Monday, October 30, 2006

Gawronski on Polish and Polish-American Catholicism

Last Thursday Rev. Raymond Gawronski, S.J., wrapped up the excellent Church, Politics, and Society lecture series at St. Elizabeth of Hungary. He spoke on Polish Catholicism in both the Old Country and America. His points in brief:

-Polish spirituality is Franciscan, not Benedictine. The Benedictines were associated with the Germans and aristocracy, whereas the Franciscans were more popular in the sense of being of the people.

-Poland's cultural touchstone was neither Gothic nor Modern, but Renaissance, which era coincided with Poland's peak as a world power.

-John Paul II's apparent failures as an administrator might derive in part from habitual Polish antipathy towards Prussian and Russian authoritarian bureaucracies. The locals' reaction instilled a careless near-anarchism, an almost quietist devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and a cult of suffering.

Certain parts of Father Gawronski's reflections on the Polish experience in America were especially noteworthy, and I reproduce parts below:
From the very start, Poles were excluded from church governance... the Polish traditions of devotion and family religious practice did not find a place in the emerging American Catholic Church. Though there were ethnic monsignors, auxillary bishops in cities with a large Polish population, it would be possible to say that the rich Polish liturgical, theological, and intellectual tradition has had any real impact on the wider American Church. New York has St. Patrick's Cathedral, I don't think any city has St. Stanislaus' Cathedral.

Beginning in the early sixties, the Poles in America were the object of a strong campaign of vilification. Identified as a Catholic working people, the Poles became symbols of that which had to be destroyed to make way for the new America.

As the dominant culture began to turn against both Catholicism and European culture, it displayed contempt for working class mores. Polish-American resistance to "ethnic cleansing" in urban neighborhoods met the combined, crushing force of state and church power and brute economic realities. Moreover Polish resistance to leftist agendas both in Europe and America made the Poles objects of derision, especially among elites in the academy and in the national media. I've long wondered if those attacks against the Polish community and the polack jokes in the American media were not the forerunners to the attacks on the Catholic Church she was experiencing, in Poland most strongly.


Ethnic groups in this country have tended to continue the trajectory of the Mother Country. Poland has not had a history of a Germany or modern Ireland, nor did Polish history share all significant Polish values with Polish Jews. Poland, a stateless nation, was formed in a crucible of powerlessness. Character and culture came to matter more than glory or power. Success in politics was often the way of collaborators. be a lawyer was seen to be a disgrace.

...the Slavic countries possessed a tendency unknown to most Western countries, wedded to a dignity and freedom based on the freedom of independent farmers. And that's the heart of this experience--everyone had his own piece of land. The poles as a group had a long-term experience in the USA that was different from some other groups who have enjoyed greater success while fostering a strong public image. For example, I would say that the Polish experience encourages the opposite of the Irish experience in America. Where persecution in America occurred in the context of possible access to power, a shared language and public culture allowed the Irish, in the end, to even dominate their Anglo-Saxon persecutors and tutors.

[I couldn't help but silently cheer here]

Speaking as a somewhat separated Polish-American, this success has come at a great price. The story of the Irish in America is in a large part the story of a transformation from a despised and landless minority to the highest seats of power in the state and the church. In the process, many lost their ancestral Catholic faith. You know, Eamon de Valera when he came to America described Catholics as Protestants who go to mass.

Something similar may well be happening in Ireland itself. So you see the current state of the Catholic Church in America is largely the state of the descendants of those once-oppressed immigrants who, as Don Corleone famously said, "found paradise in America." But the heavenly paradise seems to have dimmed in its appeal.

Coming in numbers three generations later, with a very different language, no cultural experience with Anglo-Saxons whatsoever, this has not helped--and could not have helped--the Polish experience.

Some people would say that Poland has returned to normalcy, that joining the EU will be joining normal states. Pardon my views, but nations that countenance abortion and seek to legitimize homosexual unions are not normal, in any possible religious imagination, not only Christian. Perhaps the Polish experience is the experience of anyone consecrated to God. And to the extend that they are consecrated to God, it is to be scarred, and wounded, the certain sufferings, and the glory of the Cross.

Does Anyone Here Speak Ancient Irish?

Time for an etymological diversion on my name. I am told that "Kevin" derives from the Old Irish "coemgen," itself formed by the words "coem" and "gein."

"Coem" it seems, means kind, gentle, or handsome. I have suspected it is related to the word comely, but my friend the OED does not confirm my suspicions, suggesting a Germanic origin.

"Gein" means "birth." Not knowing anything of Old Irish pronunciation, I see a similarity to the Greek word "geinesthai", meaning "to be born." I believe this is whence derives the Greek "genos", meaning "race" or "family."

If we assume that "coem" is related to the Greek "eu", which has similar meanings, then "Kevin" is the etymological cousin of the name "Eugene."

I love idle speculation.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rebel Nuns Without a Clue

Catholic nuns in a decadent organization called the National Coalition of American Nuns have bashed the bishops, and their Colorado contingent received coverage in the Denver Post.

This was actually brought up at the excellent Respect Life conference today, and the archbishop challenged attendees to write these local nuns, since they already ignore him. More commentary later, I hope.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Waterboarding Video Demonstration

I wasn't the only one who had the idea. See this Waterboarding Demonstration Video. It lacks the melodrama of Hollywood depictions of torture. Being a controlled demonstration, it does not capture the fear of a man unsure of his fate, being shouted at in a foreign language.

Doubtless this will cause those with a nuanced view of torture to scoff, saying "What's the big deal?" Moral corruption at work, pardon the mess.

Thou Hast Conquered, O Galilean!

Matt at Literate Catholics Unite notes this little gem from Pope Benedict's Deus Caritas Est:

"A mention of the emperor Julian the Apostate (+ 363) can also show how essential the early Church considered the organized practice of charity."

Julian the Apostate's death marked with a cross!

"Nenikekas Galilaie" indeed.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Legal Jeopardy in National Security Trials

via Eve Tushnet, a tale of a Kafkaesque episode in the trial of a CIA-employed scam artist:

...I am able to recount the details of this event because the assistant federal public defender was me, handling the case in the mid-1980s. To recap the hard-to-believe basics of the situation: in the middle of a trial, I was charged with three criminal offenses on the grounds that the questions I asked in open court prompted the witnesses to disclose classified information. At the time of these supposed offenses, the prosecutors objected neither to the questions nor the answers, and neither they nor the judge gave any indication of a problem until the moment the charges were lodged against me. So there I was, still handling the ongoing trial, but now also facing my own trial to begin 30 days after the current trial was over. Despite my compromised position, I was not allowed by the judge to withdraw as defense counsel, and our request for a mistrial in the ongoing case was denied. I continued to examine witnesses from the CIA, but now with pending criminal charges hanging over my head, and a real prospect of more to come.

