Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hamlet's Self-Doubt Triggered By Dubious Ghost

"Hamlet's quandary is chiefly based on the problem of discernment of spirits." So writes Thomas A. at The Ark and the Dove. He quotes a Kittredge commentary on the tragedy:

Hamlet believes that the apparition is indeed the ghost of his father and that it has told the truth. Yet it may be a demon in his father's shape, tempting him to kill an innocent man. This doubt as to the ambiguous apparition accords with ancient doctrine and was perfectly intelligible to any Elizabethan audience. Disregard of Hamlet's dilemma has led to misinterpretation of his character...

Speakeasy Monarchists

Sing a song of sixpence,
A case full of rye;
Four-and-twenty Yankees
Started going dry.
When the case was opened,
The yanks began to sing,
To Hell with the Stars-and-Stripes
And God save the King!

-Reputed Prohibition-Era Drinking Song
via Charles Coulombe

Coulombe scores another rhetorical point:
Now it might well be objected that smoking does indeed pose a threat to an individual’s health, and this I cannot and will not dispute. But it must be submitted that the governments who are so interested in the health of the taxpayer on this point have interesting lacunae elsewhere. Statistically, an active participant in certain “risky” forms of behavior is far likelier to contract AIDS than a ten-pack-a-day smoker is to come down with lung cancer. Yet the Supreme Court has ruled that such behavior is a human right, and cannot be outlawed.

Brownback To Be Backed By Monaghan?

Domino’s pizza founder Tom Monaghan, one of the nation’s richest and most controversial Roman Catholic philanthropists, wants to deliver Sen. Sam Brownback to the White House.

Monaghan is advising the 2008 presidential exploratory committee for Brownback, a longtime social conservative who converted to Catholicism a few years ago.

Monaghan is expected to play a lead role in “Catholics for Brownback.” But, more important, his support and network is likely to spice up Brownback’s fundraising, which is currently regarded as the weakest part of the Kansas Republican’s candidacy.
Kansas City Star

Unfortunately the article only follows the "quote a Democrat, quote a Republican" school of lazy journalistic balance. Here's a familiar face:

"In the Catholic community, he’s looked upon as kind of on the fringes," said the Rev. Robert Drinan, a liberal Roman Catholic priest and former Democratic congressman who teaches at Georgetown University. "The world view is, 'We have to get back to a Catholic civilization.' They want to go back to a Christian society imposed from above. [...] It's just another world they want to build."

That makes me shiver in all the wrong ways. Drinan himself is a collaborator with secularists who have no reservations about imposing their society, if that is the right word. His work running interference for pro-abortion Catholics has done untold damage to the church and the Democratic Party, not to mention efforts to protect the unwanted unborn.

"There is certainly a degree of presumption, even hubris, in marketing institutions of this type on the premise that all the other schools are failing to educate Catholics effectively," said Richard Yanikoski, the president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Another bad example of false balance. It's obvious to all but the willfully blind that Catholic higher education is compromised spiritually, ethically, and academically, though usually not financially.

Drinan and Yanikoski are hardly the only opponents of Monaghan, and it's misleading to depict them as his only naysayers. The New Oxford Review has raised some serious concerns about Monaghan's autocratic rule at Ave Maria School of Law, and the AMSoL graduates at Fumare have been detailing Monaghan's faults and recording their alma mater's afflictions for years.

Monaghan's massive support for various traditional Catholic charities and media have made him many friends. His critics' concerns suggest that these friends aren't doing the fraternal correction they need to be doing, for Monaghan's sake and for the sake of his projects. Such an adulatory echo chamber could cripple his new political endeavors.

Related news: Brownback voices pro-Rudy sentiments.

Rocky's Holiday Edition Looks at a Local Sheriff

"You want to arrest somebody like you were arresting your own brother. Because in a small town, the person you arrest on Saturday just might be sitting next to you in church on Sunday morning."
-Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener

For holiday reading, there's an excellent profile of Sheriff Wegener in the Rocky Mountain Post. Wegener was pushed into the spotlight during the Bailey high school hostage situation, which ended in the molestation of some girls and the death of one along with her captor.

In "Small-town sheriff shines" Rocky writer James B. Meadow lets loose in a folksy discursive style, letting its informality soften the harsh memories of that sad day. Wegener made the decision to send in the SWAT team. During their assault, they could not kill the hostage taker before he fatally shot one of his victims.

The sheriff is understandably haunted by the outcome of his decision, but his character shines through in Meadow's account:
Wegener isn't talking about the election now. He is talking about meeting the president of the United States in October at a school safety conference in Washington. ("Holy smokes, talk about being out of your element.")

If newspapers had more of these local stories, perhaps they wouldn't be in such poor financial shape.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


The Cornell Society for a Good Time reports on the lapsed tradition of Sapientiatide.

And with that I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Gaudete Sunday Healing

I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
-Psalm 26

Well, this is a surprise.

Hours after my post marking the anniversary of my ailment's birth, I seem to have been healed.

The chain of events which brought this about is remarkable to me.

My parish young adult group had organized a Eucharistic Adoration for the evening of December 10. A few minutes before beginning, I requested from the priest that I receive the anointing of the sick.

After adoration, one of my fellow group members came up to me asked if I had considered whether I had Lyme disease.

A few days later I looked up Lyme disease, rejecting it out of course. But I noticed one of Lyme's symptoms was balance problems, which had become quite a noticable factor in my life.

So I looked into balance problems, and learned that they were a symptom of ear afflictions. I played around with my ears. They would slosh when I made sudden movements, which made me realize I had made no sudden movements in ages. My motion was slow and deliberate, like a turtle's.

I also recognized gait problems. My feet were more spread out when standing, and rather than walk with one's legs straight below one's center, as everyone else does, I would walk with my feet spread out from my sides, even with the outside of my shoulders rather than the inside of my armpits. Little wonder my left shoe had begun to irritate the left side of my foot, and the outer sides of my knees had begun aching at the joints.

Most important of all, I recognized that motion of the fluid in my ear correlated with nausea, inducing vomiting when disturbed.

I talked things over with my GI specialist, and planned to schedule an appointment with an ear specialist.

Then I kept playing with my ears. On a whim Sunday evening at about ten o'clock, three years to the day after my ailment first began in full strength, I placed my left hand to my stuffed and uncomfortable ear. I forced air out from between the two body parts as if using a plunger. After two pushes I ceased and, removing my hand, for no reason in particular I snapped my fingers loudly near the ear.

What a surprise followed!

Fluid flowed out from my ear, as air flowed in. Picture a full upside-down water bottle, newly opened and emptying through a single straw. Now picture an analogical phenomenon within one's middle ear and eustachian tube. And try not to gag.

The feeling was in no way pleasant. So long had it been since that ear was empty and functioning normally, I worried my eardrum had burst. I felt like I was breathing through my ear, as fresh air hit the heated, long-submerged inner side of my eardrum. It hurt to hear all but the softest sounds.

Panicking, I urged my family to take me to the emergency room. To my relief nothing seemed damaged, even though a doctor whistling in the hall pained my ear considerably.

Follow-ups suggest that the accumulated fluid had indeed been causing vertigo and its accompanying debilitations, yet a dysfunctioning eustachian tube did not let it drain.

For three years.

God willing, I have no permanent ear damage from its long embalmment in otic serum. My balance is still rather uneven, stuck in its old habits. To this point I have been unknowingly worn out by my own balance systems, which have instructed my body to make continuous and confused corrections to a problem I didn't truly have.

The nausea has receded to undetectability, and for the first time in a long time I have confidence in my health. What I thought was adequate hearing was instead muffled and limp compared to how I hear now. A few more days or weeks of recovery and I hope to at last rejoin my rudely interrupted life.

Yesterday and today I have been digging out from a beautiful Denver blizzard. My strength and endurance is more than I can remember.

December 17 was Gaudete Sunday. Rejoicing in the Lord just got a lot easier.

The Lord has done great things for me,
Holy is His Name!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Regrettable Anniversary

On a personal note, today marks the close of my third year with as-yet-undiagnosed malady. Chronic nausea and stomach trouble, combined with a fatigued and clouded mind have made for lots of blogging time and penitential sacrifice, but little economic productivity.

I have within the week begun to suspect that it is my inner ears which are the source of the problem, rather than my otherwise dependable GI tract. If I am right, it would mean I have beaten my doctors at deciphering this very expensive and very tiresome puzzle.

It would also mean that I have been suffering from chronic seasickness on dry land.

At the moment my future is still unclear, and I ask for your kind prayers.

