Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Don't Support the Media's Memes

The Orlando shooter was not insane, or a deranged madman: like all haters, he had to be carefully taught.

Indeed, he had visited the Pulse Club some dozen or so times beforehand, and had perhaps sought to hunt down victims by using gay dating apps. This, in short, was a man with malice aforethought. (See also this story, which suggests that much more about the planning of this act will come to light soon.)

The rifle he used was not an AR-15.

In fact, there is no such weapon as an "assault rifle." If you can't define it, you can't regulate it.

The shooter was not on any "watch list" or "no-fly list" when he bought his guns (though he had been on one earlier). Instead, he was employed with a major firm providing security services for the DHS and other government agencies.

This was not the "greatest single mass shooting in history on American soil." Think Wounded Knee. Think Tulsa in 1921. Or even the Mystic Massacre in 1637.  All were directed against groups who were the objects of prejudice and hatred. Most of the deaths were by gunshot, and all of the dead, including many women and children, were unarmed and mostly defenseless.

Indeed, our history of massacres against American natives alone is shameful to catalog. Google's page for that category lists 51 separate links to individual accounts.

For Planned Parenthood to state that the Orlando shooting was the result of "toxic masculinity" and "imperialist homophobia" is like Kermit Gosnell saying that he performed live-birth abortions because "as a physician, I am very concerned about the sanctity of life."

In this day and age, words are cheap. Pay attention to who is saying them.

Crazy times beget crazy people. Don't aid or abet them by spreading their memes.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

On Faith -- and the Dark Side (a Repost)

[Blogging lately has taken a back seat to other pressing matters. This post from 2012, however, still resonates with me, and if anything is even more topical now than when I first wrote it. Ponder the truths in it as you witness the ongoing disintegration around us.]

Something is going on all around us, and we need a name for it if we are to be able to deal with it.

Sorry for the paranoid-like opening, but this is serious -- deadly serious.

People are lost to the faith all the time, I know -- it is nothing new. So it's not just that the people I am talking about are either losing their faith, or are turned off by professions of faith, or whatever.

It is that one can see their minds going, going, going... until they are gone. Gone, to the dark side.

To the side where "reality" is nothing objective any more, where "reality" is simply whatever they choose subjectively to make of it.

Here -- let me try to give an example. This is a description of the world he inhabits by a young man who also happens, more than once, to have been inside a church. He begins forthrightly enough:
Can I be honest? 
I find the church exhausting. At times infuriating. 
I’ve spent the last decade working for a few different local congregations—from conservative Baptist to non-denominational to mainline Protestant—and to be honest, regardless of their theological/ideological/political nuances, they have all generally caused within me the same feeling: endless frustration. 
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Church. I believe it to be the single most potent and powerful possibility for the transformation of the world (and by “transformation of the world” I mean the actual restoration of the various ills and suffering and ecological devastation we experience and cause one another and the creatures around us…not the whole “getting people to think and vote just like me” agenda it’s been turned into). It’s why I continue to participate in it, why I continue to identify myself as “one of them.” 
But there are times—more often than not—that it drives me absolutely crazy.
So far, so good. The writer has not expressed any frustration which all of us have not experienced from time to time. And his vision of "restoration of the various ills and suffering and ecological devastation we experience" is appropriately fired-up with youthful enthusiasm for going about the business of change.

But change to what? "Restoration," after all, is a Rousseau-inspired myth. There is no going back to a "better" time. But let us listen on. In the passage that follows I have bolded some of the language -- not for emphasis, but to flag it as the first of many clues:
I’m in my early 30’s. I was born at the tail end of Generation X. I grew up with corporate downsizing and political scandals, and am therefore generally skeptical of people in positions of power. I was a latchkey kid, so being independent is pretty much second nature (although, inwardly, all I want is to connect with others). I spent a good chunk of my childhood in a single parent household, so the whole ‘nuclear family’ thing is actually bit of a foreign experience/concept for me. I have seen technology advance exponentially throughout my lifetime and was young enough when the trend began to have been able to ride that wave fairly comfortably and competently.
All right, the stage is now set. We have introduced the protagonist of the struggle, and have highlighted the clues for what will follow, and will almost surely stupefy and sadden you. Prepare yourself:
I exist in a world of diversity and globalization, of extreme expression and sharing (a la social networking). I engage a society and culture that connects virtually, that speaks more with sounds and images and “Likes” than it does words, and where the words themselves are becoming symbols and codes for other words through an almost tribal form of emotive texting. I am comfortable with (and actually excited by) the mashing up of ideas and concepts and sources into a cacophony of stories and thoughts and experiences (notice my almost obscene use of hyphens?) in which there isn’t any one right answer or message save for the one that YOU take away from the whole thing. I am deeply postmodern. This is the world I live in. This is my experience of existence.
This time, instead of bolding, allow me to extract from that passage the parts of it that evidence the phenomenon I am trying to describe:
I exist in a world ... of social networking. I engage a society and culture that connects virtually, that speaks more with sounds and images and “Likes” ... through an almost tribal form of emotive texting. I am ... excited by the mashing up of ideas and concepts and sources into a cacophony ... in which there isn’t any one right answer ... save for the one that YOU take away from the whole thing. ... This is the world I live in. This is my ... existence.
Now can you begin to see what I am talking about?

