If anything could make the world reconsider the likelihood that the Moscow-backed Ukraine rebels shot down MH 17, surely it’s the rebels’ seizing the bodies of the dead and holding them as prisoners of war. Excerpt:
Pro-Russian separatist militiamen have seized custody of the bodies of about 200 victims of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that was blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile, Ukrainian officials said on Sunday, and rebels continued to limit access to the crash site in eastern Ukraine, blocking the work of experts even as hundreds of untrained local volunteers were picking through the wreckage with sticks.
Ukrainian emergency responders, working under the watchful eyes of armed rebels, had recovered 196 bodies from the area where Flight 17, a Boeing 777 carrying 298 passengers and crew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed and burned on Thursday afternoon.
But the responders were forced to turn the bodies over to the separatists, Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, said at a briefing in Kiev on Sunday. Mr. Lysenko said officials believed that 38 of those bodies were taken to the morgue in Donetsk, a regional capital that is controlled by separatists.
Great move, rebels. Great move, Putin. That’s the way to win the hearts and minds of the world.
Julie and I had turned in for the evening, just shy of midnight. She was checking her e-mail, and said, “A friend of mine says they’re smoking a pig all night long in the Bird Man parking lot, for that pop-up kitchen thing tomorrow night.”
Naturally, we got out of bed, put our pants on, packed the cooler with beer, and went.
It was just the best thing. It’s 2:30 am, we’re back in bed, smelling of beer, wood smoke, and T-Bone (the dog, above). God bless Louisiana! I mean it. Why are you not living here?! Look:
The other day I wrote a long piece in response to a reader who said I seemed miserable because I often write critically about this and that. Part of what I said was that it’s hard to write about the things that bring me joy. Perhaps that is a sign of my limitations as a writer. It almost certainly is.
Just now, I had an example of what I mean. I’m sitting here in my leather armchair. The kids are in bed. I’m drinking Calvados (French apple brandy) in coffee, stroking the dog on my lap, listening to Tallis, and reading Roger Scruton on religion and T.S. Eliot. I remembered that I had figs cooking down on the stove, and shooed the dog so I could get up and turn off the flame. In the moment before I decided to leave my reverie to attend to the figs, I thought, “Could life get any better than this?”
And then it struck me: this is exactly the joy I’m talking about. I have these moments a lot, but they seem so intensely personal, and so small, and therefore so difficult to convey to strangers. I suspect if I took a few hours, I could find the words to tell you why this confluence of elements conjures magic within my heart and mind. But when do I ever have hours to spend trying to tell people why Tallis, Calvados, Scruton, coffee, Eliot and a smelly black lapdog are my idea of transcendent?
I’m not a good enough writer to do this with dispatch. Yet.
UPDATE: A reader asked for a photo of my dog. Here is Roscoe P. Coltrane, in a shot taken about four years ago. He’s older, grayer, and fatter now. Like me:
That’s the Arabic letter pronounced “nun.” The genocidal Muslims of ISIS used it to mark Christian houses, businesses, and properties in Mosul, according to a report (with photographs) in Rorate Caeli. Why ‘nun’? Here:
Nun (ن), the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet (the equivalent of letter N in our Roman alphabet), is the first letter of the word Nasara (نصارى : Nazarenes), the way Muslims have called Christians since the beginning of their invasion of the Christian world in the 7th century — Christians under Muslim rule never called themselves thus, since the intent of Muslims was to portray Christians as a contemptible and disobedient sect.
Rorate Caeli goes on:
They mean it as a mark of shame, we must then wear it as a mark of hope: Yes, we are in the army of the Resurrected Nazarene, the Master and Lord of the Universe, the Man who is God Almighty, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. You may kill our brethren and expel them, but we Christians will never go away.
Read the whole thing, including an excerpt of the interview with the Syriac Catholic patriarch, who confirms that the last Christian families were just driven from Mosul.
For two thousand years, our dearest brethren saw it all from Mosul: Romanized Greeks, Hellenized Persians, Hellenized Romans from all origins later called “Byzantines”, Armenians, Arabs from the desert with a religion of the sword, Egyptians, Crusaders, Mongols, Turks, French and British, “Independence”… Then the clumsiest Empire in history, an Empire unwanted by most voters, unwarranted by the Republic’s own Constitution, led by bellicose hawks motivated by God knows what, justifying their actions on untruths, arrived, upsetting a balance that was not the best, but was best of all possible outcomes. Two Vicars of Christ had cried their hearts out in vain warning of the grave danger of an intervention, of the, “extremisms that could stem from it.”
