Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Remember how fun it was to parse Clinton?

Mullings: An American Cyber-column By Rich Galen has noted this recent Clintonism:

Speaking of fightin' words, the Former President Forever, Bill Clinton, was quoted while speakin in - of all places - Canada saying that "if the Iraqi or the Iranian army came across the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die."

Which sparked this hypothetical Clinton volunteer interview masterfully written by Mr. Galen:

SGT: You said that you wanted to die for Israel?

CLINTON: That's not exactly what I said. What I said was "if the Iraqi or the Iranian army came across the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die."

SGT: Did you know that neither Iraq nor Iran border the Jordan River?

CLINTON: Imagine that.

SGT: Did you know that Iraq would have to march all the way across Syria or Jordan before they got to Israel?

CLINTON: Hmm. Really?

SGT: And that Iran would have to cross Iraq AND Syria or Jordan before they got to Israel?

CLINTON: That far. Who knew?

SGT: Mr. Clinton what about the notion of Iraq launching missiles against Israel?

CLINTON: That would be bad.

SGT: But would that qualify as "coming across the Jordan River?"

CLINTON: No. I would have to say not. That would not qualify.

SGT: So it would take an actual soldier crossing the River for you to "grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die?"

CLINTON: I believe I said "army" the Iraqi or Iranian ARMY.

SGT: So, not a company?

CLINTON: Oh, no.

SGT: Battalion?

CLINTON: I don't think so.

SGT: A brigade? A division? A corps?

CLINTON: You know, I always wanted to ask the difference between a brigade and a division, but I had to practice that saluting.

SGT: Next -

CLINTON: And, there would have to be a ditch. An actual ditch. I said I would "get in a ditch." If there were no ditch, I believe a fair-minded person would agree that Israel had not kept its part of the bargain.

SGT: This is a desert. We don't have that many ditches.

CLINTON: Well, then ...

SGT: These men standing behind you. Are they willing to fight also?

CLINTON: I can't speak for them. They're my security detail.

SGT: (To a Secret Service Agent) Would you be willing to watch this man "get in a ditch, and fight and die?"

AGENT: (Not smiling) We've watched him do worse.

Just another example of why it is so very important to pay attention to exactly what that man says.
Japan was "days away from testing it own nuclear bomb" according to this article. Consider the article for what it's worth as an exercise in alternate history. The chance of this story first being revealed nearly 60 years after the fact is extremely slight.
More on Gary Wills

Andrew Sullivan's gives a positive review of Gary Wills. As I predicted there is much in Wills' writing that is very seductive and intellectually thrilling. He does have a way of packaging old nostrums in a manner that makes them seem fresh. Here is one show-stopper that appealled to Sullivan :

And he quotes Augustine to show how:

"When Peter was told, 'I will give you the keys of heaven's kingdom, and what you tie on earth will have been tied in heaven, what you untie on earth will have been untied in heaven,' he was standing for the entire church, which does not collapse though it is beaten, in this world, by every kind of trial, as if by rain, flood, and tempest. It is founded on a Stone [Petra], from which Peter took his name Stone-founded [Petrus]; for the Stone did not take its name from the Stone-Founded, but the Stone-Founded from the Stone - as Christ does not take his name from Christians, but Christians from Christ.... Because the Stone was Christ."

That's right, Gary Wills [and it appears Andrew Sullivan] are promoting the Protestant interpretation of that seminal passage. I think as a Catholic child, the first two things my parents taught me were: (a) the Pope is infallible only on matters of morality and religion and (b) "thou art Peter and upon this rock I shall build my church." Heck, that's probably the only passage in the Bible I have memorized. Until earlier this year, I had no idea that the Protestants separate the rock (Peter) from the rock upon which the church is founded, and it just seems like a bit of an interpretive stretch.

So, is Sullivan heading over to the Anglicans? Nope, because he has this next passage:

Why not just reject the "stone-founded" and become a Protestant? The answer is an obvious one: Because Jesus instituted this unifying element in the church and because we have no other source of authority. But what about the Bible, as Protestants argue? Because, quite simply, the Bible is not independent of the church. It was compiled by the early church; its very contents were arrived at by a process of debate and chance and institutional combat. The Bible is a product of tradition - not the other way round. Our very faith as Christians is dependent on a legacy of fallible human beings remembering, believing, questioning and praying. We have no other way to know the meaning of the God of the New Testament. This is our human inheritance - of a divine revelation.

This seems like a very orthodox position. The third thing I learned as a child was that since the Church had compiled the Bible in the first place, it was the the proper agency to interpret it.

But, Sullivan and Wills still have a problem. All of the arguments about sola fide and tradition are really about authority. All Christian denomination explicitly or implicitly use tradition in interpreting the Bible. But they all don't agree about who gets do the interpreting. The Protestants are Protestants because they don't trust the Catholic church to get the interpretation right. Catholics in contrast concede that the Church - in the sense of the magisterium - gets final say. Sullivan acknowledges that "we have no other authority." At some point, the whole reason for having authority is to use that authority authoritatively.
Interesting article on recent scholarship calling into question the provenance and significance of Jefferson's "wall of separation" concept. According to this article Church, state 'wall' not idea of Jefferson -- The Washington Times the modern use of that concept had its roots in fear of Catholicism.

This seems in line with the decision in PIERCE v. SOCIETY OF THE SISTERS where the Supreme Court struck down an Oregon law intended to eradicate Catholic parochial education. A conservative Supreme Court relied upon substantive due process to hold the Oregon law unconstitutional:

Under the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 , 43 S. Ct. 625, 29 A. L. R. 1146, we think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children [268 U.S. 510, 535] under their control. As often heretofore pointed out, rights guaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the state. The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.

It always seemed odd to me that a Conservative court relying on substantive due process managed to rule in favor of Catholic parochial education. Undoubtedly, had the same issue come up several years later before the "progressive" Roosevelt court, there would have been a different conclusion.

Postscript According to William Sulik: Hugo Black was a well-known anti-catholic bigot:

Hugo Black and the Wall of Separation. Here's a link to a story in the Washington Times noting that Justice Hugo Black hatred of Catholicism was behind his building of a Wall of Separation, whereby the State could push around religion. I meant to bring it up yesterday -- however, this really isn't a new finding. Black's hatred was well documented years ago -- I was going to cite to some passages in a bio I have of Black, but I can't seem to locate the book. FWIW, the book is by Gerald Dunne -- Hugo Black and the Judicial Revolution.

I am also seeing other site connect that attitude to Black's involvement in the KKK. There is an interesting observation in there about how human reason works. Prejudices and passions in one area often pave the road for logical leaps in another. Does this mean that modern Constitutional law on Church-State relations are illegitimate given the hostile animus that may have initially informed it. It may be, but not, I feel, for that reason. Too many discussions today are investigations into motivations, instead of principles. Let's face it, motivations are a dime a dozen; the real issue should be the principles. It's the principles that really should be neutral, not the reasons for choosing the neutral principle.
Lane Core, Jr. spots the heresy of modalism in Andrew Sullivan and Garry Wills over at The Blog from the Core - America's Small-Town Weblog. I hate to think of St. Augustine as a heretic, although it seems he did boot the analysis of predestination. It looks like he may have modalist tendencies.
Bad news out of India.The Nando Times reports:

Suspected Islamic militants lobbed a grenade and opened fire Tuesday on Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir, killing nine of them and wounding 27 others, police said.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Don't mess with Fresno

According to the HoustonChronicle:

The most alarming aspect of the fight for the Texans was the surprise attempt at peacemaking by Texans rookie quarterback David Carr, who was quickly directed out of the fray by McKinney.
"I was just trying to get my guys out of there," Carr said. "You don't want any fights out there. I think it just kind of shows how close we're becoming as a team."
Nevertheless, it was made clear to Carr that he was to leave future physical confrontations to his teammates.
"I told David that I was going to clothesline him the next time I see him getting into a fight," Texans running back Jonathan Wells said. "We don't need for him to be getting involved in that kind of stuff."

The top NFL draft pick starts the game tonight on Monday Night Football. Oh, did I mention that David Carr is from Fresno. Between Carr and Victor Davis Hanson, Fresno is turning into a vital wellspring of American culture. [Be afraid. Be very afraid.]

Sunday, August 04, 2002

The Burden of History

Ono Ekeh at Ono's thoughts has written a thoughtful response to my August 2d post on the slavery reparations debate. Ono acknowledges my point that this area is one where emotion can readily overtake reason, and further argues that emotional reactions are entirely appropriate in this area. Ono is certainly right to a certain extent. One should not lose sight of the fact that the great historical tragedies - e.g. slavery, the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, the Irish Potato Famine, the slaughter of Hopi by Navaho, the Aztec practice of systematic using subject tribes as a food source - involve human beings. I am sure that Ono can construct arguments supporting the principle of slavery reparations and I look forward to discussing them.

