Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blogger Pride On Display

When newspapers take up blogging, they're like someone's mom in 1964. They know they're daughter is crazy about this group called The Beatles. So mom bakes a birthday cake for her daughter -- in the shape of a beetle...
-Kathy Shaidle

This definitely applies to the Denver Post BlogHouse.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Jesuits' Taste In Poetry Slightly Improves

The 2004 winner of America magazine's poetry contest was an unbelievably bad poem. The 2005 winner describes an imagined slave ship tossing its human cargo overboard. Its quality is improved, but still awkward. The Jesuit editors must have a taste for mediocre moralism.

The poem's unfortunate comparison of school buses with slave ships makes the theme break from strain. It recalls a ditty of mock-profundity I wrote in high school, its first line having appeared to me in a dream:

All Hail the Mighty School Bus,
That fiendish yellow beast
Which carts away childhood
Like bandits in the night.

Yet some congratulation is due to John Hodgen, who has surpassed the admittedly low standard of Tryphon Tolides.
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From the Korrektiv marketing agency, via Matthew Lickona

The School as Gauntlet

They have negative memories of their own education. Although it takes some probing, nearly every professor with home-schooled children mentions traumatic childhood experiences in school. Professors, as a group, tend to have been sensitive, intelligent children who were picked on and ostracized. They foresee the same treatment for their own children, and they want to do everything they can to prevent the children from experiencing the traumas they experienced. Professors recognize how many of our most brilliant students have been emotionally or physically terrorized for a dozen years before they arrive at college. School sometimes teaches otherwise happy and intelligent children to become sullen and secretive and contemptuous of learning.

So writes one professor in his essay For Professors’ Children, the Case for Home Schooling reprinted from the Chronicle of Higher Ed. It is worth noting that such intellectual children, their progress often held back by the same "mouthbreathers" who beat them, are easy prey for the egomaniacal doctrines of Ayn Rand or Freddy Nietzsche. How many of these bright young things, I wonder, enter their twenties pondering what happened to all the so-called dumb jocks and losers their admiring teachers reassuringly told them they'd be bossing around in professional life.

Considering the vast number of films depicting high school as Devil's Island minus the trenchfoot, I'm surprised there hasn't been more criticism. The bovine migrations between classes, the petty yet highly traumatic squabbles and bullying between peers, the adolescent angst, and the systematic sapping of parental authority have become so many cliched themes in Yet Another Teen Movie.

I seem to have avoided almost all of these coming-of-age problems by living like a desert solitary in suburbia, but I find it very remarkable that the general hatred for high school is combined with a general fatalism about making it a better experience and a general antipathy towards those who have the willingness to sacrifice to opt out of the chaos.

Link via Stuart Buck

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More Fodder for Refutation

Contemporary Psychology Textbook writes historical fiction about Christendom and Aquinas but passes it off as historical fact. Blog by the Sea provides a refutation.

Cavanaugh On Freedom, Desire, and the Market

Two corollaries follow from this conception of voluntary exchange. The first is that freedom is defined negatively, as freedom from the interference of others, especially from the state. Freedom is what exists spontaneously in the absence of coercion. This approach is agnostic about the positive capacities of each party to a transaction, for example, how much power or property each party has at his or her disposal. To be free, it suffices that there be no external interference. The second is that a free market has no telos , that is, no common end to which desire is directed. Each individual chooses his or her own ends. As Friedrich Hayek says, "this recognition of the individual as the ultimate judge of his ends" does not mean there can be no common action among individuals, but the ends on which such actions are based are merely the "coincidence of individual ends"; "what are called ‘social ends’ are for [a free market view] merely identical ends of many individuals – or ends to the achievement of which individuals are willing to contribute in return for the assistance they receive in the satisfaction of their own desires." To claim that desires can be ordered either rightly or wrongly to objectively desirable ends has no place in a free market. To stake such a claim within the market itself would be to interfere in the freedom of the market. As Michael Novak says, democratic capitalism --of which a free market is a crucial component -- is built on the explicit denial of any unitary order. There is no common telos or "sacred canopy" above the diversity of desires, only an "empty shrine" or "wasteland" where common goals used to stand.


Nevertheless, the idea that this type of economy is free is also problematic. The problem with this view is that it assumes that the abolition of objective goods provides the conditions for the individual will to function more or less autonomously. The reality, however, is quite different. For as Augustine sees clearly, the absence of objective goods does not free the individual, but leaves it subject to the arbitrary competition of wills. In other words, in the absence of a substantive account of the good, all that remains is sheer arbitrary power, one will against another. This is what Augustine calls the libido dominandi , the lust for power with which Pharaoh was possessed. Without the idea that some goods are objectively better than others, the movement of the will can only be arbitrary. Persuasion in this context can only be the domination of one will over another. The will is moved by the greater force, and not by any intrinsic attraction to the good. The difference between authority and sheer power has been eliminated.


In the absence of any objective conception of the good, sheer power remains. The prevailing models of business strategy recognize this fact and are unsentimental about it. For example, marketing is marketed on the one hand to the broader public as the provision of information about products so that consumers may make choices that are both informed and voluntary. Here consumers are depicted as autonomous and rational, perfectly sovereign over their choices of products and ends. On the other hand, marketing presents itself in-house to its practitioners and clients as a machine fully capable of creating desire and delivering it to its intended goal. These two aspects of marketing are two sides of the same coin; marketing can manipulate desire successfully in part because of its success in convincing the broader public of consumers that their desires are not being manipulated.

