Tuesday, September 30, 2003

No Soaring

Christian blogger Allen Brill posts today about the response of "Christian Hawks" to the Valerie Plame affair (Ms. Plame is the CIA employee whose employment with the Agency was recently made public by columnist Robert Novak).

In his post, Allen writes that I've ignored the whole thing, which is true in the sense that I've not posted on it, although I've been following it.

So, let me say a brief word: if something illegal has been done by someone in the Bush Administration, then they should be prosecuted. Has anything illegal been done? I have no idea (which is one reason I haven't posted on it). Bob Novak -- the guy, again, who revealed her employer -- claims that the Administration officials who mentioned her did nothing illegal, and others have said that her employment at the CIA was and is common knowledge. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't (Clifford May claims that "everyone" knew).

I'm not sure what Allen thinks my motivation is for not blogging about the issue; perhaps he thinks I was avoiding it because it paints the President and/or his administration in a bad light; perhaps he thinks I was agonizing over it; perhaps he thinks I am in denial; perhaps he hasn't even wondered about my motivation at all.

What is my motivation for not blogging about the incident? Two things come to mind: first, I don't blog about everything -- good and bad -- which affects the President. A lot of times, it just depends on my mood. Second, and relatedly, at this point, the issue doesn't seem as big of a deal as some claim. It surely isn't indicative of Bush's character, as Allen believes it is, when he writes:
    The Plame Affair reveals the very heart of this administration. While they have claimed to put the security of the nation above all else, even to the point of dragging us into a war with little international support, it is now becoming clearer day by day that the national security is far less important to them than their own political power. Honor, dignity and integrity have vanished like so much mist. Some of us knew it was a mirage all along.

Allen, here's how I understand the events: Novak spoke with senior administration officials who mentioned that Ms. Plame worked for the CIA. Novak said as much in a column.

This is indicative of dishonor, lack of dignity, and integrity... how, exactly? That's what I don't get, that's why I don't think this is a huge deal, and that's why I haven't blogged on it. If it turns out that these actions constitute a violation of the law, fine: prosecute those involved. But even then, how is this a major breach of the public trust?

I'm being honest... I'm trying to be objective, and I just don't see why or how this says what Allen thinks it says about Bush et al.

I look forward to Allen and anyone of like mind explaining why and how this is bigger than it seems to me to be.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Need help? Turn to the feds, of course

The Mpls. Star-Tribune editorials continue their advocacy of turning to the federal government to solve problems besetting Americans. One of their more recent editorials attacks the Bush administration for alleged indifference or even petulance in response to the increase in the poverty rate last year (they have to get the "mean, heard-hearted Republicans" thing in there, of course).

One of the points raised concerns those who have lost private health insurance in the last couple of years; the editorial notes, "More than 1 million Americans have lost their private health insurance during the last two years, yet the administration's answer is to propose shifting the responsibility for subsidized health insurance, through Medicaid, from Washington to the states."

Boy, how about that mean-spiritedness of the President, huh? He must really hate the poor, down, and out, right? After all, it's not possible that he thinks that local governments and communities should be the first line of defense in problems their constituents face, is it? Subsidiarity can't possibly be the principle behind this decision, can it? Nah. Bush is too dumb to think of such things!

I love the last two sentences: "When the U.S. economy is strong, as it was during the 1990s, it reinforces a fine set of American virtues, including hard work and self-reliance. When the economy is weak, as it is today, it should remind us why Americans created programs to assist each other in the first place."

Tell me, why couldn't the editors use the 80's an example of a strong economy? Could it possibly be that the hated Reagan was President then, and not the beloved Clinton? There wouldn't be the implied opposition between economies & presidents that way (90's/strong economy/Clinton vs. 00-03/weak economy/Bush 41).
Slight adjustment

Some of my blogrolled bloggers commented on the movie under which their blog is now linked in the column to the left. One of them made a very strong case to be moved to a different heading, and I obliged, even though -- as I stated -- the headings have not content-based relationship to the blogs found under them.
The Mainstream Media and Iraq

Good column by John Leo on the coverage of post-war Iraq by the mainstream media. His title says it all: "Media reporting from Iraq is one-sided and flawed."
Could they be for real?

Yesterday my Vikings beat San Francisco 35-7 in Minneapolis to go 4-0.

Although I don't think they are in the top-tier yet -- the Chiefs are still a better team -- Mike Tice's rebuilding project seems to be moving along quite nicely.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Blogroll divisions

To make it easier for me (and maybe you) to navigate my blogroll, I've separated the linked blogs into groups of seven and named the groups with some of my favorite films. The names have no meaning viz. the blogs in their group... I just thought about them as I separated the films into groups.
2nd time was better

Last Thursday I saw The Matrix: Reloaded, and I enjoyed it much more than the first time. Part of it was my expectations (I'd lowered them before the first viewing, but that was still insufficient), and part of it was simply being able to pay closer attention this time to the monologues & dialogues.

This week, the tv spots for The Matrix: Revolutions came out, and today, the theatrical trailer was released. Between the spots and the trailer, I think we can get a pretty good idea of where things pick up from the middle film, and I have to say, I'm excited again to see a Matrix movie. The middle film of a trilogy is often difficult to get right, and I think that was the case with The Matrix films as well. Based on the spots and trailers, my anticipation for the final film is growing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003


A poignant post containing a poem by a reader at Emily's After Abortion.
Glenda's back!

Remember last October, when Yale history prof Glenda Gilmore chalked President Bush's new National Security Strategy up to his desire to be emperor? (I blogged on it here.) There was more controversy which arose between her and Andrew Sullivan because he called her on it (check out his archives from last October).

She's now back in the attention of at least some bloggers... Erin O'Connor posted recently on a controversy brewing over the scholarship of historian Christine Heyrman. Another historian, Ralph Luker, noted some questionable things in an award-winning text of Heyrman's, and, after failing in private attempts with Heyrman to address his concerns, he "went public," writing an article and emailing it to a number of history scholars.

Among those scholars was Ms. Glenmore. Here's O'Connor's take on Glenmore's response (which Luker details here):
    Gilmore did not appreciate receiving Luker's email. She of the ad hominem attacks found his public call for a response from Heyrman uncivil, and asked to be removed from his mailing list. And in so doing, she revealed something awfully telling about attitudes toward accountability in academe. Luker's exchange with Gilmore perfectly captures the way the ideal of "civility" may be invoked in today's ethically compromised and politically partisan academy to avoid responding to legitimate questions and to dismiss the person who (so rudely) insists that scholars ought to be publicly accountable for the veracity and soundness of their work. Gilmore's own professional conduct indicates just how selective and self-serving the invocation of civility is. Luker's reflections on what is at stake for Gilmore, for the Yale history department, and for the history profession itself are well worth reading.
Well said.
Picking battles

Traditionalist Christopher Ferrara is upset that the Vatican didn't use the term "sodomy" in its document, Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons.

He goes on to criticize the document's content, asserting, "anyone who examines the document with a prudence borne of the bitter experience of the past forty years will find in it the almost invariable pattern of postconciliar pronouncements: affirmation of some truths combined with a significant yielding of ground to the Church’s enemies."

His conclusion begins with the following:
    Yes, the CDF condemns the legalization of homosexual marriages and calls upon all Catholics to oppose any legislation in that regard. But the Vatican’s belated opposition to this moral absurdity is just another example of how for the past 40 years the human element of the Church, paralyzed by the viruses of “dialogue” and “religious liberty,” has ceased any effective opposition to the inexorable advance of the revolutionary status quo, while occasionally speaking out against the revolution’s worst excesses. In this case, the Vatican failed to oppose the deadly toleration of sodomy—both within and without the Church—and is now reduced to presenting “considerations” against the logical consequence of that negligent toleration: formal legal recognition of “homosexual unions.” The Vatican will not even identify the evil at the heart of the matter by its proper name: sodomy, the sin that cries to God for vengeance. The Vatican’s almost surreal intervention is far too little, offered far too late.
I don't really have much to say about all of this, other than that I completely disagree with Mr. Ferrara, but anyone who knows my theological views would already know that. Mr. Ferrara believes that using the term "sodomy" will be more effective in combating the drive for homosexual marriages than not doing so.

That doesn't make any sense to me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Maybe it's working

NBC News tonight had a "success story" from Iraq; Jim Avila reported on an area of Baghdad formerly known as "Saddam City," which has gone from a crime-ridden area to an example of how Iraqi self-government can work. The US military is present, but focuses primarily on reconstruction efforts, leaving policing & patroling to the Iraqi police force there, which apparently is doing a admirable job of keeping the peace.

