October 16, 2016
Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Not everyone is happy about it. For some it remains an absurdity to present his art as an example of excellence. For others, while the excellence is undeniable, its categorization as literature remains problematic. These questions are not my chief concern here.
I confess that don’t know a great deal about the details of the Nobel Laureates in Literature. I also confess that this want of knowledge doesn’t much bother me. If one were to build a list of greatness in literature for all time, how many of these particular writers, dating back to 1901, would even merit consideration?
Put another way, when I look over the Nobel Laureate list, I feel somewhat in the kind predicament that Bilbo, delivering his farewell speech in Hobbiton, dealt with by means of this obscurity: “I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
Now, I do know this for a solid fact. Nobel Committee has, more than a few times, well and truly beclowned itself with this Award. A clear illustration: It would appear upon even cursory glance, that more tiresome and superstitious propounders of socialism have earned the Award, than brave dissenters seeking to break free and expose socialist tyranny.
In light of that knowledge, I can say emphatically that the Nobel Committee did not, this time at least, beclown itself by bestowing its Award on another tiresome and superstitious socialist. That a large mass of Bob Dylan fans, especially of the academic sort, would like folks to think the Committee has done this . . . well, let’s just say that speaks to the level of tiresome, superstitious socialism still dominant among American elites.
But Bob Dylan is not a socialist. (If he ever was one, he obligingly shook off that superstition well before I was born, and I’m almost 40 years old — just to illustrate how behind the times these aging fellow travelers are.) Scouring for suitable descriptors of the political variety, I’d go with patriot and traditionalist; though I would make haste to add that political descriptions are ill-fitting on this troubadour.
Bob Dylan is surely still a Christian as well. Every time he’s in the news I run into a common phrase along the lines of “but Dylan eventually renounced organized religion.”
No, he didn’t. I have searched for the source of this pernicious platitude more than once; and have concluded that its origin can only lie in the imagination of certain interested journalists. Call it the elegy of discomfited secularists.
So it is only natural that the odious utterance creeps into quite a number of the write-ups of Dylan the Nobel Laureate. Again, take it from me, in the bluntest terms I can muster without breaking our “no profanity” rule: It just ain’t so.
October 12, 2016
This is interesting news:
You may remember Jahi McMath, who was declared brain dead almost three years ago now. Three years. I've written about her case here, here, and here. Her family was able to keep her on life support, her body has not deteriorated or decayed, and her heart has continued to beat. If your brain stem really is completely dead, this is highly unlikely. Her family says that she has even gone through puberty during this time.
They are suing the hospital where her original surgery was, and a court has ruled that they can bring evidence that she is alive (despite the fact that a death certificate was issued), as this makes a big difference to how much the original hospital can be sued for in malpractice.
Now the family has put up a video purporting to show that she is beginning to breathe on her own. The video shows a breathing monitor with numbers that counts her breaths per minute and purportedly shows her getting up to sixteen self-generated breaths in a minute, while her mother cheers her on. If true, this absolutely refutes any claim of whole-brain death. Without an operating brain stem, this is not possible. It now remains for the family to show this to "outsiders," because it isn't going to be deemed relevant in a court if the only people who claim to have seen it are already family members and friends of the family. If it's happening, they need to bring in some sort of agreed-upon witness to testify to it.
October 9, 2016
This will be short. I plan to write more later on the despicable defenses of Trump's behavior. But for right now let me just say that the defense that "all men talk that way" comes straight from the pit of hell.
It normalizes evil and the degradation of women and of sex. If you are a non-Christian man with relatively mediocre standards of discourse and behavior, I point you to the pithy comment of Iowahawk. If you have a higher standard of behavior and discourse, either because you are a Christian or belong to some other religion that doesn't normalize such things or because you are a noble pagan, then you will be even more disgusted, and not only because of the assault aspect.
And in both cases, you should be outraged at the shrugging claim that everybody talks like this.
In the olden days, when one man insulted another's honor or integrity, the second man challenged him to a duel. Therefore, I suggest a metaphorical challenge in response to this gross insult to all decent men. You can throw down this challenge by posting
on Facebook or Twitter.
If you want something self-explanatory, post
Yes, you should do this even if you are (hopefully reluctantly) voting for that particular lizard.