-William Cavanaugh, The Unfreedom of the Free Market (PDF)

A Renaissance Man on Amphetamines

These are the reasons, most reverend Fathers, which not only led, but even compelled me, to the study of philosophy. And I should not have undertaken to expound them, except to reply to those who are wont to condemn the study of philosophy, especially among men of high rank, but also among those of modest station. For the whole study of philosophy (such is the unhappy plight of our time) is occasion for contempt and contumely, rather than honor and glory. The deadly and monstrous persuasion has invaded practically all minds, that philosophy ought not to be studied at all or by very few people; as though it were a thing of little worth to have before our eyes and at our finger-tips, as matters we have searched out with greatest care, the causes of things, the ways of nature and the plan of the universe, God's counsels and the mysteries of heaven and earth, unless by such knowledge on might procure some profit or favor for oneself. Thus we have reached the point, it is painful to recognize, where the only persons accounted wise are those who can reduce the pursuit of wisdom to a profitable traffic; and chaste Pallas, who dwells among men only by the generosity of the gods, is rejected, hooted, whistled at in scorn, with no one to love or befriend her unless, by prostituting herself, she is able to pay back into the strongbox of her lover the ill-procured price of her deflowered virginity. I address all these complaints, with the greatest regret and indignation, not against the princes of our times, but against the philosophers who believe and assert that philosophy should not be pursued because no monetary value or reward is assigned it, unmindful that by this sign they disqualify themselves as philosophers. Since their whole life is concentrated on gain and ambition, they never embrace the knowledge of the truth for its own sake.

So writes a twenty-four year-old Pico della Mirandola in his exuberant and frenetic Oration on the Dignity of Man. It is not terribly surprising that an aristocrat condemns the practical arts, or that an aspring cognoscento ridicules mercurial trades.

What is surprising, and indeed refreshing, is his unshakable trust that disputation is a nigh-infallible crucible for Truth. That Pico then goes on to throw down the gauntlet to those who ridicule "natural magic" and do not wish to engage in Cabalistic discussion gives his oration an incredibly exotic flavor. That his Cabalistic sources were in fact forgeries he bought for a hefty price makes him look like many a contemporary starlet hoaxed by those "Wisdom of the Ancients" collections which sound like paraphrases of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Nevertheless, his zeal remains admirable.

Notably, he does not cite the words of Jesus Christ. One might interpret this to mean he is an eclectic syncretist at heart. However, I suspect it indicates that even in his eclecticism he is wary of reducing Christ to just another wise man, as so many of our spiritual poseurs nowadays attempt.

His speech is a sure example of that old-time Humanism praised here before.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

George Weigel Makes Mountain out of Molehill!

The American Revolution, which institutionally separated Church and state while affirming the transcendent origins of the “truths” on which democratic politics had to be based, was an entirely different matter than its French counterpart. Thus “1776” helped compel the development of doctrine that eventually led to Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom (a point that might be pondered, not only by Lefebvrists, but by Communio contributors convinced that America is, at bottom, an ill-founded republic).

This is a point that George Weigel "teases" from Pope Benedict's Christmas Address. Oddly enough, it is four times longer than the Pope's actual sentence about America: "It was becoming clear that the American Revolution had offered a model of the modern state that was different from that theorized by the radical tendencies that had emerged from the second phase of the French Revolution."

Weigel, you're such a tease!

Using one line from a papal speech to launch an attack on Lefebvrists, who deserve it, and Communio scholars, who do not deserve it, is downright slimy. Every human regime is ill-founded, otherwise the Kingdom of Heaven could be rendered redundant. Weigel's probably a John Courtney Murray fan, and one can modify Murray's take on America to make an apt summary of the Communio school: "The founders built stronger--and weaker--than they knew."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Mental Ward Churchill in the News Again

"University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who is being investigated for alleged plagiarism and other academic offenses, was given straight A's by his fall semester class on the "American Holocaust," the Daily Camera reported Sunday."

So reports the Rocky Mountain News. The 5280.com weblog has a bit of silly commentary.

I don't understand why student opinions are treated as newsworthy. College kids are the least fit to evaluate a professor. If they could evaluate their courses properly, they wouldn’t need to take the classes to begin with. Students are easily flattered, especially if they've had teachers congratulate them on the brilliance of their platitudinous second-hand opinions. Churchill's class itself is self-selecting, picking up only the most lefty members of the student body.

Evelyn Waugh saw right through this laughable kotowing to student opinion:

"Every effort was made to encourage the children at the public schools to "think for themselves." When they should have been whipped and taught Greek paradigms, they were set arguing about birth control and nationalization. Their crude little opinions were treated with respect. Preachers in the school chapel week after week entrusted the future to their hands. It is hardly surprising that they were Bolshevik at 18 and bored at 20."

It seems student evaluations also return the favor of grade inflation. The Rocky article also notes:

The Camera reported that the school's tenured and tenure-track professors typically score a B for the instructor rating under the current student-feedback system.

All the professors are above average. Just call CU the University of Lake Woebegone.

For Those Orphaned in the Womb

The only obvious credential of a novelist has to do with his trade. He trafficks in words and meanings. So the chronic misuse of words, especially the fobbing off of rhetoric for information, gets on his nerves. Another possible credential of a novelist peculiar to these times is that he is perhaps more sensitive to the atrocities of the age than most. People get desensitized. Who wants to go about his business being reminded of the six million dead in the holocaust, the 15 million in the Ukraine? Atrocities become banal. But a 20th century novelist should be a nag, an advertiser, a collector, a proclaimer of banal atrocities.

Doc Walker Percy's 1981 op-ed, A View of Abortion with Something to Offend Everybody.

