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April 2016 Archives

April 3, 2016

Churchill was paid like a star athlete

A historian with a background in finance has produced what promises to be a memorable addition to the voluminous literature on Winston Churchill.

David Lough’s study, No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money, examines the great Englishman’s precarious and extravagant finances, and draws out from them a yet another striking adventure in a life full of adventure, above all the adventure of statesmanship. For instance, he finds that, as a young and mostly untested writer, Churchill managed to command a freelance war correspondent’s salary, adjusted to the 21st century level, of nearly $400,000 per year — i.e., roughly on par with a replacement-level professional athlete today — for going to South Africa to cover the Boer War for The Morning Post.

Reviewing this book in The New Criterion, Timothy Congdon, a British economist and one-time UK Independence Party candidate for Parliament, avers that Lough’s salary adjustment is inadequate. According to his way of thinking, on a purchasing-power basis Churchill’s war correspondent’s earnings were far more impressive: closer to that of a star professional athlete of today. Congdon reckons that Churchill hauled in the equivalent of $5 million annually for his coverage of the Boer War.

Churchill had great luck in the Boer War. He was captured by the enemy but was treated well by them and somehow managed to escape. The British public loved derring-do, particularly when performed by aristocratic daredevils in the cause of imperial expansion. Churchill’s journalism became even more valuable. He was soon in possession of a clear £10,000, which his American counterparts would look at in the same way that their successors today look at over $10 million.

Adventures indeed. Winston Churchill was to war correspondents of his day what Von Miller is to outside linebackers or Steph Curry to shooting guards.

It would a colossal exaggeration, of course, to suppose that Churchill’s remuneration in this profession was entirely the consequence his good fortune. Its foundation lies firmly in his own native excellence. Mr. Lough’s fascinating book, by all accounts, also makes clear that this excellence, along with his many others, sustained Churchill in what was a staggering prodigality. He consumed the income he earned at a rate comparable to a modern star athlete.

Now human excellence resists precise categorization; while it can never be separated from circumstances, it retains an indelible measure of mystery even when history supplies us with abundant resources for study and comparison.

In a word, there is, truly, an ineffable human magic in Churchill’s prose which, by a somewhat strained analogy, is also observable in Curry’s jump shot. The financial reward confirms the phenomenal excellence. Many were the men who, around the turn of the 20th century, could compose clear English competently: None could pour it on like Churchill. Many are the men today who can dribble and shoot a basketball serviceably: None can pour it in like Curry.

A sample. From the Preface to Churchill’s Marlborough: His Life and Times:

“There are few successful commanders,” says Creasy, “on whom Fame has shone so unwillingly as upon John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough.” I believe this is true; and it is an interesting historical study to examine the causes which have made so great a contrast between the glory and importance of his deeds and the small regard of his countrymen for his memory. He commanded the armies of Europe against France for ten campaigns. He fought four great battles and many important actions. It is the common boast of his champions that he never fought a battle that he did not win, nor besieged a fortress he did not take. Amid all the chances and baffling accidents of war he produced victory with almost mechanical certainty. Even when fighting in fetters and hobbles, swayed and oppressed by influences which were wholly outside the military situation, he was able to produce the same result, varying only in degree. Nothing like this can be seen in military annals. His smaller campaigns were equally crowned by fortune. He never rode off any field except as a victor. He quitted war invincible: and no sooner was his guiding hand withdrawn than disaster overtook the armies he had led. Successive generations have not ceased to name him with Hannibal and Caesar.

April 4, 2016

Book Review: The Prodigal God

Tim Keller is one of those down to Earth Protestant preachers who somehow manages to preach an orthodox Christian message and yet appeals to squishy, secular types who seek to understand Christianity better. I first became aware of his work when I read his popular book of apologetics, The Reason for God. He won’t convince the die-hard skeptics (and/or left-wing ideologues) of the truth of the Gospel message, but he has certainly done his part to bring thousands of people to Christ and helped them receive a new identity and relationship with God.

Recently a friend gave me Keller’s earlier, shorter book called The Prodigal God which Keller describes in his subtitle as “Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith.” Now that Easter Sunday has come and gone, I thought it might be a good time to look at what Keller has to say about Christ’s message for us – what does Keller mean by the phrase the “Prodigal God” and how does the famous Parable of the Prodigal Son help us “understand the Bible as a whole.”

