Wednesday, 2/5/14

    1. I learned it in Kindergarten
    2. Resolved: Islam is …
    3. Triflers and blasphemers
    4. An odd obsession with “ensoulment”
    5. Why my burger is mostly penicillin


Sorry to use kindergarten-level moral logic, but how would we like it if Vladimir Putin or his Secretary of State flew over here and declared his support of the Tea Party (or SDS in another era), which he says is trying to restore democracy?

What did Yanukovych do to deserve ouster by the street? He chose Russia over Europe.

In the competition between Vladimir Putin and the European Union over whose economic association to join, Yanukovych was betrothed to the EU. But after an offer of $15 billion from Putin, and a cut in fuel prices to his country, Yanukovych jilted the EU and ran off with Russia. Yanukovych felt he could not turn down Putin’s offer.

Western Ukraine, which favors the EU, was enraged. So out came the protesters to bring down the president. And into Kiev flew John McCain to declare our solidarity with the demonstrators.

Kerry has now joined McCain in meddling in this matter that is none of America’s business, declaring in Munich that, “Nowhere is the fight for a democratic European future more important than today in Ukraine.” We “stand with the people of Ukraine,” said Kerry. But which people? The Ukrainians who elected Yanukovych and still support him or the crowds in Maidan Square that want him out and will not vacate their fortified encampments until he goes?

(Pat Buchanan, Is Mob Rule In Ukraine In America’s Interest?)


Two people I admire seem to be lining up on opposite sides, or at least to be exhibiting different demeanors toward, Islam.

Robert P. George embeds this video and then follows with commentary:

I am a Catholic. My Church teaches me to esteem our Muslim friends and to work with them in the cause of promoting justice and moral values. I am happy to stand with them in defense of what is right and good. And so I stand with the young woman in the above video in defense of modesty, chastity, and piety ….

(I’d stand with her, too, if only she’d stand still for a second. But this isn’t about videography techniques.) George, be it noted, is Chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. I don’t suppose he could oppose the hijab even if he were so inclined. But I’m with him that we could use a whole lot more modesty, chastity and piety. If those virtues are subversive of our current social order, then to hell with our current social order. (H/T Jeremiah Wright)

Meanwhile, relative newcomer the admirable Robin Phillips is “on a tear” about the threats of Islam here, here and here. Phillips, be it noted, is a doctoral candidate in historical theology who puts bread on the table by writing for the Right side (insofar as there is a right side is almost always the Right side) of the culture wars in sites like Salvo and The Chuck Colson Center. I don’t suppose he could say anything nice about Islam without careful pre-screening.

I’ve also heard a lot of vehement claims elsewhere that “Islam doesn’t worship the same God.” I can scarcely imagine a claim more equivocal than that. It’s hard either agree or disagree with it. (No, I’m not under any illusions about the equivalence of Islam and Christianity; the questions are “just how many gods do you think there are?” and “how do we co-exist peaceably?”)

Resolved: that Islam is not inherently violent and oppressive. Exhibit A: Muslims in the Balkans living peaceably with neighbors. I know one answer: They’re not real Muslims. They’re compromised. They’re secularized. If they were better Muslims, they’d be real bastards.

I don’t have to tell you the counter-evidence. There’s no shortage of voices shouting it from the rooftops. But at the risk of being accused of “blaming the victim,” I still find quite plausible that “they’re over here because we’re over there.”

I don’t want to be blinkered to reality. What I’m asking is that those who fear or loathe Islam open their eyes, too, to the extent to which we function as provocateurs in the world.


Would you trust this man to prescribe what you should be reading?


The man is evangelist Charles Finney, who

once dismissed both Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott as nothing more than “a host of triflers and blasphemers of God.”

Now I suppose the second President of Oberlin College may have been a bit more complex than that, but I’m reminded (by Robin Phillips; see Item 2) that there remains a remnant of Christians who are deeply suspicious of fiction.

Go figure. I don’t want to overreact, but fiction and poetry are an increasing component of how I nourish my soul, as I shake off some of the imaginative shackles I picked up somehow in my youth.


I find myself enjoying, once again, First Things magazine, after long subscribing, then losing my taste for it (or maybe it was just crowded out by more pressing matters) and now returning. But it definitely leans neoconservative.