I wonder if the noise being made in the blogosophere and other places is having an effect.

(Go to Instapundit for more on the coverage of Iraq.)
Media coverage of Iraq

Over the last couple of days Instapundit has had a lot on the overly-negative media coverage of Iraq. He links this story, which details how Democrat members of Congress are criticizing the coverage. Here's a snippet:
    Journalists are giving a slanted and unduly negative account of events in Iraq, a bipartisan congressional group that has just returned from a three-day House Armed Services Committee visit to assess stabilization efforts and the condition of U.S. troops said.

    Lawmakers charged that reporters rarely stray from Baghdad and have a “police-blotter” mindset that results in terror attacks, deaths and injuries displacing accounts of progress in other areas.

    Comparisons with Vietnam were farfetched, members said.

    Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the committee’s ranking member, said, “The media stresses the wounds, the injuries, and the deaths, as they should, but for instance in Northern Iraq, Gen. [Dave] Petraeus has 3,100 projects — from soccer fields to schools to refineries — all good stuff and that isn’t being reported.”

    Skelton and other Democrats on the trip said they plan to reach out to all members of their caucus and explain what they observed. . . .

    The lawmakers said they worry that the overall negative tone of American press outlets’ reports did not do justice to the progress being made by an occupying force reconstructing a country after years of neglect and in the face of remaining hostile elements that profited under the old regime.
And the following is a piece by, again, a Democrat member of Congress:
    On Sept. 14, I flew from Baghdad to Kuwait with Sgt. Trevor A. Blumberg from Dearborn, Mich. He was in a body bag. He'd been ambushed and killed that afternoon. Sitting in the cargo bay of a C 130E, I found myself wondering whether the news media were somehow complicit in his death.

    News media reports about our progress in Iraq have been bleak since shortly after the president's premature declaration of victory. These reports contrast sharply with reports of hope and progress presented to Congress by Department of Defense representatives -- a real disconnect, Vietnam déja vu. So I went to Iraq with six other members of Congress to see for myself.

    The Iraq war has predictably evolved into a guerrilla conflict similar to Vietnam. Our currently stated objectives are to establish reasonable security and foster the creation of a secular, representative government with a stable market economy that provides broad opportunity throughout Iraqi society. Attaining these objectives in Iraq would inevitably transform the Arab world and immeasurably increase our future national security.

    These are goals worthy of a fight, of sacrifice, of more lives lost now to save thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands in the future. In Mosul last Monday, a colonel in the 101st Airborne put it to me quite simply: "Sir, this is worth doing." No one I spoke with said anything different. And I spoke with all ranks.

    But there will be more Blumbergs killed in action, many more. So it is worth doing only if we have a reasonable chance of success. And we do, but I'm afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes, the ambushes, the soldiers killed, the wounded, the Blumbergs. Fair enough. But it is not balancing this bad news with "the rest of the story," the progress made daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy.

    During the conventional part of this conflict, embedded journalists reported the good, the bad and the ugly. Where are the embeds now that we are in the difficult part of the war, now that fair and balanced reporting is critically important to our chances of success? At the height of the conventional conflict, Fox News alone had 27 journalists embedded with U.S. troops (out of a total of 774 from all Western media). Today there are only 27 embedded journalists from all media combined.

    Throughout Iraq, American soldiers with their typical "can do" attitude and ingenuity are engaging in thousands upon thousands of small reconstruction projects, working with Iraqi contractors and citizens. Through decentralized decision-making by unit commanders, the 101st Airborne Division alone has spent nearly $23 million in just the past few months. This sum goes a very long way in Iraq. Hundreds upon hundreds of schools are being renovated, repainted, replumbed and reroofed. Imagine the effect that has on children and their parents.

    Zogby International recently released the results of an August poll showing hope and progress. My own unscientific surveys told me the same thing. With virtually no exceptions, hundreds of Iraqis enthusiastically waved back at me as I sat in the open door of a helicopter traveling between Babylon and Baghdad. And I received a similar reception as I worked my way alone, shaking hands through a large crowd of refinery workers just to see their reaction.

    We may need a few credible Baghdad Bobs to undo the harm done by our media. I'm afraid it is killing our troops. [Emphasis added]
And Instapundit has his own take at his other website, here.
New blog

Per usual, this means a blog I've recently discovered, even though it means it's been around for a little while.

This time it's a team-blog: Santificarnos. Two of the contributors are known to me: Therese Z is a regular commentor in the Catholic (and more broadly Christian) corner of blogland, and Jesus Gil is (formerly?) of Ibidem.

Go visit!
Renegade post...

This is Chris' wife! Before he notices this post, lets see how many can wish him a happy birthday! Thanks!!

Monday, September 22, 2003

Good start

The Vikes are 3-0, and all of them are divisional wins... I'm happy.

But I'm realistic, too: two of the wins are against teams that will be lucky to be even close to finishing the season anywhere near .500, and the Packers aren't exactly lighting things up, either.

Sunday's game in San Fran will be a real test, especially with an injured Culpepper.

We'll see what happens.
Dogmatism of the political left

Last week Tristero responded to my post on hating the sin and loving the sinner, in which I discussed his comments at another blog on the topic.

It's a long post, and I welcome you to read it. At this point, I'm going to make just a couple of points...

Between that post and some private email exchanges -- which were generally amiable -- it's apparent that Tristero has no interest in discussing the contentious issue of the moral evaluation of homosexual/gay sex acts. He prefers to dismiss those who offer intellectual arguments against the morality of such acts as "intellectual perverts" (that's a quote from his post), and the arguments are dismissed as "a sickly sugar coating of logic over someone's bigotry."

Tristero asserts that "there is no rational basis - none - upon which to condemn same sex intimacy and pleasure" and that "there is no sensible case to be made against gay marriage (which does not prevent the immoral moralists on the right from confecting them)." He has the luxury of making these assertions without reading the arguments for this reason: "I know, just as I know a priori that there can be nothing important in the writings of the Intelligent Design IDiots, there is nothing of interest in the writings you proffer for my study." He just knows.

Tristero justifies his refusal to read the "sickly sugar coating" by these "intellectual perverts" in this way:
    There are people, like Immanuel Velikovsky, the Heaven's Gate people, Richard Perle, and my friend L who's into crystals for healing, who believe the nuttiest things. Each one of them, when you enter their world, has a consistent, rational explanation for their beliefs. Their delusion starts with their basic premises, which is just plain bonkers. I'm not interested in learning more about Heaven's Gate cosmology; I know there is no UFO behind the Hale-Bopp comet.
Now, I actually agree with Tristero on this... there is no point in researching every single idea out there, because there are some pretty nutty ideas. However, that approach does not hold in the issue at hand, because we're not talking about the beliefs of one, two, or twenty people, but rather the beliefs of hundreds of millions of people, and that alone requires a more serious engagement instead of mere dismissal. To give a mirror example, millions of Americans hold the pro-choice position viz. abortion, a position which is demonstrably incoherent. Now, if it were only two people or twenty who held this idea, I probably wouldn't waste my time refuting it. But because millions believe it, I need to be a bit more engaging. So too, I would argue, should Tristero be more engaging on this issue.

One other thing on this: Tristero correctly notes that the problem typically comes from faulty premises, upon which are built and otherwise-consistent belief-system. Again, I agree. However, shouldn't Tristero point out those faulty premises which serve as the foundation for those bigots [sic] who view homosexual acts as immoral?

Tristero's choice of action on this issue strikes me as dogmatism. He rejects the opinions of millions of Americans and scores of scholars and philosophers going back millennia without investigating them, because he just knows they have nothing to offer.

This is a good example of the kind of thing which I believe is deteriorating public discourse in America today and further dividing the country: one party flat-out refuses to investigate the arguments offered on a contentious issue by a substantial number of people, laity and scholar alike, preferring to inveigh against them and impugn all sorts of motives to them (near the end of his post, Tristero states, "I'm not wrong either about the ugly intentions of the Christianists," a group which apparently includes anyone who describes themself as Christian and also understands homosexual acts to be immoral; although elsewhere he seems to identify "Christianists" as those like Robertson and Falwell "and those who are even more radical in their mission to transform the US into an explicitly fundamentalist "christian" state," his usage of the term implies a broader scope, including non-fundamentalists like Scalia and Santorum [see this comment]). I am well aware that people on both sides of the aisle commit this intellectual crime. But usually, it's the right (in politics and religion) which is accused of being close-minded and dogmatic, when in fact, people on the left in both realms do the same, as Tristero evidences. I wonder, in fact, how he would respond if someone said, "anyone who attacks Bush and the war in Iraq is anti-American. I just know it."