Christian Charity and Austerity: Evangelical Witnesses to the Pagans

Robert Royal of the Faith and Reason Institute gave a nice lecture last night at the Archdiocese of Denver. (recording available in .MP3)

Springboarding off of his new book, The God That Did Not Fail, he gave a pretty typical lecture about faith and politics. For the most part, it was right out of George Washington's Farewell Address. Secular order requires and presupposes transcendent, indispensable religious support. Natural Law ethics allow us to make rational arguments within this secular order while remaining energized by the spiritual life. Plus the theory helps us Catholics shmooze with Evangelicals!

I was concerned about Royal's near-complete focus on philosophy and political matters, so in the Q&A period I noted that music and movies have far more influence than explicit philosophical systems and laws in the state or national capitols. He missed the point of my question, and made a few weak suggestions about censorship, so I endorsed supporting artistic movements in addition to, or even rather than, political ones.

I have been worried about what Claes Ryn pegged as political philistinism, political intellectuals who draw "attention and respect away from efforts whose relevance to politics [is] not immediately obvious." A lecture on Christian arts--the non-ghettoized forms, especially--would likely attract a much smaller audience. For us, alas, ethical speechifying and politics seem a broader, more common activity than other forms of cultural engagement. Both rest upon the use and abuse of the written word. Yet Christianity, being an incarnational faith, cannot thrive on such disincarnated verbiage. The vision is lacking and, well, you know the rest.

But like many a tiresome questioner, I am critical about the lecture Robert Royal did not give.

To return to focus, the best part of Royal's speech came when he referred to antiquity and the rise of Christianity. He cited the witness of the pagans:

"The impious Gallileans support not only their poor, but ours as well. Everyone can see that our poor lack aid from us."
-Julian the Apostate

"We now see the people called Christians drawing their faith from parables and miracles, and yet sometimes acting in the same way as those who practice philosophy. With their contempt of death and of its sequel is patent to us every day, and likewise their restraint in cohabitation. For they include not only men but also women who refrain from cohabiting all through their lives; and they also number individuals who, in self-discipline and self-control in matters of food and drink, and in their keen pursuit of justice, have attained a pitch not inferior to that of genuine philosophers."

Just yesterday Amy Welborn was talking about the decline of fasting. Its capacity for Christian witness should not be overestimated.

Robert Royal expands on these ancient authors and the evangelical life which attracted their remarks:

"...I mention this because I am distressed. I was at a conference at a Catholic university a couple weeks ago and the sociologists who do these surveys about what the church is going to look like in the future say that one of the developments in the world is that young Catholics don't believe there is any difference between Catholicism and other religions, that everybody is pretty much the same. And if that's true, that's really unfortunate. It means that we don't have that kind of witness, either by charity or by our philosophical self-control. I think if we had either of those, better both but even either, the New Evangelization would be a lot easier."


(I have a relatively high quality digital recording of this speech, interested parties can e-mail me)

On Enabling Present and Future Atrocities

Amy Welborn links to a John Allen piece. His title asks "In Regensburg's wake, is anyone worried about Christian outrage?"

I, for one, am somewhat concerned. Islamic atrocities against Christians and others are numerous, and one can write a lengthy book obituary for all the victims.

But despite the length of the diabolic litany of recent Islamic atrocities, I suspect an Islamic radical could counter with a few similarly selective readings of history: the Lebanese Catholic militia atrocities, the Baptist(yes, Baptist) terrorist group in India, Russian oppression in Chechnya, or the sometimes mutual mob violence in Islamic-Christian African countries.

Some have compared Western Christians' silence in the face of Muslim violence on our spiritual bretheren to pacifism in the aftermath of the brutal rape of one's sister.

However, I worry that such rhetoric ignores those of the "Christian West" who, in retaliation for such rapine, speculate openly about nuking Mecca and endorse with little criticism policies of torture.

Though we need to clarify some things, like the fact that the highest government official to entertain the idea of nuking Mecca was Rep. Tom Tancredo, a persona non grata in the White House, the Muslim world probably learns of such terrifying comments like us: filtered through an irresponsible sensationalist media without the benefit of such background.

If the US government ever launches a "pre-emptive" nuclear strike on a Muslim country, if US terrorist interrogation agencies become exposed as Inquisitorial horrors, our present opinions on the irredeemable evil of Islam will deservedly haunt us.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Intimidating Churches in Colorado

Over at the Rocky Mountain News blog, discussing Archbishop Chaput's stand on marriage amendments, commentor jay writes:

Churches need to be careful this year. I am not personally participating (although I agree with the stance behind it), but there are groups that are planning on infiltrating Church services and recording any unethihcal speech that may put in danger the organization's tax exempt status.

I have asked for details, though I doubt I'll get them.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The "See No Evil" Oblivion of the Boomers

We forget, those of us at middle age, that we grew up in a saner time. I'm in no way saying that the world I grew up in was perfect; however, it wasn't like it was today. For instance, the culture of free sex, abortion, pornography, only began to explode in the '70s. We have lived in it for over thirty years, but most of us have turned out okay. So we think our children will be fine, too. But they have never had a normal culture against which to balance this newer, sicker one. They have no references which point to the old, boring normality.

We assume that they know what we know, which is "this is not right!" But why would they know that? This is the only world they have ever known.
-Terry Polakvic, St. Elizabeth of Hungary Lecture Series

Of course, this statement provoked a well-meaning but naive audience member to claim Mrs. Polakvic was painting with too broad a brush. I thought the objection was reminiscent of those in a crisis who say "Problem? What problem?" Those of my parents' generation, like this doubter, often presume their mores were passed along relatively unaffected by the turmoils of the recent decades. They correctly claim that there were always wild kids. Yet they never even suspect that such adolescent dissolution now has very considerable cultural, economic and political forces promoting the moral haze of libertine sloth. They seem utterly oblivious to debauchery and violence, believing it safely confined to late night television.

With such nigh-ubiquitous polyannas, I have to say that I am grateful to Mrs. Polakvic for her realization that something momentous has indeed actually happened. The ability to state the obvious shouldn't be so uncommon.

