letter and the spirit of what SCOTUS hath uttered, otherwise it seems to them there will be a limited field of anarchy in that region of law. It's a clever tactic. Bare-knuckled, but clever. If you want marriage law with conscience exemptions in your state, hurry up and make a new one that recognizes same-sex couples. If you want abortion law of any kind, hurry up and make one that does whatever is left to do within the confines of Roe v. Wade. Otherwise you got nothing--a legal Wild West.
I'm pleased that it appears Kim Davis won't be going back to jail for the time being. I'm also pleased that she hasn't violated her conscience. And I'm pleased that the other people in her office were willing to work with her to alter the "licenses" so as not to violate her conscience.
It would be sweet poetic justice if, five years down the line, one member of one of these same-sex "couples" wants to get a "divorce" from their "marriage," and the other member decides to go back and exploit the legal dubiety of the "marriage" in the first place. "Actually, our marriage license was invalid, so I don't have to divide my retirement fund with her now that we're breaking up." That would be an interesting case to watch in family court.
September 17, 2015
Choice devours itself, September 2015 edition
A few new items have popped up lately on the "choice devours itself" screen.
A surrogate agreed to abort one of triplets after she was arm-twisted by the "intended parents." The story does not say what biological relation, if any, any of these people had to the babies. My best guess is that they were made in a lab from the sperm and eggs of the intended parents, but that is entirely a guess. The surrogate originally refused, saying she "didn't want to kill a baby." Good for her! But then the couple said they would rather have no babies than three! They had signed up for twins, and twins was the most they were going to take. (Heartless creeps.) They told her they would cut off expense payments if she wouldn't agree to a "selective reduction," in which one child is killed by an injection to the heart. They would have some kind of immigration problem if they accepted three children. The husband would lose his job (allegedly). The surrogate "didn't want to have that on her conscience"! Apparently causing the murder-minded father to lose his job was more of a problem for her conscience than killing a baby. So she agreed. Then one of the remaining two children died, and now she's pregnant with just one.
So much for freedom of choice. Oh, yes, the abortion wasn't absolutely, strictly forced in the sense that abortions in China are. She wasn't dragged away physically. But she was certainly pressured by the threat of losing all support for her pregnancy and for the three children thereafter.
This is not the only time this sort of thing has happened in surrogacy arrangements, yet the high priests of choice don't seem to have any problem with it. Wonder why.
September 19, 2015
Kim Davis update--The left doubles down
I spoke too soon. In my previous post I expressed pleasure that Brian Mason, Kim Davis's deputy clerk who is issuing homosexual couples marriage licenses, had cooperated with her in altering the form. But it turns out he isn't. He and his lawyer are worried about the fact that the forms may be invalid--which I agree, they may be. But they aren't willing to just sit around being worried and being glad that the federal judge doesn't seem worried enough to threaten to throw Davis and/or Mason in jail. No, Mason, acting through his lawyer, has pro-actively attempted to get Davis in more trouble by a court filing alleging that the licenses are now invalid though they were valid when issued during Davis's imprisonment with the (factually false) statement that they were authorized by the county clerk.
The legal reasoning here is a tad tortuous. The forms that stated they were issued under the authorization of the "county clerk" were valid even though that was false? But now that they have been altered to remove that authorization they aren't valid? The best I can do at an argument for this is to say that the earlier forms did contain a false statement (that they were issued under the county clerk's authorization) and therefore did not bear on their face their legally questionable nature! One would have to know the legal circumstances surrounding the date of issue in order to raise a doubt about them.
In any event, I am disgusted at Brian Mason's actions. If Judge Bunning didn't consider the validity issue worth his while to get involved in spontaneously, it is sheer mischief-making for Mason to attempt to force Bunning's hand. Davis has announced to all the world that the licenses are dubiously valid. She said the same about the licenses issued without her authorization that falsely said they were authorized by her! Couples who nonetheless (probably for reasons of making a political statement) come and get the licenses from her office are taking their own risks with full knowledge. And Mason is free to raise such doubts verbally as well when he hands out the papers, in the interests of full disclosure. But to attempt to get Davis thrown back in jail is petty. Moreover, given that Bunning has made no move on the matter spontaneously, it is rather transparently false for Mason to say that his lawyer's new filing is done out of fear that Bunning will jail him. Bunning is perfectly capable of taking action on his own if he thinks someone needs to be jailed! He did it once already. Mason and his lawyer are trying to raise a problem where the judge doesn't seem to think one exists, and this brings up the very real possibility that they are doing so for ideological reasons.