Things were never the same.
For years, we have been warning that support for terrorists in neighboring Syria would surely end badly. But even we could not imagine that it would end so badly so fast and over such a vast area. And yet, the insane Empire-builders are still handing billions and billions, and hundreds of millions of dollars to “moderate” terrorists! Where’s the outrage? Have you contacted your congressman, senator, president, MP, prime-minister expressing your outrage, begging this madness to stop?
If anybody knows how we can get aid to the Christian refugees, please post it in the comboxes.
Did you know that the five Supreme Court justices who voted in a limited way to protect the religious liberty of the Hobby Lobby owners are in the same category as Boko Haram and ISIS? I read it in this New York Times op-ed by Timothy Egan. Excerpt?:
God is on a rampage in 2014, a bit like the Old Testament scourge who gave direct instructions to people to kill one another.
It’s not true that all wars are fought in the name of religion, as some atheists assert. Of 1,723 armed conflicts documented in the three-volume “Encyclopedia of Wars,” only 123, or less than 7 percent, involved a religious cause. Hitler’s genocide, Stalin’s bloody purges and Pol Pot’s mass murders certainly make the case that state-sanctioned killings do not need the invocation of a higher power to succeed.
But this year, the ancient struggle of My God versus Your God is at the root of dozens of atrocities, giving pause to the optimists among us (myself included) who believe that while the arc of enlightenment is long, it still bends toward the better.
Got it? Even though only a small percentage of history’s wars were driven by religion, Egan wants us to focus on the threat religion poses to peace and good order. Thus follows a short catalog of murderous atrocities committed by ISIS (Muslim), Boko Haram (Muslim), and radical Buddhists in southeast Asia. He draws an equivalency between Hamas (explicitly Muslim, the constitution of which says the Zionist entity must be destroyed for the sake of Allah) and Israel (a secular Jewish state), saying, bizarrely, that religion is the reason both sides fight. And then:
In the United States, God is on the currency. By brilliant design, though, he is not mentioned in the Constitution. The founders were explicit: This country would never formally align God with one political party, or allow someone to use religion to ignore civil laws. At least that was the intent. In this summer of the violent God, five justices on the Supreme Court seem to feel otherwise.
ISIS, Boko Haram, Hamas … and five Catholic justices on the US Supreme Court. There you have it. All slaves of the “violent” God.
If this sort of thing appeared in a college newspaper, well, you could understand. That’s how undergraduates are, dealing in broad simplicities. If this kind of thing only existed to flatter the prejudices of the Upper West Side, you could roll your eyes at the parochial ignorance and sanctimony. But this appears in the most influential newspaper in the world.
This is a newspaper that would never and should never publish a column asserting that liberal Democrats should be associated with Stalin and Mao — hey, they’re all on the left! — because that would be as stupid as it was offensive. More to the point, this is a newspaper that would never and should never publish a column linking the Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn DOMA to gay pedophiles and orgiasts, because such a linkage would be outrageously offensive.
But Christians — well, all enlightened people know that that’s how all religious people are, right? Violent. A threat to public order and the health of the body politic.
They’re laying the groundwork. Watch. They may not know what they’re doing. But don’t you be fooled.
Now this is a special one. The reader writes:
4,000 solo miles in my VW hatchback, finally arriving to a meal prepared by Marm & Pap. Pot roast cooked in wine, parsley new potatoes, tossed salad, crusty bread, and fresh Amish melon. Just good, simple home cooking with happy parents and me, hopeful to adopt that “little way”! Thanks for hosting me along the way! SE Penn is feeling just as muggy as the dirty south, but the cow-fodder scented air makes it home.
She was a reader before she became a friend. As she was moving from southern California back east to home — The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming helped her make the call — she stayed with us for a night.
