Category : History

(CT) Supreme Court Gives Christian Schools a Big Victory

Trinity Lutheran argued that Missouri was violating the free exercise clause of the First Amendment (“no law … prohibiting the free exercise of religion”) by declaring the church’s preschool ineligible for a grant program—which helped cover the cost of safer playground surfaces made of recycled tires—just because the school was affiliated with the church.

On the other side, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources deployed the establishment clause of the First Amendment (“no law respecting the establishment of religion”) to defend its decision not to provide aid directly to a church, even if used for a secular purpose. This prohibition has been codified in Missouri and 30 other states under laws known as “Blaine Amendments.” Missouri’s bars state funds from going “directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect, or denomination of religion.”

While Roberts wrote that the consequences of Missouri’s rejection were likely “a few extra scraped knees,” he considered the discriminatory policy “odious to our Constitution all the same.” He defended the rights of religious institutions to get their fair share of public benefits.

By siding with the church, the Supreme Court sets a precedent against a strict interpretation of state-level Blaine Amendments, thereby shifting the prospects for religious institutions’ involvement in public programs.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(Pacific Standard) Why Poverty is Skyrocketing in the Suburbs

If you were to ask a group of Americans to pinpoint poverty in this country, a good many would tell you you to turn a watchful eye to the inner-city blocks. Perhaps others would suggest you look at the isolated valleys of rural Appalachian coal mining towns. But few would point you to the suburbs, our country’s neatly manicured, leafy green mazes of driveways and cul-de-sacs. That’s a shame; it’s this very misperception that makes the issue so pernicious.

In recent decades, the number of suburbanites living in poverty has increased at an alarming clip. In 1990, there were 9.5 million poor people living in America’s 100 largest cities, and 8.6 million poor people living in the suburbs of those cities. By 2014, there were 17 million poor people in the suburbs of the country’s 100 largest metro areas, and less than 13 million in the cities themselves. The average suburban poverty rate, meanwhile increased from 8.3 percent in 1990 to 12.2 percent in 2014.

Poverty, in other words, is now a suburban problem, just as much as it’s an urban or rural problem. In his new book, Places in Need: The Changing Geography of Poverty, Scott Allard, a poverty researcher and professor at the University of Washington, explores this phenomenon and its many implications. Allard spoke to Pacific Standard about what’s driving suburban poverty rates, how the mismatch between perception and reality may affect support for safety net programs, and what the changing distribution of poverty means for the social safety net.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Economy, History, Personal Finance, Poverty, Uncategorized

(The Australian) Kevin Donelly–Australia should not deny Its Christian roots

Civil Liberties Australia, in its submission to the Senate inquiry on freedom of religion, argues Australia is not a Christian country on the basis that “it is not correct in law and in fact is directly contradicted by the Constitution”.

The reality proves otherwise: although Australia is a secular society, where there is a division between church and state, to deny the significance of Christianity is to deny the nation’s heritage and culture and to ignore what underpins our political and legal systems.

Rather than ignoring Christianity, the Constitution’s preamble includes the words: “Humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God” and parliaments around Australia begin with the Lord’s Prayer.

Perth lawyer Augusto Zimmermann says Australia’s political and legal systems owe much to Christianity.

He says: “It is evident the foundations of the Australian nation, and its laws, have discernible Christian-philosophical roots.”

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, History, Philosophy, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) William McGurn–Dad Meets the Sexual Revolution

The great fraud of our age, of course, is that consent and contraception are all a woman needs to have sex the way a man can. Certainly birth control and its backstop (abortion) permit women to enjoy a sexual relationship without the fear of an unwanted child. But seldom does anyone ask whether an unwanted pregnancy is the only unfortunate consequence a consensual sexual relationship might bring.

This father wonders. I know any number of accomplished women who are not prudes, who want to be more than someone’s Tinder swipe and who are looking for full and worthy partners. When these women relate the reality of modern courtship—how so many first dates end with the man making clear that not jumping into bed with him means no second date—let’s just say “empowering” is not the first word that comes to mind.

In a 2014 piece for the Weekly Standard, Heather Mac Donald noted that when the social default for unmarried sex was “no,” the woman didn’t have to explain herself. “No” was sufficient. The irony is that this default meant the woman held most of the cards when it came to deciding whether a relationship would become sexual.