If anyone thinks I've mischaracterized Tristero, feel free to comment. As I've said on numerous occasions, I'd be happy to be proven wrong, but nothing in the exchange of posts and emails thus far indicates that Tristero is not dogmatic, at least on this issue.

More generally (apart from this discussion with Tistero), it seems to me that reason is being thrown out... it's not the most rational case which wins the day, but the one offered by the side which shouts the loudest. In other words, might makes right.

(NB: I don't want to foster the impression that every liberal blogger out there is dogmatic on any issue, let alone every issue. And I want to reiterate that Tristero's dogmatism may very well be limited to the single issue of homosexuality; we haven't discussed much else, so I have no idea how broad his dogmatism is or is not.)

Addendum: it's definitely possible that not everyone has blogs because they are interested in a real exchange of ideas with others, whether in agreement or disagreement; some people may simply chose to "monoblogue" rather than "diablogue". Fine. People are, of course, free to do as they will. But I think they should accept some responsibility for the manner of public discourse when they decide to blog. I'm well aware that I've violated my own directive on this matter, and I've said as much on more than one occasion. But I also think that I've made a real effort to engage those with whom I disagree in a manner which I hope is more likely to promote the exchange of ideas.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

We're at war.... with France!

So sayeth Tom Friedman, columnist for the NYTimes! Friedman isn't exactly one labelled at a neo-conservative, hawk, etc., so it's been interesting watching people's reactions to this in the blogosphere.

Anyway, I'll give you the opening sentence as a teaser; then you can go read the rest:

"It's time we Americans came to terms with something: France is not just our annoying ally. It is not just our jealous rival. France is becoming our enemy."

Wow. Wowy wow wow.

Wait, one more line: "Instead, the French have put out an ill-conceived proposal, just to show that they can be different, without any promise that even if America said yes Paris would make a meaningful contribution." That seems to be typical of the french mentality (not all French people, mind you... I know too many actual, real Frenchmen to make such a stupid blanket statement) -- if the US is doing X, we'll do Y. We see this in that country's practice of absolutely refusing to use nearly-universal terms like "walkman", instead translating the terms literally into french in an apparent bid to save the language, and differentiate themselves from others (including the US) for differentiation's sake, period.


Anyway, go read Friedman's piece and draw your own conclusions.
Is this a lie?

In Cheney's interview with Tim Russert on Sunday, he denied having any financial interest in Halliburton.

Then yesterday, Reuters published a story on how he has received hundreds of thousands of dollars since taking office as VP.

When asked to explain this, a spokesperson for Cheney said that the moneys he's received are his deferred compensation payments from the company.

Some people think Cheney lied by claiming that he has no financial interest in Halliburton while he continues to receive deffered compensation.

Thoughts? If I quit a job and work out a compensation plan, can I be considered to have a financial interest in the company because I continue to receive compensation after I've left my position? Or is it comparable to being paid in installments rather than a lump sum, once I leave?

It will come to no surprise to anyone when I say that I think Cheney is an upstanding, honorable individual. And I tend to think that his compensation plan is not indicative of financial interest in Halliburton. However, I can see how those who are suspicious of Cheney would disagree. My question is, why be suspicious of him in the first place? Perhaps someone has a good answer, but I don't know of one.
Love & Hate

Interesting post here on whether the dictum, "love the sinner, hate the sin" is really workable. I of course, think it is, and that in fact it is basic to relationships of nearly every level. If someone is doing something that is harmful to themself, why wouldn't you try to get them to stop their self-destructive behavior?

Tristero commented on this post, in the following manner:
    Kynn addressed this earlier. A conservative christian boilerplated this:

    "By the way, I am not oppressive towards women, nor do I hate homosexuals, and nor do I condemn anyone to Hell. "

    With all due respect, cause I usually agree with Kynn, I was not entirely satisfied with his respone:

    "Except you believe that no one who does not "trust in Jesus Christ as Savior" is denied heaven. It sounds to me like you're splitting hairs here. "

    He is not splitting hairs in his own mind. Remember, in this guy's so-called "religion" (actually, merely a beard for his politics) it is God that hates homosexual acts, and it is God that condemns such sinners to Hell. As the follower of this (inevitably construed as male) God, the Christianist has no choice but to admit the "truth" which is that while he, personally, hates no one, God has plans for these naughty, naughty people when he gets His divine Mitts on their Souls.

    Am I intolerant of this view? Let's put it this way: To project onto God the petty hatreds of human beings is terribly blasphemous. Only the the most narrow-minded and bigoted interpretation of the biblical texts leads to such foolishness.

    The Christianist is entitled to believe any nonsense he wants, of course. And in that sense, I tolerate it, as I tolerate, say, pornography, as the price a free society pays for free speech and worship.

    But to pass laws inspired by such filth? To refuse to recognize someone's civil rights based upon a Christianist delusion they're condemned to Hell? That's another story. And make no mistake, that is what Christianists really want us to tolerate: a radical makeover of society in their dreary little image.

    My tolerance stops right there.

    It is time for Christianists to recognize that they cannot ascribe to God the irrational hatred they feel without insulting the beliefs of real Christians and other genuinely religious people when they do so.

    By the way: do I hate Christianists? No, of course not. I just hate their beliefs.

    (Irony, duh)
Unfortunately, this comment does little to convince me of Tristero's ability to constructively engage in conversation with those with whom he disagrees.

First of all, he refers to Christians by the strange word "Christianists." Why, I have no idea... isn't it best to refer to people using the label they chose?

Second, he is of the same opinion as too many people: that those who view homosexual acts as self-destructive actually hate homosexuals. This simply isn't the case... Christians also view lying as wrong, but you don't hear about Christians hating liars, do you?

Third, he compares the orthodox Christian view of the morality of homosexual acts to pornography... not the best way to engage in a calm & fruitful discussion on an issue.

Finally, he appears to be completely unfamiliar with the rational arguments which all sorts of people (political philosopher Robert George comes to mind) offer against homosexual acts. While I can't completely blame him for this -- there is probably too much mere assertion by the fundamentalist crowd -- I think he must take some responsibility to investigate the matter and determine if there are perhaps more serious arguments offered by those who oppose homosexual acts.

Again, I hope I'm wrong in my estimation of Tristero's style of discussion (or lack thereof). I'm not trying to be cute or coy... I'm serious.
Lying vs. Mistaken

In light of all the recent posts (and news) about "Bush lies" [sic], I'd like to remind my readers of the following:

There is a difference between lying and being mistaken. I can state something which is not true, but it is only a lie if I believe that it is not true, and I state it anyway. If I don't believe that what I'm stating is false, then I'm not lying; I may be mistaken, but it's not a lie.

Curiously, it is possible to tell the truth and still lie... if I state that x is true, believing it to be false, then I am lying, even if x turns out in fact to be true. The point is that I intended to mislead, i.e. I stated what I believed was in fact not the case.

For example, imagine that Billy took a twenty-dollar bill from his mother's purse and put it in his wallet. His mom discovers that the money is missing, and on a hunch, looks in Billy's wallet and finds it (she memorized the serial number, you see). She then asks Billy if he has the twenty, and Billy denies it. Now, he is actually correct, because he doesn't have the cash, but he is still lying, because he thinks he has it and he tells his mom otherwise.

Now, all of that was an aside... my point is that there is a difference between being mistaken and lying.

If it turns out that Saddam in fact did not have WMDs or even a WMD program (which I still do not believe will be the case), we cannot automatically assume that Bush lied... he may have been (and I would argue, would have been) mistaken as to the reality of Saddam's WMD status, just as Clinton and so many politicians of both parties were.

Or this (following the posts below)...

If we're going to value diversity (on campuses, for instance), why not take it seriously, and foster intellectual, economic, & geographic diversity? I'd opine that these factors would do more to create diversity than skin color would. For instance...

Where's the greater difference in life-experience: between a white girl and a black guy from the same suburb & the same income bracket, or a " rich girl" (of whatever race) from the suburb and another from poor rural America? I say there's probably more "diversity" between the second two than the first pair.
Or this...

Following the idea of the post below...

Instead of looking to the federal government to solve every problem, why not start at the smallest level of local government, and work up if that level cannot deal with the problem? It's called subsidiarity: letting the "nearest" level of community & government deal with the problems they can manage.