I'm getting hits on this page for "chronic nausea." Sufferers, please see How I was healed. It was a eustachian tube blockage, get your ears checked!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Blog Housekeeping

I believe I've successfully converted everything to the newest Blogger version. After four years of using a default template, I'm nervous about the site appearance. I hope the green frame is not too hard on the eyes.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Grungy Protesters Lose

...the romanticization (and careful sanitization) of the Civil Rights Movement in popular culture led countless imitators to try and replicate its success. Mostly, they got even the most basic details wrong then wondered why they weren't one-tenth as successful: as I eventually tired of explaining to my 1980s peace movement colleagues, what impressed Mr. and Mrs. White America most about Civil Rights kids was how well dressed, calm and polite they all seemed -- these were the kids they imagined Sidney Poitier having; MLK insisted that action participants dress like they would to go to church on Sundays. (A black Pentecostal church in Montgomery in 1964, not that honky Church of Do What You Want you might shuffle into, late, today). You can imagine how that went over with my atheist comrades, whose wardrobes consisted mostly of black t-shirts with stylized yellow fists on the front.
Kathy Shaidle

I add that people in their best clothes don't want to pick fights with the police, on expense alone. Likewise, the police won't want the bad PR that comes from a well-dressed protester trying to recover tailoring costs caused by overenthusiastic police action.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How the Democrats Began Sticking Up For Aborting The Little Guy

via Catholic World News, an essay on how the Democrats lost the pro-life movement, or perhaps it is the other way around:

...suppose a politically savvy Rip Van Winkle in say, 1965, perceiving that a movement to legalize abortion was gaining strength in the country, were asked, "Which of the two major political parties will eventually identify with that movement?" What would he answer? I think he would mull it over in his head for awhile and then say: "the Republicans, probably."

Why? "Well, in the first place, [abortion] fits pretty well into the Republicans' private-property philosophy. 'Let's keep government out of a woman's most personal property.' Secondly, consider the demographics. The Republicans draw heavily from the upper-middle class WASPs, where the drive for population control has always come from. Abortion fits very well into the old eugenics mythology -- the belief that you can improve the health of the 'race' by limiting the breeding of 'undesirables.' You can still hear echoes of that in the conversations of bicoastal Republicans. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the Republican Party came out with a plank saying 'We support abortion, in certain cases, for the nation's overall health and well-being.' Finally, consider the Republicans' emphasis on the need for law and order and their conservative approach to welfare. The Republicans may not say this out loud but it slots right into their conservative ideology: abortion is good because, by holding down illegitimate births, it will cut down on crime and welfare costs."

What about the Democrats? "Well," Rip would say, "let's start again with demographics. Consider the heavy concentration of Roman Catholics in the Democratic Party. The Church hierarchy would go bananas if any prominent Catholic Democrat -- or any Democrat at all --came out in favor of abortion. The Church has consistently held that abortion is one of the gravest moral offenses because it involves the direct killing of an innocent human being. No way is a Catholic Democrat, or any Democrat who wants Catholic support (and what Democrat doesn't?), going to support abortion. It might even be smart politics for the Democrats to pick a fight with the Republicans on the abortion issue. Democrats like to boast that they protect the weak and the vulnerable. You remember Vice President Hubert Humphrey's characterization of his party as the advocate of those 'who are in the dawn of life; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.' All they have to do is insert 'unborn children' into that list and they can beat up Republicans every time on the abortion issue. I can hear them now: 'Let the Republicans pick on the weak and vulnerable, killing children in the womb to cut welfare costs. We Democrats are the party of compassion, the party that sticks up for the little guy, including the littlest guy of all, the child in the womb [Applause].'"
-George McKenna, Criss-Cross: Democrats, Republicans, and Abortion (PDF)

McKenna also puts forward the idea that intra-Catholic conflicts are a driving force in abortion politics. Catholics climbing the social ladder shed their admirable tribal Catholicism for a decadent tribal liberalism, then looked askance at those who remained in the old tribe.

He also notes the academic structures feeding compromised counsel to weak-willed clerics in the episcopacy:

Anyone who thinks that the bishops operate independently, handing down decrees and getting those below to obey, has it almost exactly backwards. The bishops’ pronouncements well up from currents of thought circulating among people below them, in some cases from those far below them. Not from the pews, though. From Catholic seminaries, from Catholic journals and theological associations, from philosophy and theology departments in Catholic universities, and, most immediately, from the staffers who serve the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. The overwhelming majority of those occupying these seats of influence are Democrats, and some are Democratic activists. For them, any move toward condemning the Democrats’ position on abortion only helps the Republicans, and helping the Republicans only helps to inaugurate or perpetuate social policies that are, in the final measure, un-Christian. Therefore, to single out the Democrats’ abortion plank for condemnation is to side with the forces opposed to the Church’s program of peace and justice. Objectively speaking, as the Marxists used to say, it is anti-Catholic.

A Latin Language Flamewar

via a blog named bulbulovo I have discovered a debate over the Israeli-Lebanon conflict earlier this year. In Latin, no less.

It is somewhat novel to see the same tired arguments repeated and misspelled in that ancient tongue. There are discussions about equating Bush and Hitler, the American electoral college, whether America is a democracy or a republic, pacifism versus just war, and the injustice of the Walt Disney corporation, which allegedly forbids bathroom breaks to its employees.

Here are two samples:

Hoccine audiistis, an solum soletis audire Al Jaziram?

Quod ad Bush: idealem uel perfectum, minime uero. Sed ut Hitler? ut Caesar? Nihil ridiculius audiui!

Your Own Personal Missile Silo

Timothy Bendel often stamps "RKBA" on his work. It's an acronym for the Second Amendment "Right to Keep and Bear Arms."

"When you have the right to own and carry guns, you have all your other rights," he explains.

America is a great country. Here, Bendel is not only free to carry guns, but free to own an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile silo. He bought it on the Internet in March for less than $400,000, and recently gave me a tour. Built in 1960, it was on alert during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was decommissioned in 1965 as more advanced missiles came on line.

Bendel lives here with his wife in the former officers' quarters, 20 feet beneath the windswept plains northwest of Cheyenne. Bendel also works here with three partners in 15,000 square feet of reinforced concrete that once housed an Atlas-E missile with a nuclear warhead.
Missile silo is gateway to final frontier

Bendel's sister is a friend of mine, though I've only met him once or twice. I heard from her there was a successful test up at his facilities this summer which resulted in a pillar of fire. Supposedly this spooked some locals, but since it happened in Chugwater, Wyoming, it never made the news.

Here's his company website. I can't believe he got that missile silo for only $400K.

He says "If you want to live your life in a free way, you've got to get away from all this authority. Ultimately, you'll need to get off the planet." I didn't know he was such a Mal Reynolds type.

Charles Darwin As Social Darwinist

According to the myths of standard historiography, Darwin confined himself strictly to matters biological—even in The Descent of Man, when he finally came, late in life, to apply his theory to man's place in the evolutionary tree. So whatever damage came to the poor and downtrodden from Darwin's theory is due to others, above all Herbert Spencer. Here, in Spencer, can be found the villain of the piece: that second-rate thinker ruined a perfectly good biological theory by hijacking it for cutthroat capitalism, contempt for the poor, laissez-faire lassitude about social legislation, and so forth. Spencer, the claim goes, was the first to transpose ethics into evolutionary terms, defining as good whatever promoted the "progress" of evolution and as bad whatever hindered it.

Unfortunately for Darwin's own reputation, this thesis does not bear scrutiny. Spencer might well have been the first to coin the phrase "survival of the fittest." But Darwin enthusiastically adopted it in the 6th edition of his Origin of Species as a substitute term for "natural selection." Nor did he ever demur when other advocates of evolution's social application came pleading their case. Karl Marx asked if he might dedicate Das Kapital to Darwin, which request Darwin declined only because he did not want to offend the religious sensibilities of his deeply Christian wife.

Nor were Darwin's own musings on the social implications of his theory limited to private correspondence. In one particularly chilling passage in Descent of Man he asserted, "At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races." Even more ominously, this insouciantly expressed sentiment cannot be regarded as an illegitimate conclusion from the earlier and more reliable Origin of Species. In a passage historians often cite to prove that at the time of the Origin Darwin was still struggling to maintain his belief in God, Darwin actually, if unwittingly, promulgated the charter for all later social Darwinists: "Let the strongest live and the weakest die… . Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows." In effect, this passage turns Christian theodicy on its head and gives St. Paul's line "Death is swallowed up in victory" a total reversal of meaning. Victory now belongs only to the fittest.


