Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ancients Greater Than Moderns

...I was persuaded to concentrate in ancient philosophy, in part because of a comparison I had drawn with the degree of scholarship I had encountered in Hume studies. Do you regard it as valuable to become a good scholar? But the scholarly problems in ancient philosophy are more difficult, greater minds had been at work on them, a longer tradition needs to be mastered, and greater skills arerequired, than, it would seem, in any other discipline of philosophy, especially Hume studies.
Michael Pakaluk

via Cacciaguida

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ex-priest in Colorado Charged with Sexual Assault

A former associate pastor of my home parish is charged with sexual abuse:

Timothy Joseph Evans, 43, will face a charge of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. The indictment alleges that between 1995 and 1997 Evans sexually assaulted a 16-year-old boy. Evans was a priest during this time and was assigned to the Spirit of Christ Parish in Arvada as a parochial vicar.

According to the indictment, the teen was questioning his religious beliefs and as part of his research, checked out a book from a local library on the satanic bible. The teen's father, who was active in church, found the book in his backpack and suggested that he meet with Evans.
Denver Channel 7

The victim is about my age. I am wondering if I knew this teen. If not, I knew a few kids like him.

Some hideous allegations follow, which I will not repeat here.

News to me is that the archdiocese of Denver is alleged by one victim to have been aware of Evans' predatory acts:
Evans is facing similar charges in Fort Collins, where he served as a priest of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish from 1998 to 2002. He worked at Spirit of Christ Parish from June 1993 to June 1996.

One alleged victim told police that the diocese moved Evans from the Arvada church to the Fort Collins church "due to an incident where Father Timothy Evans inappropriately touched a juvenile male."

This was still under the tenure of now-Cardinal Stafford, though if such a claim is true Archbishop Chaput's chancery could have known of this situation.

I have little memory of this man; what memories I do have are confused with the head pastor or Evans' successor, who was arrested for stealing from the offertory. My grandmother was impressed enough with him to arrange for him to say her requiem mass in 1997, after his tenure at Spirit of Christ ended.

Very sad.

Right-Wing Democrat Blogger!

Right Democrat: a blog for conservative and moderate Democrats

I hope he isn't too lonely.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Introducing, a Useful Tool for Language Study!

Among other projects I've been working on, I've developed a modest web site which speeds up reading foreign-language websites considerably.

For people with a basic grasp of grammar, vocabulary is the primary issue. When reading a foreign-language newspaper, even a good browser toolbar does not eliminate the tedium and distraction of vocabulary look-up.

So my little webpage at speeds things up. You can paste in a chunk of text from the source of your choice and each word will be hyperlinked into any available bilingual dictionary. Clicking on each word will pop-up a window containing the word entry and its grammatical analysis. One can skip over known words and word forms and research unknown words with ease--and most importantly, without breaking one's concentration on the text at hand.

At the moment Spanish, Italian, and Latin are available.

If anyone knows of other good on-line bilingual dictionaries which accept(and, preferably, analyze) inflected word forms, let me know. I'm eager to broaden my site's capabilities.

(New Feature as of 9/12: Automated Vocabulary List Creation)

I am also developing a plug-in for bilingual blogs and websites to render pages more accessible to non-native readers. This should be a great boon to such webmasters.

The site is still under construction, but I believe it is close enough to completion to receive public input. Comments on layout and functionality are welcome here, though I will soon have contact information set up over at the website.

Should you find the site useful, please spread it around. Websites, like manure, work best that way.

Catholic Wimps Dueling for Colorado's Governorship

For the "politics is the art of being compromised" file:
I have sniped at Bill Ritter before, now Bob Beauprez proves underimpressive, apparently bending over for homosexual "civil unions." Though he now claims to have been misrepresented, his servile proclamations of virtue and tolerance still annoy:
I don't pretend to understand the homosexuality thing. And plainly I don't have a huge problem with it. I've hired, at my [bank], there's been a number of gays, lesbians. I didn't know when I hired them. I mean, how do you know? You find out afterward. To the person, they've been great employees. Wonderful employees.

And again:
I've given three eulogies in my life: my dad, my mother in law, and a dear friend of mine who happened to be gay and happened to die of HIV-AIDs. A very good friend of mine. I'm gonna leave that whole thing to a bigger judge than me.

One wonders if Beauprez was so terminally non-judgemental he was complicit in his friend's slow suicide.

Neither candidate is particularly impressive. Ritter is using his three years as a Catholic missionary to mask his indifference to the unwanted unborn. He's even been endorsed by a local priest, whose name I am unable to remember.

Beauprez, a former parish youth group leader, seems too go-along-get-along to realize he's a useful idiot for the progressive set's demonization of any significant disapproval of gay activism. He's an accomplice in shifting the boundaries of acceptable discourse.

So we have one Catholic well down the road of complicity, and another a half-mile or so behind. Not voting is looking better all the time, though I'll probably be guilt-tripped to the ballot box by election time.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Denver Catholics Launching MySpace Clone, "Godspace"

Heard about this at Theology on Tap tonight. We'll see how it works out.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The person more impressed by suffering than by existence is very much like that other who will not enter a Church because of the preponderance of hypocrites within. Both are reaching a very certain conclusion over a very dubious point: that the presence of evil in the world stakes a larger claim on our attention than the presence of good. The former outweighs the latter. The sinner disproves the saint. The tsunami discredits the previous day's sunset, and both disallow the feeding of the five thousand.
-William Luse on Heather MacDonald

Augustine on Mean Friends and Nice Enemies

Not every one who is indulgent is a friend; nor is every one an enemy who smites. Better are the wounds of a friend than the proffered kisses of an enemy. It is better with severity to love, than with gentleness to deceive. More good is done by taking away food from one who is hungry, if, through freedom from care as to his food, he is forgetful of righteousness, than by providing bread for one who is hungry, in order that, being thereby bribed, he may consent to unrighteousness. He who binds the man who is in a phrenzy, and he who stirs up the man who is in a lethargy, are alike vexatious to both, and are in both cases alike prompted by love for the patient.