More Semantic Gymnnastics From Political Biotech Scientists

Don't say cloning, say somatic cell nuclear transfer. That at least is the view of biologists who want the term to be used instead of "therapeutic cloning" to describe the technique that produces cloned embryos from which stem cells can then be isolated. This, they argue, will help to distinguish it from attempts to clone a human being.

But will it? Kathy Hudson and her colleagues at the Genetics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC asked more than 2000 Americans whether they approved of deriving stem cells from embryos produced by cloning. For half of the sample they used the term "SCNT" instead of "cloning", and this raised approval ratings from 29 per cent to 46 per cent, Hudson told a meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics in New Orleans last week.
The New Scientist

Doing market research on how best to spin an ethical debate. I wonder if these people still give lip service to being disinterested pursuers of truth.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Another, Better Kevin Jones

A visitor's websearch has led me to discover another Kevin Jones, a priest in the UK who is currently in Burma helping an orphanage. How he manages to blog his efforts, I don't know.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Darwin Catholic posts a good short story by Giovanni Guareschi

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Walker Percy Studies

Here's an excellent essay on Walker Percy by way of Matthew Lickona
(some explicit language)

Instead of accepting the vitality of limitation which Binx had discovered in the dirt in Korea, Lancelot, thrown into a darker pit by his discovery of be­trayal, chooses to take the route of "the Gnostic impatience with human limita­tions which can [and does in Lance's case] con­vert into a hubristic denial of one's own limitations."


As John Desmond has pointed out, Lance contradicts himself in, once having admitted an irreducible mystery, proceeding to "collapse metaphysical mystery into empirical categories." Epistemologically, Lance is thus beset by a typical Gnostic dilemma. He in­stinctively re­jects a purely materialistic categorization of the human self, yet he also abhors the possibility that he may partic­ipate in a mystery that is beyond his comprehen­sion.

Scout for Pending Reindeer Invasion of Colorado Killed

GREELEY - Wildlife officials were puzzled by the rare appearance of a caribou that was struck and killed by a car in Colorado this week, hundreds of miles from its normal range.

The buck, weighing an estimated 350 pounds and sporting a large rack of antlers, was spotted Tuesday grazing beside U.S. 85 about 10 miles south of Greeley and 40 miles northeast of Denver.
Rocky Mountain News

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Conservative Movement is Theocratic, Really!

Early YAFers took their ideas and principles seriously. So much so that from the beginning there was tension between YAF?s anticommunist and traditionalist side and its libertarians. The word ?God? only made it into the Sharon Statement by a narrow vote of 40-44.
-Daniel McCarthy discussing the history college Republican activism

Nagel on Dawkins

Via Verbum Ipsum comes some excerpts from Thomas Nagel's critical The New Republic review of the eminently mockable Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion


Stephen Barr expands on Nagel.

State Secession from Other US States

Reactionary Radical Bill Kauffmann has lauded internal secessionist movements of the present day Union.

This idea has taken hold in regions such as West Kansas, 1992:
"They laughed at me," recalls Concannon three years later. "Then the people started carrying petitions," which in two weeks contained 800 signatures. The commissioners permitted a vote. And that spring the people of Stevens County voted 1,469?73 to divorce
from Kansas.

Upstate New York and New York City:
Assemblyman Donald Davidsen, a veterinarian from rural Steuben County, is the prime sponsor of the current effort to divide New York into two (or, as some Long Island legislators have proposed, three) states. "Ever since I was a little kid," says Davidsen, "when Upstaters get together you hear 'we oughtta just cut that off and let it float away'." When Davidsen introduced a bill to do just that it was dismissed by Governor Cuomo as "divisive"--which of course it is,-- the assemblyman concedes with a chuckle.

North and South, and sometimes Central California:
But in the course of leading his people out of California this Moses discovered that "there are not 10 commandments but 12. The eleventh is that San Francisco and Los Angeles don't really want to be in the same state. The twelfth is that rural California doesn't want to be in a state with either of them."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Colorado Domestic Partnerships: A Moocher's Dream

There is a same-sex domestic partnership referendum on the Colorado ballot this year, Referendum I. It extends the legal benefits and responsibilities of marriage to registered same-sex domestic partners. Its supporters disingenously insist that domestic partnerships are in no way the same as marriage. The considerable moral concerns about legitimizing homosexual acts are excluded from the opposing arguments in the Colorado voters' Blue Book entry on the referendum. Observing the rampant amorality of our government and the collapse of substantive public ethical discussion, this exclusion is hardly surprising.

Yet the Blue Book also neglects fiscal argument nearly as important. It relates especially to the pension provisions of Colorado's Public Employees' Retirement Association(PERA).

PERA pensions are quite generous. According to the association's website at, $2,108,791,000 in payouts were made to 71,401 recipients in 2005. This averages out to about $29,500 per recipient.

The Fiscal Impact Statement for Referendum I(PDF) declares: "Because Referendum I provides that persons in a domestic partnership have the same benefits as spouses, a surviving partner would be eligible for a PERA survivor benefit and enrollment in the PERACare health benefits program. Thus, the referendum would minimally impact PERA benefit liabilities in the Pension Fund and the Health Care Trust Fund."

The impact is minimal only because of the massive size of the pension fund. Should domestic partnerships be instituted, this system is ripe for mooching.

Let?s examine PERA in detail.

PERA members include employees from both state and municipal governments: teachers, highway patrolmen, university employees, and even judges. All members make a contribution of eight percent of their annual salary to their retirement fund, which compounds at a tax-deferred annual five percent interest. Their contribution receives some matching funding from state and county governments. Their years of service are factored into their retirement benefits, with more years of service rightly linked to higher benefits.

There are three payment options for PERA members.

Option one provides the pensioner with a significant lifetime monthly benefit; upon his or her death the remaining pension balance will be matched by PERA and transferred to his or her cobeneficiary in a lump sum payment.

Under option two, following a pensioner's death his or her cobeneficiary will receive a lifetime monthly benefit equal to one-half the monthly benefit the pensioner was receiving at the time of his or her death.

Under option three, following a pensioner's death, his or her cobeneficiary will receive a lifetime monthly benefit equal to the monthly benefit the pensioner was receiving at the time of his or her death. IRS rules currently prohibit non-spouses more than ten years the beneficiary's junior from receiving option three benefits, but it is unclear whether domestic partnerships will evade such prohibitions. Regardless, there are always the first two options.

