Saturday, November 29, 2003

Yeehaw. I'm packin' the kids into the Honda and gonna go see this flick.

A few reviews of Cat in the Hat. [Thanks to the ever vigilant Country Store for the warning on this gobbler.]

I like this one:

"If the producers had dug up Ted Geisel's body and hung it from a tree, they couldn't have desecrated the man more." -- Ty Burr, BOSTON GLOBER.

For the benefit of To the Barricades, (a) Ted Geisel was Dr. Seuss and (b) the review was intended to be sarcastic, not a suggestion, and (c) Dr. Seuss was the author of The Cat in the Hat, the book, not the movie.

You're welcome.
Another Alisdair McIntyre Sighting.

Andrew Hagen, who I have been led to believe is a good old fashioned liberal, was pondering Gay Marriage recently and has come out against it. I find this line of reasoning promising:

Now, however, the gay movement is attempting to take control of marriage, one of the pillars of society, the institution that raises children. Subverting and taking control of one of society's most precious, cherished, and revered institutions is not what a civil rights movement is supposed to do. Taking control of marriage through judicial decisions that run counter to legal, logical reasoning is unhelpful to society. It will open the door to judicially strike down any and all moral decisions made by our state legislatures. It will end society's ability to regulate itself. It will lead down a slippery slope of terrifying consequences that will eventually force the cutting of the tie between marriage and society. Marriage would be informal and short-lived. Divorce would be casual and convenient. True marriage would continue to exist, but only in abbreviated form. More and more would immorality and wickedness become acceptable. We would enter into a moral dystopia, a stage of decadence that only Caligula could love.

We are running off the cliff that Alasdair MacIntyre describes in his book, After Virtue. We are entering a time when morality itself is questioned. At a time when our society faces threats external from terrorists that emanate from the civil war within Islam, our society is turning against itself. The result will be either devastation and a new dark age, or perseverance and a society better able to take on greater, higher challenges. Let us work and sacrifice untiringly for the brighter future, the one where our values and our liberty are preserved. I suppose this marks me as halfways conservative, but at this stage in time I am left with the conclusion that this is a crisis, and we can either protect what we have and improve upon it, or we can lose the freedom and cultural inheritance bequeathed upon us by countless, voiceless generations who only wanted to give us a future with their meager gifts. Unapologetically do I defend this civilization of virtuous freedom. It is by far our most precious gift, and yet no one can see or touch it. Civilization only lives in our minds and hearts, and so for its vulnerability we are bound to either protect it honorably, or betray it and fall into ignominy and disrepute. If only it were readily and immediately apparent to all what was happening. Instead, people only slowly perceive what is coming, and without the advantage of historical knowledge and perspective are further blindered. Education and discussion are the needed solutions.
(emphasis added.)

We may be running off a cliff indeed. The problem, though, is between two approaches to social institutions. One approach places the emphasis on subjective feelings writ large. To such people, at an extreme, the injunction against murder boils down to "I don't like murder and you shouldn't also." (In truth, I'm not making this up. as McIntyre illustrates in the first chapter of After Virtue these folks actually existed.) Under this approach, all we have are feelings disconnected from the world and feelings are inherently equal and equally valid. Like esophagi, everyone's got them.

The alternative, according to McIntyre, is the classic teleological approach whereby we define the virtues of a thing according to its ends and uses. "Thou shalt not murder" because, well, a virtuous man - a man of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance - just doesn't go around murdering people.

McIntyre depicts the conflict as a conflict between Nietzsche and Aristotle. Nietzsche claimed to be an immoralist. His great philosophical contribution was essentially psychological. Man was an animal. Virtues didn't exist. The good life was to be lived by the artist who would define his own values and move beyond good and evil. Aristotle, in contrast, believed that there were virtues. The good life was lived by living the virtuous life. Virtues could be explained as something more than mere emotions.

Ironically, you get the clear impression that American Constitutional law is Nietzschian in the area of the personal life. Consider the the famous "mystery of life" passage which a plurality of the Supreme Court gave us in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 851 (1992) :

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under the compulsion of the State.

Trust me, after listening to twelve hours of lectures on Nietzsche, the "mystery of life" passage is quintessential Nietzsche. Which makes sense since if you (a) move to an officially atheistic philosophical position and (b) deny that there can be any ordering of virtues sufficiently important for society to favor over another ordering of virtues - that virtues are essentially in the eye of the beholder - you not surprisingly end up at nihilism. And the greatest nihilist was in fact Nietzsche. (You can see the way the deck is stacked in the "mystery of life" passage by its assumptions. An Aristotelian might say that the "heart of liberty" is found in the formation of people who exercise to a greater or lesser extent the virtues of justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude.)

In a similar fashion, you can see the tension in Andrew Hagen's post. Gay marriage, as he points out, is a personal issue. But it's also a public issue. The fact that it's personal doesn't place it into a nihilistic, value free zone. But in modern America that's a tough argument to make.

Glad to see, though, that "right wing postmodernism" is gaining a hearing on all ends of the political spectrum.
Thanksgiving - A Revisionist Narrative

The Ombudsgod - the treasure trove of historical obscurities that he is - has a post on the real "narrative" of Thanksgiving. That narrative includes the first effort at American self-government and the fact that the natives who befriended the settlers sought to use the settlers as a counter-weight against the Native American tribes that were oppressing them.

Or, if you wish, you can believe that the earliest settlers were gold-hungry dupes intent on enslaving anything that walked on two legs, ala Pocahantas.
New Blog/New Concept

TPB at Unbillable Hours notes the emergence of a new blog Blogbook which he describes as a "metablog, a blog about blogging. If you're a lawyer-type - and, really, who in the Bear Flag League isn't? - it might be worth your while to check it out.

Also TPB describes the Massachusett's Gay Marriage opinion as a "royal disaster of an opinion." Since he's a NJ divorce attorney, and, therefore, would benefit from this disaster, er, opinion, that's quite some criticism.

By the by, on the subject of running against economic interest, I read the recent Cal Supreme Court decision creating an affirmative defense against dilatory use of employer sexual harassment policies. It's a good decision, and I say that as someone who had a companion case take up by the Cal Supremes. More, I hope, later.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Further Reflections on the X-Files Post and the Deterioration of American language.

I just realized that I had used the word "viz" in the reference to David Duchovny without really knowing what "viz" is supposed to mean. I had an idea of what it meant. I've seen it used, but it occurred to me that I couldn't define it with any certainty. My sense from seeing it used was that "viz" means something like "with reference to" or "in connection with."

Close, according to one on-line dictionary, the definition is as follows:


adv : as follows [syn: namely, that is to say, videlicet]

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

Viz \Viz\, adv. [Contr. fr. videlicet.]

To wit; that is; namely.

So my use was probably not according to Hoyle.

Nonetheless, this marginal error neatly underscores a point being made repeatedly by John McWhorter in Doing Our Own Thing, which is to say, or viz, that there is a difference to many, and an increasingly dwindling number, between written and oral speech. Written speech has traditionally been more formal than spoken. In writing, we try words and sentence constructions on for size that we would never dream of using in person. "Viz," for example, is a word I would never used in casual conversation except for amusement value.

McWhorter's point, though, is that the distinction between written and spoken English is in rapid decline, to the intellectual impoverishment of society. Compared to even 50 years ago, our written communication is coarse, simplistic and simple-minded. The reaction against formality and care in communication can be seen in a variety of arenas. One can see this phenomena anytime one wanders over to the Atrios blog and read the comments. Likewise, I remember teaching a class in Corporations Law and using words that while somewhat beyond Reader's Digest, should not have been entirely unfamiliar to anyone with a college degree. I had a few students who were not ashamed or discomforted in admitting that they were unfamiliar with these words and their attitude was that the multisyllabic term I had thrown out was "funny." I suggested to the class that they were in law school and that part of their educational goal might be to adopt an air of humility, to wit, or viz, even though the vocabulary was not included in the Beavis and Butthead lexicon it might still be worth learning. (OK. I didn't really say that, but I did suggest that they look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary.)

Incidentally, I do recommend McWhorter's book. It is well-written and explains things I had wondered long about, such as why Prime Minister Question Hour is such a charming demonstration of wit and intelligence, especially when compared to the inarticulate grunting that American politicians can muster only with preparation; and why print advertising from even the 1960s seems to read like a college textbook; and why modern poetry is absolutely worthless and moribund.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving.

A special Thanksgiving as The Accidental Jedi and Ith documents with a picture.

