Friday, January 31, 2003 - Daily Dish has his comments on a judge's comments regarding protests concerning Catholic religious practices. I have tried more cases concerning the interplay between law and religion than Sullivan. I will return to this subject later this week with case authority and show why Sullivan is wrong.
Mystique et Politique has a post concerning a Canadian Bishop's decision to allow an Episcopalian pro-abortion politician to take communion. Mark Cameron's comments are correct. Catholicism is not a social club. It is not a public accommodation. The Eucharist is the core of Catholicism and Canon is relatively clear that Catholics may not partake of other faiths communions, and vice versa. This is not a question of being nice or open-minded; it is a question of core belief.
William Sulik has apparently started dealing with last Sunday.
Mark Shea has a post on the Massachusetts judge who convicted gay protestors of trespass, but refused to sentence them and apologized on behalf of the Catholic church for its purportedly narrow-minded attitude on homosexuality. This judicial conduct is entirely unjustifiable as a matter of law. I intend to post some commentary with case support after we get past the Columbia disaster. The Columbia disaster is tragically significant, but the idea that judges can extend or remove legal protections from citizens based on religious convictions may be even more significant over the long run.
Maybe so, but the Ag Students are going to kick their butts

Instapundit links to Erin O'Connor's post reporting that "in February, Fresno State will be hosting a conference entitled "Revolutionary Environmentalism: A Dialogue Between Activists and Academics." Her link to the AmericanProwler reports:

" A conference brochure laments that "tree spiking and animal rescues have received little public attention." Therefore, "faculty members at California State University-Fresno invite environmental and animal rights activists, and scholars to participate in a conference on the practical, political and spiritual aspects of 'revolutionary environmentalism.'" Roundtable discussions will cover such topics as: "The Ethics of Sabotage" and "Is Environmentalism a Spirituality?"

At times like this I despair. For two reasons. First, it proves once again my basic proposition that the only time Fresno gets national attention is when the news involves a murder or something embarrasing.

Second, have we lost the cultural wars? A pro-eco-terrorism symposium in Fresno? New York? Certainly. Berkeley? Without a doubt. But Fresno is part of "Red State" America. On the other hand, I remember a story that my father related from the time he attended Fresno State during the 60's after retiring from the Navy. During one anti-war demonstration, the protestors decided to occupy various parts of the campus. Things went well until they got to the Industrial Tech and Ag buildings and were met with a ring of IT and Ag students standing in a circle around their buildings with their arms folded and a determined expression that communicated their belief that they were not going to allow a bunch of wussy Liberal Arts students to screw with their stuff.

This could be an interesting symposium, if the Ag students get news of this.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Material Breaches, Proving a Negative and the Law of False Exculpatory Statements

To me, it seems like there is this weird disconnect on the inspections in Iraq. We hear Hans Blix castigating Iraq for not cooperating, then we hear that there is no "smoking gun." Lost in the shuffle is why Iraq has the burden of proving a negative. Since this was unclear to me I am linking to a portion of Talking Points Memo interview of the Brookings Institute's Senior Fellow Ken Pollack who comments:

And you put it to him exactly the way the president did last night. 'Saddam Hussein, you have admitted that you manufactured VX. We also have receipts that show that you purchased the following chemicals which have very limited uses, one of which is making VX. Where are those chemicals?'
The UN resolutions required that [he] account for those chemicals and for twelve years Saddam has just been looking us in the eye and saying 'I don't know what you're talking about. I refuse to answer the question.' Imagine what that would look like if this were Law and Order and if this were Jack McCoy asking that question again and again. And after each presentation of the evidence and question to Saddam, 'What have you done with those materials.' And the Iraqi response is 'We're not answering that question.' That's a pretty damning indictment.

On the issue of "proving a negative," Bush has constantly reiterated that we know that Saddam is a liar, as if that fact proved the further point that Saddam possesses Weapons of Mass Destruction. Bush's syllogism has generally been ignored, except when opponents of Iraqi intervention point out that Saddam's credibility does not prove the existence of WMDs. In point of fact, however, as a matter of law, it does.

One of my favorite cases is Donchin v. Guerrero 34 Cal.App.4th 1832, 1839-1840, 41 Cal.Rptr.2d 192,197 (Cal.App. 2 Dist.,1995), which deals with the infinitely fascinating issue of a landlord's liability for injuries caused by vicious dogs on their property. In California, a landlord can be held liable for personal injuries caused by vicious dogs if the landlord knows that the dog owned by his tenant is vicious. (I'm fairly sure that this precis of the law is correct; dog bites are really Penner's area, and surprisingly lucrative.) In Donchin, the Landlord denied that he knew that the Tenant had a dog, which statement appeared patently false. The significance of this was summarized by the Court in the following passage:

There is more than one way to prove the existence of a fact, and thus more than one way to create a triable issue about the existence of that fact. One way is to introduce affirmative evidence tending to show the fact exists--the testimony of someone who observed it or who observed something from which the existence of the fact may be inferred. Another way, however, is to introduce evidence tending to show an opponent's denial of the existence of the fact is to be disbelieved, that is, evidence challenging the credibility of his denial. For, as a matter of common sense as well as formal logic, to disbelieve the denial of the existence of a fact is to believe in the existence of that fact. (For example, a defendant's alibi defense denying he was at the scene of the crime but rather was somewhere else is proven false. The jury thus disbelieves his denial and instead believes he was at the scene.)

In Donchin, a jury could reasonably conclude that its disbelief of the Landlord's denial that he knew that his tenant had a dog entitled it to believe that (a) the Landlord knew that the Tenant had a dog and (b) the Landlord knew that the dog was vicious.

I have always wondered if this reasoning was philosophically sound, but it does seem pragmatically justified.

So, with respect to the issue of Saddam denial of the possession of WMDs, disbelieving Saddam's denials would in a court of law allow a fact finder to conclude that Saddam has the WMD's he is falsely denying.

Advantage: Bush, whose "simplistic" statements, once again, reveal hidden depths.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

From the bulging Self Indulgent Celebrity file

cut on the bias has a wonderful deconstruction of Janeane Garafolo's latest whine that Hollywood celebrites are treated as whining children whose attachment to a cause instantly trivializes the cause.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

SOTU Address

I missed the State of the Union, but fortunately the inimitable Patrick Ruffini live-blogged the speech. .

I also watched that new "super" Monday line-up, which includes a show called "Miracles." I couldn't figure out what the heck was going, but I was going to chalk it up to the fact that I was also outlining deposition testimony. Well, extreme Catholic says it had plot problems and The Mighty Barrister finds a not well hidden anti-Catholic bias in the main character's Monsigneur supervisor's refusal to acknowledge the bona fide miracle which was the heart of the show. I guess it's just one of those things the Church can never get right. If the Church isn't ignorantly accepting miracles, it's cruelly suppressing the truth.
Trials and Tribulations

Thanks for stopping by. Posting will be light since Penner and I are in trial on a "fixture conversion" case.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Speaking of Sensitivity

I hadn't realized that our Catholic Governor had signed a proclamation commemorating January 22, 2003 as Roe v. Wade Anniversary Day for all Californians. Not that anyone would object or have substantial religious qualms which might be offended and as to which some sensitivity might be appropriate. Molly has the proclamation at her site.
The Irish Catholic Way of Football

A despondent Molly learns that God is on the side of the Raiders.
The Uses of History

Recently, I have been surprised at the amount of "pro-Confederacy romanticism" that's out there. I wouldn't mind it so much if it wasn't wrapped around claims like (a) the Civil War was not fought over slavery and (b) Lincoln didn't free the slaves and (c) if the South had been permitted to seccede, it would have solved its slavery and race issues immediately and without trauma. All of which is nonsense on stilts. The North fought to prevent seccesion; the South secceeded to protect it's "peculiar institution" from a president who had been elected on a free soil platform. Read McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom to get a flavor of the South's efforts to extend slavery into the Free States and Cuba. (Part of the opposition to the Mexican American War was the concern that the South had initiated the war in order to find new territories to expand slavery.)

Having said all that, some perspective is in order. The Confederates were American. The Confederacy was an American phenomenon. Confederate dead are American dead and deserved to be included in the tradition of commemoration on Memorial Day. Hence, recent criticisms of Bush for continuing the tradition of placing a wreath on Jefferson Davis' grave are meretricious. One such criticims was levelled by Maureen Dowd.

