SCOTUS Trips

After making exactly the right call on the Bruen case, and decidedly less so in Dobbs (I am not optimistic that this Court will protect an inherent Right to privacy with regard to other cases specifically cited by Clarence Thomas)………the Court too a decided faceplant with KENNEDY v. BREMERTON SCHOOL DISTRICT.

There are plenty of places to read the history of the case and it’s appeals, so I won’t bother with that. But I oppose this ruling. Not only am I a fervent defender of religious liberty, but I am a fervent proponent of the tenet of Separation of Church and State.

Decades spent in the Armed Forces, where I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I was a captive audience for Chaplain (or Layman) led prayer. This began with a mandatory church service early in Basic Training, where we were all marched to the Harmony Church Chapel (Fort Benning, GA), and required to sit through the service, on the weak premise, that the command “just wanted to ensure that we all knew where the chapel was”. Uh huh.

It is unprofessional and unethical to allow an adult in a leadership role, where the entire audience is also captive, to lead children in a religious ceremony, rite or prayer. No fan really of Sotomayor, but I do agree with her dissent:

“Today, the Court once again weakens the backstop. It elevates one individual’s interest in personal religious exercise, in the exact time and place of that individual’s choosing, over society’s interest in protecting the separation between church and state, eroding the protections for religious liberty for all.”

“Today’s decision is particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this Court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection.”

I eagerly await when an Islamic coach fires up a prayer at mid-field, and the reaction of all who support this ruling.

Donald Trump, Savior of…….Religion?

As a devout Agnostic, I will never claim to know the mind of a religious fundamentalist, but I do know bullshit when I see it.

The former POTUS appeared on some televangelists show on Thursday and made the following, bizarre statement:

So nobody has done more for Christianity or for evangelicals or for religion itself than I have[underline mine]

Trump referenced his ‘support for Israel’, which has been standard operating procedure for every Administration for at least the past several decades. He also, falsely [because, of course] claimed that he repealed the Johnson Amendment; a canard that he has trotted out again and again.

So I’m genuinely curious…..if there are any of the religious sort who even read this minor blog…….what exactly has Trump done, that would warrant even a fraction of the statement above? I’m not talking about making religious folk feel better about themselves or their vote….but actual, tangible actions.

Pet Issues and Precedent

I’m watching in fascination, both the various legal analyses of the newly implemented Texas abortion law….and the even newer pursuit of one-upsmanship on the part of a couple of other states.

Whether it’s the Left on issues like gun control or the Right with abortion……one wonders if they ever stop to calculate the second and third order effects……as well as the very real fact that their legal victories…..can serve as precedent when tables are turned, or in jurisdictions where they aren’t in the majority.

To this end, an OpEd in the WSJ notes:

“This one delegates exclusive enforcement to private citizens, who are authorized to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks. Citizens who prevail in their civil lawsuits are entitled to at least $10,000 per abortion along with legal costs.”

The law sets an awful precedent that conservatives should hate. Could California allow private citizens to sue individuals for hate speech? Or New York deputize private lawsuits against gun owners? Texas argues that abortion providers don’t have standing to challenge the law because the state isn’t enforcing it and neither at this point is any private citizen. Thus there is no case or controversy, which is what courts are supposed to settle. This is technically correct and it is why the five Justices declined to enjoin the law.

The entire article is behind a paywall, but this and another snippet can be found here.

I have little doubt that this law will be struck down, not because it effectively skirts settled law, but for the manner in which it does…..and the horrible precedent it sets. Snitch lines/website? Blanket legal standing for unaffected Citizens to sue?

This is a dangerous road that political myopia built.

Eric Trump: Buffoon at Large

Stating of his father in a radio interview for a North Dakota station last week, the inarguably dumber of the two adult male Trump spawn: “He literally saved Christianity”.

No examples of course, but like papa saying that Biden would “hurt God” and there’d be “no religion” in a Biden Administration…….this cult clearly believes their members to be unthinking morons.

