Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Debate, Round #1.

I watched the Bush, Kerry debate this evening and thought it remained focused on the most important issues of the day: war and peace in Iraq and Afghanistan, the importance and limits of alliances with other countries, and the specific threats from abroad that deserve attention. That said, Kerry was able to throw in a few whacks about Bush's tax cuts, which he opened with a demagogic and self-deprecating statement. It's interesting to consider the possible effect this could have on the audience of the debate. Kerry admitted that he is wealthy, and therefore could not possibly deserve a tax cut, but before anyone's brain might register a resentful thought against his good fortune Kerry quickly pointed us to the real culprit, Bush! An interesting admixture of condescension and an appeal to equality.

Now, rather than speak about the debate point by point I'd rather focus on one short exchange between Bush and Kerry in order to highlight what I take to be the fundametnal difference between them. For some, Kerry's statement may appear to be a painful gaffe, I'd argue that he indeed believes this. Kerry begins by making a strong case for preemption when asked by Lehrer "What is your position on the whole concept of preemptive war?":

The president always has the right, and always has had the right, for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the Cold War. And it was always one of the things we argued about with respect to arms control.

No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.


I quoted his first two paragraphs in order to highlight the third:

But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

What citizen (nay, what statesman) would believe, and this is automatic for Kerry, apparently, that the world is ready to give the US objective and wise council on the gravest matters? You might say what a trusting soul! The answer is, it doesn't matter! Preemptive engagement doesn't depend on any such test, there is no such test, it is a phantom of Kerry's mind. I believe Bush responded well here:

Let me -- I'm not exactly sure what you mean, passes the global test, you take preemptive action if you pass a global test.

My attitude is you take preemptive action in order to protect the American people, that you act in order to make this country secure.


I would say, only a decadent man would appeal to world opinion in order to gain leverage against domestic opinion, and only a decadent country would take him seriously.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

George Soros.

I just finished reading a story on turkishpress.com entitled "Billionaire George Soros intensifies his anti-Bush campaign". The story reveals Soros's ambition, to use his wealth to defeat incumbent President George Bush and in so doing to reverse Bush's direction (actions and policies) on Iraq. Unfortunately, the story fails to reveal the issues about Soros, and makes him out to be any number of things: an ad hoc supporter of the democratic party; a man protecting his investment in John Kerry's campaign; a man deeply embittered by the war in Iraq. Fortunately, we have access to Soros's own words: Soros's Web site. The two main influences on Soros: he survived the holocaust, and he studied with Karl Popper. One would be hard pressed, as a friend put it to me, to know which was more harmful for him. Both of these experiences can be seen forming parts of his judgement on the war in Iraq most notably his appeal to the "open society" contra Bush, and his insane comparisons of the US to Nazi Germany.

On that note, I recommend downloading and reading Soros's speech (from http://www.georgesoros.com) that is, if you can stomach it. The most remarkable thing about Soros's speech is its implication that Bush is on the wrong side of history because of his political use of preemption (or the use of force in advance of an enemy threat) in Iraq. Soros calls it the "Bush doctrine of preemption" which is not really a Bush doctrine at all because preemption is as old as politics. It would therefore seem right to draw the tentative conclusion that Soros has a peculiar contempt for politics which is demonstrated by his contempt for the political use of preemption (or force). Soros tries to hide this contempt by arguing that the invasion of Afghanistan was justified whereas the invasion of Iraq was not justified. In other words, Soros notes the obvious, that a forceful act in response to an attack on the homeland is justified (no citizen needs to be told this), but a forceful act in response to a looming threat is not. I leave it to the reader to judge these things. Have a great day!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Meanwhile . . . .

As our gliberal press obsesses over Vietnam, Gulf War II, and how they can be spun to W's disadvantage, our more forward-looking enemies are not idle. David Warren ventues this prediction:

the ayatollahs in Iran . . . fear George W. Bush almost as much as they fear their own people, and would feel more at ease with a weak and vacillating U.S. President. My own suspicion is that they are racing the clock, and just might announce a nuclear fait accompli before the U.S. election is over, while Mr. Bush has his hands tied getting re-elected. . . .

Which is why my attention turns to Israel. I wonder whether the bunker-buster purchase announced this week might actually be the public acknowledgement of something already partly delivered. Since Iran has the Shihab-3 missiles to drop nuclear weapons on Tel Aviv, once they have the bombs, and the Israelis have never been casual about existential threats, I wouldn't be surprised to see something happen. And it might have to happen before the U.S. election, spreading political fallout everywhere.