Here's a part of Robert Musil's thoughtful take-down of Dowd:

That tradition follows the great insights of Abraham Lincoln, who understood, in one of his most inspired strokes of graceful political genius, that after a civil war it is urgent that people set aside their vindictiveness, differences and hard feelings, no matter how justified - as much as possible. The dead Confederate soldiers should be honored despite their false cause because it is possible to honor these dead and not honor their cause. We can love and remember even those whose cause was wrong, and send wreathes to their graves, without honoring their cause. Thank God for that miracle, for it also makes our love and honor of our own parents right, even when they cleave to a false cause. We tolerate ignorance of such matters in our less insightful young. But people who do not eventually make peace with such aspects of human life become sad, permanent juveniles.

Nicely said. The Confederacy was a mistaken enterprise motivated by the worst impulse, but Southern dead are our dead and, as Lincoln knew, if we were to become one people, we had to abandon the sectional attitudes that fueled the war.
Discriminations analyzes the buried assumptions in the "affirmative action is needed to service minority communities" argument. When you're there, check out the comments for an interesting discussion of the story of Dr. Chavis, the student who was admitted instead of Bakke. [Actually, he was one of five.] There's an observation in there that minority communities don't need minority doctors, they need good doctors, which is almost the entire debate on this subject encapsulated in miniature.
Bill Cork reverses field on war with Iraq.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

Self-indulgent Celebrity Watch

This is really a great post on changes in the cult of celebrity. Here's my previous effort to deconstruct Woody Harrelson.
From Blog from the Core has a breakown - with link - of Bishop Weigand's homily on the duty of Catholics to conform to Catholic teaching if they want to participate in Catholic sacraments, Gov. Davis's spokeman's advice that Bishops shouldn't "tell the faithful how to practice their faith," and the Core's letter to Gray Davis concerning freedom of religion.

Friday, January 24, 2003


There was an interesting demonstration of heresthetics over at Blogs4god. Heresthetics is a term developed by William Riker and connotes the idea of structuring political arguments so that the structure of options presented determines the outcome of the issue being addressed. Riker's slim book, The Art of Political Manipulation, is worth reading for the insight it brings to various topics including the passage of the constitutional amendment allowing the popular election of Senators.

Joshua Claybourn has his typically encyclopedic treatment of the subject. Briefly, Mark Shea and Kathryn Lively presented a parody of a Planned Parenthood poster campaign lauding " abortion choice." The posters are fair parody. They actually are humorous, and if I were Planned Parenthood, I might for one moment feel shame concerning the real enterprise that lies behind amorphous words like "choice." Then, Sally posted her shock at the insensitivity of the posters, claiming special privilege as a rape victim. [Apparently, Sally has claimed this privilege before.] This resulted in a round of condemnation and a call for sensitivity.

The fascinating thing was how quickly the focus on abortion as a form of birth control was transformed as an issue of insensitivity to victims of crime. This is classic heresthetics. Abortion as birth control v. Rape victims. You pick.

Here's my demurrer. I represent sex harassment victims. Often, their medical records are demanded, and I have to protect their privacy. Not infrequently, the medical records of these upscale women discloses multiple abortions. I don't judge. It's not my job. I remind them that they have a constitutional right to privacy and that this information is really not relevant to their complaint. Now, the amazing thing is that I never hear regret or trauma. I do hear annoyance for the inconvenience - the bother - that disclosing this information might bring. I also always hear the same explanation. The child was inconvenient, and there is no regret about the choice that was made. [Note, some people do engage in subsequent moral reflection, as evidenced by a very moving story on the internet about a near decision that was never made.]

Sensitivity is the professional attitude that I present, and it's real since I care about my client's welfare. But, really, the moral content of the decisions made by these women seems to elude them completely. I might be more sensitive if I ever got the sense that the decision was difficult or resulted in any introspection concerning life's mysteries. As Michael Corleone learns in Godfather III, when you have done bad things, such as having your brother murdered, it is good that you suffer. Abortion is either morally neutral or its a bad thing. If its a morally wrong thing - a sin - then one can't expect to escape that decision without some effect. In the Catholic tradition sin has consequences. According to the Catholic Catechism:

To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.
1473 The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the "old man" and to put on the "new man."

Obviously, this view is entirely at odds with the modernism. It is also not a statement of policy. It is a statement of natural law. Sin has consequence.

Now it is not our job to inflict punishment on our fellow sinners. It is our Christian duty to be charitable to our fellow sinners. [Also, calm discourse is always more persuasive than a self-satisfying rant.] But no one can expect to entirely avoid the results that flow from such a moral decision. "Sally" ought to be supported by her fellow sinners. She ought to work to find a way to achieve understanding and forgiveness. But, frankly, if my experience with the moral vacuum that inhabits the psyche of many people is any indication, we need less sensitivity and a lot more awareness that decisions like abortion have a terrifyingly significant moral component.

Further Notes: Via in between naps comes this column on a "simple and complicated act" which supports my anecdotal observations above. The column is written in a faux-Ellen Goodman style where there is a passive voice and no clear judgments, except that some things are inherently complex and when people choose the course of predictable self-interest that is some kind of noble vindication of self [which may actually be the gist of the philosophical principle informing the pro-choice worldview.] The column addresses a 17 year old's trip to an abortion provider. The girl knows the baby is alive. She has heard the heart beat. She has seen the ultrasound. The decision is not difficult - on a scale of 1 to 5, it rates a "2." The biggest impediment is "religion." Nonetheless, she manages to face down the philosophically chilling implications of her decision (which after all rate a "2" on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being less difficult than the choice between Pepsi and Coke) and make the pro-choice decision. The columnist leaves us with this gem:

The teenager knows that she has ended a life. She wants to make peace with it, to pray for it, to say goodbye to that life, and to start hers.

"The teenager knows that she has ended a life?" She wants to "pray for it?

I may be dense, but aren't non-sociopaths supposed to feel bad when they kill another human being? Even if it's an accident? Particularly, if it's their own child? Wouldn't believing that her not-yet-born baby never existed, wasn't a person, or wasn't living be psychologically healthier for this teenager? But she accepts that this is a real person. Yet, with all this, she rates the decision only a "2" on her personal scale of difficulty.

It's not that the decision is irrational or incomprehensible. It's entirely utilitarian. Reasoning like this is sanctified in the United Methodist Church's 1992 Book of Discipline at Paragraph 71:

The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born. Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures.

The problem is that this position is incoherent. I don't mind a utilitarian philosopher reasoning this way. But when did religion get in the business of picking winners in the "tragic conflicts of life with life?" Where does that principle begin or end? Does this principle allow us to pick a winner if there is a "tragic conflict" between a father and 2 day old baby? How about the tragic conflict between taxpayers and the disabled, or, if you want to be really nasty, between totalitarians and pariah social groups?

The problem is that under the pro-choice world view, people are knowingly killing people. And they don't seem to care.

One more thing - check out this The Corner on National Review Online entry for one woman's take on the results of another tragic conflict of life with life - in this case personal growth or duty to family.
Fresno News and Six Degrees

Fox has been hammering the Laci Peterson story for awhile. Fox's immediate focus was on the husband, which like the dictum "the race is not always to the fleet or the fight to the strong, but that's the way to bet," is probably not irrational. Certainly, the unmasking of his Fresno girlfriend, Amber Fry, doesn't help his position. Especially, her revelation that he presented himself as an unmarried person. [Also proving once again that Fresno only gets national news attention if it involves a murder or something really, really embarrassing.]

This morning I was listening to the news and there was an attempt to to paint Scott Peterson as guilty because of his unwillingness to give interviews. Wait, I thought, what if he is just awfully shy. Wouldn't you know it that this afternoon I happened to meet a neighbor of the Petersons, who advised that he probably has heard Scott say 8 words in the last 10 months. It's a small world, I have no idea what the police is leaking to the press, Scott Peterson may be guilty of heinous conduct, but not everyone treats national media opportunities like a Fox expert.
Jay Manifold passes along the news that Virginia Heinlein - "the real-life model for many of Robert Heinlein's fictional heroines -- surely among the strongest female characters ever depicted -- his wife Virginia, passed away on Saturday the 18th". Honestly, I grew up reading about Virginia Heinlein. I feel like I have lost a member of the family. But, then, while my partner can remember where he was when he learned that Jerry Garcia died, I remember where I was when I learned that Isaac Asimov had passed away. It was a beautiful day, I was driving up to the county seat of Mariposa County. The sun was shining and the sky had never been more blue. Requiscat in Pace May the Angels carry her to heaven to meet the Dean.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

The OmbudsGod debates the significance of the media's failure to delve into the Stalinist sponsorship of the Saturday's agitprop. TOG's correspondent argues:

For one thing, I suspect that many marchers, and perhaps many who did not march and would not have, probably would consider the American Nazi Party and the Klan much closer to being a clear and present danger to the public than ANSWER is or ever has been.