By the way, Thanksgiving. To whom are we giving thanks and for what? I think I know the answer to the first question - but let's not point that out lest some judge decide that this holiday is "unconstitutional" - and as for the second it varies from year to year. For me, this year is, of course, like every year I give thanks to the Creator who let me be born in a country where freedom and opportunity are taken for granted, where my children will grow up without the need to submit to the ruthless tyranny of human beings or economic subjugation. Most of all I am grateful for the wisdom of the framers in drafting Article II, section 1 of the Constitution of the United States, without which we would today be governed by a man whose support was limited to the population within certain areas located no more than 100 miles of the Eastern and Western seaboards.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Odd. I had imagined that Jay Manifold would look more like David Duchovny.

Chicago Boyz is providing a photoblog of the recent Chicago Boyz Blogger Bash. There's even a photo or two of our favorite number crunching Arcturoid.

By the way, viz the Duchovny reference, I'm watching the X-Files episode, The War of the Coprophages. I may need an intervention. I'm finding myself attracted to the entemologist, Dr. Bambi. She's really... what's the word I'm looking for.. ah, yes..."hot." And she loves science fiction. Alas, such a woman could never exist in our workaday world.

Also, the reaction shots on Scully during her phone calls with Mulder are priceless. And the "This is no place for an entemologist" line was classic.

I think I could stand to borrow a life.

Update: Maybe I need a hobby like raising chickens.

Those crazy radical kids.

Antioch Road reports on a Gallup poll in which 72% of girls ages 13 to 17 consider abortion to be morally wrong.

No doubt this poll will be given a great deal of air time by the mainstream media.

Incidentally, for the benefit of To the Barricades, that last sentence was an example of sarcasm.

You're welcome.
The American Compromise

I am probably not alone in my generation to have been taught by my parents that the Pope has no role in politics, that his infallibility was limited to matters of morals and theology. That formulation represents the "American Compromise" of Catholics with democracy, and my generation was probably uniquely positioned with respect to that compromise. Previous generations had worked out the compromise, such that within 18 months of my birth the first American Catholic president could be elected. The concept of the compromise was elevated by Kennedy to almost a credal dimension when Kennedy pledged to keep his religious views hermetically sealed from his political policies. I've always unconsciously accepted the compromise as a part and parcel of being a good American.

On the other hand, as Disputations observes the compromise had an unintended corollary:

Many Catholics who reject the Kennedy doctrine see the neutering of one's judgment by removing all that is uniquely Catholic as a great victory for secularists. It is, certainly, but I think there's something more fundamental at work here. Kennedy declared his doctrine, not at a meeting of secularists, but at a meeting of Baptist ministers.

A man "whose religious views are his own private affair" is not a Catholic in any meaningful sense. By cutting his faith off from community, he necessarily becomes a non-credal Protestant, since Catholicism is by definition a shared and public affair.

The risk to Catholicism in the U.S. is that, in fighting against secularism, it can make concessions to non-Catholic Christianity -- the traditional Protestantism of the country -- that makes impossible a genuinely Catholic character.

So the first Catholic president was effectively a non-credal Protestant.

It's an interesting thought. I suspect that younger generations of Catholics aren't taught the creed of the compromise since the idea that the Pope or the Church would ever be able to dictate or influence political judgments is dim at best.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Forget the whole gay marriage thing. The next thing we have to outlaw is plastic surgery.

Ghost of a Flea -who has an exuberant if misguided love of bad science fiction - has a link to what Michael Jackson would have looked like at 45 without plastic surgery. Here's the link to the computer reconstruction. In the reconstruction, Jackson looks, well, human.

That plastic surgery is some kind of scary stuff. There's even a website devoted to celebrity "awful plastic surgery." It's like watching a train wreck. On the other hand, it does explain Mickey Rourke.

A Slice of Life.

The nice thing about blogging - at least for me - is the immediacy and transparency that the journal like process of blogging provides to readers, offering a view into experiences and perspectives previously unknown. A case in point is this post by Mullatoboy following this post by Cobb on the subject of what it's like to be presumed to be a sharer of the values of another merely because of one's race. Cobb's point - that underclass values are presumed to be real and authentic compared to cultured values - and seems to be something similar to the point that John McWhorter is making in Doing Our Own Thing.

As for me, I've got no similar experience to draw upon. No redhead has ever presumed that I would "hook him up" because of our shared colormorph. Albeit I do know what it's like to date a redhead - weirdly similarly to incest, and I don't mean that in a good way.

While I've got zero real experience to add to the conversation - and I really do recommend both posts - ignorance has never stopped me from sharing my purely theoretical insights. Those insights boil down to the words "affinity fraud."

If you ever go to an on-line legal research system and type in words relating to fraud, you will see an interesting pattern. The cases are often named things like Kirkerian v. Kazillian or Yang v. Chee or O'Reilly v. Murphy (particularly the cases before 1970.) This pattern is replicated in the practical experience of the business litigation attorney who finds the most egregious instances of fraud to happen within churches. These fact patterns make out "affinity fraud" where people within an ethnic groups and ethnic churches will prey upon members of their own group because it's easy, because the victims have the guards down, because the victims are trusting. Racial solidarity talk is simply affinity fraud institutionalized. (By the way, as should be obvious from context, I'm making no assertion that someone named, for example, O'Reilly sued someone named Murphy, nor am I referring to any specific person. I've pulled these case names either out of the air or my vast practical experience. If you think that I'm referring to a specific actual published decision, a real case or a specific person, you have absolutely no basis for making that claim.)

My take-away from my observations of affinity fraud is not dissimilar to that of Cobb and Mullatoboy. I've resolved never to do business with Irish Catholics, and certainly not with redheaded Irish Catholics.

You just can't trust those cheating SOBs.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

The Decline of Rhetoric.

I just picked up John McWhorter's Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music - and here is a link to the book's website - which is discussed in this Aramvirique post. So far, and I'm only into the introduction, the book reads well. It is well written and makes a fair points that while linguistic change being inevitable, there does seem to have been a "sea-change" in rhetoric and culture that can be traced to the 1960s. Should be interesting.
Here's another "oo-whee-ooh" Factoid

Which is supposed to represent the theme to "Dark Shadows.

Anyhow, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the deaths on the same day of John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis. My favorite Catholic book store - the Holy Child on the Northwest Corner of Palm and Bullard - has the Peter Kreeft book which imagines a dialogue between the three as they wait in the afterlife's big waiting room which is mentioned in this The Corner post. I'm told that it's an excellent book.

Speaking of Upside Down Priorities.

Lileks slams Salaam Pax for his whine about poor service in Post-Saddam Iraq. It seems that America spilled a glass of tomato juice on a dirty carpet and has to clean up the whole thing, or somesuch. Lilek's response is epic:

Hey, Salam? Fuck you. I know you’re the famous giggly blogger who gave us all a riveting view of the inner circle before the war, and thus know more about the situation than I do. Granted. But there’s a picture on the front page of my local paper today: third Minnesotan killed in Iraq. He died doing what you never had the stones to do: pick up a rifle and face the Ba’athists. You owe him.

Let me explain this in simple terms, habibi. You would have spent the rest of your life under Ba’athist rule. You might have gotten some nice architectural commissions to do a house for someone whose aroma was temporarily acceptable to the Tikriti mob. You might have worked your international connections, made it back to Vienna, lived a comfy exile’s life. What’s certain is that none of your pals would ever have gotten rid of that “scary guy without the hideous moustache” (as if his greatest sin was somehow a fashion faux pas) and the Saddam regime would have prospered into the next generation precisely because of people like you.

Update: Bill Cork suggests that my title and Lilek's blast are out of line.

I don't think they are. As I note in the comments, Salaam Pax claims that he lost family and friends who disappeared into the Baathist security apparatus. Given the level of access to information that he claimed during the war and the well-known tradition that totalitarian systems have of compromising their citizens - in an early purge, Saddam had survivors execute the purged for that very reason - I think that there is a fair chance that Salaam was implicitly complicit with the Baathist regime. (And, really, who wouldn't be?) Salaam says he is grateful to America for toppling the Baathist regime.

But he wants to lecture America for not in six months time bringing to Iraq the same level of social, political and technological development enjoyed by Cleveland.

I stand by what I wrote. Salaam doesn't have the moral position to criticize America.

Now, it is true that America wasn't invited into Iraq. Or is that true? Were there no Iraqis who were asking America to do what it did last May? The Kurds, perhaps, who were saved from genocidal annihilation only by continuing American military intervention? Don't they count?

