Monday, July 31, 2006

Shame-Driven Neo-Eugenics

A mother of a child with Down's Syndrome writes:

Scientists are beginning to tell me precisely how much dissident acts like not aborting my son cost society. A study published in 2000 in the American Journal of Medical Genetics concluded that the average lifetime cost of each "new case" of Down syndrome is $451,000. This study differentiated the lifetime costs of various types of prenatally diagnosed disabilities leading to abortions in one hospital in Michigan. For reasons I can't fathom, Down syndrome turns out to be the most expensive by far. In contrast, the lifetime costs of conditions like spina bifida ($294,000) and cleft lip or palate ($101,000) seem almost negligible.

This study was offered to quantify the cost of banning "second trimester elective terminations for prenatally diagnosed abnormalities." Imagine the public outrage that would greet the publication of a study calculating the cost of not terminating pregnancies if it were broken down into a category such as family income. Although most of our civil rights laws now include "disability" in the litany of prohibited bases for discrimination--along with race, gender, and ethnic origin--our enlightened liberal commitment to diversity appears to go only so far. While we are willing to mandate accommodation to make jobs or public transportation accessible to a person with spina bifida, the social cost of accommodating her birth is increasingly being seen as exceeding her worth.
Elizabeth R. Schiltz, Confessions of a "Genetic Outlaw"

via Amy Welborn

The Declension of Mideast Christianity

I am terribly diffident about the quality of my judgement on the current Israeli-Lebanese conflict. Having little wish to play the armchair strategerist, I can only copy what others are saying. Via Daniel Larison comes a sad portrait of the regional conflict, and its American repercussions past and present:

I was a subscriber to the American edition of the Italian Catholic magazine 30 Days, and we were all shocked when the American publisher (Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.) decided to quit publishing the American edition when the Italians ran a cover story on Pope John Paul II's opposition to the [Gulf] war. (For those unfamiliar with the story, that was the genesis of Catholic World Report, which was given to American 30 Days subscribers to fill out the rest of their subscription.)


In the eyes of today's "conservative" American Catholics, the Christian populations of the Middle East--the oldest continuing Christian communities in the world--are simply invisible. Palestinians are all Muslims; there are no Melkites. Lebanese are all Muslims; there are no Maronites or Syrian Catholics or Orthodox. Ditto for Syria herself. Iraqis are Sunni and Shiite and Kurd; Chaldean and Assyrian Christians simply don't exist. And everyone who lives within the borders of Israel is an observant Jew.

This blindness on the part of "conservative" American Catholics is partly ignorance; even many of those who have heard the words Melkite and Maronite have no particular interest in trying to learn anything about either rite, must less trying to grapple with the history of these Christian populations or even being bothered to find out who lives where or how they worship.

More importantly, though, it reflects a growing political reality. Since at least the Six-Day War, the presence of Christians in the Middle East has been a sign of contradiction that has stood in the way of American and Israeli attempts to reduce the broad conflict in the Middle East to the dualism of Judaism/Israel versus Islam/Arabs. The inconvenient reality of Middle Eastern Christianity has been a stumbling block to remaking the Middle East in a particular ideological image.
Scott P. Richert, Chronicles Magazine

These allegations about Father Fessio and CWNews are new to me.

Also we learn that conservative great Russell Kirk's daughter Andrea Kirk Assaf has a weblog and a Maronite Catholic husband. She is reporting on her in-laws' sad afflictions as the bombs fall.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Metaphysical Imperative In Education

Education cannot help us as long as it accords no place to metaphysics. Whether the subjects taught are subjects of science or the humanities, if the teaching does not lead to clarification of metaphysics, that is to say, of our fundamental convictions, it cannot educate a man and, consequently, cannot be of real value to society.

It is often asserted that education is breaking down because of over-specialization. But this is only a partial and misleading diagnosis. Specialization is not in itself a faulty principle of education. . . . What is at fault is not specialization, but the lack of depth with which the subjects are usually presented, and the absence of metaphysical awareness.

The sciences are being taught without any awareness of the presuppositions of science, of the meaning and significance of scientific laws, and of the place occupied by the natural sciences within the whole cosmos of human thought. The result is that the presuppositions of science are normally mistaken for its findings. Economics is being taught without any awareness of the view of human nature that underlies present-day economic theory. In fact, many economists are themselves unaware of the fact that such a view is implicit in their teaching and that nearly all their theories would have to change if that view changed.

How could there be a rational teaching of politics without pressing all questions back to their metaphysical roots? Political thinking must necessarily become confused . . . if there is continued refusal to admit the serious study of the metaphysical and ethical problems involved.
-E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

Catholic Gradualism

There are indeed some people who, in their generosity of spirit, burn with a desire to institute wholesale reforms whenever they come across situations which show scant regard for justice or are wholly out of keeping with its claims. They tackle the problem with such impetuosity that one would think they were embarking on some political revolution.

We would remind such people that it is the law of nature that all things must be of gradual growth. If there is to be any improvement in human institutions, the work must be done slowly and deliberately from within. Pope Pius XII expressed it in these terms: "Salvation and justice consist not in the uprooting of an outdated system, but in a well designed policy of development. Hotheadedness was never constructive; it has always destroyed everything. It has inflamed passions, but never assuaged them. It sows no seeds but those of hatred and destruction. Far from bringing about the reconciliation of contending parties, it reduces men and political parties to the necessity of laboriously redoing the work of the past, building on the ruins that disharmony has left in its wake."
-Blessed John XXIII, Pacem in Terris

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

When Objectivism Is Destructive

Polanyi believed that "Objectivism" created a particular moral problem for the "modern mind." On the one hand, the effectiveness of the scientific revolution intensified the human thirst for moral perfection and for a truly just society. These impulses Polanyi thought the inheritance of the Christian civilization of Western Europe. On the other hand, the objectivist principle caused a deep cynicism and doubt about all traditional and received wisdom. Instead of thinking that the modern problem was a kind of moral decline, Polanyi thought the modern problem an intensified moral impulse diverted from the controlling channels of traditional morality. The result was a flood of moral fanaticism which produced both Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia. The hallmark of this fanaticism was a horror of hypocrisy. All moral claims were seen as unreal and capable of being reduced to the outworking of biological, psychological or class dynamics. This leads to a hatred of existing moral traditions as hypocritical and a fervor for building a new world now on the wreckage of the old. With great moral enthusiasm and a sense of righteous indignation modern Europeans literally destroyed themselves in the service of utopian visions. The process by which the moral sense becomes unmoored from common sense notions of good and justice and then justifies what would have heretofore been called immorality in the name of a greater good, Polanyi calls "dynamo-objective coupling" or "moral inversion."
-Dr. Leander Harding

via Pontifications

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Archbishop Chaput Meets Laity on Immigration

Archbishop Chaput held a town meeting on immigration yesterday evening. A report appeared in the Rocky Mountain News, an article in need of correction.

I'll list a quotation from that article in italics, then my take:
from a packed audience of mostly Anglo, middle-class parishioners

Did she do a demographic poll? Most people there were seniors or near-seniors, generally a wealthy group, but I never heard anything about the economic breakdown of the crowd. I'm more of a Celt than an Anglo, and I quite doubt many in the audience would self-identify as Anglo. Yes, there weren't many, if any, migrant workers in the audience, but that line is pure filler.

This part of the report is vague:

"Wherever I go, I see English and Spanish (signs) - why not Polish?" asked a woman who said she emigrated from Poland decades ago. As she spoke, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 400 people at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial erupted in applause and cheers.
"I've always said it was good for people to learn English," Chaput said.

