Saturday 8/12/17

  1. Sharia supremacism
  2. Trump cries “wolf!”
  3. Robert Jeffress, political hack
  4. Burned-over America
  5. Old Dog learns command “git”
  6. Selective gender parity
  7. American Sentimentality


I have begun frequenting National Review online, though I’m far more an American Conservative type, in large part because that’s where Michael Brendan Dougherty disappeared to when he left The Week. In the process, I’ve rediscovered that Jonah Goldberg can be pretty funny and discovered that Andrew McCarthy is pretty insightful much of the time.

McCarthy turns his attention to his policy problem with the National Security Council’s H.R. McMaster. By and large, the article rambles far too much (I suspect his job required that this piece be X words long, but he suffered writer’s block and padded it), but buried within is an unusually clear account of the oft-commented, rarely-explained “straight-line nexus between Islamic scripture” and violent jihad — or as McCarthy has it, Sharia supremacism. I’ve tried to trim away the fat without cutting needed context, but you can always read the original if this does not click with you:

The policy problem I have with McMaster involves Islam …

Islam is not going away, we have to deal with it. In figuring out how, desirous of not giving gratuitous offense to Muslims, we’ve overcomplicated something that is actually pretty simple: Islam must be seen either as (1) a big problem that we have to work around, or (2) a part of the solution to our security challenge. I am in the first camp. McMaster seems solidly in the second, and the “principled realism” speech in Saudi Arabia shows the president leaning his way.

The difference is straightforward. In the first camp, most of us do not dispute that there are authentically “moderate” interpretations of Islam (non-aggressive is a better descriptor). We recognize, however, that there is a straight-line nexus between Islamic scripture and Muslim aggression and — critically — that this aggression is not only, or even mostly, forcible. That is why “sharia supremacism” is more accurate than “radical Islam,” and by leaps and bounds more accurate than “radical Islamic terrorism.” “Sharia supremacism” conveys the divine command to implement and spread Islam’s societal framework and legal system. It demonstrates that our quarrel is not with a religion per se but with a totalitarian political ideology with a religious veneer. Violent jihadism is only one way — the most immediately threatening way — of carrying out the mission. Muslims who adhere to sharia supremacism are Islamists, and all Islamists — violent or non-violent — have essentially the same goal, even if their methods and the strictness of their sharia regimens differ. … [J]ihadists, like all Islamists, quite legitimately call themselves Muslims. Fourteen centuries of scholarship supports them.

McMaster’s familiar bipartisan Beltway camp holds that Islam simply must be good because it is a centuries-old religion that nearly 2 billion people accept. Sure, it has scriptures ill-suited to the modern world, but so does the Bible. Bellicose Muslim scriptures have, in any event, been nullified or “contextualized” to apply only to their seventh-century conditions — just ask anyone at Georgetown . . . even if they don’t seem to have gotten the memo in Riyadh, Tehran, Kabul, Baghdad, the Nile Delta, Peshawar, the Bekaa Valley, Aceh Province, Chechnya, or in swelling precincts of London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Malmö, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Vienna, or pretty much anyplace else in the West where the Muslim population reaches a critical mass (roughly 5 to 10 percent).

(McMaster and the Challenge of Sharia Supremacism)

Maybe the reason this clicked with me is that I’ve picked up more of the history of Islam in recent months. There is a basis in the history of Islam for Muslims to preach coexistence and pluralism when they are too few to preach Sharia, but to shift when they reach critical mass. This echoes Muhammed’s own life trajectory.

In contrast, there is almost no Christian thought today to justify imposing sectarian Christian standards on non-Christian neighbors. I’m aware that some would laugh derisively at the preceding sentence, but I stand by it.

You’ll not find butchers closed by law during Lent in Orthodox lands, for instance, and it is overwhelmingly understood by Christians that Christ’s kingdom is “not of this world” — that the civic rules of Old Testament national Israel no longer apply. (I’m aware of only a handful of Christians, mostly arch-Calvinist male Aspies, who think Deuteronomy is the basis of a Christian government and that such government is desirable.)

