Friday, September 29, 2006

John Locke the Stockholder

If Locke's political ideas are sometimes caricatured for picturing the state as a joint-stock company, this caricature seems nowhere more appropriate than in the birth of the Bank. The scheme of Locke's friend Halifax had made 1,272 individuals actual owners of the state. Interestingly enough, Locke was among them.
-Isaac Kramnick, Bolingbroke and His Circle

This comes from Daniel Larison, who has successfully exceeded his monthly bandwidth quota with but one day left.

Despite my foray into Straussian hermeneutics discussing Locke, with all the school's close readings and sometimes labored interpretations I can't recall Strauss or his epigones ever pointing out this very germane fact.

Dying for a joint-stock company seems as ignoble as killing for the telephone company. Does a strong and respectable stream of Western Liberalism really rest upon a self-justifying political tract?

Waterboarding OK? Demonstrate it on YouTube, Then.

Vasko Kohlmayer, a writer for, has endorsed waterboarding:
Waterboarding, on the other hand, is fleeting in duration with the actual discomfort lasting seldom more than a couple of minutes. And since a man can be safely deprived of oxygen for at least twice as long, there is almost no risk of long-term harm. The possibility of injury is further reduced by the fact that the procedure calls for no direct physical contact between the subject and his interrogators. Not even as much as pushing or chest slapping is required at any time, making waterboarding one of the safest and least confrontational among interrogation methods. Involving the lowest risk of long-term harm and the least amount of cumulative discomfort, it is also the most humane. Most importantly, it is the most effective.

I doubt this writer would voluntarily waterboard or be waterboarded himself. Yet all we really need for a demonstration of waterboarding(assuming even a demonstration is morally permissible) is a stuntman, a trained medical professional, and a filming crew willing to post their film on YouTube. A fictional portrayal of waterboarding is already on display at that site. Since some apologists argue the method is not that bad, perhaps we can observe for ourselves what some endorse in the abstract and get a reaction from a "subject" who can speak our language in the Fear Factor style to which we have become so inured.

Gay Activist Intimidation in Colorado Springs

Catholic Exchange reports a CO Springs family had their lawn set on fire, their home vandalized, and their family threatened for placing signs against a domestic partnershim initiative on this November's ballot. The threat read in part:


"The purpose of this document is to inform not you, but all who share your anti-gay or any other discriminatory beliefs, your world is about to change" SO TAKE WARNING! Your life, your government and the world as you know it is about to change. YOU ARE EITHER WITH US OR AGAINST US!

Such activists have been lively before. Fifteen years back, some vandalized the Catholic cemetery. It is disturbing that this is happening in one of the most conservative cities in the state. I am also curious that this story hasn't made the mainstream press, circulating only in special-interest news sites. I suspect it is overshadowed by the atrocity in Bailey.

Focus on the Family is the source for this story. The family's campaign signs seem typical for Colorado Springs evangelicals, simultaneously earnest and embarrassing. That's no excuse for vandalizing intimidation, and I hope this event gets more coverage soon.

Misdirected Chastity?

In the typical "conservative" church, pastors were falling strangely silent on the sins that beset their own flocks, mostly sex outside of marriage and before marriage, while they were often trumpeting their churches' beliefs on the sexual activities of gays and lesbians. It was the old plank-in-the-eye issue.

I thought it was interesting that I was told, while working on one of my earliest columns about the "True Love Waits" movement, that some of the strongest opposition to the concept came from adults, not teens. The problem was that pastors could not offend divorced deacons or other adults in the church who were having sex before marriage or outside of their marriages.

When it comes to sex, the typical conservative pastor is much more afraid to talk about premarital or extramarital sex than about homosexuality. There is a story there, I think, and it's an important story.
-Terry Mattingly

The Constitution As Figurine

And even some Republicans who said voted for the bill said they expected the Supreme Court to strike down the legislation because of the habeas corpus provision, ultimately sending the legislation right back to Congress.

"We should have done it right, because we're going to have to do it again," said Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican from Oregon, who had voted to strike the habeas corpus provision, yet supported the bill.
NYTimes, "Senate Passes Detainee Bill Sought by Bush"

This is exactly what happened with the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. The legislature passed that bill expecting its grossest requirements to be struck down, yet the Supreme Court failed to oblige. That a legislator can acknowledge that he has voted for a bill he believes to be unconstitutional shows the sorry state of limited government.

The next time we laugh at the antics of England's House of Windsor, deriding them as figureheads, let's remember that our Constitution might itself have become a mere totem. Our fierce and respected political foundation has lapsed into a sentimental icon; it is turning into a Precious Moments figurine, put on display for a bit of fawning civic discussion before being returned to its small cabinet, easily ignored until the next tea party.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Local Color

Douglas Groothius, a professor at Denver Seminary on sabbatical in Arizona, is blogging at The Constructive Curmudgeon
There's some good advice on getting into the tech sector with a Liberal Arts degree over at Darwin Catholic

Army Sends 52-year-old Woman into Combat?!?

Obituary of a Humvee Gunner. Radical feminism wrapped in the flag.

I thought this was against military regulations. What happened?

(See Bonnie Erbe present the case for chickenhawk feminism)

FBI Snooping on Pro-Lifers

"In August of that same year,[1994] Attorney General Janet Reno established a task force, the Violence Against Abortion Providers Conspiracy (VAAPCON) group to investigate anti-abortion violence and civil disobedience. VAAPCON included representatives from the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service, the US Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms ­ the thugs who carried out the killings at Ruby Ridge and at Waco. By 2000, it was clear that the VAAPCON task force was investigating many pro-life groups and individuals who had no connection to any crimes against abortionists. Documents released under pressure of lawsuits showed that the FBI had assembled dossiers on Cardinal O'Connor of New York, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Feminists for Life, Concerned Women for America, the American Life League, the Christian Coalition, and other law-abiding pro-lifers. Some FBI agents objected on legal and ethical grounds against this surveillance, but their objections were overruled by the upper levels of the Justice Department. Attorney General John Ashcroft is keeping the VAAPCON task force in existence."
-Lee Penn

Having an FBI dossier was once a much-trumpeted badge of honor on the left. Outside of WorldNetDaily and FrontPage Magazine, I remember no large outcry when these surveillances were revealed.

Quite worrisome that VAAPCON is possibly still around.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

(Anti-)Political Poetry

Through Daniel Larison I have discovered an excellent old poem of medium length. Selected Excerpts:

Thus, while around the wave-subjected soil

Impels the native to repeated toil,

Industrious habits in each bosom reign,

And industry begets a love of gain.

Hence all the good from opulence that springs,

With all those ills superfluous treasure brings,

Are here displayed. Their much loved wealth imparts

Convenience, plenty, elegance, and arts !