Who can love us more than God does? And yet He not only give us sweet instruction, but also quickens us by salutary fear, and this unceasingly. Often adding to the soothing remedies by which He comforts men the sharp medicine of tribulation, He afflicts with famine even the pious and devout patriarchs, disquiets a rebellious people by more severe chastisements, and refuses, though thrice besought, to take away the thorn in the flesh of the apostle, that He may make His strength perfect in weakness. Let us by all means love even our enemies, for this is right, and God commands us so to do, in order that we may be the children of our Father who is in heaven, "who maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." But as we praise these His gifts, lets us in like manner ponder His correction of those whom He loves.
St. Augustine of Hippo, Epistle 93

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blessed Junipero Serra Works a Miracle in Colorado?

An interesting letter from the Denver Catholic Register, unavailable on the ArchDen website:

Dearly Beloved in Christ,
In the name of the Order of Friars Minor, a religious institute legitimately established with ecclesiastical approval, the Rev. Father John D. Vaugh, OFM, a priest of the same Order of the Friars Minor, duly appointed and approved as vice-postulator, has requested that I initiate an investigation into the alleged miraculous healing of Kayla Rebecca Kellog, who resides in the Archdiocese of Denver. This miraculous healing is alleged to be the result of the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra.

I, Charles J. Chaput, OFM, archbishop of Denver, do hereby make public the petition of the Rev. Father John Vaughn, OFM and declare my intention to conduct the investigation of the alleged miraculous cure of Kayla Rebecca Kellog as a result of the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra.

In conformity with "The Norms to be Observed in Inquiries Made by Bishops in the Causes of Saints," published by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Feb. 7, 1983, I also call upon any and all who may have useful information regarding the above alleged miraculous cure of Kayla Rebecca Kellog that is attributed to the intercession of Blessed Junipero Serra, to bring such documents, materials, or information to my attention.

Given at the Archdiocese of Denver, this 18th day of August, 2006.

+Most Rev. Charles J. Japut, OFM Cap.
Archbishop of Denver

Subverting the Pornocracy

Activists Target Hotel Porn.

I beat them to it with a complaint to Embassy Suites, though I never received a reply.

Hotel porn is morally, though not always legally, the equivalent of prostitution and the hotels are its pimps. They make a pretty penny pandering porno:
Precise statistics on in-room adult entertainment are difficult to find. By some estimates, adult movies are available in roughly 40 percent of the nation's hotels, representing more than 1.5 million rooms. Industry analysts suggest that these adult offerings generate 60 percent to 80 percent of total in-room entertainment revenue -- several hundred million dollars a year.

Further Discussion on BettNet, and the campaign's home is Citizens for Community Values

Against Peace Corps-types

All you will do in a Mexican village is create disorder. At best, you can try to convince Mexican girls that they should marry a young man who is self-made, rich, a consumer, and as disrespectful of tradition as one of you. At worst, in your "community development" spirit you might create just enough problems to get someone shot after your vacation ends and you rush back to your middle-class neighborhoods where your friends make jokes about "spits" and "wetbacks."
-Ivan Illich, Cuernavaca, 1968

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Orianna Fallaci in need of Correction?

What is happening, part of which has driven Ms Fallaci into uncontrollable rage, is the result not of a Muslim conspiracy but of a strategy developed by the old native enemies of the European model. The multicultural and politically correct tribe, overwhelmingly composed of atheists, is using the growing Muslim communities in Europe as a new weapon with which to pursue its old war against the European system.

Without realising it, Fallaci demonstrates this point convincingly.

She shows that in every case involving Muslims doing something that Europeans might not like, the multicultural and politically correct elite played the leading role. For example, Fallaci is enraged that so many mosques are built in localities long associated with Christianity in Italy. However, she fails to mention that in none of the cases she enumerates Muslims were in a position to impose a decision. The building permits for the mosques were always issued by left-wing mayors and municipalities dominated by atheists who wished to settle scores with the Catholic Church by using Muslims as an excuse. In some cases, as that involving the building of a huge mosque and Islamic centre in a beauty spot in northern Italy, there was no demand from the local Muslim community which numbered only 33 individuals. It was the left-wing mayor who, motivated by his hatred of the Catholic Church, wanted the new project. Fallaci is especially angry about a mosque built in Rome supposedly to dilute the city's association with Catholicism. Once again, she fails to remind the reader that it was Rome's Communist-dominated municipality that authorised the mosque in the context of an old feud with the Vatican.
-Amir Taheri, reviewing Fallaci's The Force of Reason

I am glad that, even if Italian anticlericals really are promoting Islam, they are doing so quite inefficiently.

P. Hitchens on Hillary Clinton-Types

What kind of woman is most likely to become an MP? Well, given that politics is now a career, with promotion, fat salaries, lovely perks and big pensions for those who climb the greasy pole, the most likely sort to pursue this job will be the careerist woman.

You know the type -- the school of Cherie Blair and Nicola Horlick, who do not go out to work because they desperately need the money, but because they believe that work outside the home is the key to feminine fulfillment.

Well, it's my view that this opinion is very thoroughly represented already, among men and women in politics, the civil service, the quangoes and the education system --not to mention the media. . And it's also my view that a career woman MP will by her nature be actively unsympathetic to a woman who thinks it better to stay at home and look after her children.