Today, Ms. Mac Donald notes, the default has become “yes”—and the woman who resists is both on her own and on the defensive. For men, of course, this has been a most welcome shift….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Marriage & Family, Sexuality

Congratulations to Rafa Nadal for Winning his tenth French Open Title

Posted in France, History, Spain, Sports

Remembering D-Day (III)–The Poem “For the Fallen” by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, History, Military / Armed Forces

Remembering D-Day (II)–General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Speech

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces:

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

Read it all (audio link also available).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Europe, France, Germany, History, Military / Armed Forces

Remembering D-Day (I)–Winston Churchill’s Speech, June 6, 1944

I have also to announce to the House that during the night and the early hours of this morning the first of the series of landings in force upon the European Continent has taken place. In this case the liberating assault fell upon the coast of France. An immense armada of upwards of 4,000 ships, together with several thousand smaller craft, crossed the Channel. Massed airborne landings have been successfully effected behind the enemy lines, and landings on the beaches are proceeding at various points at the present time. The fire of the shore batteries has been largely quelled. The obstacles that were constructed in the sea have not proved so difficult as was apprehended. The Anglo-American Allies are sustained by about 11,000 firstline aircraft, which can be drawn upon as may be needed for the purposes of the battle. I cannot, of course, commit myself to any particular details. Reports are coming in in rapid succession. So far the Commanders who are engaged report that everything is proceeding according to plan. And what a plan! This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place. It involves tides, wind, waves, visibility, both from the air and the sea standpoint, and the combined employment of land, air and sea forces in the highest degree of intimacy and in contact with conditions which could not and cannot be fully foreseen.

There are already hopes that actual tactical surprise has been attained, and we hope to furnish the enemy with a succession of surprises during the course of the fighting. The battle that has now begun will grow constantly in scale and in intensity for many weeks to come, and I shall not attempt to speculate upon its course. This I may say, however. Complete unity prevails throughout the Allied Armies. There is a brotherhood in arms between us and our friends of the United States. There is complete confidence in the supreme commander, General Eisenhower, and his lieutenants, and also in the commander of the Expeditionary Force, General Montgomery. The ardour and spirit of the troops, as I saw myself, embarking in these last few days was splendid to witness. Nothing that equipment, science or forethought could do has been neglected, and the whole process of opening this great new front will be pursued with the utmost resolution both by the commanders and by the United States and British Governments whom they serve. I have been at the centres where the latest information is received, and I can state to the House that this operation is proceeding in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. Many dangers and difficulties which at this time last night appeared extremely formidable are behind us. The passage of the sea has been made with far less loss than we apprehended. The resistance of the batteries has been greatly weakened by the bombing of the Air Force, and the superior bombardment of our ships quickly reduced their fire to dimensions which did not affect the problem. The landings of the troops on a broad front, both British and American- -Allied troops, I will not give lists of all the different nationalities they represent-but the landings along the whole front have been effective, and our troops have penetrated, in some cases, several miles inland. Lodgments exist on a broad front.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, France, History, Military / Armed Forces

Ted Schroder–the Prophetic Imagination of Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004)

In 1960 he moved to San Francisco to become Professor of Slavic Languages at the University of California at Berkeley. He experienced cultural shock and depression by his new environment far different from Europe. It was not until he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980 at age 69 that his work became universally recognized. Hitherto his writing in Polish was proscribed in Poland. He was able to return home to visit and was feted for expressing the angst of his generation and nation. In 2000 he moved to Krakow where he died and was buried in Skalka, a crypt belonging to the monastery of the Pauline Fathers in close proximity to many of Poland’s major artists.

In contrast to many intellectuals he was pessimistic in appraising life because he had experienced the power of Evil. He believed passionately in the Devil because he had seen his face in the Nazis and in the Soviets. He was discouraged by his students at Berkeley who were indifferent toward Christianity. In teaching Dostoevsky he came into serious conflict with them when he openly acknowledged the existence of good and evil, which they dismissed as reactionary. “They took it as given that human behavior was governed by certain social and psychological ‘determinants,’, that, in other words, all values were relative. Just so, Russian intellectuals of the last century shifted moral responsibility onto the ‘environment’: change the society and you change the man. And it was precisely this denial of individual responsibility that Dostoevsky took as depressing proof of Christianity’s decline among educated Russians.”

Read it all.

Posted in History, Poetry & Literature, Poland

(LARB) George Prochnik–What Gershom Scholem and Hannah Arendt Can Teach Us About Evil Today

The more complete portrait of Eichmann that has emerged in recent years validates Scholem’s impression. From the descriptions and interviews of Nazi functionaries he himself has read, Scholem reports, it appears, “The gentlemen enjoyed their evil, so long as there was something to enjoy. One behaves differently after the party’s over, of course.”