Ono makes an interesting comment about the role that history should have on our contemporary attitudes. Ono writes:

I simply think that if one is not outraged by the injustices that have taken place on these hallowed shores and one does not believe that those, whose patrimony is the fruit of those injustices, should receive reparations, then no argument is going work.

Ono's argument seems to be a syllogism composed of three parts: (a) slavery was an injustice, (b) the patrimony of the slaves' descendants is the fruit of slavery, and (c) reparations should be paid. Every thinking person will concede (a). The second clause is more debateable. There are vast pockets of continuing poverty in America - such as the Appalachians - that do not owe their patrimony to slavery. But for the most part, a thinking person would concede the point to some extent, but not entirely.

The third clause of the syllogism is more problematic because it ignores the question of who is responsible for paying the reparations. Presumably, it should be all Americans, but since all Americans will not receive the reparation payments, the burden will fall on all non-African-American residents. Now, the issue of justice and fairness raises itself. Why is it proper to tax the Hmongs in Fresno who arrived after the Vietnam War? Why is it right to tax people in the North whose war sacrifices ended slavery? Why is it fair to tax a certain Irish-American attorney who was prevented from attending U.C. Berkeley Law School because of his race and whose ancestors arrived on American shores after being starved and oppressed in Ireland in 1860, only to be drafted, probably after rioting against the draft?

I don't think it is fair to chalk up these questions to moral obtuseness. Slavery reparations is based on a claim of justice. Justice, though, requires that debts be paid by the debtor. Taking money away from someone who doesn't owe the debt to pay someone else's debt looks like extortion.

Ono's further point deals with burden that modern attitudes places on historical events:

The subject of Catholic moral reticence is has always been a troubling aspect of our tradition for me. Where were the strong moral Catholic voices during the horrors of slavery? There were very, very, very, few and and mostly weak ones at that. And by the way, there were not a few theological treatises produced during the time of the New World slavery and they produced well reasoned arguments for the practice. Thankfully, there were men like St. Peter Claver, who cared not for the voice of reason and trusted his conscience, emotion and moral intuition and cared for the poor souls of slaves as they were dragged of the boats to be sold.

But the Bible doesn't really condemn slavery. As I noted previously, slavery was the norm for pre-Modern non-Western Civilization. That is still true today in some parts of the world. Slavery would not have been abolished to the extent it has without the intervention of the West. The goal of Christianity was to ameliorate the suffering and evils associated with slavery, not end it as a social institution. It wasn't until the Enlightenment that Western Civilization uniquely decided that slavery was not consistent with natural law. I will, however, insist that such a conclusion would not have been reached without the development of natural law theory in the Catholic tradition.

And, ultimately, that is where my nerve gets rubbed raw. The patrimony of all Americans includes the abolition of slavery. It did not have to happen. In some parts of the world it hasn't been accomplished. Abolition was costly to accomplish. In America the cost was war; in Russia, the serfs had to pay for their freedom. But instead of viewing the historical experience as an example of human progress, the reparations ideas trivializes the courage of the Abolitionists and the sacrifice of Lincoln. Their accomplishments mean nothing, apparently.

Postscript One of the nice features of this blogging process is that it promotes further reflection through the dialectical processes unleashed by taking a public position. For example, I had assumed that the Catholic church had very little to say about the institution of slavery. My general sense is that the Church did not play a substantial role in the abolitionist debate that preceded the Civil War, unlike some churches like the Methodists who were split by the slavery issue. I was pleasantly surprised to find this article CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Slavery and Christianity:

A second revival of slavery took place after the discovery of the New World by the Spaniards in 1492. To give the history of it would be to exceed the limits of this article. It will be sufficient to recall the efforts of Las Casas in behalf of the aborigines of America and the protestations of popes against the enslavement of those aborigines and the traffic in negro slaves. England, France, Portugal, and Spain, all participated in this nefarious traffic. England only made amends for its transgressions when, in 1815, it took the initiative in the suppression of the slave trade. In 1871 a writer had the temerity to assert that the Papacy had not its mind to condemn slavery" (Ernest Havet, "Le christianisme et ses origines", I, p. xxi). He forgot that, in 1462, Pius II declared slavery to be "a great crime" (magnum scelus); that, in 1537, Paul III forbade the enslavement of the Indians; that Urban VIII forbade it in 1639, and Benedict XIV in 1741; that Pius VII demanded of the Congress of Vienna, in 1815, the suppression of the slave trade and Gregory XVI condemned it in 1839; that, in the Bull of Canonization of the Jesuit Peter Claver, one of the most illustrious adversaries of slavery, Pius IX branded the "supreme villainy" (summum nefas) of the slave traders. Everyone knows of the beautiful letter which Leo XIII, in 1888, addressed to the Brazilian bishops, exhorting them to banish from their country the remnants of slavery -- a letter to which the bishops responded with their most energetic efforts, and some generous slave-owners by freeing their slaves in a body, as in the first ages of the Church.

I haven't reviewed the sources cited in the article, but on the surface it does seem to document a lengthy and consistent opposition against slavery which does the Church credit. Again, it seems that the historical record is somewhat more complicated than we might initially want to believe.
The Marketplace of Ideas

Apparently, my observation that Blogville is largely a right-wing enterprise is shared by others. Brian Linse has set up the The Lefty Directory. He explains:

My main purpose here is to provide a directory to voices that offer different ideas than those found in the vast majority of conservative and libertarian warblogs. To this end, I feel that a diversity of ideology in this directory is an advantage.

Apparently, Linse almost immediately ran into the great tradition of diversity of opinion that exists on the right when he included Airstrip One: British foreign policy as if the national interest mattered who took exception to being labelled a "Lefty Blog:"

It seems that some chap known as Brian Linse has decided to open a site that "is open to any lefties who post regularly and maintain interesting sites." And he included li'l ole me.

Now I do post regularly and I hope my site is interesting, but being of the left? Please.

I suppose being for hanging, hunting and gold (standard) is not enough for some people. Just because too many Conservatives can't think straight on foreign policy, does not mean that I'm not a Conservative. It's their credentials that need examining.
Don't write Bill Jones out of the California Governor's Race yet

Despite handily losing the primary election, California Secretary of State Bill Jone's has surfaced as a potential contender for the Governor's Mansion. According to KEN LAYNE:

Debra Saunders says "Bill Simon should just give up." But then what?
He's a lousy candidate. He should admit it, bow out of the race, then endorse a good Republican -- Secretary of State Bill Jones -- who has a shot at beating the otherwise-vulnerable Gray Davis.
She's right on the "lousy candidate" part. But is Bill Jones the guy to write in? He seems like a perfectly smart, able politician. He's the only Republican holding important office in the state. But there are problems.
First, Jones is almost totally unknown. He polled terribly in the GOP primary this year. And to Republicans, he's best known as the weirdo who supported McCain for president in 2000. He has no fans in the White House, and few among the state's GOP faithful.

Besides Jones is from Fresno, which is the kiss of death for any potential politician. Layne is actually touting Richard Riordan, who is the only Republican thus far this year who has actually lost the election to Davis.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

More Bells and Whistles

Please note the Radar Map and current weather stats courtesy of those fine people at WX.com. In order to ensure that this site retains the title "Most Respected Blog in all of North-Central Fresno County," I have a staff of trained meteorologists performing constant updates which they e-mail to me and which I cut and paste by hand around the clock. You can't get that kind of dedication out of the mainstream media. [On the other hand, the Weather Pixie is starting to make noise about wage and hours violations.]

Friday, August 02, 2002

The Sound of an Exposed Nerve

Ono's thoughts has a post taking exception to Bill Cork's recent criticism of the theory and practice of slavery reparations. Ono's views largely boil down to the concept that while slavery existed throughout history and the world, American slavery was much worse than any other version, American racism endured well into the 1960's such that "Blacks did not have the right to vote," and reparations is inevitable and Catholics should be on the side of morality.

My take on Ono's post is that it is an excellent example of the emotions that substitute for reason in this area. Ono dismisses Cork's point that not all potential recipients of reparations are descendants of slaves as not worthy of comment. But why not? An essential concept of justice is to identify wrongdoers and victims in a matrix of obligation. If reparations are intended to make amends for slavery - and presumably they are or else the entire description of the evils of slavery is for no purpose other than rhetoric - there should be some connection between the institution of slavery and the recipient of the reparations. Even more problematic is the stereotyping of all white Americans as proto-slavers. It simply isn't and wasn't true. Many white Americans hated slavery as immoral. Many of them fought and died for the Union. It may be convenient for political purposes for the pro-reparation forces to tar all "people of colorlessness" as slavemasters - just as presumably Ono felt that all Germans should have been classified as Nazis after 1945 - but this distortion of the historical record is not justice and it's not moral.