After all, there's a deep conflict here. If the state supports subsidised nurseries for the wageslave or careerist woman, the higher taxes will fall on the single-income homes where mothers stay at home – homes already under pressure because they have only one salary, and which will not benefit at all from these subsidies.
-Peter Hitchens

CGN: Computer-Generated News

I wasn't imagining things after all. Max Headroom has a prototype in Business Journalism:

First it was the typewriter, then the teleprinter. Now a US news service has found a way to replace human beings in the newsroom and is instead using computers to write some of its stories.

Thomson Financial, the business information group, has been using computers to generate some stories since March and is so pleased with the results that it plans to expand the practice.

The computers work so fast that an earnings story can be released within 0.3 seconds of the company making results public.
-Financial Times

I made a go at automated religion reporting with my Papal Critique-O-Matic. Maybe with just a few revisions, I can put Terry Mattingly out of business!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Academic Oddity of the Day: "Philology is based in Creationism"

A field that qualifies as a pseudo-science and is based on creationism is philology, which was developed in the 19th century. By cloaking its arguments in academic language and claiming to reconstruct human history by analyzing the roots of words in various languages, it passes off biblical descriptions as historical events. One of the pioneers of philology, Max Muller, was a self-admitted believer in the historical foundation of the description given in Genesis and asserted that "we still speak the language of the first ancestors of our race." He went so far as to write to Charles Darwin that evolution is false because the languages of animals do not resemble those of humans.

Although today's scientists do not consider philology to be a legitimate science, believers in the literal interpretation of the Bible insist on using philology to promote their views. One such view, which has been repeatedly discredited by science, but is still being pushed for inclusion in California's textbooks without mentioning its biblical aspects, is a theory known as the Aryan Migration Theory. According to this theory, descendants of the biblical character Japheth invaded India after the deluge and populated it. Inclusion of this theory in school textbooks would indirectly give sanction to creationism and open the doors for future frontal assaults on science.

A recent paper co-authored by Peter Underhill in our Genetics Department analyzed genetic evidence and concluded that there is no such thing as Aryan migration into India. This is consistent with evidence from other fields such as carbon dating, fossil studies, archaeology, geophysics, linguistics, metallurgy and satellite imaging. However, in a letter to the California State Board of Education, Vinay Lal -- a humanities professor at UCLA and believer in philology -- dismisses such scientific conclusions as "palpable falsehoods" and "alleged evidence of some unknown geneticist." He avers that science has no role to play in overturning "the long established view on this matter."
J. Sreedhar, Stanford Daily

The relationship between Sanskrit and Greek is pretty well-established. This is one of the weirder guilt-by-association arguments I've seen.

I wonder if this writer's perspective is rooted in Hindu nationalism.

Book in Brief: The Children of Men

In the vast wilderness of special-interest groups, There is an insipid self-promoting collective called the "Child-Free Movement." These childless activists whine and whinge about the privileges and breaks parents get from government, employers, and culture. These privileges include school funding, tax cuts, more flexible sick leave, and the affirmation of the procreational lifestyle. Never has a refusal to beget children been so self-satisfied.

I wonder if any of these fringies have read P.D. James' speculative novel The Children of Men. In the not too distant future, men suffer from a mysterious worldwide sterility. The last child to be born was a Brazilian bastard born in 1995, and he has just died in a barfight in his early twenties.

The world has lost hope. Cultural treasures are being stored away in scarcely-believed hopes that some alien race will discover them after our extinction. Governments are preparing the youngest to live out their last years without any civilization to speak of, while they euthanize the oldest to keep costs down. Women crazed for want of children buy lifelike dolls and hold christenings for kittens. Omegas, the last-born generation, are imported from overseas to serve a country dying amid its wealth, while their native cohorts, spoiled by the veneration of their elders, run wild in the countryside.

Schools have closed for want of pupils, and the protagonist of the novel, a professor of history named Theo Faron, finds himself idle in a world creeping towards its doom. His only claim to fame is his family: his cousin is England's dictator, a domineering, ruthless man who has taken up the unenviable task of preparing his country to turn the lights off when its last citizen dies. This connection provokes a reformist group to contact Faron, seeking to relieve some of the more unjust policies: they object to the euthanasia, the burdensome fertility testing, and the immigrant slave labor.

Faron, characteristic of his milieu, half-heartedly makes an effort to lobby his cousin on their behalf, with little effect. The reformers begin a small campaign of samizdat pamphleteering and targeted sabotage, and Faron, fearing the attention of the police, skips off to see the continent before the terminal population decline creates instability.

Upon his return, a member of the reformists contacts him, and he discovers she is miraculously pregnant. Aware of his cousin's talent for exploiting fortune, Faron sets off with this heroine and her small band into the wilds of England, his cousin's police in pursuit.

The first several chapters of _The Children of Men_ made me think I had a minor classic on my hands--the equivalent of Huxley's _Brave New World_. In James' portrait of a child-free world, with its playgrounds destroyed, toy-shops curtailed, and youth fading, despair figuratively drips off of the page.

Yet the novel stalls when Faron confronts his brother and his deputies: their arguments are expository and without depth, their reformist impulses foreordained to fail. The story never quite recovers to fulfill its original promise.

Upon the discovery of a genuine unborn child, the shift from despair to hope is expected, but never entirely successfully induced by the writing. From a well-formed analysis of the protagonist and his society, we are launched into unsatisfying, perfunctory "thrill" chase sequences in which some people are killed. The most remarkable accomplishment of the second act is James' depiction of the first childbirth in decades, yet even that lacks that great momentousness which a better writer could have delivered.

The book is stronger in its imagination than its execution, yet I worry the upcoming movie could be a weakling all around. For one, the heroine in James' book is admirable in many ways, intelligent and experienced. Yet from all appearances in the movie she is no longer the pregnant woman, but rather a custodian or midwife for a young pregnant girl experienced only in gang warfare. I cannot recall the last pregnant movie heroine who gave birth by the end of the film, and we might see a repeat of that tired and exclusionary movie tradition.