One could safely lay long odds that "many marchers" would consider ANSWER benign vis a vis the Nazi Party, but how is it that that value judgment informs journalistic norms? You can bet that if the American Nazi Party organized a march at which Republican politicians spoke, that fact would be front paged news. You can also bet that the fact that many participants and non-participants could accurately reason that (a) inasmuch as there are no hostile Fascist powers - the last one having been pretty much exterminated and purged - and (b) most American Nazis are semilliterate, that they are far less dangerous than a group of ideologues who do profess an ideological attachment to at least one - and prior to 1989, more than one - hostile foreign powers armed with nukes. But, hey, that kind of thinking is "McCarthyite."

This kind of journalistic disinterest has been going on for years, but this is the first time in my memory that the Stalinist sponsorship of a "peace protest" has been a subject of discussion. In fact, I heard Victor Davis Hanson discuss this issue today on local radio. Then, of course, there is this James Lilek's piece:

Nowadays, if you point out that someone’s a Communist, you might well be accused of - dum dum DUMMMM - McCarthyism. The term has morphed from its original meaning. It no longer means falsely accusing someone of being a Communist. It now includes correctly identifying someone as a Communist, or ascribing a taint to someone because they don’t reject the Communists in their midst. (I’ll admit there’s a significant difference between the two.)

But let’s leave this increasingly insupportable series of generalizations, and return to the point. Do reporters suppress the nature of ANSWER / ACTION because they don’t want to embarrass the movement? No. Do they secretly admire the ANSWER / ACTION / WWP positions on China, North Korea, and other dictatorships? Of course not. (Cuba is another story.) Are they inclined to wonder who’s behind the rallies? No. NeoNazis, Klansmen, Separatists, Militias, the Promise Keepers - these words make reporters’ antennae quiver. “Communist” does not. It’s an institutional blindspot, and if you doubt it, consider this:

A fashion designer premiers a line of clothes emblazoned with the hammer-and-sickle. The story runs in the variety section; there are quotes from fashionistas about retro iconography, the kitschy appeal of Socialist Realist art, and nostalgia for the stability of a binary, pre-terrorist world. The story would have the tone of a worldly cultured person peering through a monocle at a butterfly whose wings were amusingly deformed.

It is perplexing. There is nothing admirable about the Communists that you can't also find in Nazi ideology. Wear a swastika and you're walking leprosy; wear a red beret and it's a fashion statement. You know, I have never met a Nazi or a Klan member, but I went to law school with a card-carrying Communist. Nobody harassed him. He fit right in. But - jeez - the Gulag, the Katyn Massacre, the Ukraine famine, know, that stuff. Nonetheless, you have to hope that this weekend perhaps saw the start of a healthy process which will result in consigning the Communists to the moral plague ward with the Nazis and the Klan.
I need to work on my attitude

Anna recommended this test and I only scored 92 out of 100. Although, I did outscore that wishy-washy Belligerent Bunny's score. Ha, and The OmbudsGod is a is a virtual pantywaist.
The Angry Clam speaks and - zap - the next thing you know, you're excommunicated.

Toss another burning faggot on the auto da fe - which I swear is not a reference to anyone's sexual orientation - as The Angry Clam claims credit for this.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Movie News

Catholic and Enjoying It! linked to this parody site - I can't overstress the fact that it's obviously a parody. On this note, I rented Undercover Brother this weekend. Undercover Brother chronicles the joint efforts of Undercover Brother and the Brotherhood - dedicated to Truth, Justice and the African-American Way - to frustrate the efforts of the perfidious "The Man" and his minions to eliminate funk in the African-American way of life. I found it to be pretty funny and give it a "thumbs up" recommendation. I found it more enjoyable than the latest and execrable Austin Powers flick.

I also rented Signs, having missed it when it was released into the theaters. I guess I am the kind of person who looks for signs in things. I liked the movie. Another thumbs up recommendation.

For what it's worth.
From the "Bush gets it, even if no one else does" File

Via the Angry Clam, here is Bush's commnts on the U of M admissions policy. These comments, and Bush's statement on Fox yesterday that there are other ways of achieving diverstity, show that at least Bush understands the issue, even if members of his administration don't understand.

The issue is not whether diversity is a good thing. It is. The issue is whether under a strict scrutiny review, there are ways of achieving the policy goal without utilizing the "suspect classification." Further, where the suspect classification is used, then strict scrutiny requires rigorous attention to the impact on members of the non-protected class. According to Bush, giving one group 20 points out of a hundred on the basis of race simply goes to far. Are there non-racial approaches to increase diversity? Well, obviously. How about outreach programs, or entrance policies based on geography, or private scholarship programs, or .......

The point is that under strict scrutiny the burden is on the parties proposing the use of the racial classification to show that there are no other less intrusive alternatives.
More peace protester antics?

Pdawwg - God Bless that fine upstanding Catholic Grandma - has a photo demonstrating the airodynamics of falling naked bodies. Oddly, falling naked bodies are not as attractive as you might otherwise expect. Actually, I don't really have any tie-in to anything that would redeem this post. It just falls into the "yikes, Penner, you got to look at this category. I guess after this I'm doing virtual penance in the St. Blog's doghouse.

Monday, January 20, 2003

The OmbudsGod revisits the Boston Globe's profile of Ted Kennedy and this claim made for him:

If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age."

The Globe's ombudsman responded to predictable, and understandable, expressions of shock over this insensitive statement by reassuring its readers that the writer was "misunderstood" or "unappreciated" by "some readers" and intended to be "brutally ironic" over Kennedy's contribution to the nation's welfare. Ombudsgod asks some fair questions about the moral calculations that go into such a statement. How many people? Does the calculation change depending on the person's politics? etc. Also, check out Mark Steyn's column which contains this passage:

When you reduce citizens to subjects, inevitably a little droit de seigneur gets built into the equation -- not just in the Kennedy-Clintonian sense, but in all kinds of other areas. Take Al Gore, Mister Environment, the man who inflicted Federal toilet regulation on America's bathrooms in the interests of water conservancy. Meanwhile, back at the farm at his alleged home in Tennessee, Mr. Gore's tenants the Mayberrys had asked their distinguished landlord 30 times to fix their leaking toilet. But the Eco King saw no contradiction between requiring everybody else to make do with cisterns that hold less than a supersized cup at McDonald's and forcing his own tenants to live in a septic tank for over a year.

The Raven links to this deconstruction of the Derrida.
Second Update - The light slowly dawns:

Updating this post, please note that Instapundit observes that Eric Alterman is worried that allowing Stalinist groups to sponsor the anti-war Pro-Dictatorship movement Idiots. may strengthen popular support for military action against Sadam.

Despite my self-promoted reputation for nuanced attention to detail, all I can come up with is "well, duh" and "jeez, after fifty years of sucking up to the Stalinists, now you finally realize that letting the psycopathic Marxists set your agenda may offend normal society?"

Then, as if he was decoding the Dead Sea scrolls, Alterman observes:

It is a little-known fact — I discovered it while researching my senior honors thesis in 1981-82 — that the anti-Vietnam demonstrations may have actually increased support for the war. Nobody was more unpopular with the country than the demonstrators. Even people who opposed the war, according to Gallup data, disapproved of the demonstrators by vast proportions. (The alternate argument — equally unprovable — is that the movement helped end the war because it scared the Nixon administration into suing for peace for reasons of domestic tranquility. But this is belied by the collapse of the movement following the end of the draft.)

"A little known fact?" To whom? The people living within littering distance of Central Park or Telegraph Hill? I think the rest of us knew that the anti-draft protests - which featured equal parts of cliched America and sophomore-level intellectual posing by the "best and brightest" - fostered a strong reaction in the rest of society. When he gets around to it, Alterman needs to think about why it was that the males belonging to his cohort of the Baby Boom generation - those who graduated High School after 1975 - gave overwhelming support to Reagan in the 1980 election. Could it have been that we got tired of listening to our older brothers and sisters tell us that we were living in the most corrupt nation the world has ever known?

Update #3 - The Permanent Revolution and the continuing Relevance of Agitprop

This David Horowitz post makes the point that Charles Rangel - who has been positioning himself as a patriot who wants a return of the draft in order to spread the burden of military service - spoke at Saturday's anti-war Pro-Dictatorship movement Idiots. rally. Horowitz also points out that Saturday's rally, as insignificant as they were, still attracted far more participants than attended the first anti-Vietnam rally's which occurred (a) at a time when there was a draft and (b) people actually were being killed in Vietnam.

What does this mean? Initially, it appears that there is an larger and institutionalized element of American society that operates on the assumption that American interests are presumptively corrupt than there was in the 1960's. I mean, what else it could it mean? The protests weren't about military conscription or the futility of an Iraqui war since those things haven't happened.