Further, there is much tendentious history behind the pro-reparations project. Let's stipulate that American slavery was without redeeming features, but worse than other similar institutions? I propose that anybody who makes that claim be willing to defend the propostion that the institution of slavery in the Ottomon Empire - with its Eunuchs and Slave-soldiers - was more compassionate and enlightened than the South in 1845. Then, after that they can turn to the Roman Empire which was notorious for its benevolent slave masters.

Slavery has always been unremittingly evil. The question has never been why was there slavery in America. The true question was why did Britain in the early Nineteenth Century unilaterally decide to do something that had never been done in the history of the world and end the slave trade? The question is also why did Northerners by the end of the Civil War decide not just to limit slavery to slave territories but to enact amendments ending slavery in America?

Ono also claims that there is continuity between our present form of government and the government that benefitted from slavery prior to 1860. This is clearly wrong in two ways. First, there is the basic democratic notion that the "earth belongs in usufruct to the living." We are not beholden to the past. We have elections to change directions. The Buchanan government which supported the "slave power" ended when Lincoln was inaugurated. Second, the government that "benefitted" from slavery ended in the Civil War. The Fourteenth Amendment restructured American government so that the governmental system in 1870 was not the one in place in 1840. Central power became stronger. States became more appendages of the federal government. This change is reflected in American self-identity. Where today we might say "the United States is strong," in 1840 Americans would say "the United States are strong."

Ono has a point obviously about the invidious nature of racism and segregation, but this point is obvious rhetoric when it is parsed. Racism and segregation caused the enactment of laws designed to root out those evils in society. Today, every state in the union and the federal government have laws prohibiting racial discrimination whose remedies include - and this is no small thing - one-way attorneys fees provisions to act as an incentive for attorneys to take such cases. If anyone can point to any instance of racial discrimination supported by probative evidence anywhere in California today, I'll take the case. Note, I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm saying that that provable instances of racial discrimination can be a profitable situation for free-market discrimination fighters like myself, and, as an added bonus, I will point to identifiable victims who have actually been injured by identifiable wrongdoers.

America has an enduring problem with race. It has frankly been making headway. [The class that probably has the most to complain about in terms of employment discrimination is probably those over 40, followed by those with medical conditions.] Programs should be adopted to give the disadvantaged assistance based upon their existing needs. Arguments about slavery reparations are frankly distracting and trivialize the historical experience.
Check out David Heddles site for an interesting discussion of the Witch of Endor from 1 Samuel 28.
Unqualified Offerings has a nice write-up on Cynthia McKinney getting a remarkable amount of money from donors with Arab-sounding names on September 11, 2001. McKinney, who alleges that Bush knew about the September 11 attack before it happened, receieved approximately $14,000. My first take was "so what?" I needed to know how that compared to other fundraising days. The answer is that it was her third highest fund raising day for a two year period and that the two higher days were tied to some identifiable event. Did her donors know something was going to happen on September 11? The way to bet is that this is either a coincidence or some skullduggery other than the terrorist attack was also happening on September 11. The idea that multiple donors were clued to make a donation on that day, and not the day before or the day after, seems a to be longshot.
Historical Revisionism Part One

Bill Cork's Blog has this post on the festering debate on slavery reparations:

I don't live in the city limits of Houston, but I gotta say, 7 of the members of the Houston City Council have guts. They voted against the other six members, including Mayor Lee Brown, on the question of whether Houston would recommend to the US Congress that the descendants of slaves be paid reparations.

As one member noted, most of Houston's population came to the US long after the era of slavery. Why should Vietnamese immigrants, for example, who came in the 1980s, be told that they need to pay for something that happened before 1865?

Cork's post highlights the point that the moral and legal arguments should squelch the debate before it starts. There shouldn't even have been a 7-6 vote on the Houston City Council. The reparations concept is both underinclusive and overinclusive; it taxes people - like the Bradleys, whose Irish ancestors arrived in Brooklyn 1860 [and probably were drafted into the Union Army on arrival,] to subsidize descendants of West Indians, like Colin Powell.

More important, though, it trivializes history. The people living at that time had an understanding of the Civil War, which included the idea that Civil War was a punishment for having compromised with slavery. Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Addresssaid:

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. ... The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued ...He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war ... if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether"

Is it unjust to say that the reparations for the sin of slavery have already been paid in blood and by the destruction of southern wealth? Lincoln thought the Civil War constituted a penance for slavery. Doesn't it cheapen Lincoln's sacrifice and the sacrifice of those Union soldiers - and, in the tradition of Lincoln, the Confederate soldiers as well - to say that the Civil War and Lincoln's assassination is not part of the historical accounting for the evils of slavery. But, then, perhaps that the entire point of the reparations debate.

Finally, Bill Cork makes the entirely fair point that those who judge Lincoln today should take care lest they be judged tomorrow.
Historical Revisionism, Part Two

Via TalkLeft is this news article -ABCNEWS.com : American WWII Prison Camp Survivors Sue U.S. Gov't - which describes a new lawsuit based upon another hiostorical event:

A group of American survivors of brutal World War II Japanese prison camps in the Philippines filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday accusing the U.S. government of intentionally sacrificing them in 1941 to give the United States justification to enter the war.
The lawsuit on behalf of 598 plaintiffs, including survivors of Japanese prison camps and their descendants, demands unspecified compensation from the government, according to Northwestern University law professor Anthony D'Amato, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Again, the modern perspective trivializes the historical events. The main complaint of the plaintiffs appears to be that the US deliberately refused to issue passports to Americans in the Phillipines and did not allow Americans to enter the US without passports until late in 1941. Unless, I am mistaken Pearl Harbor was December 7, 1941 [and I'm not] so changing the law on passports would have occurred before the surprise Japanese attacks. Hindsight, though, is 20/20, and I'm sure that there are lots of things that could and should have been done before December 7, 1941, but 50 plus years is not the time to make it a matter for legal determinations.

Besides, civilians weren't the only ones interned in the Phillipines. Soldiers were too. One just feels that it wasn't part of Roosevelt and Churchill's grand plan to lose the Phillipines.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

A delightfully, weird view of reality

I just feel compelled to to share this cultural commentary from The Hamster: The Best of the Progressive Web

The Conservative Media. I guess if you want to know why conservatives dominate the media, you need to listen to what Bill Clinton said in 1996: "If you preach hate, you get a talk show. If you preach love, you get a yawn."

Now, that is one amazing shibboleth - shibboleth in the sense of a test for distinguishing one group from another.

First, "conservatives dominate the media." Study after study using real and quantifiable data demonstrates the contrary. The fact that AM talk radio is dominated by conservatives supports the argument that monopoly media was dominated by liberals. The success of Rush Limbaugh and others in the previously overlooked AM radio ghetto is evidence that there was a pent up conservative consumer demand which was not being serviced by dominant media. [I think this is supported by an economic theory developed by George Stigler, but I would defer to Megan McArdle on that one.]

Second, rather than provide data supporting conservative dominance of media, a simple assertion is sufficient.

Third, Bill Clinton is the supporting authority for the proposition? Moreover, it is Bill Clinton at his smarmy passive-aggressive worst. Conservatives preach hate, Clinton preaches love. In rhetoric, that's called "poisoning the well" and is considered to be a classic rhetorical fallacy.

Besides hate and love are relative, aren't they? One man's hate is another man's love. Or does that relativistic argument apply only to good and evil, or to truth and deception.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Hate Organization Alert

According to the July 30, 2002 San Francisco Daily Journal - a lawyer's rag - a federal judge has ruled that the state of Connecticut did not violate the rights of the Boy Scouts when it dropped the BSA from the list of charities that state employes contribute to through a payroll deduction plan. In the grand tradition of liberal tolerance for diversity, State Comptroller Nancy Wayman said, "It just basically states that the state of Connecticut does not, and cannot by law do business with organizations that discriminate." The attorney for the Boy Scouts indicated that they would appeal since, after all, the BSA was being discriminated against on the basis of its viewpoints, beliefs and other such like normally important values to liberals. On the other hand, look around and we see high rates of juvenile delinquincy, high teenage pregancy rates, families falling apart in incredibly high numbers, politicians and business leaders who feel that there is nothing wrong with a little lying and adultery, and these idiots think the Boy Scouts are the problem. [Notice that I got through that list without mentioning "a trusted institution that sheltered men who had an alarmingly high propensity for using their position of trust to have sexual relations with boys."] I say we boycott Connecticut and San Francisco.