Finally, I do not believe the Christian references will survive the transition. In the novel the cadences of the old Book of Common Prayer make their appearance, and a few targeted strikes at theological liberalism hit home. Several of the reformers, including the expectant mother, are Christian. Their hope is all the more apparent and scandalous in a hopeless world where science has failed to save mankind. Barring great determination, I do not think these features will translate to the screen.

Yet even so, the story should reverberate with the hope of Christmas, the Nativity. We might at last even remember the novelty of that prophetic phrase "unto us a child is born."

Monday, August 21, 2006

George W. Bush, Liberation Theologian

From the intimidatingly prolific Daniel Larison:

"Freedom is God's gift to humanity." -GWB

If we believe Mr. Bush, God also has a sort of program of earthly liberation. It is an attempt to immanentise the spiritual liberty of Christians as political liberty, while at the same time stripping this liberty of any association with revelation. It is a modern gnostic error. Though the statement is brief, it is also strangely reminiscent of liberation theology in which the Gospel serves as a means of legitimising social and political revolution. As well as being Mr. Bush's ideology, this phrase is a rhetorical gimmick to baptise revolution with the appearance of holiness and to keep conservative religious Americans from raising objections to the fundamentally revolutionary and liberal nature of Mr. Bush's entire enterprise. If we judge by looking at who still supports his foreign policy, the gimmick seems to be working.

Hurrah, Hurrah, for Southern Rights, Hurrah!

The Bonnie Blue Flag song from the rally in the movie Gods and Generals is over at Good, I always liked that scene. It was one of the liveliest in the movie.

Apparently Republican US Senate candidate George Allen makes an appearance, though I do not know which actor he is. His opponent James Webb, like most Southerners, has defended the Confederates. His book Born Fighting is a pean to the Scots-Irish, so I quite doubt he'll make an issue over a song so Scots as to use the word "Bonnie." But prepare for sound and fury in the commentariat.

Ever since I watched Ken Burns' documentary on the Civil War, I've always been a fan of the era's songcraft. The Second South Carolina String Band has an excellent version of "The Bonnie Blue Flag" on its album "Hard Road" They also sing a Union rally song "The Battle Cry of Freedom."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Youth Culture: A Creation of Globalization?

The universality of the commercial appeal was due in part to Hollywood's munificent creative and marketing skills, but also fundamentally in the fact that we are such a richly heterogeneous society that our exports had been pretested at home. Hollywood supplies over 70 percent of the European film markets and 90 percent of those of the rest of the world, with the possible exception of India. To reach the younger populations under the age of 25, who constitute the bulk of the moviegoing audience, Hollywood has been offering more dumbed-down blockbusters based on action, violence, sex, and special effects like Jurassic Park. Such films travel more easily than movies with subtle dialogue or predominantly American references, like Forrest Gump. For similar reasons, comedy was structured to hinge on crude slapstick rather than situational wit and wordplay.

The underside of this commercial success is the cultural deficit of associating America with crime, vacuity, moral decay, promiscuity, and pornography--a trend that also worries American parents; Asian and Muslim worlds are already in revolt against it, but also against the libertarian and secular messages of American media. Our media project defiance and ridicule not just of illegitimate authority but of any authority at all--parents, teachers, and political leaders. Even in the West this elicits as much loathing as love. Abroad, it may make dictatorship more difficult, but it also makes democracy less attractive.
Mort Zuckerman,
via Godspy

My inner anarchist sees little wrong with ridiculing even legitimate political leaders, yet the rest of the explanation of the race to the barrel bottom rings true. How many film releases are now pre-selected for the global market? How much particular depth is filtered from a script for the benefit of convenient universal shallowness? Europeans and the Third World complain that globalization deadens local culture, yet it seems globalization degrades the producer civilization as well as the consumer.

Virginal Activism at Colorado Universities

News from the Alma Mater Adflicta:

Jonathan Butler, a 19-year-old Catholic student at the University of Colorado at Boulder is with them as well. Known to many as the "People's Republic of Boulder," the University of Colorado is the last place on earth you would expect to find "right-wing-fanatics" promoting chastity -- especially if they are male. That didn't stop Jonathan and his three friends from founding the College Coalition for Relationship Education. Such an innocuous title is understandable when you consider the ire liberals have for such groups promoting chastity. The organization currently has fifteen members and half are men.

There are similar clubs at the University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University. Jonathan hopes to have help, after he graduates, from fellow students in taking this message to the younger crowds. "I would like to see members of my college," he said, "visiting grade schools to teach them [about the abstinence message] also."
Virgin is Not a Dirty Word

The organization's website says it is currently being re-evaluated. Not as good a sign as a full schedule of events, but its presence is still to be lauded.

Friday, August 18, 2006

African Activist: Euro-American AIDS Advocacy is Self-Perpetuating Industry

One Martin Sempa speaks:

But worse than this, he says, they have become a vehicle for an inhuman leftist ideology under the guise of multi-million dollar philanthropy, a vehicle for a Hollywood-style celebrity cult and brazen anti-American political machine.

"Most of these guys don't care about stopping HIV/AIDS but just about managing the disease, keeping it going so they can continue to profit," Sempa said.

"It's a multi-billion dollar industry," he said. "Pharmaceuticals, condoms, counsellors, distributors, advertising executives, grants for fake human rights groups and celebrity status. If you have AIDS you can be a star if you promote their agenda. It's become a disease of opportunity. If AIDS stopped today there would be millions of people who would stop getting an income."

via Relapsed Catholic

Reading about this fashion show at the Toronto AIDS Conference, one finds it hard to disagree.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Fruit of Abortion is the Iraq War

Mother Teresa once said "the fruit of abortion is nuclear war." One could just dismiss this as saintly hyperbole from a woman more expert at caring for the woefully impoverished than at analyzing global politics.