I believe we need a social safety net. But I see no reason why we can't begin that net at the local level.
For instance

As I've noted of late, I'd really enjoy a calm, rational discussion of political issues with someone from the left who can discuss and disagree with me without accusing me of being a hard-hearted, pandering-to-the-rich (hah!), mean-spirited conservative.

Take taxes, for instance. I don't understand the moral logic behind a progressive tax system. If everyone is paying the same percentage of their income, those who make more are obviously going to pay more that those who make less. A progressive tax scale seems inherently unjust to me, and I have no idea why anyone would support it.

Now, some might say that there are all sorts of loopholes which enable those who have the bucks to hire good accountants to actually pay less taxes than their income "requires." Now, maybe this is so. But doesn't the creation of an inherently unjust tax scale only compound the problem? If there are problematic loopholes, close them, don't impose an unjust tax scale, for goodness' sake!
Ahah! Here's the proof!

Someone in blogland has proven that Bush lied (lied!) to Congress! He points to the Congressional resolution authorizing the war against Iraq, which states in part,
    2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001. [emphasis added by the blogger]
See! Look! It says that the war is supposed to be against those who were involved in the 9/11 plot, and today Bush denied any linkage between Saddam & 9/11!



Wait a sec...

The resolution doesn't say only those involved with 9/11, does it? Dang it!

Our intrepid blogger is alerted to this inconvenient fact, and notes the following:
    It should be obvious (to me, especially) that the Bush administration is masterful at crafting language that seems to say one thing while saying another.
Boy is that guy smart. No, wait, he's dumb. Umm...

Yes, I'm unusually (and perhaps unnecessarily) sarcastic here, but this desire to prove that the President is a liar is really, really annoying. As I've said on numerous occasions, I respect those who have legitimate, rational issues with the war and Bush's argument for it. But to continually assert that he outright lied... well, it's getting tiresome.
The Strib abandons all pretense

In today's lead editorial, the Minneapolis Star Tribune goes after Cheney's appearance on Meet the Press this past Sunday.

While the liberal perspective of the editorial page is well-known, I was honestly surprised by the tone of this editorial; generally, the Strib maintains an air of calm detachment, at least offering the appearance of objective rationality.

Not this time. The closing paragraph pretty much sums it up:
    To explore every phony statement in the vice president's "Meet the Press" interview would take far more space than is available. This merely points out some of the most egregious examples. Opponents of the war are fond of saying that "Bush lied and our soldiers died." In fact, they'd have reason to assert that "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz lied and our soldiers died." It's past time the principals behind this mismanaged war were called to account for their deliberate misstatements.
Mismanaged war? Huh. Three weeks to Baghdad, and the editors call that mismanaged.

I'm sure they could have done better.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Bill's Booklist

A great recommended list of books from Bill Cork for "a college student interested in faith, philosophy and the Catholic Church":
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
    Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain.
    Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans (or any of his books, for that matter!).
    Lorenzo Albacete, God at the Ritz.
    Luigi Giusanni, The Religious Sense.
    ___________, At the Origin of the Christian Claim.
    ___________, Why the Church?
    John Paul II, Fides et Ratio (on the relationship between faith and reason).
    ___________, Veritatis Splendor.
I haven't read Merton's book, nor have I completed the second & third volumes of Giussani's trilogy, and I haven't read that particular Kreeft text... nonetheless, I can say that this really is an excellent list of texts, and I'd highly recommend them as well.
Wes McClellan?

Bill Cork joins a number of folks in comparing new Democrat presidential candidate Wesley Clark to another general running against a Republican incumbent: George McClellan, who was as incompetent in his run against Lincoln as he was in fighting the South. Here's Bill's take:
    A disgruntled military commander's ego is bruised because the Republican president doesn't accept all his brilliant advice about the war the country is engaged in; he declares the war a "failure" and announces his own candidacy as a Democrat.

    ... I think Wesley Clark should be studying the biography of George McClellan.
Distinctions with a difference

Tristero replied to my post which alluded to what I see as political ideology blinding his objectivity. His thoughts are in the comments of that post, along with my own counter. As I said there, I hope that I'm wrong in my perception, and I welcome his correction if that is the case. I offered a couple of examples of why I think I'm right in my perception, and I look forward to his thoughts.

In addition to those examples, I'd like to point to another instance, although Tristero's "responsibility" is only by way of approval: it's found in this post of his. Tristero quotes this NY Daily News article, which notes how both Rumsfeld and Rice disputed the idea of a link between Saddam and 9/11. The article notes that this runs in the face of Cheney's comments on Sunday with Russert, when he said that Iraq was "'the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

Perhaps it's just me, but I see no contradiction between these statements. Rumsfeld and Rice assert that (to the best of their knowledge) there is no connection between Saddam and the specific attacks of 9/11... they do not reject any connection between Saddam and al-Qaeda in general. There is a distinction here, and it is one with a difference: Cheney (and other administration officials) have argued that there was a link between Saddam & al-Qaeda, which is different from a link between Saddam and 9/11 in particular. Of course al-Qaeda carried out 9/11, but that doesn't mean that Saddam was in on 9/11, even if he and al-Qaeda were in cahoots in a more general sense. Let me offer an example: I'm sure that many people would say that there is an Israel-US link (to say the least); yet Israel has been caught spying on the US in the past. So if Israel can hide something from as close an ally as the US, why can't al-Qaeda hide something like the 9/11 plot from Saddam?

So there's that. Tristero approvingly quotes the story, headlining his post, "In Other Words: Bush conquered Iraq for no reason at all," and this is even more puzzling to me. Bush's case for war was clear; here's the simplified version: Saddam wishes ill-will against the US; Saddam is working on/has WMDs; these factors present a situation which we must deal with, by force if necessary, to prevent circumstances in which he might be able to employ WMDs against the US, either directly or indirectly.

There you go. He had a reason. You can disagree with him on various aspects of his case, but don't deny that he had reasons.

Update: the other blog I linked in the first post also claims there's a contradiction between Cheney and Bush on this. Again, that's simply not the case. The only way you might think so is if you're eager to jump on Bush's case about the war (and whatever else).

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

David Frum on Clinton

Here's David Frum's take on Clinton's recent campaigning:
    Will Saletan of Slate and Andrew Sullivan beat me to the story of Clinton endorsing the Democrats’ weary old arsenic hoax at a political rally in Iowa. But there is still one more thing that remains to be said: which is that just as Clinton reduced the standards of the presidency to a world-historical low, so he now seems to be competing to be the most disgraceful ex-president in history. Time was, when ex-presidents refrained from overt partisanship, ascending into a kind of dignified retirement that allowed them to undertake important tasks on behalf of the whole nation. Even those presidents who had been strident partisans during their time in office – Truman, Nixon – nonetheless managed to get a grip on themselves afterward, and at least in public behave with some kind of dignity. Not Clinton! He's still untruthfully accusing his political opponents of poisoning the wells. What a guy. Al Jazeera should hire him as its in-house political analyst.
I don't hate Clinton; I just think he was an awful President, and he appears to be following suit as ex-President.
A good piece at Slate... really!

William Saletan writes a piece at Slate today entitled, "Pious Bias: Lies and the lying liars who attribute them to the other party." Saletan's point is that basically the Democrats play just as dirty as the Republicans. While I'm not sure if I agree with every example he offers of Republican dirty-play, what I do emphatically agree with him on is this: neither side is white as snow. The money quote:
    I'm not excusing the games Republicans play. But by projecting all evil onto Republicans, Democrats spread the same political disease: the notion that you don't have to be wary of lying or cheating unless the other side is doing it. Lying and cheating don't belong to Republicans or Democrats. We're all susceptible, and we're all guilty.
I agree.
Honesty is the best policy

Today the Washington Post ran a correction on the story they ran yesterday about Cheney's appearance Sunday on Meet the Press.

The Post is definitely too liberal in many ways, but they're much better than the NYTimes, and this is a prime example.

Kudos to the WP.

Go here and/or here to get a peek of those who are so consumed by their political ideology that any semblance of objectivity is a sham.

I know that there were people on the right who hated and despised Clinton, but conservatives are supposed to be like that (so they say), while liberals are supposed to be calm, rational, unprejudiced folk who never lower to the level of hatred and intolerance of others' views.

Guess not.

As I've said numerous times, American political "discourse" consists of little more than both sides shouting past one another with each side preferring to maintain its stereotypical views of the other, rather than engage in any real and serious exchange of ideas. The "winner" is the side that either shouts the loudest or scores the better rhetorical point, rather than offering an idea most conforming to reality. I'm sure there are conservative blogs which are indicative of this tendency, and if anyone has examples, comment away. In the meantime, I think these two which I've linked here are liberal examples of this trend.