An additional letter was submitted to the NY Times in 1988 upon the fifteenth aniversary of Roe, and left unpublished until his collection of writings titled "Signposts in a Strange Land" was released. It was posted some time back on FreeRepublic.com

Yet another anniversary of Roe v. Wade has passed.

Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we are a profane people.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Whited Sepulchre that was Rome finds itself the topic of an essay at 2Blowhards.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Googlewars: Jesuit Saint vs. Commie Scum

The St. Ignatius Loyola mosaic at Jesuit Mark Mossa's weblog bears an uncanny resemblance to the images which pop up in this Google Image Search on Lenin.

Was there a Charlie Chaplin-Hitler thing going on? It is said that Lenin quite admired some passages in the Spiritual Exercises, as well as the success of the Jesuit order. Then again, perhaps the mosaic artist was an admirer of Lenin.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Eminently Mockable Richard Dawkins

Scientists all over the nation must hold their heads and groan whenever Richard Dawkins appears on television, as he did in The Root of All Evil? (Monday, C4). He is such a terrible advertisement, such an awful embarrassment, the Billy Graham of the senior common room. His splenetic, small-minded, viciously vindictive falsetto rant at all belief that isn’t completely rooted in the natural sciences is laughable. Dawkins is a born-again Darwinist, an atheist, so why is he devoting so much blood pressure and time to arguing with something he knows doesn’t exist? If it’s not there, Richard, why do you keep shouting at it? He looks like a scientific bag lady screaming at the traffic, and watching him argue with a fundamentalist Christian, you realise they were cut from identical cloth, separated at birth. Dawkins is, of course, the archetype of a man who protests too much, and I’d say he’s well on his way to, if not a Pauline, then at least a Muggeridgian conversion. Any day now, he’ll be back on telly quoting CS Lewis.

The Times via Albertus Minimus

The author unfortunately confuses Billy Graham with Pat Robertson, but I've done the same myself.


I've been directed to an article explaining how a Microsoft millionaire began underwriting Dawkins' screeds and creeds.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Pornocrats At Home, Pornocrats In Public

"Insofar as women are traditionally icons of the civilizing virtues,” Hendin told me, “their current idealization as cold, ruthless killers says a lot about the rise of nihilism. From the lighthearted Charlie’s Angels remake aimed at teenage girls to Basic Instinct and its clones, the proliferation of good-looking women killing and kickboxing connects sex, nihilism and violence…. That skews private and well as public forms of discourse.”

So writes Jim Sleeper in his essay Behind the Deluge of Porn, a Conservative Sea-Change, a plea for checking public licentiousness by way of a revival of civic republicanism. He scores some very accurate points about the interdependence of the pornocracy and the punditocracy. He also repeats an old analysis when he writes: "conservative moralists won't begin to seriously address what is happening in our society until they take on the very market capitalism and consumerist culture they uphold and promote." Though this may be new to Mr. Sleeper and his readers, many on the so-called right have long known this. However, the various factors supporting the marginalization of these throwback moralists can't simply be ignored as Sleeper ignores them.

Traditionalist moralists have no great redoubt, being both underfunded by wealthy right-wing foundations and demonized by other influential groups of sheltered thinkers, namely journalists and university faculties. Possibly the churches are their strongholds, but various legal and social factors fracture both intradenominational and interdenominational unity.

Sleeper, of course, wishes for a republicanism conscious of Daniel Bell's analysis of the cultural contradictions of capitalism, but his framework dooms his effort to failure:

[Bell] acknowledges that “we need political liberalism to assure the individual of protection from coercive powers” but insists that “the arbiter of both cannot be the market — which has to be seen as a mechanism, not a principle of justice….” A republic can block “public display of … prurient elements which degrade the human personality; but behind the wall, what consenting adults do is their own business.”

Ah, "consenting adults," a phrase beloved by those with flimsy conceptions of both "consent" and "adult." Truly, "consenting adult" has replaced "wise man" as the final arbiter of good politics. Invoke this phrase and it is as if you have cited Confucius.

But I digress.

As Sleeper notes earlier in his own article, when discussing the infamous "Boxers or Briefs" question a youth addressed to Clinton, the factors encouraging public displays of prurience are formed in the private arena. He hopes that moralists can badger corporate pimps into public silence when a great sector of the public themselves don't mind such pandering. I see no solution to this dilemma other than personal conversion en masse or blunt semi-authoritarian intervention.

Sleeper's dilemma shows why pure liberalism, even in its supposedly benign classical version, ultimately undermines civic republicanism unless actively checked by both social and legal constraints. Civic republicanism forms citizens to make and to keep them capable of self-government. Often this is accomplished with harsh demands intruding upon what is currently considered private. Liberalism presupposes the effectiveness of such civic formation, but also the perpetuity thereof even when social and legal restraints are removed. As the unquestionably Liberal Federal government continues to undermine social and legal regimens at the state level, the republican spirit dies a little more each day.

From the Cornell Society for a Good Time

A Broken Window Theory of liturgical abuses and molestations

A report on highly-educated Latin American natives speaking Latin like Cicero just years after colonization took hold.

Yech! SDS at Regis.

The Students for a Democratic Society, whose alumnus Tom Hayden has been mentioned in these pages, is attempting a revival. Their website indicates a Regis chapter is in the works. Where have all the Tories gone?

The Jesuits should never have started charging tuition. Fees are so exorbitant now that only the scions of Jacobin capitalists can easily attend.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Ridiculing Clichés In Danger of Becoming Clichéd!

An internet blooper allowed to be published a rough draft, editorial correspondence, and a final draft of an opinion piece in a South Dakotan newspaper. Here are the editor's suggestions:

It needs more of an opinion ending....it is just too much of a report on a meeting for an editorial page column.....