How might domestic partnership impact PERA? The legislation explicitly forbids domestic partnerships contracted between immediate family members: "an individual shall not enter into a domestic partnership with an uncle or aunt or with a niece or nephew, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood." However, this does not forbid other familial contracts. The retired public servant who alerted me to this looming problem noted that, should his beloved wife proceed him in death, he could contract a partnership with his eighteen-year-old grand-nephew(or some other favored youngster). With some three decades of service, upon his death his grand-nephew could receive this substantial lifetime monthly pension of a veteran worker, freeloading off of state employees and taxpayers for the duration of his long and healthy life.

The only social penalty this pensioner?s domestic partner in theft would face is an inability legally to marry while in a domestic partnership. Considering late marrying ages and contemporary habits of cohabitation, it is unclear whether this is a significant disincentive for a young man who must simply wait a few years until his partner, so generous with other peoples' money, finally expires.

I note here that I have neglected to examine here how such a couple could exploit health care plans under Referendum I provisions. Surely further explorations in this area will provide worries for the civic-minded, and delights for the opportunistic.

Referendum I's proponents claim domestic partnerships are not about marriage, but about basic legal rights. Yet precisely because they insist that their proposed domestic arrangement isn't really marriage, their system has little protection against cynical abuses such as that described here. Most people acknowledge a dislike for mercenary marriages. Yet why should domestic partnerships, lacking the respected name of matrimony, command the good behavior of their participants?

Names mean things. They have significance. Literally, they signify. Those advocating domestic partnerships equivocate between marriage and a state identical in material and legal benefits but certainly equivalent neither in content nor purpose. Such equivocations make for bad law. Should Referendum I pass, this wordplay will make for even worse finances.

(cross-posted at Denver YourHub

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Just Plain Folks

"The Western world today wants the opposite of both facade and mystery, destroying them as soon as the suspicion of either arises. We speak of the imnportance of "image" and the kind desired is one of anti-facade. It must dispel, not create, the aura of grandeur and power and even dignity. Heads of state insist on being Tony or Jimmy; they grow in popularity when they are inarticulate. The plain man with the boyish, rather helpless look is the figure congenial to a democratic society."
-Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence

CU-Boulder Gets ISI Thumbs-Up; Jonah Goldberg Embarrasses, Again?

An Intercollegiate Studies Institute-commissioned study has placed my alma mater, the University of Colorado at Boulder, in fifth place in terms of civic knowledge gains. Its results are questionable, since they rather lazily compare the entering Freshman class with the exiting Senior class, but I shall brag nonetheless. The Ivy League schools did not do so well, but Colorado State University placed second. Perhaps I shouldn't badmouth my state's universities.

Erin O'Connor has decent coverage of the study, but her comments are worth a glance. NRO's Jonah Goldberg showed up to pontificate. His gems of wisdom:

"Colleges have no responsibility to teach American history to all graduates. Given the increasing number of non-American students attracted to our universities, it's patently ridiculous."

Mr. Goldberg then goes on to prate with self-satisfaction against a classical education:
"Classics are fine for "cultural literacy," but why have students slog through disproven science, faulty logic, magical Platonism, primitive religious superstitutions, and Augustus' imperial apologists? Better to read analytic philosophy in English than Plato in Greek."

Color me speechless.


Lee in the comments sheds doubt over whether this really is the Jonah Goldberg from NRO. Oops.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Image, Identity, Democracy

Political coalitions in this country are not built around unifying Big Ideas, at least not anymore, nor even around the positive appeal of this or that policy. The coalitions are focused on a number of specific proposals, none of which can be too bizarre or ridiculous to significantly alienate a large bloc of potential voters. Voters approve of a coalition because it contains fewer objectionable items on its agenda and fewer provocative or offensive symbols. This is why the mushy politics of the center keeps prevailing, because the margin of victory typically keeps coming from those people whose attraction to one party or another is not motivated by that party's positive appeal but by the obnoxious things it doesn't say.
-Daniel Larison

Nobel Prize for Microcredit

Muhammad Yunus becomes a Nobel Laureate for developing a small loan system for the impoverished.

I've long wanted to dive into the details of such things, but haven't had the time. In the past I have wondered why the loans generally go to women. Are the men poor investments? Are they already at a position where they don't need such loans?

Perhaps I can study this eventually. For now, I'll have to wander around Catholic Relief Services' microfinancing page

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Liberals Help Make the GOP *Look* Religious

Secular liberal advocacy and interest groups attacked every little thing the faith initiative did. When Executive Orders were issued permitting an organization to simply display a cross or a Star of David, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State called it "a crusade to bring about an unprecedented merger of religion and government." When we helped Boston's historic Old North Church (of Paul Revere fame) get new windows through a historic preservation grants program at the Department of the Interior, the clamor was the same. The net effect of all the jabbering was the appearance that great progress was being made.

Had these liberal groups or an alliance of charities held the White House accountable for how little was being done -- especially compared to what was promised -- there is no telling what might have happened...or what might still happen.
-David Kuo

Music from the Aviation Age

via Irish Elk comes a collection of flying songs from the twenties, thirties, and forties.

I suppose this is a fitting post in which to plug the movie Flyboys, a good World War I airplane movie with remarkable dogfights and only slightly lacking in script and acting. I am surprised the era hasn't enjoyed more Hollywood attention. Air combat was one of the most romanticized and least bloody areas of the Great War, and the movie Wings was one of the first giant hits in the budding film industry.

Italian Internet Poll on Return of the Latin Mass

Siete favorevoli al ritorno della messa in latino?

Sì 55.3%
No 44.7%

Numero Votanti: 18398
Corriere Della Sera

I will voice the standard distrust for such polls while promulgating such interesting statistics. Of course, for Italians Latin is a part of their history in a way it just isn't for Americans.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jesuit Education At Work

The horror, the horror....

With enthusiasm, Dr. Raymond Reyes, the associate vice-president for Diversity at Gonzaga University, encouraged Regis faculty during the Fall Faculty Conference to get out of their chairs and "sing the world into being!" Faculty and staff attendees then moved their hips, clapped their hands, and smiled in good cheer as they addressed serious issues of diversity and social justice.


Furthering his discussion of diversity, Reyes also spoke of "the spirit of the hive." Connecting the idea of diversity to the Jesuit Mission, Reyes believed that in working together as bees do, we as a university community can "R.S.V.P God."
Regis University Student Newspaper

And all this time I thought the "hive mind" was a universal pejorative.