To clarify, the Polish woman was priding herself on assimilating and learning English, not lobbying for more Polish signs.

In an interview before Monday's lively, English-only meeting got under way

Eh, some Hispanic lady quoted a Spanish proverb about truth coming from the mouth of God. Does that vitiate the meeting's English-only quality?

There was also much less self-aggrandizing preening going on about ethnicity, diversity, tolerance, and one's immigrant ancestors than this article lets on. One or two Hispanic speakers mentioned bigotry directed against them, and the eighty-three-year-old lady mentioned in this article did mention how unwelcome and even unsafe she felt in her own neighborhood as it turned Hispanophone.

Now for my take: First, the Archbishop was very intellectually modest. He acknowledged that bishops weren't specialists in immigration. If anything, he seemed to pass off to the laity all the real work on finding a soution, though arguably this is the right thing to do. He reminded people of the mercy and justice due to the poor, and sounded caution about what some impending proposals could do to families, like those residents who are half-legal and half-illegal. He favored a good work visa program that requires workers to head back home for a few weeks a year, with the hope they'll maintain family connections. As it is now, illegals don't go home for fear they can't get back in.

He disavowed open-borders, and payed more than lip service to the necessity of a secure border.

Likewise, the archbishop pushed for reform. Like most people, he knows there's something broken about the current immigration system. Also like most people, he's not sure what the best solution is. He's no Tancredo(thankfully, in my opinion), but he's not a Cardinal Mahoney either. He actually criticized as imprudent the cardinal's hyperbolic reaction to a proposed law prosecuting those assisting illegals. If you'll recall, Cardinal Mahoney said he'd instruct his priests to disobey that law, even though its writers didn't intend for it to target religious charities assisting likely illegals.

The Archbishop responded to one working-class man's complaint about the Bishops' Conference Immigration Talking Points by acknowledging that some of these points are exaggerated rhetorical flourishes, well-meaning but sometimes misleading. He mentioned he thinks these kinds of political activism can diminish the bishops' overall credibility, but then he said the rest of the bishops don't agree with him on this matter.

I do think the archbishop made one naive statement about the Mexican government discouraging emigration, when it reportedly does the exact opposite. But there were much less fireworks than I expected. The meeting was a fortuitous forum for the airing of grievances and a decent refresher on Catholics' obligations to both stranger and countrymen.

I have a very-low quality digital audio recording of this meeting. If anyone's interested I might be able to provide a copy.

An Appreciation of Whit Stillman's Metropolitain

As with the play in Mansfield Park, it can be assumed that most people today (the confessional and narcissistic culture has grown still worse) would fail to be moved by Audrey's defense of conventions that guard intimacy. Their concept of privacy is reduced to personal license; as Von Sloneker says, "I can do whatever I want here." In the modern age, we are to respect the privacy of others not by refusing to gaze into their lives (now practically impossible) but by refusing to care about what we see.

Also notable from Udolpho, a takedown of Kevin Smith, "Peter Pan in Short Pants":

I always maintained that another movie about religion wouldn't be forthcoming, as "Dogma" was the product of 28 years of religious and spiritual meditation

Is that what it's called? Meditation? I thought it was just a pot-induced stupor. The message of Dogma, for those lucky enough to dodge that bullet, boiled down to the highly enlightened philosophy of "be a good person", helpful advice for Kevin Smith's childlike fans but tending to leave unexamined all moral reflection that cannot be demonstrated using King Friday and Lady Elaine Fairchilde hand puppets. Par for the course.

Whenever one feels like hanging on to what's left of one's adolescence, re-reading this scathing attack should revivify the spirit of anti-slackerdom

Monday, July 24, 2006

Old Sources of Democrats' Decline

Indeed, Reed's article, Kazin adds, "illustrated a key transition in the history of the American left." The journalist Reed and the politician [William Jennings] Bryan agreed on most economic issues, and yet the divide on matters "literary, philosophical, and sexual" was simply too deep. In other words, Reed's enthusiasm for lefty economic justice yielded to his far greater enthusiasm for avant-garde bohemian living. Thus the split between the Old Left (socially conservative, even puritanical) and the New Left (socially libertarian, even at the expense of class consciousness)--which would define the politics of the later 20th century--was visible even before the Russian Revolution.
-James Pinkerton, "New Deals and Old Answers"

Sunday, July 23, 2006

It takes two to argue...

...religious conservatives do, frequently and loudly, make arguments for their positions on non-theological grounds. Perhaps not as often as they should, to judge by the movement's repeated political and cultural defeats (defeats that the anti-theocrats gloss over, since it would complicate their portrait of an all-powerful Christofascism on the march). But the evils of abortion, the value of heterosexual monogamy, the costs of promiscuity and pornography?all these issues are constantly being raised by social conservatives without appeals to the divine inspiration of the Bible. Tellingly, when a professor at Patrick Henry College explains to Goldberg how he teaches students to 'use terms and facts that the other side accepts as reasonable,' she calls it a 'rhetorical two-step' and casts it as yet another example of the devious Christianist project of political infiltration: Heads you're a theocrat, tails you're a theocrat.
-Ross Douthat, Theocracy! Theocracy! Theocracy!

"Finnis's particular views... deriv[e] from the Thomist tradition of Catholic moral philosophy.... Finnis conceals those specifically religious purposes and misrepresents his argument as a secular, rational argument."
-Martha Nussbaum, Romer v. Evans

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Notes on the Theology of the Body

Theology of the Body Lecture Notes from "Romulus," a Catholic gentleman of great insight and learning who has frequented various corners of the internet at various times.

Though his notes are generally theological, my politically-oriented mind caught on one of his phrases:

"A government that tells us lies about who we are has made itself our enemy."

He also has some choice words elsewhere on this forum for those who would rename the Trinity:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the inner reality of the Trinity, and have been from all eternity. To refer to the Trinity as "Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier" is to define it by reference to man, as if we are the reference point by which God is to be judged. It doesn't work that way.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Post-1972 Dems: Unlovable Losers

The national Democratic Party is just like the Chicago Cubs. Both organizations are lovable losers. Come to think of it, neither is all that lovable anymore. Both have become just losers.


The Democrats sealed their doom at the 1972 convention when they threw out Mayor Richard J. Daley and union leader George Meany, cutting themselves off from their working class and urban ethnic bases. Since then Democratic leaders (mostly from the East Coast) have been so concerned with feminist activists, gay activists, African-American activists -- though not with Latino activists -- that they have lost any sense of their own identity. They don't ask themselves where the activists will go if they don't vote Democratic. Nor do they give a hoot about Catholics, the second largest minority in the party, because they conclude the "Catholic vote" is an anti-abortion vote.
Andrew Greeley, Why Dems strike out like the Cubs

My mother being a Chicago native, I've long wondered why the old Chicago Democrats I know are nothing like the party leadership today. I have an old biography of Daley in my ever-growing "to-read" pile, which I hope can expand on his alleged expulsion from the party.

Paging the Un-American Activities Committee! Theocrats are on the loose!

"There is a group of people in America of deep faith. I respect that faith. I've been in enough inner city black churches, working-class Catholic parishes, rural Methodist houses of worship, small Jewish synagogues to understand that faith is a gift. The trouble with this group, which I call the theocrats, is they want their faith to dictate what the government does. That, in a word, Mr. President, is un-American. This exactly what the founding fathers put down their plows and took up muskets to fight."
-Sen. Charles Schumer

In the words of Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Bioengineering Monstrosities to Proselytize for Monsters

...even the most liberal ethicists shy away from advocating the breeding or genetic engineering of half-person/half-animal. Why, then, am I rooting for their creation?

