What’s Wrong with the World

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July 2016 Archives

July 3, 2016

Austrian Eurocrats May Have Cheated to Win an Election

After a tissue of innuendo, comprising several paragraphs in which unsubtle references to Nazism stand in for context on an Austrian election six week ago, followed by several more paragraphs of artless diversion, The New York Times finally gets around to reporting the real story: that it looks like pro-EU politicians stole the election in Austria.

Or at least, it looks that way enough that the Austrian Constitutional Court has ordered a new election.

When polls closed in the May 22 runoff, [the Euroskeptic candidate] was leading, but a final count that included about 700,000 postal ballots put [the pro-EU candidate] ahead by roughly 31,000 votes. [Complaints were filed] with the Constitutional Court about irregularities in 94 of 117 electoral districts.

The chairman of the Constitutional Court, Gerhart Holzinger, announced on Friday that “the runoff must be repeated in all of Austria,” and said the decision was guided solely by the court’s mission to protect the rule of law and democracy.

Now bear with me. We know that for many of the The New York Times’ precocious reporters, history began around 2008, but some of us are old enough to remember a certain contested election here in the United States at the turn of the century. Maybe some of the Times reporters have heard of it; I cannot say.

What I can say is this: Imagine a The New York Times article describing, say, the Florida Supreme Court’s intervention on behalf of Albert Gore against George W. Bush, which commenced by reminding readers that a majority of that Court’s judges hailed from the formerly segregationist Florida Democratic Party, and then proceeded to bury the lede that the state’s presidential election results had been called into question and a statewide recount ordered.

I submit that such an article is quite beyond the imagination of any reasoning man.

But here we are, ten days after the biggest political blow the European Union has ever suffered — at the hands of a British public exasperated with the EU’s contempt for popular autonomy — and the Times is reporting a high court’s vacating of a major European nation’s popular election as if the only angle of consequence is the aid and comfort it gives to “far-right” parties.

“Austria’s Far Right Presents the E.U. With a New Test at the Polls” — that is, honest to goodness, the headline chosen by the Times. The headline to this blog is demonstrably more accurate.

July 6, 2016

Lawfare against tyranny: New Case in Iowa

Iowa bureaucrats have written up a FAQ about a 2007 Iowa "public accommodations" law. This FAQ says that churches whose services are open to the public or any church services such as daycares are subject to the Iowa laws against "discrimination" on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. See the ADF brief here.

The ADF is completely right to see this as a direct, sweeping, broadside attack on the ability of churches in Iowa to preach and proclaim the truth concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. Church services are by their very nature open to the public, especially for churches that attempt to evangelize and actively desire to invite non-members to hear the gospel, and church-run facilities such as schools and daycares do usually permit non-members to use them. That does not mean that they have no distinctive religious identity nor that they do not serve, in the Commission's words, a "bona fide religious purpose."

But a failure to allow men to use women's bathrooms and any preaching of conservative norms on "sexual orientation and gender identity" might make homosexuals and transgenders feel "unwelcome" and might fail to "accommodate" them, and hence, given the Commission's interpretation, would be against the law if the church services are open to the public.

Continue reading "Lawfare against tyranny: New Case in Iowa" »

July 9, 2016

Solzhenitsyn's Line in Dallas

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

With the great Russian’s famous sentences before him, a Dallas native and long-time friend of this blog, John Zmirak, has produced the best thing yet written about Friday’s treason against the men in blue.

Last night, someone tore out a piece of America. Five hard-working, brave policemen of the City of Dallas are dead. Seven others lie wounded, as do two civilians. Racial resentments, not wholly groundless, have been needlessly inflamed. All this in Dallas, a vibrant, economically thriving city where before the shooting, cops were posing for photos with the Black Lives Matter protestors whom they were there protecting; where misconduct by members of our highly diverse police force has plummeted thanks to higher quality training; where the black citizen carrying the AR-15 whom someone misidentified as a suspect was in fact a law-abiding gun owner exercising his Second Amendment rights, who handed his rifle to the cops in case they needed it.

As Dallas Police Chief David Brown said at the prayer rally I just left in downtown Dallas’ Thanksgiving Square, “We will not let that person steal this democracy from us.” The mood here isn’t sour. At that rally, evangelical preachers black and white, a rabbi, an imam, and the city’s Catholic bishop led a multiracial crowd of more than 1,000 in prayers for the police and for racial healing. We held hands and prayed, and the Salvation Army band sweltered for our benefit, playing “God Bless America.”

Nationally, things are bleaker. Social media bubble with charges and counter-charges. Each of the major presidential candidates is so divisive that it’s a blessing neither of them chose to visit. It’s also very sad: presidential election opponents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, even George W. Bush and Al Gore, could have (and probably would have) changed their plans and made an appearance in Dallas, after the worst strike against law enforcement in more than 100 years. This year, neither of the candidates has any place preaching healing or unity.

Just before adducing Solzhenitsyn’s line, Zmirak articulates some fundamental truths, relating to very sensitive matters, which are forever wanting articulate repetition.

Last night brought me back to New York City in the 1970s. If you’ve never seen it, Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam is a powerful document of memory. It immerses you in the moment when a rampant serial killer (Son of Sam), a record heat wave, an electrical blackout and massive street looting brought our nation’s greatest city to the brink of civic collapse. The film depicts the powerful role that racial division plays in making order harder to keep and justice tougher to find.

But ultimately, it isn’t the conflict between one group and another that causes chaos. In a lily-white society like 1930s Germany, or an all-black republic like 1990s Rwanda, we will still find sufficient divisions to make us hate each other, if that’s where our hearts incline. And incline there they will, if we don’t push back continually against the powerful currents that otherwise sweep us along — the world, the flesh and the devil.

Read the whole thing.