Postscript: The San Francisco Daily Journal does not have an internet news site. Here is an article covering the story.
Quick, a Government Program is needed to combat the effects of Interstellar Cosmic Rays on Global Warming, and how did these guys get a grant to study this anyhow?

According to ScienceDaily Magazine some scientists may have an explanation for the anomalous temperature data supporting findings of global warming, which may prove discomforting to supporters of the Kyoto Accords:

Researchers studying global warming have often been confounded by the differences between observed increases in surface-level temperatures and unchanging low-atmosphere temperatures. Because of this discrepancy, some have argued that global warming is unproven, suggesting instead that true warming should show uniformly elevated temperatures from the surface through the atmosphere. Researchers have proposed a theory that changes in cloud cover could help explain the puzzling phenomenon, but none-until now-have come up with an argument that could account for the varying heat profiles.
A study in the July 2002 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research-Space Physics, published by the American Geophysical Union, proposes for the first time that interstellar cosmic rays could be the missing link between the discordant temperatures observed during the last two decades (since recorded satellite records began in 1979). The report, by Fangqun Yu of the State University of New York-Albany, proposes that the rays, tiny charged particles that bombard all planets with varying frequency depending on solar wind intensity, may have height-dependent effects on our planet's cloudiness. Previous research has proposed a link between cosmic rays and cloud cover, has not suggested the altitude dependence of the current study.

I remember the arguments for global warming during the 1980s required evidence that low level atmospheric temperature had increased, which evidence was missing. Then, after the Clinton administration took office, scientists helpfully found ground temperature increases, but no low atmosphere increases. In short, this anomaly has been known for about a decade. Fortunately, it appears that there are scientists still looking at the data.
Ritual Purity Alert

To me it seems that Blogville is basically a right-wing enterprise. Most of the sites that I read are libertarian or conservative. I don't think that I am deliberately steering away from liberal sites, but there doesn't seem to be many out there. Any how via TalkLeft, I eventually linked my way to The Hamster: The Best of the Progressive Web. At the Hamster I found this delightful screed condemning Alan Colmes as being a straw-man and shill for the Man on Hannity and Colmes and for being out-thought and out-classed by Sean Hannity. Amazingly, Alan Colmes - who just may need to get a life - actually responded to the criticism.

A couple of points. First, Colmes does a fine job of providing a liberal counterpoint to Hannity, who is not exactly St. Thomas Aquinas in his ability to do logic in public. Second, if any of the Left's attention is directed to the subject of why they don’t have complete dominance over every show on every network, then that may be strong evidence of the intellectual vacuum that has enveloped the Left since Podhoretz and Kristol became neoconservatives. Third, what a delightfully weird view of the world they have over there at the Hamster, where, for example, the mainstream media like Dan Rather and others, including Alan Colmes, are merely stalking horses for their plutocratic masters and true “progressive” thoughts are forbidden, presumably on pain of FBI repression, from ever being heard outside of some bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Time to say something nice about the Boss. Bruce Springsteen is getting some good reviews for his latest project, The Rising. According to relapsed catholic Springsteen has taken a surprisingly pro-American stand [for an entertainment guy] on the action in Afghanistan. Personally, I recently purchased [note "purchased," not copied] the Ghost of Tom Joad. I enjoyed the haunting melodies, the clever lyrics, the references to towns in my neck of the woods - the Central Valley - and the fact that the essence of the gritty sun-parched reality of life in the Central Valley - complete with meth labs in abandoned chicken ranches - was captured by a dude from New Jersey.
More criminal law news: the Stayner trial

According to the Fresno Bee:

Cary Stayner suffers from a bundle of mental disorders including pedophilia, voyeurism and compulsive hair pulling, a court-appointed psychiatrist testified this morning in Santa Clara County.
The defense today began constructing its case that Stayner was legally insane when he killed three Yosemite tourists in February 1999. Its first expert witness is Dr. Jose Arturo Silva, a forensic psychiatrist who has spent 21 hours with Stayner and reviewed a two-foot stack of related records.

None of which would seem to go to his ability to distinguish right from wrong.

Monday, July 29, 2002

Gerard Manley Hopkins Alert

"Nominal Catholic"unbillable hours has this reminder:

Sunday was the anniversary of the birth date of woefully underrated poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. I suspect that it was a combination of his ability to predict the modernist style, combined with the influence of his religion on his life, that made Hopkins so underrated. Check out some of his poems on Bartleby.

I had the good fortune of being introduced to Hopkins earlier this year, and for no apparent reason I developed a fondness for "In honour of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez" and this final stanza in particular:

Yet, he that hews out mountain, continent,
Earth, all, at last; who, with fine increment
Trickling, veins violets and tall trees makes more
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by of world without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door."

The day after first reading that poem, I heard a program on EWTN where for the first time I heard about St. Alphonsus Rodriguez. After his family died, St. Alphonsus suffered a depression. He became the Hall porter of a Jesuit college. After a time, by applying himself to his duty, he became recognized for his holiness. Apparently, he would treat every knock at the door as if might be Jesus himself knocking.[According to the commentator, he would call out to the person knocking at the door, "Coming, Jesus."] Neat story, nice poem about day to day devotion, and a weird coincidence to learn about St. Alphonsus twice in two days from two independent sources. [One more such coincidence that week and I would have found my vocation as a Hall porter.]
A lawyer's nightmare, but then maybe, just maybe his client was innocent

I think I caught the tail end of this on the O'Reilly Factor tonight. O'Reilly was reading readers comments regarding miscarriages of justice and at least one person thanked O'Reilly for reminding her why she had decided not to go to law school.O'Reilly seemed to be in full throat mode and exhibited a rare lack of interest for subtle the nuances of ethical issues. According to this Fresno Bee article the previous molestation trial for the accused murderer of Samantha Runnion now being second-guessed. According to the Bee:

The attorney who won an acquittal for the man accused of abducting and killing a 5-year-old girl said Monday he was heartbroken when he learned police had arrested his former client for Samantha Runnion's murder.

Since Avila's arrest, Pozza [Avila's former attorney] said, his office has been inundated with calls and he has received threats.

He told King he never asked Avila if he was guilty of molesting the girls, but said he believes his former client was acquitted based on the lack of credible evidence presented at trial, including the girls' testimony.

"At the time, I cannot say whether or not I believed his guilt or innocence," Pozza said. "I am not the finder of fact, so I tried to remove myself from that and basically present the best defense I can for my client. That's what I do for every client."

Samantha's mother, Erin Runnion, spoke with King on Thursday, telling him she held the Riverside jurors responsible for her daughter's death. She was particularly offended that they did not believe the testimony of the 9-year-old girls.

"I blame every juror who let him go," she said. "These are kids. They don't lie about this sort of thing."

I am very happy that I don't do criminal law. I wouldn't want to feel the responsibility that I am sure Mr. Pozza is feeling. It's too pat - and inhuman - to shake off that feeling of responsibility with a nice little sermon about the right of all accused to a defense. It's true, but it doesn't, and shouldn't, make you feel better when something like this tragedy happens. Once upon a time, I had a client who the employer thought was suicidal. I successfully asserted my client's privacy rights so that the psychological examination was limited and the results were limited to whether my client could perform her job duties. Two months later, my client locked herself in her garage with her car runnning. Law is a human enterprise. I don't know what Mr. Pozza might have done if he had believed that Mr. Avilla was a child molester. I suspect, though, that he might have put his thumb on the scales of justice. And, that could ultimately be the worst thing imaginable; for all anyone knows Mr. Avilla really was innocent of that earlier crime.

Postscript: Via TalkLeft comes this Boston Globe Online Opinion column which confirms the point I thought that O'Reilly was making, which was that Mr. Pozza was a virtual accomplice for the Runnion murder by defending Avilla, and reminds us of the hysteria of the 1980s during which innocent people were convicted of ludicrous "ritual abuse" charges. Let's hope that the police caught the right man so that a vicious animal has been taken off the streets. They probably did. Avilla is probably guilty, but "probably guilty" also means "maybe - just maybe - innocent."

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Fresno Weather

Check out the really nifty "Weather Pixie" feature in the lower left-hand corner of the permanent feature section. I am always on the look out for new features to maintain the high quality of this site and the all important reader satisfaction index that keeps this site as the "Most Respected Blog in North-Central Fresno County."