As for the other nuclear front:

The consensus of media observers, and the intelligence establishment from which they often take their hints, is that the present wave of North Korean threats and military exercises are a charade, designed perhaps to influence the U.S. election.

Let's hope so. I'm not sure quite why this is not a major focus of our current presidentail campaigns, but it should be foremost on our minds regardless . . .

How Curious . . . .

George W. Bush is frequently accused of lacking curiosity. (Apparently, as with many things, the potential negative connotation of that word -- as in "vain curiosity" -- has completely dropped out of our feeble modern brains.) If so he is not the only one. This, from the ever perspicacious Mark Steyn:

Kerry didn't show up for Allawi's visit to Washington -- he was in Ohio again, which is evidently becoming the proverbial Vietnam-type quagmire for him. Nonetheless, barely had the prime minister finished than the absentee senator did a daytime version of his midnight ramble and barged his way onto the air to insist that he knew better than Iraq's head of government what was going on in the country. One question from his accompanying press corps was especially choice:

''Prime Minister Allawi told Congress today that democracy was taking hold in Iraq and that the terrorists there were on the defensive. Is he living in the same fantasyland as the president?''

It would be nice to think this was a somewhat crude attempt at irony, but given America's Ratherized media this seems unlikely. . . .

On Thursday, President Bush held a press conference at the Rose Garden with Allawi. You know the way these things go. . . . Iraq's the No. 1 issue in American right now, and they've got the go-to guy right in front of them, and what do the blow-dried poseurs of the networks ask:

''Mr. President, John Kerry is accusing you of colossal failures of judgment in Iraq . . .''

NBC guy: ''A central theme of your campaign is that America is safer because of the invasion of Iraq. Can you understand why Americans may not believe you?''

CNN: ''Sir, I'd like you to answer Senator Kerry and other critics who accuse you of hypocrisy or opportunism . . .''

They're six feet from Iraq's head of government and they've got not a question for him. They've got no interest in Iraq except insofar as they can use the issue to depress sufficient numbers of swing voters in Florida and Ohio. . . .

Say what you like about the old left, but at least they were outward-looking and internationalist. This new crowd -- Democrats and media alike -- are stunted and parochial, their horizons shriveling more every day.


Is this decay of the left long-term, or just a blip on the charts? Wiser men than I may know . . . .

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Friends Like These . . . .

More Canada-bashing I'm afraid. But I really can't help it if they want to beg for it like this.

Free Speech?

An interesting discussion on abortion going on over at Umbrae Canarum. I'll let you figure out whose side I'm taking.

On the subject of abortion, here's an interesting report:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge ruled Friday that the state's "Choose Life" license plate is unconstitutional . . . U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell (search) wrote that the state cannot promote just one viewpoint in the abortion debate.
"The result in this case would be the same if the statute authorized a 'Pro-Choice' license plate instead of the 'Choose Life' license plate," Campbell wrote.


Would it? Who ever came up with the evil maxim that the state must take a neutral stance in relation to good and evil? Who ever decided that spiritual castration was the way to go for America? Our judges, that's who.

The state and Tennessee New Life Resources (search), an anti-abortion group closely tied to Tennessee Right to Life, had argued that those who wanted a license plate in favor of abortion rights hadn't tried hard enough to get a specialty plate passed by the General Assembly.

"Hard enough" sounds subjective, but this is a moot point. In a democracy people work things out by arguing what is right and wrong, and then making a decision. Judges can overturn that when and if it violates an enshrined good or "right". Judges are not to impose an artificial, sterile indifference with respect to right and wrong. That is simply the rule of moral depravity masquerading as neutrality.

If pro-abortionists can't mobilize successfully in Tennessee, so be it. They have the consolation of Roe v. Wade to make up for the lack of pro-death vanity plates. If the citizens of Tennessee want to express their disagreement to the (temporary, I pray) victory of death, they don't need SC wannabes telling them to "balance" their opposition with support.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Conventional Wisdom

This has to go down as the best description of our current robed masters: "a nine-person ongoing Constitutional Convention in the Supreme Court building". One imagines Philadelphia is jealous. Thanks, Phil!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

In Case You're Wondering

CCEaton will be with us shortly. He's still recovering from his Wind-Down-Wednesday, which was particularly relaxing this Wednesday . . . . ;)

This is For Real

Only the name of the university has been changed to protect the untenured . . . .

burp, the Burp University Relaxation Project, is a program developed by the Office of Health Education that promotes stress relief and relaxation on campus. burp is a group of students trained by a licensed massage therapist to give stress reducing shoulder rubs. burp hosts weekly "Wind-Down Wednesday" sessions that are open to all students, staff and faculty from 1-2pm in the Burp Room, 2nd floor of Burp House. burp can be requested for campus programs and events by emailing Burp@Burp.edu.