Because in these dark days of know-nothing anti-evolutionism, with religious fundamentalists occupying the White House, controlling Congress and attempting to distort the teaching of science in our schools, a powerful dose of biological reality would be healthy indeed. And this is precisely the message that chimeras, hybrids or mixed-species clones would drive home.
David P. Barash, "When Man Mated Monkey"

The author is a professor of psychology at the University of Washington. Using science to advance ideological anti-humanism is a danger not just to humanity, but obviously a threat to science as well.

He also writes "it would be difficult and perhaps impossible for the special pleaders to maintain the fallacy that Homo sapiens is uniquely disconnected from the rest of life." Well, how many other species does one see bioengineering other species? How many other species are pining for a definitive refutation of their kind's uniqueness?

At work alongside Professor Barash's misanthropy is an unfortunate dogmatization. Darwin himself denied any qualitative difference between mankind and other animals. That denial was one of his most unsubstantiated propositions, but it makes sense as a hermeneutic method for the biological sciences. To elevate this method into an ethical or ontological principle, as many of his disciples do, is surely outside the domain of science.

I have at times thought that I was paranoid to see embryonic stem cell research as just another stick with which to beat pro-lifers. Now that yet another writer has come out and said in so many words that biotechnology should be used as a political club, such self-doubt is on the wane.

The author also confuses Cartesianism with Christianity, but that's a matter for another time.

link via Ross Douthat

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Arlen Specter Lectures on Science History, and Lectures Badly

"Pope Boniface VII (sic) banned the practice of cadaver dissection in the 1200s," Specter said. "This stopped the practice for over 300 years and greatly slowed the accumulation of education regarding human anatomy."

So says Arlen Specter, pushing for embryonic stem cell research. Go back to school, Senator, or get a competent googler on your staff. I did a bit of digging myself, and my trivial research indicated that the Catholic dissection ban is wildly overblown.

Link via Amy Welborn

The Advantages of Living Upriver

Right when wistful desires for the well-connected moving-and-shaking circles of the East Coast was setting in, I read this story:

A third of male fish in English rivers are changing sex due to 'gender-bending' pollution, alarming research shows.

Experts say female hormones from the contraceptive pill and HRT are being washed into our rivers and causing male fish to produce eggs.

The problem - which is country-wide - has raised fears that the pollutants could also be contaminating our drinking water - and even be affecting the fertility of men.

This calls for a "Why East and West Coasters are Girlie-Men" mass e-mail spam.

link via

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Miseducation via Age Segregation

While a public fight was going on over what would be taught in the public school science curriculum, evolution was being applied to the schools in a more subtle manner. In the late 1800s, Granville Stanley Hall was a prominent educator at Johns Hopkins University. He believed in evolution and was a leader in the developing field of psychology. In 1904, he published a book on adolescence, advocating a new theory of child development based on evolutionary recapitulation. This theory was soon to be applied to classrooms across America.

Hall's recapitulation belief was that child development reflected evolutionary ancestry; certain ages, he argued, represented stages of evolutionary development. Infancy and early childhood corresponded to early "pre-civilized" mankind just grown out of its animal stage. Ages 6-7 were "crisis" years, where children could enter school and leave the "pre-civilized" state behind. Ages 8-12 corresponded to "the world of early pigmies." Ages 13-18 were what he declared to be the stage of adolescence. This period, Hall claimed, was critical, as the child entered a "stormy" ancient civilization stage, and finally grew into full civilization.

Hall's book was a major influence on the public schools as age segregation became more emphasized. Before Hall, the "stormy" period of adolescence was virtually unknown. John Quincy Adams, later to become US president, received a diplomatic appointment overseas for the federal government when he was only fourteen years old. For those who acquired a college education in the 1700s, thirteen-year-old freshmen were not uncommon. But Hall made little allowance for the fact that children mature differently. Now all six-year-olds, seven-year-olds and eight-year-olds get their own classes, learn to stick with their age group peers, and it is regarded as odd--if not suspicious--if a ten-year-old associates with a fifteen-year-old. Today it is often a terrible thing for a child to be ahead of his peers--public school children must fit into Hall's evolutionary mold. (Perhaps this is why we don?t see children like John Quincy Adams anymore.)

-Lael Weinberger

I'm hardly a fan of "Answers in Genesis" creationism, but Weinberger's sources seem solid. These passages dovetail with my own interests in the development of the contemporary education system and the creation of youth culture. I've long pondered a saying I picked up somewhere or other which claimed that in the past we segregated by sex, and now we segregate by age. I had not suspected our present state was formed in part by such eccentric interpretations of evolutionary theory.

To my surprise, Hall's speculations are similar to those I made in my high school years. But rather than rely on evolutionary history, I based it on an crude equivalence between a man's progression in age and a sophomoric caricature of the centuries Anno Domini. In my own system, the tumultuous years of adolescence corresponded to the dark ages, and the later teens corresponded to the Renaissance. I do not recall how I would categorize the centuries past the twenty-first. We are fortunate indeed that my ruminations never made it into educational theory. I suspect Professor Hall's theories have not been so innocuous.

Link from Homeschool Blogger by way of Domenico Bettinelli

The McGovernites Broke the Dems!

...the secular posturing Obama is railing against is more a function of the party's desire to appease a powerful, but relatively small, constituency than it is a deeply held, widely shared ideological stance. Just as the Republican Party pays obeisance to the demands of the 37% of its base that is white evangelical Christian, the Democrats feel they must not offend the 22% of their core voters who claim no religious affiliation. Why not? Because although they make up less than one-quarter of the coalition, these secular Democrats are much more likely than others to be high-level party activists.

That was not always the case. Some scholars point to the Democratic National Convention of 1972 as not only the moment Democrats edged toward secularism but the event that created the religious rift in American politics. Before 1972, both major parties were essentially indistinguishable in their approach to religion. The activist cores of both were dominated by members of mainstream religious groups: the GOP by mainline Protestants and the Democratic Party by Catholics and Jews.

But the Democratic delegation that nominated South Dakota Sen. George McGovern for president at the '72 convention represented a profound shift from what had been the cultural consensus in American politics. Whereas only 5% of Americans could be considered secular in 1972, fully 24% of first-time Democratic delegates that year were self-identified agnostics, atheists or people who rarely, if ever, set foot in a house of worship. This new activist base encouraged a growing number of Democratic politicians to tone down their appeal to religious voters and to seek a higher wall separating church and state. With little regard for the traditionalist sensitivities of religious people within or outside of the party, the Democrats also embraced progressive stances on feminism and homosexuality that the public had never openly debated.

-Gregory Rodriguez

via Relapsed Catholic

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

London Times Refers to Wikipedia. In Seriousness!

Fetal Tissue For Sale

This advertisement is from the June 18, 1999 issue of Science magazine. At that time fetal tissue was the Next Big Thing. Though it did not suffer the heights of hyperbole at play in the current ESCR debate, many people saw fetal tissue treatments as a field with great potential for progress. It also suggested a way to stick it to anti-utilitarian pro-lifers by turning abortion into a promising economic and life-enhancing endeavor.

Early trials on patients with brain problems seemed promising. Then gruesome teratomas began forming inside the patients' heads. I haven't heard anything about non-stem cell fetal tissue research since. ESCR now has influential friends. We'll see if precedent repeats itself.