Another special one:
This one was taken at The Eagle, the 350-year-old pub made famous by its utter awesomeness, but also because it was the place where, in 1953, Francis Crick stood at lunchtime and announced that he and James Watson had solved “the secret of life” — the double helix structure of DNA. The beer of the diner on the right is the DNA, the house beer celebrating the discovery and its announcement. As for the rest, the reader writes that on the left is the “pie of the day,” not sure what was in it, and he had the Salmon and Haddock pie.
What makes this image special is that the one who took it is the commenter on this site who posted under the name Thursday. And his dining companion is none other than James C. When Thursday said he was headed to England and would be in Cambridge for a couple of days, I asked them separately if they wanted to meet (James C. is American, but lives in Cambridge), and they said yes, so voilà.
Finally, here’s a neat one from a dashboard diner:
The reader writes:
I drove from DC to Pennsville, NJ, today to pick up a few pieces of family furniture before my wife’s grandfather sells his house this week. I rewarded myself with a cheesesteak from the terrific local Italian market and ate it in my car (A/C on a 95 degree day!) with a view of the Delaware Memorial Bridge. By the way, that’s only half the sandwich. The “small” is 10 inches long. (The large is 20.)
American readers, take a moment to give silent thanks for the First Amendment. The Archdiocese of Vancouver is celebrating educational diversity in new and exciting ways. It had to because a pushy family and their pushy lawyer believe in celebrating diversity — and if you march to a different drummer, they’ll sue your butt until you comply:
In a joint statement today, the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA), and the family of Tracey Wilson, an 11-year-old diagnosed with gender dysphoria who had attended a Catholic school, announced the CISVA approval of a new policy that accommodates gender expression and students with gender dysphoria.
The Wilson family is applauding the CISVA for paving the way towards accommodating gender expression and gender dysphoria in youth. It will be the first Catholic school district in Canada to have such a policy.
The new policy was developed after Tracey, who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, filed a human rights complaint because her school did not accommodate her request to be treated as a girl.
The human rights complaint was resolved after the CISVA approved the Gender Dysphoria and Gender Expression policy and paid to the Wilsons a sum that both parties have agreed will remain undisclosed.
Get this — the Wilsons took the kid out of Catholic school over this, and enrolled her in public school, in which she says she’s thriving. But they still sued the Catholic school system under Canada’s absurd human rights law, and ended up not only shaking down the school for cash, but forcing this change on a private school system that she doesn’t plan on returning to. From the CBC:
“This is, as far as we know, certainly a North American first and probably a world first,” said the Wilson family’s lawyer, barbara findlay, who spells her name without capital letters.
“Not only is it important for the students in Vancouver who go to Catholic schools, but it will serve as a template for other Catholic school districts everywhere.”
[H/T: A Canadian reader, whose name I will never, ever reveal, lest barbara findlay Q.C. hunt him down and tear his heart out with her teeth. -- RD]
President Barack Obama plans to sign executive orders Monday prohibiting discrimination against gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies, without a new exemption that was requested by some religious organizations.
Obama’s action comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case that allowed some religiously oriented businesses to opt out of the federal health care law’s requirement that contraception coverage be provided to workers at no extra charge. Senior administration officials said Friday that ruling has no impact on non-discrimination policies in federal hiring and contracting.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly.
Since Obama announced last month that he would sign the orders, he’s faced pressure from opposing flanks over the religious exemption and given no indication of where he would come down. Many religious leaders and conservative groups wanted him to exempt religious organizations from the order, while liberal clergy and gay advocacy groups adamantly opposed such an exemption.
You’ll remember that a group of religious leaders, lay and ordained, who are friendly to Obama wrote him on July 1 to ask him for a religious exemption. From the letter:
Often, in American history–and, indeed, in partnership with your Administration–government and religious organizations have worked together to better serve the nation.An executive order that does not include a religious exemption will significantly and substantively hamper the work of some religious organizations that are best equipped to serve in common purpose with the federal government. In a concrete way, religious organizations will lose financial funding that allows them to serve others in the national interest due to their organizational identity. When the capacity of religious organizations is limited, the common good suffers.
But our concern about an executive order without a religious exemption is about more than the direct financial impact on religious organizations. While the nation has undergone incredible social and legal change over the last decade, we still live in a nation with different beliefs about sexuality. We must find a way to respect diversity of opinion on this issue in a way that respects the dignity of all parties to the best of our ability. There is no perfect solution that will make all parties completely happy.As we know you understand, a religious exemption in this executive order would not guarantee that religious organizations would receive contracts. Instead, a religious exemption would simply maintain that religious organizations will not be automatically disqualified or disadvantaged in obtaining contracts because of their religious belief.