Because real men don't Trump talk. Whoever you are, whomever you are voting for, resist the corruption that this candidacy is producing in our concept of manhood.
October 8, 2016
In addition to the excellent points Lydia made about the flap over philosopher Richard Swinburne's talk at an SCP conference and Michael Rea's “apology” afterwards, our good friend Professor Feser made some pretty significant observations in his comments, here. Some of the most interesting were quotes from gays from the late 1980's, which I am going to reproduce here because they deserve a wider audience. Actually, they should be shouted from the rooftops.
To pretend (as some Christian philosophers I know do) that this sort of thing is essentially just a regrettable but understandable overreaction on the part of wounded souls who have had some bad experiences with obnoxious religious people is naiveté. It is often rather a calculated political tactic aimed at making public dissent from liberal conventional wisdom on sexuality practically difficult or impossible. Some activists admit this. For example, in their 1989 book After the Ball, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen called for a long-term propaganda campaign to change attitudes about homosexuality by shaming, social ostracization, and other tactics deliberately aimed at manipulating emotions rather than appealing to reason. They write:
The trick is to get the bigot into the position of feeling a conflicting twinge of shame… This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, all making use of repeated exposure to pictorial images or verbal statements that are incompatible with his self-image as a well-liked person, one who fits in with the rest of the crowd. Thus, propagandistic advertisement can depict homophobic and homohating bigots as crude loudmouths and assholes… who are 'not Christian.' It can show them being criticized, hated, shunned… It can, in short, link homohating bigotry with all sorts of attributes the bigot would be ashamed to possess, and with social consequences he would find unpleasant and scary…
October 7, 2016
We have news:
Timo Miller was "deported" from Nicaragua (which I'm sure he, in a sense, didn't mind, having been arrested there and kept in a foul prison for several weeks) and "arrested" when he arrived on U.S. soil. In other words, an extradition by another name. The Department of Justice states that he "is due to appear in the Western District of New York at a later date." At least in the U.S. he can't be held indefinitely without trial.
It's a horribly depressing thought that we have come to such a pass in the United States that this is good news. It's good news that a kindly, gentle, harmless Mennonite missionary has been arrested and is going to be tried and (in all probability) sent to federal prison merely for helping a woman who fled to Nicaragua to save her child from being given over to her former lesbian lover. All of his "crimes" were committed on Nicaraguan soil (you know, giving Lisa and Isabella a place to stay and introducing them to the Mennonite community), but apparently the U.S. Congress asserts jurisdiction over such acts committed abroad by U.S. citizens in so-called "international kidnapping" cases. It is a grave injustice that this is a crime at all. Yet I admit to being relieved (as I'm sure his family is) that he is not being held indefinitely without trial in Nicaragua, as seemed a real possibility at one time.
This reminds me of something once said over lunch to me and some others by someone who had lived as a child under Communism in Poland. He said something like this (paraphrased): "We had due process in Poland at that time. There were many crimes that shouldn't have been crimes, but they still had to get evidence to convict you of them."
That's pretty much where we're getting to in the U.S. now.
October 6, 2016
Here's a rather odd development in the SCP/Swinburne flap. Readers will recall from my previous posts the insanely nasty comment by non-Christian philosopher Rebecca Kukla and her defiant self-defense.
Kukla has since taken that self-defense non-public, but it was public for several days (I read it myself) and garnered many "likes" and expressions of solidarity with her. While it was public, Rod Dreher copied it, and I'll be quoting it below.
Suffice it to say that, though Kukla wasn't viciously cussing out everybody who disagreed with her right in that status update, she was proudly defending herself for having done so, and the only nice things she had to say were about all her "supporters" at Georgetown and about others who have tried to appease her side of the political spectrum. She also complained about the so-called "attack" on her by the Georgetown conservative blogger. The only thing in that post that could remotely be called an "attack" was putting a link to her e-mail along with links to about a gazillion other people's e-mails, tacitly suggesting that readers contact her, which could have (and in this day and age probably did) result in her getting abusive e-mails. I raised a demurral about that in my own post on the subject. But the actual content of the Georgetown Academy post was accurate and non-abusive and raised entirely legitimate concerns about her outrageous behavior and her future relationship to conservative students at Georgetown.