Aidan Nichols on Benedict XVI, Impersonal vs. Personal Universe

Rev. Aidan Nichols, OP, of Christendom Awake, visited Denver back in March to speak on Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI's religious thought. The Denver Catholic Register reports on his lecture. As I recall, the lecture itself was generally a summary of Pope Benedict's book "Truth and Tolerance," which I had already read.

Some four months after his visit, I've finally transcribed my recording of the question and answer session. I have been greatly influenced by the work of religion scholar Yehezkhel Kaufmann, who in his work On the Character of Israelite Religion contrasts Israel's religious monotheism with religious polytheism--especially Hellenistic polytheism. For the latter, the foundation of being is ultimately impersonal. The gods are not the last word: though they are immortal, they are also born. The universe's existence preceded them. They did not create the world, nor are they all-powerful. They can be fooled, they can be wicked, and they can be counfounded, for their domain is limited. They themselves derive their power from the "metadivine." Magic makes sense in such a culture, as an end-run around the gods to channel some of these so-called "metadivine" powers for human ends.

(Atheism, agnosticism, and secularism, also presuppose an ultimately impersonal universe, but that's a matter for another post)

For monotheism, however, Kaufmann notes that God is the foundation of being, the creator and ruler of all. Reality is ultimately based on a person.

With this in mind I asked Father Nichols to explain how Pope Benedict approached the question of an impersonal or a personal universe. My question requested him to expand on the distinction between "mystic dissolution of self into an impersonal universe" and "Christian self-sacrifice for a Person, God." His reply, as best as I could transcribe:

"I don't think he[Pope Benedict XVI] particularly emphasized self-sacrifice, but a simple term, love, which of course sometimes has to be an oblation, with an element of renunciation and sacrifice. The fundamental contrast is between, as you rightly say, an understanding of mysticism in which the end of the mystical quest is the mystic discovery of his or her essential identity with the foundation of all reality, and because of that discovery then, the worship of the divine, the expression of praise, glorification, and love for it, ceases to be reality "related" because, clearly, you can't love what is essentially an expanded version of yourself. (At least not in any very obvious sense)

Then so that nobody can [inaudible verb?] you how to be a Christian doctrine for which, no matter how far the mystic progresses on the path towards union with God, the reality of the interpersonal relationship is always maintained. And so, for example, in the mystical tradition, one of the highest names for union is the spiritual marriage, which very clearly indicates the continuing, enduring, ever-enduring reality of the distinct, finite "I," which is dependent, created and raised up by grace and free to bind to "Thou."

The move to a Trinitarian account of God is necessary if one wants to defend the claim, as he does, that in any case, even prescinding from mystical experience, in any case the ultimate foundation of reality is Love. And he claims that that claim corresponds to in the human heart which leads us to say love is the most important thing in life. And I don't know how cross-culturally this is obvious from, say, the Western lyric, meaning the pop lyric, but it is a very highly confused sentiment. So if you want to grant to that in most literal terms and therefore to treat it with the seriousness it deserves, then you have to understand the divine "I" as not an undifferentiated "I," the "I" of Islamic and Jewish monotheism, but as a Trinitarian "I", because only so can the ground of all being be itself relationship and can therefore be described as "Love."

Monday, July 17, 2006

Immigrants Doing the Tax Fraud Work Natives Won't Do

Well, there goes another debating point:

Miguel Garcia was making a name for himself in radio as the afternoon on-air personality at a Hammond, Ind., station in March when he opened a shocking letter from the IRS.

It said he owed $35,000 in back taxes. Three days later, he got another letter from the IRS saying he owed an additional $45,000. A third letter arrived saying he owed $95,000, and more followed nearly every other day for a total of about 30 letters, putting him on the hook for close to half a million dollars in back taxes -- and the letters keep coming.


legal immigrants, naturalized citizens and U.S.-born residents with common ethnic names increasingly targeted by illegal immigrants who resort to stealing plausible identities so they can find jobs to pursue the American dream, causing those who came before them mounting headaches.
Chicago Sun-Times, FR Mirror

"Even though the Social Security Administration offers two free major database tools for employers and third-party submitters, like payroll services, to verify names and Social Security numbers for annual wage reports, there is no incentive for employers looking to exploit cheap labor to use those tools and no real mechanism for enforcement."

While there is no incentive to use those tools for enforcement, there is a huge incentive for employers to use such systems to provide fraudulent numbers for their illegal employees! At least our native tax fraud industry isn't being outsourced.

IVF Children: Begotten or Made?

The child is the gift of life that supervenes on the spouses? mutual gift of self. It is not the direct product of their wills. What we intentionally make are things, property at our disposal. What we beget, are persons equal in dignity to us. The term procreation is used only of the way human beings come into existence. It draws attention to God the Creator who is active in the coming into being of each child, who directly creates each soul. It is His design that each child should be conceived within the conjugal act that expresses the love of the spouses. Couples may desire a baby. They should not make them or cause them to be made by others.
Rev. D. Vincent Twomey, SVD
via Irish blog Guard Me With Your Glory

"Begotten, not Made" can be ascribed not just to God, but to the creature in His image, man. Natural Law ethics in its contemporary form often has problems making its philosophical arguments complement theological ones. This essay, I think, shows how the two approaches can be intertwined, each illuminating the other.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bioethics Gone Wild

via Amy Welborn, an article on biomedical ethics and conscientious objection.

The article, with its deceitful style of pseudo-objectivity, suggests that support for the rights of conscience, especially religious conscience, are novel innovations. It even places scare quotes around the word conscience:
The issue has become acute for some religious workers, especially devout Christians, for whom the concept of "conscience" plays a particularly prominent role.

One bioethicist, reflecting his profession's characteristic secular tribalism, declares:

"As soon as you become a licensed professional, you take on certain obligations to act like a professional, which means your patients come first," said R. Alta Charo, a bioethicist and lawyer at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "You are not supposed to use your professional status as a vehicle for cultural conquest."

Of course this is special pleading. Secularist professionals are already using their status to drive cultural changes. They'd just rather not have anybody attempting to usurp the driver's seat.

Some of these matters have been limned in a previous post, The Limits of Non-Confessional Professionalism.

For the establishment's gameplan, see the ACLU's articles on "Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights," which goes so far as to attempt to force religious hospitals to perform abortions.

Friday, July 14, 2006

"Evil is not simply a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured."

via Relapsed Catholic a story on hillbilly Thomist Flannery O'Connor:
Here's the rub: her stories might be more palatable to modern Christians if she were just writing shock-jock horror stories. Frank Peretti sells, after all. That sort of writing goes down easier because we don't really believe it. It feels like someone else's world. It's alien enough that we're not truly threatened. But O'Connor's world is too close. And if her picture of dark grace is right, then our typical take on life fails.

Since Victorian times, Christians have tended to picture grace as cottony and covered with rubber. Grace always comforts and smoothes our furrowed brows; it always, always wipes away our tears, so sorry for them. We believe God is all-good; He's pretty much a nursery-school attendant, pink and white, who doesn't want anyone to get cut. In fact, we're surprised when people actually bump their heads. Pain seems unnatural to us. It's a no-no, and God is on our side. He never touches the stuff Himself.
Douglas Jones, "Who's Afraid of Flannery O'Connor?"

A fine essay, marred only by a cavalier and equivocal(though I admit attention-grabbing) use of the word "evil" when pain or the disturbance of self-satisfaction is really what is meant.

St. Anne's vs. City of Arvada: Recap and Conclusion

The Arvada City Council met on July 10. The resolution to vacate the eminent domain threat passed 9-0, and the resolution to approve the letter of intent to sign a lease with the church passed 4-3. This post is my summary of the meeting and my recap of the dispute. The city meeting itself is available for a few weeks at the KATV website.