Postscript: Apparently the Weather Pixie's outfit changes with the weather, and it can get up to over 110 degrees here in August. [There, that should get the hit counter moving.] Also, if you link through the Pixie you can get to an international list of blogs and satisfy your curiosity about the weather in Iceland. [FYI: There's also an English language blogger in Hungary with a definite dyspeptic attitude about Americans.]
An Appreciation of Gary Wills

Former seminarian, former writer for National Review, leftist author and acolyte of the Movement, Gary Wills has come in for attack from from various Catholic sites for his recent books, including Why I am a Catholic (link through Relapsed Catholic.) I haven't read the book yet. Maybe someday I will, but until then I am sure that it is thoughtful, scholarly, well-written and completely wrong. Wills has been turning out such books for years, despite some notable successes, including Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America and Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. Wills is a master at taking an oddball insight into a subject that everyone thinks they know, and then arguing very effectively that everyone misunderstands the subject. In Inventing America, for example, Wills argues, and I believe establishes, that Jefferson's Declaration doesn't mean what you think it means because you are not an Eighteenth Century man intellectually inhabiting the Enlightenment world. Jefferson really and truly meant it when he said the "earth belongs in usufruct for the living." [Wills is also a great person to expand your vocabulary. I have him to thank for "reify" and "adumbrate."]

For me, though, one of the books that had the greatest impact was Confessions of a Conservative. Wills' Confessions is a tour de force. Modelled, I realize on mature reflection, on St. Augustine's Confessions, Wills autobiographically traces his life through Catholic boyhood, seminary, National Review and William Buckley and into radical politics. Along the way, Wills justifies his journey by reference to G.K. Chesterton and St. Augustine. The theme of Wills book is that he is the authentic conservative; capitalists who are willing to level a mountain for a parking lot, or who will uproot established communities in the name of efficiency, do not deserve to call themselves, or to be called, conservatives. Only those who embrace the project of conserving traditions, communities and resources can claim the virtues inherent in being "conservative." [I recall Wills applied Augustine's exegesis on the wheat and the weeds parables in the City of God to social dissension during the Vietnam War, which I have always thought was very insightful.]

I probably owe my long-standing interest in St. Augustine, and my having read the Confessions on multiple occasions, to Gary Wills. To a certain extent, what I know about Chestertonian Distributism also comes from Wills. I also have to thank him for helping me to clarify my philosophical positions. When I read his sections about the transformative power of capitalism, I said that sounds great! Where do I sign up? Although I acknowledge that society and the State have a legitimate role in ameliorating the dislocations inherent in progress, the fact is that progress is the teleological end of existence. Although, I have to confess that I don't think that was Will's intended result from his literary enterprise.

A personal note. Please remember to say some prayers for the soul of Marcello Salcido. I had known Mr. Salcido for approximately twenty-five years, initially as the father of my high school friend Jonny Salcido, and then through the magic of "growing up" as a friend, although even in my forties I could never bring myself to call him anything other than "Mister" Salcido. Mr. Salcido worked himself up through the union ranks to a position of power and influence, but in 1996 gave it all up in order to retire and spend time with his grandchildren. I would occasionally see Mr. Salcido walking his grandchildren down the street, and I would stop to compare my children to his grandchildren. I never really had any idea of his prominence as described in this Fresno Bee article:

In Mr. Salcido marched with United Farm Workers co-founder Cesar Chavez many times, and provided food, office space and money whenever strikes or marches were being organized, said Arturo S. Rodriguez, United Farm Worker president.
After Chavez's death in 1993, Mr. Salcido served as an honor guard with actor Martin Sheen and the Rev. Jesse Jackson during a preburial ceremony near Delano.

As a humorless fire-breathing conservative, I respect the fact that I never knew how he mingled with that group of socialists. The last time I saw him was a few months ago, when he graciously had coffee with me to discuss whether I should take a case involving an issue of union politics.

I always thought he'd be around forever.
The defense phase of the Cary Stayner trial will start Monday. Stayner was the brother of Steven Staynor of "I know my name is Steven" fame, who earned his own notoriety by killing a naturalist and three female tourists in Yosemite. Stayner has confessed to the crimes and is staking his case on an insanity plea. It looks like the defense focus will be on insanity issues, but they have lost their main expert witness.
My second post from Bill Cork's Blog. [Albeit, the first, as you read this page.] This post links to Patty Bonds autobiographical description of her conversion to Catholicism. Bonds' story gets attention on one level because she is the sister of James White who has earned a reputation for making it his mission to defend Protestant doctrine against Roman Catholic doctrines. The more important dimension of Bonds' story, though, is how she came to Catholicism after a lifetime in a virulently anti-Catholic environment and despite the web of family and community loyalties that were undermined by her conversion. The power of a commitment that would let someone turn their back on their family is something I don't really understand.[But one that Bill Cork probably does.] Bonds also describes how she learned step-by-step that the (malicious) things she had been taught about Catholicism were untrue. By my calculation, Bonds graduated High School in 1975, which makes her a few years older than me. It is frankly unfathomable to me that the anti-Catholic slanders Bonds says she uncritically accepted were still floating around in the 1970s when she came of age.
Bill Cork's Blog has a post criticizing recent lawsuits designed to insulate students from studying non-Christian religious texts, such as the Koran. He is right, of course. A strong belief requires challenges, or it will blow away the first time some novel thought intrudes. In my experience intellectual challenges reinforce faith. It is a shame, though, that the idea that we are progressively impoverishing our intellectual life wasn't obvious when the first round of this tit-for-tat process began with Christian texts forty years ago.

Friday, July 26, 2002

This is an interesting site: Daubert on the Web The Daubert decision was an attempt to do something that philosophers have had a hard time doing - deciding when something is "science" or just an occult practice. Daubert compounds the challenge by attempting to translate that philosophical project to law. Daubert doesn't get much of a work-out in the business litigation I do; it's mostly found at the frontier end of products liability law.
Everyone can relax now, the San Francisco Superior Court has cut its ties with an organization that undoubtedly has caused much of society's ills.

I saw this article in the San Francisco Daily Journal yesterday, S.F. judges cut links to Boy Scouts / Push to take change statewide because of policy on gays, lesbians which contains this introduction:

San Francisco's judges have become the first in the state to cut ties with the Boy Scouts because of the organization's refusal to admit gays and lesbians. A lawyer who sought the change said Thursday she hoped to take it statewide.

"This is a fundamental part of being a judicial officer . . . avoiding even the appearance of partiality at all times so that every litigant who appears in front of you is treated fairly and equally," said Angela Bradstreet, president of the Bar Association of San Francisco.

I have been watching this issue pop up from time to time over the last six to seven years. Every time it does, I think "Gee, divorce rates are high, children are living in poverty, killer sexually transmitted diseases is a significant health concern, we have had daily revelations of predominately homosexual molestations by priests and now CEOs and accountant have problem with telling the truth, and these idiots think that the Boy Scouts are the problem." My recommendation, for what its worth, let's all boycott San Francisco uhtil they learn up there what is meant by the treasured American values of tolerance and diversity. After all, if we don't exercise tolerance and respect people - such as the Boy Scouts - for their diversity, then the terrorists will have won.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Cool site of the day, if you like this type of thing

Ursula K. Le Guin's Web Site

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

In Hell all rules are strictly enforced

I think TPB, esq at unbillable hours has set forth a compelling, cogent argument that will eventually surface at some time in some case for abolishing the confessional privilege. TPB's thought experiment starts with the recent federal Second Circuit ruling in Cox v. Miller which held that the Confessional Privilege did not apply to confessions made in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. According TPB, the Cox court's rational was based on the premise that while AA may be religious, it is not spiritual, and in AA confessions are therapeutic, not spiritual. Yet, according to TPB, a Catholic confession may serve a similar therapeutic function, and as for spirituality, that requires an aesthetic judgment. [Interestingly, the Ninth Circuit has refused to extend the Psychotherapist Privilege to AA meetings.] Some people find great moments of spirituality in listening to Opera, which they find completely missing in attending Mass.

Having reached that level of aesthetic relativity - a relativity that I think is inherent in Supreme Court decisions - TPB then asks whether it is right to or fair to privilege conventional religious forms at the expense of other forms of spirituality. The next step in the process, I believe would be to argue that Consitutional jurisprudence requires a "High Wall of Separation" between Church and State, and that the State can no more privilege a belief in God in a legal system, such as by a Confessional Privilege, than it can keep the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

TPB further developed his thesis in this subsequent post. In it TPB makes the argument that direct regulation of religious practices is constitutionally obnoxious, but that rules of general application, such as not massacring Calvinists on December 26 [as if there were enough of them around for a good massacre] can be prohibited.