But view them closer, craft and fraud appear,

Even liberty itself is bartered here.

At gold's superior charms all freedom flies,

The needy sell it, and the rich man buys;

A land of tyrants and a den of slaves,

Here wretches seek dishonorable graves,

And, calmly bent, to servitude conform,

Dull as their lakes that slumber in the storm.


As nature's ties decay,

As duty, love, and honor, fail to sway,

Fictitious bonds, the bonds of wealth and law,

Still gather strength, and force unwilling awe.

Hence all obedience bows to these alone,

And talent sinks, and merit weeps unknown;

Till time may come, when, stript of all her charms,

The land of scholrs, and the nurse of arms,

Where noble stems transmit the patriot flame,

Where kings have toiled, and poets wrote for fame,

One sink of level avarice shall lie,

And scholars, soldiers, kings, unhonored die.


In every government, though terrors reign,

Though tyrant kings or tyrant laws restrain,

How small, of all that human hearts endure,

That part which laws or kings can cause or cure !

-Oliver Goldsmith, The Traveller

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Derbyshire on Europeans Enslaved by Muslims

Papal Lecture Controversy Influences Colorado House Races

After the flap about the Pope's speech in Regensburg, local US House Rep. Tom Tancredo wrote a letter to the Pope supporting his statements. An opportunistic attempt to ride the papal coattails, end of story.

Not quite.

Tancredo provoked the ire of a congressional staffer of Colorado US Rep. John Salazar, a staffer who started the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association. So now Ms. Nayyera Haq is a campaign issue. See
To the Right and Google News for the latest.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Mirror of Justice links to an Ireland Religious Freedom case involving a Jehovah's Witness and blood transfusions.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Good News of Predestination

Daane suggests that the Arminian construal of election is unpreachable because it is too humanistic; but this misses, I think, the crucial point. Arminian predestination is unpreachable because it is not good news about anything. It doesn't build up the body of Christ. It doesn't edify. It doesn't embolden or encourage. It simply gives an answer to a perplexing theological question that is of interest only to a few. Why waste limited preaching time on predestination? Good preachers have more important words to speak to their congregations. The Arminian pastor cannot stand before his congregation and announce to them that they are the elect of God, because he does not know who in his congregation will persevere in their faith and be saved and thus "become" the elect.

But Reformed preachers are in no better position. There is a gap, asserts Daane, between what is declared in the Reformed confessions and what is preached in the Reformed pulpit. Why? Because in Reformed reflection predestination goes hand in hand with reprobation...
The good news that became unpreachable, Pontifications

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Baptist Terrorists in India?

News to me:

The most prominent among the terrorist outfits of Tripura is the NLFT (National Liberation Front of Tripura). It employs terror tactics to effect mass conversion to Christianity (The Statesman 1999, 2000; Ghosh 1999) and is a predominantly Baptist (Protestant) organisation.


The sectarian nature of the Baptist terrorists has come to the fore. They killed a Catholic priest called Father Victor Crasta on July 25, 2000. In protest the Catholic Church of Tripura called a bandh (closure) in all Catholic run institutions on August 10, 2000. (The Telegraph 2000)
Terrorists in North-East India get support from America

Christianity and Buddhism, Cultural Cross-Fertilization

Catholic missionaries to Tibet in the early part of the last century were struck by the outward resemblances to Catholic liturgy and discipline that were presented by Lamaism—its infallible head, grades of clergy corresponding to bishop and priest, the cross, mitre, dalmatic, cope, censer, holy water, etc. At once voices were raised proclaiming the Lamaistic origin of Catholic rites and practices. Unfortunately for this shallow theory, the Catholic Church was shown to have possessed these features in common with the Christian Oriental churches long before Lamaism was in existence. The wide propagation of Nestorianism over Central and Eastern Asia as early as A.D. 635 offers a natural explanation for such resemblances as are accretions on Indian Buddhism.
Buddhism, Catholic Encyclopedia
via Daniel Mitsui

It seems to me there are pop-speculations aplenty about Buddhistic influences on Christianity, but little about influences in the reverse direction. I do not know whether present comparative religion studies would back up this article from the early twentieth century. However, Peter Leithart acting in a similar spirit once suggested that influences from liberal Protestantism helped sift Buddhism into a Sunday-school friendly form of religion.

Stupid Blurbs: A New Guerilla Marketing Technique?

This is a portion of one sad advertisement from the BlogAds network for the philistine atheist Sam Harris' book Letter to a Christian Nation. It quotes one Jaeger on Myspace: "it's a big middle finger from Sam Harris...."

The full quote is found on the book's Myspace page and reads "I just got the book and it is great... Its a big middle finger from Sam Harris to the idiotic christians (and all other religions)"

(Adding that apostrophe to his blurb sure was a nice editorial touch.)

Bad punctuation, village atheism, references to obscene gestures, MySpace user... need we mention that Jaeger is eighteen years old?

Sure, it's in bad taste to pick on young kids, but it's even more tasteless to quote a kid to advertise a non-fiction book advocating a "mature" belief system.

These blurbs are suspiciously tasty blogfodder. Relapsed Catholic noted another stupid Harris blurb ripe for ridicule. Were I more confident in the marketing savvy of the publishing industry, I'd suspect I was being used.

Ave Atque Vale!

The New Pantagruel closes up shop. Good fun, thanks you all.

Friday, September 22, 2006

When Fundies Read Beowulf

Via The Crockery comes some truly bizzare literary analysis:

Why, then, do so many literature critics say that Beowulf is fiction? It is because they do not believe that dinosaur creatures lived at the same time men lived. Their evolutionary worldview says that dinosaurs lived long ages before men evolved on the earth. Therefore, in their minds, this all must be fiction. But with a Biblical worldview, we can see that dinosaurs entered the ark with Noah--land species at least--and they lived on the earth again after the Flood. But the post-Flood earth was not so hospitable to large creatures and they eventually became almost extinct.
Beowulf: Fiction or History?

The New Democratic Party Summed Up

It is obviously much more difficult to politically organize masses of people if they all think of themselves as individual consumers or as expressive individualists, each freely choosing his own unique (even if vapid and banal) lifestyle, than to organize masses of people who think of themselves as members of working classes or local communities, who share in common most of the important conditions of their lives.
-James Kurth The Rich Get Richer

How Greeley, Colorado Inspired 9/11

Mark Steyn discusses Sayyid Qutb's experience in that university town:
What was so awful about Sayyid Qutb's experience in America that led him to regard modernity as an abomination? Well, he went to a dance in Greeley, Colo.: "The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips..."