Thank You For Smoking Plain, Vanilla Liberty

One of the most unjustly neglected film releases of 2006 is now out on DVD. Thank You For Smoking, based on Christopher Buckley's novel of the same name, offers a wry look at lobbying and counter-lobbying in the tobacco industry. The devilishly clever protagonist, spin doctor Nick Naylor, fights for poor, disenfranchised corporations while combating the smoking opponents led by a sanctimonious Vermont senator. In addition to this difficult role, he tries to reconnect with son Joey, who lives with his divorced mother.

Early in the film Naylor appears at little Joey's classroom for a presentation on his career. He cheerfully proselytizes for his cash crop, this exchange in particular catching my notice:

"It's good to listen to your parents--Joey.
All I'm suggesting is that there will always be people trying to tell you what to do and what to think. There probably already are people doing that, am I right?"
"yeah," the class mumbles.
"I'm here to say that when someone tries to act like some sort of an expert, you can respond: 'Who says?'"
A little boy pipes up: "So cigarettes are good for you?"
"No, that's not--that's not what I'm getting at. My point is that you have to think for yourself. You have to challenge authority!
If your parents told you that chocolate was dangerous, would you just take their word for it?"
The students raise their voice: "No"
"Exactly! So perhaps instead of acting like sheep when it comes to cigarettes, you should find out for yourself!"

Some have taken the film as a defense of freedom. Later in the film, Naylor indeed hits the favorite phrases of lifestyle liberalism: he declares that the world is a dangerous place and inveighs against treating mature adults like children.

Yet his earlier classroom escapade recounted above undermines such a libertarian reading: if children are taught from an early age that they already have the competence for such decisions, that "who says?" really is an argument winner, it is difficult truthfully to claim that they have the foundation for mature decision-making which makes paternalistic government unnecessary. Uncritical anti-authoritarianism is being preached by a confidence man who is boosting the self-regard of students in hopes they will become pliable, reliable consumers. The children are being indoctrinated into incompetent skepticism, being too poorly-formed to note the contradiction in their instruction.

"So what happens when you're wrong?"
"Joey, I'm never wrong."
"But you can't always be right."
"Well if it's your job to be right then you're never wrong."
"But what if you *are* wrong?"
Okay, let's say that you're defending chocolate, and I'm defending vanilla. Now, if I were to say to you 'Vanilla is the best flavor of ice cream', you'd say:"
"No, chocloate is."
"Exactly, but you can't win that argument. So, I'll ask you: 'so you think chocolate is the end-all, be-all of ice cream, do you?'"
"It's the best ice cream, I wouldn't order any other."
"Oh, so it's all chocolate for you, isn't it?"
"Yes, chocolate is all I need."
"Well I need more than chocolate. And for that matter I need more than vanilla. I believe that we need freedom, and choice when it comes to our ice cream, and that, Joey Naylor, that is the definition of liberty."
"But that's not what we're talking about."
"Ah, but that's what I'm talking about."
"But... you didn't prove that vanilla was the best."
"I didn't have to, I proved that you're wrong, and if you're wrong, I'm right."
"But you still didn't convince me."
"I said I'm not after you, I'm after them."
Points to surrounding crowd

This reduction of liberty to a choice between ice cream flavors is a sad but honestly funny reflection on our general inability to debate the superiority or inferiority of certain specific choices.

It is an artful cop-out, this sly change of subject. For Naylor's chumps, ways of life are neither higher nor lower, just "different." So different are they that the only thing they have in common is immunity from not just governmental action, but even critical engagement. That the content of our character is related to the quality of our choices in life, that we must be trained well to be fit to choose well, is rarely suggested.

When I saw this movie in an artsy theater, the crowd--a boisterous audience, to be sure--remained oddly passive during this scene. I was the only one who laughed. The humor behind Naylor's pandering is perhaps too subtle for those nursed on the thinnest form of freedom, a liberty that is all style and no content. Though he ends his so-called argument with grandiose emoting about sweet, chocolatey Liberty, It is quite fitting that Naylor started out defending vanilla.
It must be test time at the University of Southern California. I am getting several visitors from there looking for my summary of Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed.

That book is too good to be summarized, kids. Get to work!

62% of Catholics: "No King But Caesar"

What Pew actually did over two weeks in May was ask 820 self-identifying American Christians "Do you think of yourself first as American or as Christian?" And in this case, 42% of Christians did actually answer "Christian first." Another 48% answered "American first," while 7% ducked and said they thought of themselves as both.

Not surprisingly, the "Christian first" response emanated disproportionately from self-identified Evangelicals, 62% of whom said "Christian first." By contrast, the figures for other major Christian sectors were nearly reversed, with 62% of Catholics and 65% of Mainline Protestants saying "American first".
David van Biema, God or Country

The author tries to score "controversial" points by comparing these responses to American Muslims. How pedestrian.

If van Biema had wanted to start a titanic media firestorm, he could have tried to find a poll asking about Jewish loyalty. Heck, even an inconsequential blogger like myself can't even speculate about that hypothetical situation without worries I'll be lumped in with the nuts.

The nationalist sentiment reported to be strong among my coreligionists is typically disconcerting, but not surprising. As usual with such surveys, I would like specific statistical breakdowns considering mass attendance and other measures of Catholic practice.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Sayyid Qutb: Freedom Fighter"

This din [religion] is a universal declaration of the freedom of man from slavery to other men and to his own desires, which is also a form of human servitude. It is a declaration that the sovereignty belongs only to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. It challenges all such systems based on the sovereignty of man, i.e., where man attempts to usurp the attribute of Divine sovereignty. Any system in which final decisions are referred to human beings, and in which the source of all authority are men, deifies human beings by designating others than Allah as lords over men.
-Sayyid Qutb, Milestones

The source essay for this quote seems a bit sketchy, with a few strained analogies. I wonder whether the line about "final decisions" can be assumed into Christian warnings against the divinization of the state without doing violence to Qutb's vision. Likewise, there's the possibility that Qutb could endorse forcing others to be freed from their enslavement to desire.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Denver Megachurch Under Scrutiny

The Denver Post today published a front-page article on Heritage Christian Center, a large Pentacostal church run by one Bishop Dennis Leonard. It alleges certain financial improprieties and neopotism in Heritage's leadership:

Project Heritage, a nonprofit founded by the church, was faulted for squeezing too much profit out of a government program to help low-income families buy renovated homes. Leonard's daughter-in-law and the daughters of the board chairman earned real estate commissions on the home sales, which the government flagged as a conflict of interest.
The Gospel of Prosperity

For Further Language Studies

The Foreign Service Institute foreign language instructional texts are now on-line. I'll have to check them out when I begin studying Spanish in earnest. The texts don't look amenable to being used at, but there are plenty of audio instructional tapes available for download.

via Papa Familias

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Where Have All The TradCons Gone?