Since Muslims are procreating while the west enjoys itself with self-indulgent infertility, no political means will suffice to keep the Muslims among us from reaching critical mass. If means exist, they are nonpolitical.


Donald Trump’s “penchant for lies resembles an incorrigible alcoholic’s thirst for drink,” said Steve Chapman. Out of a desperate need to feel he’s constantly “winning,” he lies about both trivial and important matters. After his inappropriate, bizarrely partisan address to the Boy Scouts got him rebuked, Trump bragged that the organization’s CEO called to say “it was the greatest speech” the Scouts had ever heard. That call never happened, the White House now admits. Trump tweeted that he was banning transgender people from military service “after consultation with my generals.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff knew nothing about it. And consider how Trump is dealing with the Russia investigation: His attorney insisted the president had no role in crafting Don Jr.’s first, deceptive statement about meeting with a Russian lawyer last year; when press reports revealed that Trump had personally dictated the statement, the White House admitted he’d “weighed in.” The Washington Post describes Trump as “the most fact-challenged politician” ever, averaging 4.6 falsehoods a day since becoming president. When Trump inevitably faces a major crisis, such as a terrorist attack or a war, he will badly need credibility. Sadly, “most Americans will assume they are being misled.”

(Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune, via The Week for August 18)


Remember when Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, ringingly endorsed Barack Obama’s God-given authority “to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil,” and that “In the case of North Korea, God has given Obama authority to take out Kim Jong Un” during the Obama-era struggles with North Korea?

Yeah. Me neither.


Some podcasters were thinking out loud about what it means to “convert” from one Church to another. It’s unlikely, they thought (and I concur), that a Presbyterian who became Lutheran (or Evangelical) would say s/he had “converted” (although many pastors in many Christian traditions have heard the exclamation “I never heard the Gospel in Church X; I only heard it here.”). On the other hand, Protestants of any stripe who become Roman Catholic or Orthodox are likely to use the term, as is a Mormon who becomes Evangelical (or vice-versa).

They didn’t come up with any real answers, but they noted that Americans are apt to use hyped conversion-type language (“it changed my life!”) for many, many experiences of life, from religious or ideological epiphanies to a new shampoo or Weight Watchers, or  a new hobby, leading one of the podcasters to ask “Is all of American one big Burned-Over District?

I have no profound thought to add, but I laughed out loud, a laugh of surprised recognition, for I think they were onto something. Advertising puffery, classroom-acquired “wokeness,” Evangelical hyperbole and more contribute to this habit.

If I figure it out any better than that, I’ll let you know.


If a prodigy is a youngster doing things well that few people, let alone children, do, what do you call a geezer who’s trying to do what mostly “kids” do?

To-wit, your scribe within 12 hours joined a group on Bitbucket, installed Git (in some sense or other – I have no clue how to run it, as it apparently is a Linux thing you run from a DOS-like command line) on his Mac and iPad, recognized that the group Wiki can be edited using Markdown , of which I know a little, created two issues and resolved one on his own, edited a group Wiki (mostly to correct bad spelling or unconventional transliterations) — and gained an appreciation of the need for version control on even a smallish group project.

Now, I need to master Git commands (maybe) and maybe start in on learning LaTeX or, likelier, Lilypond.

Got that?

By the way, I appreciate the heck out of the kids who had seized the initiative, and fault them only on not letting me know about something I really needed to know about, lest I waste time trying to replicate their efforts (for which efforts they knew of, and deployed, superior collaboration tools).


Just sayin’.


I deeply respect American sentimentality, the way one respects a wounded hippo. You must keep an eye on it, for you know it is deadly.

(Novelist-essayist Teju Cole, quoted in The Wall Street Journal, via The Week for August 18)

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Fiat justitia ruat caelum

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.