Yet if one were to claim that the fruit of abortion is the Iraq War, one could make a considerable argument in its favor. Had the Democrats not gone so radically pro-abortion, they might have retained enough political, moral, and spiritual strength to avert the invasion of Iraq.

One might mention this the next time some peacenik starts squawking about seamless garments and the shallowness of one-issue politics.

Neuroscientific Confirmation of Natural Law Theory?

Hauser and his colleagues have found that people are sensitive to the doctrine of double effect even in thought experiments that don't push their emotional buttons. Even when the dirty work of actually doing the pushing is taken out of the equation, most test subjects say they are more willing to kill someone as a side effect of saving others than to kill that person as a direct means toward that end. And they make this distinction even when they can't explain their preferences afterward.

In his forthcoming book, ``Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong" (Ecco), and in other recent papers, Hauser suggests we may have a moral 'faculty' in our brains that acts as a sort of in-house philosopher-parsing situations quickly, before emotion or conscious reason come into play. Hauser compares this faculty to the mental quality that allows human beings to acquire and use language naturally and effortlessly.
Blood on the Tracks

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

...the Victorian project (which persists to this day) of doing away with Christian dogma but trying to keep Christian morality intact is doomed to failure. Not because Christian morality can't be approached rationally by nonbelievers of good will, but because without the lived experience of a religious tradition it will never be anything more than an abstraction, an arid intellectualism, something that gets followed when following it is easy to follow and abandoned as soon as the going gets tough.

-Ross Douthat, discussing torture and other evils
Clara of the Cornell Society for a Good Time reflects on analytic, Thomistic, and phenomenological philosophy.

I feel like it's been ages since I studied or wrote anything purely philosophical in this space, I must be getting very rusty.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

News to Me: Bush2000 Campaigned Against Profiling in Airports

Bush said during the [Oct. 11, 2000] nationally televised debate, "Arab-Americans are racially profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped, and we got to do something about that." Then-Governor Bush went on, "My friend, Sen. Spence Abraham [the Arab-American Republic Senator from Michigan], is pushing a law to make sure that, you know, Arab-Americans are treated with respect. So racial profiling isn't just an issue at the local police forces. It's an issue throughout our society. And as we become a diverse society, we're going to have to deal with it more and more."

Steve Sailer

Regional Marian Devotion

Our Lady of the Rockies, a 90-Foot Statue in the likeness of Mary, Mother of Jesus atop the Continental Divide 8,510 feet above sea level overlooking Butte, Montana at the Interstate Hub of I-90/I-15.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Joy of Junk Mail

My friends, my relatives and I get far too many mass-mailed solicitations for credit card applications. These provide easy pickings for the improvident and for identity thieves. My little way of getting back at these credit card companies is to:

1. Remove all identifying characteristics from the solicitation's literature.
2. Send back what is left of the solicitation in the included envelope stamped "no postage necessary."

When enough people do this, such dead-tree spam will stop, and not a moment too soon.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

We are all Individualists!

...all except Daniel Larison, who tears into David Brooks:

"Individualism itself glories in uncertainty and confusion, because individualists define these things as being part and parcel of "being free," but psychologically, spiritually and in all other important ways uncertainty and confusion are crippling and paralysing. Instilling people with the belief that they are in control of their own destinies, especially when they have been led to believe in the guiding hand of Providence or the will of God, would have to fill many of these people with the utmost sense of despair. After all, given the uncertainties and accidents of life, what fool really supposes himself to be in control of his own destiny? If it were true that my destiny were in my hands, I doubt very much that this would be very satisfying; because it is not true and misunderstands the human condition entirely, it is guaranteed to yield little if any happiness."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Post-Mortem on Tech Boom Enthusiasm

A former Yahoo employee has written an insightful analysis of the bursting of the nineties' tech bubble:

Yahoo was a special case. It was not just our price to earnings ratio that was bogus. Half our earnings were too. Not in the Enron way, of course. The finance guys seemed scrupulous about reporting earnings. What made our earnings bogus was that Yahoo was, in effect, the center of a pyramid scheme. Investors looked at Yahoo's earnings and said to themselves, here is proof that Internet companies can make money. So they invested in new startups that promised to be the next Yahoo. And as soon as these startups got the money, what did they do with it? Buy millions of dollars worth of advertising on Yahoo to promote their brand. Result: a capital investment in a startup this quarter shows up as Yahoo earnings next quarter-- stimulating another round of investments in startups.

As in a pyramid scheme, what seemed to be the returns of this system were simply the latest round of investments in it. What made it not a pyramid scheme was that it was unintentional. At least, I think it was. The venture capital business is pretty incestuous, and there were presumably people in a position, if not to create this situation, to realize what was happening and to milk it.

He also has some thoughts on stock options and productivity:

If there is a problem with options, it's that they reward slightly the wrong thing. Not surprisingly, people do what you pay them to. If you pay them by the hour, they'll work a lot of hours. If you pay them by the volume of work done, they'll get a lot of work done (but only as you defined work). And if you pay them to raise the stock price, which is what options amount to, they'll raise the stock price.

But that's not quite what you want. What you want is to increase the actual value of the company, not its market cap. Over time the two inevitably meet, but not always as quickly as options vest. Which means options tempt employees, if only unconsciously, to "pump and dump"-- to do things that will make the company seem valuable. I found that when I was at Yahoo, I couldn't help thinking, "how will this sound to investors?" when I should have been thinking "is this a good idea?"