I think it will be easy to change it into an editorial page column....Just a paragraph or two would do it I think.....maybe one fairly high up that says although all the different religioins, viewpoints were presented, everyone got along and respected each others views...if that is true.....or something like that

and then a pargraph at the end that says something along the same lines.....while the world's religions may be sharply divided over issues ranging from gay clergy to whatever....for these few days scholars were able to ??????

Those are just a couple of ideas I'm throwing out in the hopes of better explaining myself.

Now I know there isn't much one can say in a few hundred words, but must one always say the exact same things? "Golly gee, look at this Diversity!" and "Conflict outside, but unity here!" have to be some of the most hackneyed themes in contemporary rhetoric. I wouldn't be surprised if these suggestions are straight out of some Journalism school textbook.

via Zorak

Verbum Ipsum: An Undeservedly Forgotten Blog

I had the occasion to return to a weblog I frequented long before I discovered XML/RSS feed syndication, Verbum Ipsum. Its operator provided for me a much-needed connection with contemporary Protestant theology, but I gradually forgot to visit, and I don't believe I ever bookmarked it.

At the moment, its host has posted a reflection from Leszek Kolakowski on conservative-liberal-socialism and an excerpt on the problems of the moralistic temptation.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

From the Cuban Gulag

Via Amy Welborn comes a report on political prisoner Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet. Amy Welborn's correspondent also reports:

However, there is much more to this story than the fact that he has courageously opposed the regime throughout his life. Three years ago, I escorted his wife (Elsa Morejon) around Capitol Hill in an effort to raise awareness in Washington of the ongoing persecution of those who dare to demand freedom. But during a meeting with sympathetic members of Congress, Morejon revealed that one of the reasons her husband was sent to the gulag the first time was that he refused to perform abortions for the teenage girls Castro uses as part of the sex-tourism industry in Cuba. Biscet is a devout Catholic, and recognized by Amnesty International as a Prisoner of Conscience. He should be the Mandela of our day, but sadly few people outside of the Cuban American community have ever heard of him. Now more than ever an international outcry is needed to let the world know of Biscet's struggle. At the very least, this man needs our prayers.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

In Defense of Panhandling

“First, the beggar provides us with the opportunity to perform acts of personal charity. I was in San Francisco several years ago with a woman who gave money to every beggar she encountered. After a while she turned to me and said, “You know I’m doing it for me, not for them?” “In this vein, I would ask you to conduct an experiment. Take four five dollar bills and give them to four panhandlers, receiving from each his cheerful, "God bless you brother", in return. Then, take another four five dollar bills and go spend them buying four drinks in one of the Mayor’s gin joints. And then ask yourself, “Which made me feel better?” “Who else in your day says to you, “God bless you brother”?

-Professor Thaddeus Tecza, Defending Panhandling before the Denver City Council

Another Lazy Journalist Quotes Me.... Why?

The first time I found myself quoted in a major news source, I was pickled tink. Now I'm just annoyed to find via GetReligion.org that the Chicago Sun Times cherrypicked one of my hastily-written comments from a Free Republic Thread on the Catholic-Evangelical controversy at Wheaton for a sidebar adjacent to the Sun Times' own article.

Though citation in the mainstream media was novel the first time, especially because the journalist mentioned my weblog by name, the practice helps make the papers look like they’re just recycling other people’s hastily-written content found by way of a lazy googling. If they're looking to the same people for commentary as I am, heck, if they're looking to me for commentary, I have even less reason to read the major newspapers to get a sense of things, though I do have more reasons to read to flatter my vanity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

How to get from Relativism to Hate Speech Codes

Liberals don't believe in objective truth. They think that all opinions must be treated as equally valid, equally deserving of respect, and not to be judged. Therefore to treat a conservative opinion as an opinion among other opinions would be implicitly to validate it. It is difficult for a liberal simply to argue that an opinion is wrong, because liberals don't believe that there is a right and wrong. Therefore, if there is an opinion that the liberals strongly dislike and want to reject utterly, they have to deny that it is an opinion. They must treat it as an act of bad faith, a ploy, a hoax, an attempt to "divide America," or a symptom of pathology or prejudice.

So writes Lawrence Auster, an occasionally creepy but usually insightful writer. Though I protest against classifying this habit of thought as liberal, Auster certainly nails the petty would-be thinkers of many a college campus and editorial page. The retreat from the battlefields of thought into the bunker of armchair psychoanalysis is too common, and I am not sure what weapons can be consistently deployed to bust such fortifications.

Mater Dei, Mater Veritatis

Sometimes even malapropisms give great insight. A slip-up in the rosary made me say "Holy Mary, Mother of Truth," a completely orthodox yet rather novel expression. It is a quite fitting phrase, especially when it is followed by "Blessed is the Truth of thy womb, Jesus."

Mater veritatis is not a title alien to Catholic mariology, but it is certainly underused. I found one example from an old prayerbook, and a musician named Jean Mouton includes it in a version of the chant Felix namque. The text, ruthlessly plundered from a Rutgers University musical performance program.(PDF warning!)

Felix namque es, sacra Virgo Maria,
et omni laude dignissima:
quia ex te ortus est sol justitiae,
Christus Deus noster.
Ave regina caelorum
Mater regis angelorum, Dominus tecum,
Mater pietatis, Dominus tecum,
Mater veritatis, Dominus tecum,
Mater charitatis Dominus tecum.
O Maria, flos virginum,
velut rosa vel lilium:
funde preces ad Dominum
pro salute fidelium.
O Maria, mater Dei:
Mater pietatis,
Mater caritatis,
Mater veritatis,
nos recommenda, tuo filio.
Pulchra es et decora, filia Jerusalem.
Gloria tibi Domine,
qui natus est de virgine,
cum patre et Sancto Spiritu,
in sempiterna secula.