But at least they’re entertaining……

Link

The Foundation Stones [Long Post]

Anyone who knows me, virtually or in-person, knows that I have little use…and little regard for Religion. Not Faith….and the freedom to practice it….but Religion.
But I understand it’s impact [positive AND negative] on culture and society, and every once in a while, usually when and where I least expect it, I come across somebody’s perspective on the larger question of what Faith means to a culture…..and I’m blown away.
I’m currently without the distraction of cable news and political drama [except for fleeting glimpses] and I couldn’t be happier about it. It’s allowed me to reconfirm what’s important in life…and political theater ain’t it. I’ve been able to catch up on some quality reading and am currently winding down on The Lion’s Gate, by Steven Pressfield; in my opinion, one of the greatest authors of my time.
In The Lion’s Gate, Pressfield takes the reader through the unfolding events leading up to, during and just after the Arab-Israeli “Six-Day War”. The entire book is phenomenal, the story being told through the post-war interviews with no small number of the veterans themselves. However, one passage struck me as poignant and thought-provoking, over all the rest:
The Jewish religion is not a faith that prizes blind obedience or collective adherence to dogma. Our tradition is cerebral. We debate. We argue. The question is always holier than the answer.
The primal Jewish issue is justice. Judaism is a religion of the law, and the seminal concept of the law is that the minority must be protected. In the Jewish faith, you study. You wrestle with issues. You are a scholar. You deliberate, you dispute. A Jew asks over and over, “What is fair? What is just? Who is a good man, and why?”
I spent only one winter in the yeshiva. What I learned, more than Torah, was to love the teachers, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook and “the saintly Nazir,” Rabbi David Cohen, who embodied these pursuits with such honor and integrity. I learned not so much from them as through them, by watching their actions, hearing their speech, and observing the way they conducted themselves. I learned the history of the Jewish people, the incredible suffering endured by millions over so many centuries, and of Jerusalem, the centrality of this place in the soul of the people, their neshama, and why our return to this site means so much.
The Kotel. The Western Wall, as it is called in English. How did so much hope and passion come to be attached to a wall? Not even the wall of a temple, which the Kotel is not, but even humbler, a retaining wall for the mount upon which the razed temple had once stood. A ruin. How could this mean so much to me? How could it mean so much to our paratroopers who had never studied, who knew nothing of Torah, who did not even know how to pray?
A wall is unlike any other holy site. A wall is a foundation. It is what remains when all that had once risen above it has been swept away. A wall evokes primal emotion, particularly when it is built into the land, when the far side is not open space but the fundament of the earth itself. When one stands with worshipful purpose before the expanse of a wall, particularly one that dwarfs his person, that rises above him and extends on both sides, an emotion arises from the heart that is unlike the feeling evoked by any other religious experience. How different, compared to, say, worshipping in a cathedral or within a great hall or at the foot of some monumental tower.
One approaches the Western Wall as an individual. No rabbi stands beside you. Set your palms against the stones. Is God present? Will the stone conduct your prayers to Him? Around you stand others of your faith; you feel their presence and the intention of their coming, but you remain yourself alone.
Are you bereft? Is your spirit impoverished? Set your brow against the stone. Feel its surface with your fingertips. Myself, I cannot come within thirty paces of the Wall without tears.
The ancient Greeks considered Delphi the epicenter of the world. This is the Wall to me. All superfluity has been stripped from this site and from ourselves. Here the enemies of my people have devastated all that they could. What remains? This fundament alone, which they failed to raze only because it was beneath their notice. The armored legions of our enemies have passed on, leaving only this wall. In the twenty centuries since, those who hate us have defiled it and piled trash before it and even relieved themselves against it. They have neglected it, permitted slums to be built up around it. This only makes it more precious to us.
That morning of June 7, I can’t remember exactly when this happened—maybe on the way down to the Wall with Moshe Stempel and the others. At some point we were climbing the stairs—Yair Levanon, Dov Gruner, Moshe Milo, and I—when we noticed a scrawl, freshly scratched into the stone, in Hebrew:
IF I FORGET THEE, O JERUSALEM, MAY MY RIGHT HAND FORGET ITS CUNNING.
This is a verse from Psalm 137, which also contains the line “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.”
While we grow fat and lazy under a relentless parade of self-indulgent, vulgar, Statist politicians….while we surrender our most basic liberties to the guise of security….we have aging contemporaries who know what it means to fight for their very survival. And they bore the cost stoically.

Is Trump ultimately harming Christianity?

Conservative Christian Rod Dreher [who’s written extensively about the “Benedict Option”] opines in the NYT:

Is there anything Donald Trump can do to alienate evangelicals and other conservative Christians who support him? By now, it’s hard to think of what that might be. These are people who would never let men with the morals and the mouths of Mr. Trump and Mr. Scaramucci date their own daughters. And yet, Team Trump has no more slavishly loyal constituency.

This is not only wrong, but tragically so. The most pressing problem Christianity faces is not in politics. It’s in parishes. It’s with the pastors. Most of all, it’s among an increasingly faithless people.

