William Tell and Chick-fil-A

An overwhelming number of chicken sandwiches were served on Wednesday as vast numbers of Americans from all over the country turned out to support Chick-fil-A, under fire for its CEO taking the highly controversial and shocking position that people of the same sex can’t marry each other.  Could that be a catalyst for a popular revolt against gay marriage?

Richard Fernandez observes that “Great fires start from small sparks, as often happens when there is enough dry tinder on the ground.”  He points out that the Arab Spring started with the harassment of a street vendor, that the public got behind the American revolution when the British raised the tax on tea.  He then brings up a great story about what precipitated the Swiss rising up to throw off the Hapsburg empire:

The legend as told by Tschudi (ca. 1570) goes as follows: “William Tell, who originally came from Bürglen, was known as a strong man and an expert shot with the crossbow. In his time, the Habsburg emperors of Austria were seeking to dominate Uri. Albrecht (or Hermann) Gessler, the newly appointed Austrian Vogt of Altdorf, raised a pole in the village’s central square, hung his hat on top of it, and demanded that all the townsfolk bow before the hat. On 18 November 1307, Tell visited Altdorf with his young son and passed by the hat, publicly refusing to bow to it, and so was arrested. Gessler — intrigued by Tell’s famed marksmanship, yet resentful of his defiance — devised a cruel punishment: Tell and his son would be executed, but he could redeem his life by shooting an apple off the head of his son, Walter, in a single attempt. Tell split the apple with a bolt from his crossbow.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. What is remarkable about Gessler’s Hat is that it was about anything except the hat. It’s very insignificance as an object of forced respect showed that it was all about arbitrary domination. Gessler had made his hat holy, as Caligula had made his horse a consul, and everyone was expected to acknowledge it. Thus it was above all about power, made all the more manifest by its exercise in the most capricious and petty ways, for most any king can command a respect for his person. But only a tyrant can demand the veneration of his underwear.

Rahm Emanuel’s insistence that Chick-fil-A bow to the icon of gay marriage had that effect, at least upon some. Chick-fil-A is not about gay marriage or Christianity at all, any more than the incident of William Tell was about a hat. It’s about power. It is morphing into an overt test of whether the cultural elite can have its way. The problem with National Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day is that it constitutes an act of open defiance by manifesting all too publicly the contempt that a fairly large segment of the population has for shibboleths of political correctness.

via Belmont Club » The Chicken Disses the Hat.

When Taft saved the Constitution from Teddy Roosevelt

In the course of a column on Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz’s victory in Texas for the Republican senate nomination, George Will recounts a time one hundred years ago this Sunday when Republicans purposefully lost an election to preserve the Constitution.  I did not know these things about Teddy Roosevelt:

After leaving the presidency in 1909, TR went haywire. He had always chafed under constitutional restraints, but he had remained a Hamiltonian, construing the Constitution expansively but respectfully. By 1912, however, he had become what the Democratic nominee, Woodrow Wilson, was — an anti-Madisonian. Both thought the Constitution, the enumeration and separation of powers, intolerably crippled government.

Espousing unconstrained majoritarianism, TR disdained James Madison’s belief that the ultimate danger is wherever ultimate power resides, which in a democracy is with the majority. He endorsed the recall of state judicial decisions and by September 1912 favored the power to recall all public officials, including the president.

TR’s anti-constitutional excesses moved two political heroes to subordinate personal affection to the public interest. New York Sen. Elihu Root had served TR as secretary of war and secretary of state, and he was Roosevelt’s first choice to succeed him in 1908. Massachusetts Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge had long been one of TR’s closest friends. Both sided with Taft.

As the Hudson Institute’s William Schambra says (in “The Saviors of the Constitution,” National Affairs, Winter 2012, and elsewhere), by their “lonely, principled” stand, Root and Lodge, along with Taft, “denied TR the powerful electoral machinery of the Republican Party, which would almost surely have elected him, and then been turned to securing sweeping alterations” of the Constitution.

Wilson won with 41.8 percent of the vote (to TR’s 27.4 percent). Taft won 23.2 percent, carrying only Vermont and Utah, but achieved something far grander than a second term: the preservation of the GOP as an intellectual counterbalance to the Democrats’ thorough embrace of progressivism and the “living” — actually, disappearing — Constitution.

via George Will: Texas’s Ted Cruz gives tea party a Madisonian flair – The Washington Post.

Losing on purpose at the Olympics

Badminton players from China, South Korea, and Indonesia, were expelled from the Olympics for intentionally losing–they just hit the birdie into the net over and over–so that they would draw easier opponents and avoid competing against another national team in the tournament:

Eight badminton players at the London Olympics were kicked out of competition Wednesday for trying to lose — a display that drew outrage from fans and organizers who said the women had violated the most sacred stage in sports.

After an unexpected loss by a powerful Chinese doubles team, the eight women appeared to play poorly on purpose to secure a more favorable position in the next phase of the event.

The feeble play was obvious to fans who attended the matches Tuesday night at Wembley Arena — they chanted, “Off! Off! Off!” — and to incredulous television broadcasters and viewers watching around the world.