For you are happy, O holy Virgin Mary,
and most worthy of all praise:
since from you has risen the sun of justice,
Christ our God.
Hail, Queen of heaven,
Mother of the King of angels, the Lord be with you,
Mother of piety, the Lord be with you,
Mother of truth, the Lord be with you,
Mother of charity, the Lord be with you.
O Mary, virgin flower,
as the rose or lily:
pray to the Lord
for the salvation of the faithful.
O Mary, Mother of God:
Mother of piety,
Mother of charity,
Mother of truth,
commend us to your Son.
You are fair and beautiful, daughter of Jerusalem.
Glory be to you, Lord,
who is born of a virgin,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit
in eternity.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Abortion going up for popular vote in Colorado?

A drive for an amendment limiting the abortion of "viable" fetuses is in the works:

The initiative would bar such abortions with an exception for when the woman is at risk of death or serious injury - an exception the U.S. Supreme Court has held must be included.

In addition, the proposal would make it a felony for doctors to knowingly perform an abortion on a viable fetus or conduct an abortion with "reckless disregard of whether the fetus is viable" outside the womb.

The authors are Denver lawyer Mike Lawrence and Tim Dore, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, the public-policy arm of the state's three Catholic dioceses. Dore said his involvement is personal and not part of his work with the conference.
Initiative seeks abortion limits

I know I have a few local readers, so if anybody's going to the Respect Life Mass at the cathedral or the following March for Life at the Denver capitol building, drop me a line. Health permitting, I'll be there.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Capitalist Revoutionaries?

As laymen and analysts alike have observed over the years, the major foundations -- particularly Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and MacArthur -- have for decades spent millions of dollars promoting "cutting edge" projects on racial, ethnic, and gender issues. According to author and foundation expert Heather Mac Donald, for example, feminist projects received $36 million from Ford, Rockefeller, Mellon, and other large foundations between 1972 and 1992. Similarly, according to a Capital Research Center report by Peter Warren, a policy analyst at the National Association of Scholars, foundations have crowned diversity the "king" of American campuses. For example, the Ford Foundation launched a Campus Diversity Initiative in 1990 that funded programs in about 250 colleges and universities at a cost of approximately $15 million. The Ford initiative promotes what sounds like a Gramscian's group-rights dream: as Peter Warren puts it, "the establishment of racial, ethnic, and sex-specific programs and academic departments, group preferences in student admissions, group preferences in staff and faculty hiring, sensitivity training for students and staff, and campus-wide convocations to raise consciousness about the need for such programs."


The employees of America's major corporations take many of the same sensitivity training programs as America's college students, often from the same "diversity facilitators." Frederick Lynch, the author of the Diversity Machine, reported "diversity training" is rampant among the Fortune 500. Even more significantly, on issues of group preferences vs. individual opportunity, major corporate leaders tend to put their money and influence behind group rights instead of individual rights.

John Fonte, Why there is a Culture War: From Tocqueville to Gramsci

Prudence, the Lesser Virtue

Why should I renounce the "inscrutable delight" [of pleasures] for the sake of dull well-being? Passions lead to destruction, but prudence does not save from destruction. No one by means of prudent behaviour alone has ever conquered death.

It is only in the presence of something higher that the voice of passions may prove to be wrong. It is silenced by the thunder of heaven, but the tame speeches of good sense are powerless to drown it.

--Vladimir Soloviev

via Summa Contra Mundum

Friday, January 06, 2006

Regarding the War Between Historiography and Agitprop in Popular Science

The current debates over science, ethics, and religion produce a great deal of unfortunate cant. The emphasis on irresoluble conflict between scientific and religious positions, an emphasis which unfortunately pervades the work of journalists and publicity-seeking scientists, generally has its root in the lazily-thought out nineteenth-century thesis of Andrew Dickson White's A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom.

Fortunately, White's book has its contemporary dissectors.

Bede's Library takes on the gaping errors in White's book in the short essay The Mythical Conflict between Science and Religion

Another longer essay reflects on certain tendentious interpretations of historiography that have nearly become foundational myths: Beyond War and Peace: A Reappraisal of the Encounter between Christianity and Science" Its precis:

During the last third of the nineteenth century Andrew Dickson White and others used military metaphors to describe the historical relationship between science and Christianity. Recent scholarship, however, has shown the "war- fare" thesis to be a gross distortion-as this paper attempts to reveal, employing illustrations from the patristic and medieval periods and from the Copernican and Darwinian debates. The authors argue that the interaction between science and Christianity was far too rich and varied to be covered by any simple formula.

Finally, the always-good-for-a-laugh Wikipedia once begat an argument between two professional historians and an acolyte of White. See MichaelTinkler and JHK rip apart White on Galileo Talk Archive #1 and Galileo Talk Archive #2

Now if only White's unknowing epigones could get wind of this, opinion piece authors will be forced to rely on filler more meaty than Science=Progress, Religion=Oppression.
Mark Stricherz, whose essay against professionalization was noted here last month, now has a weblog called In Front of Your Nose. He doesn't seem to have RSS feeds set up yet, alas.

via Eve Tushnet

California Wanking, On Such a Winter's Day...

Aparently the Rose Bowl Halftime Show has not attracted much notice whatsoever. Possibly nobody was watching. Nevertheless, I am registering a small, sighful protest that the USC band performed a Michael Jackson song that ended with a hundred-boy synchronized crotch-grab.