The truth is, Christianity is declining in the United States. As a theologically conservative believer, I take no pleasure in saying that. In fact, the waning of Christianity will be not only a catastrophe for the church but also a calamity for civil society in ways secular Americans do not appreciate.

Is Dreher correct? Though Trump garnered Evangelical support, does his Administration bode well for Christian dominion [no pun intended] over the religious landscape of America?

 

 

Takfiri for Dummies

Since invoking Islam for one’s political agenda is all the rage these days, it’s helpful to those who at least aren’t fellating sycophants……to have a basic understanding of of Islam….just as a good Christian wouldn’t want to be lumped in by Leftists as part and parcel to the Westboro Baptist Church.

Information Mullet: There are those who want to (rightfully) avoid the fallacy of generalizations (1) in describing the attackers I recommend using the term “Salafist Takfiri” to *specifically* describe militant members of groups such as AQ, ISIS, AQAP, Boko Haram etc. who share a common set of behaviors and beliefs. These behaviors and beliefs are *not* the same as Muslims or even Islamists and understanding the difference is key to working together with our allies in this fight and isolating those who are our enemies.

In 2006 the West Point Center for Combating Terrorism released it’s Atlas of Militant Ideology with a very handy segmentation (2) that I roughly reproduce below. 

Those who believe in Islam are Muslims.

Muslims who believe that Islam should be the basis of the state are Islamists.
Suuni Islamists who believe the Islamic state should be built off of 14th Century principles or the restoration of the Caliphate are Salafists.
Salafists who are willing to break the law of the Koran by declaring another Muslim apostate and kill them are Takfiri.(3)

Takfiri are largely our problem.
Not Salifists.
Not Islamists.
And certainly not Muslims.

AQ, AQIP, AQIM, Al Nusra, Ansar al Sharia, Boko Haram, ISIS, Jemiah al Islamiah, JWT, the Mujhadeen Shura Council….all Salifist-Takfiri, largely influenced by the same Whabbist split of the Salafist creed. (Parphrased elsewhere all Whabbists are Salafists, but not all Salafists are Whabbist.)

There are Shia bad actors as well.
The Shia version of Islamist is a Khomeinist (those who believe Islamic clergy & jurists should run the state on Islamic principles).
The Shia don’t really have a version of Salafist/Whabbiest – but their version of Takfiri are groups like Hezbollah, the Al-Sadr Brigades and Shia death squads in Iraq.

I don’t expect everyone to know this. The “mafia” that kills Muslims for drawing pictures, those are the Salafist Takfiris. They are *not* Muslims in the broader sense.

And as for “Muslims speaking out” against Salfist-Takfiri militancy I’ve got a list as long as my arm I can point you too. Each entry itself a major rebuttal or condemnation of Salifi-Takfirism signed by hundreds of prominent Muslim officials and scholars including the Aman Message in 2004.(4)

And to every commentator who gets on a TV show or a radio or a news site and claims that because they have “read the Koran” and suddenly thinks they are an expert on militants or fundamentalists or even Muslims.The book is meaningless in this conversation.

Salifist-Takfiri are prolific writers and readers, and they don’t cite the Koran, they cite *scholars* of the Koran. Not unlike politicans today are likely to cite founding father and courts are likely to cite court cases.

Indeed trying to understand what’s going on in modern Islamic militant fundamentalism by only reading the Koran book is like trying to understand the history of US politics in the 20th Century by only reading the magna carta.

When creating their militant atlas of ideology, West Point Center for Combating did a citation analysis, looking at over 100 texts of Islamic scholars and then seeing which scholars the ideologues cited and grouping them that way. It would be like identifying American political figures by looking at who cites Jefferson, Madison or Adams most. (And yes, just between those three Founding you can tell a lot about the person citing them if they favor one over the other two as they represent three persistent factions/trends in American political theory.)

Back to the subject at hand – the Whabbist faction of Salafism is indeed named for the scholar Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (18th century) and Salafism itself is named for the Islamic scholar & cleric Ibn Taymiyyah (14th Century).

If folks wish to inform themselves better on this subject I urge to read the executive summary (26 pages) of the Atlas. Its a quick read and not too dense, and a far better source than Bill Maher or commentators who have zero expertise in the subject. If you want to go “deep”, the attached Research Compendium, clocking in at over 300 pages, provides a great guide to the scholars, and the nuances of the ideology that form these splits.

https://www.ctc.usma.edu/…/2012/04/Atlas-ExecutiveReport.pdf

(1) Every *legitimate* problem solving method in the world seeks to reduce the scope of the problem by separating wheat from chaff, signal from noise. Almost every form of analysis is an attempt to isolate further, what is the root cause activity that is driving the negative behavior. Because once you find that smallest part…you can focus on it, put all your attention into that part and not defuse any effort by spreading it thin on the uninvolved.