In 1949, Greeley, Colo., was dry. The dance was a church social. The feverish music was Frank Loesser's charm song Baby, It's Cold Outside. But it was enough to start a chain that led from Qutb to Zawahiri in Egypt to bin Laden in Saudi Arabia to the mullahs in Iran to the man arrested in Afghanistan on Sept. 11. And it's a useful reminder of how much we could give up and still be found decadent and disgusting by the Islamists. A world without Baby, It's Cold Outside will be very cold indeed.

It seems Steyn's source is Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road To 9/11. I wonder how detailed the Greeley years are.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Colorado Conviction of Saudi Sex Slaver Spooks Off Foreign Students

From Arab News, via FR:

Due to the intimidation and harassment Saudi students have been recently experiencing in the United States, especially after what happened to Homaidan Al-Turki and his family, Saudis are thinking twice before sending their children to study in America.

"Such discrimination and humiliation would discourage parents from even thinking about sending their children to study in the US," said Muhammad Al-Enezi, 39.

On Aug. 31, a Colorado court sentenced Al-Turki to 27 years in prison for sexually assaulting his maid, forcibly imprisoning her and not paying her wages -- charges he vehemently denies.


Al-Turki, 37, said that US authorities were persecuting him for "traditional Muslim behaviors". He blamed anti-Muslim prejudice for his conviction and the severity of the sentence. He claimed that the prosecutors persuaded the maid to accuse him after they failed to build a case against him as a terrorist.

Somehow I'm not perturbed by these principled refusals to study in the US.

The article does reveal one true area of cross-cultural misunderstanding that could use some correction:

People across Saudi Arabia have little faith in the US government and constantly accuse the authorities there of double standards by harshly punishing Al-Turki, while simultaneously letting off the perpetrators behind the Abu Ghraib fiasco in Iraq with a slap on the wrist.

It was not the Federal government but the Arapahoe County DA who secured Al-Turki's hefty sentence.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Another Dying Language...

A father laments that his son's peers might never learn BASIC:

Microsoft and Apple and all the big-time education-computerizing reformers of the MIT Media Lab are failing, miserably. For all of their high-flown education initiatives (like the "$100 laptop"), they seem bent on providing information consumption devices, not tools that teach creative thinking and technological mastery.
David Brin
Why Johnny Can't Code

This article has many good points about the loss of under-the-GUI computer skills. Besides good old Logowriter on the elementary school's Apple IIe, I had at home an old Atari 400 with BASIC support. My dad would type in programs from preteen geek magazines, which would inevitably fail due to a typo somewhere. QBasic was a bit more productive for me. Then a few years later I was dumb enough to blow over $150 on Borland C++ 4.0 for Windows. Without any clue, I tried to learn the language by following a book. Ignorant of the included command-line interpreter, I tried to write DOS programs in a Windows environment. Ah, wasted youth. I was a little like the Koreans who first learned Christianity from books picked up in the Beijing court.

At last I got my hands on a DOS compiler, learning C alongside PASCAL. My one brief peak of high school popularity involved my near-exclusive ability to program games for the TI-85 calculator. I don't think many teachers ever realized that students weren't really "studying math."

Though I jumped the Computer Science boat to learn Latin and Greek, that hobby was certainly more productive than my videogaming, and the loss of BASIC-type programs is truly lamentable.

The "Doctor Dooms" of the Republican Party

Earlier this year we learned of Dr. Eric R. Pianka, a herpetologist who at a scientific conference suggested the death of 90% of the human population would be a good thing.

The usual conservative suspects were quite admirably on the case, and provoked a few days of debate about crackpot messianic scientists saving the people from themselves.

So it is interesting to read this account from the Congressional Record
Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the Republican Task Force on Earth Resources and Population, I would like to comment on two newcomers to the Washington scene. They are Dr. Philip Handler, the new president of the National Academy of Sciences and Dr. Roger Olaf Egeberg, the Assistant HEW Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs subject to his confirmation by the Senate. I was extremely heartened by the sense of urgency expressed by both of these national leaders on the problems of overpopulation and dwindling resources. In a recent interview with This Week magazine, Dr. Handler stated:

"The greatest threat to the human race is man's own procreation. Hunger, pollution, crime, overlarge, dirty cities-even the seething unrest that leads to international conflict and war-all derive from the unbridled growth of human populations. It is imperative that we begin a research campaign in human reproductive physiology. Second to the problem of overproduction is that of feeding the world. As we look toward the end of this century, we get closer to the time when the total food supply becomes limiting. If we do not provide more food, we face worldwide famine."

Dr. Egeberg has displayed his keen awareness of the crisis our world is facing by emphasizing that at the top of his list of priorities will be intensified efforts in environmental and population control through technological innovations and family planning, the reclamation of waste products, and the development of a low pollution automobile.

Representative George Herbert Walker Bush
US House of Representatives
Monday, June 30, 1969

Then-Rep. Bush was kind enough to include for the record the complete text of the This Week interview with Dr. Handler:
There are something over 300 known hereditary diseases of man. We have learned to circumvent a number of them by keeping young people alive who suffer from those diseases. They grow up and reproduce, and spread their genes in the population. Instead of improving, the genetic pool of mankind is deteriorating. I think the total good of humanity demands that we minimize the incidence of these defective genes. We have no historical ethic to guide us in this matter, but perhaps such people should not be allowed to procreate.

The other side of the coin is to prevent the problem In the first place. There are some who hope to make DNA--containing only "good" genes--and insert it into the germ plasm of prospective parents. Maybe that will be possible In the distant future.

Or you could improve inheritance by breeding. As its farthest extreme, using the processs I described for cattle, one could, conceivably, deliberately make more Einsteins, Mozarts, or whomever you choose. Another, more practical way is to pick distinguished men and preserve their sp*rm by freezing it in "sp*rm banks." Then married couples might enjoy their own sex relationship, but when they want to have a child, use sp*rm from the sp*rm bank.

Well, there you have it. A future president of the United States is on the record praising popultion control and toying with eugenics. Was this ever an issue in his later election campaigns? Does anybody care?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More on Chancellor Maier's Christian-Islam Relations Talk

Denver Catholic Register follows up on the story. No word of kooky Old Man's Q&A exploits, with good reason. I suspect he's more flattered to have been left out than to have been included.

The story's page includes news of several newly scheduled lectures for the Fall, including Robert Royal and Communio's M. Jean Duchesne. Prof. John Cavadini of Notre Dame and J. Bottum of First Things are scheduled for this Winter or Spring. I'm a bit annoyed at the so-called "neoconservative" bent of Royal and Bottum, not to mention a few boneheaded First Things editorial decisions by Bottum, but I'm also pretty excited that they'll be in town.

