Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Lemons, but no lemonade

Jury finds Stayner guilty in 3 slayings
A Warning to the Beer Cartel - never underestimate the economic clout of the enraged Irish Catholic Beer-Drinking Public

Via Mark Shea - the brewer of Sam Adams beer offers this apology. Let's face it the ICBDP cares about three things outside of their families, and fortunately for the Boston Beer Company the American flag wasn't involved in that stupid Opie and Andy stunt.
Here's an interesting site called PostWatch. I'm linking to a column criticizing the state department criticism of the Nigerian Sharia ruling requiring the stoning of a mother of an infant for adultery. [She committed adultery; the father was acquitted according to the this alt.islam link.] Great, the Washington Post is more forgiving of Sharia rulings than alt.islam. Some days the world seems a bit peculiar.
Via NRO's the Corner, the Chaldeans online reports on the death by beheading of a 71 year old Christian nun. See Biography of the latest Iraqi Christian martyr; Sister Cecilia Hanna 1931-2002

The historical information is entirely new to me, frankly. The throw-away line on the "misnamed Armenian Genocide" comes as a surprise to me. Fresno is one of the major sites of Armenian population in the world, and the Armenian Genocide is an authentic issue here. Perhaps the Chaldean Christians view the Genocide as a broader anti-Christian persecution. Also there is no information about the reasons for the muder of this nun; although it's hard to fathom what she could have been doing apart from practicing her faith.
History Mystery

Steven Saylor has the ninth instalment of his Roma Sub Rosa mystery series entitled A Mist of Prophecies.Here is an excerpt of a book review from About.com

The place is Rome, the time the year 48 BCE. Caesar has crossed the Adriatic Sea to confront Pompey. Gordianus' son Meto is still in Caesar's entourage, and still disowned by Gordianus. Back home, his wife Bethesda is stricken with a mysterious debilitating illness, and Gordianus is officially retired. He calls the times “impious days, when men scorn the gods and the gods scorn us in return.” Thus he sets the scene for another dark novel, albeit not as bleak as his most recent one, Last Seen in Massilia, I'm glad to report.


Saylor's Gordianus' books are well-written and he does give factual attention to the historical mysteries of Ciceronian - and soon to be Caeserian - Rome.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Great Moments in the Defense of the First Amendment

Let's recap the last few months in the life of the First Amendment.

In approximately June, the California Supreme Court held that consumer rights advocates could pick through the political speech of commercial businesses for evidence of "unfair competition." In other words, if Joe the Dairy Guy said that his cows were the happiest cows on Earth, PETA is empowered to bring an action for restitution, penalties and attorney's fees under California Business and Professions Code Section 15200. Worse still, if Joe the Dairy Guy says that PETA is a ridiculous organization that wants to increase prices of consumer goods and destroy the family farm, does he get any protection under the First Amendment in California? Nope. He's running a business. His statements are probably intended to communicate a business message, and since he has the all powerful profit motive as the inducement for his speech, he's not likely to censor himself. Hence, no First Amendment protection for Joe.

In May, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the sponsors of an intemperate and obnoxious anti-abortion site could be held liable for "threats" against doctors notwithstanding the fact that they lacked any ability to carry out the "threat" and despite the obvious fact that their site was a farce - a farce in poor taste which any reasonable person should condemn as inconsistent with civil society, but a farce nonetheless. [The majority opinion also relied on the fact that persons associated with the site had actually testified on behalf of persons who were subsequently convicted of the murder of abortion providers.]

Somewhere in this sequence, the Congress passed a law regulating political speech.

These events led to this insightful essay about whether the New Class had abandoned the First Amendment.

Near as I could tell there was not any significant concern from any media outlet about the First Amendment implications of these developments. But, not to worry, the media, or at least a pro-media blog, has leapt to the defense of the First Amendment because of the tremendous threat to speech arising from Opie and Andy public relations gimmick where the pair encouraged listeners to engage in "sex in dangerous places."The OmbudsGod writes:

Congratulations to William Donohue, and the 350,000 member Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, for transforming two “shock jocks” into First Amendment Martyrs.

By bringing pressure on the FCC to both fine and revoke the broadcast license of WNEW FM, they have succeeded in forcing the radio station to eliminate a popular syndicated afternoon show. Two DJs, Opie and Anthony, have been fired, and the General Manager, Ken Stevens, and Program Director, Jeremy Coleman, have been suspended. This censorship will have a chilling effect on other broadcasters who may wish to broadcast controversial material.


There are so many things wrong in such a short passage. First, I learned in my first year of Law School that radio stations that promote behavior for which it can be reasonably foreseen will cause damage or injury to others can themselves be held liable for negligence. The example offered by the Torts professor was a radio station that encouraged reckless driving behavior, but "sex in dangerous places" will do as well. Assume that some elderly woman had died of a heart attack in the near vicinity of the stunt. The radio station could have been, and maybe should have been, sued. Opie and Andy should have been sacked by the station for that reason alone, which has nothing to do with censorship.

Second, conduct is not speech. Never has been, never will be. Encouraging, causing or inciting others to break the law should not be protected speech. Would Ombudsgod have been as oblivious to this concept if Opie and Andy had been encouraging listeners to paint the Star of David on mosques?

Third, now Ombudsgod is concerned about the First Amendment? Where has he been when political speech has been systematically constricted? Of course, the cases and developments I have cited do not involve speech by the businesses engaged in "for-profit" activities called newspapers or radio stations. So, perhaps Ombudsgod should be clear that when he says First Amendment, he means the mainstream media.
OK, I give. What's up with the Anglicans anyhow?

According to The Salt Lake Tribune -- Eucharist Is Cannibalistic, Says Bishop. The article:

Anglican Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries has suggested that the "cannibalistic language of the Eucharist" is part of the reason Christianity is declining in Britain. In a controversial new book, God Outside the Box, Harries described the revulsion that the uninitiated can feel at one of the best-loved prayers in the Church of England's prayer book.
The Prayer of Humble Access reads, in part: "Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood."
The bishop suggested the church "qualify the imagery in order to help people realize that this is a metaphor. We should use images like 'the food of angels' and 'the bread of life' instead."


Bishop Harries noticed this only after he became a Bishop?

By the way, this ancient "metaphor" and "imagery" suggests to me the strongest sociological evidence that ancient Christians really understood that the Eucharist was in fact literally the Body of Christ. Unless someone can point out evidence of cannibalism in Judeah shortly before the Destruction of the Temple, I would suggest that the reintroduction of cannibalistic imagery runs counter to the typical direction of religious development - a development one sees in Bishop Harries' comments. First, there is cannibalism, then there is a symbolic understanding of the cannibalism tradition, and, finally, cannibalism is excised from the tradition. The reason for this is frankly that cannibalism is stressful for human societies; people don't like to be eaten.

[Please, please, hold your applause. The last part of the previous paragraph is not original with me. I lift the concept out of Eli Sagan's At the Dawn of Tyranny The Origins of Individualism, Political Oppression & the State. In a response to a book review Doctor Sagan gave this thumbnail explanation for his thesis:

My explanation of these phenomena is that the separation from the kinship system creates an almost intolerable burden of psychic anxiety which can be contained only by investing political power in an omnipotent masculine monarch. Also, that human sacrifice is a mechanism of defense erected against that same anxiety. Once a fundamental transformation of the kinship system has been accomplished — as in Archaic civilization—both human sacrifice and this exaggerated conception of tyrannical monarchy are unnecessary.


Which is why I say that the reintroduction of images of human cannibalism in the First Century is signal in understanding what the ancient Christians believed.]

The reintroduction of cannibalistic imagery circa 30 AD turns this typical development on its head. I would suggest that the motivation for introducing such a substantial and unusual concept into a religious tradition must itself be substantial and unusual. Such as, for example, that the ancient Christians believed that they had been told by the Incarnate God that they were actually supposed to ingest his flesh in the Eucharist.

Just some offhand theological and sociological speculation.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

See what comes from relying on education and the inherent goodness of man?

From TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime comes this information:

... 1 of every 32 adults in America is now in prison, on probation or on parole.... "The overall figures suggest that we've come to rely on the criminal justice system as a way of responding to social problems in a way that's unprecedented," said Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Sentencing Project, an advocacy and research group that favors alternatives to incarceration. "We're setting a new record every day."


Let's see after you eliminate custom, tradition, informal social pressure, concern about reputation and the influence of religion - in other words all of the informal means by which society orders itself - what are you left with? That's right, criminal law.

Next question. Will the situation improve or deteriorate if the Boy Scouts are undermined because of their commitment to forming the character of young males who might otherwise be involved with institutions that are not as concerned with forming character?
Global Warming?