Second, does Rangel want a draft so that he can kickstart even larger protests? People who would be drafted were in the crowds listening to him. Why weren't they protesting him? Like Ted Kennedy's continuing relationship with Mary Joe Kopechne, does agitprop requires certain sacrifices? [By the way, check out this Instapundit post rebutting the buried assumption that front line soldiers will be disporportionately minorities.]
More on changes in religious demographics

ibidem - please note that he has moved to blogmosis - offers a post on the long term consistency in American religious values. Ibidem's sources generally support the idea that even during the purportedly satisfied and conventional period of the 1940's and 1950's, a large proportion of college students were skeptical about traditional religion and their particular religious heritage. These proportions apparently track back into the 1920's and "probably has been so for the last hundred years, perhaps longer."

I don't think, though, that these studies answer questions about the existence or cause of the decline of mainline Protestantism. I don't doubt the studies that Mr. Gill cites, but they do concentrate on college students, who until the 1960's were hardly representative of broader society. Further, there is a typical movement in and out of religious commitment during an individual's life. A person's college years probably represent the most secular phase of a person's life, which may be a modern phenomena insofar as we define St. Augustine as a modern. [OK, I'm being somewhat facetious, but, in truth, I have always felt that the St. Augustine's experiences are not dissimilar to those experienced by people who lived during the 1960's.]

The question is whether they will eventually return to their childhood church or go somewhere else. [Again, reflect on St. Augustine's travels through Manichianism, Gnosticism and Neo-platonism before his return to Orthodoxy.] Marginal shifts in the rate of return, or in an individual's election to join a different church, can lead to dramatic changes in demographics over time. Again, I believe the evidence shows that the the mainline UPC and UMC have been losing membership over the last thirty years. They have probably been losing members to both secularization and to those denominations that have been increasing membership. I don't think the explanation is that they have inadequately stressed "social activities" and intensified "good works" because that is the precisely the course that those churches - at least, the UMC - has charted for itself. Simply put, if the problem was collegiate religious skepticism, the UMC would have the answer.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

My simple goal is to build bridges of friendship and goodwill every day of my life.

Mr. Sulik and Mr. Dodd may I introduce you to Molly, who is an opinionated conservative Chica from San Diego. Miss Molly may I introduce you to Mr. Dodd and Mr. Sulik. They are both lawyers, incidentally, and I am unclear what their connection to the Bay Area is, but you should have quite a bit to discuss.

Man, that felt great.
On my reading list

I was seduced into purchasing this book - "The Matrix and Philosophy" by William Irwin, ed.
Verus Ratio posts on the anniversary of the Battle of Cowpens, which certainly ranks with Saratoga as one of the most important battles of the American Revolution.
This may be an interesting site - Parallel History Project on NATO and the Warsaw Pact. It bills itself as focusing on the mutual threat perceptions and resulting military plans of the two Cold War alliances. Well, we are waiting for the Thucydides of the Cold War.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Troop Movements presage Invasion

USS Clueless analyzes troop deployments and concludes that invasion is imminent. Molly's Musings was at the deployment, seeing off her father and cousin. It's not academic. It's real, and very necessary to prevent loathsome sociopaths from getting their hands on nukes which they can use against New York or, more likely, Tel Aviv. Then, to connect these dots, go back to USS Clueless and look at the ship he has a photo of - the Bonhomme Richard. My old man served on the predecessor to this "Bonny Dick." I also remember his deployment back during the '60s to Viet Nam when I was in second grade. Let's remember to pray for those who carry on America's military traditions and for those who remain behind.
Affirmative Action Returns

Bakke was decided a few years before I entered college. For those who don't remember, Bakke held that the use of race to determine college admissions was unconstitutional. A plurality did hold that race background could be used as one factor among many in college admissions. [Incidentally, Bakke was decided by a 5-4 plurality - closer actually than the decision in Bush v. Gore, and we know how the left feels about such pluralities.] What informed all parties in the Bakke decision was a recognition that the use of race required "strict scrutiny" because the use of race for the allocation of social benefits raised concerns that were distinctly and historically different than other criteria.

I say all that because it appears that the Left has completely forgotten that race is different than other criteria. For example, notwithstanding Bakke, universities began to use race as the single most important factor in determining admission and as the substitute token of diversity. Then read this excerpt from Lean Left (which sounds exactly like an argument Alan Colmes recites nightly on Hannity & Colmes):

So, according to Bush, giving extra points to athletes is not a quota system, giving extra points to legacy students is not a quota, but giving extra points to minorities is a quota. Why? Seriously, why? Someone on the right needs to explain this a clear manner, because it makes no sense. Athletes are given extra points because they bring skills and talents to the University that other students lack. Minorities are given extra points because they bring experiences and perspectives different that other students do not have (life in America as a Latino is different than as a Black than as a White than as a recent immigrant than as an Asian). Legacy students are given extra points because, well, because their parents generally bring money and connections that the parents of other students don't have. What, exactly, is the difference here?

Well, the simple answer is "Race." Right or wrong - and we all agree it's right - constitutional jurisprudence has selected certain criteria as requiring "strict scrutiny" as the standard of review of decisions using "suspect" classification. Strict scrutiny is a substantially higher standard than the alternative standards of review, such as "intermediate scrutiny" and "rational basis." In actual practice, strict scrutiny means that the program will never pass constitutional muster, while rational basis means it will never fail. So, while athletic preferences might be noxious - and they are - there is a completely different level of review between the practices because using race as a selection factor is intended to involve race and athletics isn't. Likewise, while legacy may be an unfair admission criteria - and as a UC graduate, I have no personal stake in defending such a policy - it is not a "suspect classification." [Although, if the effect of legacy admissions is to disadvantage racial minorities, then a challenge could be made on that basis.]

Would Lean Left's arguments for affirmative action pass a strict scrutiny review? I doubt it. First, why can't the same arguments be used to give points to Irish-Catholics? Don't they have a point of view that is "diverse" and "under-represented in academia?" Speaking from my experience at UCLA Law, I assure you that those are true statements. And yet, UC Berkeley wait-listed me three times before giving my place to someone with a lower gpa and LSAT score because apparently my minority viewpoint wasn't sufficiently diverse enough. [This despite the fact that you could bet that my political and cultural background as a military brat/small business owner would have been virtually unique. And let's not get started on whether the fundamentalist viewpoint is adequately represented at the elite professional schools.] My point is not merely personal; it establishes that the "diversity" argument is a pretext for race discimination pure and simple.Under Bakke, race discrimination qua race discrimination has always been illegal.

The second reason that Lean Left's arguments won't pass muster is that this isn't 1978. We are literally one generation beyond Bakke. Social and racial demographics have changed. Affirmative action has either accomplished its goal, or it never will. On either basis, affirmative action appears as nothing more than racism designed to promote racial groups with the proper political attitudes. Check out this Angry Clam post on the large swing that affirmative action gives to "special admittees:"

Let me put that into perspective for you: if every single member of your family since the founding of Michigan went there, AND you were the leader in everything in high school, AND you wrote a personal statement up for the Nobel Prize in literature, you'd get twelve points, eight behind what you'd get just for being black.

This is not what Bakke intended. The argument for affirmative action that has traditionally been framed by its proponents is that under affirmative action, that as between two equally qualified candidate, the nod would go to the minority on the basis of the diversity factor. The fact that Michigan is giving twenty unanswered points on the basis of an individual belonging to the right underrepresented group is a far different than how affirmative action was presented to the Supreme Court and the nation a quarter century ago.

Elsewhere, Lean Left made the argument that opponents of affirmative action are hypocrites because "all of a sudden" after five hundred years of benefitting from racism, whites get religion about a color-blind society. [Certainly, my ancestors, who were digging potatos for "the Man" back in Ireland, enjoyed full participation in the preferential treatment accorded "whites," except, of course, for the whole Cromwellian extermination program, the laws against Catholic literacy and the various legal restrictions predating Catholic Emancipation in the 1830s. But, frankly, most "whites" outside of America were serfs and their positions in society were not something to be envied by modern standards.] Sorry, but that argument is a Constitutional non-starter. Here's an excerpt from the majority decision in Bakke:

Petitioner urges us to adopt for the first time a more restrictive view of the Equal Protection Clause and hold that discrimination against members of the white "majority" cannot be suspect if its purpose can be characterized as "benign." 34 [438 U.S. 265, 295] The clock of our liberties, however, cannot be turned back to 1868. Brown v. Board of Education, supra, at 492; accord, Loving v. Virginia, supra, at 9. It is far too late to argue that the guarantee of equal protection to all persons permits the recognition of special wards entitled to a degree of protection greater than that accorded others

Finally, noting that affirmative action declares war on 17 year old asian women, The Volokh Conspiracy has this observation:

NAACP national chairman Julian Bond, and so he has said on several occasions in the past (I found three stories on LEXIS quoting him on this, each mentioning a different speech): "Affirmative action is the just spoils of a righteous war."