Today, the president signaled his intention to refuse. And so Christian and other religious groups that receive federal money to do things like feed the poor will have to decide between Christ and Caesar. The march to progress continues. Traditional religious believers are pushed ever more fully out of the public square. Your president, speaking on behalf of your government, thinks you are too tainted by bigotry to be trusted with government contracts.
I’ve been telling y’all for years now that the advance of gay rights will come at the expense of religious liberty. This is a prime example. Note that the pro-Obama religious leaders weren’t asking Obama not to issue the executive order banning discrimination against gays in federal contracting; they were only asking for tolerance for religious organizations that serve the public good, but cannot for reasons of religious principle obey the new dictate. There will be no toleration. Error has no rights.
This is a good time to point you to a Christianity Today analysis by law professor John Inazu, forecasting the world orthodox Christians and other religious traditionalists face on the religious liberty front. It’s really important to read this sober, and sobering, essay, especially his three predictions for where the law is headed. Excerpt:
Prediction #3: Fewer and fewer people will value religious freedom. Although some Christians will respond to looming challenges with appeals to religious liberty, their appeals will likely face indifference or even hostility from those who don’t value it. The growing indifference is perhaps unsurprising because many past challenges to religious liberty are no longer active threats. We don’t enforce blasphemy laws. We don’t force people to make compelled statements of belief. We don’t impose taxes to finance training ministers. These changes mean that in practice, many Americans no longer depend upon the free exercise right for their religious liberty. They are free to practice their religion without government constraints.
Additionally, a growing number of atheists and “nonreligious” Americans have little use for free exercise protections. Even though most Americans will continue to value religious liberty in a general sense, fewer will recognize the immediate and practical need for it to be protected by law.
This final prediction is deeply unsettling, because strong protections for religious liberty are core to our country’s law and history. But those protections have been vulnerable since the Court’s decision in the peyote case. And they will remain vulnerable unless the Court revisits its free exercise doctrine.
Welcome to post-Christian America.
UPDATE: Reader JB writes:
What I find most unnerving is that the executive order ostensibly allows religious groups to prioritize their co-religionists in hiring decisions. But if you ask employees to abide by a code of conduct consistent with organization’s values (e.g. no sex outside of heterosexual marriage, etc.), that would presumably violate the law.
Thus, it’s reasonable to conclude that the administration is saying that refusing to hire someone engaging in sexual sin (as an organization perceives it) is an illegitimate expression of a particular system of belief. In other words, “There are plenty of Christian organizations that have no problem hiring LGBT staff. Why can’t the rest of you just get with the times?”
This is an attempt to use the law to settle a theological/ethical dispute within Christianity and other belief systems, with the goal of marginalizing those on the traditional side. What’s most discouraging is that many progressive Christians see no problem with this use of government coercion.
And by the way, I used the word ‘bigots’ in the subject line because Obama’s order implicitly calls those religious organizations whose faith requires them to believe that there is something sinful about homosexuality bigots — if “bigot” means someone who holds an irrational prejudice and wishes to act on it. This is the principle on which the current phase of the culture war on religion will be waged. On his tumblr, Alan Jacobs posts a quote from T.S. Eliot that I find highly relevant just now: Excerpt:
Christians are still persecuted but nowadays not usually overtly on the ground that they are Christians. They are persecuted because they do not hold the approved political views; or one church is recognized and controlled, and those Christians are persecuted who belong to the wrong church; or being Christians, they are denounced for having collaborated with the Germans during the war, or perhaps with the British or the Americans after it. In the West these things do not yet happen. But persecution is only the extreme limit of discrimination. People prefer to associate with the like-minded to themselves; those who rise to power tend to favor and to promote those who resemble themselves; and when a man who is not a Christian has an appointment to make, or a favor to bestow, he may genuinely believe that the candidate who is of his own kidney is more worthy than another candidate who is a Christian.