ScienceDaily Magazine -- Satellites Show Overall Increases In Antarctic Sea Ice Cover
Two Books and Freedom of the Will

Josh Claybourn had a post last week concerning the causes of homosexuality which sparked a number of comments, a few of which were insightful, and some of which were clearly attempts to enforce a politically correct orthodoxy.

Although the issue is usually conceived as either “environment” or “genetics,” one of the buried issue is determinism. An important question is whether homosexual orientation is a matter of choice, a matter outside the realm of choice, or something in-between. The “genetic” argument stands in for the idea that homosexuality is not a matter of any choice. Gay proponents of this position will usually advocate for it on the basis of their own experience - they knew they were gay from the beginning, just as heterosexuals knew they were heterosexual from the first flush of sexual awareness. The environmental argument points to the cultural aspect of homosexuality. Different cultures held different attitudes toward homosexuality. Ancient Greece and the Zulu warrior culture encouraged various forms of homosexuality. Likewise, the percentage of homosexuals in the population varies depending on the level of education. Since presumably population genetics isn’t materially affected by education, this data would suggest a heavy cultural component, which implies choice and determinism.

For me the issue is validating a realm of choice for humans. There are certainly “hard wired” biological imperatives, but the idea that something as nuanced as sexual orientation is hard wired strikes me as unlikely as the idea that the Irish are genetically predisposed to eat potatoes. It also strikes me as philosophically dangerous to posit that humans are robotic slaves of their genes on that level because the there is no neat dividing line between the idea that homosexuality is genetic and the idea that criminality or intelligence are genetically predestined.

However, even if sexual orientation has a genetic basis, the idea that a single gene, or set of genes, “causes” same-sex attraction is probably wrong. Richard Posner in his book Sex and Reason had this unflattering conjecture as to the link between a genetic proclivity for homosexuality and homosexual orientation:

Withal the genetic explanation of male homosexuality has a definite plausibility, as well as the support of the twin studies. The hostile or distant father and the effeminate or “sissified” child, form a characteristic though not universal dyad in the personal history of male homosexuals. In a noteworthy study Richard Green, rather than relying on the recollections of adult homosexuals...followed over a period of fifteen years a group of boys who had at an early age exhibited pronounced gender nonconformity, and a control group who had not. Three-fourths of the “sissies” grew up to be homosexual or bisexual, compared to only one out of the fifty six boys in the control group. The explanation? Suppose that because of some congenital hormonal abnormality a small percentage of male children are born somewhat deficient in characteristic male attributes such as boldness and aggressiveness (or they may simply be small and weak), and the deficiency will make them when mature relatively unattractive to women, although as yet no one is aware of this. The father is repelled by the boy’s effeminacy, his “sissiness,” and the boy reacts to this refection by transferring his affections to and seeking a role model in, his mother... At all events he increasingly sees himself ain other than typically male terms. At puberty he finds himself indeed unattractive to girls and this reinforces his aversion to modeling himself on his father. Eventually, he discovers that men are his preferred sex object.”


Posner’s conjecture is obviously politically incorrect in its bold assumption that there is behavior that most fathers would view as “normal.” On the other hand, it seems to fit the facts better than the simple gene=homosexual attraction theory. It is simply obvious from the historical evidence that people are more malleable with respect to their sexual orientation than a simple genetic model allows. Further, it is consistent with my observation of several gay classmates who were pegged as “gay” by fellow classmates as far back as seventh or eighth grade because of their mannerisms. I might accept the idea that a gene could cause homosexual orientation but the idea that a gene could cause culturally sensitive effeminate behavior strikes me as absurd beyond discussion.

Interestingly, the experience of one of those individuals would seem to validate the deterministic model. That person concluded that he was gay on the eve of his marriage. I am told that if he could have avoided that conclusion he would have. This psychological experience would suggest that sexual orientation is not a matter of free choice.

That could be. On the other hand, I have just picked up Rationality in Action by John B. Searles. Searles is a well-known philosopher of the mind. I am only into the first chapter but it appears that Searles disputes the classic model of rationality where rational decision are motivated by beliefs and desires. Irrational decisions - such as heroin usage - may be motivated by a belief or desire - such as the overpowering desire to take heroin. For the rest, Searles writes:

We presuppose that there is a gap between the “causes” of the action in the form of belief and desires and the “effect” in the form of the action. This gap has a traditional name. It is called the “freedom of the will.”


Interestingly, for Searles the “freedom of the will” is seen in akrasia, or the weakness of the will, where the mind knows what to do, but the person is not able to will conduct consistent with that knowledge. [Parenthetically, St. Augustine seems to have suffered from a major case of akrasia.] In short, homosexuality may have a genetic component, but not in the simplistic way which is customarily understood, and the homosexual’s feeling his orientation is compelled, may itself validate freedom of the will.

There are no conclusions in this post, just preliminary thoughts at constructing a defense of human rationality in a culture that is uncomfortable with the idea of individual responsibility.

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Catholic Priest acquited of rape charges

Hanford jury jury acquits Rev. Miguel Flores of rape charges. Be careful, though, before you extrapolate from this jury verdict. Rev. Flores may or may not be guilty of a civil wrong, which has a lower burden of proof. On the other hand, the verdict may be indicative that not all of the claims against priests are meritorious.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Pop Quiz

The headline on the Washingon Post Media Notes article is Key 2002 Races Go Negative. Knowing nothing more, decide whether the substance of the article involves (a) campaign advertising which implies that Republicans are "racist" or where Republicans are accused of being indifferent to the plight of the elderly or minorities, (b) campaign advertising by both Republicans and Democrats describing questionable accusations mounted against their adversaries, or (c) campaign advertising by Republicans where the policies of Democratic administrations are criticized.

Choose one, then go to the article and see if you were correct.
Cruising around Blogville one day

I found this web site asking the timeless question: BOB JONES University: Anti-Catholic? It's an official statement by Bob Jones University, and appears to be an attempt to convince the reader that Bob Jones really isn't anti-Catholic. Now, I don't care if Bob Jones is or isn't. I think they have the right to believe and say whatever they want. If they are, well then good for them for having the courage of their convictions.

On the other hand, the website is unintentionally funny. Why would you put into a website trying to convince people that you are not anti-Catholic post a link to comments by Ian Paisely, who is still fighting the Thirty Years War. And, what does Bob Jones mean by this comment:

A note to fervent Catholics: there may come a day when, for political purposes, a presidential candidate finds it helpful to refer to loyal Catholics as "anti-protestant." If that day comes, send me your e-mail address and I'll return a note of encouragement.


Are these people smoking crack? Do they actually think that any politician would believe that there could be some political advantage to be gained in describing Catholics as "anti-Protestant" when over 25% of the population in America is Catholic. But, hey, when the the latent political power inherent in the fear of the average American that "loyal Catholics" are "anti-Protestant" is unleashed by some politician, "loyal Catholics" won't have to fear pogroms and reprisals because they will get an encouraging e-mail from someone at Bob Jones University.

I can hardly wait.
Sharia Law Update

Here is a report on the implementation of Sharia law in northern Nigeria from alt.muslim - your muslim news community

For the second time since Shari'a (Islamic) law was implemented in the Muslim-majority areas of northern Nigeria, a woman faces death by stoning for the crime of having sex out of wedlock. The woman, 30-year old Amina Lawal, had been divorced for two years, and the Qur'an clearly states that death is not a punishment for adultery, but that didn't seem to matter to Nigeria's tribal implementation of Islamic law. The man she fingered as her child's father was discharged for lack of evidence (how convenient for him), but the presence of Amina's 8-month old baby implicated her in the act. While various forms of Islamic law are practiced throughout the Muslim world, few implement hadd punishments such as stoning mainly because the evidentiary requirements are extremely high (for example, four witnesses to the actual act). "When the judge said I was guilty and passed the sentence, I broke down in tears," said Lawal. "It is because I am poor, my family is poor, and I am a woman." The execution has been delayed until Lawal weans her child in 18 months.


The interesting thing here is the comments to the article that express the idea that this situation is an embarrassment to thinking Muslims, which is a sentiment I think non-Muslims need to hear expressed by Muslims on a variety of issues.
Trade Dress Infringement Alert

Lutherans luring Hispanic Catholics?

The church at 53rd and Maplewood has holy water dispensers and an icon of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Catholic patron saint of Mexico, Quintero said, the pastor is called "father," and the service was nearly identical to the Catholic mass she was familiar with.
But Sagrada Familia isn't a Catholic church. It's a Lutheran congregation, part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
It's one of a handful of Lutheran churches on the South Side and in Cicero that Catholic priests and parishioners say have misled Mexican immigrants into believing are Roman Catholic. Some parishioners complain that they had their children baptized and celebrated what they believed were other Catholic sacraments at what turned out to be Lutheran churches.