So here's what I want to know: War of whom against whom? Pro-civil-rights forces against anti-civil-rights forces? If so, then why is it that Asian and white 17-year-olds (among others) -- who were never in the war, and whose parents may well have been on the right side -- have to yield up the spoils?

A legal system founded on neutral principles promote civil peace. Martin Luther King, Jr. appealed to neutral principles - to the promissory note of American justice - in order to promote racial justice. We treat race as different from other classifications for historically good and sufficient reasons. We are not going to lessen the standard by which we scrutinize racial classifications, notwithstanding the Left's arguments that we should.

Update: Discriminations has a post on "the invidious ubiquitous non sequitur of regarding racial discrimination as no better or no worse than discrimination over athletic or musical ability or where your parents went to college. " Discriminations quotes the ever-quotable James Q. Wilson that:

In taking this approach, the Court has given practical effect to what somebody said on another occasion: we did not fight the Civil War to make sure the University of Mississippi would admit good quarterbacks, we fought it to make certain it would admit blacks. To say that racial and athletic classifications are similar or that one can reason from the latter to the former is foolish. No court has ever held, or is likely to hold, that being able to throw a football 60 yards (or to have a father who gave the school a million dollars) places you in a class whose rights are protected by the barrier of strict scrutiny. Of course, one could argue for making both race and athleticism the same, by getting the Court to say that race is no longer a suspect classification. But that would mean reversing 40 years of desegregation.

Good quick theme - We didn't fight the Civil War to make sure that the University of Missippi would treat athletes equally, we fought it to make sure that it would treat races equally. Which is why race is a "suspect classification" and your parents' donation status is not.

I ask again, doesn't the Left bother with historical or constitutional scholarship anymore?
Ace Reporter cracks case

Anna risked life and her sense of the surreal and returned with photos from the Pro-Sadam demonstrations mounted this weekend. Go check them out and then tell me if you think that they keep this protest paraphenalia in mothballs in Berkeley or somewhere and have been rolling out the same stuff since the 60's. I mean for heaven's sake, poor Anna would never have found the protest if it wasn't for the red flags. Red flags? Who has red flags anymore? I thought those things were all burned in 1989. Must have been a boxful of them left in that Marin County warehouse.

And that dude on stilts - "...and stilt walkers. You can't convey a carefully thought-out anti-war message unless someone is willing to climb the poles" - is that right out of the game plan for a 60's anti-draft protest or what?

The doubty Anna reports that the "Dictatorship Preservation Society" amused themselves with clever slogans like:

Who do we love?
Who do we love even more?

and she was there and its in print, so it must be true.

Check out the last two photos in order to regain your sense of proportions.


My offhand snide observation about the fossification of the anti-war Pro-Dictatorship movement Idiots appears to be dead on. The OmbudsGod has several posts showing the contribution of the Workers World Party to Saturday's shindig. The WWP is a bizaare Stalinist coelacanth that no one could possibly take serious, except for the anti-war Pro-Dictatorship movement Idiots. Kind of like pro-confederate romanticism, except the Left is given a free pass on its romance with the mass killers who worked their perverse politics within living memory.
This is Sexist and I rebuke anyone who sees any humour in this photograph.

The Cracker Barrel Philosopher links to The Angry Cyclist's photo of Sheryl Crow's new "theme" t-shirt. Again, I want it to be clear that I don't approve of this kind of objectification of the female body. But it is part of public discussion.

Remember, it's political speech and that this blog is devoted to the highest principles of public discourse and would never link to cheesecake photos for cheap titillation - er, drat - cheap thrills.

I hope that's clear.
Did you know that j-files works as a clerk to the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia/Office of the Prosecutor? OK, that sounds like a pretty cool job. Better, perhaps, than debating the CEQA requirements for the treatment of human waste I'm thinking.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Lord of the Rings - A Critical Reassessment

Toren Smith at The Safety Valve vents about the Two Towers. He feels the movie had its good points but he's not happy with certain aspects of the movie:

Other nits are "reports of my death are greatly exaggerated" sequence with Aragorn, the inexplicably cringing women of Rohan--especially Eowyn--during the battle of Helm's Deep, the failure to establish the tension between the orcs of Mordor and the Uruk-Hai, and a few others. Most of these could have been resolved with a minute or two of screen time, and there was plenty of that wasted elsewhere.

The movie failed to establish the tension between the orcs of Mordor and the Uruk-Hai???? The Uruk Hai and the orcs weren't the same thing?? I thought that the Uruk-Hai was something like super-Orcs, like the difference between the regular Army and the Rangers. I think just explaining that would have stopped the movie in its tracks as Gandalf and Saruman spent five minutes in expositional dialogue:

Gandalf: "You know, Saruman, I couldn't help but notice- after you opened a big can of whup-ass on me with that sticky thing of yours - that your troops seem dispirited and listless. They don't seem to have the same interest in devouring living Hobbit captives that they're known for."

Saruman: "Oy. You have no ideas what difficulties there are in leading a hell-spawned slave army. The logistical problems are near insurmountable. Mostly, resulting from the fact that, as near as I can tell, there is no Orcish agricultural sector, and in a neat reversal of the usual strategems of war, I have burned and despoiled my own lands. It's also a wonder that my massed legions haven't succumbed to disease given the fact that they have personal hygiene habits that make the French look fastidious."

Gandalf: "From where I was trapped at the top of the 300 foot tall tower exposed to rain and wind, I could certainly smell your problem. It's what I imagine Paris would smell like if the perfume-cartel raised prices."

Saruman: "And don't get me started on the morale problems. My Orc infantry is in a positive snit about the Uruk-Hai?"

Gandalf: "Who?"

Saruman: "The Uruk-Hai. The snarling, filthy warriors with fangs."

Gandalf: "The Orcs?"

Saruman: "No. The more snarling, filthy warriors with fangs."

Gandalf: "Oh."

Saruman: "By the way, how did you survive that fall into the burning pits of the earth and defeat the Balrog?"

Gandalf: "Oh, that. Simple. Once I had extricated myself from the burning pits of the earth and defeated the Balrog...."

You can see how this would have interrupted the flow of the movie.
Eric Burns at FOXNews is turning into someone to watch. He is not afraid to point out the failings of both the left and the right in terms of news coverage. This column, for example, takes Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's award of a "P.U. -litzer" to a CNN anchor for saying that public interest in a story determined coverage. Burns writes that the anchor (Cafferty) said :

This [CNN] is a commercial enterprise. This is not PBS. We’re not here as a public service. We’re here to make money. We sell advertising, and we do it on the premise that people are going to watch. If you don’t cover the miners because you want to do a story about a debt crisis in Brazil at the time everybody else is covering the miners, then Citibank calls up and says, ‘You know what? We’re not renewing the commercial contract.’ I mean, it’s a business."

Which elicited this response from FAIR:

According to Solomon, Cafferty’s statement "mixed candor with exemplary media arrogance."

Burns chides FAIR for both its elitism and distance from reality in assuming that the media should dictate public news interest. Burns writes:

By criticizing Jack Cafferty as he did, Norman Solomon implies that CNN should not care about profits, that its coverage decisions should be totally independent of financial considerations, which is another way of saying that CNN should cover the kinds of stories that Solomon thinks it should cover even if it loses money in the process, and is thereby forced to lay off employees and remove money from the investment portfolios of its stockholders.

Sounds to me like the kind of thinking that is worthy of an award for arrogance.

There is nothing new in what Burns writes. It's just nice to hear it from somone in the media.
Important legal developments

I picked this one up from an internet case alert service. I was kind of suprised to find out that we had a published environmental law decision. That would explain what Doyle is doing in his office all day. Looks like a fascinating case. California Environmental Quality Act application to the application of human waste to agricultural land. [ee-yuck.] Welcome to the Valley and one of its growth industries.
Ah, who cares?