It is interesting to me that not only is this Constitutional law - Neutral rules of general application may legitimately regulate religious practices - but it is almost a pure expression of the position advocated by Enlightenment Philosopher John Locke in A Letter Concerning Toleration, as part of which Locke argued that the Magistrate had no business in saving souls and therefore should adopt a position of toleration with respect to religious differences. Concerning the issue of annual Calvinist massacres, Locke wrote:

You will say, by this rule, if some congregations should have a mind to sacrifice infants, or (as the primitive Christians were falsely accused) lustfully pollute themselves in promiscuous uncleanness, or practise any other such heinous enormities, is the magistrate obliged to tolerate them, because they are committed in a religious assembly? I answer: No. These things are not lawful in the ordinary course of life, nor in any private house; and therefore neither are they so in the worship of God, or in any religious meeting. But, indeed, if any people congregated upon account of religion should be desirous to sacrifice a calf, I deny that that ought to be prohibited by a law. Meliboeus, whose calf it is, may lawfully kill his calf at home, and burn any part of it that he thinks fit. For no injury is thereby done to any one, no prejudice to another man's goods. And for the same reason he may kill his calf also in a religious meeting. Whether the doing so be well-pleasing to God or no, it is their part to consider that do it.

Ironically, this case - actually involving chickens - was decided by the Supreme Court in the Lukumi decision. So, for Locke, neutral laws could regulate religious practices - no polygamy - but laws directed at religous practice were proscribed - no anti-sacrifice rules. [In the Letter, Locke counselled in favor of toleration to all people of all religious viewpoints, except two - Athiests and Catholics - which different factions of Blogville should find emotionally appealing for different reasons.]

Locke's analysis seem entirely unobjectionable, except when it gets run through the 'religious neutrality' grinder. In the case of confessional privacy, the free exercise of religion requires a variance. Confessional secrecy is not viewed by Catholics as a dispensible option. Under Canon Law, Canon 983:

The sacramental seal is inviolable. Accordingly, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other fashion.

Penalties for violating the seal of the confessional ought to seem intimidating: See Canon Law.

Can. 1388 §1 A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; he who does so only indirectly is to be punished according to the gravity of the offence.

So, there are two ways that a repeal of the Confessional Privilege would infringe on free exercise. It would deter members from participating in the Confessional rite and it would result in law abiding priests being excommunicated. Neither of these results seem particularly in line with the idea that the First Amendment was intended to protect religion from the State, not the other way around.

It seems, though, that this result is almost compelled by currently existing Constitutional principles. No judge is going to give individuals the ability to circumvent various laws - against pot smoking or polygamy, for example - by citing a religious principle. And no judge is going to get in the business of identifying good religious practices - Confession - from bad religious practices - smoking dope.

I think this is where the neutrality project falls apart. John Locke, who did more to form our Constitutional polity than any other philosopher, wrote his Letter in the context of a believing culture. It would have been inconceivable for him to imagine the scrubbing of religious reference from the Government as has been required in America in the name of neutrality. The reason he excluded Athiests from his recommendation of tolerance was that he thought it was obvious that athiests couldn't be trusted, they couldn't swear oaths:

Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of a toleration.John Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration

Locke's position here is not mine, obviously, but it does underscore the idea that a toleration of different religious viewpoints was never intended to be transformed into a tool of hostility against religion.

There are several interesting kinds of cultural war happening in the Bible Belt neighborhoods of Blogville. On one front Joshua Claybourn kicked off a war against the cultural wreckers with a post describing the lyrics of the Number One and Number Two songs in America. Mr. Claybourn sets out the lyrics in full to support the thesis that the songs and their composers "[adhere] to a philosophy of lethargy, selfishness and degradation." Before quoting the lyrics, Mr. Claybourn gave due warning that the lyrics would be offensive and were rated "R." He clearly opposes the cultural pollution these songs represent.

In my opinion, Mr. Claybourn scores points against the popular culture. Read the lyrics, and realize that there is some non-trivial part of the population whose view of females would make the Visigoths look like the Board of Directors of NOW. Mr. Claybourn's use of the lyrics seems necessary to establish his thesis, a bowdlerized version would water down the point he wanted to make. [Further, I am kind of appreciative of Mr. Claybourn. I had never been exposed to the lyrics. I think seeing dots or cute words wouldn't have had the same emotional impact as seeing the lyrics in toto. Rest assured that this father of future teenage girls will proscribe Eminem and Nell in his household.]

Mr. Claybourn's use of lyrics kicked off the second - internecine - culture war when he was taken to task by various Christian bloggers for printing the offending lyrics. While I side with Kevin Holtsberry, I admire the fact that there are people who are willing to have standards opposing the long slow trip to the bottom of the cultural cesspool. Those people may be our best hope against the seemingly inevitable social decline.

I have seen this phenomena before. About six years ago, I was defending a sexual harassment case where the female employee claimed that the free and unfettered use of a certain idiom created a hostile environment. The idiom was not necessarily sexual. In our culture, while the term has roots in old Anglo-saxon and implicates sexual congress, we use the idiom to impart a meaning of definiteness or imperative. Hence, the phrase "get those f...ing trucks over here" does not refer to anything the trucks are doing, rather the speaker is implying that he has strong feelings about the trucks and their situation. [See what a prude I am. But in this context the exact language is not important, and social norms imply a bowdlerized vernacular.]

Anyhow, I ran the facts of the case in front of a sample group to determine what kind of jurors I might want to select. I assumed that certain older panel members as conservative business people would be defense oriented inasmuch as they could clearly see what a crock the Plaintiff's claim consisted of. Certainly, I felt, they wouldn't countenance this young lady using the legal system to coerce money from another business because of mere incivility.

I was therefore surprised to find that the Plaintiff's strongest supporters were the older conservative Christian business owners who didn't allow foul language to be used in their work place and couldn't understand why anyone else should allow foul language in their workplaces. We decided to settle the case after that.

There is no moral to this story, just an observation about another set of philosophical differences that make our culture such an interesting place, and jury selection about as accurate a science as phrenology.

Monday, July 22, 2002

This is not edifying or intellectual, but it may be inspirational

Showing an ability to ferret out important news like a ravenous ...er ... well, ferret [metaphor engine seems to be shorted tonight] the marsupially named Possumblog offers this visual reminder why we all should be thankful that the Royal Marines are on our side.
Preaching to the Converted Alert

The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Editorial: Church, state, Scalia: Does God bless America? was obviously an attempt to intellectually disembowel the various philosophical positions that Justice Scalia developed in his essay in First Things entitled God’s Justice and Ours. I'm sure that in some places - for example, places where the members of the members of the Sara Jane Olson Legal Defense Fund assemble to smile for the camera as they sip their white wine and discuss the relative unimportance of a middle-aged housewife compared to that of the Movement - this editorial is an absolute killer, ensuring more mindless grins for a picture on a website that can't be copied since, after all, property is theft. Out here in the real world, though, the editorial seems unstudied.

Mark Shea has already taken the editorial for task for its blithely assuming that Catholics are not allowed to exercise reason and judgment. Shea believes that the editorial betrays an essential lack of knowledge of the Catholic tradition.

It also betrays an essential lack knowledge of the basic rules of criticism and of Constitutional law.

First, the StarTrib misconstrued what Scalia was trying to achieve with his First Things article. Scalia was clearly trying to show that the Death Penalty was not inconsistent with traditional Christian philosophy and that it was not inconsistent with the original intent of the Framers. He was emphatically not trying to justify the death penalty under the American constitutional system on the basis of Christian dogma as the editorial implies in this syllogism:

The death penalty was acceptable then, and when the Eighth Amendment was added four years later, so it must be OK now. Besides, Christian teaching upholds the concept, Scalia says, citing St. Paul's epistle to the Romans.

Second, the editorial attacks Justice Scalia's position that the Constitution is enduring, or, as Scalia ironically phrases it, "dead", for the purposes of Constitutional interpretation with this argument:

First, the Constitution evolves not because of formal amendments but because, over time, free people are compelled to meliorate their lives. Slavery and women's disenfranchisement, though allowed at the Constitution's inception, were so contradictory to the nation's founding values that amendments were inevitable. Both were contrary to the Constitution's intent and spirit as far back as 1787. Abolition was only a matter of time. As for the death penalty, the new prohibition against executing the mentally retarded is, we think, additional progress.

"The Constitution evolves not because of any formal amendments." Like what happened when slavery was abolished and women were given the right to vote. [One can well imagine the heads collectively nodding in agreement at the quarterly meeting of the Sara Jane Olson Legal Defense Fund as they smile and sip their white wine.]


Amazingly, the StarTrib is arguing that Scalia is misguided because he doesn't realize that there have changes in the Constitutional polity which occurred "not because of formal amendment" by citing two examples where the text of the Constitution was actually formally amended. Don't they have a spare copy of the Constitution lying around somewhere in Minnesota, or am I mistaken in thinking it was the Thirteenth Amendment and the Nineteenth Amendment that abolished slavery and gave women the right to vote? Do the editors of the StarTrib actually believe that women were given the right to vote, and slavery was abolished, by judicial fiat? Apparently, they did. Do they know better now?