This is a young man who grew up with no experience of family, and who expresses a burning desire to be connected with others. But to him who grew up in this world of atheistic, arrogant technology, that connection can be achieved only remotely, by means of that technology, through "networking" over the Internet. (There are over 900 million people on Facebook. That is 15 percent of the global population. But people are feeling lonelier, and more isolated, than ever. That is the "Internet paradox.")

And so what kind of reality turns him off?

Precisely. The reality which he encounters in a church:
... This is the world I live in. This is my experience of existence.  
Except at church.  
At church I step back into a veritable time warp…and I’m not talking about a “This is so old/ancient it’s cool!” sort of scene, but more of a “Why does this place smell like my grandma’s living room? Seriously, it smells JUST LIKE her house” sort of vibe.  
I am officially at a loss for words when it comes to the insistence of so many churches to try and preserve within their walls a snapshot of a certain cultural point in time…while at the same time bemoaning the fact that there aren’t any young people around, and secretly dreading whether or not their congregation will even exist 50 years from now (which I have found many mainline Protestant churches to be doing).... 
His principal beef with churches is that they "try [to] preserve within their walls a snapshot of a certain cultural point in time ...". Yes, young man, that is precisely what churches try to do, what churches are obligated to do. It is called "keeping the faith once for all entrusted to the saints."

That faith, by definition, does not vary with time. It is true that the manner in which it can be expressed may vary with cultures and languages over time, but the faith "once for all entrusted" does not change -- it is eternal, and hence unchanging.

Your problem, my son, is that you have never been given the equipment to hear it, let alone to appreciate it for what it is. For all of your technological savvy and skills are bent to a single purpose -- to making your own virtual reality out of the "cacophony of ideas and concepts and sources" with which you surround yourself, of your own free will.

You rely on no higher judgment than your own in this impossible task. And so, not surprisingly, what you are able to take away contains no clue, no grasp whatsoever, of anything that could be such as to never change -- to be eternal. And why are you unable to do so? Indeed, you yourself supply the answer:
Because there are a couple things young people simply won’t tolerate. They will not put up with what they deem to be a lack of community and/or authenticity, and they will not abide anything that appears to simply be going through the motions or the semblance of just being part of some spiritual/religious club. They aren’t interested in towing [sic] the party line that has no bearing on their social and cultural experiences. And–most terrifying to previous generations–they aren’t threatened by threats of “It has to be this way or nothing at all.” 
Because this is a generation of self-starters and micro-entrepreneurship. They have no problem whatsoever starting up their own things. And they have been. And they are. And they will continue to do so. 
"Starting up their own things." In other words, rejecting the things which their elders try to hand down to them. And thus we have the problem -- the problem for which I am trying to find words. In its essence, it is this: how can we hand down to such a young person the faith that has been handed down through the centuries to us? And if we cannot, what will happen to that faith? Listen to our young man a bit more:
And they’re not coming back to darken the doors of the places that insisted it had to be done THIS way and THAT way or it couldn’t be done at all. Churches have been reduced to elementary school playgrounds with the endless bickering and threats made by this faction or that one taking their proverbial ball and going home. And those playgrounds are getting noticeably more empty.
Some of this, of course, rings true. It is true that some churches break down arguing over things of no consequence. And I am sorry if your own experience included -- or includes -- such a church.

I daresay, however, that most of the breakdowns which you could witness today are not over inconsequential matters. They are over the fundamentals -- such as the authority and interpretation of Scripture.