In other words, William Jennings Bryan was right all along when he said that Darwinism helped "lay the foundation for the bloodiest war in history." He was obviously speaking of World War I, having no idea how much his words would be trumped by an even bloodier war between two camps of Darwinians, the Nazis and the Communists... Imagine! That poor, maligned, "fundamentalist" lawyer, who argued for the state of Tennessee and against evolution in the Scopes trial—he was the real prophet. And what can we say of his opposite number, Clarence Darrow, the lawyer for the pro-evolution biology teacher John Thomas Scopes and the spokesman for the sneering classes so beloved of H. L. Mencken? Not much except that he would have made a marvelous figure for Nietzsche's scorn. As Peter Berger says of him in A Rumor of Angels, Darrow was "an admirable man in many ways, but one dense enough sincerely to believe that a Darwinian view of man could serve as a basis of his opposition to capital punishment."

And so it continues today. All those baffled by "what's wrong with Kansas," that is, with why a constituency that would otherwise be so drawn to progressive politics continues to eschew it, have only to look to Weikart's history—and to Bryan's foresight against Darrow's insipid progress-happiness—to find their answer. If one were to draw any one single lesson from this woeful tale for contemporary politics it would be this: the stakes in the culture wars could not be higher.
Edward T. Oakes, Darwin's Graveyards

This is a review of Richard Weikart's From Darwin to Hitler. It was originally submitted to First Things, but a poor editorial decision went to a less worthy piece.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stupid Timing for an Anti-Illegal Raid

Greeley -- Special agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement executed civil search warrants at six Swift & Co. plants in the midwest and Colorado to break a large identity theft scheme. (Main Story)

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and many of the workers went to Mass before coming to work in massive beef-processing plant.


Draped in a Mexican flag with a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it, Lupe Tapia said, "This is a day we should all be celebrating. Instead we're in mourning.
Day of celebration turns to mourning

What genius of an agent decided that the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was a good day for a raid on illegals? On the ground, the date adds needless hostility to an already tense situation. It makes for bad press with sentimental stories such as the one above, complete with a woman, Lupe, who shares her name with the feast. Politically, this day creates a rallying symbol for illegals and their allies.

I'm almost a Buchananite on immigration, but this timing is boneheaded to the core.

Cesar Chavez's marching workers often used the Virgin's image in their activism. I even heard this history invoked today at my mostly-white church's feast day mass. Get a clue, government people. I bet only scheduling this raid for Cinco de Mayo could tick off Mexicans more.

Ignorance of religion causes political troubles not just abroad, but at home too.


Another invocation of Our Lady of Guadalupe:

A statue of the Virgin

Carrying a small statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Magdalena Mesa paced in front of the meat processing plant. She said her cousin worked at Swift for 11 years. She said she feared he might be deported. She would not comment on her legal status or what she does for a living.

"They don't have respect," she said of ICE agents. "They don't even respect holy days. Couldn't they have waited until the holidays were over?"

Mesa was one of hundreds of immigrants who attended the 5 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
If Satan troubles us
Jesus Christ
You who are the lion of the grasslands
You whose claws are sharp
Will tear out his entrails
And leave them on the ground
For the flies to eat.
-Afua Kuma
quoted by Phillip Jenkins, "Believing in the Global South," First Things, December 2006

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Early Music for the Ear

Sting has discovered early music.

Having teamed up with Serbian lute master Edin Karamazov, he has brought to the public a new interpretation of early music bard(and Catholic recusant) John Dowland. His take is certainly different than classical artists' interpretations, and to this point having only heard classically-trained singers interpret Dowland I am unsure what to make of his pop artist voice in a Renaissance mode. Yet from listening to his Come Again, I have to say that his approach works in its own way.

I applaud the man for making such an unusual creative effort, and I will make sure to get a copy of Songs from the Labyrinth.

His other YouTube offering, La Rossignol, is purely instrumental, and with the aid Karamazov it is a very fine performance. It recalls the version of the song played by the Martin Best Consort in Forgotten Provence, a wonderful re-creation of Troubadour music.

While browsing videos to find any other Early Musicians, I found one performance of one of Michael Praetorius' less energetic pieces. Praetorius collected music in vogue during the Seventeenth Century, and his Terpsichore collection contains several lively dances from this time.

Of course, this review of my early music favorites would be especially incomplete at this time of the year without mentioning The Carol Album, a fine set of Christendom Christmas traditionals, including an Old English carol and the original setting of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," whose tune differed from our contemporary version.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Local Blog: Denver Christian Docs

The Denver Christian Medical and Dental Association blog is run by an acquaintance of mine. A medical pathologist and Evangelical Christian, he attends the same First Things Readers' Group I do. He also has a regular hour on a local radio station.

Though he's a bit too captivated by the conservative punditry for my tastes, he is a sharp fellow capable of bringing his expertise to bear in some of the discussions at ROFTERS.

For instance, his own background in pathology has highlighted for him a great problem about human-animal chimeras created for research. He believes this cavalier blending of genetic material is a serious potential source for viral mutations. As even "test tube babies" are now found to have contaminated(but not yet malign) DNA from unsterile lab environments, biotech researchers might be cultivating new diseases as they try to cure old ones.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Lefty Millionaires Getting The Best Politics That Money Can Buy

National Review's December 4 print edition included a noteworthy article, "The Color Purple" by John J. Miller, covering on Colorado's lefty millionaires:
"The Rocky Mtn News calculated that Dems raised $4 million for friendly 527s, compared with $2.9 mil raised by Republicans."

"Three millionaire liberals are working the state's electoral levers. "They're trying to buy the political structure of the state," says Governor Owens. "Everywhere we look, we see their money and their resources." The ringleader is Tim Gill, the founder of Quark, a software firm; over the last decade, he has donated tens of millions to gay and lesbian causes.

His political activism dates back to 1992, when Colorado voters amended the state constitution to restrict certain gay-rights laws. "Nothing can compare to the psychological trauma of realizing that more than half the people in your state believe that you don't deserve equal rights," he once told the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Gill's allies are heiress Pat Stryker and dotcom entrepreneur Jared Polis. "If you were to put a gun to the head of most Dems, they couldn't tell you who their state chairman is," says one Colorado insider. "But they all know about these millionaires--each is like a mini-George Soros for Colorado.

"The mini-Soroses of Colorado aren't merely dabbling in elections--they're building a permanent infrastructure. "We are finally realizing that how we win is by creating an environment of fear and respect," boasted Gill adviser Ted Trimpa--described by one politico as "the Karl Rove of Colorado"--to the Bay Area Reporter, a gay newspaper in San Francisco earlier this year.

They've established several websites, including ColoradoPols.com, that have started to shape political coverage in the state. "I can't tell you how often reporters would call 36 hours after something appeared there," says Owens. They've also founded Colorado Media Matters, an offshoot of David Brock's national group of left-wing watchdogs. It currently employs about a dozen people. "That's more media critics than there are in the rest of the Colorado media combined," says David Kopel of the Independence Institute. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a liberal group that tries to publicize GOP scandals both real and fake, has a Colorado field office as well. Gill would even like to influence the GOP: He hired former Owens staffer and conservative-movement veteran Sean Duffy to work on the domestic-partnership referendum, and convinced Patrick Guerriero to resign as head of the Log Cabin Republicans in order to run the Gill Action Fund.


Potentially more important is Gill's determination to export the Colorado model. "If I can make a difference in Colorado, you can make a difference in your home state," he said earlier this year in Miami, at a meeting of financial heavyweights in the gay-rights movement, according to the Rocky Mtn News. To liberals, that may sound like a hope. Conservatives should hear it as a threat.

Lefty 527s include "Coloradoans for Life" and "Clear Peak Colorado."

The essay repeats without support onen allegation, unproven as far as I know, that coloradopols.com is funded by Gill, Polis, and others. This allegation made the light of day over a year ago, from Hans Gullickson of the Colorado GOP.

Tim Gill is a rather unimaginative chap. He believes "Nothing can compare to the psychological trauma of realizing that more than half the people in your state believe that you don't deserve equal rights." Apparently political finance is his therapeutic method of choice. Gill himself dumped millions into the 2006 ballot initiatives, one against Amendment 43, which was a successful anti-homosexual marriage proposition, and in favor of Referendum I, which was a failed and poorly written homosexual domestic partnership initiative.

He's also been busy in many other areas. I find via the Gill Foundation's Annual Report of 2005, that he has funded various endeavors.