OpinionJournal - Taste has a column noting that Ramsey Clark's "Jesus was a terrorist" slur was met with silence. [Why, in truth, does anyone even listen to Ramsey Clark. All I know about him is that his old man quit the Supreme Court so that Ramsey could be Johnson's Attorney General. The last time I saw him on TV, he had this deer-caught-in-the-headlight stare that made me wonder when his keepers would wheel him off the stage and back to the care facility.]
More Demographics

Best of the Web has an interesting spin on the political/cultural demographics resulting from abortion. The observation is embedded in a critique of an argument predicting eventual Democrat political dominance resulting from the liberalizing attitude of Americans toward sex. The idea is that Republicans will lose support because of their traditional positions on moral issues. BOTW writes:

The second problem is Edsall's failure to acknowledge that changes in attitudes and laws concerning sex have a long-term effect on the electorate. If a pregnant woman chooses tomorrow to have an abortion, the result in 2021 will be one fewer eligible voter--and that's a statement of fact, not a moral judgment. If tens of millions of women have abortions over decades, as they have, it will eventually have a significant effect on the voting-age population.

Not all women, after all, are equally likely to have abortions. It's almost a truism that women who have abortions are more pro-choice than those who carry their pregnancies to term, and it stands to reason that they generally have more-liberal attitudes about sex and religion. It also seems reasonable to assume that parents have some influence on their children, so that if liberal women are having abortions, the next generation will be more conservative than it otherwise would be.

Now, I am generally skeptical of this argument, and I sure wouldn't hold my breath as a Republican for this demographic phenomena to play itself out. There are a lot of social influences that determine a lot of social attitudes. Media depictions of sexual attitudes, for example, would seem to be controlling in both the short and the long run.

But still, social attitudes are passed along in the family. For example, whether you are a Republican or Democrat has more to do with what your parents were than anything else. Likewise, the student radical leaders of the 60's were more often than not the red-diaper babies of the Communists of the 30's. One would suspect that attitudes toward abortion and sexuality would be communicated throught that mysterious process by which attitudes are formed within the family.

Likewise, part of Stark's argument [see below] for the sociological success of Christianity was simply that Christians outbred the competition. Christians didn't expose or abort their children like the Pagans did. Likewise, Christian morality tended to keep Christians alive longer and able to reproduce more children than the Pagans. These kinds of trends, as small as they are at any given time, can make huge differences over a long enough time.
Anna is deciding on her prom outfit - basic black and nukes.
Actually, Anna's suggestion kind of sounds like fun.
The Blog from the Core links to new Vatican rules on political participation. So does The Angry Clam, who offers some concrete suggestions about who should be the first to the auto-da-fe. Likewise, The Mighty Barrister adds his contribution. [Which is getting fairly close to an RC/lawyer trifecta.]
First Amendment Watch

The California Daily Journal (no link available, which there should be because "print is dead") reports that the United States Supreme Court has agreed to accept the appeal in Nike v. Krasky. In case, you have forgotten, Nike is the case where the California Supreme Court held that activists could sue Nike under California's unfair competition statute - Business and Professions Code section 17200, if you care - for false statements concerning labor and social policy. The Cal Supremes held that Nike's speech was "commercial speech" which was not entitled to protection because of Nike's profit motive, which they felt would insulate Nike from self censorship. Here's my post from June 2002 if you want more detail. My magic 8-ball says that the Cal Supremes get reversed.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Communio Topic

To those in my Fresno Communio Group, let's talk about this post on Free Will from He Lives.
Will Spin for Food

Rich Galen is looking for work.
As a parent with proto-teenagers, I have to remember to save Pdawwg's post on teenagers and their discontents for the next decade.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

The OmbudsGod has two posts on amazing news coverage. One article from the Boston Globe speculates on the debt that Mary Jo Kopechne would owe to Edward Kennedy if she had lived to to be 62 years old this year. The other deals with NPR's cognitive dissonance in its reporting on Israel.
If this goes on?

Here's a disturbing piece of science fiction recommended by Mark Shea. "Cut" by Magen Lindholm
The Living Constitution

NINOMANIA - who else do you think would have it - has a link to "The Man's Fredericksburg Speech on Religion Clause Jurisprudence." And go to the comments to this post - Joshua Claybourn's Domain: The Allegiance Returns - for a nice debate kicked off by Scalia's comments.
Argh, the Enemy

laborblog - a blawg devoted to the management side of employment law.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Church Membership Data

Relative to the post several entries below analyzing the existence of "anti-fundamentalist" animus, Bruce Rheinstein directed me to this Economist article and to this site. I have heard anecdotal statements over the years that while the mainline Protestant denominations are hemorrhaging membership and support, Catholics and evangelicals have been increasing membership through conversion and recruitment. Personally, I have been involved in cases locally involving mainline churches - Methodist and Presbyterian - where local congregations have split off because of social and theological differences with the denomination. The local churches are of the view that although they haven't moved, the denomination has, and on significant and uncompromisable theological issues. The Economist article and the RCMS data supports these anecdotal observations.

The Economist begins with an observation about the differences between Europe and America:

DO YOU believe in God? If you are European, you probably shuffle your feet, look mildly embarrassed, and mutter, “Well, it depends on what you mean by God.” Or something of the sort. In Western Europe, a mere 20% of people go regularly to a service; in Eastern Europe, only 14%. But if you are American, the answer is almost certainly an unabashed “Yes”. Only about 2% of Americans are atheists, and a startling 47% tell pollsters that they go to a religious service at least once a week. Even if that is an over-statement, the broad difference between continents is clear.

The explanation of this difference "lies in the unique history of religious experience in the United States, in the adaptive genius of Pentecostalism, and in the power of the fundamentalist Christian message in an era of rapid social change. " The Economist article places the continued vitality of Christianity in America on the style of worship:

But not all denominations have done well. A survey by the Glenmary Research Centre of Cincinnati, Ohio, found impressive increases in the past decade in the number of Mormons, Catholics and non-traditional Protestant churches such as the Pentecostalists and the Southern Baptists. The losers were traditional churches such as the Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists and Presbyterians. Catholics apart, Americans are fleeing in droves from the churches with set liturgies, organ music and ministers in robes, and towards those that offer fiery preaching, noisy music and telegenic men in suits.

Further in the article, the Economist offers - not surprisingly - an economic explanation for the decline of mainline Protestantism:

The authors argue that the most successful churches have always been those that preach traditional doctrines and make tough demands on their members. The Methodists, for example, flourished in the 19th century, when they were seen as an extremist sect. With subsequent respectability, however, has come decline. The same holds for other churches that have modernised and compromised.

The reason, the authors argue, is that “religious organisations are stronger to the degree that they impose significant costs in terms of sacrifice and even stigma upon their members.” Religion, they explain, is a collectively produced good, partly because people are more willing to accept the risks involved in pursuing benefits that arise only in the hereafter if others around them have accepted the same deal.

But the problem with any collectively produced good is the free rider—in the case of (especially European) religion, the church members who turn up only at Christmas and Easter, leaving the pews discouragingly empty in between. The answer lies in demanding a sufficient level of sacrifice to chase away free riders and to motivate the faithful to pitch everything into their church life. If they cannot drink alcohol, play cards or take drugs, they may find the social life at church more appealing. And a congregation of whole-hearted devotees gives everyone greater spiritual rewards than a half-empty churchful of sceptics.

This argument, incidentally, was used by Stark in his sociological explanation for the success of Christianity prior to Constantine.

The RCMS U.S. Report provides the raw data on this phenomena. According to the site, Presbyterians (PCUSA) membership declined 11.6%, or 411, 000 members, during the 1990's. The United Methodist Church membership declined 6.7%, or 740,000 members, during the same decade. The Episcopalians were down 5.3%, or 130,000 members, in the 1990s. As for the Lutherans, the ELCA declined 2.2%, or 113, 000 members and the Missouri Synod lost 3.2% or 82,000 members. [Bad news for Penner, the Mennonites lost 19.9% or 38,000 members, not counting my partner.]

Incidentally, these numbers may not reflect the real magnitude of the membership losses experienced by these churches. I have seen samizdat Methodist data that indicate that Methodists haven't been anywhere near 10 million members for decades, and that the actual number is closer to 8 million. In which case, they would have a loss of near 20 to 30% over the last several decades.

On the other hand, the Evangelicals saw growth. The EV Frees were up 57.2% (104,000 members), the Southern Baptist Conference increased 5%, or nearly a million members. The LDS increased 19% or 683,000 members. The Assembly of God was up 18.5% or 400,000 members.

As the Economist noted the real surprise is Catholicism. During the 1990s, Catholic membership shot up 16.2%. This large percentage increase is more amazing since it is based on a titanic population base. The Catholic population increased from 53 million to 62 million over the 90s. Catholicism, in other words, added almost as large a population group as the LDS had at the start of the 90s.