We intervened and it is our tradition to rebuild, but I don't accept the idea that we didn't have a causus belli. Iraq was regularly shooting at our aircraft in the no fly zones. Here is a Reason article from October 21, 2002 referencing the causus belli available to America last year, including the constant pot-shotting of American military planes. And here is the pertinent passage in case anyone has forgotten:

Since then, the coalition (mainly the United States and Britain) has flown more than 250,000 sorties over Iraq. "Iraqi forces have fired on these aircraft thousands of times, and U.S. and coalition pilots have returned fire thousands of times," note Stevens, Wall, and Dinlenc.

This kind of activity has served to justify military action - war - in the past.

Moreover, and more importantly, Iraq clearly was supporting al Quaeda and other groups. It may not fit neatly in Just War Theory, but after September 11 American leaders can no longer allow states with access to biological, chemical and, eventually, nuclear weapons to support, incite or aid non-state terrorist groups. Too much damage can be done to easily for America to accept a rule that we will only retaliate only if we have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Iraq has been benefitted by America's military action. But for that action, Salaam might have been "disappeared" into the maws of the Baathist security apparatus, even if he was a Baathist stooge. The purpose of Terror often requires that fellow-travelers be sent to the mass grave. Thousands of others probably would have been likewise. They live and have the chance to decide their own future. If they refuse to "cowboy up," but instead choose to continue the attitudes of subjects in a totalitarian state, then they will lose the chance we've given them. But it's their decision, not ours.

Call that arrogance if you wish.

Second Update: By the way, and to be clear, I think that Bill Cork and Mark Shea are doing yeoman duty in cautioning against arrogance. This kind of prophetic activity has a grand and proper history. Sic transit gloria munde the slave would whisper to the Roman general during the triumph. Pride goeth, as they say, before the fall. We are Americans and we have a tradition of the common man as soldier. Our soldiers are not conquistadors or jihadistas appropriating personal demesne's for their glory and profit. Hence, referring to Iraqis as "Haji" is clearly wrong and arrogant.

On the other hand, excess must be avoided in all things, including self-abasement. Our soldiers are not the slave soldiers of a tyranny. They are free men and women freely fighting for a free people. Their presence may be just exactly the model of interracial, intertribal, interreligious cooperation that might appeal to the aspiration of umma that the Iraqis need.

Or at least that's my prayer.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Road Trip.

I'm off to San Francisco to see if I can settle a cancer disability discrimination case. I've got some lectures on Nietzsche in the car so don't be surprised if on Saturday I'm not focusing on whether arguments over gay marriage are instantiations of the "will to power."
A Civil Dispute.

There is nice little disputation going at the appropriately named Disputations over the meaning and role of "inclusive language." Much give and take. Much irony and humour. No name calling or tendentious attacks on deliberate misreadings of arguments. The folks at To the Barricades should take notes on how to do a civil dispute.

Incidentally, Jcecil3, who dropped something into the comments here last week and appears to be a well meaning sort of progressive, has this observation in the comments:

What I would say is that a woman is only sexist if she resist inclusive language and the promotion of equal rights. Only a conservative woman can be sexist.

From the context of the comment, I don't think this was meant by Jcecil3 as hyperbolic or ironic. It does, though, offer an insight into something I was wrestling with on the "civil disobedience" thread over at Mark Byron's site where various comments asserted that the majority could not legitimately engage in civil disobedience, only the minority could. I guess the buried paradigm is something like civil disobedience is legitimately used only as an attack on the power structure, the power structure is conservative/reactionary, therefore only liberal/progressive attacks through civil disobedience are moral.

I think that actually sums up the buried assumption that the posters were making. The logic of the paradigm is obviously both absurd and self-serving for all kinds of historical and logical reasons, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the core axiom among a substantial segment of society whose representatives are even now applying their pragmatic approach to civil disobedience against the power structure in Florida.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Boston Marriage Redux.

Cobb offers a compromise on the "gay marriage" issue as follows:

Therefore the state should not *recognize* 'Marriage' any more than it recognizes 'Extreme Unction'. The state buries unidentified bodies in the ground but that does not make it a Funeral. The state recognizes civil unions but that doesn't make them Marriages.

I'd like to subscribe to this position, but I can't. Here's why.

As I explain to my "pregnancy discrimination" clients, pregnancy discrimination really isn't about "discrimination." In pregnancy discimination cases we're not really asking employers to treat their pregnant employments equally. We are actually asking that pregnant folks - women, we call them - be given preferential treatment over folks with ulcers. You can fire the latter after three months given all kinds of side-constraints dealing with hours worked and number of employees, but the former have to get rehired in the same position after four (or seven) months.

This is justified, I explain (or, as we say in Fresno, "It's all good"), because we kind of want there to be folks in the future to pay taxes, provide labor and defend the borders. To get those people - children, we call them - we kind of have to encourage, or at least de-incentivize, folks - i.e., "women" - to get pregnant - or, as we say in Fresno, the "baby-making way."

Even so, making babies, and raising children, will be either exclusively a heterosexual project (in the former situation) or largely a heterosexual project (in the latter.) To that extent, social policy should encourage the institution that is most likely to lead to the creation of healthy, productive future citizens - and that in our middle class bourgeousie culture is long-term monogamous marriage. Social policy should encourage such an institution for exactly the same reason that scocial policy currently favors the "disability" of pregnancy over the disability of gout - to wit, because a healthy, productive society requires healthy, productive replacement economic units, which we call "children."

Now, when I take off my Catholic/Aristotelian hat, I have zero opposition to the existential concept of same sex marriage. More power to them, I sez. I hope they will all be as succesful as I was. More money to the divorce lawyers and God bless them all, sez me.

But as a conservative who has noticed the altogether dreadful consequence of minor adjustments in social policy, I have to be skeptical. Back in the seventies, no fault divorce was intended as a minor adjustment to the institution of divorce. What could it hurt? Divorce might climb a few percentage points, but, really, the horrible charade of connived divorces, where "incompatibility" was founded on purely fictitious excuses, would be ended. It would all end in utopia as those few, sad couples who wanted to divorce would maximize their joint and several utility

Ten years later when the divorce rate climbed to 50%, the genie was out of the bottle. Now, when the first generation of the divorce culture is now beginning to have its own children, one has to wonder which was worse, the tremendous exposure of children to poverty and violence, or the denial of growth opportunities to the parents who had them? (And, incidentally, like the famous mock NY Times headline "World to end tomorrow; women and minorities hit hardest," the fact is that the breakdown of the family hurt the most vulnerable populations. For example, the drop- out rate at Fresno High School, which in the 1950s was the premier Fresno high school and graduated Baseball greats Tom Seaver and Dick Ellsworth, presently is around 40%. These students simply disappear and never get a High School degree. Not coincidentally, I was told by a teacher at Fresno High that her long term marriage of thirty years was unfathomable to her students who were usually working on their third or fourth stepfather.)

But it's all good. Gay marriage is a marginal issue. How many gays really want to marry? It couldn't possibly further erode an institution that desperately needs to be slapped awake and sent off to Betty Ford. But then I have to reflect on a culture that celebrates Madonnna and in which the homosexual ethos has a tremendous influence in popular culture and politics. I have to reflect on the fact that that influential social group has essentially no structural investment in fidelity in the traditional sense of warding off bastardy or ensuring the relationship of father and child, which is so very important to marital fidelity and, concomittantly, to marital stability.

See you in about twenty years.
Master and Commander Review.

Here is a review of Master and Commander. Looks promising, plus plus the French are the villains. What's not to like?

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Public Service Announcement.

About a year ago, I signed up with Paypal in order to donate some money to Mark Shea for his most excellent work - ministry, I believe some call it - in spreading moderate Catholicism on the internet. No good deed goes unpunished. This morning, I received my bank statement to find that my personal banking account, which had been used with the Paypal account, to find that I had been cleaned out, with nearly $10,000 taken out over a three week period.

For me, it's not a disaster. I have a separate business account. I caught the problem within the required time. The money drained out of the account should be reimbursed within a week or so.

On the other hand, if I didn't have the business account - such as when I was an employee - things could have been dicey during the interim. For me, now, this is simply a substantial inconvenience; for someone else it could be a disaster.

Now, I have no bad feelings about the folks at Paypal. But a warning is in order. Check your accounts. If you've done business through Paypal, and maybe other similar operations, you may want to check your account for unusual activity sooner rather than later. For me, in the future, I will probably do my internet donations through credit cards where my personal accounts have less transparency to internet criminals.
More Acquired Irony Deficiency Syndrome.

Patterico whomped up a a dead-on parody of the demand letter served on Justene Adamec at Calblog based on the Nigerian e-mail scam. That has, of course, inspired postings of charges across the internet that Patterico is a racist.

I dunno. I thought it was funny.