Good arguments can be made for and against Scalia's originalist method of interpretation. Good arguments can be made for and against Scalia's extremely Statist views on religion and authority.

The StarTrib, however, isn't even close to making a good argument, and helps no one by thoughtlessly serving up cliches, and deserves some kind of very special award for this editorial.
Just a suggestion

Check out Mullings: An American Cyber-column By Rich Galen for his take on what it would be like if they covered golf like politics. Then go check out the Secret Decoder Ring for the definitive insider's explanation of obscure golf terminology, including "mashie" and "niblick" and my new personal favorite, the "mashie niblick."

What are you waiting for? Go! Now!

Sunday, July 21, 2002

Speaking of someone who could get some benefit from the redemptive aspect of suffering: SLA Trial Update

I haven't heard anything on the Sacramento SLA trial, and the link to the left hasn't been updated since May, so I decided to poke around Google to see what I could find.

First, this is the official web site of the Sara Jane Olson Legal Defense Fund. A couple of interesting points. For example, you can't blog the site. Try it, and see what I mean. I take it that this group of innocents fear that something untoward might happen if their site was distributed more widely. I don't know what that might be, but look at how happy everyone is in the picture. What are they smiling about? Also, look for the "Serving Time" Cookbook. Doesn't Ms. Olson look positively giddy, the very image of radical soccer-mom chic. There she is on trial for murder because her friends, husband and confederates viewed a harmless middle aged mother as a "bourgeous pig," [See Myrna Opsahl site.] and she has a big smile and is kicking up her heels like she is being featured on a cover of a Junior League cookbook. Why is she smiling?

Second, apparently there was some kind of gag-order in place at some time and there is a new trial date in September according to the non-Bloggable Sara Jane Olson Defense Site.
Somebody offer Ruffini a job now

Solid argument plus scattershot graph to support the contention that African-American support for the Democrat Party is anything but based on rational economics.
Calvin Coolidge: the Cato of Plymouth Notch

Via Possumblog comes this quote ascribed to Calvin Coolidge:

Whether ones traces his Americanism back three centuries to the Mayflower, or three years to steerage, is not half so important as whether his Americanism of today is real and genuine. No matter by what crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat. --Calvin Coolidge

I don't know if that really is from Coolidge, but it ought to be. It's interesting how the reputations of Coolikdge and Washington have been on the rise since the 1970's. Check out this site if you have any curiosity about the 30th President.
Knights and Barbarians

Via Goliard Blog comes this article: The Seattle Times: Local News: Colleges woo men to shrink gender gap What's interesting beyond the raw numbers, is the fact that college admnistrators don't seem to know whether they should remedy this situation. The article concludes:

But men historically have had the advantage over women in society, said Michael McKeon, dean of admissions at Seattle University, and to give them an advantage in admissions would be harder to justify.

It would create quite an ethical dilemma, he said.

As the The Goliard Blog observed with reference to the Road to Perdition, the nature of boyhood has changed. This is hardly surprising. Traditionally, informal social control mechanisms would be used to channel masculine energy. Rules of conduct, the Boy Scout Oath, the Cowboy Code, Chivalry. But those are so passe now. They are conformist. They have to be taken on faith. One can always find the 'hard case' where the rule shouldn't be applied. They are enforced by shame. But, all that's left once the internal codes enforced by shame and guilt are gone is the outside coercion of law and zero tolerance rules.

There is clearly something going on today with young men. It's something that is happening at the margins among marginal men. It may be an unintended consequence of thirty years of well meaning attempts to clear away irrational, unthinking, historical assumptions. But it appears that one set of unexamined beliefs may have replaced a prior set, and not left us healthier. In that regard, I think Justice Scalia may have said it best in United States v. Virginia et al., 518 U.S. 515 (1996).

"In an odd sort of way, it is precisely VMI's attachment to such old fashioned concepts as manly "honor" that has made it, and the system it represents, the target of those who today succeed in abolishing public single sex education. The record contains a booklet that all first year VMI students (the so called "rats") were required to keep in their possession at all times. Near the end there appears the following period piece, entitled "The Code of a Gentleman":
'Without a strict observance of the fundamental Code of Honor, no man, no matter how `polished,' can be considered a gentleman. The honor of a gentleman demands the inviolability of his word, and the incorruptibility of his principles. He is the descendant of the knight, the crusader; he is the defender of the defenseless and the champion of justice . . . or he is not a Gentleman. .....'
I do not know whether the men of VMI lived by this Code; perhaps not. But it is powerfully impressive that a public institution of higher education still in existence sought to have them do so. I do not think any of us, women included, will be better off for its destruction."

Postscript: Must be something in the air. Discriminations has a post documenting a Santa Monica elementary school principal's decision to ban the game of tag because it injures self-esteem and as lagniappe hooks into the earlier NRO story about a school's ban on dodge ball. It's good to be reminded of these things. Within weeks of reading them, I have the tendency to start thinking of these stories as "urban legend." No one can be that silly, can they?
As if my encyclopedic knowledge of science fiction wasn't enough of a clue

This result from another on-line personality test, via the Goliard Blog.

Take the What High School
Stereotype Are You?
quiz, by Angel.

I scored a couple of points on the Goth scale for paleness, but that's a genetic fluke since I'm a redhead. Gotta go. It's my turn to make a saving throw against petrification.
The Sparrow by Doria Maria Russell and the Problem of Suffering

One of the reasons to read science fiction - apart from not getting any dates in High School - is that it is a genre that allows the author to explore the great issues of the human condition in a fairly direct manner. By confronting their characters with some nonhuman civilization, science fiction authors can often talk about what makes us human, and what it means to be human. It has been this way since Gulliver’s Travels.

Based on an off-hand quote about Jesuits in science fiction, Orrin Judd [who obviously knows his s.f.] recommended the Arthur C. Clarke Award winning book The Sparrow by Doria Maria Russell. The Sparrow appears to be a “first contact”story, which pits different cultures against each other. In this case, the cultures are a group largely composed of Catholic Jesuits who travel to Alpha Centauri lured by the SETI [Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence] reception of songs from that source. The story is set twenty and sixty years into the future, as it brackets, with due concern for time dilation caused by travel at close to the speed of light, the parties’ experience on the extraterrestrial planet of Rakhat.

Apart from one character, every other character is either a Catholic or a lapsed Catholic. The main character is Father Emilio Sandoz who as a gifted linguist is a logical selection for an expedition to an extraterrestrial planet. Sandoz himself returns maimed by the alien and an emotional wreck because of his stint in an alien brothel, the death of his exploration comrades, and his seemingly pointless murder of an alien child. The circumstances behind Sandoz’ conduct are not cleared up until the last twenty pages.

Normally, in books of this kind, the focus is on the alien culture. The culture, its worldview and limitations are developed in the context of the clash of cultures. C. J. Cherryh - is a master of this form, particularly the Faded Sun Trilogy.. Russell, though, doesn’t appear very interested in the culture of her aliens. The reader does learn some tantalizingly interesting facts - there are two sentient species on the planet, one a predator species, the other its traditional prey - but the implications of these details are not developed, and they seem to be tossed out for shock value.

Russell is a gifted writer. Her characters were interesting and largely sympathetic. She also seemed sympathetic to the Jesuits. But the intent of her book was unclear until the end. I had thought it was about first contact. It wasn’t. In fact, the book was about the meaning of meaningless suffering. This is clear at two places. The first is when a party member simply dies. The agnostic doctor asks why God gets the credit for good things that happen, but not the blame for the end.

The second place is the end of the book when we learn that Sandoz’ spiritual collapse - he clearly blames God for treating him as a cosmic joke - is due to the fact that all of his friends on the exploration team are dead, he has been brutalized, and he has killed an innocent, and to his way of thinking there was no meaning for any of it. The author interview at the end makes it clear that Russell’s intent was to communicate that message. Russell herself is a convert from Catholicism to Judaism and she explains that in selecting Judaism one knows two things: first, being Jewish can get you killed, and, second, God won’t rescue you. She also describes Sandoz’ experience as a kind of holocaust. One may therefore assume that she views suffering as a meaningless experience, explained in some way by a story told by one of her Jesuit characters about a Jewish story that in order to make creation God had to remove himself from that part of the universe, so something other than himself could exist. Sandoz felt abandoned by God on Rakhat because he was.

