Thursday, September 12, 2013

    1. Rural America’s fodder
    2. Slow but sure
    3. iPhone 5s
    4. The New Hitler(s)
    5. Vulgarity is forbidden except when it’s free expression
    6. The bloodier 9/11


US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack thinks it’s a problem that  rural America lost population in real numbers–not as a percentage but in real numbers, but for the damndest reason. Joel Salatin reports the Secretary’s reptilian sentiments:

I’m sitting there thinking he’s going to say that number needs to go up so we have more people to love and steward the landscape. More people to care for earthworms. More people to grow food and fiber.

Are you ready for the shoe to drop? The epiphany? What could the US Secretary of Agriculture, at the highest strategic planning sessions of our land, be challenged by other leaders to change this figure, to get more people in rural America, to encourage farming and help more farms get started? What could be the driving reason to have more farmers? Why does he go to bed at night trying to figure out how to increase farmers? How does the President and other cabinet members view his role as the nation’s farming czar?

What could be the most important contribution that increasing farmers could offer to the nation? Better food? Better soil development? Better care for animals? Better care for plants?

Are you ready? Here’s his answer: although rural America only has 16 percent of the population, it gives 40 percent of the personnel to the military. Say what? You mean when it’s all said and done, at the end of the day, the bottom line–you know all the cliches–the whole reason for increasing farms is to provide cannon fodder for American imperial might. He said rural kids grow up with a sense of wanting to give something back, and if we lose that value system, we’ll lose our military might.

So folks, it all boils down to American military muscle. It’s not about food, healing the land, stewarding precious soil and resources; it’s all about making sure we keep a steady stream of youngsters going into the military.

How screwed up are our national priorities!? At least Salatin should escape jail for telling the truth, though I suppose he might need to seek asylum in Russia to escape. That’s a kind of progress:

During the First World War, the Kansas Socialist Kate Richards O’Hare was thrown into prison for violating Woodrow Wilson’s Espionage Act. Her crime? Telling a North Dakota audience that their rulers in Washington regarded farm mothers as “brood sows, having sons to be put into the army and made into fertilizer.”

(Bill Kauffman at Front Porch Republic)

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


Because of the title and my current fascination with the site, I just had to read Ron Belgau, Prejudice? Or Defending Marriage?, at Spiritual Friendship. Belgau opens with a personal anecdote from his youth:

I think I was in middle school when the pastor of the little Southern Baptist Church I grew up in preached about Jesus’ words on the subject of divorce for the last time. Afterward, he received a great deal of criticism from many in the congregation—including a number of Sunday School teachers and other influential members—who were divorced and remarried.

After that, he did not preach any more sermons condemning divorce.

On the other hand, when there were sermons that denounced the homosexual agenda, or called for reinstating the biblical death penalty for homosexuals, the pastor’s call was met with a resounding “amen,” and there were no protests from the congregation. So those sermons continued throughout my youth, and were still occurring from time to time when I left for college—and left that church for good.

A bit later, consistent with his title:

Today, many accuse the opponents of same-sex marriage of bigotry, more or less equating them with the racists of the civil rights era. The counter-argument is that opponents of same-sex marriage are not prejudiced against gay people: they just want to protect the sanctity of marriage.

This response is partially right and partially wrong.

You probably can see where he then headed, based on his opening anecdote and his title: there’s something prejudicial, protests notwithstanding, about protesting same-sex marriage while standing mute about divorce.

I believe that both no fault divorce and same-sex marriage involve a serious distortion of what marriage is. It is thus right to oppose them, and to this extent, I join those who oppose same-sex marriage.

However, I don’t think we can stop the discussion there.

Obviously, he’s onto something. He’s not the first to note it, but it warrants repetition.

What I don’t think follows, however, is any “rule” that whenever a Christian talks in opposition to same-sex marriage, he or she also must condemn divorce. Insofar as “culture wars” is a useful metaphor (and I’m on record as a serious skeptic), there is something to be said in favor of concentrating your troops where the adversary is trying to take new territory or to secure territory just recently taken, and to leave for another day the re-conquest of territory lost 40 years ago.

And I specifically condemn as a form of rhetorical bullying any suggestion that it’s hypocrisy even to mention one without equal time to the other. A seamless web is fine, but it’s okay to focus on particularly relevant parts of the web when they’re relevant. It may even be obligatory when too broad a focus would render discussion gaseous and ineffectual.