Some academic grants caught my eye:
Chicago Theological Seminary $ 185,000; University of Denver/Colorado Seminary $16,000

Under Arts grants are listed the United Church of Christ, $25,000; University of Denver/Colorado Seminary $25,000; Colorado Council of Churches, $15,000

Under broadcasting we find the United Methodist Church of Estes Park which received $5,000

What particularly caught my eye was a $12,000 grant for the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. The organization endorsed its patron's favored Referendum I, and apparently condemned the marriage amendment.

Its president is Sister Maureen McCormack, a Catholic nun of the Sisters of Loretto in Englewood. Some of her sisters recently made some noise exposing their dubious relationship with Christian orthodoxy, already known to local Catholics.

Finally, in the course of researching this post I have learned that somebody attached my home parish's name to a list of Colorado churches supporting homosexual rights. This is quite false, but I think I know how this got started. Some parish apparatchiks published an endorsement of gay rights initiatives in the Sunday bulletin. They were rebuked by the pastor, who now has even more work to do. In addition to his other duties, he must make sure there aren't opportunistic hypocrites using parish bulletin space(and thus parish funding) to subvert Church teaching and the common good of society.

Several other Catholic parishes were included here, which suggests there is an organized opposition, probably Dignity/Denver, trying to co-opt local "liberal" parishes.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Fusionism" as Dysfunctional Marriage

Mr. Lindsey offers many excellent reasons not only for why libertarians should switch "sides" to join with their historic benefactors on the left but also why conservatives would have to be something very close to mad to keep wanting to appease and satisfy people who are fundamentally hostile to most of the things they actually wish to conserve. If fusionism were a marriage and you are playing the part of the traditionalist, the libertarian would be rather like the spouse who burns down the house, commits adultery and occasionally tries to run you down with the car, all the while continually threatening to leave you. "You’ll never find anyone else like me!" the spouse screams at you, which is fortunately true. To this the traditional traditionalist response has been, "Oh, no, please don’t go! We can work it out!"
-Daniel Larison

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bishop Loverde Against Pornocracy

Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington has penned a masterful pastoral letter against pornography, Bought With a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God

He pulls no punches:
Public officials have a responsibility to uphold and ennoble the standards of the communities which they serve. Protecting a billion dollar criminal enterprise which destroys the lives of both those depicted in pornography and those intended as audience through the excuse of protecting free speech is not service, but complicity. Public officials must work tirelessly to pass and enforce laws that contribute to a culture that respects the lives of all citizens.

This criminal enterprise known as the pornography industry is a crime against the helpless and the disaffected on whom it preys and an affront to a civilized populace. The continued toleration of this insidious toxic poison which hides itself under the guise of freedom of speech and freedom of conscience is contributing to the debasement of our culture and the victimization of our own children.

Free citizens have the right and the responsibility to form a culture that supports the life and the dignity and nobility of every person. Citizens should unite to demand laws which place reasonable restrictions on the depiction of the human body and human intimacy.

Where the pornographic mentality has invaded even mainstream media - and certainly, what is now offered on cable and even broadcast television increasingly approaches pornographic content, citizens must demand that public officials whose service is to regulate such media take immediate and effective action. Contrary to the self-serving defense of some media outlets, such actions are not censorship, but rather the demand for an end to the exploitation of persons and the degredation of public morality.


I turn with particular concern to my young brothers and sisters in Christ. I fear that the full burden of our culture's surrender to pornography will fall on your shoulders, both now and in years to come. Not only have you been targeted by this criminal enterprise as a source of financial gain, but you also have to endure the impoverished notion of intimacy that results from a culture that has confused love with self-gratification. Know first that God has destined you for a true and fully human love that finds its center not in manipulating others but in sharing and flourishing in a communion with your beloved.


The Beatitude's second part describes the reward for the pure of heart: they shall see God. Every Beatitude expresses some aspect of heaven - in this case, the vision of God. To "see God" has, first of all, a metaphorical meaning. It refers to the knowledge of God, the ability to "see" Him intellectually. Yet to "see God" or to possess the "vision of God" is not only an analogy of heaven. Rather, it has a profound literal sense as well. Because the human body will be raised on the last day, the just will literally "see" God with their own eyes. As such, to "see God" describes the ultimate longing of every human heart and the final purpose of human sight.

I'm moved to find this letter printed in a convenient pamphlet form and stock it in the parish literature.

Also of note, the paper of the Diocese of Colorado Springs recently featured a special section on the harm of porn and the avenues to recover from its effects.

Rev. Terry Specht notes in the comments: Copies of the Pastoral can be ordered from the Office of Communications at the Arlington Diocese. Please contact s.johnson@arlingtondiocese.org or communications@arlingtondiocese.org. I believe the cost of the letter (which is rather large) is $1.00/copy. There will also be short pamphlets with excerpts from the letter for couples and young people. These will cost considerably less.
Stephen Bainbridge discusses corporate chaplains

Populism, Perverted

But then the populist persuasion began to undergo a near fatal mutation from which it has yet to recover. In 1964, George Wallace took to the national stage burnishing familiar credentials by blasting "eastern money interests" and "bearded bureaucrats." But he tweaked the old formula by refocusing "us versus them" to segregation’s advantage: his little guy was white. By the time Wallace left the party—taking 10 million votes with him—he had translated populism from economic to social terms, breaking Democrats’ grip on working-class whites in the process. Toiling in the civil-rights vineyard, the Left anticipated a replacement constituency even as they too redefined roles—in reverse. Those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder previously designated "the people" were now cast as "the powerful" because of the color of their skin.
-Kara Hopkins, Return of the Native

Gerard Bradley on the Common Goods of Common Concepts

The Notre Dame School of Law's Professor Gerard V. Bradley spoke at the Archdiocese of Denver's Respect Life Conference on October 28, 2006. Alas, I'm only now getting around to recording my notes. Bradley discussed the interplay between law and culture, especially the legal regime instituted by Roe v. Wade.

He said that two of the most vital questions of law and life are: "Who is my neighbor"? To whom do I owe justice?

The idea of equality goes out the window if one manipulates who counts as equal. everyone gets treated equally, but we get to decide who "everyone" is.

Bradley spoke of Roe "cutting people off from society" because they inhibit the flourishing of the community. With consistency, he also noted that Thomas Aquinas made a similar argument for the death penalty, saying
For this reason we observe that if the health of the whole body demands the excision of a member, through its being decayed or infectious to the other members, it will be both praiseworthy and advantageous to have it cut away. Now every individual person is compared to the whole community, as part to whole. Therefore if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good, since "a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump"

Bradley also noted the necessity of abortion to the success of feminism in the workplace. He pointed out that the Supreme Court reasoned against overturning Roe v. Wade precisely because it would hinder women's equaltiy:
The Roe rule's limitation on state power could not be repudiated without serious inequity to people who, for two decades of economic and social developments, have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail. The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.
-Planned Parenthood vs. Casey

Bradley held that the question "when do people begin?" should be same question as "When do people begin for purposes of legal protection?" The dualism between legal persons and real persons is ultimately pernicious, enabling the subjection of the weak to the strong.

His most insightful commentary came, I believe, when he examined how common conceptions can be common goods. He concentrated on marriage and the impact of its changing definition over time:

Think, for example, of what happened about forty years ago, about '65-'70. If you can remember that long ago, you know that there was a revolution in American law. It was called the "No Fault Divorce" revolution. In the space of literally about six years, we went from a national pattern of divorce only for fault(abandonment, adultery, cruelty mental or physical). It probably was true that you had what amounts to a mutually agreeable divorce, where one or the other party, probably the husband, would lie in court and admit some abuse that didn't really happen.

Be that as it may, the law was divorce only for fault. Within about seven years or so, that was just gone.
Now think about that.

Even those people after this revolution--if you have kids or grandkids who are twenty today, how hard is it for them to come to actually believe and stand with the proposition of the faith "Marriage is permanent." The law changes rapidly, divorce becomes more common, divorce is nobody's fault, and it's OK for the kids too, we told ourselves.
Now it's a pattern. It's not as if the law is making anyone get a divorce, but the understanding that marriage is not permanent, not unconditional, that understanding is now our common property.

The debate about same-sex marriage is a similar kind of thing. People who are advocates of same-sex marriage say, "you don't have to marry the same sex, just let others."