The enjoyment Scholem refers to is not simple sadism, but the thrill of experiencing a wild inflation of personal power — power over others, power to do as one privately wishes quite apart from any larger, theoretical ideology. What Scholem identifies in Eichmann is the excitement of feeling oneself to be a god.

There are plenty of directions we can turn our eyes today to test the respective theses of Arendt and Scholem about the mentality of the characters crafting policies that cause suffering to the innocent and harm to the planet. Are we seeing conformist functionaries mindlessly carrying out their nefarious duties? Or are we watching numbers of highly self-motivated individuals eagerly, sometimes even gleefully indulging an unconscionable greed for power in all its earthly forms? In Arendt’s schema, given enough basic intelligence, the person who doesn’t know how to think can be taught to do so. But the problem presented by someone in a self-centered passion is different. The person who thinks himself a God has to be removed from power before the contradiction of their fantasy becomes a capital offense.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Germany, History, Theodicy

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–The Four American Narratives

America has always been a divided, sprawling country, but for most of its history it was held together by a unifying national story. As I noted a couple of months ago, it was an Exodus story. It was the story of leaving the oppressions of the Old World, venturing into a wilderness and creating a new promised land. In this story, America was the fulfillment of human history, the last best hope of earth.

That story rested upon an amazing level of national self-confidence. It was an explicitly Judeo-Christian story, built on a certain view of God’s providential plan.

But that civic mythology no longer unifies. American confidence is in tatters and we live in a secular culture. As a result, we’re suffering through a national identity crisis. Different groups see themselves living out different national stories and often feel they are living in different nations.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Theology

Wednesday food for Thought–‘ the real greatness of a nation its true civilization is measured by the extent..of [its] obedience to the enenforceable’

…to my mind the real greatness of a nation its true civilization is measured by the extent of this land of Obedience to the Unenforceable. It measures the extent to which the nation trusts its citizens and its existence and area testify to the way they behave in response to that trust. Mere obedience to Law does not measure the greatness of a Nation. It can easily be obtained by a strong executive and most easily of all from a timorous people. Nor is the licence of behavior which so often accompanies the absence of Law and which is miscalled Liberty a proof of greatness. The true test is the extent to which the individuals composing the nation can be trusted to obey self-imposed law.”

–[Lord] John Fletcher Moulton, “Law and Manners” (Atlantic Monthly, July 1924) [Hat tip: BA]

Posted in Anthropology, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

(IFS) Tyler VanderWeele responds to Bella DePaulo–What The New York Times Gets Wrong About Marriage, Health, and Well-Being

DePaulo criticizes research of the sort we reported in the Nurses’ Health Study for not distinguishing between the transition from singlehood to marriage, versus from marriage to divorce. And indeed, the Nurses’ Health Study participants were married upon study entry so that the estimate reported above is more reflective of the adverse impact of divorce compared to marriage. DePaulo argues that if you marry, you are also more likely to divorce. That is, of course, true: the effects of continuous marriage on health are going to be more protective than marriage followed by divorce.

But DePaulo seems to suggest that the right way to avoid divorce is to not marry. A more sensible solution would be to develop support resources to work through marital difficulties, when appropriate. Marital counseling, maintaining commitment, online marriage support resources,19 and the passage of time can pay off.16 One study indicated that among those who were married and rated their marriage as “very unhappy” but stayed married, 77% said that five years later the same marriage was either “very happy” or “quite happy.”

Beyond the question of divorce, however, a vast literature now exists (in addition to the Switzerland study) on the objective health effects of marriage,including studies that have examined never-married populations: these studies find similar protective effects of marriage.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, History, Marriage & Family, Sociology

(NYT Op-ed) Bella DePaulo–Get Married, Get Healthy? Maybe Not

Today nearly as many adults are not married as married. Those who do marry are taking longer than ever to get there, and on average Americans spend more years of their adult lives unmarried than married.

The new and accumulating research suggests something heartening: People who are single are doing much better than we realized. Marriage is unlikely to bring lasting improvements to their health or well-being, and could even result in decrements.

Free of the myth that marriage is a magical potion, we can all pursue the life paths that suit us best. Marriage is still there for those who want it. But now people who prefer to live single can come out of the shadows. The possibilities for meaning and fulfillment in a single life have gone largely unrecognized. It is time for that to change.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, History, Marriage & Family

In Pictures: The US Observes Memorial Day 2017

Take the time to look at them all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces, Photos/Photography