“They’re serving fault and fault! They are just hitting the ball into the net!” the BBC’s David Mercer said in disbelief. “They are both trying to lose, and that is unforgivable. This is the Olympic Games.”

The eight doubles players from China, South Korea and Indonesia were cited by the Badminton World Federation for “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”

[+] EnlargeBadminton

AP Photo/Andres LeightonReferee Torsten Berg, second from right, talks to South Korean coach Sung Han-kook, right, after Berg issued a black card to the players in the women’s doubles match between South Korea and Indonesia.

The players are world doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China and their South Korean opponents, Jung Kyun-eun and Kim Ha-na, along with South Korea’s Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung and Indonesia’s Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii. They were disqualified from competition but allowed to stay at the Games — a step lighter than expulsion, the penalty for positive drug tests.

“We have to be clear: There has been a problem here and we have to take that problem very seriously,” BWF secretary general Thomas Lund said. “There are things we can improve on and look at after this competition.”

Teams blamed the introduction of a round-robin stage rather than a straight knockout tournament as the main cause of the problem. The round-robin format can allow results to be manipulated to earn an easier matchup in the knockout round.

The Chinese players tried to rig the draw after China’s second-seeded pair unexpectedly lost to a Danish team in the morning. That placed the No. 2 pair on course for a semifinal meeting with Wang and Yu, instead of the final.

Wang and Yu then deliberately set out to lose so they would go into the bottom half of the draw. They hardly exerted themselves, and neither did the South Koreans, drawing jeers of derision from the crowd and warnings from the umpire and tournament referee Torsten Berg. Wang and Yu eventually got what they wanted by losing.

After the match, Yu said his team was only trying to save energy for the knockout rounds, which start Wednesday.

Later, Yu said he was quitting the sport.

A comment on a verified account for Yu on the Tencent microblogging service late Wednesday read: “This is my last game. Farewell Badminton World Federation. Farewell my dear badminton.”

An hour later, the South Korean team of Ha and Kim took to the court and decided also to try to lose to the Indonesians to avoid meeting Wang and Yu in the quarterfinals. Early on, all four players were warned by the umpire for not trying hard, and Berg returned and produced black cards to disqualify both pairs, but the cards were rescinded on a promise of better play.

In the third game, Berg reappeared to urge them to finish, and the Indonesians ended up being better at losing than Ha and Kim, who fell into the playoff they didn’t want with the world champions.

South Korea and Indonesia appealed the disqualification, but the BWF rejected the South Korean appeal and Indonesia’s challenge was withdrawn. China had accepted the federation’s earlier decision.

via 2012 London Olympics — Eight badminton players disqualified for trying to lose matches – ESPN.

Sunday’s landing on Mars

Remember those spunky little rovers that were landed on Mars, sending back pictures of the Red Planet for years on end?  Well, another rover is scheduled to touch down on Mars this Sunday, August 6.

It’s the size of an SUV, with massive digging arms, lasers, and automated laboratories that may settle the question of Martian life once and for all.  The plan is for this 2000 pound vehicle, named “Curiosity,” to be dropped inside a Martian crater that appears to have once held water.  The difficulty of this landing, requiring pin-point precision of all systems, is being described as “seven minutes of terror” for the NASA team trying to pull this off.

If it works, we will greatly expand our knowledge of Mars.  And have some sublime photos of another world.

With Mars mission and rover Curiosity, NASA hunts building blocks of life – The Washington Post.

Why Divorce Calls Children’s Existence into Question

Andrew Root, a professor at Luther Seminary, has a moving and illuminating article in Christianity Today.  A sample:

Just months before my own wedding, I sat with my mom in the living room of the home I had grown up in, as she explained that divorce was the next exit on the highway of our family’s history. It had been several weeks since she had told me that her and my father’s marriage was in serious trouble. Now, she told me more: They had gotten married way too young, noting that if she could do it all over again, she would have chosen another route for her life, someone other than my father to share life with. . . .

I existed only because my mother and father had become one, creating me out of the abundance of their covenant community. Now, standing amid the debris and shock of the collision that ended their marriage, all this felt up for grabs. If I was through their union, who could I be in their division? If I was because of their coming together, who would I be if they nullified the community that gave me life? Could I be at all? . . .

I offer all this philosophical musing to underscore why divorce—which affects about 40 percent of Americans under age 21 today—is so devastating for young people. Our society assumes in conversation about divorce that the real issues are ones of knowledge and advantage. Popular psychologists and TV talk-show doctors tell us that divorce need not be a big deal as long as children know it’s “not their fault.” Such youth just need to know that Mommy and Daddy are voiding their union for their own reasons, ones that have nothing to do with them.

Further, our university-based number counters tell us that divorce should be prevented because it quickly takes away economic and social capital, so young people need structures and programs to keep them from losing their economic advantages.

God, himself in triune relationship, spoke creation out of nothingness for the sake of relationship. In the same way, in his or her beginning, every child is meant to be welcomed into the beauty of existence through the embrace of mother and father.