Thus the profession of Christianity might become, if not exactly dangerous, at least disadvantageous; and it is sometimes harder to endure disadvantage than to face danger, harder to live meanly than to die as a martyr. Already, we say, we are a minority. We cannot impose our standards upon that majority when it explicitly rejects them; too often, mingling with that majority, we fail to observe them ourselves. Like every minority, we compound with necessity, learning to speak the language of the dominant culture because those whose language it is will not speak ours; and in speaking their language, we are always in danger of thinking their thoughts and behaving according to their code. In this perpetual compromise, we are seldom in a position to pass judgment on other Christians, in their peculiar individual temptations: it is hard enough, reviewing our own behavior, to be sure when we have done the right or the wrong thing. But we can and should be severe in our judgment of ourselves.
Do not yield. Do not submit. Do not go along to get along. This is the challenge for individual orthodox Christians (and Muslims, and Jews). It always was, but much more so today.
“Run, Liz, run!” the crowd chanted as the senator took the stage. She tried to shush them, waving her arms and admonishing them like the teacher she once was: “Sit down, people. Come on, let’s get started.” Then she launched into the sort of blistering populist assault on corporations, Republicans, banks, lobbyists and trade deals that has become her trademark.
“They cheated American families, crashed the economy, got bailed out, and now the biggest banks are even bigger than they were when they got too big to fail in 2008!” Ms. Warren thundered, in one of her many applause lines. “A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank launders drug money and no one gets arrested. The game is rigged!”
She went on: “Billionaires pay taxes at lower rates than their secretaries. How does this happen? It happens because they all have lobbyists. Lobbyist and Republican friends in Congress. Lobbyists and Republicans to protect every loophole and every privilege. The game is rigged, and it isn’t right!”
Yay populism! But look at this nutroots craziness:
No really. Warren said this on the Senate floor while defending the Democrats’ deceptively titled “Women’s Health Protection Act.”
“Remember last year’s government shutdown that nearly tanked our economy?” Warren asked. “That fight started with a GOP effort to hold the whole operation of the federal government hostage in order to try to force Democrats and the president to let employers deny workers access to birth control.”
Oh, Big Chief Liz, I want you so bad to be good, but you keep on.
David Remnick writes about a recent talk he had with former Putin spin doctor Gleb Pavlovsky, who believes the president he served until 2011 has tindered a fire he cannot easily control. Excerpt:
When I met Pavlovsky in Moscow a couple of weeks ago, he seemed especially concerned about the lack of strategic thinking by Putin, and about the consequences of the feverish anti-Ukrainian, anti-American, and generally xenophobic programming on state television, from which nearly all Russians derive their news and their sense of what is going on in the world.
Putin’s incursion into Crimea and his manipulation of the situation in eastern Ukraine, Pavlovsky said, “was an improvisation, though the logistics and plans existed a long time ago.”
Since returning to the Presidency, Pavlovsky said, Putin has “created an artificial situation in which a ‘pathological minority’—the protesters on Bolotnaya Square [two years ago], then Pussy Riot, then the liberal ‘pedophiles’—is held up in contrast to a ‘healthy majority.’ Every time this happens, his ratings go up.” The nightly television broadcasts from Ukraine, so full of wild exaggeration about Ukrainian “fascists” and mass carnage, are a Kremlin-produced “spectacle,” he said, expertly crafted by the heads of the main state networks.
“Now this has become a problem for Putin, because this system cannot be wholly managed,” Pavlovsky said. The news programs have “overheated” public opinion and the collective political imagination.
“How can Putin really manage this?” Pavlovsky went on. “You’d need to be an amazing conductor. Stalin was an amazing conductor in this way. Putin can’t quite pull off this trick. The audience is warmed up and ready to go; it is wound up and waiting for more and more conflict. You can’t just say, ‘Calm down.’ It’s a dangerous moment. Today, forty per cent of Russia wants real war with Ukraine. Putin himself doesn’t want war with Ukraine. But people are responding to this media machine. Putin needs to lower the temperature.”
Pavlovsky posted this to his Facebook page earlier today:
“Without knowing it, with the beginning of the war we lost autonomy. We have become a subject of an object. But once this unfortunate war started, we could not stop her.. ” — Count Czernin, the Foreign Minister of Austria-Hungary [during World War I -- RD]
Pavlovsky also posted that image at the top of this post, from a 1914 drawing by Russian artist Natalia Gonchorova, titled Angels And Airplanes. It’s in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.