Remember, everyone, it's not funny unless it accuses a Republican of rape or of being in an asylum.

By the way, Right on the Left Beach has dug up some more information on those punks at that low budget, low class Infotel operation.
From the "Better to Light a Single Candle" File.

After the Byron contretempts, I wrote a comment on one of the blogs that had caricatured Mark Byron as a murderous specimen of Christian hatred - actually using the phrase "sick puppy Christian" and entitling a post "payback's a bitch" as if Dr. Byron was the author of all of the sins of the world. My point was that the person who in June had condemned Eric Rudolph - the abortion doctor murderer - as evil was not likely to have turned into a committed advocate of murders for political benefit in November. My purpose was to plant a possibly redeeming counter-meme to salve Mark Byon's reputation where it might do the most good. Further, I kind of have this thing about truth and I like to see it happen more.

The blog I selected was To the Barricades. My success at scratching the surface of the closed, self-satisfied world of the pure of heart appears to have been marginal. But one never knows. People surf in and they surf out. Someone reading the posts and comments might take away a nuanced view of the complex issues of free speech and ideological restraint. They might even ask themselves, "gee, why would a guy who condemned the killing of abortion doctors for political reasons have written a dark and frankly nauseating fantasy about the mass murder of liberals in the context of a referrence to a person famous for engaging in violent resistance against tyranny?" That background might have led to the conclusion that the author really meant what he said about such "armed resistance" being immoral. Alas, the ability to engage in that fairly superficial level of critical thinking appears to be entirely absent from To the Barricades, although tendentious attacks on strawman arguments such as that I was serious about my "dark fantasy" of a pre-emptive assassination of the leader of the Reformation abound. (Interesting question: would the Reformation have happened without Luther? It reminds me of the famous mock headline: "Archduke Franz Ferdinand found alive in Argentina. World War I fought by Mistake.")

On the other hand, if you're interested in a fair specimen of knee-jerk polemics that seeks to score debating points at the expense of logic and knowledge, visit To the Barricades and surf through the posts. I wish I could have recommended it as thoughtful, insightful or challenging, but I really can't.
Boston Marriages.

Massachusetts Supreme Court enacts Gay Marriage law.

Massachusetts divorce bar hails legal ruling.

Person afflicted with "multiple sex partner attraction," "intergenerational sex attraction" and "dead sex attraction" complain that they have thus far been left out of the equal protection promise of the Massachusetts Constitution.

Update: The Boi from Troy isn't thrilled with the ruling, for other reasons. (Ha, Boi, do you like that M.C. Escher approach to blogging?)

On the other hand, Chris Burgwald makes explicit what was implied in my obscure psuedo-headlines. To wit, what is it about "twosies" that the Constitution - Massachusetts, in this case - doesn't recognize in "threesies?"

And, incidentally, why isn't Lane Core absolutely correct in this prediction. I mean, 60% of the population already oppose Gay Marriage; the cause of Gay Marriage has been ebbing since Lawrence; and, if there's one thing that really ticks off a lot of Americans, it's the Imperial Judiciary.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Great. I'm sold.

Ith likes Master and Commander. I've been hearing so-so reviews or worse about it. I've been looking for an excuse to go see it. Looks like I've got one.
Class, pure class.

I like spreading the word about people who exhibit grace, class and virtue. MCJ has the story about Kurt Warner who has consistently defined class.
Russkis to Piskies - Nyet on Gay Bishop.

[Via Midwest Conservative Journal.] Here's the Russian Orthodox Church's announcement of severance of ties with the Episcopalian Church. And here is the nifty Russian version.

I found this interesting.

The Russian Orthodox Church has maintained good relations with the Episcopal Church in the USA for almost two hundred years. Our relations remained warm and friendly even in the period of the 'cold war', when Christians had mutual understanding and supported one another in the world divided into the confronting military blocks. The Episcopal Church in the USA supported Orthodox Christians in our country at the time of persecution for the faith in Christ. Particularly friendly relations between our two Churches have been established in the early 1990s, when a Joint Coordinating Committee for Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church in the USA was set up. The Committee prepared and carried out three theological conversations, successfully implemented common social and educational projects and arranged visits to one another.

However, the 'consecration' of a gay priest has made any communications with him and with those who consecrated him impossible. We shall not be able to cooperate with these people not only in the theological dialogue, but also in the humanitarian and religious and pubic spheres. We have no right to allow even a particle of agreement with their position, which we consider to be profoundly antiChritian and blasphemous.

I guess the relationship of the Anglicans and the Russian Orthodox has roots going back to the 1700s when Russia and England were traditional allies. (I know whereof I speak having played Empires in Arms for a few years.)

A Different Narrative on the New Hampshire Lesbian Adultery Case.

This column by Jeff Jacoby just goes to show that howsomuch ever I want to pretend that I inhabit a little bubble of the 14th Century, I am actually fairly infected by the 21st Century ethos. I thought that the New Hampshire decision holding that lesbians could not commit adultery was "moonbat nuts." Of couse, they can. In fact, they do and there is an entire industry which makes exorbitant profits on exactly the mechanics involved in that possibility.

But the court's reasoning, according to Jacoby, was:

The court rejected that argument for the straightforward reason that "the plain and ordinary meaning of adultery" under New Hampshire law is sexual intercourse between a married man and another woman or between a married woman and another man. That is what adultery has meant "for over a hundred and fifty years [to] judges, lawyers, and clients" in New Hampshire, the court said; until the state legislature changes that definition, that is what it will continue to mean. The justices didn't mention the churning controversy over same-sex marriage in their brief opinion. But the implication of their ruling ought to be clear to other courts -- like the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts -- that are considering the issue.

How refreshingly ante-diluvian. And, as Jacoby points out, if adultery can only be between a man and a woman, that offers a basis for a defense of marriage.

Great. In our upside-down world, vice is the great bulwark for virtue.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Just remember that the most off the wall comments at this conference today will become the eternal intentions of the Founders tomorrow.

And probably the historians will gin up a research paper arguing that same sex marriage was prevalent in Boston in the 1780s. Wouldn't be the first time they did something like that.

Professor Wagner describes his recent involvement with a conference on Same Sex Marriage. Given the wide, wide consensus in favor of SSM at the conference, it looks like elite legal opinion has discerned a Platonic ideal and you can therefore kiss off democratic input from the Common Man.

All out of bubblegum.

Aaron has put together an impressive Infotel information package. Check it out.

Buffalo NY Better Business Bureau has this to say:

The Bureau has received numerous complaints concerning this company's selling practices. Most complaints claim their business was billed for a directory listing which was never ordered, or that Infotel sales personnel claimed to be asking for a renewal of a listing when none existed.

In some cases, Infotel Publications has contacted companies who have complained to the Better Business Bureau, and has offered to cancel accounts if the companies retract their complaints. The company claims they tape record their customers during the sales verification presentation to verify the order.

This company has an unsatisfactory business performance record with the Bureau due to a pattern of complaints claiming deceptive selling practices, a pattern of complaints concerning credit and billing procedures, and for failure to eliminate the cause of those complaints.

Just remember, truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to be plausible.

Ever have one of those moments when somebody connect a pair of dots and you think something like, "geez, that's so obvious, why didn't I see that before?" Roger Ho makes the observation that at the same time as many Americans are castigating the administration for not finding WMD in Iraq, many Americans will be glued to the TV watching the intrepid Jack Bauer move Heaven and Earth to find the sole carrier of a disease that can kill 20% of the population of Los Angeles.(1)

1. In light of the Byron controversy, I want to make it clear that the official editorial position of Lex Communis is that that would be a "bad" thing and that we do not necessarily agree with those who advocate an FBI investigation into Keifer Sutherland, despite the fact that Mr. Sutherland's father is a Canadian.
You know, if it wasn't for the Cracker Barrel Philosopher, I would never have heard of the latest fusion cuisine, which is currently the rage in Seattle.
Another perspective on the Matrix.

The Old Oligarch offers a most optimistic explanation of the end of the trilogy. Although the Oligarch finds in the final movie a vindication of Christian realism, what about the movie as a model of Nietzcheism. Neo is the self-defining ubermensch. He makes his own morality. His final credo is "because I choose," which seems fairly Neitzschian. Further, you have that credo following what has to be an instantiation of eternal recurrence; the movie incarnation is something like the seventh or eighth time that Neo has had to trace the maze.

I'm not saying that the Wachowski brothers decided to pen a movie trilogy based on Nietzsche, but, hey, I can play the game too.
More Hentoff on Schiavo.