Leaders are necessarily elites. The elite of this country have no problem with homosexuality. None. Even if they oppose gay marriage politically, they have no problem hiring and socializing with homosexuals and their partners.

Heartland conservatives, the kind of folks who vote GOP, in contrast to their immediate economic interests, have no idea what their leaders are really like and what they abide culturally.

This is where Foleygate will impact voters in the Heartland and homosexual staffers and politicians in Washington. There is, and always has been, a disconnect between the values of professional conservatives and the people they profess to lead.

Professional conservatives live the life of Washingtonians. They don't go to church as much as the rest of the nation and they don't behave like the rest of America, at least not those they represent. They live a life much like their liberal counterparts.

They make the case for social conservatism in Washington but when they go out into Middle America and rail against the liberal elites, they are railing against themselves.
-A.C. Kleinheider, Volunteer Voters
via Daniel Larison

There are few men lonelier than a social conservative at a College Republicans meeting. If he is vocal, he will likely never get a leadership position, or a even a date. At most, he may receive a few patronising words. Functional libertarianism is the order of the day among these aspiring politicos. I would be interested in learning whether the same culture is manifest among the abused page corps. Did they, too, pride themselves on their acceptance of alternative sexual orientations while they looked the other way?

Considering the party's feeder organizations, it's little surprise that the GOP leadership shied away from criticizing Foley's "private life" until its crapulence spilled into the public eye.

Catholic Philistines?

"And then there are all the Catholic figures who have emerged in the various worlds of public discourse over the past twenty years. At the political magazines, at the think tanks, in the law schools, in the judiciary, on the television talk shows, on the book circuit, across the nation there's a way Catholics have of recognizing one another: a wink and a nod, a figurative handshake that declares joint membership in a particular intellectual culture."
-Jody Bottum, When the Swallows Return to Capistrano

Claes Ryn has attacked movement conservatives for having been politics-centered philistines, "political intellectuals [drawing] attention and respect away from efforts whose relevance to politics was not immediately obvious."

Bottom's essay sometimes exhibits this political philistinism, over-focused on politics at the expense of cultural and theological concerns. Note how his examples of the "revival" are either in the punditry or in law. Where are the fabulists, artists, and musicians? Mel Gibson, probably a schismatic, is the only notable Catholic in Hollywood. I know Bottum is working to rectify this sorry cultural situation, but the focus of his piece seems to compound the problem.

I am unsure how much this philistinism is his and his colleagues' fault and how much the fault of the activists to whom they are reacting. The radical, or even the liberal Catholics he describes themselves often eschewed cultural concerns in favor of political action--indeed, they often presented iconoclasm and talentless egalitarian aesthetics as necessary for their revolution against the bad old days.

Perhaps it is not surprising that conservatives mirror their opponents in this respect, but it is sad.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Louis Dupre and Pope Benedict: A Connection?

In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which ultimately led to the claim that we can only know God's voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God's freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions.
-Pope Benedict XVI, Regensburg Lecture

Louis Dupre's expert study Passage to Modernity was among the first books I discussed in the second month of this blog's existence. (see here and here) It is an expanded discussion of those medieval philosophers and theologians who would inspire the amputated rationality of modern philosophy. Matthew Fish has written an excellent discussion of these medievals and their interpreters, including Dupre quoted here:
Seeking a foundation for the order of cognition, Descartes has redefined the ultimate ontological principles in the function of the epistemic order. The foundation both of the mind and of the world is conceived in accordance with the conditions and needs of knowledge…. While Greek philosophy of the classical age had defined being in terms of form and its dependence primarily (though never exclusively) in terms of participation, modern thought conceived of nature as a causal interaction of forces and of transcendence as a supremely powerful divine will which created and ruled all things by means of efficient causality.

Matthew Fish expands further:
God being relegated to an extrinsic influence, who no longer effects the cosmos formally, is left ghostly absent; where classically the cosmos had an interiority that always pointed to its participation in the Word, now nature was a neutral sphere, in fact a canvas for the mind to impose meaning upon, that the mind must inform since reality has now become void of intelligibility, and therefore any higher ordering or purpose. All meaning and purpose has been exclusively reserved to the inscrutable divine will.

I had not yet noticed the connection between Pope Benedict's and Dupre's analysis, nor have many others, but it is certainly an interesting link to explore. Matthew Fish's full essay excerpt is quite the worthy read.

Robert P. George Contra Perdurantism

Robert George and Patrick Lee write another substantial essay about the ethics of stem cell research. Their take on the view that human consciousness is the sum total of quantum experiences:

The first difficulty is that, according to this view, a human being (or any ultimate subject of existence) is the sum of time-slices suitably connected (say, by biological or psychological continuity). But what is a time-slice, and, how could time-slices give rise to a human organism's (or any organism's) extension through time? If the time-slice itself does not have temporal extent, then the addition of any number of time-slices to each other will not give rise to a temporally extended series -- just as the addition of any number of unextended points will not produce an extended line. On the other hand, if the time-slice of a human being does have temporal extent, then no explanatory gain has been achieved by denying a persisting human being, since one will then (by necessity) have admitted that an individual as a whole can persist through at least some extent of time. But if one must admit persistence through time at one level, why not admit it at the level that common sense and explanatory practice seem to demand -- that is, the lifetime of a human individual who persists through time?

I am under the impression that David Hume, with his theory of sense impressions, inspired the view they criticize here. If any reader can confirm or deny my impression, please do so.

George and Lee's essay does not cover the phenomenon of twinning, which seems to be what their target has in mind at points. Their literal use of the word "individual" would of course run into a bit of trouble when applied to twinning, for at that point there really are at least two possible individuals within the whole organism. I am also curious how they would interpret the concept "human organism," and relate it to "human being."

Retro Walker Percy

Clark Stooksbury presents the '80s-era cover art of Walker Percy's The Last Gentleman

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Injecting Some Decency into the Foley Fracas

For the past two days, a conservative blogger has ginned up publicity for his work outing a 21-year-old young man--a former congressional page and current deputy campaign manager for a heartland Republican congressman--who received sexually explicit instant messages from disgraced Florida GOP Rep. Mark Foley when he was 17 and 18 years old. I have received several e-mails from the blogger and readers flogging the post.