The Shame of Undeserved Success

"But there came a new development, something that even a Tocqueville or a Burckhardt did not and perhaps even could not consider. This was the rising and eventually overwhelming influence of publicity, of its manipulations and of its ever more pervasive presence. This was not a simple matter--indeed, often a new kind of danger to democracy, less direct but perhaps even more insidious than that of the tyranny of a majority, since it is more than often the decisive influence of certain insistent and powerful minorities. James Fenimore Cooper recognized this early, in 1838, in The American Democrat. The efforts "to create publick opinion," he wrote, "is to simulate the existence of a general feeling in favor, or against, any particular man, ,or measure; so great being the deference paid to publick opinion, in a country like this, that men actually yield their own sentiments to that which they believe to be the sentiment of the majority." So this sensitive early American writer was worried less by the prospect of a tyranny of the majority or even with the deference paid to public opinion than with its simulation: something different from direct populism.


This near-absolute preoccupation with publicity involved, at least indirectly, an underestimation of the intellectual qualities of a president; but it involved, too, an underestimation of that of the American people. One symptom of this mutation from a popularity contest to a publicity contest was that, latest by 1980, the very word "popular" was fading in political usage, whereas "image" and "publicity" became more and more frequent. This devolution involved something lamentable and insidious: the cult of celebrity. Movie actors, actresses, athletes were no longer only useful instruments to enhance the electoral prospects of a president or senator. In more and more instances (the ridiculous example of Arnold Schwarzenegger being only one example) their very celebrity made them potential and successful candidates for high public offices. This development, or devolution, went of course well beyond elections. It involved the transformation of society. The older American patriciandom, perhaps especially in the older cities of Eastern America, attempted to avoid celebrity while preserving privacy; but, latest after 1950, "Society" had more and more to do with "Celebrity." After all, celebrity means to be publicly known: the bridge between Society and Celebrity consists of publicity; and publicity will have an inevitable effect on people whose discriminating manners are not matched by discriminating mental interests of their own.

-John Lukacs, Democracy and Populism

Averroes and the Theater

The Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges portrayed the scholar in 'Averroës' Search' (The Aleph, 1949) at work in his library, trying solve the enigma of the words "tragedy" and "comedy". Eventually he writes that tragedy means "panegyric," and that comedy means "satire." Too loyal to Islam, he cannot break circle of his own culture. One of Borges's sources was the French critic and historian Ernest Rénan (1823-1892), who argued in his study Averroès et l'averroïsme (1852) that Averroes' paraphrase of the Poetics of Aristotle evinces ignorance of Greek Literature. "Averroës's blunders in matters of Greek literature cannot but make one smile. He imagines that tragedy is nothing more than the art of encomium, comedy the art of censure; he then claims to find tragedies and comedies in the Arabic panegyrics and satires, and even in the Koran!" Borges's story is a postmodern fiction-about-fiction. At the end Averroes vanishes, to give room to the voice of the author, who explains that he tried to narrate the process of failure, but on the last page he felt that "Averroës, trying to imagine what a play is without ever having suspected what a theater is, was no more absurd than I, trying to imagine Averröes yet with no more material than a few snatches from Renan, Lane, and Asín Palacios."
via Pegasos

I shall leave unsaid whether this lack of theater, if there was indeed such a lack, says anything deeper about Islamic culture.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"Dangerous Ideas" Revisited

I missed one very disturbing paragraph in my review of the Dangerous Ideas Symposium.

Officials in the Pentagon, the major funder of neural-code research, have openly broached the prospect of cyborg warriors who can be remotely controlled via brain implants, like the assassin in the recent remake of "The Manchurian Candidate."

So writes John Horton while denying the existence of souls. Sputnik and anti-Soviet worries made science education a national endeavor and scientism the national creed. How much will the military fund these transhumanists who deny the existence of the self? How much of a boost will military backing give to their anthropology, or lack thereof? Nobody can compete with military funding, and the ideology might even have benefits in combat: it's much easier to kill enemies in a war if you've reduced both Self and Other into trivial component parts.

My vote for Most Dangerous Idea comes from Dostoevsky's Kirilov character in "Demons/The Possessed":

"Man has invented God so as to go on living without killing himself."

By fortuitous coincidence, last night I was flipping through my Christmas present, John Zizioulas's Being As Communion, and it opened to a discussion of this very idea as a "disturbing alarm":

[...]if the only way of exercising absolute ontological freedom for man is suicide, then freedom leads to nihilism; the person is shown to be the negator of ontology. This existential alarm, the fear of nihilism, is so serious that in the last analysis it must itself be regarded as responsible for the relativization of the concept of the person. Indeed every claim to absolute freedom is always countered by the argument that its realization would lead to chaos. The concept of "law," as much in its ethical as in its juridical sense, always presupposes some limitation to personal freedom in the name of "order" and "harmony," the need for symbiosis with others. Thus "the other" becomes a threat to the person, its "hell" and its "fall," to recall the words of Sartre. Once again the concept of the person leads human existence to an impasse: humanism proves unable to affirm personhood.

That's the only paragraph I've read in the book. Maybe there is something to that sortilege scripturae thing.

Footnotes to Plato: The Movie Theater is the Cave

Film is, by its very nature, highly propagandistic. That is, when you read a book, if you detect you're being lied to or manipulated, you can always stop reading, close the book momentarily and say, "Wait just a minute, there's something wrong here!" You can't do that in a film: You're bombarded with sound and images, all expertly crafted to give you selected information and to stimulate certain feelings, and you can't stop the barrage, not in a theater anyway. The visuals and sound and music – and along with them, the underlying agenda of the filmmakers – pursue you relentlessly, overwhelming your emotions and senses.