I found the following doozy (sp?) in today's letters to the editor at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
    Baffled by support

    That the war in Iraq is losing support does not surprise me. What does surprise me is how the support figure stays as high as it does.

    I cannot understand how anyone can support a war against a country that had no army of any significance, no navy, no air force, little or no connection to 9/11, had not attacked our country and was not an imminent threat to our security.

    Granted, Iraq was brutalized by a ruthless dictator, but if that is the reason for the attack, that should have been the issue debated by the people and the Congress.

    Warren Spannaus, Minneapolis
I supported the war, Mr. Spannaus, because I believed that we needed to neutralize Hussein before he did become an "imminent threat." On this canard, see Donald Luskin's latest fisking of Paul Krugman: "In his state of the union address this year, Bush was at pains to disclose that the Iraq threat was not imminent, but that a controversial pre-emptive strike was nevertheless justified. Bush said, 'Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike?'"

And last time I checked, the war was debated: Congress approved the use of force against Iraq last fall.
Is this surprising?

Former Minnesota Senator and US Vice-Prez Walter Mondale supports McCain-Feingold.
More good news from DC

The Curmudgeon informs us about the "sexpert" who writes columns for Georgetown's student newspaper.

Apolonio explains why he often references early twentieth century neo-thomist theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Well, I'll be

If you do an Earthlink search for "priests nuns "dead babies" hidden", Veritas comes up Number 2! That's because of this post, in which I copied a letter from a, well, uninformed view of Catholicism.
More Passion Controversy

Bill Cork links a letter from the ADL responding to Michael Novak's piece of a couple weeks ago in The Weekly Standard, while on the other side, Carl Olson links an article which quotes Archbishop John Foley giving a positive review to the film.

Yes, some people (erroneously) believe that everything in the Catholic Church revolves around the Bishop of Rome. Tom at Disputations hammers this mistaken perspective:
    Does your pastor give poor homilies? The Pope should institute on-going homiletics training for all priests. Don't like that recessional hymn they always use at the 9:30 Mass? The Pope should review the hymnals used in the United States. What's the name of your diocesan chancellor? Um, well, I'm not sure, but I do know the name of the Under-Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    Given the current Pope, and given the current communication technologies, it's easy to understand the temptations of papocentrism. But it's a fundamentally flawed understanding of the Church, that feeds and is fed by larger false ecclesiologies very popular within and outside the Church.

    If you imagine that Christ's Church is like a machine that runs only when the pope turns the crank, then the problem of a pope who cannot turn the crank will interest you strangely.
It was too good to cite any less!

Mark Byron examines an argument that Bush isn't really a conservative, and that in fact, he's about the same as Clinton.

Jeff's at it again

Jeff Miller has found Adam's blog. As in the-first-man Adam. We finally get to here the story of creation and the fall from his perspective!
Major Misattribution

The Washington Post today has a frontpage story summarizing VP Cheney's appearance on Meet the Press with Tim Russert yesterday. Near the end of the story, Milbank & Pincus (the authors) write about what Cheney had to say on the Saudi connection question:
    Cheney was less forthcoming when asked about Saudi Arabia's ties to al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 hijackers. "I don't want to speculate," he said, adding that Sept. 11 is "over with now, it's done, it's history and we can put it behind us."
In other words, it seems that Cheney believes that 9/11 is over and done with, and that we have to move on.

The problem is, this is the exact opposite of what Cheney meant. If you peruse the transcript of Cheney's appearance, you find Cheney's quote; here it is in its original context:
    RUSSERT: There are reports that the investigation Congress did does show a link between the Saudi government and the hijackers, but that it will not be released to the public.

    CHENEY: I don't want to speculate on that, Tim, partly because I was involved in reviewing those pages. It was the judgment of our senior intelligence officials, both CIA and FBI, that that material needed to remain classified.

    At some point we may be able to declassify it, but there are ongoing investigations that might be affected by that release, and for that reason we kept it classified.

    The committee knows what's in there. They helped to prepare it. So it hasn't been kept secret from the Congress, but from the standpoint of our ongoing investigations we needed to do that.

    One of the things this points up, that's important for us to understand, there's this great temptation to look at these events as discrete events. We got hit on 9/11, so we can go investigate it. It's over with now. It's done, it's history, and we can put it behind us.

    From our perspective, trying to deal with this continuing campaign of terror, if you will, the war on terror that we're engaged in, this is a continuing enterprise. The people that were involved in some of those activities before 9/11 are still out there. We learn more and more as we capture people, detain people, get access to records and so forth that this is a continuing enterprise.

    And therefore, we do need to be careful, when we look at things like 9/11, the commission report from 9/11, not to jeopardize our capacity to deal with this threat going forward in the interest of putting out information that's interesting that relates to the period of time before that. These are continuing requirements on our part, and we have to be sensitive to that.
It's clear from what Cheney says before and after the line quoted in the WP that he is offering the view that 9/11 is over and done as a perspective with which he disagrees! His view -- which is really Bush's view -- is that 9/11 and the war on terrorism are linked (obvious), and that the war on terrorism is continuing (obvious), therefore, 9/11 is, in a sense, not over. His point is that we can't expect to write the definitive book on 9/11 yet, because the historical context of 9/11 is not yet at an end.

Now, one can argue with Cheney on this (I tend to agree with him), but the fact remains that he clearly disagrees with the view which the WP attributes to him! As I said in my letter to the editor, perhaps the authors should spend as much time fact-checking their own assertions as they did Cheney's.

[Thanks to Ramesh Ponnuru for pointing this out.]

Thursday, September 11, 2003


I allowed my reaction to that NYTimes piece to go on for so long that it became the first post of today, rather than the last post of yesterday.

I say "drat" because I wanted this to be today's first post:

9/11/01 -- We Will Never Forget.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those who lost their lives and those who lost their loved ones on that day.

You are remembered, and you are prayed for.

Requiescant in pace.

I think I'll let Chuck Colson speak for me now...

BreakPoint with Charles Colson
Commentary #030911 - 09/11/2003

Terrorism, War, and Evil
Reflections on September 11

There's something sacred about a day on which three thousand innocent American civilians died in a barbaric terrorist attack. As I reflect again on that bright September morning just two years ago, a number of thoughts come to mind.

First, I'm reminded that evil is real. Through the nineties, we hung onto the utopian notion that history had come to an end, ushering in peace and happiness evermore. September 11 shattered that—and, thankfully, our worldview has become more realistic and more biblical since then.

Second, I remember that we're in a war against terrorism that is, in some ways, more threatening than World War II—for, here, the enemy is disguised. But the terrorists have the same goal as our enemies at that time: the destruction of Western civilization. Read what Osama bin Laden and other Islamist activists have said. They're not hiding their purpose. September 11, 2001, was a declaration of war against, not only the United States, but also the civilized world.

Our response was absolutely correct in the wake of September 11. We went to Afghanistan to break the back of the Taliban and deny al Qaeda its base of operations. It was clearly a just war, the only possible response to a deadly attack on American citizens. And it has turned out to be a huge setback for al Qaeda. We've been on the offensive ever since, and we've put them on the defense—the best military strategy there is.

What about Iraq? Iraq, as I have argued, is the second theater in the war on terrorism. The evidence makes it clear that Saddam has strong ties to terrorists. That includes the al Qaeda cell that operated in northern Iraq since June 2001 and is, in part, responsible for terrorism in Iraq today.

In recent days we've heard the chorus of the critics: "We didn't plan well. We didn't figure out what was going to happen after we attacked." Well, let's remember: Divisive criticism and any sign of turning away now can only fan the flames of Islamist fanaticism and terror.

Princeton Professor Bernard Lewis, one of the world's leading authorities on Islam, argues that Islamic radicals saw America's responses to Vietnam, Somalia, Lebanon, and the attacks on the U.S.S. Cole and our embassies in Africa as evidence that we would cut and run—even when attacked at home. Well, we didn't, and now, in Iraq, we can't. We're not fighting terrorists in the streets of New York. Thank God. We're fighting them in Iraq.

Our troops well understand the connection between their work and the September 11 attacks. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz wrote that when Christy Ferer, a September 11 widow, recently gave Gen. Tommy Franks a piece of steel recovered from the World Trade Center, "she saw this great soldier's eyes well up with tears. Then, she watched as they streamed down his face on the center stage before 4,000 troops." The general knows well why we fight that war.