The lecturer quality seems to have gone up a notch over those of years past. The Archbishop's lectures, combined with the promising series on the Auraria campus, will certainly provide me plenty of cogitations and blogfodder. Which reminds me, I haven't replied to the Archbishop's fundraising appeal yet.

House vs. Hippocratic Oath, Medical Ethics

Dr. Eric Foreman: You are aware of the Hippocratic oath, right?
Dr. Gregory House: The one that starts, "First, do no harm", then goes on to tell us: no abortions, no seductions, and definitely no cutting of those who labor beneath the stone? Yeah, took a read once. Wasn't impressed.
-House M.D., Fox Network

Is irreverence ever truly refreshing? Is House's characteristic cynicism towards a long medical tradition salutary? Though few laymen seem to know this, the Hippocratic Oath is lapsing into desuetude, being replaced by a melange of emotivism, respect for autonomy(whatever that is), and a dubiously flimsy relativism. The sneers of House sometimes merely underscore the dismissive attitude towards traditional Christian medical ethics found in medical ethics classes, either among the professors, the students, or both.

In a world of selective scaremongering, one searches with difficulty to find polls of the medical professions' attitudes towards life, death, and the more quotidian aspects of their daily practice. Perhaps systematic studies, or media reports on such studies, are not done for fear of provoking the wrath of medical associations and their members. What would House say to that?

Master Masons And Their Passions

I have previously mentioned my admiration for a local one-man castle-builder.

Yet he is not the greatest among amateur builders. Gallego Martinez has surpassed him by building a cathedral on his own. His building lacks just a few more years' work and a bishop.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Catholic Theology Lecture Series in Denver

via John Wren comes news of an impressive lecture series at St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish on the Auraria campus:


Church, Politics, and Society

Sponsors: St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church and SS Cyril and Methodius Russian Byzantine Catholic Community

Where: St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church on Auraria Campus
1060 St. Francis Way, Denver, CO. 80204

When: 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Snacks will be served

Thursday, September 21:
"War, Progress and the End of History: A Russian View on the Human Drama"
Dr. Joel Barstad

Thursday, September 28:
"The Politics of Liberty in a Post-Modern Era"
Rev. Dr. Chrysostom Frank

Thursday, October 5:
"The Crusades and their Significance for Today"
Dr. Michael Woodward

Thursday, October 12:
"Should a Christian be A-Political?"
Keith Ruckhaus

Thursday, October 19:
After Forty Years of Feminism, What Next?"
Terry Polakvic

Thursday, October 26: "Polish Catholicism: A Christian Pedagogy for the Oppressed People"
Fr. Raymond Gawronski, S.J.

For more information and directions to the place on Auraria
where this will be held, see

I especially look forward to Professor Michael Woodward's talk because I know he is both a solid Catholic scholar and quite dissatisfied with the Crusade apologists on both national and local levels. It will be good to see his less militant interpretation of history.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Papal Remarks Might Cause Further Violence, Media Hopes

When I left for a nice weekend off-line, I was worried about the potential for violent reaction to the mendacious coverage of Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech.

Alas, that potential has moved into the actual. One nun possibly dead in result, several churches firebombed, and nutty Islamists sharpening their blades for some televised decapitations.

Before the first reports cycled in, I pondered the the role of the Western media in fanning the flames of Islamic rage. Did some Western editor think "let's you and him fight, that'll sell newspapers!"� and frame the story in such a way that would be sure to tick off the Islamic media? Did this story first get its wings in the Islamic world first, and then find outlets in Western news?

David Warren suggests this deadly circus was indeed first manufactured by Western journalists, specifically the BBC:
The BBC appears to have been quickest off the mark, to send around the world in many languages, including Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Urdu, and Malay, word that the Pope had insulted the Prophet of Islam, during an address in Bavaria.

Pitiful. Prepping for export the most inflammatory spin on Pope Benedict's lecture, the BBC journalists were especially yellow. Here is the introductory paragraph to their story Muslim Anger Grows at Pope Speech:

Speaking in Germany, the Pope quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said the Prophet Muhammad had brought the world only "evil and inhuman" things.

Of course, the emperor only claimed what was *new* in Islam was evil and inhuman, but the BBC's actions show little regard for either the accuracy or the consequences of its tendentious framing of this speech. People have died, churches have burned, and the BBC seems awfully proud about itself.

There are some patently ridiculous apologies for the press coverage: Pope Benedict should have known he'd be misrepresented by the small-minded ink-stained wretched of the Earth. He should have also known that these falsehoods would then be used by mullahs around the world for the sake of provoking their followers into violence.

In summary, they believe Benedict should have spoken at the level of those with little ability and even less willingness to read with charity and critical engagement.

Here we see why only the blandest of platitudes are fit for public consumption: the distortions of philistine journalists prompt one's public words to remain vanilla for fear of misrepresentation, and the often-used blades of barbarians' knives encourage pedestrian remarks for fear of others' lives.

The public media and its readership demand submission to their simplistic creed of the One Liner. Their leveling of public discourse is among the greatest threats faced by a free people.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Progressive "Whig History" and Islam Today

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
-Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, Quoted by Pope Benedict XVI

Brief reaction:

The emperor here presents a kind of traditionalism, holding that the best age is behind us: the Truth has already been revealed, the best has already been done and said. "The Tradition is always smarter than you." At our best, we can but imitate the past. Generally speaking, novelties are to be shunned as corruptions.

Perhaps this view has some features in common with Islam, yet at present it is its contrary, progressivism, which sparks these comments.

In modern times "Progress" in its crude secularized form is taken to mean that what comes later is a higher manifestation of previous events. The best is in the future, the worst is in the past. The old is corrupt, the novel worthy of success.

This view is, I hope, too incoherent to be held by people worthy of rational response, but doubtless it has considerable influence on the popular understanding of history. These are the same people who think Martin Luther was an agent of progress, either ignoring or dismissing the monk's reaction against that other supposed marker of progress, the Renaissance.

It is important to consider that, from the perspective of an uncritical progressive--say, a Whig historian's bastard brainchild--Islam is a superior manifestation of religion simply by dint of appearing later in time than Christianity.

Ever-enamored of his dictionary, a progressive sophist might deduce from the pejorative "byzantine" completely superficial ideas about the Empire's quality. He might even claim its subjection to Islam as proof of the latter's superiority, exuding gushing imagery straight out of the Romantic era's infatuation with Turkey and the Arabesque. I could easily imagine such an enraptured devotee make the maddening claim that Mohammed was the Luther of Eastern Christianity. It would not startle me were I to discover that Voltaire or Gibbon or their like have actually ventured such an odd analogy.