What's at stake in that debate is whether marriage will have a definitional standing in our legal culture, of having any necessary relationship with kids. When you say men can marry men, women can marry women, a man can marry a woman too, but they'll all be married. That means they'll all get involved with marriage, and given what we do know, that a lesbian couple and a gay couple can't have children of their own, that means marriage is no longer intrinsically, that is, necessarily, about children. That's what's at stake in the same-sex marriage debate. That's the part of it that affects all of us.
I fear that I give this same presentation twenty years from now, my example won't be divorce, but kids and marriage. I'll say to you then, think about your kids or grandkids who are twenty-two. Do they understand that marriage is a procreative relationship? A conjugal union?

They might grow up in a society in which people grow up and get married, and it's clear that not only because of same-sex marriage but for other reasons too, that kids really are optional. Some parents do it, some don't, it's for them to judge, it's what they want.

Now that's what affects all of us. Make the legal change, you change the definition of marriage in law--divorce, kids, same-sex marriage--that becomes a common cultural property before long.

Bradley also critiqued a few strategies for reducing abortion.

First is the school which says "Change the culture; then the law, educate, then legislate." This attitude, as well as the view adovcating the opposite order, suffers from a chicken-egg problem, thinking it has to be one first, then the other.

"We have to educate, change the culture, and attack the root causes of abortion" goes a pro-choice, and even some pro-life arguments.

But what are the root cause of unwanted pregnancies?

Not fornication, nor even a lack of personal responsibility

Rather, the root cause of abortion demand is people who have sexual relations, but nonetheless have no interest in having children.

Bradley also held that the idea that pregnancies, as things go, are either wanted or unwanted, is also a root cause. To think that pregnancies are called into being, and a pregnancy not consciously called into being is therefore terminable, is at last to think against humanity. Children are "begotten, not made," unexpected and undesigned gifts rather than simply extensions of adult plans.

Bradley, himself a father, referred to his own life: "I have eight kids. Let's put it this way: I'm not so sure the kids I have are the kids I wanted." The habit of pregnancy at-will cannot be sustained without compromising the nature of parenthood and unconditional love.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Were you there when they Marketed My Lord?

Were you there when they marketed my Lord?

by Kevin J. Jones

Were you there when they marketed my Lord?
Were you there when they marketed my Lord?
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they marketed my Lord?

Were you there when they focus-grouped His Word?
Were you there when they focus-grouped His Word?
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they focus-grouped His Word?

Were you there when they rewrote His True Life?
Were you there when they rewrote His True Life?
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they rewrote His True Life?

Were you there when they mammonized His Birth?
Were you there when they mammonized His Birth?
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they mammonized His Birth?

Were you there when they marketed my Lord?
Were you there when they marketed my Lord?
Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they marketed my Lord?

My accolades to the anonymous artists who wrote the original. I hope these new lyrics are not themselves a manifestation of the culture of irreverent relevance.

This has been percolating in my mind for some time, but the impious Hyundai commercial that changed "We wish you a Merry Christmas!" to "We wish you a happy Hyundais" prompted me to set it down. [Correction: It was actually Honda.]

I think it is quite applicable to pop-theology "The Real Historical Jesus" articles penned every Advent in Time and Newsweek to sell badly-written books by the Jesus Seminar.

Originally posted 11/28/05
His Orotundity George Will turns Miss Manners on senator-elect James Webb's alleged boorishness in the presence of the President.
"Never mind the patent disrespect for the presidency."

Provided one is not in the military or an employee of the executive branch, patent disrespect for the presidency should be the default position.
"In a republic, people decline to be led by leaders who are insufferably full of themselves."

This had me in stitches. Doesn't this sound more like a line from Christopher Buckley than George Will? Self-aggrandisment is a prerequisite for office.

Of course, the laughter dies quickly. To invoke the republic is to mourn its loss.

Gene Healy reacted to many of the same lines, and Daniel Larison comments further.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Absolutist and Arbitrary Secularism

Two International Herald-Tribune writers, previously mentioned here for confusing their Roman emperors, have redeemed themselves with a short but substantive examination of Pope Benedict's visit to Turkey in an article titled Benedict's post-secular vision.

Benedict opposes secularism because it is both absolute and arbitrary. In the name of being neutral with regard to values, secular ideology eliminates all rival world views from the public sphere. By denying the existence of objective moral truths, it elevates self- assertion as the measure of all things. Social life is reduced to the arbitration of conflicting self-interest — a process in which the most powerful always win.

Ultimately, this arbitrary absolutism produces a society ruled by an unholy alliance of utilitarian ethics and the proxy politics of the managerial class. This collusion destroys the very idea of common action and a binding collective discernment. Thus does the pope attribute the failure of Europe's common political project to the growing secularization of European culture.

They also write:
It is important to realize, however, that Benedict recognizes a mutual problem in this explicit project of religious realignment around shared critiques and common discernment. Secular conceptions of race, state and nation have corrupted all the faiths, too often turning them into a vehicle for nationalism or racism.

The advancement of religion for political or cultural gain, what Remi Brague has called "christianism," is omnipresent in today's discussions of religion and sometimes more pernicious than outright secularism. People are compelled by secular habits to make utilitarian justifications for religious belief in hopes of maintaining the respect, or at least the awareness, of those who do not share their religion. Some fall into the trap of seeking converts for the benefit of demographic expansion or national vitality, rather than out of love for others in order to glorify God. Such insincere corruptions of Christian evangelism warrant great and purifying attention.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Looking for Ockham's Razor

via Lex Communis, an essay arguing that the medieval scholastic William of Ockham never said "Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity," tracing the geneaology of the idea.

I am under the impression that under medieval nominalists' principle of parsimony, which shirked multiplying seemingly unnecessary entities such as Aristotelian essences, the only necessary cause was God. A fire lights dry wood? No inherent properties in the fire or the wood are necessary to explain the phenomenon. God did it, and it is only the constancy of his will that makes this fire-lighting a regular coincidence.

I doubt that this interpretation of Ockham would be welcomed by those who invoke his name today.
This is why there is a boom in self-help books such as mine, and Eats, Shoots And Leaves, Lynne Truss's surprise hit of Christmas 2004, which instructs you about grammar and punctuation and has now sold three million copies. The success of authors like us depends on education's failure.
-Harry Mount, author of Amo, Amas, Amat And All That

American Casualties in Iraq Undercounted?

Daniel Nichols at Caelum et Terra recounts a conversation with a fellow parishoner, an Army combat medic just back from Iraq:
He confirmed what I had heard, that the official numbers of American dead are far too low, that if someone is wounded in Iraq but dies in a hospital in Germany, he is only counted as wounded and not as a battlefield death.

I hadn't thought about this before, but media reports are careful to specify "combat deaths" when statistics are involved. Nothing about later deaths from wounds, not to mention accidents, other medical deaths, and suicides.

Is there a watchdog group compiling more truthful statistics?

May they rest in peace.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

St. Brigid’s Prayer

I'd like to give a lake of beer to God.
I'd love the Heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.

I'd love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I'd put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.

White cups of love I'd give them,
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I'd offer
To every man.

I'd make Heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I'd make the men contented for their own sake
I'd like Jesus to love me too.

I'd like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around,
I'd give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.

I'd sit with the men, the women of God
There by the lake of beer
We'd be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.

I was surprised to find that I had not posted this wonderful little representation of divine inebriation. I first discovered this in Noirin ni Riain's version on her album Vox de Nube.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Unintended Consequences are Inescapable

Anyone who has ever studied the history of American diplomacy, especially military diplomacy, knows that you might start in a war with certain things on your mind as a purpose of what you are doing, but in the end, you found yourself fighting for entirely different things that you had never thought of before. In other words, war has a momentum of its own and it carries you away from all thoughtful intentions when you get into it.
-George F. Kennan
Quoted by Mark Danner, Iraq: The War of the Imagination New York Review of Books
via Mark Shea

Friday, November 24, 2006

My Home Parish Makes the Nebraska News. Why?

I'm a few days late to the story on the Catholic Diocese of Lincoln discussing its complaints and plaudits from "liberals" and "conservatives," respectively. For me, it would be unremarkable except that it mentions my home parish:

Louise Baskin, who grew up in the Lincoln Diocese but moved to Colorado nine years ago, said when she began attending a Catholic church in Arvada, Colo., “it was the first time I understood that Mass was a celebration, not solemn, quiet and reverent.”


Baskin disagrees that allowing girls to be altar servers will discourage boys from becoming priests. “Here in Colorado we have an equal number of girls and boys. No one feels left out.”

Her church in Arvada is large, but builds close relationships among parishioners through what she called “small church communities” that meet in people’s homes. Her parish priest gave a talk supporting evolution but also examining the claims of creationism and is planning another on stem cell research.

