The Refugee Crisis and Christian Hope

Alastair:

Over the past week, the refugee crisis facing Europe has been a matter of intense discussion here in the UK and around the world. While the facts, figures, and politics have long received attention on the news, pictures of the lifeless body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach pressed the tragic situation of Syrian refugees upon the public consciousness with a visceral intensity. Those images spread on social media, along with hashtags such as #refugeeswelcome, spurring popular outcry against the UK’s asylum policies and a call for us to follow the example of countries such as Germany.
Christians have been among the most vocal of those calling for action, the voices of church leaders being buoyed upon a vast swell of moral sentiment, especially online. People have appealed to the teaching of Jesus, expressed in such parables as the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). In a widely shared piece, the left-wing cleric Giles Fraser castigated politicians who campaign on the basis of Christian morality for their supposed hypocritical response to the crisis, maintaining that only the most radical action would suffice:
[W]hy not all of them? Surely that’s the biblical answer to the “how many can we take?” question. Every single last one. Let’s dig up the greenbelt, create new cities, turn our Downton Abbeys into flats and church halls into temporary dormitories, and reclaim all those empty penthouses being used as nothing more than investment vehicles. Yes, it may change the character of this country. Or maybe it won’t require anything like such drastic action – who knows? But let’s do whatever it takes to open the door of welcome.
The Church should have a peculiar affinity with displaced persons. Displaced persons and refugees are disproportionately represented in the Scriptures–Abraham, Jacob and his family, Moses, David, and Christ were all displaced or refugees at points in their lives. The early Church spread in part through the diasporic movement of refugees escaping persecution in Jerusalem. The people of God, in Old Testament as in New, are called to think of themselves as ‘aliens and strangers’ (Leviticus 25:23; 1 Chronicles 29:15; 1 Peter 2:11), as those thrown upon the hospitality of the world’s polities, or to emulate the apostle as cosmopolitan selves (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). As Luke Bretherton observes, much as the foetus or the suffering and dying, the refugee is a test of our preparedness ‘to recognize bare life as human life worthy of respect and to be afforded dignity as a potential or existent participant in a particular human community.'[1]

– See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/over-the-past-week-the.php#sthash.CoShNA9C.dpuf

How Google Could Rig the 2016 Election

From Politico:

America’s next president could be eased into office not just by TV ads or speeches, but by Google’s secret decisions, and no one—except for me and perhaps a few other obscure researchers—would know how this was accomplished.

Research I have been directing in recent years suggests that Google, Inc., has amassed far more power to control elections—indeed, to control a wide variety of opinions and beliefs—than any company in history has ever had. Google’s search algorithm can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more—up to 80 percent in some demographic groups—with virtually no one knowing they are being manipulated, according to experiments I conducted recently with Ronald E. Robertson.

Given that many elections are won by small margins, this gives Google the power, right now, to flip upwards of 25 percent of the national elections worldwide. In the United States, half of our presidential elections have been won by margins under 7.6 percent, and the 2012 election was won by a margin of only 3.9 percent—well within Google’s control.

There are at least three very real scenarios whereby Google—perhaps even without its leaders’ knowledge—could shape or even decide the election next year. Whether or not Google executives see it this way, the employees who constantly adjust the search giant’s algorithms are manipulating people every minute of every day. The adjustments they make increasingly influence our thinking—including, it turns out, our voting preferences.

The Socialist Surge

Via Politico:

No one asked Bernie Sanders what he thought about the Greek referendum on Sunday, but he shared his thoughts anyway.

“I applaud the people of Greece for saying ‘no’ to more austerity for the poor, the children, the sick and the elderly,” Sanders said in welcoming Sunday’s vote, even as it rattled world markets and provoked predictions of economic doom. The statement didn’t just align Sanders with left-wing Europeans; it aligned him with lefter-wing Greek socialists who are too radical for some of those left-wing Europeans.

Democratic primaries have always featured liberal insurgent candidates, but perhaps none quite so liberal or insurgent as the socialist senator from Vermont. Sanders’ comments are a reminder of just how far the second-place Democratic presidential candidate stands from the American mainstream on some issues, and the looming reckoning Democrats face with their party’s leftward drift.

Never mind whether Sanders can crack 40 percent in any primary against Hillary Clinton — he has already established himself as her de facto challenger and a standard-bearer of a party that was, until this year, too far to the right for his liking.

“When I hear Bernie talk I’m almost inclined to accuse him of plagiarizing me,” said Ralph Nader, the left-wing gadfly whose third-party bid many Democrats still blame for swinging the 2000 election to George W. Bush.

Burn Washington, Ctd

From the Intercept:

After failing to criminally prosecute any of the financial firms responsible for the market collapse in 2008, former Attorney General Eric Holder is returning to Covington & Burling, a corporate law firm known for serving Wall Street clients.

The move completes one of the more troubling trips through the revolving door for a cabinet secretary. Holder worked at Covington from 2001 right up to being sworn in as attorney general in Feburary 2009. And Covington literally kept an office empty for him, awaiting his return.

The Covington & Burling client list has included four of the largest banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Lobbying records show that Wells Fargo is still a client of Covington. Covington recently represented Citigroup over a civil lawsuit relating to the bank’s role in Libor manipulation.