They're sure proud of their culture here at Burp University!

Monday, September 20, 2004

Welcome Aboard!

Greetings Netizens,

Please join me in welcoming a new blogger into our midst, none other than the Indolent Blogger himself! He's an old pal of mine and is getting ready to rock the house even as we stare at our monitors. You won't believe what he's going to post! Over the years the IB and I have had coversations that would stretch on for months if brought together, and our e-mails would fill many gig drives! He has confirmed for me Aristotle's claim that a friend is like a mirror, but not without bringing to light some of my blemishes. No one takes apart my measly thoughts quite the way he does. If you thought this site was OK before just wait 'till he gets going. If you thought I needed a little more orthos in my logos, well the orthos just walked in. Enjoy!

Politics Envy

Getta load of this!

Some may deplore it, but I think it's actually kind of funny. There's nothing more individuating than casual sex, and nothing less so in its nature than politics. Presumably anyone who would cook this up practices the kind of political agitation that makes self-government less and less possible every day and bureaucracy more and more definitive. (Maybe I'm off base here, but I can't really see libertarians putting out for votes . . . ) Naturally this kind of "politics" produces political passivity and sexual depravity. Yet someone believes they can harness the symptom to cure the disease. HA!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Property Rights

Ernest Fortin points out that the Church has long taught the following about private property:

according to natural law the earth originally belonged to everyone and . . . its subsequent division, dictated in large measure by reasons of expediency, was a matter of human or positive law. That older view is summarized as follows in Gratian's Decree: "The division of property and slavery belong to the "right of nations" (ius gentium); .... by the right of nature all things are common and everyone is free."(n14) It is the view that Thomas himself sets forth in Summa theologiae, 1-2, q. 95, a. 4, where in like manner the division of property is assigned, not to the natural law simply, but to the "right of nations," defined as that part of the positive law (ius positivum) whose principles are derived from the natural law as conclusions from premises.(n15) . . . Simply put, private property is a good idea. Although not an absolute demand of natural right, it is entirely in accord with it and ought to be favored whenever possible.

Positive though it may be, it is troubling indeed when government tramples on private property, usually suggesting extreme negligence if not wicked intentions. George Will cites an example:

a 4-3 ruling last March by Connecticut's Supreme Court . . . effectively repeals a crucial portion of the Bill of Rights. . . . To enhance the Pfizer pharmaceutical company's $270 million research facility, it empowered a private entity, the New London Development Corporation, to exercise the power of eminent domain to condemn most of the Fort Trumbull neighborhood along the Thames River. The aim is to make space for upscale condominiums, a luxury hotel and private offices that would yield the city more tax revenues than can be extracted from the neighborhood's middle-class homeowners. . . .

But the Fifth Amendment says, inter alia: ``nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation'' (emphasis added). Every state constitution also stipulates takings only for ``public use.'' The framers of the Bill of Rights used language carefully; clearly they intended the adjective ``public'' to restrict government takings to uses that are directly owned or primarily used by the general public, such as roads, bridges or public buildings.


I'm with Will on this one, obviously. But I do wonder: how is it that "public use" even interpreted as "public benefits" could be construed to place state revenues ahead of the neighborhoods in which people live? Are people benefited when they're turned out of a home but their state reps have fatter wallets? This is the same logic by which Democrats have many people convinced that cutting taxes must hurt the economy -- somehow the possession of money and goods by average citizens is a threat to public order, while the government just uses it for divine ends. (This just in: drug dealing in one New England city spikes on the 1st and 15th of every month, when government checks are issued . . . . .)

It just goes to show that it's not so much big government we have to fear as soulless government.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

The Culture of Death

It is then a fallacy to flatter ourselves with the reflection that the barbarians are still far from us; for if there are some nations that allow civilization to be torn from their grasp, there are others who themselves trample it underfoot. -- Tocqueville

Today I am beginning to wonder whether our civilization may not merit the distinction of dying by both causes at the same time.