Much as I lament the fact, Spirit of Christ indeed lacks reverence, silence, and solemnity in most of its Sunday masses except for the earliest one on Sunday morning. If anything, the parish seems to celebrate itself. A parish that has a mission statement is already compromised by the managerial mentality. When its mission statement begins with the words "We, the diverse members of this vibrant Catholic Community..." one wonders who its focus really is.

I myself lack Mrs. Baskin's enthusiasm for altar girls. There is an ugly story to tell about how Spirit of Christ got its way on altar servers. I hope this isn't dirty laundry, but when the ban on altar girls was initially affirmed, there were some murmurings on how this was only done because of those priests in Africa who, unlike us, needed an all-male server corps to train apprentices for the priesthood. The pastor at the time gave a homily at mass where he smarmily declared "if we cannot have altar girls, we will have no altar servers at all." Most of the parish gave a standing ovation, including me. I was perhaps ten, and no way did I want to face any pressure to become an altar server.

That petty self-righteous disobedience does not speak well on the parish's fundamental health. My one sibling who served at the altar after the restoration of co-ed servers is now an apostate. I doubt the two are unrelated.

But back to the story: what caught my eye about this article is that the priest mentioned hasn't been at that parish for six months. His evolution talk wasn't very good in the first place, resembling a report copied from a high school textbook. It lacked any historical sense or theological nuance, and merely jumped upon the anti-creationist bandwagon. He also made some grievous science errors, such as believing that carbon dating is a reliable method for dating ancient fossils.

Worse, he played to the crowd, and precipitated my abandoning the Sunday liturgy at that parish. One Sunday, the Gospel reading was the parable of the wedding garment. He processed in wearing over his vestments an abominable sportsjacket and a poorly-tied tie, continuing to wear it like a preening starlet up through the end of the homily. At its close, he was applauded.

I did not acquit myself well in reacting to this gross irreverence, but I am better for having left for a more traditional parish for Sunday mass. Spirit of Christ's new pastor seems much improved, though I still cannot tolerate the Sunday mass.

To return to the point, this pastor decided to enter a monastery after only one year in the parish. As I said, he left in June. This article was printed in November. How long have these journalists been working on this story?

I also wonder how they decided to contact this particular Arvada woman. Perhaps she is a friend of the journalists, or has some connection to the Call to Action sectaries who wanted to provide sources to the writers. How did Spirit of Christ end up in a story in Nebraska?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Disney's Mary Poppins: Hippie Propaganda

The 1964 Disney movie “Mary Poppins,” for example, treated adulthood as if it should be another form of childhood. Mary Poppins’s job, after teaching the Banks children that any job can be fun if you pour enough sugar over it, is to teach their father that the right dose might even dissolve the job altogether. Mr. Banks learns that the British Empire, its banks and many other manifestations of authority should be undermined, or at least taken less seriously. Life would be better if parents allowed themselves to dance like chimney sweeps and fly kites in the park. They shouldn’t just pay more attention to their children; they should become more like them. The movie’s liberatory spirit is, of course, out of the heart of the 1960s.
-Edward Rothstein, NYTimes

Non-Voluntarists a Majority in Islam

via Laodicea, a brief but rather meaty response to the pope's Regensburg speech:
The Pope acknowledges a spectrum of Catholic views but cites only one Islamic thinker, Ibn Hazm of Cordova, whose view of an essentially non-rational, capricious God was rejected by virtually every other Muslim. Far from teaching an irrational obedience to a non-rational deity, mainstream Islamic theology insists on the systematic use of reason, since the Koran itself asks its audience to deduce the existence of God from his orderly signs in nature. Of the two schools of Sunni orthodoxy, Ash’arism and Maturidism, the latter—the orthodoxy of perhaps 80 per cent of Muslims—is particularly insistent on the rationality of God’s actions.
Abdal Hakim Murad

Saudi Slaver Conviction in Colorado Gets Hacks', Diplomats' Attention

Some media hack named Debbie Schlussel is going after the Colorado Secretary of State for his visit to Saudi Arabia to explain our justice system in the aftermath of the conviction of one Homaidan al-Turki. al-Turki was convicted by an Arapahoe County court of keeping an Indonesian woman as his household slave, whom he raped several times during her captivity.

The only positive contribution Schlussel makes seems to be this link to the al Turki Fanclub. Otherwise she's just trying to manufacture a controversy.

Islamic law requires four witnesses for proof of rape, so the conviction seemed to them mere bigotry. Further, on the local radio show Caplis and Silverman Suthers claimed that al-Turki is the son of a prominent imam in either Mecca or Medina. This controversy deserved serious diplomatic attention, and I hope Suthers acquitted himself well. The easily-enraged Schlussel certainly did not.

Nature and Creation: Conceptually Distinct?

Lee at Verbum Ipsum reviews David B. Hart's The Doors of the Sea:
That view, he argues, is that "nature" as we know it is not to be identified with "creation." The God of Christianity is a God of perfect self-giving love, and creation reflects its creator in being peaceful, harmonious, and beautiful. "Nature," by contrast
is everywhere attended -- and indeed preserved -- by death. All life feeds on life, each creature must yield its place in time to another, and at the heart of nature is a perpetual struggle to survive and increase at the expense of other beings. It is as if the entire cosmos were somehow predatory, a single great organism nourishing itself upon the death of everything to which it gives birth, creating and devouring all things with a terrible and impressive majesty. Nature squanders us with such magnificent prodigality that it is hard not to think that something enduringly hideous and abysmal must abide in the depths of life.

Not without foundation, it seems, Lee suspects a hint of gnosticism. I really need to get this book.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Spencer Tracy's _The Last Hurrah_

The hope of the future: a mealy-mouthed maneuverable piece of dough. Is this the best we can do?

This McCluskey. Is he typical of what we are turning out of our colleges these days? Is he a specimen of this educated young laity I keep hearing so much about, but never seem to encounter?
-Cardinal Martin Burke, "The Last Hurrah," 1958

The cardinal is speaking here of a young empty suit supported by business interests trying to unseat the four-term mayor Frank Skeffington in The Last Hurrah, an excellent classic previously known to me only for its pithy title's ubiquity. Spencer Tracy plays to near-perfection the character of an old Irish political boss. Though not above threats and a bit of blackmail in the service of his constituents, Skeffington's blustery populist hardball seems preferable in many ways to the McCluskey character, a prettyboy of no declared positions whose image is evocative of John Edwards and other young "rising stars."

As the title suggests, the John Ford-directed film is blatantly sympathetic to the old ways over the new campaigns, which in Ford's view eschew personal flattery, personal intimidation, and personal profit for scripted, rootless mass-media campaigns no more principled, and much less beneficial to the body politic. The old ethnic politicking between Jews, Irish, and Italians in alliance against the WASP elite makes one downright nostalgic for times when whites had tribal ghettoes, too.

Having a relative in politics myself, though one far more ethical than the lovable thug Skeffington, I recognized in this fifty-year-old portrayal of party politics some of the same personalities: the alpha candidate's hangers-on, always hoping success will rub off on their campaigns, or the admiring "Friends of Candidate X" attracted by the overpowering charisma of a career politician who seems to know and to care about everybody in his electorate.

Recommended, especially for sentimental Irish-Americans.

A Father's Love

A touching story from the father of a boy with Down's Syndrome:

At the hospital, when they discovered on the scan that Down's syndrome was a possibility, they very kindly offered to kill him for us. They needn’t have bothered. My wife is, unlike myself, an exceptional person in the field of loving and caring.


This was not negotiable. It sounds, I know, a little dreadful to put it this way. Certainly, I lack the courage to stand between Cindy and someone she loves. The Devil himself lacks that sort of courage. Had life turned out differently, had I been married to another, had that woman preferred to go the way of amniocentesis and termination, I have no doubt that I would have gone along with that, too, and treated parents of Down's syndrome children with a lofty pity.

But, thank God, I did not marry someone else. And that left me with a straightforward choice.
Simon Barnes, "I'm not a saint, just a parent"

Monday, November 20, 2006

Wikipedia vs. Human Nature

I often find criticism of Wikipedia more interesting than Wikipedia itself. Case in point, Jason Scott's speech on the Wiki project:

Jimbo Wales is a Randian Objectivist. This means that in his particular interpretation of that philosophical thought, he does not like to interfere, he likes to give general ideas, he likes to trust in people, and he likes that the truth, that the truth represents an honest objective entity that cannot be questioned. A is A. That is to say, if somebody says "this is blue", no amount of your stupid liberal whining is going to make it not blue. That's the theory behind that aspect of Randian Objectivism.