We must never forget that fateful day. And we should remind our neighbors that in the face of anti-war rhetoric, we must demonstrate unity, strength, and resolve in the war on terrorism—or risk our national survival.

For printer-friendly version, visit www.breakpoint.org and click on Today's Commentary.

Copyright (c) 2003 Prison Fellowship Ministries


"BreakPoint with Chuck Colson" is a daily commentary on news and trends from a Christian perspective. Heard on more than 1000 radio outlets nationwide, BreakPoint transcripts are also available on the Internet.

BreakPoint is a production of The Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship Ministries.
Imperialism, blah blah blah

A long piece today at the NYTimes, blathering on about world opinion regarding the US.

There are a bunch of quotes from people of all ages that we want to rule the world, etc. etc. In other words, we are imperialists.


People, the USA is not an empire! Go read this if you don't believe me... we don't act like any other empire in history, for goodness sake! We don't tax our "foreign subjects," we don't force them to serve in our military, etc. etc. Yes, we are dominant in many ways, but that isn't imperialism!

And then there's the usage of "Europe" in place of "France & Germany"... while the author of the piece on numerous occasions acknowledges that there are differences of opinion viz. the US within Europe, he all too often substitutes the name of the continent for two of that continent's nations.

It's unfortunate that people react negatively to Bush's image, but this doesn't say much to me about people's reasoning skills and ability to think critically -- for heaven's sake, pay as much attention to the words the man speaks as you do to his attitude [as you perceive] it, and you might find that his views are actually somewhat plausable!

And I thought we Americans had the "impressions over intellect" school of decision-making cornered.

Make no mistake -- I'm not some redneck running off at the mouth with an American superiority complex and derision for the rest of the world. I know that we're not perfect, and that we've made plenty of mistakes in our history. But that doesn't give others an excuse to toss good thinking out the window. I can handle disagreement; what I can't handle is ignorance and demagoguery, whether it's coming from an American or someone else.

One more thing... it's as if people think that we're chomping at the bit, waiting to invade someone else. Gimme a break. Bush acted because he believed that it was in the interests of national security to act, not for because of any bloodlust. Listen to the man's public addresses after 9/11, for goodness sake! For that matter, listen to what he said during his debates with Gore -- did he sound like a guy waiting to get involved in "foreign entanglements"? Of course not... he wanted to be less involved in those sorts of things!

Oh, that's right... Cheney's buddies at Haliburton (and the rest of the good ole "military-industrial complex") got him to convince Bush to set the guns a blazin'... how could I forget?

Bunk, bunk, bunk. You disagree with the decision to invade Iraq? Fine. There are many such people whom I respect, and whose arguments are often cogent. But don't go telling me that we invaded Iraq in order to get its oil (hint: if we wanted it, we would have taken it in '91!) or as the first step in the Bush Dynasty's Master Plan for Utter World Domination (v. 2.0). It won't endear you to me. And who doesn't want to be endeared to me?

Okay, enough of that rant for today.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Dulles: power-grabber

Today Andrew Sullivan comments on Cardinal Dulles' proposal for reform in the Church. Mr. Sullivan writes, "Dulles' proposals for reform of the Church amount entirely to greater obedience to Rome, subservience to ecclesiastical authority, maintenance of the existing structures, and penance from the laity. I.e. more power for him. Funny how that happens, doesn't it?"

This is truly unfortunate. Here's the letter I wrote to Mr. Sullivan in response to his post:

Dear Mr. Sullivan,

This morning you commented on Cardinal Dulles' proposals for reform, writing that basically, his thoughts amount to "more power for him."

It's unfortunate that you state this, because Cardinal Dulles has long been recognized as a "central" figure in American theological discourse, in that he is able to mediate between the right and the left; over the course of his career, he has been attacked from *both* sides, which is usually a good sign.

As far as his comments, which you criticize, they are really unquestionable. He states nothing more than this: the "public" sins of Catholics (cleric *and* lay) are a cause for scandal. How is this indisputable?

Mr. Sullivan, I know that you believe the only thing which can save the Church is radical restructuring. Unfortunately, it's not our Church with which to do as we please. Jesus established the Church with hierarchical structure; that was His intention and His decision. We have no power or authority to change it.

We (you and I) were exchanging some emails prior to your August hiatus on the topic of the Church's infallibility. As I stated then, if the Church is wrong on one doctrine, who's to say that this not wrong on another? There has never been a reversal of doctrinal principles, Mr. Sullivan; you offered the example of slavery, but there was no reversal. In fact, such a reversal is impossible, if we believe Jesus' promise that the Holy Spirit would remain with the Church and that the gates of hell (error and falsehood) would not prevail against it, and Paul's statement that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth.

I recognize your struggle with the Church's teachings, Mr. Sullivan. I hope and pray that you are able to reconcile your views with hers.

Chris Burgwald

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

and we should imitate them, why?

This morning Rod Dreher posted a portion of this piece by Christopher Hitchens on how to commemorate 9/11. Hitchens says, in part:
    What is required is a steady, unostentatious stoicism, made up out of absolute, cold hatred and contempt for the aggressors, and complete determination that their defeat will be utter and shameful. This doesn't require drum rolls or bagpipes or banners. The French had a saying during the period when the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine were lost to them: "Always think of it. Never speak of it."
Now why would we want to start imitating the French, for heaven's sake!?

new NAC blogger!

Fr. John Sistare of the Diocese of Providence now has a blog. Fr. John and I were acquaintances in Rome, he the seminarian, me the layman.

He's a good man, and I'm happy to see him in the blogosphere.

Go visit!
"Bitterly orthodox"

I friend of mine used this term to describe herself as she was a few years ago... zealous for the truth of the faith, but in a way that made her constantly bitter about others' lack of orthodoxy.

This attitude is, sadly, common among too many good Catholics, and it's found St. Blog's just as it is in any other Catholic parish. It's prompted a number of bloggers to comment: Gerard, Bill and Alan coming immediately to mind with their recent posts.

Orthodoxy should prompt joy and peace of spirit, not bitterness and hostility.
Google gets it wrong

Tonight I had a visitor who came here from google, looking for "washington post" "best pizza" "new york city". While I've referenced all three items, none of them are in the same post, unfortunately for that person. You can find my thoughts on "best pizza" here.

Sorry, friend!
Communion in the hand?

Steve Skojec has been posting (here, here, and here) on receiving Communion in the hand.

As I noted in my comment to his first post, I personally receive on the tongue. However, I disagree with Steve's apparent assertion that there is an atemporal, absolute causal relationship between reception of the Eucharist in the hand and a decline in belief in the Real Presence. After all, reception in the hand was common in the first millenium. While in our times today there may be some relationship between the two, I disagree that such a relationship is absolute or firm. I know plenty of people who receive on the tongue and believe 100% in the Real Presence.

In his reply (the second of the posts), Steve offers a number of quotes. However, at least some of them do not say what it seems Steve thinks they say. For instance, his citation of Pope St. Sixtus I refers to the sacred vessels, not to the reception of Communion, and I think that they are two different things; the quote from St. Basil doesn't seem to prohibit Communion in the hand per se (he's talking about receiving in the presence of a cleric); the canons of Saragossa and Toledo condemns not consuming in the Church, not reception in the hand; Pope St. Leo speaks about receiving in the mouth, but those who receive in the hand do receive in the mouth (the context of the quote might resolve the ambiguity, in Steve's favor or mine); the synod of Rouen refers to the laity who cannot discern the Body of the Lord, not the laity per se; etc. So it seems to me that Steve's contention that reception in the hand was uncommon and unacceptable remains unproven. And I will argue below that the opposite is actually the case.

Steve also makes an assertion that I'm not sure he means, or perhaps I misunderstand him; in the same post, he states: "The body of doctrine and law we have today is, at least in sizeable part, the fruit of the error of earlier centuries." I'm fairly certain that Steve knows of the Church's infallibility and indefectability, and hence that there can be no error in the body of doctrine, yesterday, today, or tomorrow. He also states, "I believe that if the early practice were not problematic - if it ever was truly normative at all - it would not have been changed." I disagree -- the Church sees fit to adapt herself to the times for various reasons, and has done so throughout history. In many cases it's a matter of "meeting the people where they are," i.e. adapting her customs to be more intelligible to a particular era. That doesn't necessarily mean that the prior practice is less acceptable -- although that can be the case, it isn't always the case.

Generally, Steve believes that the reception of the Eucharist in the hand is less sacred. I disagree. I'd like to allow others to speak on my behalf, however, so without futher ado...