It is here that I have my criticism of the Sparrow. Russell’s avowed intent was to write a Black Robe among the stars. The Jesuits who suffered in the New World didn’t share Sandoz’ view. They felt that their sufferings had some meaning. There has been some discussion among various blogs about the problem of suffering. As John DaFiesole at Disputations points out the Catholic tradition ascribes evil to an absence of goodness, or an attraction to that which is not good, and that God may be the author of suffering that is intended to punish. The New Gasparian notes the tradition of suffering as causing growth by learning not to be attached to the temporal. Heart, Mind & Strength - Blog Admin Panel emphasizes the disciplinary function of suffering; suffering is like a leg brace. These answers all seem to be in line with the traditional understanding of the significance of suffering set forth in Salvifici Doloris aka The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering. In Savifici Doloris, Pope John Paul II acknowledges suffering as a mystery with dimensions in justice, growth, love and charity. On that last, he writes:

The parable of the Good Samaritan belongs to the Gospel of suffering. For it indicates what the relationship of each of us must be towards our suffering neighbor. We are not allowed to "pass by on the other side" indifferently; we must "stop" beside him. Everyone who stops beside the suffering of another person, whatever form it may take, is a Good Samaritan. This stopping does not mean curiosity but availability.

Religion is important because we are all going to suffer. Even if we never suffer material or psychological deprivation, we suffer when we contemplate our finite existence in this world. Religion offers a meaning for that existence, and thereby lessens that suffering. Father Sandoz’ had a deep tradition to understand his suffering. He could have viewed his suffering as punishment for the sin of pride - heading out four light years, then landing on an alien planet without reconnoitering at the very least implicates the sin of pride, if not stupidity. He could have viewed his suffering as a form of love and sacrifice. He could have looked at it as charity in bringing Christ to an alien planet. However he viewed the experience, viewing himself as abandoned was not part of that tradition. Even if Sandoz reached a point of nihilistic desperation, it seems that he should have known something about this rich understanding of the meaning of suffering.

And that’s the criticism. If Russell wanted to write a book where the main character was a Jesuit, it just seems reasonable for her to acknowledge the philosophy which that group shares. It seems that she was as uninterested in developing the Jesuit culture as she was in developing the Rhakat culture.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

From the Center for the Study of Science Fiction comes these suggestions on How to Be a Good Critiquer. The Center recommends asking the following the questions:

1. What did the author intend to do?
2. How well did he or she do it?
3. (last and least important) Was it a good thing to do?

Which seems to be pretty good advice for any kind of criticism.
I was driving out of Orange County last week when I heard that Samantha Runnion had been abducted by a stranger. Since my four and five year old daughters were in the back seat after a visit to Knott's Berry Farm, the story hit home in a way that can only happen when you have children the same as age as that of the victim. As parents, we all have to be vigilant, and I can only begin to imagine the suffering of the Runnion family, but it is useful to keep in mind that cases like that of Samantha Runnion are extremely rare. Notwithstanding the hysteria about kidnapped children in the 1980's, according to the the Fresno Bee about 200 to 300 stranger abductions of children occur each year. They can occur any time and any place. The last one in Fresno occurred in 1996, and remains unsolved.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Interactive News: The Pledge Decision

I don't think I appreciated the procedural position that the Newdow decision was in when it reached the Ninth Circuit. The defendants had prevailed on a Motion to Dismiss. This is roughly the federal equivalent of a demurrer challenging the legal sufficiency of the complaint. At that stage of the game, there is no discovery, such as depositions where Miss Newdow or her father could be asked questions under oath about legal custody or Miss Newdow’s true feelings about the Pledge. Generally, the allegations of the complaint are taken as true. This explains then why the surprising news that Mom: Girl Has No Problem With Pledge (washingtonpost.com) was not known to the defendants. I just spoke to the attorney handling the case on behalf of one of the defendants, and he expressed an interest in the news reports describing Mr. Newdow's lack of standing. Accordingly, he is getting a free ticket to How Appealing. [I'm going to be a little cagy here about names since I don't want to be served with a deposition subpena, and I want to leave my partner's friend room for plausible denial.]

Accordingly, because the decision came at an early stage of the litigation, the record will not contain evidentiary material about who had custody or Miss Newdow’s real religious beliefs. This raises the somewhat interesting question of how to get that information before the Court. Anyone have any ideas? Attach the news articles to the Petition for Rehearing and ask for judicial notice? While that may not be playing according to Hoyle, it may be effective.

I think that most of us practitioners made the assumption that this case was later in the litigation process than it really was. That's not surprising since typically judicial opinions, and orders for compliance, come after a trial and judgment. However, in fact, what should have happened was a remand back to the District Court in order to allow discovery to occur. According to my informant, the final paragraph of the Newdow decision seems ambiguous. Did the Newdow panel intend it's decision to be final, or to allow the case to proceed through discovery to trial?

Interesting inside game stuff. At oral argument, the Nixon appointee, Judge Goodwin, appeared to be solidly in favor of defendants' position. However, when the decision came out, the brief that Judge Goodwin wrote appeared to mirror the arguments advanced by Judge Reinhardt at the oral argument. Since Judge Reinhardt is a well-known judicial liberal, and -I assume because of that philosophy - has one of the highest reversal rates, it appears that Judge Reinhardt may have given up the pride of authorship in return for a decision that might not get reversed as readily by an en banc panel. This scenario may also explain some of the statements that have been made by Judges Reinhardt and Goodwin about the process by which the decision was stayed, and why Judge Goodwin may have been willing to grant the stay.

Also interesting, many of the arguments raised in Blogville were made in oral argument. The argument that the Pledge does not "establish" a religion was made. [See William Sulik’s fine essay.] The argument that Ms. Newdow would be compelled to practice a religion by being forced to listen to the words "under God" was countered by a question as to whether there was compelled religious expression every time Miss Newdow was required to reach into her pocket to take out a quarter bearing the slogan"In God We Trust." Also, the thrust of the oral argument was obviously that the words "under God" in the Pledge had a secular meaning. Your humble reporter was pleased to hear that the fact that the Supreme Court begins its sessions with the phrase ”God Save this Honorable Court” was not lost at oral argument.

A final point, following up on Howard Bashman's accurate summary of the en banc process. Apparently, there are approximately twenty four Ninth Circut Judges, the majority of whom are Democrat, and the majority of those are former Clinton appointees. Will that demographic breakdown affect the decision to grant a Petition for Rehearing? I guess it depends on how political those appointees are, and whether they want to see a Republican tide sweep the mid-term elections.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Theoblawg Alert

From Bag and Baggage [link to the left there] comes this blawg called News for Christians. Looks like a new cell in the Reformed wing of the Catacombs.
Shameless NRO Rip-off

From the Corner at NRO [links everywhere] comes this posting from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston asking about whether there is any problem with a Witch marrying a Catholic in a Catholic marriage. Read the answer for yourself. I hyperventilated and passed out while reading it, so I am still somewhat unclear about the response. My question, though, is whether this marriage would be automatic grounds for annullment under the Pauline Privilege?
Important Technical Tip - Spread the Word

If you get the 503 Error - Unable to load Template - Message. First, save your Template without making any changes. Second, save your Archive Template without making changes. That seems to fix the problem. [Ask me how I know all of this.] It appears that the Gremlins have been out in force for the last week.
Socrates was not Belgian

From the Office of Research into Parallel Universes ["ORPU"] comes this post from Brothers Judd Blog regarding the well-known psuedo-fact that J.Edgar Hoover was a cross-dresser ["not that there's anything wrong with that."]

Hoover was more familiar to Americans than most presidents. The director of the FBI simply could not have engaged in such activity at the Plaza, with a number of witnesses present, without having it leak out. The cross-dressing allegations were as credible as McCarthy's claim that there were 205 known Communists in the State Department, yet the press widely circulated the claim without further investigation. That Hoover was a cross-dresser is now largely presumed to be fact even by sophisticated people.

However, the article linked through the Brothers Judd pretty clearly shows that the whole story was fabricated as a bit of revenge by one woman with a personal complaint against Hoover. What's interesting here, of course, is the fact that the story has such provenance without historical support. Like the evolution of the claim that Pope Pius XII was "Hitler's Pope," some assertions have a life of their own. [I have spoken to many people who kind of know that the Pius never spoke out against the Nazi's, and who are then surprised to learn about the Papal Encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge drafted in 1937 in German for Pius XI by the future Pius XII. (See PIUS XII AND THE JEWS.) Likewise, I have yet to hear an explanation for the absence of similar arguments against Roosevelt and Churchill, who did not alert the world to the Holocaust, and who - one would think - had no reason not to do so.]

My theory, for what it is worth, is that it has been a bad half-century for defenders of the establishment. Fifty years of historical revisionism and deconstruction have dismantled one Establisment hero after another. Jefferson owned slaves; Lincoln was a racist; Roosevelt had affairs; Nixon was a crook. It's gotten to the point that those of us who believe in Great Men know that there is no charge that cannot be levelled at one of our heros which we can say with epistemological certainty is not true. So, it's safer to be silent, and to let the revisionists take the field.
Who links to me?