The Stark thesis may have some traction here. Despite its attempt to position itself as the hyper-politically correct denomination, the UMC - Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors - has lost huge numbers of membership. The policy of inclusiveness and mealy-mouth theology simply hasn't attracted membership. My personal experience with the Methodists is that the hiearchy's refusal to vouch that core issues, such as the Resurrection, are not optional parts of Methodist theology is what has driven devout Methodists away from their denomination. This is somewhat important inasmuch as such departures are typically depicted as a dispute over social issues, such as homosexual marriages. Let's face it, a willingness to subscribe to a belief system, or creed, is a fairly minimal investment relative to the free rider problem.

The Catholic situation is instructive as well. Although a substantial portion of the increase must have come from immigration, there must be a large influx from conversion. According to this site, which is run by "Negative Population Growth" and therefore presumably does not have an incentive to under-report immigration, immigration adds one million people a year to the population. Since the Catholic increase was about that number, and not all immigrants are Catholic, Catholic growth must have another source. Further, since natural population increase hasn't sustained the mainline churches membership, the logical conclusion is that Catholicism has grown by conversion.

Now for the ironic ending.

I have the seen the argument made repeatedly that Catholicism must modernize in order to maintain its relevance to its membership. The argument has been asserted that because of its allegedly archaic rules on contraception, abortion, divorce, ordination, etc., the Catholic church risks alienating the moderns and cutting its own throat, demographically speaking. There is obviously no demographic support for this argument, and if the Stark thesis and the example of the UMC, have any relevance, adopting such policies would result in a decline in membership, irrespective of the merits - theological or philosophical - of the given policy.


First, thanks for the feedback. I find this subject interesting because it reveals a cognitive dissonance in our culture. On the one hand, the dominant theme of American culture since at least the 1970's - prior to which the collective memory recedes into the foggy mists of pre-history - has been the drive for "inclusiveness." Examples of this are cliches which extol tolerance and condemn statements of preference for one social option over another. Think of the Murphy Brown crusade on behalf of the idea that no particular form of a family was objectively preferable to any other form, or the universality of no-fault divorce, or the seeming inevitability of some form of homosexual marriage, or simply the cliche statement that one should be able to do one's own thing so long as it does not harm anyone else and who is to judge. Under this social view, denominations that internalize this non-judgmental attitude should be able to reap membership benefits by appealing to both a larger population base and to people of modern sensibilities who don't want to be subject to someone else's rules of conduct. I think this calculation has motivated in some part things like the UPC's current position on subscription to doctrine or the UMC's "open hearts, mind, doors" slogan.

The cognitivie dissonance stems from the fact the policy of embracing the inclusive zeitgeist is simply - and patently - not working. The explanation for this phenomena are worth exploring.

Jay Manifold from A Voyage to Arcturus in the comments notes the attraction of the community aspects of evangelical churches. Certainly, this is a factor in their success. The interesting thing, though, is that based on the "free rider" problem, people are more willing to invest in their communities when every other member is also contributing. [This notion comes right out of Stark, incidentally.] Rotary is the leading community service organization, and it also has fairly rigorous attendance rules, which tends to weed out the half-hearted. By having a smaller, more committed membership, Rotary membership gives greater value to those who stay in the organization because virtually everyone is a contributor.
So, the attractiveness of the benefits offered by evangelical membership may flow from the investment required by the church.

Mark Byron notes that without some religious investment there is no difference between a sermon and an Oprah show. I think this makes some sense. People who might be put off by the idea of the Resurrection, are not going to invest in Methodism simply because of its social agenda. They are going to invest in Greenpeace or the Sierra Club.

Jesus Gil in a comment at Mark Byron's site questions the significance of the data and notes that similar trends have existed at other times in history. I would be interested in seeing this point developed. There is, of course, always the problem of falling into the "exceptionalism" fallacy. Things are never so bad or so unique as right now. I don't think that mainline Protestantism disappears in the short term, but in the long run, according to Stark, a 10% growth rate resulted in the conversion of half the Roman Empire to Christianity in 300 years. Also, consider the cultural and political influence of Methodism. The last two Presidents have either been Methodists or influenced by the Methodist tradition. Something like 25% of Congress are Methodists. Certainly, there should be some diminution of the influence of Methodists over the next twenty years and an increase in Evangelical political influence. I leave it to the experts to suggest what effect that would have on society.

Joshua Claybourn also has a post and mentions the post on "anti-fundamentalist" animus. I guess I missed previous discussions on this subject, but I would frankly be interested in hearing whether, and how, this animus plays itself in the real world.

I also find the Catholic input interesting because I share the same sentiments. I can almost say that I am a devout Catholic despite the best efforts of the organized church. Until quite recently, I had no - zero, none - involvement in anything that looked like a Catholic community. The support that I see among members of the evangelical churches has no reference in my experience. When I shared this observation with a Church of Christ friend who is now teaching in the UAE, he was awed by the fact that I could be a committed Catholic and have no community involvement.

Last, but not least, check out Mark Cameron for the further application of the Stark thesis to modern sociological phenomena.

Local News

One Pilgrim's Walk reports that he attended the ordination of the first class of deacons in the Diocese of Fresno. I was happy to see that former member of North Fresno Rotary, John "Supi" Supino was on the list. I remember him telling me about his diaconate training when we shared the front table at a NFR meeting around three or four years ago. Also, I was sort of surprised to see local attorney Edward C. Valdez's name. I had no idea that he was heading in this direction when I consulted with him in April on an employment issue. I know he has an active practice. Does this mean that he will be giving that up? It certainly is good to see that the Church provide a vehicle for these men - succesful in their chosen professions and nearing retirement - to serve.
Celebrity Indulgence Watch

joyfulchristian has a good post on Sheryl Crow's T-shirt's message that "war is not the answer." As he points out, it depends on the question. Such as "how does one stop a mad man from developing nukes?" Also, his contribution to HTML code is cute.
New Internet Sport

the dark goddess of replevin speaks and says that she likes reading the deposition transcripts of RC Cardinals which, according to the DG, is like watching a slow motion train wreck. She notes:

Daily is more likeable but also has what I have taken to calling Law's Disease, a seemingly congenital inability to allow the interrogator to finish his questioning before jumping in with an answer.

In any case, these men seem not to have reviewed the documents produced before their depositions. It did not serve them well.

She asks, who prepped these guys?

Interesting. Here's my post from May of last year:

Third, I repeat, it didn't seem that the Cardinal was woodshedded very effectively. Let's face it, all depositions involve polishing up the witness so that he is comfortable with the themes of the case and knows the basic facts of the litigation. Witnesses are always taken to the woodshed where after you get their attention, you can address their attitude. However, woodshedding can run into the sow's ear problem; you can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. Witnesses are who they are, and 10 to 20 hours of deposition preparation won't change a lifetime of habits. This is particularly true when you have a succesful person who is used to being treated deferentially.

Well, clearly, the Cardinals still have "CEO Disease." When you're used to being surrounded by minions who will wait for you to finish every silly utterance you start, you tend to forget that not everyone thinks everything you say is brilliant. Particularly when you're not.

My current attempt at a new Axiom of Litigation is Garrulity corrupts, obsequiousness corrupts absolutely. [This should go after Axiom Number 5 - "Always take the money."] Of course, if someone has a different - and catchier - formulation for this existential truth, I will give due credit.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Here's a possibly impertinent question.

Rand Simberg has a post on the proposition that Einstein was right in his prediction that the "speed" of gravity and the speed of light are the same. Or, at least, according to a recent study, they are within 20 % of each other.

My question is, why?

Why is light the absolute speed limit of the universe?

I get the feeling that the answer to this one is that I am going to be told this is somehow a meaningless question, like what existed before the Big Bang. Or what exists outside the expanding wave front of the universe.

My next question is, how did Einstein pick photons as the objects that travelled the fastest of all objects in the universe? Was this a lucky guess on his part?

Based on my college experience of hanging out with political science majors, I get the feeling that the answers are not going to come from the conservative, Catholic or lawyer lobes of this site. Hopefully, some physicist will stumble onto this site in search of porn.

Update While I'm waiting for that physicist (as if they can't get enough action simply by flashing their degrees at the local bar), I have gotten some great answers to my questions.

As set forth in the comments, according to Mr. Muncey, Einstein perceived that light and photons were moving at some kind of absolute speed because there was no observable difference in their speed if one moved toward them or away from them. That does spark some long term physics memory. Of coure, there is a doppler shift phenomena with respect to frequency, which is one of the empirical supports for the Big Bang. David provided some links to sites which said (a) don't ask stupid questions about why natural phenomena are the way they are and (b) photons can move at the speed of light because they are massless (or really, really light) and so don't suck all the energy out of the universe when they go really, really fast. (Because mass increases asymptopically at light speed.) So, I guess, photons travel at light speed because they can. My next question is do photons go that fast because of something internal to themselves or do they get accelerated that fast by an outside source.