Continue reading "Solzhenitsyn's Line in Dallas" »

July 12, 2016

Two updates

First, an update on SB 1146. The law has been amended in the following ways, making it worse.

--It now is absolutely explicit that it applies not only to student admissions but also to hiring.
--The law is explicit that "transgender" students would have to be accommodated in the facilities of their "gender identity."
--The law is now clear that homosexual "married" couples would have to be accommodated in married student housing, if such is offered.

The law has evidently had some cosmetic changes made to it which I hope will not induce any schools to compromise or withdraw their opposition.

--It permits schools that accept state funds (via their students) to require "mandatory religious practices," presumably such things as going to chapel. This is apparently a softening of the stance on prohibiting "religious discrimination."
--It permits such schools to enforce "moral codes," as long as these are applied universally without regard to a student's claim to sexual orientation or gender identity. So what does this mean? It means that as a Christian school you can't have a "moral code" that bans specifically homosexual practice, though you can require students to confine homosexual practice to pseudo-marriage. Wow, I'm so impressed!

The National Catholic Register rightly sees that this should mean that any faithful religious school (naturally, the NCR is applying it specifically to Catholic schools) will have to forego state funds if this law passes the Assembly and is signed.

Continue reading "Two updates" »

July 14, 2016

Choice Devours Itself: Dutch MDs ordered to continue dehydrating people asking for water

In one of the most blatant instances of the "choice devours itself" phenomenon to come along in a while, the Dutch medical association has written out guidelines on starving and dehydrating people to death that order doctors to continue dehydrating patients who ask for water or food. Such requests are to be treated as "delirium" on the part of a person who had previously (allegedly) consented to be dehydrated to death. The person is to be medicated into quietness if necessary so that he will "reach his goal" of dying.

These guidelines apply even to food and fluids received by mouth.

Continue reading "Choice Devours Itself: Dutch MDs ordered to continue dehydrating people asking for water" »

Orwell’s Depressing Ongoing Relevance

In Orwell’s novel 1984, in chapters 2 and 3 of part Three, during the interrogation and dialogue between Winston Smith and O’Brien (sadly, I could mine these sections of the novel for posts here the rest of my life); O'Brien asks Winston if, in his opinion, the past has real existence and, saying that Winston is no metaphysician, he continues by affirming that:

until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects where the past is still happening?

Winston replies in the negative and O’Brien questions him “then where does the past exist, if at all?”

Continue reading "Orwell’s Depressing Ongoing Relevance" »

July 18, 2016

The reticence of the evangelists

An argument for the historicity of the Gospels that deserves attention is the argument from the reticence of the evangelists. Here's, in outline, how it goes: Consider the hypothesis that the Gospels are, or include, later, legendary stories. Then look at various places where human curiosity is not gratified in the Gospels by added stories, where one might expect these if the Gospel authors were not constrained by their actual knowledge or the information they got from real sources close to the facts.

This argument is closely related to the apparent reticence of the Gospel authors to "read back in" theological interests into early material.

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July 20, 2016

Postmodernism and "Everyone gets hate mail"

There's been a recent brouhaha connected with Twitter concerning a certain columnist whom I'll just call Kilo. I ignore Twitter as much as possible. I have no Twitter account, and not much in my life would change if Twitter ceased to exist tomorrow. In fact, I doubt it was a very well-conceived idea to begin with.

I'm taking note of this particular brouhaha because of what it reflects about a certain segment of the population that calls itself "conservative" but is anything but.

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July 24, 2016

"I will not"

I am currently reading the novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. In literary terms, it has some flaws. Ideologically, it is self-consciously non-religious but advocates ethical humanism with a commitment to moral objectivity.

There is a horrifying scene in which boys and teachers at an elite Nazi school are forced to throw water over a bound prisoner in the freezing cold, a process that freezes the prisoner to death. Only one refuses. He pours out bucket after bucket of water on the ground, saying, "I will not." He later pays the price.

That ability to draw a line, to say, "I will not" is important to all human beings. There has to be something about which you will say that, a line you will not cross, a thing you will not do. If not, you have lost yourself.

In Vermont right now, some doctors are being told that they have to do something, and they are saying, "I will not." Their lawyers for the ADF (these are people really doing something for the cause of the right and the good) have filed a lawsuit on their behalf. The complaint is here.

Continue reading ""I will not"" »

July 27, 2016

On the Butchery at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray

It so happens that this week, it's been my duty to watch many gruesome hours of ISIS propaganda. With the latest sacrilege and bloodletting at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France, it is safe to say that all of us have had a belly full of it.

Continue reading "On the Butchery at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray" »

July 31, 2016

The Gulag


Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago is, of course, a monumental work of history. The three formidable volumes, multitudinous in their breadth, comprise a daunting task to even the most tenacious of readers. The effort undertaken by this remarkable man, to collect the material that fills his volumes, recurrently boggles the mind.

We’re intimidated by the prospect of reading it? Reflect now on the prospect of assembling and composing it.

But part of what elevates this work to the status of literary achievement of the highest order is the personal voice of Solzhenitsyn, which grounds the entire chronicle. Just when a flash of skepticism, from years of active reading, urges the internal question, “But how could he know about that?” — something in the phrasing, or something in the comparison, or something in the context, supplies the answer: “Because he was there” or “because a man he shared a cell with was there.” This is not only history, but testimony and autobiography.

Even more than the personal experience undergirding the history, there is the sheer vigor and range of the great Russian’s pen: its capacity for varied styles, for formality and intimacy, for poetic and prosaic diction, for imitative dialogue in diverse voices, for irony and subtlety as well as brute fact piled on brute fact, almost a catalogue of horror and misery. This diversity of literary form buoys the narrative and supplies it with its mark of singular genius.

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