It’s a form of logic – given group A and group B, and group B is the root cause of behavior C – no matter how much effort you spend working to modify group A, you will not change group B and therefore not improve behavior C.

Everything bad you could say about Salafist-Takfiri I would accept and add a few more.

This very small subset of all Muslims is punching far above its weight and are a true manifestation of evil on this planet. So why waste our time and resources on the other 1.49B Muslims who *aren’t* Salafist Takfiri? This is not about political correctness, this is about utility in target selection.

(2) I call this fractal segmentation and it’s based off of statistical self similarity of fractional units, or more easily called “the coastline of britain problem”. Stated simply as you increase the fidelity of your measure, and are able to read in ever smaller units of measurement, the figure you are studying literally changes in its shape,dimensions and measurement. The thought experiment which demonstrates this is if you imagine measuring the Coastline of Britain with a 200km stick, it will be one shape and have a distance of 2400km. But if you measure the Coastline of Britain with a 50km stick, it will have a very different shape, and a coastline distance of 3400km.

When someone says “Muslims are the problem” their ‘stick’ is 1.4B people large. The Salafist Takfiri measurement ‘stick’ is maybe a few million. The shape and nature of the problem generalists describe is very different than the actual shape and nature of the actual problem. The generalists rough blob of a measure is like looking at a 10,000 piece puzzle after you’ve spent the night in a mexican bar drinking the worm – it’s fuzzy, hard to describe and not easy to work on. The Salafist Takfiri measurement is like picking up a single piece of the puzzle, with clarity, and saying “this…this is what we need to focus on.”

The majority is posted here, but for the full article, visit Rogue Dynamics. H/T to I aim to misbehave.

At least Trump is honest about his use of the victim card…

Well, Tony, I can, tell you this, that religious liberty is very important to me, and I see more and more, especially, in particular, Christianity, Christians, their power is being taken away. I just watch it and I get angry at it. You look at what is going on with other religions, you look at, as an example, what’s happening with respect to Muslims and others where perhaps they just band together better or something. But, you know, the Christian, every year, you just see it more and more.

Link

He then goes on ad nauseum with the usual tripe about being “forbidden” from saying certain things…or lamenting about how government institutions don’t act as surrogate churches….and about how he’ll apparently force un-Constitutional mandates on the populace…..since that’s his campaign platform: Trump, I’ll be great!

I weep for our Republic.

The alleged “War on Christmas” now comes with caffeine

The time of season is upon us, where some people get offended if they don’t hear Merry Christmas from a retail establishment only intent on taking your money. The latest front opens on the heathen Starbucks coffee chain. Even Kimberly Ross of Red State isn’t having any of it.

The holidays are approaching, so get your cultural outrage meter ready. If you’re watching the calendar, Thanksgiving is two weeks from this coming Thursday, and the Christmas season will soon be in full swing. At many stores, the holiday season begins with Black Friday shopping, that zoo-like day-after-Thanksgiving (or sometimes night-of-Thanksgiving) event which highlights our obsession with stuff. Right now, businesses already show signs of the season, with holiday-themed decoration and sales.

And then there’s the controversy over coffee. Well, not really coffee, but the cups the coffee comes in. And not really a cup from any store, but a cup from the coffee store. Starbucks. I’ve noticed that people have strong reactions to vendors like Starbucks (or Walmart) in a way they don’t with others. The issue this season with Starbucks? You will receive your coffee in a plain red cup. That’s it. There won’t be patterned snowy things, trees, ornaments, reindeer, Santas, sledding, or anything else you’ve seen in past years. Your overpriced cappu-latte-macha-ccino, with extra foam, will have to be drunk out of a solid color cup. Oh, the horror.

No, really. Some people are having a fit with this, and I am amazed. It really is making a mountain out of a molehill, and many are livid over it.

Starbucks rolled out plain red cups, the sort of minimalist theme that many faux-trendy places are prone to.

But because it doesn’t have snowflakes, Frosty or candy canes…..some folks have lost their minds. Think about that for a moment; some people are actually offended that a coffee chain didn’t affirm and reinforce their personal beliefs [or aesthetics] on a disposable coffee cup.

Just when I think my fellow man can’t shock or disappoint me with their selfishness and cultural tantrums