I just think you one any well-formed Christian must be honest, when pressed, about the ultimate objective. By all moral means, I intend to do my part to reverse the entire sexual revolution, excepting only the egalitarian parts that that afforded women somewhat greater access to good-paying jobs (which really isn’t what I mean by “sexual revolution,” but it may be what others mean, or it might permit dishonest attack did I not say it). I think it has been a great calamity with few if any collateral benefits. (“The entire sexual revolution” includes things that I will not volunteer. I’ve raise hackles already by repudiating the sexual revolution without getting too explicit about how many things people cherish that are part of that calamitous madness.)

Belgau acknowledges the difficult task in the context of pastors:

I don’t want to pretend that these are easy questions. I don’t think that the pastor in my parents’ church was motivated only by cowardice. I think he was trying to respond sensitively and with love and grace to the people in his care. And though I think there was an obvious inconsistency in the way the church talked about homosexuality and the way it responded to other offenses against the sanctity of marriage, I think that there was a sincere, if sometimes misguided, concern with the way that our culture’s sexual mores have shifted in the last couple of generations.

It is very difficult to be a pastor today, very difficult to speak about sexual sin to a congregation that often does not get it. Fidelity to the Gospel demands that we speak the truth, even when the truth is unwelcome. But it also requires consistency in the way we speak about the truth and in the ways that we try to enforce it.

“I think he was trying to respond sensitively and with love and grace to the people in his care” may be more fraught than Belgau knows.

There’s an Orthodox word, oikonomia, the precise meaning of which almost certainly eludes me, and the power of exercising which is a fearful thing I in no way covet. But if nothing else, it means exercising, on occasion, pastoral leniency lest rigor crush the soul whose complete restoration to health is the ultimate objective. Slow, very slow, but sure, wins the race.


I seldom talk tech in this blog, but contrary to the snarky comments about iPhone 5s from the folks who view Apple as the new Evil Empire (supplanting Microsoft, which supplanted the Soviet Union), I’m kind of excited about the iPhone 5s.

The reason is simple. My day job is “lawyer.” In addition to all the fun stuff, my iPhone includes a lot of information I’m ethically bound to safeguard. So I not only use a passcode on my iPhone, but a strong one (alphanumeric, mixed-case and longish). I look forward to being able to unlock my next iPhone, whenever it comes, with Touch ID.

Side note. The commonest cause of lawyer reprimands, suspensions and disbarments has been, I believe, mishandling of client trust funds. But I would wager, if there were a way to establish the facts, that a much commoner ethical breach today is carrying around an iPhone with client information and no password protection at all – from obliviousness or just because it’s a hassle and doesn’t look cool to stop and unlock your phone laboriously.

Yeah. It’s a hassle. But I do it. And Touch ID will look very cool for a while.


The nation’s recently departed, who are surely watching somewhere bored with the administration’s predictable war dance, would be particularly comforted by the familiar exercise of painting everyone more dangerous than Pierre Trudeau as the new Adolf Hitler. Manuel Noriega is Hitler, and Saddam Hussein is Hitler, and Hugo Chávez is Hitler, and Bashar al-Assad is Hitler, and my mom, who totally said she would pack me a pudding for lunch but all I have is a fig bar, is OMFG HITLER.

(Chris Bray at The Baffler blog)


I heard an item on All Things Considered Wednesday to the effect that sophomoric breast-oriented humor at Hackathon or some similar geek conference is a threat to humanity approaching that of WMDs.

There was an app, it seems – whether it became a jest only when people took offense is unclear – to let a guy take pictures of himself staring at breasts, which were identified with a term of cruder connotations.

But I venture a guess that NPR would hyperventilate about the First Amendment and freedom of expression if anyone suggested that we cease exporting, to lands where they are particularly offensive and inflammatory,  Bay Watch, Jersey Shore, and other shows, the sole apparent purpose of which is to deliver breasts for viewers to stare at.

I’m just sayin’.


Today is the fortieth anniversary of that other, bloodier, September 11th when General Augusto Pinochet seized power in Chile and overthrew a democratically-elected left-wing government, with thousands killed, “disappeared”, tortured or imprisoned. The Chilean coup hung over the leftists of my generation as a warning of what can and might happen, should capital ever be seriously worried about its entitlements and prerogatives.

(Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber)

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.