[Via Patterico.] Here is Nat Hentoff's column on "whether Terry Schiavo was beaten in 1990." My suspicion is that this is an angle that can never go anywhere after so long.
The Bonhoffer Option.

Mark Byron is a very sober and thoughtful writer. What he was thinking in in a post describing a "Christian" coup de'tat against liberalism eludes me. He was either indulging in the dark thoughts that virtually everyone has at one time or another or he was trying to start some kind of discussion about the morality of civil disobedience.

Dr. Byron's post was picked up on a leftist blog at the History News Network and from there it spread like wildfire with death threats and obscenties being directed at the Good Doctor. The posts and comments all play on a stereotype of Dr. Byron and indulge in virulent bigotry against that group of Protestants who have coopted the word "Christian." (Actually they're the "radical Protestants.") It's worth reading the posts and comments to see the thin envelope of civility that tears when the left starts mocking "christians" - it's as ugly as any form of anti-semitism.

Also, slide through the leftist critique and note the inherent fascism of the response. The suggestions are that Dr. Byron should be monitored as an enemy of the state. Dr. Byron should be reported to the FBI. Dr. Byron is a terrorist. Glenn Reynolds and everyone else should ostracize Dr. Byron. All of which is more evidence of the Leninist heart that needs to be evicted from the culture of the left.

Let me make several points. First, I think Dr. Byron's post was a mistake. The virtues of the post are far outweighed by the costs. Second, I think the scenario is clearly wrong in that we live in a functioning democracy - whereas Dietrich Bonhoffer, famously, didn't. To the extent that the post had any virtues, it should serve to sharpen why we don't believe in violence. On which point, let me cite the best articulation of my postion which is found in the Catechism and provides an insightful analysis:

2243 Armed resistance to oppression by political authority is not legitimate, unless all the following conditions are met: 1) there is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights; 2) all other means of redress have been exhausted; 3) such resistance will not provoke worse disorders; 4) there is well-founded hope of success; and 5) it is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution.

One would have hoped for some nuanced discussion on the issue. Instead Dr. Byron got bellowing and name-calling. One philosopher who I had an exchange with even made the amazing suggestion - after trying to argue that civil disobedience on the part of a majority was always illegitimate - that violent civil disobedience was never proper. In Nazi Germany? By Dietrich Bonhoeffer? Of course, violent disobedience against tyranny is moral. It's called the "Right of Revolution," it was posited by John Locke and was the foundational principle of this country, but "Matt" cowardly signed off lest he be accidentally learn something at the hands of this person who he referred to as having the guile of a "Jesuit." Of course, he restorted to this ad hominem attack after I had simply cited the relevant section of the Catechism and after he asked me where he had engaged in name-calling. Presumably, if I'd cited the Torah, I would have been accused of "rabbinical hair-splitting." You just got to love that tolerance and absence of prejudice.

Finally, the ad hominem attacks against Dr. Byron are simply slander. I know that Dr. Byron unconditionally condemned Eric Rudolf, the abortion clinic murderer. I have yet to see the same condemnation by leftist bloggers of Sarah Jane Olsen or others of her ilk.

So, as Dr. Byron might say, don't complain about the speck in your brother's eye until you have removed the beam from your own.

Update: Glenn Reynolds has in fact suggested that Dr. Byron needs to "sober up." The ever-sober Kevin Holtsberry offers his take on what the reaction to Byron says about the tenuous commitment of bloggers to the free speech of speech they don't want to hear.

Update: By the way, if you're interested, my "dark thoughts" involve a rifle with a sniper scope, a time machine and Germany in 1517. OK, start the cards and letters rolling. Report me to the FBI. Maybe Glenn Reynolds will tell me to sober up.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Sarumen is one classy guy.
Listen up, you Infotel punks. You are all a bunch of low-class, low-budget cowards. Don't like me saying that? Send me a letter and I will respond with a B&P 17200 action in Fresno Superior Court.

Justene Adamec has been served with an official lawyer letter - ooh, scary - for comments left at her blog by some outfit named Infotel.

In my experience - and I was involved in a case which resulted in several people doing federal time for setting up a Ponzi scheme - people who resort to threatening letters at the drop of a hat to stifle speech are more likely than not involved in a scam. The usual scenario is that the scam reaches a ragged end, at which point the scam-artists need to point to someone for bringing down the business. Further, legitimate businesses want to fix problems with unhappy customers because they want repeat businesses. Scam-artists want to get out of town with the loot and know that there will be no repeat business.

By threatening suits in a systematic fashion, Infotel is probably engaging in "unfair business practices" as defined in California Business and Professions Code Section 17200. Further, if Infotel is threatening to recover punitive damages, it may be opening itself to an abuse of process counterclaim.

Infotel is a public entity engaging in public activities in the public arena. Infotel knows that it has no claim for defamation. Infotel is simply and illegally trying to stifle legitimate public discussion about its activities - the very thing that the First Amendment was intended to protect.

Friday, November 14, 2003

The, ahem, Marketplace of Ideas.

You don't know how much it hurts to say that, even though that was the theses of a law review article I co-wrote.

In any event, Voyage to Arcturus is promoting this delightfully original and ironically refreshing cartoon by "Tom Yesterday."

As Joe Bob might say, "check it out."

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Times they are a'changing.

Naval Academy Grads Seek Gay Chapter.

That should liven up the re-unions.
Eating their young.

It must be a proud thing to be a leftist. You are always on the side of tolerance and charity. So it means nothing to call a fellow liberal a "brownshirt" when he suggests why other leftists are out of touch with mainstream society. I picked up this example through Dodd who vouches that the blogger, Andrew Hagen is a principled, courteous liberal. I particularly liked this bit of appalling invective:

Tbogg's outed you dumbass. You might as well quit lying. Quote "I hold left-wing views. As an American, I'm a political independent who leans toward the Democratic Party and away from the Green Party." Please don't lean toward the Democratic party. We don't want your worthless, lying ass. Go back and join your freeper friends.
P.S. Time to get off the Oxycotin dittohead now that they got your dealer Limbaugh in a padded cell where he belongs.

Yah, that says tolerance and love.

Then, scooting through Fresno blogger The Accidental Jedi, I stumbled upon this post on the disgusting trashing of Randite blogger by commenters at Atrios. Silber, apparently, is financially suffering from the transit strike in L.A. and may suspend blogging. This led to a round of comments celebrating the joy of seeing someone else's misery at Atrios. Check out this pearl:

Obviously, by his own philosophy, he does not deserve to live. Law of the jungle. Dog eat dog. Kill or be killed.

Amazing how it takes personal experience for so many of these types to realize how wrong that philosophy can be.

Feel the love?

Finally, Bear Flagger Citizen Smash used his own experience as an Iraq-War veteran to disembowl a tendentious cartoon by Tom Tomorrow which attempted to paint supporters of the war in Iraq as hypocrites and cowards. Before you could say "Beavis and Butthead," Citizen Smash was flooded with disgusting, and often mis-spelled, Atrios-style comments. (What is it about the Left and the exclusive use of the lower case anyway? Do they think they are e.e. cummings?) This one is choice:

Tom skewered you fat-ass big-mouthed brownshirts to a tee. No wonder you're in such a tizzy.

Don't like it? Enlist and prove him wrong.

Now go back to eating the Cheetohs...

After all, it's not a real debate until someone invokes the brownshirts.

These people don't need political power. They need a course in anger management.

Somedays it seems like no one's getting "lucky" anymore.

If you know what I mean.

First, there's the New Hampshire decision that lesbian sex isn't adultery because it's not "sex." (And how could that be important to a legal decision? Is New Hampshire not a "no fault" jurisdiction?) Then, Winkola reports that a suit by an Israeli lawyer to enforce his "twice daily conjugal rights - if you know what I mean - has been summarily rejected by the courts.

Darn, if that one had gone somewhere, my business would be booming.

Update: Here is the decision on the New Hampshire lesbian adultery case. And it does appear that:

(a) New Hampshire requires "fault" for a divorce and

(b) lesbians can never get "lucky."

(If you know what I mean.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Worth Following.

Nat Hentoff has had the civil liberties beat for as long as I can remember. I've always pigeon-holed him as a principled lefty libertarian. The Mighty Barrister has flagged this Nat Hentoff column on the Schiavo debate which really is worth a read in a low whistle kind of way. Hentoff has apparently done some independent digging and will be writing follow up columns on the tendentious nature of Terry Schiavo's purported death-wish and on the husband's refusal to allow potentially effective rehabilitation.