October 3, 2016
One of the several (non-Christian) philosophers recently posting vile insult towards moral traditionalists on social media in the wake of the flap about Prof. Swinburne's paper was one Rebecca Kukla, a philosopher at a university "in the Jesuit tradition"--namely, Georgetown. She's a specialist in ethics.
Because I try to keep my posts as family-friendly as possible, I won't repeat her words, but you can find them in Ed Feser's post on this subject (gotta love his picture of the bust of Socrates with its caption).
In response to Kukla's highly unprofessional behavior on social media, a conservative blog site loosely affiliated with Georgetown put up this post (language warning--this post keeps repeating Kukla's language). It includes speculations about how Georgetown would respond if Kukla's political inclinations were the opposite of what they are and if she were directing her despicable ire toward a different group with which the administration sympathizes.
September 30, 2016
This is going to be a rather long, philosophical post, so I'm going to put some comments right up front so that people can get this gist even if they don't have the time to read the whole post.
By now my readers have probably heard about the flap concerning a regional meeting of the Society for Christian Philosophers. If not, you can get up to speed on the facts via Maverick Philosopher, Ed Feser, or Rod Dreher.
Extremely eminent British, Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne presented a paper at a regional SCP meeting (an invited paper) on Christian sexual ethics and morality. In the course thereof he stated that people with homosexual orientation are disabled and that it would be good if they could be cured of this disability, and the left, including some so-called Christians, went hysterical, insane with rage. The President of the SCP, philosopher of religion Michael Rea, then publicly issued a brief and highly ambiguous semi-apology for the "hurt" caused by Swinburne's talk, implying that it did not properly advance the goals of "diversity and inclusion." Others have then called for Rea to apologize to Swinburne for this unprecedented move of apologizing for an eminent philosopher's invited talk just because it was controversial and also to "clarify" that a defense of traditional Christian sexual views is still welcome within the SCP.
September 26, 2016
Readers may remember the case of Margot Bentley in Canada. Margot had been an activist in favor of euthanasia and suicide and had explicitly stated that she wanted to be dehydrated to death rather than being kept alive if she became incompetent. However, when she became very elderly and was suffering from dementia, she was accepting spoon feeding at the nursing home where she lived. The nursing home didn't want to stop feeding her, despite the fact that her children wanted to force them to stop. The case went to court, and the judge ruled that, since Margot was accepting the spoon feeding, it should be allowed to continue.
In Oregon a very similar case is playing out. Once again, the court and nursing home have made the right decision to continue to spoon feed the patient, but there are disturbing indications that this would not happen if the statutory laws were even slightly different or if the woman were not in a nursing home.
September 24, 2016
Well. Things are not so good for either Timothy Miller or Kenneth Miller. As for Philip Zodhiates, it's unclear how his trial, which has just begun, is going to go.
Let's start with Timo Miller, who is in the worst situation of all: As of this past Tuesday, he has not been brought to the United States. He remains in the custody of the Nicaraguan authorities. No one seems to know for sure why, after leaving him alone to carry on his life for years, the Nicaraguans suddenly decided to arrest him in connection with his role in the so-called "kidnapping" of Isabella Miller--a charge (of course) originating in the United States and in the laws of the United States. It is all the more mysterious since they haven't yet sent him back to the U.S.
Here is what the U.S. Prosecutor is reported to have told Christian News:
Co-prosecutor Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Van De Graaf confirmed to Christian News Network on Tuesday that Timo Miller is currently behind bars in Nicaragua and might be deported back to the U.S.. However, the decision is up to Nicaraguan officials as there is no extradition process in place.
Clever, huh? There's no extradition process in place, so he just remains in limbo indefinitely in Nicaragua. A much worse outcome than being brought to the United States for a trial. It avoids all that pesky habeas corpus stuff.
September 22, 2016
Did you know that this is the “Flight 93 Election”? In case you haven’t already encountered Publius Decius Mus by now and have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain in Publius’ (pseudonymous) words:
2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.
Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.