Progressivism and primitivism are recurring themes in Western modernity. In much analysis of Leftist interaction and cooperation with Islam one finds an emphasis on primitivism. These brief speculations suggest a paradox: progress is in fact the ally of the primitive.

Feminist Pod Person Possesses Republican Candidate

On his website George Allen, Virginia Republican, blasts Marine opponent James Webb for Opposing Feminist Military Policy. Allen's campaign provides Webb some free publicity for his excellent, substantive essay Why Women Can't Fight, though it's missing page 147.

Has Rush stopped blasting "Feminazis"? Though on occasion pundits cry "sexism" against liberals and the left simply as a petty anti-hypocrisy debating tactic, putative conservatives have generally absorbed feminist critiques of a sexist society. Allen is following a party tradition: the GOP itself, historically having a sizable feminist contingent, has generated some of this numbskull feminism otherwise associated with the Dems. The Democrats, at one time the party of Southerners and traditionalist ethnics, once resisted this feminism with more or less vigor until the McGovernite takeover ended their influence for good--or rather, for the worse.

James Webb shows himself to be a throwback on this issue, and I hope he maintains the stands taken in his excellent essay. With a fool's hope, I hope he'll become even more of a throwback on the other issues where he now follows the McGovernite faction's party line.

Lecture Notes: Christian-Muslim Relations in Wake of 9/11

My friend S. has typed up his notes on Archdiocese of Denver Chancellor Francis Maier's lecture, and has graciously allowed me to post them here:


- There are many sensitive issues between both faiths and a lot of misinformation.
o Catholics have an obligation to find the Truth

- Many followers of Islam will not listen to Christians and their articles of Faith
- Today there is a deep need to Truth in Christian - Muslim relations

- The Kurds of today occupy many of the areas where once Christian Armenians lived
- Christianity, prior to AD 622, was the majority faith in what is now Iraq
- Since the Islamic conquest in the 7th century many Christians fled
- Today many Christians are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam under death threats
- In some cases the men are killed and the women raped

- To this day Turkey denies the Armenian Genocide. Many people go along with the denial because Turkey is a NATO ally and is seeking entrance into the European Union
- In Egypt many Coptic Christians (6% of the population) are kidnapped, raped, and/or killed
- In the Sudan the slavery and genocide is not reported by the secular press for fear of offending Islam

- Interfaith dialogue is vitally important but denying the Truth or watering down the Catholic Faith to accommodate Muslims is not helpful
- Catholics have a duty to respect truth and justice everywhere it is found
- Catholics must respect and be willing to listen to Muslims
o Catholics need a strong grasp of history, both Christian and Muslim
o Must be committed to truth
o Willingness to listen

- Shared points of faith with Islam
o Belief in One God
o Origin from Abraham
o Ideas of prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, almsgiving, etc.
o Importance of family
o Pro-Life
o Belief in God's desire to give his word to Mankind
o Respect for the Virgin Mary
o Belief in Jesus birth
o Judgment and Jesus Second Coming
o Belief in Satan

- Differences
o Reject Trinity
o Reject Christ's Divinity
o Deny God the Father
o Do not see need for Redemption
o No Original Sin
o Denial of Nicene and Apostles' Creeds
o Belief that Old and New Testaments are corrupted by Jews and Christians
o No separation between Mosque and State
o Strong belief in female inferiority
o Polygamy
o Justification of violent expansion

- Mohammed fought 78 known battles. Only 2 were defensive
- It was not until AD 1095 that "Armed Pilgrimage"� began in Christianity and it was not popular at first

- Christianity and Islam have two completely different worldviews
- 9/11/01 was NOT political it was religious
- Current dialogue with Islam is not moving forward
- Christians often delude themselves
- Some Christian leaders say dialogue with Islam is like a dialogue with the deaf
- However, Christians have a duty to seek mutual understanding and goodwill

- Media
o Refusal to see religion as a driving force
o Over secularized
o Much of the media sees Islam as tolerant and Christianity as intolerant
o Media fears offending Islam
o Does not care about offending Christianity
o Media ignores persecution of Christianity in Sudan , Iraq , Pakistan , Egypt , Indonesia
o Case of Oregon shooting at a Jewish center by an Islamic man was barely reported by most media where Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic comments were featured for many days in the media

- What should Catholic do?
o Pray
o Self educate
o Learn history
o Demand truth

Suggested book: Burning Tigris
Suggested website:

A few of my afterthoughts on the meeting:

I worry the concentration on Islamic atrocities, being reactions to obvious holes in Americans' knowledge of history and substandard media coverage, can end up taking us into a tribalistic mode where evil deeds are never forgotten. Like many tribal disputes, this attitude can close off hopes of forgiveness and forget that even very corrupt individuals and societies have the potential for reconciliation with their enemies and redemption in the eyes of God.
Larison on Damon Linker on First Things


Larison Reconsiders Linker

Upcoming Speech from Rwanda Survivor at University of Denver

Immaculee Ilibagiza survived the Rwandan holocaust while hiding in the tiny bathroom of a pastor along with nine other women. Her story is not just of survival, but of the ability to become fully aware of her relationship with God in the process of surviving. It is a story of her prayer and her strength. One can not separate her story of survival from her story of faith.

Looks too expensive for me, but others might benefit.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I Went to a Theology Lecture, and a Fight Broke Out. Almost.

First some background: tonight, September 13, Archdiocesan Chancellor Fran X. Maier delivered a lecture titled "Christian-Muslim relations in the wake of 9/11."

The lecture, meant as a catechetical lecture for Catholics and not an interfaith dialogue, discussed the great difficulties involved in discussing Christianity with Muslims. It took place in Bonfils Hall on the John Paul II Center/St. John Vianney Seminary campus. I hope to post excerpts from the talk later, after reporting its aftermath in this post.

A large portion of Chancellor Maier's speech was a bloody litany of Islamic crimes committed against Christians in the past hundred years. The works he referenced are often cited in the mainstream conservative commentariat: Bat Y'eor and similar writers.

Q & A time came, and that's when things got interesting in the sense of the reputed Chinese Curse. The first questioner stood up and said his name was Mohammed, but noted that he was not a Muslim. (I later learned that he was an atheist whose sister had married a Christian, a marriage which apparently provoked their flight from a Muslim country to new residence in the US. )

Without great fervor he declared himself offended, and very politely suggested that Chancellor Maier's sources were lacking in quality. Chancellor Maier interrupted, noting that the lecture was meant for a Catholic audience, that these words should be saved for another day, and suggested we politely move along. The questioner did not press the issue, conceding that it wasn't his lecture.