I found this paragraph most arresting:

Ignoring the facts of the case, the American Civil Liberties Union—to my disgust, but not my surprise in view of the long-term distrust of the ACLU by disability rights activists—has marched to support the husband despite his grave conflicts of interests in this life-or-death case. The ACLU claims the governor and the legislature of Florida unconstitutionally overruled the courts, which continued to declare the husband the lawful guardian. On the other hand, the ACLU cheered when Governor George Ryan of Illinois substituted his judgment for that of the courts by removing many prisoners from death row. In a later column, I'll go deeper into the constitutional debate over saving Terri's life.

I think Hentoff comes out of the liberal tradition that had a visceral concern for the helpless. I think this tradition still exists, but is being swallowed up by the technocratic left (and center and right, for that matter) which believes that the existential meaning of life can only be found in the ability to have an orgasm. I don't think that tradition is entirely dead and two cheers for Nat Hentoff who appears to fighting something of a last stand to conserve something of that tradition.

Of course, anyone who questions the ACLU has my support. Like many Americans, I think I first began to despise the ACLU because of the Skokie issue. I started despising the ACLU's simplistic, black and white, disagree-with-us-and-you're-not-a-real-American, we-strain-at-gnats-lest-the-skies-collapse attitude when the ACLU told us that nothing less than American democracy was at stake if neo-Nazis were refused a parade permit through a neighborhood filled with concentration camp survivors. (I understand that the ACLU lost a substantial percentage of its membership over that one, and it has clearly refused to be out of touch with its ultra-liberal base ever since.)

Eric Burns mirrors my feelings:

I don't like the ACLU. Strike that — I despise the ACLU. I have despised it ever since the late seventies, when, as a correspondent for NBC News, I covered a neo-Nazi march through the predominantly Jewish suburb of Skokie, Illinois.

I watched the brutal, young thugs in the streets, saw their twisted grins and their swastika tattoos. I watched the old Jews in the neighborhoods, saw their sorrowful eyes and their concentration-camp tattoos. The punks were shouting slogans of hatred. The Jews were remembering when they, or their parents or friends, had heard such words before.

The Nazis had been given permission to march through the streets of Skokie because of a judge's ruling that the First Amendment was on their side. The ACLU represented the Nazis. It did not represent the Jews. It did not care about the gratuitous pain that the Nazis were going to inflict, pain that had nothing to do with free speech in any compassionate definition of the term.

I will never forgive the American Civil Liberties Union for what it did that day. And to this day it is the same group. It insists that virtually anyone has a right to say or do virtually anything, and so the ACLU itself stands for nothing. It insists that only the right of the speaker matters, and so the ACLU denies the very humanity of those who are assaulted by the speech. It insists that the First Amendment is to be interpreted in a way that the Founding Fathers never intended, and so the ACLU makes principle, not patriotism, the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Democracy requires a little flex in the joints. The Republic will not fall because Nazis are forced to march through a different neighborhood. Hell, when you think about "Marching Season" in Northern Ireland, maybe democracy requires that the forces of intimidation not be allowed to march.

But, not to the ACLU. Keep the camp survivors indoors that day. We don't want the Republic to fall because a bunch of skinheads were told to move their little march across town.

And, boy, was that worth doing. Thank heavens for the ACLU and their principled stands. Why if it wasn't for the ACLU, we might have Supreme Court decisions permitting the police to walk into protests by pro-life and pro-choice forces and arrest only the pro-life supporters. Or we could conceivably have a constitutional approval of a rule that prevents education - not harassment, mind you - within 10 feet of people going to abortion clinics based on nothing more than the content of the speech involved. (In other words, you can educate them on the benefits of abortion, but not the disadvantages of abortion.) Or we might have a legal regime that allowed warrantless, random stops of people for a crime that targets the generally law-abiding middle-class, but not for drugs or murder, oddly enough.

Incidentally, what was the ACLU position on those issues?


Bruce Rheinstein who can be trusted on First Amendment issues links to an article on the Skokie march which states that the the Naziz never marched in Skokie:

It was April 30, 1977, the judge and former village attorney recalled this week. A crowd of Holocaust survivors and their supporters gathered in front of village hall refused to leave after officials told them the Nazis had been turned back.


It has been a quarter century since the Nazi marchers were turned back by an injunction served at the Edens Expressway.

Skokie would embark on an 18-month legal battle to keep them out. The village ultimately lost its case in court, but the Nazis never marched in Skokie.

The United States Supreme Court eventually sided with constitutional arguments by attorneys representing Frank Collins’ National Socialist party. The justices dismissed Skokie’s arguments that allowing the march would be an assault on survivors who lived in the village.

Burns' memory of being present at the march would therefore seem to be confabulation. Now, this doesn't suggest mendacity on his part. Human memory is fallible and malleable. Burns could easily be conflating incidents he did witness nearly a quarter century before.

Is the Skokie March a bit of historical urban folklore? I was a senior in High School in 1977. I remember the controversy. I remember the concentration camp survivors in Skoke. I remember the ACLU prevailing on its claims on behalf of the Nazis. I don't remember the march, but I would have placed money in a bar bet that it happened.

Whether the march actually happened doesn't really detract from the fact that the ACLU supported the Nazi's right to march in Skokie. That support traumatized Skokie and the ACLU membership. I have seen publications that state that the ACLU lost something like a quarter of its membership because of the Skokie decision.

As for the decision, my law school Prof, Richard Delgado, writes in "Must We Defend Nazis?" - which itself harkens back to Skoke - as follows:

And in the "Nazis in Skokie" case, the Seventh Circuit's opinion reverberated wtih Justice Home's reasoning. In upholding the neo-Nazi's right to march in that city, the court wrote that its result was dictated by the fundamental proposition that if free speech is toremain vital for all, courts must protect not only speech our society deems acceptable, but also that which it justifiably rejects and despises.

So it seems that the ACLU won the legal battle. What stopped the march?

Incidentally, Skokie reverberates as a "ripple of battle," a battle which may be forgetten by those in their 20s and 30s. Delgado's book is premised on Skokie. Delgado cites Collins v. Smith which is the "Nazis in Skokie" case on page 3. I don't agree with Delgado's premise that racist speech is uniquely outside of the First Amendment. I just think that reasonable time, place and manner limitations are permissible. If the neo-Nazis had nowhere else to march than Skokie, my pragmatic judgment might change. I think that the failure to make such distinctions rather than the purported support for the Nazis is what caused the backlash against the ACLU.

On the other hand, I don't want to participate in spreading historical fables. I'm going to see if Burns will respond to an e-mail on his stated recollections.

Monday, November 10, 2003

The News out of Poland.

This is really sad. Peter Hitchens describes the latest dictatorship to rape Poland:

More shocking yet, in a strange mirror image of the battles of 23 years ago, the workers who once protested against the Kremlin now riot against Brussels decrees which threaten to throw them on the dole.

Warsaw's new middle class were astonished and scared last month when miners - revered as heroes of the struggle against Russia but widely viewed as peaceable - erupted into the city centre hurling Molotov cocktails and attacking police with pickaxe handles among the city's expensive new boutiques.

The authorities, taken by surprise, eventually put down the protest with tear gas and water cannons, but not until the miners had smashed the windows of the ruling 'Democratic Left' Party, the direct descendant of the old Communist Party.

How did this happen? For decades Moscow imposed its alien will, forcing the Poles to follow stupid Marxist policies that Stalin himself admitted were about as sensible as a saddle on a cow.

The countryside was laden with disastrous collective farms, while cities were blackened by crude heavy industry. A grim elite of Party henchmen explained there was no choice. Poland was so weak she had to accept the 'protection' of the USSR.

Now the EU plans to ravage the farmlands yet again by exposing them to heavily subsidised competition from Germany and Austria. It is also demanding that the old heavy industries are deprived of state aid, meaning thousands of coal miners will head for the dole.

And a smartly-suited new elite, led by Mr Miller, explains this is all necessary because there isn't any choice. Poland is so weak she has to welcome the embrace of federal Europe.

It gets worse. Poles, and other East Europeans, are beginning to realise the new EU constitution means they have lost their independence just after regaining it.

The new voting system will leave them powerless against France and Germany on any major issue. Mr Miller is noisily complaining that the constitution is so different from what Poland voted to join that he may have to hold another ballot.

In the neighbouring Czech Republic, President Vaclav Klaus has said: 'After this there will be no more sovereign states in Europe. Basic matters will be decided by a remote federal government in Brussels.' So much for the ludicrous pretence by our own Government that this document is just a minor tidying up that doesn't require a referendum.
Flanders Fields.