So, I'm still waiting for that physicist in search of lava hot rabbit love involving naughty college coeds. [There, that should bait the trap.]
Did you ever think you would see an article in National Review opposing the death penalty? See Rod Dreher on Death Penalty & George Ryan on National Review Online
Who is ChessLaw? And what does blawging have to do with chess?
Xrlq notes in regard to Pete Townsend that:

if he turns out to be guilty, it's going to be pretty tough enjoying all those Who tunes. Some of his stuff, Tommy for example, may become become unlistenable.

Now that Xrlq mentions it, I don't think I can ever listen to a song about that "deaf, dumb and blind kid" without thinking about calling CPS. Drat, another naive memory of my youth soiled by the grubby realities of time. First, it's pine cones and now it's this.
Fox News is carrying Joe Lieberman's announcement of his candidacy for President. Listening to his strong statements in support of religious belief, it looks like he has absorbed the information which is the basis for the following post, and is looking to establish a base of support in southern fundamentalists.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

There is a Culture War, after all

Ben Domenech furnishes this link to this Daily Standard article - The Party of Unbelievers, which in turn leads to this The Public Interest article on Our secularist Democratic party You can read the Daily Standard article for a synopsis of the Public Interest piece, which is the present "cultural war" occurred because of the 1972 capture of the Democratic Party by a secularly oriented voting block. The Public Interest article looks at various surveys, including one that measures affinity or antagonism by way of a questionaire that generates a feeling thermometer. The Standard article explains this point:

Another striking finding is the intensity of many secularists' dislike of conservative Christians--vastly greater than any dislike of Jews of Catholics discernible in the survey data from the University of Michigan that the authors analyze. "One has to reach back to pre-New Deal America," they write, "when political divisions between Catholics and Protestants encapsulated local ethno-cultural cleavages over prohibition, immigration, public education, and blue laws, to find a period when voting behavior was influenced by this degree of antipathy toward a religious group."

Even though I am anything but a fundamentalist, my gut feeling is that this is an accurate statement. Popular depictions of fundamentalists in the media and statements that one hears on the street would immediately be recognized as bigoted if directed against any other group. Again, to be candid, there are popular stereotypes of the "low church Protestants" concerning their education, intelligence, emotional stability, mental flexibility. [Look, don't blame me for listing these stereotypes. Everyone knows this. Think about the Captain Frank Burns character in MASH who was characterized as a "sky pilot" and then unmercifully persecuted by his zany roommates. Or choose any of a number of other depictions of a "bible thumper" character. Oddly, one of the most favorable depictions of fundamentalists was in an X-File episode where the fundies turned out be right and the moderate-liberal pastor was Satan.] But, of course, since "christians" are viewed as the majority, and not a minority group, complaints that such depictions are pandering to bigotry are quickly dismissed. Frankly, there will have to be a dramatic reorientation of the social weltenschauung before the idea that such depictions constitute a form of pernicious group libel could be sold.

Other interesting details from the Public Interest article:

The average rating white Christian fundamentalists gave to Jews was a warm 66 degrees, a finding consistent with ANES surveys reaching back over a decade. It was no different from the mean ratings that Catholics and mainline Protestants gave to Jews. Among respondents who could correctly identify both Lieberman's and Gore's religious affiliation, Christian fundamentalists felt significantly warmer toward Lieberman (56 degrees) than toward Gore, a Southern Baptist (42 degrees). Disapproval of Lieberman came not from Christian fundamentalists but from secularists, who complained that his public professions of faith and piety blurred the line between religion and politics, and from cultural conservatives who suspected that Lieberman's post-convention stances on issues like partial-birth abortion and school vouchers were more in tune with the secularist tilt of the Democratic party than with his pre-convention positions, thought to be anchored in his religious orthodoxy.

Amazing. Supposedly narrow minded fundamentalists supported Lieberman over Gore. That doesn't fit the popular stereotype, now does it?

Appropos of proving anti-christian bias, check out quote in the next paragraph below. [I am having a problem with using the term Christian here. What I am describing really is distinct from traditional anti-Catholicism. Christian in this context really refers to "low church protestant," and if someone has a better term, let me know. Side note: the low church protestant tradition is really the radical christian tradition, which is contrasted with the magisterial protestant tradition of the likes of Luther, Zwingli and Calvin. Hence, in the future, I will refer to the "radical christian" tradition in lieu of "christian" or "low church protestant." Second side note: If these findings are correct anti-Catholicism will not be a product of the "usual suspects" - the radical christian element. Rather it will come out of the secular oriented sector of society - the non-religious.]

Anyhow, here's the quote:

In terms of their size and party loyalty, secularists today are as important to the Democratic party as another key Democratic constituency, organized labor. In the 2000 election, for example, both secularists and union members comprised about 16 percent of the white electorate, and both backed Gore with two-thirds of their votes. The religious gap among white voters in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 presidential elections was more important than other demographic and social cleavages in the electorate; it was much larger than the gender gap and more significant than any combination of differences in education, income, occupation, age, marital status, and regional groupings. The importance of evangelicals to the ascendancy of the Republican party since the 1980s has been pointed out ad nauseam by media elites. But if the GOP can be labeled the party of religious conservatives, the Democrats, with equal validity, can be called the secularist party.

The increased religious polarization of the electorate has given rise to a new type of voter: the anti-fundamentalist. We discovered this when we examined one group of ANES respondents: those who rated Christian fundamentalists 35 degrees or below on ANES's scale. We wanted to find out whether elite hostility to Christian fundamentalists, clearly apparent in the convention delegate surveys, had filtered into broader segments of the public. In ANES's 2000 survey, about a quarter of white respondents met the anti-fundamentalist criterion, rating fundamentalists 35 degrees or below. For comparison purposes, only 1 percent felt this antagonistic toward Jews and about 2.5 percent expressed this degree of hostility toward blacks and Catholics. ANES results indicate that anti-fundamentalism appears disproportionately among secularists, the highly educated, particularly those living in big cities, and persons who strongly favor legalized abortion and gay rights, oppose prayer in schools, and who, ironically, "strongly agree" that one should be tolerant of persons whose moral standards are different from one's own.

The results indicate that over the past decade persons who intensely dislike fundamentalist Christians have found a partisan home in the Democratic party. Clinton captured 80 percent of these voters in his victories over President Bush in 1992 and over Senator Robert Dole four years later; Gore picked up 70 percent of the anti-fundamentalist vote in the 2000 election. One has to reach back to pre-New Deal America, when political divisions between Catholics and Protestants encapsulated local ethno-cultural cleavages over prohibition, immigration, public education, and blue laws, to find a period when voting behavior was influenced by this degree of antipathy toward a religious group.

In short, a major political party is dominated by a group of voters who, incidentally, are viscerally biased against fundamentalists. Is it unfair to assert that these attitudes make their way into policy decisions? For example, how much of the current opposition to the Boy Scouts arises from that organization's pro-religious orientation? Perhaps even more importantly, how much of the FBI's policies on Waco and Ruby Ridge were informed by latent attitudes concerning the fundamentalists involved in those situations? What about the fever pitch of legal interest over the relatively trivial policy issue of creches in civic Christmas displays? Or the fairly recent legal intuition that phrases like "In God We Trust" or "ONe Nation under God" violate the First Amendment?

Should there be a policy concern about discrimination against fundamentalists, as there is, for example, is with respect to Hispanic-Americans? I don't think such concerns are taken seriously and based on my own experience, I suspect that a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleging anti-fundamentalist discrimination would languish in obscurity before being round-filed.

To be clear, we are not talking about Nuremburg laws being passed against the fundamentalists. But anybody reading this information ought to recognize the need for more sensitive toward this minority group. In fact, perhaps there should even be sensitivity training classes concerning fundamentalism and they shoud be given extra points in the interest of diversity. [Of course, I'm being facetious, but isn't it hypocritical of the proponents of such measures to pick and choose among the groups they feel are entitled to such treatment? Just asking.]

Update: I knew this would happen. My low church Protestant partner Penner told me this morning that he was tired of being referred to as a "low church" Protestant. As far as I know, the term "low church" wasn't intended to denigrate the tenets of its adherents. Rather, the term is to contrast the "high church" Protestants that maintain more ritual and liturgical elements, which in turn may have its cognate roots in "High Mass." On the other hand, the term "low church" does have connotations of the social status of the originally adherents of the radical Protestant tradition, which back in the Sixteenth Century was in the "lower orders" of society as compared to the adherents of the magisterial Protestant traditions, like the Lutherans, which included nobility, and the Calvinists, which had succesful towns people, respectively, as their backbones.
Who links to me?