Lutheran officials quoted in the article explain that the confusion is entirely unintentional and that Lutherans view themselves legitimately as "small - c" catholics.

Ok. Fine. That's an entirely reasonable explanation. Just answer one question. When did the Lutherans start recognizing Our Lady of Guadalupe?

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Cary Stayner Trial Update

The Stayner trial goes to the jury as reported by fresnobee.com | Murder in Yosemite. The Bee reports on the closing arguments as follows:

"We are not asking you to acquit Cary Stayner, to let him go," she told the jury of nine men and three women. "These were clearly unlawful killings. The issue is what kind of killings they were."
She called the evidence more consistent with second-degree murder, which would eliminate the prospect of the death penalty if Stayner was convicted and judged to be sane. Stayner, 41, already is serving a life sentence, with no prospect for release, for the July 1999 murder of Yosemite park naturalist Joie Ruth Armstrong, 26.


Interesting "lemons into lemonade" argument by the defense.
Hit by a Shea(t) storm.

The hit meter is beginning to spin like my house's electricity meter on 115 degree Fresno day when the air conditioning is running. It's odd. I turn out profound commentary on on the moral virtue of fortitude, and no one cares. I offer up cutting edge social polling data on Catholic theological attitudes and obscure papal documents, and no one cares. [Go here and look one post up.] I do a riff on buried anti-Catholic assumptions in the the presentation of Reformation history, and I actually get some nice feedback.

But I make one passing reference to a famous Belloc couplet - which I thought was from G.K. Chesterton - and I get an avalanche. Thanks for visiting. Hurry back. Eventually, I'll get the hang of this blogging thing.
Does Eric Alterman ever actually read the things he writes?

Eric Alterman has a post under the heading "News for Dummies." The title immediately caused me to wonder about whom Alterman was making a reference to. An almost immediate answer was provided by his comment: "Are Americans particularly stupid and or anti-intellectual, or could this kind of story happen anywhere? I can never make up my mind about such questions." Oh, of course, the "Dummies" are Americans who are either particularly stupid or anti-intellectual.

My next immediate reaction was to think ill of Alterman and try to work the concept of "intellectual snobbery" into a post. [Which I have just - with great subtlety - accomplished.]

Oddly, one of the next posts I read was this one.

One more Nader voter makes her case. (If only Ann Coulter were a lesbian, these two would be perfect for each other.)

I thought, that's odd. I wonder what some unknown e-mailer wrote to Alterman. So I clicked on the link to find this article -Times Online - which was written by Camille Paglia, who is a self-avowed leftist lesbian libertarian [do you like the listing of limpid alliterations?] Why didn't Alterman acknowledge her by name? Why would Alterman want to sexually link a leftist lesbian libertarian with the battling blonde of Burkeanism? Does Alterman have deep issues he needs to work on?

Anyhow, Paglia had this particularly pertinent passage. [I can't seem to switch the alliteration mode off.]

One problem is that too many leftist periodicals are run by callow cliques whose vaunted populism is a mask for snobbery. (emphasis added.)


But that's exactly where I came in. Alterman deconstructed within thirty seconds and with two posts from his own webpage. Thank you, Fresno. I will be playing here every Thursday through the summer.
As a Catholic, normally I don't find a conflict between beer and religion

Mark Shea asks the immortal question: How stupid do you have to be to be a brewer and then deliberately torque off Irish Catholics?

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Liberal Confusion, Part 2

Also from Body and Soul is this post:

Jesus is the most controversial human being to ever walk the face of the planet, and people don't want to hear his name. -- Franklin Graham

If that were true, a man who said Jesus was his favorite philosopher would not be president and would not have asked Franklin Graham to pray at his inauguration. The Pope would not be on the front page of the newspaper. Tim LaHaye's books would be on the remainder tables.

Over the centuries, Jesus' name has proved itself to be a money-maker and a power-builder. Many people have become rich and powerful hiding behind that name.

It's not the name, it's the ideas people have a hard time with.
posted by jeanne d'arc | 9:58 AM


I post this because I have read cutting and incisive critiques of the Catholic church by Catholic bloggers. One thing those critique's bring to the table is credibility. Those critics (a) know what they are talking about and (b) understand that they are part of the institution they are criticising. Heck, I have to respect even Gary Wills for his commitment to his version of the Catholic church. I think one of the things that sets my teeth on edge when I hear criticism of Christians or Catholicism or the United States from the left is a certain tone in their comments which makes it sound like their allegiances are always provisional and always conditioned on the institution measuring up to their standards. The post on the social scientists debating whether they should refuse to cooperate with the military is another example. Apparently, because the American military doesn't measure up to their standards, they feel compelled to sit on the side lines while the people who pay their salaries are murdered.

"Fortitude" is a moral virtue. Fortitude insures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. Fortitude does not involve making provisional allegiances. It does involve standing not just for something, but - and this is more difficult - standing by someone even when "all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you." Standing for an ideal is easy because ideals are by their nature perfect and uncompromising; standing by someone - a friend, a spouse, a church or a country - is a somewhat harder proposition because those things are real and carry with them a real history of surprising virtue and predictable weakness.

I think that "d'arc's" hit and run criticism of John Paul II or the religiousity of other people - or the social scientists concern about their involvement with the American military - would carry more weight if there was a sense from them that they had a commitment to the real which was at least as strong as their commitment to the ideal.
Leftist Confusion, Part 1

Read this post from Body and Soul:

''After the terrorist attacks, I was so angry that I really didn't care to learn anything about Muslims. But I know now that refusing to learn is what causes more anger and confusion.'' -- Matthew Dale, 18, a freshmen at the University of North Carolina after a discussion of Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations, a book a conservative Christian group asked the court to block.

No wonder they wanted to block the book. If it weren't for anger and confusion, who would vote Republican?


Yes, those narrow minded conservatives. Not like those broad-minded liberals who are attuned to the zen-like truths of the universe. Ah, but how do they explain this post by the The Culture Curve:

My own Christian legal advocacy is guided by the following, simple principles:

i) I will never argue that Christians should have more rights or greater religious freedoms than other religious individuals (in other words, our nation's heritage does not grant Christians a privileged position in national discourse);

ii) I will always oppose government actions that discriminate against Christian (or other religious) speech;

iii) I believe it is appropriate for government to acknowledge the religious heritage and beliefs of its citizens, but it is inappropriate for the government to establish any specific religious practice (like school prayer);

iv) Because I believe in equality, I will not try to silence opposing viewpoints, and I will not oppose the dissemination of opposing viewpoints -- so long as I have equal opportunities to speak and spread my own message;

v) Because I have confidence in my message -- and believe it to be empowered by the Holy Spirit of the Living God -- I will not fear the free exchange of ideas. I welcome that exchange.

Following those simple, easily understood principles, I think we can transform the religious debate in our country. With an equality emphasis, some of the left's favorite arguments regarding the legislation of morality and the imposition of ideas lose their sting. By emphasizing freedom, we can reclaim the moral high ground in the debate and leave the left as the only side that seeks to silence dissent or opposition. By rejecting fear, we can truly engage our neighbors and do what we do best -- embrace other human beings and share with them the love of Christ.


Amazing. A Christian conservative who believes that the marketplace of ideas is the best test of truth. How thoroughly unusual a concept that must be for the Left. One can well imagine them shutting down when forced to confront an idea that doesn't fit their narrow, neatly ordered view of the world, just like the computer on Star Trek when asked to compute Pi. Not that I expect the Left to be reading anything that might make them feel uncomfortable about their belief that they have the last word on truth.

Postscript: Another interesting site that "d'arc" might have wanted to sample before making her broad generalization that opposition to the Q'uran reading requirement was motivated by a "Republican" agenda to foster "anger and confusion" was Kyle Still Free Press, whose author is a real live UNC student who raises not unfamiliar First Amendment objections with the reading program. The same objections that are traditionally raised by the ACLU when the book being read is the one that favors the small and harshly criticized group called Christians. You know, I've been reading Mr. Still's blog on the UNC reading issue, and while I suspect Mr. Stil is a Republican - he seems far too well acquainted with the National Review - I haven't noticed the "anger and confusion" that allegedly is his motivation for opposing the Q'uran requirement.
Check out this recreation of Thomistic philosophy at Original Sin: A Disputation. The article contains this passage, which was written to support the view that Original Sin was not a coherent theological viewpoint:

It is generally believed that theological schools such as Jansenism and denominations such as Calvinism bring in their wake legions of members with withered emotional lives, censorious views of their less austere neighbors, and a bleak, nearly blasphemous, view of God’s love. At least that is the picture handed down to us from countless sources in the culture, from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter to more vulgar displays of the journalistic mind, such as H. L. Mencken’s scorn for the Tennessee literalists of his day or, more recently, the soap-opera treatment to which the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart was subjected a few years back.