The symptoms are many, but the root of the problem is this: we no longer believe in ourselves. Or, better put, we no longer believe in anything but our "selves", our individual egos floating in a void, constructing lives as we please from whatever "values" happen to suit us. The crux of our lives is will, not reason or faith.

Even those (like certain members of my family) who fancy themselves and are decent, well-intentioned, and (in some ways) conservative, often just don't get it. Take the Church's stance on contraception, which recently came up at the dinner table.

Theological grounds aside (and theology never comes up in a discussion of this subject -- who on earth would even understand the proposition that what we do ought to correspond to what we believe about God?) what is offensive about the idea that sexuality is a gift to be used for the propagation of the species, the country, and the Church?

One could oppose this with selfishness, which I'm afraid is the strongest source of contention. But instead a number of high-falutin' excuses emerge: there is so much poverty and suffering around the world, people need fewer babies not more, it's the twenty-first century for crying out loud, etc.

So I note that in fact the population of Europe is declining, and ours is barely hanging on. It's not all overpopulation, and that's certainly not our problem.

But I don't score any points: what does it matter anyhow? We have immigrants to fill the void, and it would be racist to suggest that because of their skin color (the only imaginable difference among people from far corners of the globe?) they are any less worthy than us to populate our country.

The obvious conclusion is that we're living in relation to nothing. Anything important in our lives is just a value, just a product of our autonomous choice. Even if it appears to connect us to something, it doesn't; we consider ourselves completely interchangeable with anyone else, in other words we hold ourselves to be nothing -- not even with respect to what we believe or do.

(So, for example, my Catholic family likes going to Mass but is happy to discard any of the Church's teachings that are inconvenient based on the flimsiest arguments [accompanied by absolutely no research on the subject] and they are utterly nonplussed by the prospect of their descendants living among increasing numbers of heathens.)

As I hope I've illustrated, there is a strong connection between this lack of belief in our own purposes and the increasing chaos surrounding sex. The latest manifestation of this is the drive toward homosexual "marriage", which has already prevailed in Canada and elsewhere, and which many believe to be unstoppable here.

The embracing of no-fault divorce, the normalization of non-marital sex, the erosion of decency and public celebration of unihibited lust, and now the advent of the societal blessing of fruitless unions -- all this will prevent us from replacing ourselves and presupposes that we don't care to do so.

The void this produces will, as we know, be filled by others who need not be similarly shy about themselves or their cause. Whether this is a healthy thing can be doubted.

Part and parcel of our own decline is multiculturalism or a "principled" deference to other "cultures" whose members may not be so diffident about their ways of life.

In Canada, where such principles simply dominate,

As long as the country's law is followed . . . Two parties in a . . . civil dispute, like a divorce, can opt to use a religious leader as a mediator, and the mediator's decision is binding. . . But a controversy has erupted over whether Muslim law should be used. some Canadian Muslim women fear that Muslim law, or Sharia, will be imposed on them in these civil mediations. Unless the government watches closely, these women worry that imams acting as legal arbitrators will take advantage of women in the name of Islam. -- Fox News

Perhaps the government will watch closely. But as Mark Steyn notes, there are reasons to suspect the specific mix of Western self-doubt and the growing presence of Islam will lead to some startling results.

With gay marriage under our belts, so to speak, there is no principled reason to obstruct polygamy, among other things. Already,

Le Monde leaked a government report revealing that polygamy was routinely practiced in Muslim ghettoes in France. Anecdotal evidence suggests things aren’t so very different in the Islamic communities of Ontario: as The Christian Science Monitor airily put it, polygamous unions “are being performed by the same religious figures adjudicating matters under sharia” – ie, under the province’s Muslim-friendly Arbitration Act. . . . Contracting marriage with more than one spouse simultaneously is a crime in the United Kingdom. However, if a polygamous marriage is entered into abroad in a jurisdiction permitting polygamy, that marriage is regarded as valid under English law.

And where is this all going?

Well, look at what happened in Dublin a couple of months ago: The Irish Government decided to make Muslim men who apply for citizenship sign an affidavit that, if they’re single, they’ll take no more than one wife and, if they’re already married, that they’ll take no additional wives. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties immediately denounced the move as offensive, racist and discriminatory.