The course of the discussion revealed that some proposed sale agreements with the parish involved the promise that no commercial buildings would be built on the property in perpetuity. After reading some urban renewal plans and seeing a residential building planned for the site of the current school(see maps below), that's some comfort, but not much.

I learned that the city council was worried that the parish council wasn't treating the parking lot affair as if it was their problem. This was quite reasonable on the parish's part, since it was the city council that made the promise to the library, not the parish. Doubtless the parish council had other things on its platter. As time was running out for the city council it had to take drastic measures to make the sale the parish's problem and to force the close of negotiations.

The church distributed a flyer the weekend before the Fourth of July rallying parishoners against the eminent domain threat. Being out of town that weekend, I never saw that letter. It seems it contained some bad information, such as the claim that a parking garage was planned for either the parochial school's land or the AURA land across the street. The church brought significant pressure against the city government, with good reason. Eminent domain piques most everyone. The protest was so vigorous that city officials and managers had to cut their holiday weekend short to respond.

The parish seems to have secured a good deal. The Olde Town Arvada area will have a light-rail station within the decade, and prices will certainly skyrocket. Though the agreement itself is unavailable as of this writing, a fifteen to thirty-year lease appears to be in the works, with repairs and renovations on the lot to be paid for by the city. The cost of the renovations runs between five hundred to seven hundred thousand dollars. The total bill runs to $1.2 million, though it is unclear if the difference is being paid to the parish as part of the lease.

After the council voted down the eminent domain threat, the letter of intent was up for council discussion. The first two councilmen to speak engaged in passive-aggressive self-pitying, emoting how wounded they had been by the harsh words and criticism they had received. One councilwoman seemed to claim that because the nearby (public) park was built largely benefitting parish schoolchildren, and the nearby (public) library was built benefitting for the parish schoolchildren, the parish owed it to the city to do whatever the city wanted. Her emotional blackmail was not calculated, but it seemed to be an unconscious expression of excessive emotionalism.

Councilman-at-Large Marc Williams, formerly on the board of the county library system, responded to such officials' attempts to play the victim thusly:

Maybe it's because I'm an attorney and deal with conflict frequently that frankly this didn't bother me. That the public had their input, that they had the right to contact us, I think the vast majority of the contact we received was wholly appropriate. Yeah, you get called dummies every once in a while, and told your actions are stupid

...but the reality is that that's why we ran for office and that's why we're elected and if we can't stand the heat then we gotta get out of the kitchen. You all did what you should do. When you have an issue with your elected officials, you tell them what you think. And if we don't like it, and if we don't act on it the way you think we ought to, then you ought to vote us out of office if you think that's the appropriate action.

Well said. I'll try to remember his name the next time he is up for re-election.

To make one last follow-up, under the aerial maps post I have added one more selection from the Webster Site Request for Proposal outlining the demographic which urban renewal planners were attempting to attract. I also highlight the document's curious omission of the parochial school from the locale's map, which would surely be relevant to any developers' plans.

I hope this wraps up these eminent domain posts permanently. Thanks to all interested for reading.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

An Exemplar of Moral Uprightness and Rational Thought

Let us be clear about it: the U.S. role in international medical and family-planning policy, its opposition to contraception and abortion, and its mishandling of the issue of AIDS--it's criminally irresponsible and will lead to the deaths of many millions of people. George Bush should be indicted for mass murder because of his policies on AIDS. As should the Pope--both this one and the previous ones.
-Fred Halliday

He would do well to remember his attempt at nuance later in the interview: "The Left does not have a monopoly on truth or analysis or morality."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Internet Lefty Demographics

via Josh Trevino of Enchiridion Militis, statistics on the religious adherence, or lack thereof, of visitors and other demographic breakdowns.

The age breakdown is strikingly skewed towards the older set:

Persons: 18-34 20.7
Persons: 35-44 17.5
Persons: 45-54 27.7
Persons: 55-64 12.2
Persons: 65+ 21.9

Several commentators have suggested that the pre-boomer generation born in the decade before 1945 laid the roots for the counterculture of the sixties. Though one must keep in mind that retirees as a whole have more time for everything, these results indicate the thesis is not far off.

The income breakdown is even more astounding:

Under $25K 2.8
$25,000 - 39,999 9.4
$40,000 - 59,999 20.4
$60,000 - 74,999 7.9
$75K+ 59.4

The only unsurprising results are the regional breakdowns, which follow the famed red-blue state divide. I'd like to see a similar poll of a big-name conservative site for comparison.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Monday, July 10, 2006

Can Europe Do No Right? Possitne Europa nihil bonum agere?

Finland has instated an admirable, utterly reactionary policy of publishing EU bulletins in Latin. One writer comments:

"I think this is wonderful, I hope everybody reads it. The best and most significant step for European integration would be to oblige every child in Europe from the age of 14 to read Book Four of [Virgil's] The Aeneid.

"It is the best book of the best poem by the greatest poet. That would do far more than anything else to build up a common European culture. That is what is missing now: an awareness of our European civilisation and common roots."

While I'd protest that Homer and Shakespeare are at least the equal of Vergil, honoring the old lingua franca is surely salutary. Likewise, time in Latin could be spent on the Vulgate or St. Augustine to address the common root notoriously omitted from the EU constitution.

Yet Europe's move towards a minor form of traditionalism doesn't appease one American conservative. The American Spectator's Joel Miller whines:

Government documents are already hard enough to read without publishing them in a language that peaked with medieval monks -- which seems pretty close to the direction they're going with it.

"Using Latin is a way of paying tribute to European civilization and it serves to remind people of European society's roots, stretching back to ancient times," explains another supporter.

That's a nice sentiment, but otherwise pretty useless.

Peaked with medieval monks? Maybe. I recall that there was a rebirth of interest in the classics sometime afterwards when the Latin greats even received unduly subservient adoration. You might even call it a renaissance.

Even with the rise of modernity Galileo, Newton, and Descartes all published in Latin first. I suspect it didn't hit its major decline until the rise of nationalism demanded subservience to the local tongue. Perhaps Miller's inner barbarian is simply beating one of nationalism's obscurantist drums. He certainly deserves the opprobium of classicists everywhere.

They Persecuted Galileo Too!

There have been some truly hysterical reactions to a curial Cardinal's claim that human embryo-destroying research is an excommunicable offense. The BBC reports:

"Professor Julian Savulescu, uehiro chair in practical ethics at the University of Oxford, warned: "This amounts to religious persecution of scientists which has no place in modern liberal societies."

Yes, vigorous criticism and church discipline of its own members is the equivalent of religious persecution. And I am the pope.

If I were a pop-psychologist, I'd call this phenomenon the "Galileo Complex."

From a journalistic perspective, the church is in a weak position here. The press is stuck to bad "Enlightening Science vs. Obscurantist" Religion cliches. Moreover, the media won't find any embryonic stem-cell researchers who will defend the Catholic stance, for obvious reasons.

Libertinism and Government Expansion: A Symbiotic Relationship

Via Relapsed Catholic, a British MP reflects on immigration and assimilation to a libertine culture:

The Windrush generation of Caribbeans came to Britain with the most traditional of values - proud Christians with dignity and a sense of duty - the kind of people so steeped in our history that they gave their children names like Winston, Milton and Gladstone. As vice-chairman of the British Caribbean Association, I recently had the chance to ask such people why so many young British blacks had got into trouble with the law. They unequivocally blamed the licence they encountered almost as soon as they arrived here, which made it so hard to inculcate their standards in the next generation.