My Canadian partner left this poem on my desk to remind me that at 11:00 tomorrow Candadians will mark the 85th anniversary of the end of the Great War.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

85 years is not such a long time. My grandfather was a twentyish enlisted man in the United States Navy at the time soon to return to Brooklyn to marry my grandmother. At times like this, I wonder where he was on November 11, 1918? What did he think about that day? We have a picture of him in Paris taken in 1918, so he was there on Armistice Day. [By the way, I note that William Sulik's grandfather was in the vicinity of my grandfather 85 years ago, albeit apparently on dry land.

Here is an interesting site about John McCrae's poem, including this bit of information:

The most asked question is: why poppies?

Wild poppies flower when other plants in their direct neighbourhood are dead. Their seeds can lie on the ground for years and years, but only when there are no more competing flowers or shrubs in the vicinity (for instance when someone firmly roots up the ground), these seeds will sprout.

There was enough rooted up soil on the battlefield of the Western Front; in fact the whole front consisted of churned up soil. So in May 1915, when McCrae wrote his poem, around him poppies blossomed like no one had ever seen before.

Here is the handwritten original of McCrae's poem, which he wrote during a short rest from his duties as surgeon.

And as long as we're on the subject of Great War poetry, let's not forget Rudyard Kipling's Epitaphs of the War. Here's one I've always liked for its segue from the ridiculous to the profound:


I was of delicate mind. I stepped aside for my needs,
Disdaining the common office. I was seen from afar and killed....
How is this matter for mirth? Let each man be judged by his deeds.
I have paid my price to live with myself on the terms that I have willed.

And, a final one for Penner and the Canadians for whom tomorrow is properly Armistice Day:



We giving all gained all.
Neither lament us nor praise.
Only in all things recall,
It is Fear, not Death that slays.


From little towns in a far land we came,
To save our honour and a world aflame.
By little towns in a far land we sleep;
And trust that world we won for you to keep.

Update: More somber Great War poetry is offered by The OmbudsGod.

On the same subject, here is more Kipling:

A Dead Statesman

I could not dig: I dared not rob;
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

But, in this year of conflict, we also shouldn't forget that this attitude induced France and England to appease and procrastinate and, in turn, was a cause of the infinitely greater evils of Nazi Germany.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Knowing the Words, but not the Music.

Jcecil3 - who is a frequent commenter on other Catholic blogs - has a single topic, single post blog on Theological Reflections on Homosexuality. The post pulls together many of the arguments that I have seen which seek to argue that this Biblical passage or that Biblical proof-text against homosexual practices really doesn't condemn homosexual practices. The goal of Jcecil's exegesis is to find a place for homosexual practices and active practitioner's of homosexuality at the table of Christian morality. In order to achieve this goal, Jcecil's strategy is to examine the texts typically offered as condemnatory of homosexuality and to argue that each such text is misunderstood or susceptible of an interpretation congenial to the modern understanding of the gay lifestyle.(1)

I think that Jcecil's individual arguments may in some cases be tenable. My understanding of reading of Genesis 19 has always been that the sin of Sodom involved inhospitality more than homosexuality. For example, notwithstanding the fact that the men of Sodom appeared to have "intimacies" with the Lot's guests, the fact that Lot attempted to assuage the men of Sodom with his daughters (Genesis 19:8) suggests that the men of Sodom were not the models of fixed, immutable homosexuals that are offered as the basis for changing social policy today.

The rest of the examples sound like "special pleading" to me. Certain words could mean one thing. They could mean another. Perhaps one can restrict the meaning of certain terms to a particular kind of activity and then define "true homosexual" conduct outside of that definition. For the sake of argument, I'll grant Jcecil's exegesis.

All that said, Jcecil's project is ultimately unsatisfying for several reasons.

First, where is the proof-text in favor of homosexual activity? One can spend a lot of effort pondering the meaning of malakoi versus arsenokoites, but where is the positive example of homosexuals engaging in homosexual activity in the text? The closest I can think of is David and Jonathon, but the circumlocutions and ambiguities suggest that maybe homosexuality was not on the list of permitted activities in ancient Israel. Likewise, attempts to depict Jesus as engaging in, or approving, of homosexual relationships evidence more about the agenda of the proponents of such a reading than about the text itself.

Second, what about the texts concerning the teleological end of human sexual activity? Genesis quickly develops the following: "God created man in His image. In the image of God, He created them. Male and female He created them. Then God blessed them and said to them. "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it." ...For this reason a man leaves his father and mother, and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh." (Genesis 1: 27-28; 2:24.)

Now, note the absence of circumlocutions and ambiguities here. The model of human sexuality is viewed from the start as having the final cause of procreation, which plainly in the text - and in the natural world - involves a male and a female.

Jesus does not weaken the importance of marriage as His pronouncement on divorce attests.

Third, what about the texts on chastity and virginity? The Old and New Testament are replete with such passages which compare chastity as superior to marriage in terms of the commitment of the individual to God.

One reading of these texts, therefore, is that sexual activities were to be confined within marriage, marriage is an institution whose final cause is procreation, and that outside of marriage, morality requires chastity. I think that reading fits the relevant text better than one which purports to find a casual acceptance of homosexual activity, which by definition does not involve procreation or marriage.

What then to do about problematic social institutions, such as concubinage and adelphopoiesis?

Adelphopoiesis is defined as Jcecil as a rite "whereby two people of the same gender were joined in an inddissoluble bond of love making them eternal siblings." The rite appears to exist and has been seized upon by those with a pro-gay agenda as constituting gay marriage in the early years of the church. The rite appears to exist, albeit according to a woman who went through the ceremony, the rite is anyting but a gay marriage. (Unless one wants to focus on the casual liason and essential meaninglessness of the ceremony, which is not entirely a cheap shot based upon sociological data.)

Concubinage strikes me as a more difficult proposition for my thesis that sexual relationships were understood as being properly confined within marriage. Concubinage existed well into the Christian era. St. Augustine famously had a concubine with whom he had a son. When St. Augustine was contemplating a political marriage, he put away the unnamed concubine, which admittedly cost him great emotional distress.

On the concubine issue I will largely punt by saying that Christian ethics evolved over time as individuals like Augustine worked out the implications of Christian morality in a Pagan world. Further, note that Augustine's great nemesis was not too much sex - although he notoriously claimed that it was. The demon Augustine fought before his conversion was Manichaenism, which argued that sex between male and female was wrong because it could lead to children, which was an evil because bits of God would then be trapped in human flesh. Augustine's response was many-fold. First, he argued against the idea that creation - flesh - was evil. Second, he argued that spirit was not trapped in the flesh as if flesh were evil and good only to be discarded. Augustine, in fact, reminded us that our resurrections will include our bodies.

Third, the prolific Augustine wrote on The Good of Marriage for the purpose describing the three goods that flow from marriage - children, mutual faith and sacrament - which converge in the one comprehensive good of marriage. In other words, notwithstanding the fact that Augustine clearly had a concubine, he apparently saw sacramentl value in marriage.

So, I'll punt on concubinage, except to say that the argument in favor of homosexual - non-procrative - sexual relationships would have been strengthened in an alternative universe where the Manichees prevailed. In that history, heterosexual relationships would have been viewed with disdain because of their propensity for reproduction. It seems likely, then, that homosexual relationships would have become normalized and preferred.

Which is the final reason why I think that readings of the Bible which attempt to argue that there was a time when homosexuality was historically tolerated, or claims that there was a time when homosexual marriage was an option, are pure myth-making. Any such practice would have been seen as clearly Manichian and would never have been anything other than a heretical diversion.


1. I am going to ignore the axiomatic acceptance of the notion that homosexuality has been scientifically proven to be a fixed and immutable characteristic determined by some presumable genetic characteristic. I find such notion to be problemmatic in the extreme. Proponents of such a view are often the first to deny strenuously that intelligence, criminality or anti-social characteristics could ever be genetically determined, and, in fact, outside of XYY genes, no one has purported to locate these personal characteristics in anyone's geno or phenotype. The objection to such latter views are quite properly viewed as being fraught with political implications. Further, pace Thomas Kuhn, we have to be skeptical of "scientific proofs" that so neatly favor ideology.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

This is interesting.

Aaron's Rantblog correlates generosity with the "Red/Blue State" distinction from the 2000 Election. "Suh-prize," as Gomer Pyle used to say, Bush voting states are consistently far more generous than Gore voting states. So to paraphrase Tim Robbins, "F*** Tim Robbins" and two cheers for "compassionate conservatives."

By the way, though, look at the data closer. Of the first 20 states, only three - South Dakota (3), Utah (8) and Kansas (18) - are outside of the Old Confederacy. (Yea, I see West Virginia (14), which started the Civil War as part of the Confederacy, and Missouri (19), which could have been easily part of the Confederacy. ) The notion here is that being a Southerner is as strong an indicator of generosity as voting for Bush.