You get the point:

If the push for polygamy came from the white male elders of that breakaway Mormon sect in Bountiful, BC, it’d be dead in the water: all you’d get from the Globe and the CBC and Maclean’s would be a lot of stories about the abuse rumours, and shots of stern Old Testament patriarchs, and comments from various Grits and NDPers about how this is not compatible with “our Canadian values”. . . . If it’s a Muslim who finally makes it to the Supreme Court of Canada with a polygamy case, I’d reckon their lordships will rule that forbidding it is an unwarranted restriction of Charter rights. And I’d wager a few of those justices will be happy to license polygamy if only to prove that their demolition job on “traditional marriage” was legally grounded rather than mere modish solidarity.

Sadly there is no reason to think Steyn is smoking anything funny on this one. He is merely aniticpating the next few shovel-fulls of the grave we are digging ourselves.

Now, America is not Canada or Britain, thank God. But let's not flatter ourselves that we are so very far away from becoming that. The trends that make those lands so obviously decadent are by no means unpopular here. So it's necessary for us to see these trends for what they are.

The same progressive groups who objected to the Iraq war on the grounds that Saddam was a secular leader who’d never make common cause with Islamic fundamentalists didn’t seem to notice that, for the purposes of opposing Bush and Blair, they themselves, as impeccably pro-gay pro-feminist western bien pensants, had had no trouble making common cause with the women-enslaving sodomite-beheading Islamists.

This is so not only in foreign policy, but also in our sexual mores and social theories. Ironically, our own laxity will only be used to make way for others whose practices are much more hegemonic, shall we say. If we decide to relinquish all influence over our own future, the complaints we'll certainly have about what it looks like will ring hollow indeed.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

How Strong Are We?

Down to the Piraeus asks this question:

I realize we have incredible armed forces, but when you fast forward 30 years and see a Muslim, nuclear France, a strong militarized, mercantile China, a North Korea with a twitch, a nuclear Iran, angry Arabs, and slumping population growth in almost all of our allies, I start to wonder. I think alot will be changing in the near future. How strong are we?

He (or his companion or perhaps alter ego, I'm not quite sure how that works over there) also notes this story about our lawmakers' near unanimous rush to defend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) from accusations of syping. That article includes the following:

Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, gave an indication of how the FBI probe might be politicized on Capitol Hill. “It now appears that these allegations may be only the tip of the iceberg of a broader effort of the Pentagon employees working in the office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, to conduct unauthorized covert activities, without the knowledge of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Conyers wrote.

I'm just speculating, but these two issues seem like they could be connected. After all, what is a better supplement to our strength than allies? So far our alliance with Israel has appeared divisive to many. But consider this story (hat tip Indolent Blogger):

JERUSALEM — Russia is turning for help against terrorism to a country with long experience, signing a memorandum with Israel yesterday pledging the two countries will work more closely in fighting the scourge.

The increased sophistication of the terrorists in Chechnya and growing signs of an Arab role in last week's school attack in Beslan, Russia — where 120 victims were buried yesterday — appear to have overcome Moscow's concerns about offending its Arab allies by cooperating with Israel.

Israeli radio said cooperation is expected to move quickly into operational areas, with exchanges of intelligence information, mutual visits by anti-terror teams and the joint development of models for dealing with different kinds of terror threats.


As David Warren noted before this alliance was announced,

the Russians appreciate, better than most in the West, that there is a war on. Russia is only half in the West, but in a "clash of civilizations" will be driven closer. And Mr. Putin has been equally unabashed in thus describing the clash. He is juggling large and small Russian interests, short and long term political verities, in ways that cannot be easily appreciated at this distance.

Leaving several of these complexities aside, he is saying that the world crisis requires a strong American leader, not a weak one as John Kerry would be. And though the Russians may be rivals to the Americans in their own sphere, they weren't shy about asking for U.S. aid in clambering out of Communism, and will not be shy in the future if they need U.S. military and strategic help to deal with the gathering Jihad.


Are the terrorists contributing to our strength even as we blog?

Monday, September 06, 2004

A Benevolent Visitor from Outside

That's how CNN describes Carlos Santana in this hard hitting piece of investigative journalism. (Hat tip to the Indolent Blogger.)

"His views may be romantic and idealistic, but the guitarist is sincere", the news source of moderates everywhere coos.

The first softball is thrown:

Q: How do you endure a night of praise like being named Latin Grammy person of the year without letting it go to your head?