The alienation felt by young blacks and Asians is not a result of any intolerance shown towards them, but of the endless tolerance of those who would allow everything and stand up for nothing. It is the excesses permitted by a culture spawned by the liberal Left that have produced a generation that feels rootless and hopeless. The young crave noble purposes as children need discipline; neither get much of them in modern Britain and the void is filled by disrespect, fecklessness, mindless nihilism or, worse, wicked militancy.


The vulnerable are the chief victims of decadence. Children suffer when families break down. The old suffer as their needs are seen as inconvenient and their wisdom is no longer valued. For the rich, decadence is either a lifestyle choice or something you can buy your way out of. But for the less well off - stripped of the dignities which stem from a shared sense of belonging and pride - the horror of a greedy society in which they can't compete is stark. The civilised urban life that was available to my working-class parents is now the preserve of those whose wealth shields them from lawlessness and frees them from the inadequate public services that their less fortunate contemporaries are forced to endure.
John Hayes

The downsides of immigrant assimilation in the US context bears some similarities to those in Britain. Hayes' piece drives home how lack of restraint has little impact among the wealthy, they being best able to blunt the effects of their own degeneracy. Insulated from the lower classes, they do not see the depths of dissolution which their libertarian attitudes have caused among those less well-off. Having preached "letting it all hang out" sexual liberation and intoxication, they then preach social justice and government intervention to clean up the mess. If their ideas weren't so obviously adolescent and insipid, you'd think it was a conspiracy.

See also: Domenico Bettinelli on Massachusetts businesses' economic incentives to promote homosexual marriage.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Arvada Eminent Domain Conflict Resolved--Permanently?

This letter was distributed at St. Anne's Parish on Sunday:

Representatives from the Parish, the Archdiocese, and City Officials have been working hard to reach an agreement on the Library Parking Lot. While the final lease has not been signed, we have agreed on a letter of intent. The terms of the letter have been authorized by the Parish Pastoral Council and the Finance Committee. We have been assured that the City Council will not pass the ordinance to condemn our property at their meeting Monday night, July 10. At this time it will not be necessary to write any more letters to the City Council nor to attend the City Council meeting. I would like to acknowledge the good faith and cooperation of the City Officials. And I would like to thank the parishoners for their letters and their willingness to appear at the Council Meeting.

Father David Croak
July 8, 2006

I know county commissioners were very nonplussed at the talk of eminent domain seizure. Likewise perturbed was the leadership of the county library system, which feared it would be blamed for the actions of the Arvada City Council. The city council put the nuclear option of confiscation on the table. Perhaps this was merely a negotiating tactic driven by desperation. However, such a grave threat won't be easily forgotten. As Shakespeare's Isabella said, "it is excellent to have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant."

Thanks to the many readers sent here by Amy Welborn, Domenico Bettinelli, and the Pacific Legal Foundation's Eminent Domain Blog

Friday, July 07, 2006

St. Anne's Parish vs. Arvada City Council in Eminent Domain Showdown

[Be sure to read the post immediately above this one, as well as my recap written a week later]

My Sunday parish is facing an eminent domain decision in the City Council over a parking lot supposedly needed for a new library. News report summaries:

Arvada City Manager Craig Kocian said the city then began building its new library with a verbal understanding with the parish about use of the lot.

"I think some people would be surprised you went through this without a signed agreement for parking," CBS4 investigator Brian Maass said to Kocian in an interview.

"We literally operated in good faith with the parish," Kocian said. "They indicated they would be glad to collaborate and be part of the parking solution and we took them on their word on this."

Bob Frie, the church's lawyer, said they have tried to work out a deal to lease the land to the city, but he said the city keeps changing the terms.


"It seems to me that we've made them angry and they are going to strike back," Frie said.
CBS4, Denver

The city of Arvada is working toward condemning a church property in Olde Town to build a parking lot for the new Arvada Library set to open this fall.

Arvada City Council approved an ordinance to use eminent domain if needed to acquire the lot owned by Shrine of St. Anne's Catholic Church. A public hearing is set for 7:30 p.m. on July 10.


"The message I'm getting loud and clear is that the City Council's made up its mind," Frie said. "They're condemning this even though the city owns a piece of property of equal size that is adjacent to this and could build their parking ramp on that structure."

The city land near the church is planned as a site for future housing, city officials have said.
Jeffco News

The church's lawyer Bob Frie is a former mayor of Arvada, so the church certainly has experienced counsel.

I initially approached this case with agnosticism. I like libraries, after all. However, there are several oddities which have swayed me against the city council. The government had enough foresight to allocate land for future housing, yet apparently it did not have enough competence to secure parking for a library which has been under construction and planning for several years. The imminent opening of the library ensures these decisions will not be made with due deliberation.

Further, there seems to have been a surfeit of bad information. One of my relatives, an employee of the county library system, thought the land deal had been settled for months. Yet not too long ago the parish pastor announced in the bulletin that announcements of any settlement were incorrect. City Manager Mr. Kocian's words about a good-faith verbal agreement seem to be simple hearsay, insinuating bad faith when there is no corroborating proof that any deal with the proper church authority was even reached.

The city government describes itself thusly:

Citizens of Arvada depend on their city government to provide a variety of services delivered in a professional manner and in an efficient and cost effective way. In Arvada those services include police officers, street maintenance, transportation and traffic control, clean water, a waste water system, accessible parks and trails, thoughtful planning of new neighborhoods, and more.

Perhaps to its array of talents the city should strive to add thoughtful planning of old neighborhoods.

Missing in most of the coverage is the fact that the parking lot and land services not only the parish but the parochial elementary school. I worry for the future of the school if it should lose its closest parking spaces and any space for future expansion. The streets could also become prohibitively crowded during popular holy days, weddings or funerals.

The parish website is here, though unlikely to be updated. The parish's history is available in a chapter from Tom Noel's Colorado Catholicism available here. Noel informs us that Walker Nickless, the new bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, was pastor of St. Anne's back in the 1980s.

The latest report suggests further information will be distributed by the parish on Sunday. I plan to attend the city council meeting scheduled for Monday and to report in this space any substantial developments.

St. Anne's/City of Arvada Land Dispute: Aerial Maps[UPDATED]

The Shrine of St. Anne is located at the southeast corner of the northwest block. The area to its east, appearing under construction in this years-old photo, is a small parking lot. The large building in the southeast block is the parish elementary school, and some of the the land in this quadrant is that which is in dispute. The new library is being built upon the white building in the southeastern corner of the southwestern block.

This is the relevant portion of the city council resolution numbering the lots up for seizure. Taken from City Council Agenda for June 26, 2006. The resolution's full title is "07.B.04. CB06-022, An Ordinance Authorizing the Acquisition of Property in the Vicinity of 57th Ave and Webser[sic] Street for Arvada Public Library Parking Improvements"

This is the county assessor's real estate divisions of the southeast block from the first photo. The lots up for seizure run from west to east, 1-6. Note how the loss of such property would cut off any potential expansion for the school, which already uses the northern half of the block. (County Assessor Maps in PDF)

This is a map scanned from page 59 of the Olde Town Renaissance report, written in 1999. It substantiates the report immediately below that the city or its consultants have in the past entertained the idea of building residences on the parish's property. The larger block of text on St. Anne's current property describes the highlighted part of the block as "New Development(Housing along street front, parking deck behind)." The smaller text immediately to the left of the school reads "Easement for through pedestrian traffic." Though the Supreme Court's Kelo decision is unlikely to apply here, its shadow certainly lurks in the minds of those suspicious of the City Council.