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April 7, 2016

Undesigned coincidences talk

About a week ago I had the opportunity to give a talk for Ratio Christi here at Western Michigan University on Undesigned Coincidences. I'm grateful that it was recorded and uploaded to Youtube. It's kind of long, and you may just want to listen rather than watch. (Note: There are very few slides--just a couple of maps during the Acts portion.) I was able to use some coincidences here that I think aren't as widely known, so I hope interested readers will enjoy.

April 9, 2016

Abortion and punishing women

Disclaimer: What follow are my own opinions, not necessarily the opinions of any of my co-contributors. Nor do they constitute any official position of the editors of What's Wrong with the World. I generally consider this disclaimer to be implicit in any post written by an individual author at W4, but in this case I thought it could be valuable to add it explicitly.

Comments are closed for cause. The reasons have to do with particular annoying readers and the fact that I prefer to put this out there for posterity and do other things with my time than waste it responding to those particular annoying readers. I will be crossposting at Extra Thoughts, where comments are fully moderated. There are plenty of people whose comments I'd be happy to hear in a moderated environment.

Onward to content.

Consider the following scenarios:

--A man kills his wife in a hunting “accident.” The police are convinced that it was deliberate but know that they will not be able to prove mens rea, so they don’t even consider prosecuting.

--A thirteen-year-old girl cold-bloodedly poisons her grandfather and two other people in her house for “being mean” to her. She keeps a diary bragging about how clever she is. She is prosecuted but will never face the death penalty, because her state does not have the death penalty for minors as young as she is.

--A young man forcibly rapes his girlfriend, who had willingly gone to his apartment for dinner but had no intention of having sex with him and gave him no indication that she was willing. In her mental turmoil afterwards, she foolishly waits to report the rape until two weeks later, when the bruising on her wrists and arms has disappeared, so the evidence is he-said, she-said, and no prosecution is possible because due process will protect her rapist.

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April 11, 2016

Three cases for civil disobedience

I'm bringing disparate elements together in this post, but what they all have in common is that they are cases where civil disobedience is going to be necessary. Very often Christians and moral people in the west have hoped that if we just keep our heads down we aren't actually going to have to engage in civil disobedience. In the abortion culture wars, for example, what has often been brought up is that nobody is ordering you to have an abortion, so civil disobedience like blocking a clinic entrance is morally optional. Laws requiring doctors to give referrals, though, call that diagnosis into question. The left is seldom willing to leave it at live and let live.

The latest such case concerning abortion is in California, where alternative crisis pregnancy centers are being required to advertise abortion services to women who consult them. Some in Sacramento are refusing, while meanwhile a first amendment lawsuit moves forward. A similar bill in New York State was defeated on first amendment grounds as requiring "forced speech" by the pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, but whether that will be done in the California case or not remains to be seen. Meanwhile, a federal judge has refused to put a stay on the enforcement of the law, which does not bode well. The centers are right to refuse to comply with this law.

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April 17, 2016

Vandals vs. the Book [Updated]

[Update: The editor-in-chief of Eerdman's Publishing, James Ernest, writes here stating that Eerdmans did not commission or carry out the revision in question. Rather, that was apparently routed through IVP-UK; Eerdmans merely publishes what it gets from IVP-UK. Ernest says a lot of other things, such as that Stott's executors believe that this was done with Stott's approval. However, the very quotation that Ernest gives (and that I give in an early comment in the thread) from Stott's own new introduction indicates that Stott stated that the book was in some ways a "period piece" which "reflects the culture of its day" and "needs to be allowed to remain itself." It is flatly obvious that the radical changes made in the book do not follow that rubric. So in essence the major piece of information that James Ernest gives that is something other than opinion (and the relaying of the opinions of Stott's executors) is that apparently the publisher who actually put out this revision in the first instance is IVP-UK rather than Eerdmans and that Eerdmans just has to print what it gets from IVP-UK. I'm happy to issue that clarification, and readers should feel free to read both the full quotation from Stott's new preface (see comments) and Ernest's editorial.]

Via First Things comes the news that the evangelical publisher Eerdmans has issued a mangled revision of the late John R. W. Stott's Christian classic, Basic Christianity. In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the book in 2008.

I suggest that if you are a lover of language and learning you read the First Things article only after taking your blood pressure medicine.

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April 22, 2016

Canada facilitates murder of the helpless and ill

Canada has recently legalized "assisted suicide," even carried out by family members, friends, or anybody, using prescribed drugs.