Alas, another man did press the issue. An elderly man in his sixties or seventies started causing a ruckus:

"Now wait a sec, what is this 'Catholic-only' stuff? This exclusivity is part of what is plaguing the United States right now."

He then received a one-woman ovation from the woman sitting next to him, apparently his wife.

"You let, you let the man here give you his question"

Chancellor Maier: "No."

Old Man: "Stop being a moral coward."

Maier: "No."

Old Man: "You're a moral coward."

Maier: "Well thank you very much."

Old Man: "You're a racist moral coward..."

(interrupted by laughing, at which time I cut off my recorder.)

Order is restored, and a few questions proceed uninterrupted. Not for long, since Old Man wants to ask a question:

Maier: "Sir, we're not going to get into an argument."

Old Man: "well then put away this.... islamo, -o, -phobia."

Maier: "We cannot, the way you define it. We can't put it away, because that's part of the honesty of the argument."

Old Man: "It's a very high priority with the neo-cons, and the zionists, to turn the American people into muslim-haters, and yes it's also high on the--I'm talking!

Maier: "Yeah, but you're not--what you're really trying to do is give a lecture--

Old Man: "I'm opposing you! The thing is I'm opposing you!

Maier: "No, that is not true..."

Old Man: "You, you arrogant bastard!"

Maier: "Thank you."

(nervous laughter from crowd)

At this point a somewhat younger man between middle-age and elderly started making his way towards this man from the back in a retaliatory mood. Notably, he was not a security guard. One of the younger fellows, a husky twentysomething man, tried to keep the peace by blocking his advance. (I later learned he was expecting me and a friend, seated in the back row, to jump in and help form a blockade. Sorry!)

Situation Escalator Man to Peacekeeper: "Get out of my way I'm going to throw out his fat ass--

Old Man: "you hit me and I'll have the cops on you--

Situation Escalator Man: "Get out of my way."

Peacekeeper, probably knowing he himself could be charged with assault if he made forceful contact, was pressed down the aisle into the row of seats, becoming the meat sandwich bracketed by angry-man bread. Old Man, seemingly being grasped by the long arm of Escalator Man, shrieked that he was being assaulted and wanted to know Mr. Escalator's name.

Chancellor Maier, recognizing a ruined evening, decided to close up the meeting and started saying the Our Father, which calmed things down.

What a mess. Cranky old men have a semi-annual habit of showing up at JPII Center lectures and behaving like toddlers.

One of the audience members, a man who helps run a Catholic support group for sexual abuse victims, said that Old Man had once disrupted his group's meetings. Old Man is apparently a fellow-traveler of SNAP, not an abuse victim himself but an agitator on their behalf who goes around to pick fights. Needless to say, his activism that night was exceedingly counterproductive.

As a searcher for truth in every kook, I will add that one can clump together a coherent objection from Old Man's disjointed complaints about Neocon/Zionist-induced Islamophobia. Given that terrorists, irregular combatants, and the occasional innocent civilian are being tortured with the consent of the president, and that the wardrums for the invasion of Iran are beating at varying volumes, and that crackpot realists of the second tier punditry are calling for pre-emptive nuclear strikes, might not discussions of Islamic atrocities simply feed bloodlust? Might Chancellor Maier's close ties with the Hawks at NRO and Crisis Magazine skew his understanding of history and his diagnosis of our present ills, spreading ideas which inadvertently pave the way for brutal, unchristian American warmongering?

Yes, it is good to speak truth, and knowing the truths about the dark side of Islam is wise. But there are higher truths which need witnesses, and it would be a tragedy if the greater wisdom were eclipsed by the lesser.

Since Chancellor Maier's comments were obviously inflammatory in some people's eyes, I will wait until tomorrow, and probably until I receive his permission, before excerpting any of his speech. He might have trouble enough in the papers tomorrow.

It seems that the Church Militant has not been pacified, but her militancy is now often directed inward against herself.

Marriage as a Social Justice Issue

I normally skim the Knights of Columbus magazine Columbia, finding little that retains my attention. But in the latest issue Supreme Knight Carl Anderson has produced a gem:

Marriage and family is the privileged place in which Trinitarian love and communion is inscribed within the very structure of creation. Marriage and family witness to the love and communion which is the true goal of every community and every society. The model of Trinitarian communion within the family points to the possibility of similar communion within every community and every society. If every person is called to a vocation of love, then the only civilization worthy of the dignity of every person is a civilization of love.


In this vision, the family becomes the "basic cell" of a new society. The vocation to love begins within the family, but it should not end there. It must radiate throughout all of society. And as it does so, it helps build what our Holy Father calls a new "civilization of love."�

This is why there is such an important connection between the Church's teaching on marriage and one's social responsibility to work for justice and charity.
The Family and the Common Good

A Speedbump on the Embryonic Research Road

The UK, having removed anonymity for IVF sp*rm donors, is facing a shortage of willing men. This could have an impact on embryonic research. The negative effects for female egg donors have been previously discussed here.

Spengler on American Religion

The mystery is why anyone would take this nonsense seriously. The answer, I believe, is The Book of Mormon's assertion that Jesus Christ walked on American soil and that native American were one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel. The latter association has been conclusively refuted by DNA evidence, which shows no genetic link whatever between native Americans and Jews, but no matter. The attraction of this silly doctrine is that Americans might have their own American revelation, with American references and an American history. In other words, it is driven by resentment against the unpleasant fact that Americans remain beholden to the history of the Old World.

Spengler, as usual, practices a questionable psychoanalysis from a distance, but even so he's a good read.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mysterious Sixteenth-Century Slavic Document

FideCogitActio has posted several pages from a document that has come into his possession. He speculates that it is old Polish, and I have to say that it is definitely Slavic with Latin passages. The script is intriguing to me, not having had any experience with East European orthography. It seems to be the Latin alphabet mixed with Greek and possibly some Cyrillic letters.

The text seems to be from May-June of 1588.

A few guesses as to the parties: one line recurs, "coram... consulibus civitatis Ra*(illegible)," in the presence of... the consuls/councillors of the city Ra*. My guess is that these are the consuls of Ratisbon, now Regensburg. In the rapturous thrill of the armchair antiquarian, I briefly hoped that the "infamatis Maximilliane" could have been the recently-deceased Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian II. Then I realized the following word "Benedictowycz" was his patronymic, "son of Benedict."

Picking through other peoples' handwriting is quite fun. At times you need to be reminded that authors do not write for you personally, and there are few better reminders than foreign writings four centuries old. Automatic Vocabulary List Creation

My little language learning site is growing.

For those who missed it, the concept behind the site is simple: paste in a foreign-language text from anywhere on the internet, select your preferred dictionary, and you'll get that same text with every word hyperlinked into the dictionary. It's a great way to train one's reading knowledge.