For a sense of the cramped proportions of Olde Town Arvada, see the Google map to get a feel for the land.


In one news article cited above, the parish's lawyer Bob Frie refers to city land just across the street. One article states "The city land near the church is planned as a site for future housing, city officials have said." Here is the planned site for future housing, just south of the parish property and just southeast of the new library:

As I understand it, the blue and orange lots are the city properties marked for housing developments. This graphic comes from Arvada Urban Renwal Authority's Webster Center Request for Proposal, available in PDF. This request announces:
Arvada Urban Renewal Authority (AURA) is seeking a developer for a key location in Historic Olde Town Arvada and a property with future light rail potential.

AURA is issuing a Request for Proposal for .44 acres, strategically located on the southeast corner of Webster and 57th Avenue in the heart of Olde Town Arvada. This site is located across the street from the new Jefferson County public library, currently under construction. The Olde Town library is scheduled to open in the fall of 2006 and anticipates having 40,000 visitors per month. Furthermore, it is ½ block from a proposed light rail station.

AURA envisions a two or three story residential or mixed use building. Outlined below is a brief summary of the City of Arvada, Olde Town and the Webster Center site.

I mentioned the shadow of the Kelo v. New London decision above. Though I believe Colorado law already restricts eminent domain use, here we see how easily eminent domain restrictions can be avoided: even if useful government-owned property is available, the government can still take away somebody else's land if it has a "public use" fig-leaf serving as an excuse. Worse yet, the government can wait until its property is sold off or irreversibly committed to other purposes, at which point its demands for condemnation under eminent domain appear more reasonable.

Addendum #2

Here is a map for the Webster Center Request for Proposal, curiously omitting any depiction of the school on the property right across the street from it:

Considering the demographics the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority is attempting to attract, one wonders what role the school will play in a future "renewed" neighborhood. From the Webster Center RFP:
Water Tower Village:

Adjacent to Olde Town is a 26-acre parcel that is currently being developed into a high-end residential urban village. The Water Tower Village will house approximately 1,700 people within a mix of rowhouses, cottages, lofts and apartments ? all within easy walking distance of Olde Town. The first residents moved into the community at the beginning of 2005.

Average Household Income: $80,000
Average Age: 32

St. Anne's Land Condemnation: Local Reactions Uniformly Opposed to City

The Arvada Press website appears delinquent in publishing recent letters to the editor, so I have transcribed the relevant local letters on the possible eminent domain condemnation of St. Anne's below.

I find the first letter of June 29, 2006 remarkable because it suggests "good faith" is a prefabricated buzzword of city negotiators, the phrase having also appeared in the CBS4 story linked above. It seems to be an attempt to poison the arguments of any who object. I am surprised at the unanimous dissent of local writers.

"City pursuing St. Anne's property at all costs"

The June 1 Arvada Press had an article titled "City wants land for New Library parking" by Neda Raouf.

At the first Friday Meeting this month at the American Legion Wilmore Richer Post #161, Mr. Bill Ray, deputy city manager, appeared in place of Craig Kocian, the City Manager, who was out of town. He said the story in the Arvada Press concerning condemnation of St. Anne's propety was not accurate or true.

After the meeting was over, the deputy city manager approached me and told me the problem existed and is taking so long to negotiate because officials at St. Anne's Church did not bargain in "good faith."

In a book titled Wadsworth/Grandview Environmental Assessment, on page 3-86 is a map whose source is Arvada Intermodel Village Plan, 2002. The map shows outlines of townhouses on St. Anne's property way back in 2002. The city of Arvada did not own the property then and still does not own the property.

This aggressive maneuver can lead people to think that the city acquiring the property is a done deal, which is the farthest from the truth. One can think this is another attempt to intimidate the people of St. Anne's Parish. This is by no means a noble service provided by the people of our city government.

I allege that the city of Arvada is abusing its authority. If there is to be any condemnation in this matter, it should be directed at the city officials who created this mess.

Nick D.

From the July 6, 2006 issue of Arvada Press:

"City Lied About Parking Lot"

I was a participant in the light rail/community redevelopment forum about six weeks ago. During that meeting, several people expressed concern their property might be subject to eminent domain condemnation. An Arvada city representative stated that this could not happen, because according to Colorado State law, cities do not have the right to exercise eminent domain. Now, according to the article published in this week's edition of the Mile High News, "the Arvada City Council approved an ordinance to use eminent domain to acquire the lot owned by Shrine of St. Anne's Catholic Church." Clearly, we were lied to at the Light Rail/Community Redevelopment Forum.
Rich E.

"Arvada Should Back Away From Eminent Domain"

Arvada is acting like a bully in attempting to acquire the St. Anne property by condemnation or threat of condemnation. Where were the city officials and council when the library site in old town was first considered? A private citizen wanting to develop a piece of property would be required to meet parking requirements before a building permit would be issued. While the city doesn't need a building permit, certainly the counicl and responsible city department heads should have considered the need for parking without the necessity of taking property of St. Anne's which has plans of its own that are just as important, if not more so, than those of the city. Citizens should be outraged by the double standard that the city is trying to implement.

Construction of the library at the new location should never have been approved. But the City Council seems determined to remake old town from a sow's ear into a silk purse, for reasons not readily apparent or justified. The council's determination to revitalize old town Arvada at all costs has already produced an unduly constricted main street that vehicles cannot easily traverse. Rather than place the new library on property that everyone could be proud of, the council with its limited vision and forseight elected to bury the new library amongst the clutter of old structures, which increases the lack of parking in the area. To say the least, the city should use property it already owns instead of trying to destroy the future plans of the church.

I am not a member of St. Anne's nor of the Catholic faith, but what the city has done and is attempting to do is wrong and reprehensible.

Val M.

See also the remarks posted at the Arvada Press Story, remarks often low in quality but clearly in opposition to the city. I repeat my surprise at the unanimity here. I have not followed local politics much, but it is plain to see that many citizens are skeptical of their representatives' city planning abilities and their motivations.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Punditry and the Literati have converged on Aspen for the Aspen Institute.

I particularly enjoyed Ross Douthat's take on a lecture discussing Aesthetic Absolutism of a Platonic style.

St. George in the Dock

His dragon-slaying heroics have kept his legend alive through the centuries.

But the Church of England is considering rejecting England's patron saint St George on the grounds that his image is too warlike and may offend Muslims.

Clergy have started a campaign to replace George with St Alban, a Christian martyr in Roman Britain.
The Daily Mail via

Saint George lived in Palestine. He is the patron saint of Lebanon and is traditionally venerated by many Middle East Christians. That outreach to a Middle-Eastern people results in the demotion of a saint native to the region demonstrates the irrational caprice of multicultural abnegation.

In Defense of Mayor Nagin

New Orleans resident "Romulus" defends his mayor from those suffering delusions of omnicompetence:

Amelia, please understand the bankruptcy of the blame game, which is being cheered on by talk radio and political shout shows, by provocateurs whose object is not public safety but managing perceptions and scoring points off the opposition. Don't let yourself be used. I know this is America where everything comes with a money back guarantee and the customer is never supposed to go away dissatisfied, but in the real world, things go wrong even with the best of intentions. We live in a fallen world, and Stuff Happens. When a catastrophic earthquake next strikes San Francisco or Los Angeles, will they have the resources to provide for half a million of its most helpless, disorderly, and improvident citizens? I doubt it.