Never mind that the award pays greater heed to his race than to his his gender -- something no real man would take. The famed creator of "Black Magic Woman", "Evil Ways", "Gypsy Queen" -- and let's not forget "Black Magic Woman Gypsy Queen" -- does not miss a lick:

A: I've been repeating for a long time that I am a beam of light that comes from the mind of God. Since I can definitely say that, like you, I am a beam of light that comes from the mind of God, then I don't have to squirm or interrupt people when they give me a compliment.

OK. Did he forget to mention as well that he's a beam of light that comes from the mind of God? It's important that you get that he's a beam, specifically a beam of light, originating in a mind, specifically that of God. Otherwise how could this humble man handle the heat off the street?

In case you thought CNN was getting set to compete with the 700 Club and EWTN, never fear dear moderate reader. Santana is no theocrat. He is not going to make a move for your ovaries, or spermacidal jelly. In fact, he opines, "The real evil in this world is politics and religion." Yes, you heard it right, politics and religion are the root of all evils. The solution? "Spirituality is the antidote because it is free." Yeah, turn it up dude!

But don't blame the guy for spouting off. Look at the questions the reporter pumped him with:

Q: Your Web site had a link encouraging people to vote. How do you feel about the American presidential race?

Q: What are your thoughts on world events, like the war in Iraq?

Q: Do you feel cynical about the state of America?


I don't know about you, but after an evening of subjecting myself to Murdox News, I find this so refreshing, so, so . . . fair and balanced!

I will spare you the answers to these questions, except the one gem that appears in this muddle:

I would like it better if we had a woman president, seven of them, instead of one. ... American Indian, Mexican, Irish, African-American. We need seven women to really represent the United States more from an integrity perspective.

I pass for a political scientist, but I am ashamed to say I never thought of that one! Perhaps they have unearthed a hitherto unknown tome of Aristophanes while I was busy reading the same tired old books I like to call "great".

Anyhow, I think it must be hard to be a celebrity in a society like ours, in which the only basis of your wealth and power is popular pleasure, which is tied to neither political power nor even political respect (blather all he wants about elections, only a hack journalist will listen to poor Carlos). As the reporter's question tips us off, the fame does go to your head, but it is hard to let it out gently.

Once upon a time the members of Led Zeppelin fancied themselves gods, prancing pagan-like through the houses of the holy (i.e. top story hotel rooms), throwing TV sets out of the windows and doing other things I loved to read about as a horny teenager. By comparison to think of oneself as one beam of light among many emanating from God is a mark of sanity.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Not-So-Random Quote of the Day

This little "exchange" at Down to the Piraeus seemed somehow to click with my afternoon reading:

The notion that tolerance is the first principle of political philosophy and not a practical principle for engagement in the highest things is itself a product of philosophic modernity. This tolerance must, at the risk of fanaticism, deny, it is said, the possibility of “universally valid truth.” In other words, the very claim of “universally valid truth” is said to be fanatic, and thus not worthy of examination.

This position is itself the product of philosophy that must be examined for its philosophical integrity. It takes no genius to comprehend that if the principle of absolute tolerance is true it is, by its own definition, false. The Pope draws out the consequence of this contradiction, namely, that it is itself intolerant to refuse to examine a philosophy that claims to be true. Moreover, there are conditions in which this examination can and should take place – in “sincere and authentic dialogue between persons” – that is, the very opposite of fanaticism or intolerance. This is something already found in Plato, of course.

That widespread discussion of reason and revelation is not taking place, on the grounds that revelation has nothing to talk about or no opening to reason, is already, as it seems to Christians, a sign of unacknowledged fanaticism. The condition of the polity is itself the result of ideas proceeding from the lowering of the sights of virtue on which modernity was originally built.

Clearly, classical political philosophy pointed to and in a sense brought human beings to friendship which itself depended on “the sincere and authentic dialogue among persons.” Roman Catholic political philosophy cannot be unaware that the link between reason and revelation is most graphically attested to by St. Thomas’ use of amicitia as the natural analogate for caritas. That is to say, tolerance at its best is a condition of manners and friendliness that enables the highest things to exist in conversation. -- James V. Schall, S.J.

Beslan

Phil has some thoughts on the horrors perpetrated at the Russian school in North Ossetia the other day. Even for terrorists, this is a low. Or, better put, this reveals just how low terrorists are. If one had not believed in the depravity of man before, how could one ignore it now?