Thus, it considers Charles Krauthammer  a  normally reliable source of opinion on a broad range of topics, opining that he goes astray mostly when he ventures into “the social issues.” He recently ventured into advising pro-lifers on how to make their case more persuasively, and I must agree that he muffed it badly:

Krauthammer offered this:

Conservatives need to accept that no such consensus exists regarding early abortions. Unlike late-term abortions, where there are clearly two human beings involved, there is no such agreement regarding, say, a six-week-old embryo.

There remains profound disagreement as to whether at this early stage the fetus has acquired personhood or, to put it more theologically, ensoulment. The disagreement is understandable given that the question is a matter of faith.

This doesn’t mean that abortion opponents should give up. But regarding early abortions, the objective should be persuasion — creating some future majority —rather than legislative coercion in the absence of a current majority. These are the constraints of a democratic system.

The trouble appears in the second paragraph just quoted. It is true that in the early stages of pregnancy, there is “profound disagreement” whether or not to protect the unborn human being in the womb. But this is certainly not because of some “theological” dispute about whether something called “ensoulment” has taken place. … [T]here are literally no pro-lifers—and to my knowledge there have been none in the four decades since Roe v. Wade was decided—who argue that the unborn deserve protection because some magical “ensoulment” has taken place. The Catholic Church, to take one prominent institution devoted to the defense of human life from conception until natural death, makes no “theological” argument about the nature of the life in the womb. The Church relies instead entirely on the scientific fact that every unborn human being is, from the moment of its conception, a member of our species. The Church offers no doctrines about “ensoulment,” and entertains no “leap of faith”about the status of the unborn. It observes a fact—that these tiny beings are just as we once were, each and every one of us—and then draws a moral conclusion: as each of us is entitled not to be killed without justification, so is each of them. Nothing mysteriously “theological” or shrouded in “a matter of faith.”

I wonder if Dr. Krauthammer could name one prominent pro-lifer in the last four decades who speaks of a theology of “ensoulment” and engages in the debate he imagines. I am sure he can’t. No pro-lifer speaks of these things, and on the pro-abortion side, talk of “souls” is decidedly déclassé.

The only part of that I disagree with is that part I didn’t quote about how “Krauthammer is reliable, insightful, and employs a gleefully sharp pen to eviscerate his adversaries.”

But wait! There’s more!

More than a decade ago, when Dr. Krauthammer was on President Bush’s Council on Bioethics, he served alongside staunch pro-lifers such as Robert George, Mary Ann Glendon, Alfonso Gómez-Lobo, William Hurlbut, Paul McHugh, and Gilbert Meilaender. In its first report, the Council took up the issue of cloning—whether for research or for reproduction. All the members except the chairman, Leon Kass, appended personal statements to the Council’s report. Only one member had anything to say about “ensoulment.” It was Charles Krauthammer, who mentioned it twice in just the way he does in his latest column, to suggest that some active debate is going on about the subject. No one else, conservative or liberal, pro-cloning or anti-, mentioned the subject, and in fact nowhere else in the entire report did the word “soul” even appear.

The debate about “ensoulment” is entirely in the mind of Charles Krauthammer. Perhaps one day he will decide which side of his own divided soul is victorious.


I always figured that CAFOs, the kind of abomination that leads its practitioners to suborn AgGag laws, pumped our meat full of antibiotics just because the critters were crammed together so much that disease spreads easily. But that’s only a part of it:

Why is it necessary to administer antibiotics to feedlot cattle? It has to do with the diet. Cows are relatively large animals. In order to grow to such sizes, they need a large amount of proteins and various fatty acids. Green material is very low in both of these nutritional requirements for large size, so how do cows reach the size they do?

They reach this size through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. In exchange for being allowed to live in the cows digestive system, feeding off of the food the cow eats, bacteria aid in the production of enzymes that break down Starch and Cellulose matter into their base components (glucose, carbon dioxide gas, methane gas, and basic organic compounds). The organic compounds can further be processed into the fatty acids and proteins cows need to reach their size. This chemical reaction initiated by the bacteria is responsible for cows being able to maintain their size on a low protein diet (and the reason the belch so often).

If cows are switched to a high protein diet (such as grain), the “good” bacteria present in the cows digestive system starve to death (they feed off of fibers found in roughage such as grass), leaving a large empty home for new bacteria. As the “good” bacteria starve to death, “bad” bacteria move into the cows digestive system. This (coupled with living quarters in which they are very close to other cows attracting “bad” bacteria), leads to a vastly increased rate of disease, and is why antibiotics are necessary in confined feedlot operations.

(This Old Farm)

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“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.