City of Arvada--St. Anne's Sign Lease, "City is a Slave to Church!"

In yet another follow-up to the eminent domain dispute between a local Catholic parish and the city, Mile Hi News reports:
Major points of the deal include a 15-year lease, an option to renew for another 15-year period and $1,200 monthly payments for the first 15 years — which adds up to $14,400 annually.

Other terms include $4,000 to $6,000 in annual maintenance costs and as much as $700,000 in capital construction on the site, according to the city report

My councilman did not acquit himself well:
Councilman John Malito said he would support it because there is no other choice, but he was disappointed in the church and said the church should have sold the land to the city.

"The city is really being a slave to the church," Malito said. "We need a parking lot, and it's the only game in town."

Yeah, sure. All dose catholick massas shore are keepin' po' Arvada in de chains.

The local Evangelical megachurch Faith Bible Chapel can get approval for a pedestrian walkway over a multiple-lane state highway for its church and school, but when the oldest Catholic parish and school in the city wants to hang on to its legacy, they're slavedrivers.

No vote for you, Mr. Malito.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The American Conservative's symposium discussing conservatism and liberalism in an American context is on the whole a very worthy read. My favorite passages:

One of the most striking features of cultural discourse today is the inversion of terminology among self-identified "liberals" and "conservatives." It is not just that the vocabulary of our leading "conservatives" is peppered with the grand abstractions ("freedom," "democracy," "progress," "evil"�) always preferred by power-obsessed revolutionaries and ideological zealots. That has been widely noted for some time now. Rather, it is that the terminology historically associated with the conservative impulse has not simply been forgotten or ignored but has been taken up by others--including those who consider themselves progressives or liberals. "Preserve," "save," "conserve," "sustain," "protect" "heritage," "tradition," "community," "place," "decentralized," "permanence," "beauty," "humane"--these former keywords of conservatism have largely migrated to other political quarters.
-Jeremy Beer

So that's how the two big lumps are subdivided. Mostly libertarian Republicans preside over a populist-conservative base on the Right, while on the Left, mostly libertarian Democrats preside over a motley crew--everyone from Luddite socialist Greens to what Europeans would call "right-wing social democrats," a teeming mass united by little except, paradoxically, anti-libertarianism.
-James Pinkerton

Modern American conservatism did not take to heart the insights of its most perceptive minds. Those who came to set the tone in the movement as a whole, William F. Buckley Jr. prominent among them, were political intellectuals. It seemed to them that dealing with the moral-spiritual and cultural foundations of civilization was not the most exciting and pressing need. The political intellectuals drew attention and respect away from efforts whose relevance to politics was not immediately obvious. That advanced philosophy and artistic imagination might over time do more than politics to change society did not even occur to most of them. Other than politics, what most interested them was economics. Some paid lip service to philosophy and to what Russell Kirk, following Edmund Burke and Irving Babbitt, called "the moral imagination," but the humanities seemed worthy of little more than a polite nod.
-Claes Ryn

The growing importance of upper middle class professionals, including professors, as a voting bloc means that the terms Left and Right are likely to become even more confused. Today's Left is located not in the economic aspirations of the working class, which is generally culturally conservative, but in what might be described as the New Class of people who make a living by telling others what to think or do. Hostile to middle America, they don't want the proles interfering with their idea of the good life, which now includes the multicultural right to employ a low-cost Latino service/servant class regardless of the larger impact.
-Fred Siegel

Hurting Women

"...contraception adds a condition to the conjugal act. The condition is that the wife is not to become pregnant. Should the contraception fail, a wife cannot automatically assume she will have her husband's support. In fact, one of the first things I learned in tribunal ministry is the following: Domestic violence usually begins with an unexpected pregnancy.


As I mentioned earlier, most marriages that turn violent do so when the wife tells her husband that she is pregnant. This connection is particularly strong when the pregnancy ends in abortion. In some cases, abortion is the catalyst for domestic violence within the relationship. In others, abortion subsequently amplifies the violence already present. Additionally, domestic violence is not uncommonly the means by which a man coerces his wife or girlfriend into aborting the couple's child. After four years of tribunal ministry, this is still the most common scenario I encounter with abortion.

It is also the scenario I find the most pastorally challenging. Despite what many feminists claim, a woman seldom chooses abortion freely--that is, without external coercion. Rather, the decision is usually made under duress. Eventually, she will face the reality of her choice and find herself in need of the Church's help and compassion. For once her child is dead, the woman finds neither help nor compassion from the abortion industry."
-Pete Vere, JCL, "The Roots of Marital Failure,"

Lay Witness Jan/Feb. 2005

Prig of the Month

Dumb Story of the Week: Controversy over Rockstar Games' "Bully", on which game creator Terry Donovan remarks:
"History is littered with forms of expression that have been considered 'controversial,' only to be welcomed into the fabric of society as valuable creative expression a few years later."

What a self-aggrandizing boast! History is also littered with crap considered controversial then justly forgotten months later.

Bertin likens the Bully debate to what happened to James Joyce's Ulysses. The book, now considered the foundation of the modern novel, was banned because of its sexual content.

"Ulysses was targeted because it had sex in it ... it wasn't targeted because it was a great piece of literature," she said. "These (video games) are things not being assessed by their content or value; they are being assessed by the topics."

Anybody who compares a video game to James Joyce is a name-dropper with no sense of proportion. I myself tend to doubt the salutary nature of Ulysses. Joyce precipitated the academic captivity of literature and amplified the woeful obsequiousness shown to anyone with artistic pretensions and talent only for obfuscation.

The article also voices some concern about the "demonization of youth culture." Cry me a river. Youth culture is rightly demonized because it is a creation of the corporate world, appealing only to the lowest common denominator and hindering kids from growing up responsibly. It is a corrosive acid upon any culture worthy of the name.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

When Bookmemes Attack!