And when you leave the theater, unless you're really objective to what you've experienced, you've been changed – even if just a little bit.

David Kupelian

Via Evangelical Outpost via Mark Shea on yet another media atrocity, "You Me And Everyone We Know"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Every Applicant a Galileo Makes Every Department Dull

First Things takes on the Perpetual Revolution in the academic Humanities:

Benton is hardly the first person to lament the fact that contemporary academic culture has been impoverished by its capitulation to the cult of academic celebrity. But he goes further than that, taking aim at the fallacy undergirding the cult: our obsession with “individual genius.” The very idea that the Ph.D. dissertation ought to be an “original contribution to knowledge,” a precept that was already well entrenched when William James wrote against it a century ago, has helped to feed this romantic fallacy. But, as Benton shows, the fallacy has metastasized into something downright ludicrous. In a job interview for an entry-level position at a second-tier state university, Benton was asked how his scholarly work might “redraw the boundaries of the profession.” To his credit, he was unable to manufacture a glib and confident answer to such a breathtakingly stupid question, and was too modest to put himself forward as the next Derrida. And instantly, he says, “I could feel the temperature of the room drop as if I had just stepped into a meat locker.” The interview was over.

In retrospect, one might have wanted Benton to respond, “If this ‘profession’ is so fragile and unstable as to have its boundaries redrawn by any freshly minted Ph.D. to come down the pike, who would want to be a part of it? And just who do you people think you are? Would interviewers for an entry-level job in, say, physics, at Mega State U. in Oshkosh ask each applicant how their work would comprehensively reorder our understanding of the physical universe?” Such impertinent questions would not have gotten him the job, but he could at least have gotten some truth-telling satisfaction out of the encounter.

Like Henry James, Chesterton noted a similar habit long ago:

But the man we see every day -- the worker in Mr. Gradgrind's factory, the little clerk in Mr. Gradgrind's office -- he is too mentally worried to believe in freedom. He is kept quiet with revolutionary literature. He is calmed and kept in his place by a constant succession of wild philosophies. He is a Marxian one day, a Nietzscheite the next day, a Superman (probably) the next day; and a slave every day. The only thing that remains after all the philosophies is the factory. The only man who gains by all the philosophies is Gradgrind. It would be worth his while to keep his commercial helotry supplied with sceptical literature. And now I come to think of it, of course, Gradgrind is famous for giving libraries. He shows his sense. All modern books are on his side. As long as the vision of heaven is always changing, the vision of earth will be exactly the same. No ideal will remain long enough to be realized, or even partly realized. The modern young man will never change his environment; for he will always change his mind.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Ask a "Dangerous" Question, Get a Banal Answer

For some unfathomable reason, The Edge World Question Center has asked academics what they think the most dangerous idea is. Apparently they have some authority to answer the question.

"Open Source currency" as described by Douglas Rushkoff sounds interesting, as does Rupert Sheldrake's reflection on the unsolved problem of animal navigation. After reading Metropolitan Zizioulas's Being and Communion, I hope to revisit certain concepts of relativity. Lee Smolin describes one of these concepts as Relationalism, "according to which the world is a network of relationships which evolve in time. There is no absolute background and the properties of anything are only defined in terms of its participation in this network of relations."

Though I doubt Christian theology can neglect the absolute, Smolin might have a partial grasp on something.

After reading too much Jorge Luis Borges, I have realized a solution to the problem provoked by the Benjamin Libet experiments, which are mentioned in the article. The experiments indicated that unconscious intention precedes any conscious sense of intention. Libet used this to deny free will. I respond with an opinion of surreal kookery:

the human will in fact has a limited capacity to affect the past, preparing the past organism from a future time, as some have described the "final causes" at work in biology.

The collection as a whole is rather amusing. There are many village atheists and plenty of those very odd neuroscientists and their epigones who deny that the self exists. A few realize that atheism discourages any further reproduction and that they shall be overrun by the prolific and credulous masses. Apparently this does not encourage them to have more babies.

A few respondents even try to turn scientific research into a religion. A particularly hillarious example thereof:

But what if? What if we appropriated the craft, the artistry, the methods of formal religion to get the message across? Imagine 'Einstein's Witnesses' going door to door or TV evangelists passionately espousing the beauty of evolution.

Imagine a Church of Latter Day Scientists where believers could gather. Imagine congregations raising their voices in tribute to gravity, the force that binds us all to the Earth, and the Earth to the Sun, and the Sun to the Milky Way. Or others rejoicing in the nuclear force that makes possible the sunlight of our star and the starlight of distant suns. And can't you just hear the hymns sung to the antiquity of the universe, its abiding laws, and the heaven above that 'we' will all one day inhabit, together, commingled, spread out like a nebula against a diamond sky?

One day, the sites we hold most sacred just might be the astronomical observatories, the particle accelerators, the university research installations, and other laboratories where the high priests of science — the biologists, the physicists, the astronomers, the chemists — engage in the noble pursuit of uncovering the workings of nature herself. And today's museums, expositional halls, and planetaria may then become tomorrow's houses of worship, where these revealed truths, and the wonder of our interconnectedness with the cosmos, are glorified in song by the devout and the soulful.

"Hallelujah!", they will sing. "May the force be with you!"

This was written by Carolyn Porco, Planetary Scientist; Cassini Imaging Science Team Leader; Director CICLOPS, Boulder CO; Adjunct Professor, University of Colorado, University of Arizona.