Here's how it works. You induce someone 18 or older to ask for a lethal prescription on the grounds that he has a "grievous and irremediable condition." (Notice that we've abandoned even the pretense that the person is actually dying. Any grievous and irremediable condition will do.) He asks for it from a medical practitioner. You find two medical practitioners willing to certify that the person meets the criteria. This can't be too hard, because if someone you approach has conscientious objections he has to give you a referral to someone who will comply, known as an "effective referral."

Allegedly, the medical practitioners are supposed to confirm that the request wasn't made as the result of "external pressure," but given that they can lose their jobs and be in violation of the law if they don't provide aid in dying or an effective referral for it, it's not difficult to see where the incentives fall as far as certifying that the person isn't under "external pressure."

(One sweet little clause in the law says that someone else can even sign the request for the suicide pills if the victim is unable to sign! Yes, yes, the signature is supposed to be witnessed by witnesses without a conflict of interest, but still.)

Once the drugs are prescribed, that's it. Anyone else can help administer the drugs, behind closed doors, without supervision or oversight. The medical people are supposed to tell the victim (er, the person who "requests aid in dying") that he can withdraw his request later, but there is no mechanism at all for making sure that this is honored. For example, if the victim later doesn't want to take the pills and a beneficiary of the victim's will puts a gun to his head and says, "Take the pills," then lies and says that the person took them voluntarily, there will be no way to tell this and no investigation or prosecution.

In fact, the law expressly states that even if it turns out that the person didn't want to die and if someone "assisted" the victim in taking the pill under a "reasonable but mistaken belief" that the person wanted to die, the "assistant" is exempt from prosecution.

(2) No person is a party to culpable homicide if they do anything for the purpose of aiding a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner to provide a person with medical assistance in dying in accordance with section 241.‍2.

(3) For greater certainty, the exemption set out in subsection (1) or (2) applies even if the person invoking it has a reasonable but mistaken belief about any fact that is an element of the exemption.

How in the world it is decided that the "assistant" had a "reasonable" belief that the victim wanted to die at that particular moment is left unspecified, but my guess is that the original paperwork with the medical people that showed the person allegedly voluntarily requesting the drugs will be considered sufficient. What happened after that would be nobody's business to inquire.

To be clear: It's wrong to "help" people kill themselves even if they really want to kill themselves. But the murder of people who definitely don't want to kill themselves is wrong in a way that even the pro-death left usually recognizes, which is why they are always going on and on about "choice." This law is an outright invitation to outright murder of your inconvenient, disabled relatives and friends, as should be evident to anyone with a few legal brain cells. Wesley J. Smith talks about the DeLury case and how it would have been a perfect situation for the application of this law.

Choice devours itself. Every time. Make death your god, and death will make sure that a little thing like "choice" doesn't get in the way. I predict there will be plenty of outright murders under this new law in Canada.

April 26, 2016

Obama Beats Up On Poor Little Girls

One of the more sordid features of the Obama presidency is his willingness – nay, his seeming glee – in beating up on poor, helpless, defenseless females. In this particular, I am referring to the Little Sisters of the Poor.*

It is well known that Obamacare has been implemented by HHS with a contraceptive mandate. What is not quite as well known is the way this falls on certain employers, like the Little Sisters. The mandate as originally specified by HHS would require all employers to make sure that (mandated) contraceptive coverage was in the (mandated) health insurance package for employees. The Obama administration put this mandate in the regulation knowing perfectly well that it violated the long-standing tenets of several religious groups. They did not care. The law itself, basic Obamacare legislation, did not provide that contraceptive coverage was mandatory, that was an Obama policy decision. They knew that requiring it by regulation was a stretch, but they did not care.

This version of the regulation was quickly “fixed” with an “exemption”. Eligible religious organizations didn’t have to follow the rule if they have religious objections to providing contraceptives. The problem? The exemption was drawn incredibly narrowly, effectively to houses of worship and their affiliates only, contrary to standard laws and regulations exempting religious persons with conscience issues. The regulations put out received so many objections that HHS felt the heat and came up with a revision that they hoped would pass muster with enough of the religious groups that they could ignore the few remaining. The second “fix” was the so-called “accommodation”: to allow a religious employer to file a form with the government and insurer stating that they were religiously opposed to providing contraceptive care, and the insurer would then contact and provide contraceptive coverage to the employees (who wanted it) so called “separately”. Included in the package deal, of course, was the unmentioned but still present reality that contraceptive care remained a feature of the “plan” of insurance the employer was arranging. This is especially clear with respect to self-insured employer plans, who arrange to have a third-party administrator operate the system:

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