Tagged by Bill Luse, I respond:

1. One book that changed your life: Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book. The change was not entirely for the better.

2. One book that you've read more than once: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I was eleven, so I had time to spare.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island: The flying book from that eighties' Gummi Bears cartoon.

4. One book that made you laugh: Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy O'Toole

5. One book that made you cry: Aeneid Book II, the sack of Troy. Too lazy to translate, so here's Dryden:

The Trojan Horse enters the city:

All vote t' admit the steed, that vows be paid
And incense offer'd to th' offended maid.
A spacious breach is made; the town lies bare;
Some hoisting-levers, some the wheels prepare
And fasten to the horse's feet; the rest
With cables haul along th' unwieldly beast.
Each on his fellow for assistance calls;
At length the fatal fabric mounts the walls,
Big with destruction. Boys with chaplets crown'd,
And choirs of virgins, sing and dance around.
Thus rais'd aloft, and then descending down,
It enters o'er our heads, and threats the town.
O sacred city, built by hands divine!
O valiant heroes of the Trojan line!
Four times he struck: as oft the clashing sound
Of arms was heard, and inward groans rebound.
Yet, mad with zeal, and blinded with our fate,
We haul along the horse in solemn state;
Then place the dire portent within the tow'r.
Cassandra cried, and curs'd th' unhappy hour;
Foretold our fate; but, by the god's decree,
All heard, and none believ'd the prophecy.
With branches we the fanes adorn, and waste,
In jollity, the day ordain'd to be the last.
Meantime the rapid heav'ns roll'd down the light,
And on the shaded ocean rush'd the night;

The death of Priam's son before his father's eyes:

Behold! Polites, one of Priam's sons,
Pursued by Pyrrhus, there for safety runs.
Thro' swords and foes, amaz'd and hurt, he flies
Thro' empty courts and open galleries.
Him Pyrrhus, urging with his lance, pursues,
And often reaches, and his thrusts renews.
The youth, transfix'd, with lamentable cries,
Expires before his wretched parent's eyes:
Whom gasping at his feet when Priam saw,
The fear of death gave place to nature's law;
And, shaking more with anger than with age,
'The gods,' said he, 'requite thy brutal rage!
As sure they will, barbarian, sure they must,
If there be gods in heav'n, and gods be just-
Who tak'st in wrongs an insolent delight;
With a son's death t' infect a father's sight.

6. One book that you wish had been written: Savonarola's _Bonfires of the Vanities: A Leaders' Guide_

7. One book that you wish had never been written: Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract

8. One book you're currently reading: Just ended a six-book marathon, so my stack is empty. Finished off PD James' The Children of Men, I will have a blurb forthcoming.

9. One book you've been meaning to read: Being as Communion by John Zizioulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon. Been stuck on the first chapter for too long.

O'Donnell Takes a Stand Against Sex-Trafficking

Rick O'Donnell, GOP candidate for Colorado's Seventh Congressional District, has made as part of his platform Ending Human Smuggling and Modern Slavery. I find it quite curious that he mentions slavery and child pornography only rather than "adult" porn.

I have been unable to find any estimates of the rates of slavery in otherwise legal pornographic trades. If such statistics ever were nailed down, I suspect we'd discover many an American male to be an accomplice in the slave trade. Maybe O'Donnell's silence isn't all that curious, after all.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hezbollah Baiting Israel Into Displacing Christians?

"Hezbollah came to Ain Ebel to shoot its rockets," said Fayad Hanna Amar, a young Christian man, referring to his village. "They are shooting from between our houses."

"Please," he added, "write that in your newspaper."

-NYTimes, July 27

I've voiced my amateur foreign policy opinions before, but rereading these lines made me suspect a deliberate plan behind the selection of Christian areas as missle-launching sites. Missle launches understandably bring down Israeli airstrikes in self-defense. Yet by destroying those Christian homes, the Israelis are ennabling the further Islamization of Southern Lebanon. And Hezbollah knows it.

Dale Ahlquist in Denver: Post-Event Reflections

American Chesterton Society Chairman Dale Ahlquist visited Denver this weekend after stopping off in Colorado Springs for the Thomas Aquinas Society Conference. He spoke at St. Vincent De Paul, outlining the prophetic nature of Chesterton's writings and feeding the audience with many Chestertonian one-liners.

It was a good introduction for the newcomer, yet I couldn't escape feeling like I could have written, though not delivered, a similar lecture with only a small loss of quality. When one is mouthing Chesterton quotations along with the speaker, this feeling seems all the more justified.

The post-lecture reception was modest but enjoyable. More noteworthy was the next evening's dinner at a Denver GKC Society member's home. A bit of peach brandy flavored the conversations, inebriating in their own right. Mr. Ahlquist was as engaging in person than he is on his television series, and everyone left happy.

One of our visitors was Peter Burnell, a visting professor at DU, whose new book The Augustinian Person looks like a very worthy read.

Perhaps the most surprising remark of the evening concerned an account of Marquette University's choice of Chesterton's Orthodoxy as a common book for entering freshmen some two decades ago. It is alleged that a leftist professor and sympathetic students so detested the choice that they actually engaged in a bookburning. Chesterton's work of Christian apologetics was consigned to the flames just like the angry mob did to his story The Man Who Was Thursday in Sinclair Lewis' anti-fascist novel It Can't Happen Here. I have been unable to confirm this pre-Internet story, but it is a very curious account.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Behind the Scenes of NR's Push for War

When I put down my copy of NR, I felt a genuinely new sensation. For the first time in my long association with the magazine, I was ashamed. If only in an attenuated way, I felt somehow complicit. All of the moral capital we had accumulated over the years, all of the credibility we had earned by weeding out the Randians, the Birchers, the racists, the anti-Semites, and the 24-hour nutbars -- all of it was used to leverage an ad hominem attack on one of our oldest friends.
Neal B. Freeman

Daniel Larison comments here and here.