To ordinary conservative ears, this sounds histrionic. The stakes can’t be that high because they are never that high—except perhaps in the pages of Gibbon. Conservative intellectuals will insist that there has been no “end of history” and that all human outcomes are still possible. They will even—as Charles Kesler does—admit that America is in “crisis.” But how great is the crisis? Can things really be so bad if eight years of Obama can be followed by eight more of Hillary, and yet Constitutionalist conservatives can still reasonably hope for a restoration of our cherished ideals? Cruz in 2024!
September 20, 2016
Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players used the moment of the national anthem, in their respective games in NFL opening games, to make political “statements”. Kaepernick sat for the anthem. Four Dolphins took a knee. Various Patriots and Chiefs raised a fist during the anthem. Kaepernich, particularly, also added to his actions a testament to say why he did this:
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Not surprisingly, these actions induced a heated response against the players. People thought these actions were disrespectful, and weren’t shy about saying so.
Not surprisingly, the left wing of the “anything that attacks my country is fine with me” crowd reacted to the reaction with their own misplaced anger, like so, by Nancy Armour:
NFL players protest on 9/11, and that's fine… On 9/11, of all days, there were some who wanted to dictate what’s “appropriate” when it comes to respecting this country. Who decided symbols are more important than what they actually represent. …[snip]… Peters and the Dolphins players stood during the 9/11 observance shown in all stadiums. Their signs of protest came after, during the anthem, a nuance that is sure to be lost on those who criticize them. They did not disrespect those who lost their lives 15 years ago and, even when they raised a fist or took a knee, they did not disrespect those who served or their country, either.
No, they disrespected the nation, instead.
September 16, 2016
Way back in 2008 I highlighted a then-new law in Victoria, Australia, requiring a doctor to refer patients for abortions if the doctor wouldn't perform the abortion himself. I said that this was a case in which civil disobedience would be justified.
Illinois has recently passed a law (text here), which has been signed by the Republican (!) governor, that is much like Victoria's law. Ironically, the new law is an amendment to a conscience protection act previously passed in Illinois. The current law brazenly guts the original conscience protection act and replaces it with conscience coercion.
September 13, 2016
Massachusetts's Commission Against Discrimination has issued new guidance on new anti-discrimination laws, and it explicitly includes churches. The relevant sentence is,
Even a church could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.
Sound familiar? Yep, it's very much like the revised language (see here) that the Iowa anti-discrimination commission wrote. Originally, the Iowa commission had said that the force of non-discrimination law applied to churches if they had a "church service open to the public," which provoked howls of derision and pointed (and legitimate) comments about censored sermons. It also provoked a couple of lawsuits. Iowa's commission then revised their pamphlet to say that the application of the law was only to "non-religious activities which are open to the public." The wording in the Massachusetts guidance is similar. The examples given in the Iowa revised pamphlet are "an independent day care or polling place located on the premises of the place of worship." The example in the Massachusetts guidelines of a "secular event" is a spaghetti supper.
September 12, 2016
My thanks to reader "Just Me" for updating us in the comments thread below on the current outrageous situation of Mennonite missionary Timo Miller. See here, here, and here. He is apparently giving us information from the site Plainnews.org, which hosts news on Mennonite, Hutterite, and other "plain" folk worldwide. (Timo Miller is no relation either to Lisa Miller or to Pastor Ken Miller.) Timo was originally arrested in Washington, DC, in 2011 for having helped Lisa Miller obtain plane tickets to Nicaragua and for having sheltered her and helped her settle in when she first arrived in Nicaragua. He has stated explicitly that he did not know at the time that he was breaking any laws in so doing. See here for an interesting and in some ways sympathetic portrayal of him in the New York Times.
He agreed to cooperate fully with investigators in 2011, and hence at that time the federal charges against him were dropped. He was a witness at fellow Mennonite Ken Miller's trial in 2012.
Apparently having federal charges dropped, though, is just a game of cat and mouse. There is nothing long-term or binding about it, at least as it was done in Timo Miller's case, and the charges can be picked back up again at any time. For reasons that are obscure both to Timo and to his family, the federal prosecutors connected to the Buffalo, New York, trial (presumably the trial of Philip Zodhiates, who helped Lisa in the U.S.), have decided that he needs to be extradited right now, citing the old charges against him.