The ACLU has filed in agreement with Mason that Davis has violated the court order. No surprise there.
September 22, 2015
Does being an atheist interfere with being moral?
There are two atheist "memes" (to use a jargon term) that seem to me to be in prima facie conflict. I will not claim to be able to cite chapter and verse showing that the same atheist uses both of these memes. But I'm quite sure that there are atheists out there who have done so.
So these are not exact quotes from anyone but approximate statements that reflect things that I, and I suspect you, dear Reader, have heard and read.
Atheist meme #1: It is offensive to imply that being an atheist is in any way detrimental to being a moral person. Atheists can be just as moral as religious people.
September 24, 2015
The question of question-begging in the abortion debate
I was having a discussion with a friend on Facebook the other day concerning rhetoric and the abortion debate. We were specifically discussing the phrase "baby killer" or "baby killers," whether there is ever a sufficient reason for using it, or whether its likely negative rhetorical effects make that always a bad idea. I won't rehearse those arguments right now. The bottom line was that I was arguing that it sometimes does make sense to use the phrase, particularly when talking about abortionists themselves, and that we are cooperating in the desensitization of society to abortion if we decide that we should never use it.
The question then arose whether, in a debate with a pro-choicer, the phrase "baby killer" is question-begging and hence philosophically wrong.
I immediately pointed out that there are many pro-choicers who admit that the unborn child is, in fact, a young human being (aka a baby) but who argue that it is not a person and is therefore legitimately killable. In the context of currently fashionable personhood theory, the question of whether to refer to abortion as baby killing even in a debate with a pro-choicer therefore often reverts to a rhetorical question rather than a logical one, since many pro-choicers aren't attempting to contest that abortion kills a living, young human being.
But suppose that that weren't the case. Would there then be a problem with question-begging?
September 27, 2015
Free Market Impersonalism
It has been coming to my attention, more and more over the past few years, that there is a disconnect in both typical liberals and typical economic neo-conservatives in how they approach a certain complex of questions in market theory.
One of the major elements of success in our market system is the standardization of units. The first of these is the standard unit of money: whether you are using the dollar or the Euro, within some 1/4 of the world that unit is so broadly accepted, on equal basis in every instance, that we simply FORGET to notice: almost everyone accepts my money. It wasn’t always so. When money was coins - gold, silver, iron or copper - there were unusual sizes, diluted issues, shaved pieces, authenticity worries, coins so worn it was impossible to identify the specific denomination / source. And even when the specific piece of money was finally proven out as authentic, undiluted, etc, sometimes the seller might have to worry if he could later turn around and use it with equal effect (say, if he was buying goods from across the border).
The second area of standardization is that of units of goods. With mass manufacturing, each and every copy of a book, of a pencil, of a toy or a car part, is enough like every other copy that the buyer need only ask of his friends, neighbors, or fellow amazon-buyers what their experience with other instances of the same thing were like: variation between the individual instances is usually low enough not to matter much. The buyer need not care much whether he gets item # 2,368 or #9,339. In some things, like corporate stocks, the item is more of a notional reality anyway, and there is NO real difference between item #2,368 and #9,339. Just like the fact that there is no practical difference between this quarter and that one, and not one merchant in a million will even stop to look at the quarter with care.
September 29, 2015
Blessed Feast of St. Michael and All Angels
I would be remiss if I did not wish my fellow contributors and readers a blessed Feast of St. Michael the Archangel. As a fighting angel, Michael is particularly well-suited to represent what we stand for here at What's Wrong With the World. (Please excuse the light humor in the above picture. I've always liked it.)
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
Collect for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels
O everlasting God, who has ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.