I don’t wish to diminish the psychological and economic impact of divorce. But if we truly are relational beings, then divorce is centrally an issue not of psychology nor of economics but of ontology—an issue of our very being. It therefore feels a little like being erased, like losing our being in the deep divide that separates our divorcing parents.

When a young person is informed of her parents’ divorce, it might be that her deepest questions are about her being: How can I be at all now that Mom and Dad aren’t together? Now that they are two, she is unavoidably divided. She has one room at Mom’s and another at Dad’s, one schedule at Dad’s and another at Mom’s. As philosopher Martin Heidegger said, we have our being in our practical way of living, in our actions. And now post-divorce, because this young person’s action and living is divided, so too is her very being. Her parents are seeking to reverse, to go back, to be as if the two never became one. But she can’t do this because she belongs (in the very material of her person that acts with and for them) to both of them.

via Why Divorce Calls Children’s Existence into Question | Christianity Today.

Prof. Root goes on to say how the Church can minister to those who have been put through this crisis of existence.   He has written a book on the whole subject: Children of Divorce, The: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being (Youth, Family, and Culture)

Mitt Romney’s Olympic event

Mitt Romney not only organized the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, he has a horse in this year’s game.  He and his wife are part owners of a horse that will compete in the dressage competition.   Comedians, satirists, and Democrats in general are having a field day with this, calling it “ballet for horses” and an example of the effete decadence of  very wealthy people like the Romneys.  For example, this from a snarky column by Dana Milbank:

Rafalca, a 15-year-old Oldenburg mare owned in part by the Romneys, qualified as a member of the U.S. Olympic team and will compete in London in the dressage competition — a form of ballet for horses and their riders in which the animals do pirouettes and serpentines. They also do piaffes, which, according to the International Equestrian Federation, is a “highly collected, cadenced, elevated diagonal movement” in which “the haunches with active hocks are well engaged.” Rafalca, after qualifying, flew across the Atlantic on a FedEx jet (no, they didn’t strap her to the roof) and reportedly dined on an in-flight meal of watermelon.

Understandably, Romney was wary about discussing dressage when NBC’s Brian Williams asked him in London on Wednesday about his equine Olympian. “You actually have a horse in the race. What’s that gonna be like?”

“Well,” Romney replied. “It’s — a big — exciting experience for my wife and — and for the person that she’s worked with, the trainer of the horse who’s riding the horse. And — obviously, it’s fun to be part of the Olympics in any way you can be part of them.”

Williams followed up: “When is the event, and for those of us who don’t follow the sport, what happens? Are there rounds that — of competition? Is there just one chance? What happens?”

Romney pleaded ignorance. “I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport. I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not — be — watching — the event. I hope — her horse does well.”

It was arguably Romney’s worst interview since Chris Wallace asked him about Seamus. The flustered candidate went on to disparage the British preparation for the Olympics, setting off an international incident.

It’s understandable that Romney would be reluctant to discuss dressage. Seamus may have made him look odd, or insensitive. Rafalca makes him look like a super-rich playboy.

John Kerry was made to look effete in 2004 by Republican mockery of his windsurfing, his Turnbull & Asser shirts and his French fluency. Now Democrats have a chance to do something similar to Romney, with his Swiss bank account, his Grand Cayman and Bermuda tax havens, his multiple homes, his $10,000 bet, his friends who own NASCAR teams, and now the six-figure horses his wife imports from Europe. Nothing says “man of the people” quite like horse ballet.

Ann Romney takes umbrage at the criticism, saying that dressage has helped with her multiple sclerosis. That was enough to get the Democratic National Committee to back away from a video campaign showing Rafalca spliced with Mitt Romney “dancing around” questions about his tax returns.

While it’s heartening that Ann Romney has been helped by the horses, most MS sufferers don’t have the luxury of importing $100,000 horses from Europe. And the candidate’s disavowal of dressage as “Ann’s sport” isn’t quite right.

In an interview with the Web site Chronicle of the Horse, Rafalca’s trainer, Jan Ebeling, said Mitt Romney selected the music for the horse’s routine at an international competition; Ebeling, in another interview, said the former Massachusetts governor, inspired by his wife, “really enjoys the horses.” Romney joined his wife at an Olympic qualifying dressage event in April 2008, and the couple declared a $77,731 loss on their 2010 tax returns for their share of Rafalca’s care.

via Dana Milbank: Prancing around dressage – The Washington Post.

Very funny, I admit.  But there is nothing wrong with the Romneys owning this horse!  Gymnastic floor exercises to music are very difficult.  Imagine getting a horse to do that.  Actually, dressage is described as gymnastics for horses.  And it isn’t effete. The word means “training,” and the sport grew directly out of the different moves,  motions, and maneuvers that cavalrymen taught their mounts.  Like other sports and other human endeavors, if you don’t know anything about it, it may seem silly, but the more you know about it, the more you can appreciate it.  Here is a good explanation.

I hope Rafalca, her rider, and her owners win a gold medal!  The dressage competition begins today.

Here is a video of the Romney’s horse and her rider Jan Ebeling:


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