Covington was also deeply involved with a company known as MERS, which was later responsible for falsifying mortgage documents on an industrial scale. “Court records show that Covington, in the late 1990s, provided legal opinion letters needed to create MERS on behalf of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and several other large banks,” according to an investigation by Reuters.

World War III Will be Low-Tech

From Vice:

Last year, the Naval Academy made two distinct changes in how it operates—one that’s a natural progression in cyberwarfare, the other a clear response to how thoroughly we rely on that technology.

“First, they’ve created a cyberwarfare center and created the first class of midshipmen who will be cybersecurity majors,” cybersecurity and military expert Peter W. Singer recently told me. “Second, they required that every midshipman learn how to do celestial navigation like they did back in the 1700s. We’re preparing both for a world of cyberwarfare and, ‘oh my goodness, what if I have to go back to navigating by the stars?’”

Singer and his coauthor August Cole explore that curious dichotomy in Ghost Fleet, a novel that rings as a startlingly plausible look at what would happen if the United States and China truly went to war.

When we talk about future wars now, we talk about drones and robots, enhanced soldiers, hacking and space capabilities, terrorism and insurgency. And all of those aspects of war are in Ghost Fleet, but unless you’ve thought deeply about how these complicated parts would play together, you’re probably imagining something totally different than what these authors came up with. I know I was.

Laudato Si’ Roundup

Here is the text of Pope Francis’s new encyclical.

Dreher, predictably, loves it:

I have been struggling to know what to say about Pope Francis’s new encylical,Laudato Si. As my friend Frank Beckwith (who created the above graphic) notes, it really and truly hits the sweet spot for me — so much so that I have been stymied even knowing where to begin. So, like Francis, I’ll just start writing, with no idea where I’m going to stop.

Laudato Si (hereafter, “LS”) is sprawling, messy, wild, and visionary. It’s bizarre to consider that American conservatives were freaking out in advance about the prospect that the Pope was going to weigh in against climate change in this encyclical. He does, but to act as if that were the main thrust of the document is like judging Thanksgiving dinner by the quality of the cranberry sauce.

It is tempting to call LS a traditionally conservative document, but there is plenty in it that will unnerve free-market individualists, who generally call themselves conservative — and liberals will be just as challenged by it. What Francis has written is an encyclical that celebrates life as harmony, communion, and incarnation. He calls on all persons to revere nature as gift, and to think not as atomized individuals, but as stewards who owe a debt to others, as well as to the past and to the future.

Continue reading

Same-Sex Marriage and Biopolitical Tyranny

Leithart:

In a 2013 essay evaluating the Parliamentary bill on gay marriage, John Milbank observes that British “legislators have recognised that it would be intolerable to define gay marriage in terms equivalent to ‘consummation,’ or to permit ‘adultery’ as legitimate ground for gay divorce.” In these decisions, “the legislators have been forced tacitly to admit the different nature of both gay sexuality and of gaysociality. But such an admission destroys the assumption behind the legislation and the coherence of what the legislation proposes to enact.”

Milbank doesn’t think it will stop there. If gay adultery has no legal force, then, on the assumption of equality, heterosexual adultery will also cease to be grounds for divorce. After all, “if the binding and loosing of gay and straight marriage are stipulated in different ways,” then the distinctions that gay marriage is designed to eliminate is reinstated. In Milbank’s view, “secular thought will not so readily let go of the demand for absolutely equal rights based on identical definitions. In that case, we face an altogether more drastic prospect. Not only would ‘marriage’ have been redefined so as to include gay marriage, it would inevitably be redefined even for heterosexual people in homosexual terms. Thus ‘consummation’ and ‘adultery’ would cease to be seen as having any relevance to the binding and loosing of straight unions.”

The Country Party vs the Ruling Party

From the Spectator:

As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.

When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.” And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

Although after the election of 2008 most Republican office holders argued against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, against the subsequent bailouts of the auto industry, against the several “stimulus” bills and further summary expansions of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens, the American people had every reason to believe that many Republican politicians were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition. After all, Republicans had been happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind. Moreover, 2009-10 establishment Republicans sought only to modify the government’s agenda while showing eagerness to join the Democrats in new grand schemes, if only they were allowed to. Sen. Orrin Hatch continued dreaming of being Ted Kennedy, while Lindsey Graham set aside what is true or false about “global warming” for the sake of getting on the right side of history. No prominent Republican challenged the ruling class’s continued claim of superior insight, nor its denigration of the American people as irritable children who must learn their place. The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.
Read more at http://spectator.org/articles/39326/americas-ruling-class-and-perils-revolution

You lose your right to privacy when crossing the border.

That seems to be the news from this piece over at Vice:

Hundreds of thousands of travelers cross US borders every day. And none of them—save the precious few with diplomatic immunity—have any right to privacy, according to Department of Homeland Security documents recently obtained by MuckRock.

The US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Privacy Impact Assessment for the Border Searches of Electronic Devices outlines the finer points of border officials’ authority to search the electronic devices of citizens and non-citizens alike crossing the US border. What becomes clear is that this authority has been broadly interpreted to mean that any device brought into or out of the country is subject to the highest level of scrutiny, even when there is no explicit probable cause.

Based upon little more than the opinion of a single US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer, any device can be searched and its contents read. With approval from a supervisor, the device can be seized, its contents copied in full, or both.