In its newest version any words the user clicks will be added to a vocabulary list and sorted from most to fewest number of clicks. The list is accessible through a button at the bottom of a typical study page.

I wish I had this when I was still in school.

I have reached the limits of my linguistic knowledge so I distrust my ability to judge the usefulness of bilingual dictionaries in languages with which I am unfamiliar. If anyone wishes to test new languages, let me know.

Any feedback on the site, as well as advice for publicizing it, would be much-appreciated.

Spiritual Exercise for the Outdoorsman

via Amy Welborn, (who graciously linked to me today) comes news of a devotional book for outdoorsmen:

Hunting for God, Fishing for the Lord

The author, a St. Louis priest, also has a website.

Hunting and fishing are livelihoods turned pastimes with potent biblical resonance. I hope Father Classen has written a worthy book.

(see also: Fishing at the Time of Jesus, courtesy of Disputations

Past and Present Customers of the Grievance Industry

Over at the First Things weblog Stephen Webb discussed an academic's critique of academia:

[Timothy] Brennan laments the "deadening effects of middle-class immigration and entry into the university of intellectuals who were, or were related to, formerly colonized peoples, and who therefore automatically registered as the oppressed when this was often far from the case." I think this tortuous sentence means that there are a lot of professors who spend a lot of time posing as victims of menacing social forces that have pushed them into the safety of an academic career.

This is indeed a tortuous sentence. Brennan, it seems, is lamenting a pseudo-leftist professorial class whose activism is as ineffective as it is obscurantist. Yet as I read Brennan's words, I think not just the professoriate or the adjuncts make a show of identifying with the oppressed, but also the middle-class students themselves. An Irish-American student, say, could see his professors lacerating Victorian England for its various failings and bigotries. He could think to himself "those Brits really were as messed up as grandpa's incoherent mumblings implied." Ruminating upon his instructors' anti-Puritan rhetoric, he can think with pride that one of his ancestors was a bootlegger, while another brewed moonshine. If the instructor denounces the abuses of slavery, such a student can think back on his great-great-uncle who was gunned down by roving paramilitaries.

The culture of critique would touch upon this student's own culture only indirectly, at most.

I once witnessed something like this in one of my few English college courses. One of my professors was lecturing on a topic that would inspire guilt in any Boston Brahmin--I believe it involved Hawthorne and early American Puritanism. When this professor attempted to use New England Puritanism to say something general about American culture, one of my fellow students brought up the old WASP hegemony and effectively distanced himself and his people from both Puritans and the post-Puritan Boston Brahmins.

It is a regrettable but curious dynamic. The university system, shaped to inspire guilt-ridden self-examination among American elites in order to provoke social change, can hardly reach the ordinary rabble. The category of WASP itself seems to have been, in part, a rhetorical tool used to induce in the ruling class shame and surrender to aggrieved parties. Being an animus passed down for generations, a used grievance is surprisingly durable.

At present non-WASP whites, Catholic or Scots-Irish populist, have picked up such identity-based critiques from their boomer parents yet find their complaints curiously impotent before the moralising authorities on diversity committees. Identity politics has moved on to other groups, yet third-hand resentment among the mainstream abides and festers even in its attenuated form. Caught between both the old establishment and the new benefactors of establishment largesse, the social climber must affect either the demeanor of the establishment lacerating itself over is privileges, or put on the airs of the novel minority groups displaying for group preening the gaudy slights they have suffered.

Surely a better option is available.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Lazy Editorialist's Guide to Writing

Step 1: Call for a pre-emptive nuclear strike

Step 2: In your follow-up column, Quote reactions from opponents even nuttier than you and pretend to be the reasonable victim of powerful maniacs.

Sad to see Relapsed Catholic is lapping it up.

Friday, September 08, 2006

In Defense of Skilled Labor

Several sites have been buzzing about Matthew B. Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft, a defense of blue-collar labor against the technology-worship of the dominant educational regimen.

Because craftsmanship refers to objective standards that do not issue from the self and its desires, it poses a challenge to the ethic of consumerism, as the sociologist Richard Sennett has recently argued. The craftsman is proud of what he has made, and cherishes it, while the consumer discards things that are perfectly serviceable in his restless pursuit of the new. The craftsman is then more possessive, more tied to what is present, the dead incarnation of past labor; the consumer is more free, more imaginative, and so more valorous according to those who would sell us things. Being able to think materially about material goods, hence critically, gives one some independence from the manipulations of marketing, which typically divert attention from what a thing is to a back-story intimated through associations, the point of which is to exaggerate minor differences between brands. Knowing the production narrative, or at least being able to plausibly imagine it, renders the social narrative of the advertisement less potent. The tradesman has an impoverished fantasy life compared to the ideal consumer; he is more utilitarian and less given to soaring hopes. But he is also more autonomous.

I must admit some displeasure with the choice of the word "utilitarian." Whenever utilitarian appears in ethical essays, it's almost always pejorative. It is commonly used to mean precisely a subjective standard issuing from the self, or society, and its desires. Crawford uses the term in opposition to imaginative of course, but "practical" or "pragmatic" seems to be the bon mot here.

But besides this one hitch, the piece contains many gems:

The craftsman’s habitual deference is not toward the New, but toward the distinction between the Right Way and the Wrong Way. However narrow in its application, this is a rare appearance in contemporary life—a disinterested, articulable, and publicly affirmable idea of the good. Such a strong ontology is somewhat at odds with the cutting-edge institutions of the new capitalism, and with the educational regime that aims to supply those institutions with suitable workers—pliable generalists unfettered by any single set of skills.

Finally, one passage invokes a contrarian interpretation to the economics of self-interest:

Contradicting the assumptions of "rational behavior" of classical economics, it was found that when employers would increase the piece rate in order to boost production, it actually had the opposite effect: workers would produce less, as now they could meet their fixed needs with less work. Eventually it was learned that the only way to get them to work harder was to play upon the imagination, stimulating new needs and wants. The habituation of workers to the assembly line was thus perhaps made easier by another innovation of the early twentieth century: consumer debt.

One of my college professors once touched upon this interpretation of the rise of capitalism, but I know neither its provenance nor its fundamental soundness. Should any reader know, please enlighten me.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The McDonald's School of Business

Stuart Buck discusses what hamburger joints can teach that schools can't:

...if there exists any knowledge that leads to economic growth, the overwhelming majority of it is captured in businesses and other institutions, and cannot be taught in schools. I'm not talking just about "job training," i.e., formal training classes that might last a day or a week at the beginning of one's employment (or formal "continuing education" classes in various professions). Instead, I'm talking about all of the informal knowledge that relates to "how we do things here at ____."