What he did with Wikipedia was, put forward a number of very simple credos: Wikipedia will have a neutral point of view; Wikipedia will always cite it's sources; Wikipedia will never be an original source of information; and then said: "Go with it."


When we look at something old (I'll leave it with this thought) when we look at something old, when you walk into an old church, when you walk into a place, and you find say a handrail, and your hand goes down, your hand goes down and touches the handrail. You do not find the hand rail up here, you do not find the handrail down here. This is because at some point, somebody who was a designer, who was an architect, looked at where human beings were, and put the handrail where human beings are, so that a hundred years from now, four hundred years from now you can still put your hand there.

That is an important design aesthetic, sometimes that is forgotten. Things where they forget that, for instance when language is written, which is full of hype and horror and whatever else, say in the 19th century talking about -- "oh, in the future airships will do this and there will be wondrous wires and you can..." -- those words are forgotten, they weren't designed for human beings, they were designed to sell a

When Wikipedia started out, Wikipedia was designed for an idea, a theoretical idea. An idea of human knowledge edited by everybody, with no idea of how human beings actually are. Over time, Wikipedia is becoming an accurate handrail, it's letting people now put their hand where it is, and it's not the place that I think Jimbo Wales expected it was going to be.

via Deep Furrows

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Against A Content-Free Legal Regime

A worthy article from Cardinal George:

Law and culture stand in a complex dialectical relationship. Neither comes first; neither comes last. Law contributes massively to the formation of culture; culture influences and shapes law. Inescapably, inevitably, law and culture stand in a mutually informing, formative, and reinforcing relationship. For this reason and many others, the liberal ideal of governmental .neutrality. on contested cultural-moral issues, allegedly leaving everyone free to pursue their own private visions of the good and thus attain personal fulfillment, is an illusion. It amounts either to nonsense, or it masks an ideology of social engineering.


Even by its absence, law can shape culture in destructive ways. The law.s refusal to interfere with the institution of slavery helped to establish and maintain a culture corrupted by an ideology of racial superiority and inferiority. The law.s refusal to protect the unborn similarly shapes and hardens a culture corroded by the treatment of
unborn human beings as nonpersons, lacking the right to life that for the rest of us is protected by law.

It is simply a myth to suppose that the retreat of law necessarily enhances freedom. The cultural structures people sometimes face in the absence of law can leave them anything but free. Is your teenage daughter truly free to engineer her own pattern of courtship? Can she call forth a corresponding attitude on the parts of the young men of her acquaintance who are potentially eligible to her as mates? How free is she to be the chaste young woman she should be and you want her to be? Would she not be freer in a world in which accepted understandings and expectations supported, rather than hindered, her natural desire to be treated with dignity by young men who present themselves to her as possible romantic partners?
Francis Cardinal George, "Law and Culture," Ave Maria Law Review(PDF)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nothing New Under The Sun

It appears that semi-fluent.com had a less user-friendly predecessor that is now nearly derelict. Ah, well, it's not like I was looking for a patent anyway.

The Ivy Life: Ross Douthat's Privilege

I never took the time to plug Ross Douthat's Privilege, an excellent memoir of his Harvard years. His glimpses into the world of the overclass are enlightening, and a bit disillusioning. Harvard, it seems, is hardly an academic juggernaut as far as its undergraduates are concerned. I was perversely pleased that Douthat and I share the same complaints of a superficial, unsystematic educational regimen, only I was fortunate enough to receive my education at perhaps a tenth of the cost at the University of Colorado.

But who besides aspiring intellectuals goes to college for an education? Douthat's depiction of Ivy League social life is the real meat of the story. His visits to posh parties at the Harvard clubs, those supreme social networks, reveal both Douthat's reverse snobbery and his outsider's anxious craving to enter the inner sanctum as if one who belongs there. In his accounts of such events he is self-consciously nolens volens, covetous of high privilege while feeling he should really be disdaining the shows of the elite.

Douthat does not gain a club membership(which seems to have done no harm to his journalism career--he now writes for The Atlantic Monthly), but the rigors of high society are evident throughout the book. The mix of competitive upper-middle-class meritocrats and spendthrift scions can be poisonous. One rising college star, a young woman from flyover country, manages to compete with the old money on campus only by embezzling one hundred thousand dollars from a university theater troupe to fund her lavish parties.

Yet that campus socialite's fall is in Douthat's view symptomatic of far deeper problems at Harvard. While the old elite at least recognized their place at society's peak was somewhat accidental, the meritocracy has no such humility. Meritocratic culture encourages a sense of ruthless entitlement since it "indoctrinates its students in a religion of success, and seduces them, oh so subtly, with the promise that what they have is theirs by right of talent." And elsewhere: "The modern elite's rule is regarded not as arbitrary but as just and right and true, at least if one follows the logic of meritocracy to its unspoken conclusion." Though this ethos is subconscious, it is reinforced by the lack of acknowledgment that their careful grooming begins even in infancy with the privileges of wealth: selective schooling, private tutoring, and family networks.

The mores of this elite are libertine, but its members are too careerist to let such a lifestyle ultimately interfere with their personal advancement. Though the scare tactics of sex ed are less effective on the less well-to-do, for the overachievers of the Ivy League the prospect of a ruined future among the powerful is fearsome indeed. Douthat writes: "we don't get pregnant young or married too early, we don't get STDs, we don't have abortions--though we find it comforting to know that we always could, if it came to that." The consequences of such licentiousness among the less fortunate are known to the privileged only in the increased opportunities for charitable(and resume-padding) service work among the shattered families of America.

The educational system only reinforces this collapse of values. Even when truth is a criterion, "the only absolute truth that the upper class accepts these days is the truth of the market." Postmodern fads in Harvard's history and English departments have crippled the response of anti-capitalist progressives, and this is not entirely a good thing. The professoriate's patina of skeptical philosophy can only extend so far among the wealthy, and, as Douthat says, this outlook "amounts to a tacit acceptance of capitalism's ruthless insistence that only science is important, only science really pursues truth, because only science has tangible, quantifiable, potentially profitable results."

But Ross Douthat's book is not entirely glum. The active and inquisitive student can actually find a decent education at Harvard. So, too, can he even find professors who don't contemn undergraduates as a hindrance to their research. There's even some outright comedy: Douthat relates an anecdote about skinny-dipping with the aged William F. Buckley, Jr., and afterwards talking politics, whiskey, and cigars aboard his yacht.

The very mention of Buckley, the conservative movement's last patriarch, prompts comparisons to Buckley's debut book God and Man at Yale. Buckley was eccentric enough to believe that his 1950s Yale was sidelining Christianity, patriotism, and sound education in favor of agnostic, anti-American scholastic trifles. Buckley's focus on the now-faded Christian sympathies of the American academy deserves a follow-up.

Though Douthat, a Catholic like Buckley, mentions both God and Man at Yale and Harvard's religious atmosphere, or lack thereof, his treatment of religion as such is too cursory. Considering the graduates of his alma mater adflicta are now dealing with the highly religious problem of militant Islam, perhaps a second book is in order.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We [Americans] were a fellowship of "the Book" and took all government and political philosophy--even the Constitution--to be practical and unworthy of mention in the same breath with Holy Scripture. Politics might, within reason, be tested against revealed truth. But we never imagined more than a tangency for the political and the sacred?never a holy beginning or conclusion by politics.
-M.E. Bradford, quoted by Daniel Larison

Monday, November 13, 2006

Jean Duchesne on Christian Cultural Renewal

I've already recorded Jean Duchesne's remarks on European Muslim Demographics. He also spoke eloquently about cultural penetration and the paucity of Christian creativity:
The problem for us, if we take for a moment a more realistic view, is not that what we believe is not said, because we [do] say it. The problem is rather why it is not heard. Is it not heard because, I would say, not enough people repeat it. And when I say people, this is absolutely accurate, because everything is not repeated enough. In other words, we do not have enough media power. When I say media, that does not mean television programs. That does not mean shouting[?] in the blogosphere. That means what can we do for other people, and under the cross, to reflect, to reclaim, what we know is the truth and the mystery of Christ.

...in my opinion, the real question is how to make sure that the Christian vision of the world, the Christian ideals, are not only expressed directly, as a matter of personal testimony, but is really present, even if it half-explicit, even if it is downright implicit, in the works of art, the cinema, music, museums, etc. In other words, the culture has changed a lot, and my question is, what are we doing to use that culture?

