Sunday, 10/5/14

  1. Liberty’s variety
  2. An avatar of pure fear
  3. Pragmatists and Ideologues
  4. By the book, no questions asked
  5. Helen Reddy was too timid
  6. The Mystery Passage goes to Denmark
  7. That subversive Bill of Rights


What the city–the larger the better, presumably–offers, then, in its busyness and anonymity, is a kind of freedom by way of privacy. The government, lacking the capability to track and intervene in all the lives of the myriad individuals to congregate together, instead retreats to distant and neutral rules, thus opening up a public space wherein individuals may truly live their lives in their own diverse ways.

But there is, of course, another stream of Western thought, an anti-urban one, usually (but not always) associated with republican ideas which present “freedom” mostly in terms of belonging and the morally–if not necessarily empirically–liberating civic virtue which the responsibilities of self-government and community membership allow one to develop. This, of course, was the position taken by Jefferson, or in a populist manner by William Jennings Bryan, who saw in large urban areas the inevitable dominance of financial interests over those who performed socially ennobling productive work, and hence the need, in the name genuine independence, to resist them.

(Russell Arben Fox, City Liberty, Country Liberty, at Front Porch Republic)


A [Lindsey] Graham bid [for POTUS in 2016] is the closest one can get to re-running a McCain campaign, and Republicans are even less interested in doing that than they are in giving Romney another chance. Worse for the party, he is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the party, especially when it comes to the issues of foreign policy and immigration. He is the walking reminder of why most Americans shouldn’t trust Republicans to conduct foreign policy and why most conservatives don’t trust their party leaders.

On foreign policy, Graham is one of the two worst senators still serving. Let’s remember that Graham isn’t merely very hawkish, but habitually resorts to panicked, overwrought descriptions of every threat and conjures up fantastical worst-case scenarios that are completely unmoored from reality. Robert Golan-Vilella described him this way:

Whenever there is a crisis somewhere in the world, you can count on him to take a real threat to the United States or international security and wildly exaggerate it in order to scare the bejesus out of the American people. Lindsey Graham is the closest thing U.S. politics has to an avatar of pure fear.

Consider some of Graham’s other statements over the past year and a half:

—July 2013: “We live in the most dangerous times imaginable.” No, we don’t. You have to have a basic lack of knowledge of history (not to mention lack of an imagination) for that assertion to make any sense.

(Daniel Larison, Lindsey Graham: The Embodiment of Everything Wrong with the GOP)


[David] Brooks assumes that “pragmatists can’t understand nonpragmatists,” but the reverse would seem to be much closer to the truth. It is ideologues that are usually incapable of understanding how those that don’t share their assumptions look at the world, which is why ideologues tend to be so much more impatient with and intolerant of people that don’t conform to their expectations. Since they are usually drawn towards pragmatism out of revulsion for grand ideological projects, I’d say that pragmatists have a reasonably good understanding of the people behind such projects, which is why they do their best not to imitate them.

(Daniel Larison, Pragmatists and Ideologues)


The greatest catastrophe to befall Islam and the Muslims is the catastrophe that has conscripted the Nation against reason from its earliest history. The consummate refusal of rationality and the war against enlightenment has locked all doors and windows against any attempts at illumination.

(Pope Benedict XVI at Regensburg, 2006, for which he was widely excoriated.)

No! Wait! My mistake! This is from a 2010 interview of Ibrahim Al-Buleihi! Someone changed “our” to “its”!

Here’s what the Pope actually said, in part:

… I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on – perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara – by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both …

In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις – controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: “There is no compulsion in religion”. According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the “Book” and the “infidels”, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…”.

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practise idolatry.

At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? …

My own puny summary: a “religion of a book” whose name, Islam, translates as “submission,” is not apt to prize reason over doing things “by the book.”


Helen Reddy roaring was too timid. Try this one on for size: “I am woman, hear me crush Satan’s puny little snake head.” And from a rather unexpected source, too.


By law, as they’re employees of the state (who begins tipping the whole thing into absurdity in the first place), Danish Lutheran pastors must marry anyone from their congregation who asks, but when in 2012 the state approve same-sex marriage, it gave pastors who objected an exemption, which it’s now taken away. Kind of.

It has, but it hasn’t, exactly, because, well let the very useful Scandinavia House explain:

The new law permits any person to change his legal gender by simply filing a form stating that he now considers himself of the opposite sex. This person is thereafter considered by the government to have changed gender. No surgical alterations or hormone treatments are required, only the filing of the form. . . .

… So the pastor has to marry a man to another man as long as one of them says he’s a woman, so he’s not marrying a man to a man so it’s all okay.

(David Mills) Yeah. It’s that weird. They must have been reading Justice Kennedy:

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

And of gender.


I you think complaints of the Obama Administration’s lawlessness are overdone, consider this: the IRS targeted those who would educate their fellow citizens about the United States Constitution:

“political action type organizations involved in … educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

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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.