And there must be something to this perception, at least if we are to take the testimony of certain people raised in the Calvinist tradition seriously. For example, Woodrow Wilson, a Presbyterian, suffered from a bleak and relentless depression stemming, according to his biographers, from the combination of his herculean efforts to spread democracy coupled with his firm belief that the vast majority of the human race was going to hell in any event. And Henry James, Sr., the father of the famous novelist Henry and his equally renowned philosopher brother William, suffered under a similar theology-induced depression until he had what he described as a "vastation" (clean sweep) and became a Swedenborgian.

To the extent this cultural perception is accurate, it must rest on what is the most illogical and contradictory aspect of the doctrine of original sin, at least as it is normally heard in the pew: that we are morally culpable for possessing instincts which we cannot help possessing. One is reminded in this context of Calvin’s weird, though logical, inference in his Institutes (II, i, 8) that "infants bring their own damnation with them from their mothers’ wombs; the moment they are born their natures are odious and abominable to God." To build a pedagogy on this premise is, needless to say, to invite disaster, as we learn in the poem "Holy Willie’s Prayer" by the Scotsman Robert Burns; one of the grimmest poems in the language, it depicts the vision of babies dropping right from their mothers’ wombs into hellfire.


Wow. Is that a fair depiction of Calvinism. I don't think it's written from an intentionally hostile position. But if it's historically inaccurate - like conventional depictions of the Reformation - let me know.
Another Good Reason to Celebrate the fact that Protestants run the Political Culture

Check out the purges and counterpurges presented at Radio Free HMS.
Another nifty reason for being Catholic.

Check out the spirit behind The Apostolate for Going Out to Dinner, then decide whether you want the theme of your life to be either (a) "where ever the Catholic sun does shine..." or (b) another night of Bible study parsing the dialectics of double predestination and the inherency of evil in man's fallen condition.

Postscript: Cool, I've finally found my vocation. The Apostolate For Going Out To Dinner - Fresno Chapter
Rich Galen writes on why the democrats aren't pounding the Sunday talk shows in favor of reversing Bush's tax cut and that that things may not be so dire for Republicans as Democrats like to think over atMullings: An American Cyber-column By Rich Galen
Great Moments in Parenting

This is a tough one. CNN.com has an article about a Mom who is charged with child abuse or endangerment for letting her kids get sunburned. Mark Shea views this as quintessential silliness on the part of the police. Here's an excerpt from the story:

Eve Hibbits was arrested a week ago on three counts of child endangerment, said Sheriff Fred Abdalla. She remained in jail Tuesday in lieu of $15,000 bail, and a preliminary hearing is set for Wednesday.
Abdalla said a deputy noticed her 2-year-old daughter and 10-month-old twin boys had severely sunburned faces at the Jefferson County Fair.
"She pushed her kids around the fairground all day last Tuesday, and it looked like those kids' faces were dipped in red paint," he said. "There was no sunscreen or nothing on these children."
The children had second-degree sunburns and were treated with cold compresses, said Trinity Medical Center West spokesman Keith Murdock.
Hibbits, 31, could face 15 years in jail if convicted of all three counts.


As a parent my usual reaction to cases like these is to wince. I can always think of ocassions when my parenting skills were not optimal. Could I forget to take a child out of the car seat on a hot summer day, or drive off with a baby's carrier on top of the car? Lord, I hope not. This case, though, strikes me as extreme - keeping children out in the sun until they are red and have second-degree burns suggests something more systemic than a momentary lack of attention. I know that the Widget, the Wadget and Boff get slathered with SPF 50+ sun tan lotion whenever we intend to spend a day in the sun, and I don't think that's purely a product of my Irish aversion to sunlight.
Apparently, the academics who believe that they are immune to threats against their life, liberty and property are not limited to Rush Limbaugh's imagination. Sand in the Gears details his conversation with social scientists who believe that the American military mission is to randomly inflict pain and suffering on uncomprehending populations and has nothing to do with their safety, and who don't feel particularly compelled to give something back to the rest of us who subsidize their lifestyle choice.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Global Warming File

Via Junk Science - photos showing glacier melting as proof of global warming are specious. According to News.telegraph.co.uk the melting glacier photos are a 'false alarm':
But Prof Ole Humlum, a leading glaciologist in Svalbard, 500 miles north of Norway, said yesterday: "That glacier had already disappeared in the early 1920s as a result of a perfectly natural rise in temperature that had nothing to do with man-made global warming."
3 Cheers for the Democrats

McKinney Ousted in Ga. Primary (washingtonpost.com)

Five-term Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who stunned even fellow Democrats by criticizing the Bush administration after Sept. 11, was ousted in Georgia’s primary Tuesday by a political unknown.


Remember you read it first at Lex Communis.
I know of at least one smart-aleck scientist who better hope his car never breaks down on Highway 99 between Bakersfield and Stockton

I don't know where Charles Murtaugh is from, but he's taken to writing posts like this one where he's been referring to the place I live as the "child porn belt." I know he's referring to Fresno because one of the child porn "suspects" lives in Clovis, which we in Fresno like to think of as a cowboy suburb of Fresno. [People in Clovis like to think of Fresno as that big city with glittering lights where the streets are paved with gold and opportunity abounds.] Nothing ticks me off more than when some big city know-it-all makes fun of my hometown. That's my job.

Here's what Mr. Murtaugh writes:

There's news today of an appalling child porn ring bust. What sets it apart from the "average" child porn ring is it was being perpetrated by the parents (mostly the fathers) of the exploited children. But did anyone else note this geographical twist: of the nine American men arrested in the case, seven are from counties that voted for Bush in the 2000 election. (The exceptions being West Palm Beach, FL, and Kansas City, KS.) While I'm at it, here's another recent story about a child pornographer from Bush country.

Shortly after the election, the Wall Street Journal's Pete Du Pont penned a risible column declaring that Al Gore carried "the porn belt," since his states correlated with areas of high adult video sales. The term has since been (characteristically) done to death by Best of the Web's James Taranto, in his "Dispatches from the Porn Belt." Maybe people in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks.


I like that. They go and arrest the only Democrat chiropractor in all of Clovis and it's suddenly George Bush's fault. Heck, I don't know if Lloyd Alan Emmerson is a Democrat, but I do know that the last place that someone accused with that crime wants to find himself tried is before a jury in Fresno county, where it's composed of Bush supporters who don't spend a lot of time wondering if they should be "non-judgmental" about "intergenerational intimacy" and polyamory and all the other things that folks in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City think are all the rage. I know Tarpey Elementary, where Mr. Emerson took photos, and I suspect that Mr. Emerson won't be walking that neighborhood ever again. I also know that when Mr. Emerson is convicted before a Fresno jury, he will do real time.

Mr. Murtaugh followed up that post with this one quoting from The Economist Lexington column:

But is the heartland really such an embodiment of self-reliance? Sadly, its true characteristics are not vigour and independence but economic decline and government handouts. The small communities that are supposed to embody the American spirit are, in fact, haemorrhaging jobs, people and wealth.


The worst poverty in America is probably not in the inner cities but in the countryside—in places like Mississippi, Arkansas and Kentucky. Six of the country's ten poorest counties can be found in the area stretching from Texas (where Mr Bush is so hard at work) to California's central valley.


Yes, surprise, California's Central Valley is one of the most impoverished areas in America. It also historically had one of the highest crime rates in America. [Number 2, after Little Rock, Arkansas, I used to proudly say when I was in law school.] The unemployment rate has always been in double digits. The Valley is entry point number one for the migrant workers who come to this country. In some ways, Fresno is the Ellis Island of the 21st Century. We also have a large Hmong population drawn here because of the agriculture that they are culturally proficient at. [Growing strawberries, surprisingly.] Not surprisingly this mix drives the net income down, and the migrant population drives the crime rate up.

Rural areas have always been more impoverished than cities. That's one reason why the great trend of the last three centuries has been migration toward urban areas and away from rural areas.

So, what does all this have to do the "child porn belt" dig? Not much. The Wall Street Journal's reference to the "Porn Belt" was obviously intended as ironic counterpoint to the appellation "Bible Belt," which is used for that other part of the country. The "Porn Belt" has resonance because it underscores the loose, flexible, post-modern attitudes found in certain groups that give a particular flavor to certain parts of the country. Heck, that part of the country prides itself on its "do your own thing" ethos. I could be mistaken but I think it's in the "Porn Belt" where certain folks work themselves into a lather about whether this law outlawing child porn, or that law prohibiting access to pornography in public libraries, involves censorship and violates the First Amendment.