I refused to link to the blogger then and even though the Drudge Report has plastered screaming headlines about the blogger's scoop, I refuse to link to it now. There was absolutely no good reason to expose the former congressional page's name and identity. Seizing on ABC News' redaction failure and reporting errors (more on that in a moment) to play gotcha in a feeble attempt to avenge Foley is not a sufficient reason to obliterate the young man's privacy. The young man was the prey, not the predator.
Michelle Malkin

Denver Minutemen Assaulted; "They had it coming" says ex-Pol

The local Minuteman group was filming an informal day-labor pickup station where employers pick up cheap illegals. I do not know the precise reason why the men were filiming, though I presume they were preparing film for anti-immigration activist purposes.

Robert Copley, Jr., was one of the cameramen. He was assaulted by several illegals, and another cameraman almost had his camera stolen. I am unable to find a written account of the episode, but there is video coverage at Fox News.

Former state senator and Hispanic activist Polly Baca implies they had it coming: "The minutemen are acting in a totally unamerican fashion... it is not their place to enforce our laws, it is the place of our police officers, our safety officers to enforce our laws."

I do not know whether Fox News significantly misrepresented her remarks, but talking that way about an assaulted citizen journalist is despicable. I don't follow the Minutemen, but when their efforts at perfectly legal amateur information-gathering are classified as unamerican the message is loud and clear: "Shut up!"

I actually met Polly Baca at my home parish's immigration forum a few weeks back. Her speech contained plenty of cant, but was hardly so offensive as her remarks on Fox News. She proposed a Marshall Plan for Mexico, a proposal which seemed to me a recipe for corruption. Pressing her on this point, she said we needed to get good people into office. Flatteringly, she suggested I get involved. I made a joke about the joys of apathetic anarchism, yet I was really laughing at something else. If only she knew that Pat Buchanan is one of my favorite pundits...

A Freeper rewrites Senator Baca's statement:
"it is not their place to not enforce our laws, it is the place of our police officers, our safety officers to not enforce our laws."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Christians and Modernity: A More Optimistic View

The St. Elizabeth of Hungary Theology Lecture Series is proceeding nicely. Here are some somewhat messy notes on Father Chrysostom Frank's lecture "The Politics of Liberty in a Postmodern Era":

Pre-moderns: trusted in authority passed down through tradition
Moderns: lost confidence in authority, confident in human reason
Post-moderns: maintain diffidence towards authority, but also have lost confidence in human reason.

Crisis of meaning: how do we ground meaning if transcendence removed? Father Chrysostom related a shocking story describing how some of his students at Regis U outright admitted that the only difference they saw between Mother Theresa's hospices for the dying and the concentration camps was personal preference.

At present, it is difficult to defend politics of liberty other than maintaining it is simply a personal preference.

Meaning is a problem only because we already have an intuitive sense of the fullness of the reality towards which we are being pulled. By searching for the infinite in the finite(as in the modernist project) we set ourselves up for failure and despair.

The death of the modern project is reawakening us to eternity; meaning can only be found in its relationship with the transcendent.

The central illumination of the modern age, what has emerged as a viable social and political order, is grounded on conviction that individual human being has inviolable liberty and dignity. That conviction is the spark of transcendent meaning on which Christianity and modernity can make common cause against the cynicism of postmodernity and the barbarities of political Islam. While only Christianity can best ground that meaning, Liberalism still having immanentist temptations, Christians nonetheless dismiss Liberalism at our peril.

Father Chrysostom expresses nervousness when Catholics on rare occasion bad-mouth liberty and the individual. From having lived in South Africa, and having spent time in post-Soviet Russia, his opinion is very understandable.

By way of further reading Father Chrysostom recommended the works of David Walsh, who has flown under my radar.

On the whole, the lecture was a very good summary of the history and philosophies involved. I don't think there was anything particularly new to me, yet its delivery was compact and far more hopeful than other examinations of the postmodern condition.

Book Review: James Webb's Born Fighting

To state the obvious, white ethnics are rarely described in any substantive manner. Whites are either a race whose counterparts are delineated in equal opportunity checkboxes or an ethnic group vaguely defined by Hispanics as "Anglos." While it is accepted practice to dilate upon the real and imagined virtues of minority groups, Americans of European ancestry are lumped into one homogenized mass. Italians and Swedes, Poles and Englishmen, Irishmen and Germans are all subsumed into racial categories. With this kind of categorical homogenization now dominant, it is easy to find refreshment in James Webb's history-cum-family memoir Born Fighting, a history of the Scots-Irish in America.

Originally colonists in sixteenth-century Northern Ireland, these Scottish Protestants found themselves and their Presbyterianism despised by their English lords almost as much as by the native Irish. Already a migratory people, many set off for the New World and settled in what would become the American South. Frontiersmen and pioneers, Webb believes these kinsmen of his to be independent, egalitarian, pugnacious, and tribal. These characteristics, forged in the wilds of the American frontier, have forged a major part of the American way of life.

Webb's history is somewhat derivative, especially his treatment of the Scottish-English conflicts for which he relies far too heavily upon Winston Churchill's history. These chapters read like a lazy student essay: long excerpts interspersed by a novice's summary. Yet his reliance on older generalist historians frees his analysis from the trendy shackles of specialization. He rightly treats ethnic formation as the product of numerous factors: geography, history, war, religion, each is discussed at some length. Though I am hardly widely read in the genre, I find this focus unusually competent compared with other contemporary popular histories.

Being a retired Marine, his discussions of the Scots-Irish at war are particularly energetic. American frontiersmen, he suggests, learned their radically novel tactics from their engagements with the Indians. While reading his energetic treatment of the Battle of Kings Mountain, I first realized that the legendary Rebel Yell could have originated in those pitched battles between the old Scots-Irish and the Indians, where Scottish battle cries fused with native war whoops.

Webb's characterization of the Scots-Irish as independent men who only respect proven leaders seems at odds with his depiction of their prowess in the organized national military. Their alleged disdain for hierarchy would, it seems, undermine military functioning whenever an undeserving officer takes command. As a former Marine and secretary of the Navy, Webb's unapplied expertise on this point is especially regrettable.