In his book A Short Primer for Unsettled Laymen the great twentieth century theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote about the ancient origin of many of the elements of the Missal of 1969. With regard to the reception of Communion, he wrote, "the reception of the Host standing and in the hand was customary until the ninth century and that the Fathers of the Church attest that the faithful touched their yes and ears with the Host in blessing before they consumed" (p. 117). He proceeds to quote from a 1978 sermon of a well-known German theologian, who said:
    the second objection we wanted to consider was directed against the act of receiving Communion: kneeling--standing, hand--mouth. Well, first of all, I would like to say that both attitudes are possible, and I would like therefore to ask all priests to exercise tolerance and to recognize the decision of each person; and I would further like to ask you all to exercise the same tolerance and not cast aspersions on anyone who may have opted for this or that way of doing it. But you will ask: Is tolerance the proper answer here? Or is it not misplaced with respect to this most holy thing? Well, here again we know that until the ninth century Communion was received in the hand, standing. That does not of course mean that it should always be so. For what is fine, sublime, about the Church is that she is growing, maturing, understanding the mystery more profoundly. In that sense the new development that began after the ninth century is quite justified, as an expression of reverence, and is well-founded. But, on the other hand, we have to say that the Church could not possibly have been celebrating the Eucharist unworthily for nine hundred years. [Emphasis added.]

    If we read what the Fathers say, we can see in what a spirit of reverence they received Communion. We find a particularly fine passage in the writings of Cyril of Jerusalem, from the fourth century. In his catechetical homilies he tells the candidates for baptism what they should do at Communion. They should make a throne of their hands, laying the right upon the let to forma throne for the King, forming at the same time a cross. This symbolic gesture, so fine and so profound, is what concerns him: the hands of man form a cross, which becomes a throne, down into which the King inclines himself. The open, outstretched hand can thus become a sign of the way that a man offers himself to the Lord, opens hands for him, that they may become an instrument of his presence and a throne of his mercies in this world. Anyone who reflects on this will recognize that on this point it is quite wrong to argue about this or that form of behavior. We should be concerned only to argue in favor of what the Church's efforts were directed toward, both before and after the ninth century, that is a reverence in the heart, an inner submission before the mystery of God that puts himself into our hands. Thus we should not forget that not only our hands are impure but also our tongue and also our heart and that we often sin more with the tongue than with the hands. God takes an enormous risk--and at the same time this is an expression of his merciful goodness--in allowing not only our hand and our tongue but even our heart to come into contact with him. [Emphasis added.]
Who is this theologian? Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then-Archbishop of Munich (the sermon from which this citation was taken was just recently published in a compilation of various essays by Ratzinger on the Eucharist in the text God Is Near Us at pp. 69-71).

Now, it seems likely to me that Balthasar and Ratzinger have accurately represented the history of the matter. (Steve quotes an article which in turn quotes a Dr. Henri LeClerq who claims that the text from Cyril alluded to by Balthasar and spelled out in more detail by Ratzinger is of dubious origin and questionable content; however, he offers no proof of this assertion, and personally doubt that both of the theologians I quoted would refer to the text were it not actually from Cyril.)

More importantly, I think that the second passage which I italicized from Ratzinger makes a profound point: the most important thing is the disposition of the communicant's heart; with these two eminent theologians, I believe that it is completely possible to receive the Eucharist in the hand with the proper faith and disposition. After all, as Ratzinger states so well, the tongue is no more pure than the hands, and ultimately it's the heart that matters. To assert that receiving on the tongue is intrinsically more reverent seems to me to be begging the question, in that that is precisely the point in dispute. Again, I personally receive on the tongue, but I believe that someone can believe just as strongly as I do in the Real Presence (or of course, even more strongly than me) and receive in the hand.

With that, I close these remarks, reserving the right to revise and extend, Mr. Speaker.
Can it be?

Comments are back!

Comment away, both of you visitors! ;-)

Monday, September 08, 2003


I forgot to point out that my ViKings went into (newly-renovated) Lambeau Field yesterday and beat the tar out of Brett Favre and the Packers, winning 30-25. A stupid fumble (on a stupid playcall) and some late heroics made the game look closer than it really was.

Sorry, Kevin.

It's too bad that gays continue to believe that those who disapprove of homosexual acts actually hate homosexuals (see, for example, this post). Such a belief is no more valid than the belief that those who disapprove of lying hate liars... it simply isn't the case. Sure, there may be some who actually do hate gays, but there are also gays who beat up church janitors because the pastor preached against homosexuality. But both types are in the minority.

Believing in the immorality of homosexual acts isn't homophobia, people.
A cure!

Jeff Miller reports on a new procedure to cure those suffering from Lidless Eye Syndrome.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Oh yeah

Mark Bryon has left the (Blogger) building and moved over to typepad... here's his new place. Go read his take on Bush's speech.
Nicely done

Watched the President's speech tonight... nicely done. He hit nearly all of the important points, with the exception of WMDs (yes, it's still an important issue... although we disagreed on the morality of going to war in Iraq, Mark at Minute Particulars had an excellent post on the importance of finding WMDs in Iraq viz. the morality of the issue).

We needed a reminder of the importance of our resolve in this, and I think Bush provided it. Name-dropping Beruit and Somalia was good... we can't afford to cut and run as we have in the past.
On the other hand...

Re: the question of troops needed in Iraq, Max Boot relates his recent experience in Iraq (the link is to the LA Times -- [free] registration req'd), noting that the guys on the ground don't think more boots are necessary:
    Many voices, on both the left and right, are now arguing that we need more troops in Iraq. Precisely the same thing was claimed in Vietnam. But there, as our troop commitment escalated above 500,000, the war was steadily Americanized and the South Vietnamese became less capable of fending for themselves. That's not a model we should follow in Iraq.

    Every U.S. officer I talked to said that the 150,000 soldiers we have in Iraq now are sufficient. What's required is not more troops, they said, but better policing methods. Both the 101st Airborne and the Marines are disdainful of some of the heavy-handed tactics, such as large-scale "cordon and search" operations, employed by Army units in Baghdad and the surrounding areas. They argue that the focus should be on getting better intelligence and training Iraqi security forces to police their own country. That process is now underway, but it will take time to create a new army and police force.
I report, you decide... more troops or not?

(Thanks to Ms. Lopez for the link.)

Saturday, September 06, 2003

"More men!"

A number of people have been calling for more soldiers in Iraq. Some of them -- I'm thinking here of certain Democrat presidential contenders, along with anti-Bush liberals -- have been doing so to try to make about about the "failure" of Bush's approach in Iraq.

Others calling for more troops, though, harbor no animus toward the President or his ideas. Hoover Institute member and NRO contributor Stanley Kurtz, for instance, has long been calling for a larger military in general.

You can now add another conservative voice to the mix: Tom Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute has written an article on the need for more men in Iraq, and how Secretary Rumsfeld is stubbornly refusing to acquiesce. It's interesting to me that this comes from AEI, in that this think-tank has served as the intellectual clearinghouse for this administration -- many of the "full-time thinkers" serving the President have come from AEI or been influenced by that institute.

We'll have to see what happens...

In his latest Word from Rome column, John Allen spends a bit on possible successors to JPII. After a brief word on Joachim Cardinal Meisner of Cologne, Germany, Allen turns his attention to Jorge Maria Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

What is of most interest to me personally is this: Cardinal Bergoglio is close to Communion and Liberation, the new ecclesial movement which I have become very interested in over the last couple of years.

He's also a Jesuit, but hey! nobody's perfect.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Give me a break

Jeff Miller informs us of Madeline Albright's recent speech at Georgetown University, wherein she called for greater access to contraceptives as a solution to the AIDS epidemic (she apparently thought that such a suggestion was "bold at a Catholic university").

With Jeff, I wonder if anyone in the audience -- student or faculty -- walked out in disgust and protest, as some did in response to Cardinal Arinze's commencement address at graduation ceremonies in May when he said, "In many parts of the world, the family is under siege. It is opposed by anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography; desecrated by fornication and adultery; mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut into two by divorce."

One brave graduate, Gabriel Wartofsky, said something to the cardinal as he walked across the stage to receive his diploma; what was it? He told the reporter whose story I just linked, "I said it was disgraceful," Wartofsky recalled later. "It was the most disgraceful speech I've ever heard in my four years." Another graduate, Rachel Bouttenot, was so exasperated at Arinze that she was making faces to her faculty mentor, according to the same story, which also relayed the thoughts of graduate Joylynn Holder... you have to read the story to believe it: "'I just didn't expect it at all,' she said. 'I was shocked.' A theology major, Holder wondered what her professors were thinking about what she considered "undeveloped theology" represented by Arinze's comments."