Outside the "Porn Belt," on the other hand, no one gets real excited about the issue of whether criminalizing child porn constitutes censorship. We just think its immoral, and should be illegal, whether it involves your own child or someone else's. You big city types can rest assured that we here in the "child porn belt" will take care of Mr. Loyd Alan Emerson, who right now is probably wishing that he had set up his chiropractic practice in San Francisco or New York City.
Profound literary criticism over at the Brothers Judd Blog Comments on the Henry James post. I hadn't realized that James Joyce could elicit such a visceral reaction.
Closing arguments in Stayner trial

The Fresno Bee reports reports that closing arguments are scheduled today in Cary Stayner - murder in Yosemite - trial. I have been following this because I am acquainted with the father of one of the victims. Despite the unusual circumstances of the case, there does not seem to be a great deal of press interest in it. Maybe that's because no Kennedy is involved.
The joy of practicing before judges with lifetime tenure

How Appealing has an excerpt from a Posner decision illustrating why it's so important to mind one's p's and q's in Federal Court. In the decision, the attorneys are chided for not knowing the state of citizenship of a pension plan. You mean there's an answer?

Monday, August 19, 2002

Religion and the Law File

This article - Christianity Today Magazine - Is Male-Only Ordination Illegal? - reports on a woman who couldn't become a Catholic priest, but did become a lawyer. She is now suing for violation of her civil rights and challenging the Catholic Church's tax exempt status using the Supreme Court's decision in the Bob Jones case as precedent.

The first part is nonsense. Every civil rights statute I know includes an exemption for religious organizations. That only makes sense since religion is inherently discriminatory. I reckon the good folks at Covenant Community Church can lawfully exclude Monsigneur Hargenduguy from saying Mass - or preaching - in their church on the grounds that he is, well, a Catholic. If that exemption wasn't enough, the Supreme Court at the very least has fostered a robust doctrine of free association these days. The net result is that that part of the suit is frivolous, which is legally a very bad thing.

I'm not so sure about the second part of the lawsuit. In the Bob Jones decision the hidebound - and anti-Catholic - Christian university was denied tax exempt status because of its regressive views on race. Let's be clear on this, Bob Jone University is a pustule on the body politic of American society. But my feeling at the time was that it was a bad thing for the government to be in the business of picking and choosing what religious beliefs were entitled to tax exempt status. My feeling was also that if Bob Jones' members wanted to interpret the Bible in their fundamentalist way that way, that was their business, so long as they didn't hurt anyone else. No one was required to go to Bob Jones.

The Catholic Church's position on female ordination does run counter to politically correct social thought [which is one of its charms.] It's also, however, a religious decision. Nonetheless, it is not hard to imagine that a District Court judge, empowered by the Bob Jones decision and animus against religion or the Catholic Church, may not be willing to distinguish the small fundamentalist university from the large, ancient religious tradition.

This is creepy beyond words, and it doesn't involve walking "fish." The History of Michael Jackson's face
Template updates

I decided to rewrite my mission statement so as to more accurately reflect what I have been doing here. Also, one of the new links on blogroll is A Voyage To Arcturus who appears to be a reformed Libertarian with an interest in Astronomy [that's the science, not the silly thing they put in the newspapers] and science. He's got a nice discussion about "organ-legging," using Larry Niven as precedent.
Cut on the bias is reporting on an odd case where a district court judge who failed to reveal his ties to a defendant, and granted summary judgment against the plaintiff, was recused by the Court of Appeals. The case was a discrimination case. The plaintiff was white and the trial court judge as African-american. The trial court judge "naturally" wrote a decision accusing the Court of Appeals of racism. Beyond the way that the charge of racism was raised to deflect criticism of the trial court judge, there is the serious issue of personal bias on the part of a judge which deserves appropriate attention.
This just in: while Phil Donahue's ratings hit the cellar, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon hit the boards in Great Britain.

Via the Brothers Judd Blog - I guess Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon annoy this British theatre reviewer as much as they annoy me, and anyone else with an IQ above room temperature.
There's a rip snorting literary dust-up at the Brothers Judd Blog over the merits of Henry James. Check it out. [OJ also rates Joyce's Ulysses an "F." Eat flaming death, you academic pinko snobs. Everyone knows the greatest book of the Twentieth Century was written by Robert Heinlein.]

Sunday, August 18, 2002

Fun Moments in American History.

"Delaware, by contrast, flogged its last convict in 1952."

TNR Online offers an odd article supporting the proposition that a "more perfect Union" would only have 49 stars in the flag.

A counterpoint is provided by Sneaking Suspicions.

Saturday, August 17, 2002

Further evidence that the Catholic Church's involvement in other issues has undermined its teaching role

According to a Zogby poll on Catholic attitudes:

Although Catholics profess their faith openly during church services, this survey shows that an overwhelming majority agrees publicly with its basic tenets. For example, better than 90% overall believe God has the power to answer prayers; Mary is the mother of God; Jesus rose bodily from the dead; He is fully divine and fully human, and the Bible is the inspired word of God. Two-thirds (65%) agree the Bible is literally true in every respect.


65% believe the Bible is "literally true in every respect"?!? In other words a majority of Catholics take a fundamentalist position which the Church not only doesn't take but actively disagrees with. For example, Catechism Section 390 affirms that "the account of the Fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative laguage, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the begining of the history of man."

The Pontifical Biblical Commission in its report on The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church defines fundamentalism as follows:

Fundamentalist interpretation starts from the principle that the Bible, being the word of God, inspired and free from error, should be read and interpreted literally in all its details. But by "literal interpretation" it understands a naively literalist interpretation, one, that is to say, which excludes every effort at understanding the Bible that takes account of its historical origins and development. It is opposed, therefore, to the use of the historical-critical method, as indeed to the use of any other scientific method for the interpretation of Scripture.


This approach is criticized - ironically enough for those who pride themselves on their exercise of personal judgment against tradition - because of its rigidity which discourages examination of God's creation:

Fundamentalism is right to insist on the divine inspiration of the Bible, the inerrancy of the word of God and other biblical truths included in its five fundamental points. But its way of presenting these truths is rooted in an ideology which is not biblical, whatever the proponents of this approach might say. For it demands an unshakable adherence to rigid doctrinal points of view and imposes, as the only source of teaching for Christian life and salvation, a reading of the Bible which rejects all questioning and any kind of critical research.

The basic problem with fundamentalist interpretation of this kind is that, refusing to take into account the historical character of biblical revelation, it makes itself incapable of accepting the full truth of the incarnation itself. As regards relationships with God, fundamentalism seeks to escape any closeness of the divine and the human. It refuses to admit that the inspired word of God has been expressed in human language and that this word has been expressed, under divine inspiration, by human authors possessed of limited capacities and resources. For this reason, it tends to treat the biblical text as if it had been dictated word for word by the Spirit. It fails to recognize that the word of God has been formulated in language and expression conditioned by various periods. It pays no attention to the literary forms and to the human ways of thinking to be found in the biblical texts, many of which are the result of a process extending over long periods of time and bearing the mark of very diverse historical situations.


This rigidity of thought can be seen in a variety of areas:

Fundamentalism likewise tends to adopt very narrow points of view. It accepts the literal reality of an ancient, out-of-date cosmology simply because it is found expressed in the Bible; this blocks any dialogue with a broader way of seeing the relationship between culture and faith. Its relying upon a non-critical reading of certain texts of the Bible serves to reinforce political ideas and social attitudes that are marked by prejudices—racism, for example—quite contrary to the Christian Gospel.


Get that part about an out-of-date cosmology? Just last week Catholic apologist Sungenis was advocating an "earth-centered" cosmology because of his literal interpretation of the Bible. That literal reading is not "Catholic" and the fact that is depicted as Catholic undermines the mission of the Church in a secular world.

This literal approach is in fact dangerous to believers of literalism according to the Pontifical Biblical Commission:

The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life. It can deceive these people, offering them interpretations that are pious but illusory, instead of telling them that the Bible does not necessarily contain an immediate answer to each and every problem. Without saying as much in so many words, fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide. It injects into life a false certitude, for it unwittingly confuses the divine substance of the biblical message with what are in fact its human limitations.


Yet, apparently a majority of American Catholics subscribe to some form of literalism, probably under the misguided notion that their faith requires it. And that's really unfortunate. Paradoxically, Catholicism gives its adherents a greater room for the free exercise of judgment. Although the typical fundamentalist may believe that they are giving deference to their conscience and judgment at the expense of tradition, I have never seen much free thinking in literalism. A philosophy that requires its adherents to believe that a text written in a different context for a different purpose is to be held literally true today, notwithstanding advances in empirical knowledge or moral judgment, has never struck me as encouraging the exercise of judgment and conscience at the expense of tradition. Hopefully, and we should pray, the Church will pay more attention to its obligation to educate the faithful.
You know I'm finding myself living vicariously through unbillable hours social life. I can't figure out why. Gotta run, it's time to take the Widget and the Wadget to story time at Barnes and Nobles.
More Creepy Science News

Fish that can walk on land for several days:

The predatory fish, which can slither across land for several days in search of food, was described as "something from a bad horror movie" by Interior Secretary Gale Norton when she announced the government's plans to ban imports and trade of snakeheads.