Webb complements his large-scale history with stories from his own family's past, remembering his forefathers and their lives. Being a Southerner, he includes a pretty typical defense of the Civil War: the North wasn't as abolitionist as it appears in retrospect; poor Southern whites weren't fighting for slavery but resisting an invading army in defense of the land they loved; competing ideals of national and state sovereignty; and so on. There is little unique to his arguments other than a more ethnic and class-based sympathy with poorer Southern whites. Yet upon encountering such apologetics still another time, the thought occurred to me that conservatives' precious habits of playing the tiresome find-the-racist game might derive in part from Southerners declaiming Yankee racism and hypocrisy.

Though a newcomer to the Democratic Party, Webb does not shirk from playing typical identity politics on behalf of his people. Webb recognizes that, as is typical with a long-neglected ethnicity, the Scots-Irish people have been long-neglected. They suffered at the hands of Yankee domination during reconstruction; they are tarred as violent, bigoted, and dumb rednecks in popular culture; they disproportionately do the front-line fighting in the military, with little credit; they are underrepresented in the American university. But noble people that they are, they don't complain. Much.

I realize the previous paragraph have been harsh towards Webb. I should note here that Born Fighting is nowhere near as flattering towards its targeted readers as Cahill's sickeningly oleaginous How The Irish Saved Civilization, a regrettable pop-history primed for Irish-American viewers of Oprah.

As regards academic representation, Webb marshals some statistics that do indeed suggest a problem. The Harvard graduating class is twenty percent Asian, twenty-five to thirty-three percent Jewish, and there a fifteen percent minority quota in admissions. Subtract legacy and prestige admissions, and the openings for a Scots-Irish Southerner, like many other Americans, are few indeed.

Besides such underrepresentation, he also suggests reasons that Southerners sympathized with populist concerns: white Southerners, impoverished by Reconstruction, could enthusiastically support FDR's new deal. They could easily believe the wealthy did in fact acquire privileged positions through injustice and fraud because their own ancestors had told them as much about rich Yankee carpetbaggers. The populist elements in the Democratic Party therefore lost significant support as the Southerners switched to the GOP after decades of hostility to the party of Lincoln.

While certainly of special interest to those of the tribe it celebrates, Born Fighting manages to engage a wider audience, especially by claiming the Scots-Irish as a major source of typically American values. This is a traditional appeal of the special interest genre, and one wonders to what extent it distorts the nature of its subject matter, the wider nation, or both. Yet while hardly a masterpiece, Webb's book provides a sturdy springboard for further reflection on the deeper currents of American history. For that, we can be thankful.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cruise Lines Support Dissident Catholic Clerics

An old story about cruise lines taking on "Rentapriest" clergy. Rentapriest blog wrote some disingenuous comments on the story.

Supposedly such priests would go on cruises with their wives, only to have duped laity discover their relationship during the voyage.

Being Criticized is a Sign of Relevance

"The most profound changes emanated from the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, the most problematic of all the Council documents at least in its implementation. This constitution quite properly called for dialogue with the surrounding culture rather than condemnation and urged us to emphasise what was common rather than to begin immediately with our differences. This is fundamental to the way we now see ourselves as an integral part of Australian society, the main reason why the majority accepts us as such and why all educated Australians now automatically and rightly presume that they have every right to comment publicly on distinctively Catholic teachings on e.g. the impossibility of womens' ordination, or contraception or the mandatory celibacy of priests. Most Australians are much slower to do this with e.g. the Orthodox or the Jews and Moslems."
-Cardinal George Pell

Clio's Revenge

The main intellectual defect in current American foreign policy is the lack of any sense of history, particularly as the British historian Lewis B. Namier defined it: a trained intuitive sense of the way things do not happen. (How they actually happen depends on the evidence.) America's leaders and their advisers, including some so-called historians and political scientists, not only are ignorant of history and insensitive to it, they despise and repudiate it. Their favorite epithet for opponents is to accuse them of having a pre-9/11 mentality, of believing that history before September 2001 still tells us something.
-Paul Schroeder, Liberating Ourselves

Of course this ignores the experts stuck in 1938, but the larger point stands. Our degraded knowledge of history, composing caricatures unworthy even of comic books, has crippled us.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Arabic Bravado, meet American Brawling...

An anthropology student at Rants and Raves has posted his reflections on Arab culture after a stay in Saudi Arabia:
In rhetoric, they don't mean to be taken seriously and they don't understand when we do.

Thus an ultimatum is often not taken seriously and the reality comes as a surprise. Remember the "Mother of all Battles"? Like many other Mediterranean peoples, Arabs don't seem to mind making a scene in public and have a high blown sense of drama. Paul Harvey once described how he had spent the Suez Crisis hiding under the bed in his hotel room because of the blood-curdling radio broadcasts, before he learned that Arabs talk like that when they're arguing over a taxi. "This is my taxi and I will defend it to the death!" "You lie, it's mine and rivers of blood will flow in the street before I give up my taxi!"�

An Arab will scream at you, get into your personal space and sometimes kick dirt on your shoe -- and they react with utter surprise when an American up and decks him. "What did I do?" To say the least, this makes negotiations difficult.

It makes me wonder whether the nuclear saber-rattling in Iran is quite different from the nuclear saber-rattling going on in some Western cricles.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Paulist Press in 1945

via Gashwin Gomes, a reaction to the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
Here we come upon the essential evil. The American people have for some years been indoctrinated with the heresy that there is no such thing as a universal everlasting law. Professors of ethics say there is no Absolute, that is to say, no God and that if there were, we have no means of knowing His mind or even if He is a person and has a mind. That there is no such thing as natural law; that laws are temporary and arbitrary, made up, so to speak, as we go along; that the law that served our ancestors may be obsolete in our days. If that kind of ethics prevails, our Christian civilization will dissolve in gas like the bodies of the 100,000 to 300,000 victims of the first atomic bombing. No discussion of this question can neglect the argument that the atomic bombs were used to bring about a quicker surrender of Japan and thereby in the end, to save lives. The end does not justify the means. It is not permissible to do evil that good may come. If obliteration bombing is evil -- and this is the question -- it cannot be made good by the supposition or even the certainty that it will in the long run be more merciful that a surely legitimate way to make war.
-Rev. James Martin Gillis, CSP, Editor, The Catholic World, September 1945

The standard apologists for atomic bombing often dismiss those who judge "with the clarity of hindsight," implying that the strikes enjoyed unanimous approval back in the good old days. Let them read Rev. Gillis.