Undeveloped theology? C'mon, Ms. Holder... an ounce of respect for the Cardinal, if you can muster it! I don't question the sincerity of these students, but I do wonder about their Catholic formation, if they were surprised to hear a Catholic cardinal speak negatively about realities which the Catholic Church has always pointed to as being detrimental to the family. My guess is that many of them might reconsider their remarks if they were given an moment more to reflect. At least, I'd hope so. If not, I hope they are able to articulate an rational explanation for their position.

Okay, that was a bit of a tangent...

Anyway, the dichotomy in response to the two speeches is, well, interesting, and perhaps a bit telling.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

de Lubac

Gerard Serafin reminds us that today is the twelfth anniversary of the death of one of the twentieth century's greatest theologians: Henri de Lubac, SJ.

One of de Lubac's most famous books, The Splendor of the Church, was an eye-opener for me, and constitutes a crucial step in my theological formation.

He truly is one of the greats of modern theology.
The Da Vinci Code?

There's been a lot of action in the blogosphere on The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown's bestselling novel which proports to give the "real" history of the Catholic Church, i.e. what the Church has been hiding for centuries. Here are some of the highlights:

First is this post by Carl Olson, which points out some basic errors.

Second is this extensive article from Crisis magazine by Sandra Miesel... very well worth reading.

Third is this post by Amy Welborn, and fourth is her review.

Fifth and finally, this article in the New York Daily News.

If you know anyone who's read The Da Vinci Code, recommend these links to them.
Killing abortionists? No thanks. But why?

There's a long, interesting discussion going on in the comments of this post at Mark Shea's place about killing abortionists. It's an issue, of course, because Paul Hill was executed in Florida this week for his murder of an abortionist and his bodyguard.

I'll post my comments momentarily, but I want to reiterate what I state therein: I oppose the killing of abortionists. And I believe that Hill's action was murderous, i.e. there is no way to legitimize it as morally licit. Kevin Miller's comment is right on: "Hill didn't want to defend babies. He wanted to kill an abortionist. After the man was down, Hill pumped several more shots into him to make sure he was dead. That's called murder - morally as well as legally. In general, ambushing and shooting someone is not to be confused with using (lethal) force in defense. There is no double standard."

Having said that, here are my comments:

Disclaimer: I believe it's wrong to kill abortion doctors.

Having said that, I also think that we need to do a better job of elucidating our opposition to the actions of people like Mr. Hill.

Fr. Johansen linked the argument made by Fr. Walsh, which is very solid in many ways. At the same time, it still leaves certain questions unanswered. For instance, in his discussion of the right of defense of an innocent third party, Fr. Walsh points to the work of early 20th century moralist Hieronymus Noldin, who argues that a forceful defense of a 3rd party is only licit when the third party is someone related to the person taking defensive action or is a holder of public office, like a police officer. But what is the basis for such an assertion? I recognize Noldin's (and Walsh's) point, but what is the justification for such a stance. Would it then be illicit for a German resistance fighter to use (potentially lethal) force against a Nazi guard who is about to kill a concentration camp prisoner, simply because that prisoner is neither related to the fighter, nor a holder of public office?

Fr. Walsh also points to Noldin's statement that forceful defense may be employed only at the actual moment of the attack. While I again recognize the intention, this seems difficult to understand in real-life circumstances. Take the Nazi example again: if the attack occurs indoors, is the resistance fighter morally prohibited from using force against the Nazi before he enters the bulding wherein he will kill an innocent person?

Perhaps the answer to this and the other questions is an affirmative one; either way, I think it's important for us to grapple with these sorts of questions to ensure that our opposition to the acts of Mr. Hill et al does not also require opposition to other acts which we may be inclined to accept as morally permissible.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Very, very Impressive

The wife and I just watched Gen. Tommy Franks (ret.) on Letterman, and I must say, it was a tour de force... a very impressive showing by our former CINC-CENTCOM.

Maybe more tomorrow.
Separation isn't divorce

Today Dr. Byron posted on the separation of Col. governor Bill Owens, a conservative who many think has (had?) a promising political future.

Mark and Ben Domenech both think this nixes any future presidential bid for Gov. Owens, but I say... hold your horses, guys! A separation is just that... a separation. In his statement, Owens says, "We hope to be able to work through this soon." It doesn't sound like things are totally done yet, does it?

Of course, it is fine to discuss Owens' political future should he be divorced, but that isn't necessarily what will happen... let's hope and pray that it doesn't.

While I don't always agree with his views, I really appreciate Instapundit as a clearinghouse of sorts for news which you don't hear about in other places (even Drudge). He's great at linking items which you might not hear about otherwise.

For instance, here he links this post by another blogger which in turn quotes a story demonstrating our recent battlefield victories in Afghanistan, contra the doom-and-gloom reporting of the mainstream press.

And in this post he discusses similar positive coverage of Iraq, again, contrary to what the mainstream media portrays.

And finally, he here quotes another blogger who writes the following gem:
    According to this week's story from Scripps Howard News Service, there are 140,000 troops in Iraq, and there have been 286 fatalities from all causes since the war began in March (about 24 weeks ago). That gives us an annualized death rate of 443 per 100,000. Only about half of these deaths (147) were in combat, for a combat death rate of 228 per 100,000.

    According to Center for Disease Control / National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, there were 21,836 young black men (age 18-30) in Washington DC in 2000, the latest year that mortality data is available. The total number of deaths in this group from all causes was 132, with 95 homicides. i.e. the death rate for this group was 604 per 100,000 and the murder rate was 435 per 100,000.

    In other words, a young black male soldier from Washington DC would have been 36% more likely to die by staying at home than by serving in active duty in the Iraq war, and almost twice as likely to be murdered at home than to be killed in combat. Yes, that's horribly sad, but it puts a few things in perspective.
Instapundit's comment? "I think we need regime change in the D.C. government, for starters. The death toll is just too high."

While I often disagree with his libertarianism, Glenn Reynolds (that's his real name) is a great source of "alternative news."
comments update

Looks like we're out of action for a few more days... the following is from the YACCS website:

Update (September 3, 4:35 PM EST): It looks like the old server is still failing intermittently. I can't debug the problem (since the server is located across the country), so the quickest solution is to ship a new server to the colocation facility. I'm going to build a server tomorrow and ship it on Friday. It should arrive Monday, September 8 around 6PM EST and should be online around 7PM.

Again, I apologize for the downtime. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to speed things up; the process of ordering and shipping a server takes time, and yesterday was the first day since the outage that any stores were open.

The good news is that the new server is much better than the old one, so the site should be significantly faster/more responsive once it's running.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Hossein Sharifi (sharifi@cc.gatech.edu)


Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Ratzinger's new book

I received my copy of Cardinal Ratzinger's new book, God Is Near Us, today, and -- surprisingly -- I'm a little disappointed.

As it turns out, the volume is a collection of previously-unpublished essays of Ratzinger's related to the Eucharist; they range over a wide period of time, from the 70's to the 90's.

Don't get me wrong: I know that it's great stuff. It's just not what I expected, that's all.
Comments are back!

YACCS is back up, so please feel free to comment away.

[Update: spoke to soon...]
You know better, Mr. Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan is back from his August blogging hiatus, and in many ways, he's picked up where he left off, one of those points of departure being his continued and unfortunate misunderstanding of the Catholic Church, to which he belongs.

In this post, he summarized the events of the eighth month of 2003, including this line: " critical document showed how the Vatican had a policy of cover-up of sexual abuse of minors for decades."

He is referring to a 1962 Vatican document which CBS sensationally "revealed" on Wednesday, August 6th. I posted on it the following day, and a number of other bloggers out there (Lane Core, Mark Shea, Bill Cork, and Kevin Miller to name only a couple) did so as well.

It appears, unfortunately, that Mr. Sullivan did not avail himself of these resources in deciding how to understand and address the issue.

It's wierd how different things/events/objects/songs, etc. become associated with other things/events/objects/songs, etc., so that when one is seen/experienced, we have a "flashback" to an event in the past. In my case (and probably for many others), emotional flashbacks of this type tend to be prompted by songs.

For instance, listening to Ozzy Osbourne's "Mama I'm Comin' Home" triggers a strong "emotional memory" of eating those pizza pocket things on weekends at Jason's home in high school.