As Dan Akroyd said in Ghostbusters, "they're ugly goobers." Fish that can walk on land?? Don't we stop calling them "fish" when they can do that? Frankly, this is disturbing, and the FBI should get around to arresting them for violating Natural Law.

More information from the article:

The snakeheads appear to have no friends.

Even the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said it favors killing the snakeheads, though it prefers a more humane method instead of the state's broad poison plan.

The freshwater fish, which can grow up to three feet long (one meter), has an ugly wide mouth and heavy scales, making it look like a snake's head and allowing it swallow prey as large as it is.


You have to be a truly loathsome critter, if even PETA won't protest your eradication. And what about PETA? Oh, sure, they talk a good game when it comes to some big-eyed, cute, fur-bearing mammal, but let it be a loathsome, unnatural, land-walking "fish" and all of those animal-loving, paint-throwing, sign-waiving, wife-swapping, commie-loving radicals go AWOL.
Forget Global Warming, we need to solve this problem

Near-Earth Asteroid Streaks Through Night Sky (washingtonpost.com)

An asteroid will pass close enough to Earth to be viewed with binoculars tonight, but astronomers said there is no immediate danger that the half-mile-wide space rock will strike the planet.
Known as 2002 NY40, the asteroid was discovered July 14. Astronomers said yesterday that it will zip by about 350,000 miles from Earth.
It is expected to be faintly visible by binoculars or by telescope after sunset to about 3 a.m. EDT Sunday as it appears to pass near the star Vega and clip through the constellation Hercules.
GOP Sees Best Shot in Years To Break Democratic Stranglehold

Hawaii is apparently one of those tropical island paradises ruled over by a one-party oligarchy. This year, though, the Republicans have a shot at breaking the stranglehold on real democracy. Hawaii is close to celebrating its 43 year of statehood; Hawaii entered the Union on August 21, 1959, and since that time four out of five Governors have been Democrats. All of this is really a circuitous way for the staff of Lex Communis to announce that the senior editor will be celebrating his 43rd Birthday on August 18 - having entered the Union at Tripler Army Hospital on Oahu in the Territory of Hawaii, three days before Hawaiian statehood, as one of those rare red-headed Kamaainas. Happy Birthday Hawaii - maybe I'll make it back when you turn 50.
Cardinal Law Deposition - Day 2 - June 7, 2002
Cardinal Law Deposition - Day One

Friday, August 16, 2002

Gary Wills - A defense

Via Kevin Holtsberry at Addicted to Books: August 2002 Archives comes a review of Gary Wills most recent book. The review underscores for me the reason why I have never been very interested in the subject of the Reformation. As I like to put it, “nothing good ever happened between 1517 and 1648, except the Defenestration of Prague."

History is written by the winners. The winners of the Reformation were the Protestants. Consequently, the popular view of the history of the Reformation period tends to consist of a litany of Catholic excesses and mistakes. Most Protestants know this history by heart. Most Catholics - myself included - don’t.

The net result is that an image of Catholicism is formed which is inherently biased negatively. The response that the events occurred and are true, doesn’t really answer the bias question. Accentuating and repeating a few negative events can create the impression of an institution that cant’ be trusted. For example, if I were in charge of controlling the memes that depict the Reformation I’m sure the list would include - (a) the Anabaptist Kingdom of Munster (what’s that?); (b) Menno Simon’s unfortunate endorsement of shunning; (c) Martin Luther’s situational endorsement of bigamy for one of his important supporters, Phillip of Hesse; (d) Henry VIII penchant for mass murder of his Catholic subjects; (e) the attitude of the average peasant that the Protestants engaged in thought control; (f) the recurrence of the attitude that there is no sin among Christians that afflicted various Protestant traditions; (g) the mutual “excommunication” of Calvinists by Lutherans and vice a versa; (h) the ready cooperation of those groups in the extermination of the Anabaptists; (i) the psychological injury inflicted upon a people who were forcibly deprived of their relationship with the sacraments; and (j) the splintering of a coherent tradition into a kaliedescope of mutually incomprehensible enthusiasms.

If one focused on that tradition of Protestantism, would it be fair? Would it create a sense that Protestantism could be trusted as an idea or an institution? Probably not.

The review by James Woods contains the the following observation:

What else explains the extraordinary statement -- after his survey of the history of the popes! -- that "even in the darkest hours of the papacy, there is more life and light within the church than in the groups that split off from it." More light and life within Boniface's church than within John Wesley's? More light and life within Pius XII's church than within Dietrich Bonhoeffer's? This is the sheerest Catholic solipsism, and a deeply dismaying confession from a writer who seemed beyond such superstitions. But then the first page of this book announces, about the church, that "I would lose my faith in God before losing my faith in it." It is an incredible and perhaps unwitting admission. A faith in the church without a faith in God: if that is all that Wills is finally defending, then why his intellectual labor?
(emphasis added)

One of the things that criticism ought to do is to try to judge the author’s work from the standpoint of what the author is attempting. Wills says that his primary source for belief is the historical authority; the reviewer finds this incredible. But why? In fact, unless you have been blessed by noetic contact with the Truth, all you have to rely on is the authority of other people. The Bible is not self-authenticating. It is authenticated by the credibility of people. I trust the history of the Church - certainly it comes off no worse than the alternative and has the virtue of being able to trace itself back to Christ - and I trust an institution that can produce heroic individuals like the man who faced down two killing ideologies in his lifetime.

Also playing to the crowds is this excerpt on the Papacy

Wills's last appeal is to the shade of Evelyn Waugh. He quotes Waugh's response to those who asked him why he was so mean and uncharitable if he was really a Christian: "Just think how much worse I would be if I were not a Christian." Wills continues: "In the same way, as bad as the papacy has been all through its history, just think how much worse things would have been without it." Yes, think about it. How bad, really, would things have been without the papacy?


Wills doesn’t like the Papacy, except insofar as it represents a source of unity. Typical of the wobbling New Left, Wills ignores the fact that unity doesn’t just happen because every one is so gosh-darn cool. It happens because someone deploys authority to preserve unity. Lincoln comes to mind in this context.

But is Wills obviously wrong about the positive legacy of the Papacy? The reviewer knows the answer; he has already listed all of the awful, anti-semitic, tyrannical and foolish things he can think of. On the other hand, would there have been Jewish community in Europe without the intervention of the Papacy? On numerous occasions, a good many Popes condemned the murder and genocide of Jews in Europe. Did that have any positive effect? Maybe. If you looked around Europe in 1900, although you could find a Jewish population, you would find surprisingly few Saxon tree worshipers or Lithuanian Pagans. They had all been culturally and physically exterminated. Anti-semitism was endemic and awful, but before anybody writes to take me to task, first explain why the Jews didn’t go the way of the Saxon tree-worshipers, whom Charlemagne had virtually no compunctions about forcibly converting.

You know, it’s pretty amazing when I am induced to defend Gary Wills.
Feel Good Friday

According to the Media Research Center CyberAlert -- 08/16/2002 Donahue’s ratings have “spiraled down” since his mid-July debut, the New York Daily News reported on Wednesday. MRC explains:

Donahue’s strategy of having his show feature leftists doesn’t seem to be hauling in the viewers. Wednesday night’s show showcased Donahue’s old TV partner, former Soviet propagandist Vladimir Pozner, and on Tuesday night viewers were treated to multiple segments with Michael Moore. That same night, Thursday’s Washington Times reported, Donahue brought aboard the author of a book which “promotes the idea that the Bush administration protected its 'big oil’ interests at all cost, maintaining secret diplomatic links with both Saudi Arabia and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which ultimately caused the September 11 attacks.”


From the "marriage doesn't civilize men, women civilize men" file

David Morrison at Sed Contra, who probably speaks with some credibility on this issue, has this observation:

This last is something I have noticed myself. There has long been a tendency in some conservative Christian circles to posit that the promiscuity which has long been associated with a least a very public portion of self-identified gay male life is somehow inherently a part of homosexuality. Which actually I don't think is true.

I think for better or worse, mostly worse, American culture has taught boys and young men that their primary sexual goal is one of conquest. How many women can a man get to sleep with him, how many times, etc. I think this teaching and socialization is taught to men generally, and does not break down along temptation lines. Where self-identified gay male promiscuity does occur, it happens in part because there is no party to the encounter who is socialized to say no. Essentially, I guess a man could walk up to 100 women in a bar situation and say wanta ---- (which I have actually seen and heard in gay bar situations) and maybe only 3 in that 100, if that many, would take him up on it. (Yes, it could be higher but still not too much higher). By contrast a greater percentage of guys, who will be to a great extent a similar socialization about the matter, will likely have a different response.