But that is just the kind of dispute which you could not recognize as such, young man. For to you, who decides what your own reality is, all such disputes appear trivial, because for you, nothing in particular is consequential. All is ephemeral -- here today, perhaps gone (or different, at least) tomorrow. Best not to place much reliance upon it, and certainly not worth arguing over. Live and let live, isn't that the idea?

There is more where the quotes came from -- indeed, I have excerpted from what is only the first of a promised two parts. But I have read enough to know already that we have probably lost you, young man -- lost you to the dark side, where they let you make up your own reality to your heart's content. And there are plenty of "churches" who will welcome you into their folds, while claiming to give you all the room you need. Indeed, they see their sole remaining role in society as providing you with all the reinforcement you require to remain as isolated and alienated from "the old stuff" as you wish.

It is too bad that no one who knows and rejoices in "the faith once for all entrusted" will be able to reach out to you, young man. Indeed, I am at a loss to envision how that could happen.

Unless -- unless -- well, perhaps it is worth a try, should this post ever make its way into your hands.

Should that happen, young man, please remain open to a possibly new experience of something that is very, very old. For I am going to take you far back in time -- to an age when the churches were musty, and smelled of wax and incense, and mould and dung and who knows what else. I hope that the words I am about to quote will do the feat all by themselves.

For they are old words, from the middle of the sixteenth century. Some of them may look strange to you, because the spelling differed back then, but that very spelling is part of the experience I want to try to share with you.

Picture yourself as a medieval knight, in England, in 1550. Normally you would be in armor, but for this occasion -- the wedding ceremony in the manor church of your lord and master, as he marries another lord's daughter -- you have doffed it, and are instead in full formal livery. You are right up there in front as the priest begins to intone the words of the ceremony ... [close your eyes for a moment, and use your twenty-first century technical skills to put yourself into the picture] ...  

Ready? Begin:

DEERELY beloved frendes, we are gathered together here in the syght of God, and in the face of his congregacion, to joyne together this man and this woman in holy matrimonie, which is an honorable estate instituted of God in paradise, in the time of mannes innocencie, signifying unto us the misticall union that is betwixte Christe and his Churche: whiche holy estate, Christe adorned and beutified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galile, and is commended of Sainct Paule to be honourable emong all men; and therefore is not to bee enterprised, nor taken in hande unadvisedlye, lightelye, or wantonly, to satisfie mens carnal lustes and appetites, like brute beastes that have no understanding: but reverentely, discretely, advisedly, soberly, and in the feare of God. Duely consideryng the causes for the whiche matrimonie was ordeined. One cause was the procreaciion of children, to be brought up in the feare and nurture of the Lord, and prayse of God. Secondly it was ordeined for a remedie agaynst sinne, and to avoide fornicacion, that suche persones as bee maried, might live chastlie in matrimonie, and kepe themselves undefiled membres of Christes bodye. Thirdelye for the mutuall societie, helpe, and coumfort, that the one oughte to have of thother, both in prosperitie and adversitie. Into the whiche holy estate these two persones present: come nowe to be joyned. Therefore if any man can shewe any juste cause why they maie not lawfully be joyned so together: Leat him now speake, or els hereafter for ever hold his peace. 
And also speakyng to the persones that shalbe maried, he shall saie. 
REQUIRE and charge you (as you will aunswere at the dreade full daye of judgemente, when the secretes of all hartes shalbee disclosed) that if either of you doe knowe any impedimente, why ye maie not bee lawfully joyned together in matrimonie, that ye confesse it. For be ye wel assured, that so manye as bee coupled together otherwaies then Goddes woord doeth allowe: are not joyned of God, neither is their matrimonie lawful.

Can you even begin to grasp the kind of minds who would receive this speech as perfectly ordinary, understandable, and normal, young man? For in their world, they did not decide their own reality. No, their reality was God-given: it came from outside themselves, they were born into it, and they lived their entire lives inside its sheltering folds.

For them, God made their world, and that was the end of it. They stood in fear and awe of it, even as they exercised man's dominion over it. (And so there were lords, knights, serfs and peasants -- yes, I know. But God knew, as well, and God settles all accounts on the day of judgment. Thus, it is not for you to criticize, or to fret over, or to use as reason to abandon the faith.)

Ponder those words of ceremony, and savor them. They are soundly based in Scripture -- in the "faith once for all entrusted to the saints." As such, they are part of your heritage -- receive it or not.

May they bring you back from the dark side -- that is my fervent prayer.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Wait: the Dept. of Justice Is Supposed to Do Justice??