So "two cheers for the South" as well.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Matrix III

James Lileks has surprisingly positive review of Matrix III. Long story short, it's not as awful as you think.

Update: I went to see Matrix III at the local Edward's Multiplex. It cannot be a good sign for the movie that on the first Saturday after its Wednesday opening Edward's had moved the movie from the large theaters to the smaller - but still crowded - theaters further from the front doors. [The simile that comes to mind is Fritz Lieber's Street of the Gods, where religious cults gradually get pushed down the street until they are ejected from Lankhmar as the number of devotees dwindles.]

Lileks is absolutely dead-on about the movie. The fight scenes were a treat to this life-long Science Fiction reader, but the movie as a whole howled like a dachshund whose tail has been stepped on. One could throw the said dachshund threw the holes that are visibly apparent at the end of the movie. I don't want to give away the story line - so I won't - but I am reminded by one review of Frank Herbert's Children of Dune which went something like: "After thousands of years of a carefully planned and exactly executed breeding program designed to bring about the Uberman, we end up with a midget covered in silly putty?" Ok, you have to know something about the Dune trilogy - long before it ended up as an interminable series - to understand the reference. But even so with the Matrix: after all the prophecies and pretentious philosophizing, we end up with a Clinton-negotiated Bosnian armistice?

Go to watch the shoot 'em up.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Bishop Robinson.

For the viewpoint of someone who's "been there and back" on the issue of the ordination of the active homosexual Gene Robinson as Bishop in the Episcopalian Church, check out David Morrison's blog.

Incidentally, in reading his past posts I've formed the view that Morrison speaks to more than gays. He speaks to anyone who anyone in our society who cares to listen to what reason sharpened by faith requires from humans with respect to the virtue of chastity. The goals of Courage could be a credo for anyone living outside of marriage.

Another point, watching the poor man's Blaise Pascal - Bill O'Reilly - last night, I saw a "debate" between Episcopalian clerics on the issue of Robinson's ordination. The precis of the debate was essentially "how would Jesus feel about the ordination." The pro-ordination cleric kept asserting the general notion of Jesus's tolerance and that his mission was to the outcast and marginal, thereby establishing his reading of more trendy Christological sociological deconstruction of Jesus. The "anti" cleric stressed Jesus' own statement that He had come to fulfill the law, not overturn it.

The split in the debate says a lot about conventional theology. I can't help but think that the "pros" read their own desires and agenda into Christ. They believe in tolerance - well, maybe not for racists or people who want lower taxes - and they fashion their view of Christ accordingly. Jesus said a lot of things that were not warm and fuzzy. For example, He said "no divorce." He said "go and sin no more" to a woman caught in an act of adultery. How does one honestly factor those sayings into this 21st Century worldview. Was He wrong? Is He the God who Failed?

Needless to say, I think that the "pros" are wrong and that the Piskies are on their way to being nothing more than a social arm of secular liberal politics. I think that that the ECUSA disappears in a merger with the other liberal denominations as a move to protect pensions during my lifetime because there simply is no reason to choose to donate to the ECUSA when you can donate to the Sierra Club or GreenPeace just as easily.

Update: Amy Welborn has a nice reflection that manifests the distinction I was subconsciously discerning from the O'Reilly "debate." She writes:

You probably learned that Christianity is good because practicing it and following Jesus can ake you a better person and make a better world. You might have learned that in Catholicism, you have a beautiful heritage that says many wonderful things about the human condition and aspirations. You probably heard that Christianity is one of the paths through which people get to know God.

But did you once, ever, learn that Christianity deserves serious attention because it’s true?

Ah, but what is truth? Can we be certain that our bedrock belief today won't be overturned by some scientific or archeological finding tomorrow? Perhaps it is safer to retreat to the unassaible truth of feelings. Was Jesus married? - as was the hot discussion at last night's Communio group between the 70 year old theologically liberal reader of America and our early 20s fire-eating conservative. Well, what's the data? Can we be sure that aliens didn't videotape the whole thing and are waiting to spring pictures of a domestic Jesus on us? And besides isn't there something reassuring and inviting in the image of a Jesus who was married and had children?

Perhaps, but that approach amounts to myth-making. There's nothing necessarily wrong with myth-making, but the orthodox approach has been to say that reality is better because it's true. The Western approach has been to prefer the Real and the True because we trust that we will not be deceived.

Connecting Various Dots.

Mike at Cold Fury puts together the Dem memo that proposes to use American intelligence for political ends, Steve Den Beste's observations about the patriotism of Thomas Dewey after Pearl Harbor and a comment at the Democratic Underground wishing American deaths - lots of American deaths - to undermine something that the commenter describes as the "laughable American democracy."

The Baby Boomers will have a lot to answer for when they face George Washington in the After-life. Not the least of which will be the notion that American security or the security of Americans is a means which can be sacrificed to partisan political goals. The Baby-Boomers (First Cohort, Dem division) have spent a life-time looking to recreate the rush they felt in opposing the Vietnam War - a war that Victor Davis Hanson demonstrates quite succinctly was being won by the lethality of American firepower, even under the crippling rules of engagement that the American military had to observe.

Being a Boomer(First Cohort, Dem division) means never having to say you're sorry. In Carnage and Culture at page 420, Victor Davis Hanson observes the simple, ineluctable facts of Vietnam - the South Vietnamese government did not engage in wholesale massacres on the scale of the North, during Tet, the communists had "compled a sordid record of executions and persecutions" that were ignored or forgotten by the critics of the war, nine out of ten refugees went south rather than north. But anti-war critics, like William Shawcross could whimper that they hoped for reconciliation, didn't foresee a chain of reeducation camps, and couldn't have been expected to foresee the racist purging of the ethnic Chinese.

Shawcross whines "should we have expected" these outcomes? To which Davis responds, ""Of course" - and plain to any sensible observer of either the atrocious civil rights record of the North Vietnamese in the decades before the war or the systematic slaughters in the Soviet Union and China by Communist Party bosses."

Davis further writes "Perhaps the gratest moral crime of the American disssidents was their later near unanimous silence about the Cambodian holocaust...."

The great mystery to this Boomer (Second Cohort) is the complete absence of the wisdom that comes from experiencing life. I remember the older Boomers from those days. They pioneered the attitude that Jonah Goldberg describes as "The only thing that unites young people politically, as a general rule, is that they are — by definition — at the bottom of the learning curve and, consequently, they try to power their way uphill with passion instead of wisdom." The Boomers always thought that they knew it all at eighteen or twenty and, perhaps, they simply stopped learning. Consequently, when a new problem presents itself they trot out the same answers. For them, every war is Vietnam. Every Republican president is Richard Nixon.

Somehow, in their minds, it's always 1972.

Update: I was going to end the last post with a question about why this stuff isn't objectively and subjectively treasonous. I erased it because I didn't like the "wacky hard right" sound to the question.

Well, why isn't it treasonous? If sabotaging American military efforts with the intent of seeing Americans die isn't treason what is? (Kind of the same question about the Green River Killer - if killing 48 women isn't worth the death penalty, what is?)

Further , no one mentions it, but everyone knows that every time an American star or politician speaks out against the War, the risk of American soldiers in Iraq increases. Now, that's not to say that we should stifle speech - and we clearly shouldn't given the Western tradition of auditing military performance - but why should we pretend that such speech is cost-free.

Then, fortunately, along comes Zell Miller who says the obvious:

“I have often said that the process in Washington is so politicized and polarized that it can’t even be put aside when we’re at war. Never has that been proved more true than the highly partisan and perhaps treasonous memo prepared for the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee.

“Of all the committees, this is the one single committee that should unquestionably be above partisan politics. The information it deals with should never, never be distorted, compromised or politicized in any shape, form or fashion. For it involves the lives of our soldiers and our citizens. Its actions should always be above reproach; its words never politicized.

“If what has happened here is not treason, it is its first cousin. The ones responsible - be they staff or elected or both should be dealt with quickly and severely sending a lesson to all that this kind of action will not be tolerated, ignored or excused.

“Heads should roll!”

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Patterico has been all over the Schiavo case for the last several weeks, even though it cost him one long time reader. He's picked up at least one nice "gotcha" where the New York Times presented a person who regularly testified for the pro-death position as a neutral "expert." The technical expression that we Real Trial Lawyers (tm) use for such people is "whore," as in, I got my "plaintiff's whore" and you got your "defense whore," or "I've got a problem with proving this fact, do you know where I can find a "whore" to say it."
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