I take it that Morrisons's point is that the promiscuity of male homosexuals arises more from the fact that male homosexuals are male than that they are homosexual. [Although the next paragraph in his post might suggest otherwise.] My intuitive feeling is that Morrison is generally right about the male/female difference in attitude toward promiscuity. I suspect that all societies have been more encouraging of male sexual activity compared to that of females. Certainly, there must be a sociobiological component to this difference in attitude, although apparently the sociobiological component can be overstated. There are also security and safety issues that create a different attitude to the behavior Morrison describes. [By the way, I think he is way too "optimistic" in his hypothetical, and if he has in fact seen such behavior in gay bars, then that would itself be a strong indication of male homosexual promiscuity.] I suspect that there are still different attitudes toward promiscuity even in this era of "hooking up."

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Feel Good Thursday

Thursday is my Rotary meeting day. Today we had a past District Governor make the pitch for Rotarians to increase membership. One of the sad facts of the modern world is that community service and fraternal organizations are in decline; Rotary less so than other organizations, but, nonetheless, it too has recently entered a period of declining membership. The image of Rotary is stodgy businessmen going to stodgy meetings. The idea of Rotary seems to conjure images of George Babbit and mindless "boosterism." But consider the fact that the boring and humdrum business people who make up the numerous Rotary clubs throughout the world have done more to improve the condition of more human beings than any other single institution in history. And Rotary has accomplished its goal privately, something that the Libertarian elements of Blogville should find interesting.

Consider the record on polio:

BBC News | HEALTH | Polio eradication draws closer

A worldwide drive launched in 1988 to wipe out the crippling virus polio has reduced the number of cases by 99%. Last year there were 3,500 reported polio cases, compared to 350,000 cases in the year the initiative started. Even in the past year the number of cases has been halved from more than 7,000.


Rotary - an entirely voluntary, private, non-Governmental association of business people - plans on eradicating polio by 2005

In 1985, Rotary International launched PolioPlus, a 20-year commitment to eradicate polio. PolioPlus is one of the most ambitious humanitarian undertakings ever made by a private entity. It will serve as a paradigm for private-public collaborations in the fight against disease well into the 21st century.
As the polio-eradication program grew, so did Rotary's commitment and involvement. By 1990, Rotary moved from providing polio vaccine to children in developing countries to assisting health care workers in the field, providing training for laboratory personnel to track the polio virus and working with governments around the world in supporting the historic health drive. Rotary looks to celebrate the global eradication of polio in 2005, the organization's centennial year.


The raw data on Rotary's success translates into a reduction of human misery

In 1988, 10 percent of the world's children lived in polio-free countries; as of 1 July 2001, more than 70 percent are living in polio-free countries. The number of cases of polio has declined by 99 percent since 1988


The voluntary actions of people committed to the idea of service is power.

So far, Rotary has raised nearly $500 million to vaccinate the world's 2 billion children, some of whom were immunized by 1 million Rotary volunteers. And Rotary has now launched a second fundraising drive, hoping to raise $80 million of an estimated $275 million now needed to drive the vanishing poliovirus to extinction, according to World Bank estimates. Rotary's Polio Eradication Advocacy Task Force will ask the governments of wealthy nations to make up the difference.
Victory is drawing closer. Last year, doctors worldwide reported only 480 polio cases, down from 350,000 in 1988. Polio now circulates in just 10 countries: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Niger, Somalia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan and Angola.


By the way, the Past District Governor noted that one of the fortunate side-effects of the War on Terror was that Rotary was able to reach and immunize the children of Afghanistan, which the Taliban had previously forbidden. Although not itself a justification for going to war, when the ledger sheet of civilian deaths is tallied, the fact that some children will not contract this horrible disease should certainly go on the positive side of the ledger.

So, if it seems like nothing is going right in the world, think again. Consider also the power that is produced by multiplying a small amount of voluntary individual service through an organization like Rotary.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Yosemite Murder Trial Update

Although the murderer of the Yosemite tourists, Cary Stayner, had various brain anomalies which affected his ability to control his impulses and empathize with the sadness in other people, he in fact had an above-average intelligence. The first part of that sentence sounds like a description of a lot of people walking around in society and who are criminally responsible.
Did you just say "oops;" NIED Law Development

The California Supreme Court has pushed back the "bright line" in Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress" [NIED] cases according to The Nando Times.

NIED was a trendy tort concept fostered and fueled during the 1970's, which California courts have been systematically pruning back ever since. Under NIED, a person who was not physically injured by the defendant's injury is entitled to revover for his own emotional distress where he was either "in the zone of danger" or was "witnessed" the accident. The classic case would be a mother who watches while her toddler is hit by a drunk driver.

Almost immediately upon recognizing the right of certain plaintiffs to recover damages for pure emotional distress, the California courts realized that they had opened Pandora's box. For example, since all of "witnessed" the events of September 11, does that mean everyone would have a claim against some hypothetical defendant? The courts began to create bright line rules that only "close family members" and persons who had actually witnessed the event could sue for NIED. This, of course, only created the need for more clarification. Do "close family members" include boyfriends, fiances, estranged husbands, third cousins, etc.?

The second limitation - witnessing the event - likewise creates the kind of hairsplitting one would expect in a room of drunken Jesuits. This is the Nando description of the facts of the latest case:

Their [the daughters] growing alarm was fueled by calls over the hospital loudspeaker for a thoracic surgeon to respond immediately; the sight of a doctor hurrying by carrying an armload of blood units; and ultimately the sight of their beloved mother, her blue coloring indicating a lack of oxygen, being wheeled down the hallway into an emergency surgery situation.


Me, I'm thinking that would be an emotionally distressing event, which a reasonable person would expect to be a foreseeable outgrowth of medical negligence. It seems, and I haven't read the decision yet, that the Supreme Court applied the "bright line" rule which it employs in NIED cases, and held that since the daughters hadn't witnessed the medical negligence - the doctor's nicking of mom's artery - the daughters did not have a close enough proximity to the negligence to qualify as NIED plaintiffs.

So, although this decision might be depicted as a decision against "frivolous" suits, or a vindication of caring physicians, in fact it is simply a working out of poliicies previously articulated in prior decisions. It also probably means that there will usually be no NIED claims in cases involving medical malpractice because possible plaintiffs are usually in no position to view the actual act of medical malpractice. [The only exception to this that I can think of is childbirth.]
Does this mean that gender discrimination is now OK?

According to this note from the Washington Post

Female primary care doctors spend more time with their patients than male doctors and engage in more patient-oriented, emotion-focused talk during office visits, a study found.
The results suggest that gender differences in conversational styles also occur in the medical arena, researchers wrote in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

Just in case anyone forgets that crop circles were a hoax that was debunked over a decade ago - like Milli Vanilli or Al Gore's credibility - read this article.
Alternate History as a political tool

Brothers Judd Blog links to a History News Network post that draws parallels between a film made in 1933 by William Randolph Hearst which favored a fascist takeover of America an George W. Bush's foriegn policy. Things must be getting desperate when Bush's critics are blaming him for things that never happened.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

More on Faith as human action, this time with footnotes

Appropos the question of whether faith is a mental work and the apparently intuitive understanding of the Catholics who recognize faith as an action, the Glossary to the Catechism defines faith as "both a gift of God and a human act by which the believer gives personal adherence to God who invites his response, and freely assents to the whole truth that God has revealed...Faith is both a theological virtue given by God as grace, and an obligation which flows from the first commandment of God." That seems pretty dead on with what the responses I received when I put the same question to Catholics. Likewise, Section 26 of the Catechism reads:

Faith is man's response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the sme time bringing man a superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life."


Section 1814 reads:

Faith is the theological virtue by which we beleive in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith "man freely commits his entire self to God." For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will." The righteous shall live by faith." Living faith "work[s] through charity."


"In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace..." Catechism Section 155.

Fascinating, actually, how this idea that "faith" involves human action is intuitively understood by Catholics who, such as me, have never had any formal religious education.