The courts are slapping Obama's US Attorneys with reprimands and sanctions, from all parts of the country. On Thursday, federal Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas filed an extraordinary order in the immigration case (Texas v. United States), in which his earlier injunction against DHS' implementation of President Obama's directions to delay deportation of millions of illegal aliens, as affirmed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, is now before the United States Supreme Court, awaiting its ruling after oral arguments. The order will require (gasp!) certain US Attorneys based in Washington to take annual courses in legal ethics for the next five years -- as a sanction for repeatedly lying to him in his courtroom.

Meanwhile, in Washington itself, the US Attorneys defending the IRS against charges of selectively targeting conservative non-profits to delay or prevent their obtaining tax-exempt status also met with suspicion, if not outright hostility, from the appellate judges before whom they were arguing:
A lower-court judge had blithely accepted the IRS’s claim that the targeting had stopped, that applications for nonprofit status had been approved, and that the matter was therefore moot.

The federal judges hearing the appeal, among them David B. Sentelle and Douglas H. Ginsburg, weren’t so easily rolled. In a series of probing questions the judges ascertained that at least two of the groups that are party to the lawsuit have still not received their nonprofit approvals....

The hearing also showed the degree to which the IRS has doubled down on its outrageous revisionist history, and its excuses. IRS lawyers again claimed that the whole targeting affair came down to bad “training” and bad “guidance.” They blew off a Government Accountability Office report that last year found the IRS still had procedures that would allow it to unfairly select organizations for examinations based on religious or political viewpoint. The lawyers’ argument: We wouldn’t do such a thing. Again. Trust us.

More incredibly, the IRS team claimed that the fault for some of the scandal rests with the conservative groups, for not pushing back hard enough during the targeting. In response to complaints that the groups had been forced to hand over confidential information (information the IRS now refuses to destroy), one agency lawyer retorted: “They didn’t have to give the information to the IRS if they thought it was inappropriate, they could have said so.” Really.

An IRS lawyer rolled out the defense used by former agency official Lois Lerner that the targeting was just the unfortunate use of “inappropriate” criteria, but Judge Sentelle reminded the lawyer of the IRS’s vindictiveness. He noted that on one occasion the IRS simply shelved the application of an organization that had sued it. The agency “came to Court not having done anything to eliminate” the problem, he said, so “It’s just hard to find the IRS to be an agency we can trust, isn’t it?”

Judge Sentelle said there is a “pretty good case” that “egregious violations of the Constitution” had been committed, and he dared an IRS lawyer to “stand there with a straight face” and say otherwise...
In the Texas case, Judge Hanen was far more severe, but arguably so was the unethical conduct of the US Attorneys from the Department's headquarters who appeared before him. You may read his order in its entirety here, and there is an excellent background summary of the whole matter here.

What I find amazing is the alacrity with which the leftist news media have leapt to the defense of the "Justice" Department, and accused Judge Hanen of "violating the privacy" of illegal aliens. What did he do? He ordered the Government to file under seal a list of all the aliens to whom it had given deportation extensions while its attorneys were telling him in court that no such extensions were being granted, and that nothing was happening. Imagine that: their privacy is violated because their names and contact information will appear in a document that no one will be permitted to look at until the case is over, and then only if a plaintiff State makes its case to Judge Hanen that it needs access to the names of the immigrants in its borders who received illegal deferments in order to enforce its laws.

In other words, the IRS's intrusive demands into the names and addresses of donors to non-profit organizations -- information which it refuses to destroy now that it has illegally collected it -- are as nothing compared to a judge's order to file under seal a list of those who benefited from the Government's lying. Go figure.

Still other leftist sites don't see anything so wrong with what the attorneys did, since it was only to help out innocent "teenagers and young immigrants" who were "caught up in a bureaucratic screwup". Sure -- lying repeatedly to a federal judge is just a "bureaucratic screwup", and people who entered the country illegally can't be made to run the risk of exposure "to hostile State governments." Ethics, shmethics -- if you're a leftist, you do what you gotta do to get what you want.

Even a leftist law professor wonders if Judge Hanen has "jurisdiction" over the DoJ lawyers who practice in states outside of his own -- in other words, a judge should be powerless to remedy the consequences of a fraud on his court that injured twenty-six States, and must focus on just the attorneys in his own district (who, Judge Hanen found, were among the few government attorneys who did not lie or misrepresent the facts to him, and whom he consequently exempted from the sanctions he ordered).

Oh, yes -- and the Government itself? Turns out that it "strongly disagrees" with Judge Hanen's order. What did you expect?