We know already that our testimonies are both necessary and insufficient, and we also know that our traditional specific media, the Catholic media, are necessary and insufficient. The problem for us is to get out. This is not a question of good will, it is not a question of money, even, it is a question of creativity. And I think that praying for a renewing and the refining of the presence of the Christian mystery in today's culture, taking on the means it currently uses, prayers for that intention are perhaps a priority.

Duchesne's speculation that a lack of repetition might impede the progress of Christian belief reveals that in some sense Christian conversion and aedification is often the result of a habit. If true, the Christian message is being blocked out not only by willful sin, but also the white noise of commerical society, its Hericlitean flux of words, imagery, and ideas. When the phrase "Jesus saves" is outnumbered by phrases like "Jesus was a New Age hippie," "Jesus was a fine teacher," and "Jesus was killed for being a political revolutionary," the static obscures the signal. The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

The iconography en masse of our age induces habits at once hyperactive and superficial. It creates an antipathy towards contemplation and, in spite of the intense regimentation of modern life, renders ordered living most difficult. A habitual consideration of the person of Christ becomes even more arduous than it was in less saturated times.

Duchesne's analysis also suggests plenty of problems in the Evangelical Ghetto and its would-be Catholic imitations(this means you, LifeTeen). Rather than having, for instance, a coffee shop where Christian claims are implicit and taken for granted in the atmosphere, the current trend is to put up a microphone for the born-again yesterday, play subtlety-impaired Christian music, and tarnish the Lord's name by using it in your shop name and logo. Such derivative ventures suggest that the Christian imagination has been usurped by mere imitation.

Call it the mimetic captivity of the church. As Hank Hill noted, "Can't you see you're not making Christianity better, you're just making ________ worse?"

Don't start up a new coffee-shop or a rock band. Invent the next coffee-shop phenomenon or the newest innovative musical style. Create something beautiful for God and, like a good Catholic, baptize it in its infancy. Make secular people(like the megachurch-coveting Daily Kos) look enviously upon your cultural works and institutions. Render secular art the domain of inauthentic knock-off artists. Make certain non-Christians prissily sniff at the Christian subtexts, as some Christians now sniff at subtexts in the secular media even while admiring that media's artistic prowess.

Most of all, forget the Next Big Thing of the Moment. You should be too busy generating good ideas to notice.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pornifying the Innocent

Throw the Borat in the Stocks, in the Stocks.

And those South Park guys, too. They give censorship a good name.

As I was reading the article, I suspected the actor Cohen would be mistaken for an American. Yep.

Luca, who now refers to Baron Cohen as to the 'ugly, tall, moustachioed American man', even though the 35-year-old comedian is British

Can I get a "Videtur Quod," a "Sed Contra," and a "Respondeo" vintage?

Aquinas Napa Valley Wine via Right Reason

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jean Duchesne Speaks Against Steynian Panicmongering

Jean Duchesne, French theologian and religious thinker, recently lectured at the Archdiocese of Denver. An advisor to cardinals and a significant force behind the theological journal Communio, his opinions are most worthy of consideration. Duchesne's lecture(now available in .MP3) is supposed to be posted soon on the ArchDen website, so I will discuss more about his excellent and lively speech later.

In the Q & A period, one audience member asked about the future of a Muslim-controlled France. Obviously, she was a reader of Mark Steyn whose prognostications of demographic implosion enjoy popularity in conservative circles.

Monsieur Duchesne replied:

Let us be serious. One of the greatest disservices we can do to ourselves is to overestimate Islam in every respect. Currently, since Marxism was easier to define, it was easier to know. Approximately eight percent of the European population is of Muslim origin. If you go by the same standards, eighty percent now are Christians. So there is a great variety within the muslim world. And so please, don't forget one thing: What does Islam mean? Islam means war!

If two Muslims get together, you can call the ambulance. In Iraq, anywhere, there is no unity. So the idea, you cannot, it is wrong, it is simply to panic, to consider that Islam is the global[?] unity with Osama Bin Laden sitting as chairman of their political bureau.. No, absolutely not. But still a number of Muslims are being integrated, and that is not always good news. They're just simply secularizing.

On the other hand, on many issues, we Catholics find ourselves hard to acknowledge we find ourselves saying the same things as the Imams concerning [jobs?] abortions, euthanasia, and other things. So there are things, not everything and anything, that are progressing. And if simply becoming an observant Muslim can save a young man from the French suburbs from yielding to the temptations of violence, drugs or pornography or both, where is the problem?

Once more, there is no such thing as organized Islam coming to take power in Europe. What many see, of course, is demographics. Well, you know, it will take time before eight percent of the population becomes forty percent.

And then, again, to cite another number out there, Islam, in the majority if we look at the current trends, will, fortunately or unfortunately I don't know, have been integrated with the secularized, which is not necessarily a good thing.

Though his accent and the quality of the recording prevented me from recording the rest of the answer verbatim, its gist was that Islamic countries usually require police states simply to avoid anarchy, and that police state, not Sharia, would be the threat of a large, activist, strife-ridden Islamic population in Europe.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


"The way I personally was treated by the leftist poetry world in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq is one of the things that helped convince me to support the war."
-Jody Bottum

Globalizing Commercial Hyperbole

Zenbei ga naita -- literally, "the entire United States wept." [The phrase] means nothing important.

One might be moved to wonder how the above expression could possibly take on such an unrelated meaning. After checking the blogs, your reporter came up with this explanation: When many U.S. films open in Japan, they are accompanied by posters claiming that American viewers were moved to tears. But the such films have little emotional impact on viewers here. So Japanese filmgoers have learned, apparently, to disregard such promotional claims as largely meaningless.
via Language Log

Monday, November 06, 2006

Anti-Marriage Radicals Pushing For Gay Marriage

Three months ago, radical polyamorists signed and published a document pushing for their agenda, Beyond Same-Sex Marriage.

I promptly forgot about that statement until today, when I discovered via Eve Tushnet that NRO's Stanley Kurtz has written two responses to this document: Part I, Part II

A sample:
Bronski said that he and his fellow family radicals were tired of being treated like "skunks at a garden party" for honestly owning up to their radical reasons for supporting gay marriage. Bronski then told the story of a radio appearance in which his conservative opponent had claimed that gay marriage would "change society as we know it." Instead of denying it, Bronski agreed with this family traditionalist that gay marriage would indeed provoke a broader cultural transformation, adding that this was a good thing. "That afternoon," Bronski recalled, "I received a barrage of e-mails from marriage equality supporters complaining that I had committed a major faux pas and should not do media on the issue of marriage again unless I was willing to state the "official" marriage equality line, which is that gay marriage is about nothing more than equal rights for couples who love one another."

Kurtz analyzes the self-censorship of the radicals and their cynical alliances with earnest, if deluded, pro-gay marriage liberals out to tame homosexual relationships.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The historical logic of torture?

I think it's actually wrong to say that the recent efforts to abolish the right of habeas corpus and to legalize torture are driven by fear; that would be more understandable. What's more frightening is the idea that the people who propose these policies believe there is some kind of historical logic that justifies them. Once you start down that road, you can justify anything.
Joshua Foa Dienstag

I'm unclear what historical logic Dienstag has in mind. The optimistic logic of happy talk? I've focused almost entirely on fear as an explanation of pro-torture, anti-habeas corpus policy. I haven't seen democratization or "anti-islamofascist" sentiment per se invoked to justify such action.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Euthanize conscience, and the rest will follow

Forbes Turns a Critical Eye on Microcredit

But skeptics counter that women borrow from other sources to repay the loans. That often means resorting to moneylenders--or loans from friends and family--to pay back the microloan and vice versa, trapping them in a cycle of debt.

I have been wondering why men were never the targets for microcredit loans. Apparently the movement is also pushing Western-style feminism, which of couse backfires:
This means that microcredit's other goal--to empower women in highly patriarchal societies--isn't always achieved, either. In Tumkur, a city outside Bangalore, a group of women received $30 loans. They stood in a circle, placed their hands on the money and pledged to use their loans to launch businesses. But afterward, each handed the money to her husband, and the men started the businesses. Since the women are responsible for repaying the loan, they suffer the consequences if their husbands squander the money.

I don't see why microcredit activists need to tack on to an economic development program a merely decades-old Western feminist ideology of empowerment. If the women are giving the money to their husbands anyway, why not focus on shaping the men into responsible patriarchs rather than attempting to start futile cultural revolutions?