Joe Francis, Pornocratic Dictator

Where's a lynch mob when you need one?

In an article skirting the borders of obscenity, the LA Times discusses the millionaire creator of "Girls Gone Wild" videos and the rape allegations against him and his crew.

Ross Douthat comments here and here.

I have often wondered how much the porn industry relies on violence, rape, and drug-induced coercion, but I was patriotic enough to imagine the only victims were poor women in Asian and Eastern European countries. No more.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

War is the Health of the Transient State

We are the America that suffers in wartime: we do the dying, the paying of taxes, we supply the million unfortunate sons (and now daughters) who are sent hither and yon in what amounts to a vast government uprooting of the populace. Militarism and empire are the enemies of small-town America, not only because some native sons come home in bodybags but also for the desolating fact that many never come home at all. They are scattered to the winds, sent out--by force or enticement of state--in the great American diaspora, never to return to the places that gave them nurture.

War kills the provinces. It drains them of cultural life as surely as it takes the lives of 18-year-old boys. Almost every healthy, vigorous cultural current of the 1930s, from the flowering of Iowa poetry to North Dakota cornhusking tournaments to the renaissance of Upstate New York fiction, was terminated by U.S. entry into the Second World War. Vietnam, like any drawn-out war or occupation, disrupted normal courtship patterns on the homefront: the difference between republic and empire might be restated as the difference between taking the girl next door to the Sadie Hawkins Dance and paying a Saigon whore in chocolate bars and the Yankee dollar.
-Bill Kaufmann,
via Don Jim

Friday, August 04, 2006

Colorado Chestertonians Rejoice! Dale Ahlquist in Denver August 6

"20th Century Prophet to a 21st Century World," a lecture to be delivered by EWTN?s Dale Ahlquist, President and Co-Founder of the American Chesterton Society

DATE: Sunday, August 6, 2006
TIME: 3:00 PM with Reception to Follow

St. Vincent de Paul Church
2375 E. Arizona Ave. at S. University Blvd.
(On University Blvd, 5 Blocks North of I-25)

Sponsored by the Denver Chesterton Society
...the typical conservative assumption that man is fallible and not perfectible by human means is tied inextricably to the Christian understanding of the Fall. The skeptical man will say that this is not necessarily so, and that any fool can see that man is fallible without recourse to a doctrine of ancestral sin. But that doctrine is the only thing that makes sense of the predicament of man that preserves the possibility of true meaning. With the Fall, there is also Redemption. With mere fallibility, there is no remedy and so, ultimately, no hope in this world or the next. Further, the detachment of conservative thought from the Christian roots that nourished it in the first place is both a losing proposition and an abandonment of a sizeable part of the patrimony we have received from our fathers. Put simply, without a theological vision (and our tradition points us towards the theological vision of our civilisation's Faith) conservatives have no meaningful vision of the good life and can only cavil and harumph at liberal, meliorist plans on the grounds of their impracticability rather than for their fundamental spiritual error and hubris. Without such a vision of consecrated order, ordained by God, conservatism becomes obsessed entirely with what is immanent and cannot form any coherent statements about who man is or what his purpose is supposed to be.
Daniel Larison

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Making Iraq Safe For Islam

Chaldean Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Andreos Abouna of Baghdad said that before the invasion there were about 1.2 million Christians in the predominantly Shiite Muslim state. Since then the overall number has dropped to about 600,000, he said.

"What we are hearing now is the alarm bell for Christianity in Iraq," the bishop said. "When so many are leaving from a small community like ours, you know that it is dangerous -- dangerous for the future of the church in Iraq."

via Amy Welborn

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Weird, Weird Times

P*lyamorists now have a political coalition:

A group of self-identified [Google-deceiving description removed -kjj] activists, scholars, educators, writers, artists, lawyers, journalists, and community organizers" has released a statement explicitly endorsing "committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner." Got that? More than one conjugal partner.

The people putting out this statement are not fringe figures. The more than 300 signatories include feminist icon Gloria Steinem, NYU sociologist Judith Stacey, Columbia University anthropologist Elizabeth Povinelli, Georgetown law professors Robin West and Chai Feldblum, the Rev. Cecil Charles Prescod of Love Makes a Family Inc., Yale law professor Kenji Yoshino, Princeton religion professor Cornel West, writer Barbara Ehrenreich, and Pat Clark, former executive director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Robert P. George

"Fringe Figures" is a relative term. I don't know if there is even such a thing as "mainstream academia." Absurdistan, thou art US.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Beer Blessing

From the Rituale Romanum (no 58)

Bene+dic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi: et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti, ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corporis, et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen

Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, that Thou hast been pleased to bring forth from the sweetness of the grain: that it might be a salutary remedy for the human race: and grant by the invocation of Thy holy name, that, whosoever drinks of it may obtain health of body and a sure safeguard for the soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

via Michael Novak, who normally gives me the howling fantods
"I hate having ethics."
"Well maybe someday science will discover a cure for it."
"I don't care who has to die for that!"
"Now you're coming around."
-Stephen Colbert vs. Stephen Colbert

If I Were A Machiavellian Pollster....

I'd specifically call my allies' territories at convenient times, and wait to call the areas inhabited by most of my opponents until late at night.

Colorado's 2006 election will feature several gay marriage and domestic partnership referenda, and I received a phone call from some polling organization asking about these proposals at twenty to ten last night. Of course I didn't want to talk politics with a perfect stranger at so late an hour, but I was under the impression his organization would be opposed to reactionary little me.