Apparently she is also a victim of the mind tricks of some secret cult of would-be Jedi. Any scientist who worships her tools is as cracked as those ancient paynim reputed to worship idols made by their own hands.

Pious Miscellany

A friend of my mother was out east in Maryland for her grandmother's funeral. After the rosary the priest made himself available for confessions, ministering to people who have just witnessed the saddening memento mori of a departed loved one. This is a superb practice worthy of emulation. Penitence is easier with death before our eyes. What's more, any estranged Catholics will be prepared to participate in the requiem mass the next day.

This of course, by an incommodius vicus of convoluted thoughts, leads me to recount an anecdote from John Zmirak's frequently funny Bad Catholics Guide to Good Living:

"A friend of the authors tells of his mother, a very active lay Catholic. She was upset when her pastor pulled out all the confessionals and refused to use a screen--denying her anonymity. So after a few complaints went unheeded, she showed up one Saturday afternoon in a Halloween mask, which she wore into the "reconciliation room." The priest wass aghast: "What are you doing?" She answered, cooly, "Retaining my canonical right to an anonymous Confession. And I'll be here like this every week, if I have to." The next day, one of the missing confessionals miraculously reappeared."

"With Him, therefore, and though Him, we venture to offer Thee this Sacrifice: to His most sacred intentions we desire to unite ours: and with this offering which He makes of Himself we wish to make an offering of our whole being unto Thee."

-Prayer before the Consecration, Old Tridentine Mass Missal

"Community" is too often just a form of collective egotism, a misplaced focus for which the Holy Sacrifice is the cure. I think emphasizing this would preserve the truth in certain modernizers' overemphasis on the community while at the same time further strengthening by means of sacrifical love Catholics' communion with God and each other.

Speaking of collective egotism, there is now a website for the local "liberal" Catholic bimonthly 'zine Leaven.

Its contents are generally riddled with tiresome dissent, but it does have an occasional article focusing on actual hands-on apostolates to the poor and homeless. Its tone is anti-clerical, especially when trying to justify that academic and journalistic trendiness which is cloaked under the name "Progressive." If one must be anti-clerical, I prefer the Jansenist kind myself.

Its contributors are largely church employees or academics at Regis University who often have pretentions to the prophetic. I suspect their readership is only two or three times the number of its contributors. Prayers needed for all of them, especially co-editor Professor John Kane who lost his son two years back.

Annunciation Radio is seeking to reestablish a Catholic radio presence in the Denver area.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Pope Joan: The Clouding of the American Mind

Do you think there was a Pope Joan?
Yes, seems so 61%
No, it's an urban legend 22%
I can't decide 17%
Total Votes: 57,250

Did a Woman Serve as Pope in the Ninth Century? on AOL.com

AOL is the domain of teenagers and perverts, or so I tell myself in order to continue to believe naively in popular sovereignty and the good will and the reasonable character of most men.

A Proposed New Year's Congressional Resolution

A Resolution Mandating Bread and Water Diets for All Legislators

WHEREAS Congress spends the taxpayers' money on many fruitless endeavors such as Bridges to Nowhere, Hearings on the BCS College Football Rankings,

WHEREAS Members of Congress too often use their time on the floor to mug shamelessly for press attention like preening teenage starlets,

WHEREAS, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, no man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the Legislature is in session,

WHEREAS Fasting is conducive towards establishing habits of self-denial,

WHEREAS Self-Denial lessens congressmen's avaricious plundering of the treasury for oneself and one's allies,

WHEREAS Fasting is uncomfortable,

WHEREAS Uncomfortable senators will be more inclined to speed through a congressional session without spending all of the taxpayers' money and then some,


That while congress is in session all congressmen under the age of 65 who have no medical or religious reasons to do otherwise shall consume a diet consisting only of bread and water three times a day until the close of the session.


That whosoever of this body is found in violation of said resolution shall be fined no less than $500 and have his or her violation mockingly read into the Congressional Record by the Speaker of the House.

"Fascism" in the Nomenklatura Sovietskaya

Sometime around 1931-1932 the usage of the term "National Socialist" was forbidden in Soviet Russia, presumably on Stalin's orders. (this is an important topic that researchers reading Russian might usefully pursue, verify, and complete.) After that date, Russian references to Hitler or to National Socialists or to the Third Reich was always to "Fascists" or "Hitlerites." In western Europe and in the United States this terminology was instantly and eagerly adopted by many journalists and political commentators and even political thinkers and historians--wrongly so. It was the only permissible term employed by all Communists, regimes as well as intellectuals, in the Soviet-dominated nations of Eastern Europe.

Stalin had good reasons to insist upon this kind of terminology. National, instead of "international" socialism was more and more applicable to Stalin's Russia in the 1930s, whence it was best to avoid the usage of such a term. At the same time the overall application of "Fascism" to all right-wing and strongly anti-Communist parties and phenomena was very useful for international Communist and left-wing rhetoric and practice.

-John Lukacs, Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred p. 117

We Dissect to Give Life

And the suspense is over. Because we have stopped reading this poem. There’s nothing about it in the first lines or the second or the third to gain our confidence that the organizing intelligence behind it is either organized or intelligent.
Joan Houlihan, Three Invitations to a Far Reading

The essay is a welcome dissection of bad poetry. In many ways, such poet manques aspire to be something like Richard Dawkins' blind watchmaker in their unguidedness, but fall short even of the appearance of design which Dawkins admits as an end-result. Their poems are as opaque and inscrutable as any other chaotic impulse. The reasons for their being published are the deepest mysteries whose purposes shall not be revealed until the Apocalypse itself.