Equally fascinating is the attitude of Protestants who do adhere to a hermetically sealed view of faith and works. That approach strikes me as odd inasmuch as the source of the idea is apparently to avoid "works righteousness" [which seems to be a very bad thing] and yet "faith" in the "faith alone" economy of salvation has all the earmarks of "works righteousness" - "faith" is in fact something you do which then "entitles" you to Heaven. I understand that is theologically wrong on all kinds of nuanced grounds, but when I have heard a large number of "faith alone" types talk about a personal saving faith that's in fact what they are saying. My late Father-in-Law, for example, was that kind of a believer. His purported last words were that "he loved Jesus more than anything else," which was apparently true since he couldn't be bothered to see his baby granddaughter or to walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day since one never knew when the Lord would call one to one's reward. The sad part, of course, in my mind, was that he never understood that "faith" was only one of the theological virtues, the other two being "hope" and "charity" [Catechism Section 1817 - 1827], something which gets unfortunately lost, I believe, in a "faith alone" philosophy.
A moving meditation on the subject of evil and sacrifice in the context of Flight 93
Ben Domenech Online has a beautifully crafted essay growing out of his visit to Shanksville, PA. Here's an excerpt:

Sacrifice has often proved to be evil's undoing. I have always thought that evil has no context for the concept of sacrifice; it was not Christ’s existence, but His sacrificial acts that puzzled Lucifer to no end. There is something about evil that abhors sacrifice in all its forms -- for loved ones, for friends, for strangers. Perhaps George MacDonald had it right when he wrote that Hell has but one principle: “I am my own.”


Read the rest.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Rich Galen at Mullings takes the opportunity provided by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's cheesy swipe at the fact that the President is taking an August vacation to refresh everyone's recollection what was happening during her husband's August vacation way back in 1988.
Chris Burgwald at Veritas asks "Is Christian Faith a mental work?"

I became interested in this topic several months ago. I noticed an interesting dichotomy between Catholics and Protestants on this subject. Protestants to whom I put the question, such as my Mennonite partner and others, would view "faith" and "works" as hermetically sealed categories. Catholics, on the other hand, would acknowledge that faith was a kind of choice or act of will, and therefore would view "faith" as involving "work."

The source of the Catholic view obviously has its root in the historic and contemporary distinction between "living faith" and "dead faith." A faith without works is a "dead faith" which is tantamount to no faith. Catholics are therefore more inclined to see faith as involving a choice or a commitment and therefore a kind of "work."

Saturday, August 10, 2002

Amazing

Meryl Yourish offers this nuanced and principled philosophical exegesis on the the subject of imposing morality and the "right to choose:"

I agree that it sucks that a man has no legal choice in the matter, but must pay child support if he is the father. But here's the thing that always gets ignored in this argument: If the man had kept it in his pants in the first place, there'd be no baby to pay child support for. That wasn't an immaculate conception. And the rules are: You play, you pay.
If men don't want to have to face that problem, then it is incumbent on them to be sure to use reliable birth control.


Get that? The man's "choice" must be made before "he plays." If he had "kept his pants on," there would have been no trouble. The woman was apparently in the other room doing her tax returns, and must have been very surprised when she realized that she had become pregnant through telekinesis. Seriously, it appears that pro-abortion advocates do not believe that a woman makes a "choice" before she "plays." Instead, she gets the "right to choose" after she plays because - per the Supreme Court's decision in Casey - "choice" is the unifying principle that underlies humanity's existential quest for meaning. Correlatively, of course, in Roe v. Wade the "right to choose" had its genesis in considerations of avoiding the the stigmatizing effect of unmarried pregnancy and the restriction of a woman's life choices that necessarily flow from having a child.

Not that a mere man has any interest in an existential quests for meaning, or in avoiding social stigma and the dramatic change in life choices that becoming a father can cause. After all, "he didn't keep his pants on." "He played" and "he must pay"

So, for the man, the decision to have sex is a moral decision, which may be used to justify the subsequent restrictions of his options. On the other hand, for a woman, the decision to have sex is apparently not a moral decision, and her decision can never justify a restriction to her choices in life. Does anyone else see a double-standard here?

Let's face it, a man's obligation to pay child support is based on pragmatism The State and society are not going to underwrite the support of children when there is an able bodied parent around to pay. If that policy causes men to make informed decisions about sexual conduct, so much the better. But if "pro-choice" advocates actually believed in the principles that are set out in Casey and Roe, and which they chatechistically recite when convenient, they should support the idea of allowing the father to change his mind after he "played," just like the mother, and to "opt out" of fatherhood and child support. Otherwise, they should admit either (a) they are hypocrites or (b) they are in favor of "imposing morality" in the area of sex and reproduction, just like the anti-abortion advocates, only they prefer the imposition of a different morality.

Finally, after reading this nuanced solution to the question of double-standards, I think that someone could be tempted to say that they pragmatically believe that a mother should not be permitted to kill her unborn child - after all "she was playing around" and "she should pay" and "if she had kept her pants on, then there would have been no problem." But saying that would be insensitive and wrong since it would be imposing morality, which is just about the worst thing one can do in liberal America.

Postscript In contrast, Andrea Harris at Spleenville World Domination Headquarters has a post where she takes a thoughtful stab at applying the principles underlying Roe v. Wade to the possibility that men and women in this area are equal and responsible moral agents. Although her discussion is tentative, she accurately intuits that she runs the risk of igniting a "flame-war." She is not entirely dissappointed in this intuition since at least one commenter boils her argument down to "everybody should mind their own business" as if the man had no interest in either (a) his putative fatherhood and/or (b) his future as a source of child support payments and the State had no interest in either issue, which it does, as can be attested by anyone who has spent a morning in divorce court. The fact is that just as the man makes a moral decision by engaging in sexual activity, and in doing so, invites the State into his bedroom, so does the woman. As for Ms. Harris, kudos on attempting principled analysis in public, and you're one blog closer to your goal of World Domination.
Ono has posted a response - actually earlier this week - to my prior posts on slavery reparations over at Ono's thoughts. The burden of his argument is that "emotion" - or to put it more precisely "intuitive understanding" - is sufficient in this area and superior to (presumably, self-serving) structured arguments. While it might seem easy to dismiss a position that appeals to "intuition" out of hand, there is in fact an interesting discussion concering this concept in the light of an article I just read in Communio. I will present that discussion in another post.

On the other hand, the burden of my argument was to present an understanding of history that took into account the relevant historical experience as the participants understood it. Ono challenges my account - or narrative, if you would - of American history. Ono writes:

Another thing that Mr. Bradley mentions that bothers me is how he carefully parses U.S. history into different eras and argues against presenting the U.S. as one continuous entity. (Why then do we celebrate the Fourth?) I find that argument to be without credibilty. It, however, moves the discussion into the issue of statehood and what and who is the state? And it raises issues regarding the relationship of the states with the Federal government. I am not prepared to deal with these questions. I can speak of the notion of state in Catholic theology but I have no similar competence in U.S. political history. I think Mr Bradley's divisions are a convenient way to absolve the U.S. of any responsibility, which issue was the point of my Nazi example in my first post.


The point, though, of my description of the actual changes in American governance that resulted from the Civil War was to emphasize the importance of the Civil War. It's interesting that in each of my posts, I discuss the significance of the Civil War as a penance for the great sin of slavery. I discuss the human and material cost of the Civil War. I point out how Lincoln conceived of the Civil War in religious terms.

On the other hand, nowhere does Ono mention the Civil War; it apparently drops out of the mental map of the slavery reparation advocates. There are probably convenient reasons for that, but it is my intuition that that ignoring the Civil War is unjust. The Civil War was important, it was about slavery, and pace the Civil War Amendments, it transformed the American system of government. The tremendous cost of the Civil War is discussed in this article, which argues that the cost of the Civil War in an accounting sense would more than constitute "forty acres and a mule." [By the way, that policy probably should have been implemented. But, I wonder, what would the shape of subsequent history have been like if the Radical Republicans had been really succesful in adopting a punitive Reconstruction policy, complete with confiscations and mass executions?]

Ono also argues that the Greek tradition of slavery was infinitely more humane than that practiced in the Southern States. I am not entirely sure why this is important in the slavery reparations debate. I think it may be because of my argument that slavery was more or less normal before Western Civilization took a radically different direction, which would seem to credit Western Civilization with a wisdom, courage and progressive attitude that would undermine the Manichian view that informs the reparations debate. My historical point remains more or less the same. I am not certain if Ono's description of Greek slavery was normal anywhere in the Greek world, but I am absolutely sure that his description is not true of Sparta and its Helots, who were enslaved in a system far more severe than that known to the ante-bellum South because of their "race." Also, my understanding is that the early Church's earliest and most significant interaction with slavery would have been with Roman slavery. I somehow don't think that all of the historic slave revolts occurred because Roman slaves were merely dissatisfied with waiting until they were thirty before receiving manumission. Further my understanding from reading Orlando Patterson is that all systems of slavery had the humiliation and social death of the slave as a common feature.

Let me emphasize, no thinking person can be anything but repulsed by every form of slavery. Through its message that all men are moral beings created in God's image, Christianity had in it the capacity to end slavery. In fact, it eventually did. But the issue of what I owe today because of something no one in my family was ever involved with is a completely different moral and legal question.
 
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