...there's no real reason to think that formal education is going to magically produce increased business activity -- i.e., economic growth -- here or in Third World countries. You could take the entire population of a Third World country and send them to 12 years of school to learn all about social studies and literature and political science. At the end, they wouldn't be any closer to a modern economy than they are now. What would be far more helpful is if the necessary institutions -- i.e., the many different kinds of businesses -- existed in that country, so that people could gain the knowledge that is actually relevant to economic growth.

Virtual Politics, Virtual Insanity, Real Comedy

"You've performed quite well, sir," he said. "You are not a noob."

I still can't figure out if a Washington Post report on a virtual town hall meeting by "presidential hopeful" Mark Warner is a real or a joke:

By the time everybody figured out how to sit down, they had lost the governor. "[The] guy was here, where did he go?" Zon inquired. "Five bucks says he split because of the low turnout."

Actually, Warner created the low turnout. Shortly before he flew onto the scene, his aides cleared the virtual room of all uninvited guests, including an avatar called Xtof Sao who was demanding a kiss from another avatar named Chat Parrot. This produced a protest from the usual Second Life crowd.

Cyberpunks, how far have ye fallen!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Blessed Junipero Serra Miracle Investigation Follow-Up

Denver Catholic Register follows up on Archbishop Chaput's letter announcing the investigation. It presents little significant new information.

The Rocky Mountain News has printed some more information on Kayla Rebecca Kellog, approximately eleven years old, who was the alleged beneficiary of such a miracle during her gestation:

What is known is that there were "extraordinary complications" in the pregnancy and doctors told the parents the child would be severely disabled, Buelt said.

"The parents were advised to consider an abortion," Buelt said, "and they responded that because they were pro-life and Catholic they would let God's will be done. Although the baby was born premature she was in perfect health."

Obvious But Repeatable: Associate Press Takes Sides

via Publius:
Abortion: Use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice. Avoid abortionist, which connotes a person who performs clandestine abortions.
-Associated Press Style Guide

Calls to mind the "Anti-Abortion opera":

A Los Angeles Times music critic who wrote that a Richard Strauss opera was "pro-life" -- meaning a celebration of life -- was stunned to pick up the paper and find his review changed by a literal-minded copy editor to read "anti-abortion."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Colorado Has An Antipope!

Via HolyOffice, we learn that "Pope Michael" scheduled his coronation in southern Colorado a week ago, but it was delayed.

Mexican Immigration Stablizes US-Mexico Oil Trade?

A conspiratorial-minded writer speculates on oil's influence in the immigration debate:
Mexico has the third-largest proven reservoirs of crude oil in the Western Hemisphere -- behind Venezuela (dominated by the America-hating pro-communist Hugo Chavez) and the United States. Any crackdown on illegal immigrants, according to authors Smith and Corsi, "would have an immediate [negative] impact on Mexico."

Illegal immigrants send about $17 billion a year back home to families in Mexico. The result: "As a hedge against instability in the Middle East, the U.S. government has to calculate our oil needs when considering any steps we take regarding Mexico or illegal immigrants." What if one of the Middle East cutthroats or a so-called "ally" over there cuts off its exports of oil to us when the chips are down? That is the frightening story behind government inaction on illegal immigration. It dwarfs the other considerations (i.e. cheap labor and future voters). The oil factor is conspicuous by its absence in the public dialogue over our porous borders. (Mexico's threatened instability and/or insurrection following its recent presidential election adds even more urgency to the problem.)
Wes Vernon

I think this is a misinterpretation. Obviously, Mexican oil sold elsewhere will only result in somebody else's oil getting sold to us. Short of complete industry shutdown, the oil supply would remain a constant.

It's oil demand that's the most variable. If a sealed border doesn't cause self-destructive political instability, Mexicans who would have emigrated could force reform. Increased local consumption of Mexico's natural resources would weaken oil exports in the short term. Under the current system, both Mexican people and Mexican oil go to the US where we make a pretty penny off of both. A reformed Mexico would mean that wealth and labor stays unsiphoned.

With a reformed Mexico US oil interests could take a direct hit, even though Mexico would benefit. I suspect even with pricier oil Americans would also benefit from a healthier Mexico in the long term. However, with modernizing China and India already driving up the price of oil, keeping prices down might mean keeping Mexico down.

If this writer is half-right about oil's influence on immigration, somebody needs to connect these dots.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Secularism Stultifies Foreign Policy

U.S. diplomacy must help convince all Iraqis, but especially majority Shiites, that a liberal democracy grounded in religious freedom is in their fundamental interests, not simply in economic and political terms, but religiously as well.

This is a critical issue for American national security--but despite its importance, religion remains for the State Department (in Douglas Johnston's phrase) "the missing dimension of statecraft." The permanent foreign-policy bureaucracy still views religion as a private matter, properly beyond the bounds of policy analysis and action. Most senior officers have imbibed the secularization thesis: Spiritual longings are throwbacks to man's infancy and will shrink as modernity replaces superstition with science and reason. Like the scholarly discipline of international relations itself, the schools of diplomacy that dominate at Foggy Bottom--liberal internationalism and classical realism--are securely grounded in secular premises.

In other words, our actions in furthering our interests abroad are subject to the Supreme Court's Lemon test for whether a government program is constitutional within the United States. This is doubtless why, according to the New York Times, the Pentagon recently hired contractors to pay Sunni religious scholars covertly for their advice. At least someone at the Pentagon understands the problem, even if they do not know how to solve it.
-Thomas Farr, The Diplomacy of Religious Freedom

Of course, covert money might be necessary in any case to avoid the appearance, though perhaps not the reality, of such clerics becoming American lapdogs.

Also apropos, Daniel Larison continues attacking the promulgators of Islamofascist Studies:
For secular people like these prominent neocons, it is horrifying to consider the possibility that some people have motivations that cannot be explained in secular language, because they, lacking in religious imagination of any kind, are at a loss to even begin to really understand what motivates a jihadi. Even when they acknowledge the supposed goal of Paradise or the religious nature of the duty these people believe themselves to be carrying out, it is always with a certain level of incomprehension, almost as if they cannot really accept that anyone not attached to some intelligible ideology firmly bounded in this world really exists. Their inability to understand the religious desire for transcendence in some of its most appalling forms stems, I suspect, in no small part from their own depressingly optimistic and immanentist ideology. Their inability to understand a drive for religious purity and intolerance of other religions as anything other than fascism stems in part from their own reflexive commitments to religious pluralism and a latent or not-so-latent hostility to dogmatic Christianity: everything not on the side of pluralism and "freedom" somehow all gets pushed into a big box called fascism.