No one who wasn't here and doesn't have an intimate knowledge of this city is in a position to hold any opinion about how matters were handled here. Talking heads get paid to talk like instant experts, and I don?t suppose there?s any way we can get them to shut up. But that doesn't mean the rest of us have to take them seriously.

Romulus makes similar comments over at BettNet.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Beware of Certainty-Substitutes

Notes to Future Generations of Just Warriors

I've remarked before on a number of occasions that when evaluating the criteria for a just war, a ton of gravity doesn't equal an ounce of certainty.


The "one percent doctrine" is when a one percent chance of a grave event like a WMD attack is responded to as though it were a certainty. Basically it represents an attempt to make gravity and certainty mutually fungible as a basis for action: to make significant enough gravity act as a substitute for certainty.
-Zippy Catholic

Beware lasting, grave, and certain hypothetical scenarios. Beware arguments that are chains of a thousand subjunctives, but seem in summary to be logical works of the utmost realism and clarity. Be aware that soldiers are taught just war doctrine, while their civilian commanders are taught realpolitik.

Zippy's choice phrase, the certainty-substitute, needed currency back when Condoleeza Rice was, with utmost gravity, declaring that we couldn't wait for a mushroom cloud over DC to act.

The One Percent Doctrine Zippy summarizes could have as its motto "I can't believe it's not certainty!" It is double-edged, though only its hawkish edge has been doing any cutting. While there might be a one percent possibility Tinpot Dictator A will give WMDs to Terrorist Group B, there is an equally hypothetical possibility that post-invasion chaos will land said devices in Group B's hands anyway.

That one percent is a fig-leaf of fear used to clothe otherwise unacceptable arguments. That that leaf wasn't lifted earlier is a misfortune of immense proportions.

Meet Executive Supremacy, Same as Judicial Supremacy

The current disputes about executive authority and the judicial system have reminded me of an essay by legal great Robert P. George, Lincoln on Judicial Despotism.

George argues for a strong executive who would in matters of abortion rights both follow Lincoln's unilateral reinterpretation of Dredd Scott and emulate his focused disrespect for judicial authority:

"For Lincoln, then, the evil of the Dred Scott decision was not merely the expansion of slavery. It was that the decision threatened to undermine the basic principles of republican government precisely by establishing judicial supremacy in matters of constitutional interpretation. It was not merely that the Court decided the suit in favor of the wrong party. It was that the Court claimed authority to decide for the other branches once and for all what the Constitution required, thus placing them in a position of inferiority and subservience.


In office, Lincoln gave effect to his position against judicial supremacy by consistently refusing to treat the Dred Scott decision as creating a rule of law binding on the executive branch. His administration issued passports and other documents to free blacks, thus treating them as citizens of the United States despite the Court's denial of their status as citizens. He signed legislation that plainly placed restrictions on slavery in the western territories in defiance of Taney's ruling."

The parallels to contemporary political turf wars are obvious: selective interpretations, outright disobedience, and appeals to wartime necessity as the trump card of jursiprudence.

While attacking judicial supremacy under the banner of powers co-equal in authority, George's position has only aided arguments for executive supremacy. And executive power is being wielded not for the protection of the unborn, but for the ultimate authority of the president to define the scope of his wartime powers. Roe v. Wade, with the assistance of Robert P. George and George W. Bush, might have done far more damage to the rule of law than even the most pessimistic soothsayers have predicted.

A Deficit of Patriotic Imagery

For the Fourth of July I meant to write a patriotic post taking down crude denunciations of so-called "blood and soil" conservatives, but by way of Daniel Larison I discover that Chris Roach has beat me to it. He even cites the same three songs I would have cited.

Patriotic anthems shouting praises to our landscapes and to our ancestors easily refute the cheap "Blut und Boden" smears attempted every so often by idolators of the civil religion. Such writers show an outright disdain for soil, preferring ethereal principles of governance to the peoples and the country which begat such principles. They often present newly-sworn citizens as the civic superiors of the native-born, invariably insulting the loyalty of life-long Americans. They are the nationalist counterparts to the campus leftists who discover all varieties of bigotry in the unwashed masses. Little wonder there is a backlash against immigration.

But in unexpected ways. This weekend I attended mass at a small mountain parish in the Fraser River Valley. The recessional hymn, if that is the right word, was in fact America the Beautiful. I am always wary of mixing civil religion with the real kind. This same parish once sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic, whose peans to the divine qualities of the Union Army should be wince-inducing even to non-Southerners like myself. Yet despite America the Beautiful's questionable liturgical fitness, there was an added power to the hymn's lines "purple mountains majesty" because, gazing over the altar through the church's rear window, my eyes were fixed upon one of the towering blue peaks encircling the valley. That land is my land, that land is our land.

Looking through the later verses, one worries America the Beautiful shows signs of a relic from another era, like Perry Como's song I Wanna Go Home With You Tonight or Jimmy Durante's A Husband--A Wife. First, to state the obvious, the anthem is a prayer for divine assistance, a certified secularist-repellent if there ever was one. Second, it depicts America as flawed, a country incomplete. Sloganeering descriptions of America as "the greatest nation on God's green earth" cannot find much of an ally here. The lines "Confirm thy soul in self-control,/Thy liberty in law!" strikes hard at the antinomial and libertine ideals for the country. "Till selfish gain no longer stain/The banner of the free!" doesn't bode well for the cruder advocates of globalism, market capitalism, and self-interest wrongly understood. Finally, we find the lines

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!

While maintaining a hopeful spirit, this song is a certain rebuke of utopianism. The best of cities is an aspirational dream, not an imminent state of life. These cities are beyond the temporal sphere and achievable only through a penitent populace beseeching divine intervention. Even in a multi-confessional nation, the song almost translates naked civic deism into "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done."

How do we explain the paucity of contemporary civic hymnody? Aside from a general decline in musical and lyrical talents, an overemphasis on abstract thought and the dimunition of concrete deeds seems a likely culprit.

Depersonalizing tendencies are one of the greatest weakness of abstraction. Concepts personified, as exemplified by Lady Liberty, seem stark and inhuman. In the case of liberty, this is likely a side-effect of our impoverished understanding of what freedom is for. Yet other modern political concepts would fare just as poorly when personified. Tolerance brings to mind an unflattering portrait of a woman who, though having a polite, forced smile on her face, holds her nose as various odors offend it. Diversity could not be expressed in a single personification except as caricature--a thousand-headed hydra with a teratomatic torso. When one asks how Equality could be depicted in statuary, the mind boggles.

The older concepts, which in truth are not concepts but virtues, lack this problem because they are habits, activities directed towards the good. Since captured activity is the aim of portraiture, the old virtues flourish when personified. Bougereau's Charity shows a tired mother nevertheless suckling and sheltering her demanding brood. Justice, though blinded, bears a sword and scales--her action is imminent, her judgement fearsome. Lady Liberty only threatens a torch-burn, if she can ever shed her paralysis.

It is no accident that Plato's Republic used the image of a human being writ large to discern the characteristics of justice, since virtues have no substance independent of acting persons. Likewise, patriotism has no substance without a people and its patria. A country's early heroes and the landscape on which they once walked are all objects of common patriotic love. One cannot love a mental principle like "all men are created equal" any more than one can admire an ideal triangle. National Anthem are love songs powered not by principles but by images and imagery. Philosophy begins in wonder, and so does poetry. The patriotic imagination approaches the tangible while political principle, as interpreted by its modern devotees, approaches the undetectable. No wonder the older tradition has better songs and stronger loyalties.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
Over the land of the free, and the home of the brave?