It is difficult to fathom how men (women included) can work themselves into the condition (formerly known as "vice") where such actions are possible. Knowing you are about to die or be captured and shooting as many children as you can before it happens.

Phil is incredulous and rightly so. Is it possible to enter into the minds of such creatures? (I would call them beasts, but as Aristotle pointed out, comparing an unjust man to an animal is an insult to animals.)

Consider the thing yourself, in your own person. Imagine you are in a desperate situation, perhaps a Polish Jew in a Jewish community after the damned Nazis have finished their assault. To resist such an evil I think any rational person would say is justified. But, again, imagine yourself in that situation. Would you consider justified, hell even conceive of, a plan to take over a school and threaten to kill the kids within it?

A valid point indeed. But this presupposes something about the conflict, something not wholely unintentional on Phil's part:

[Is] the Russian government's handling of the Chechen issue . . . one of clean hands, or even only "slightly" sullied? Certainly not - it is an ugly war going on there.

This presumes that a) the attacks are motivated by Chechen independence, however disproportionately pursued; b) that cause in itself is eminently justified even if these tactics could never be.

Perhaps I overstate, and certainly I am in no positon to judge matters pertaining to a war I know very little about. But David Warren, a man whose judgment I think very sound, and whose information is often very advanced, has some very interesting things to say today on this score:

The Western media are presenting the pictures from the school in Beslan over the caption, "Chechnya". But Beslan is not in Chechnya, and the terrorists are not Chechens, either. Half the terrorist corpses so far identified were Arabs, and the rest other international Jihadis, plus a few locally-recruited Ossetes. Moreover, it is unlikely the recent destruction of two Russian airliners, and the suicide bombing of a Moscow metro station, were done by Chechens.

The old roots of the conflict go back to when "the Russians entered the north Caucasus in the early 19th century on a civilizing mission". Soviet tyranny followed. To understand the recent struggle, Warren thinks, we must note that " the "Afghan Arabs", mixed with others coming directly from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, have taken over the Chechen 'independence' movement". Hence Warren looks at this a little differently than the Western media tend to do:

The several irruptions of full-blown war in Chechnya during the last decade -- suppressed by the Russians only when they descended to something like savagery -- were themselves triggered by incidents in which international terrorists played a prominent part. Indeed, President Putin is hoarse from trying to explain this to European and American "human rights" advocates, who blame Russia for creating its Chechen enemies, the way they blame America for somehow creating its enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Warren does not deny the justice of the idea of Chechen indipendence per se, but he denies there is a war being fought for it at all:

An independent Chechnya is, notwithstanding the accounts in our media, not the object of this exercise. It is instead to detach Chechnya from the Russian, "Christian", Dar al-Harb, and attach it instead to the Dar al-Islam -- to recover it for Islamdom. This has been stated clearly in all the Jihadi rhetoric.

I think this makes "sense" of a couple things. I could not imagine persecuted Jews taking over German schools and mowing down die Kinder in the last moments of a struggle. But then the Polish Jews were never hell-bent on subduing the infedels. They did not look upon non-Jewish children as demon-spawn or the future members of a clashing civilization.

It may be that the analogy works directly in reverse: for the Nazis were, by some sick notion of "right", intent on eradicating the Jews.

This may be yet another case of the "Platonic Lie" influencing our idea of the chief (external) struggle of our time. Are we sufficiently aware of who our enemy is?

I for one feel woefully ignorant.

That said, I will also encourage you to consider the following venue, where one can contribute to the relief of those suffering from this massacre.

Friday, September 03, 2004

A "Platonic Lie"

Last night I began to get acquainted with the works of James V. Schall, S.J. A task that will take a while, given his prolificacy and the generosity he's shown in putting so much of his work on the web. Anyhow, I came across this piece from shortly after the 9/11 attacks. A very good rundown on just war theory, as applied to this particular war -- and applying it to particulars is, contra our gliberal opinion leaders, the whole point of just war theory, isn't it?

I thought I'd reproduce this particular passage, since the idea that Bush employs Platonic "noble lies" to lure us into war is being bandied about lately. Schall has a more believable, and thought provoking, take on where noble lies fit into Bush's war policy:

The most obvious problem about the war's prudence is whether the enemy is correctly defined. No doubt, the enemy is exactly defined. Clearly, President Bush's first consideration has been to keep the war as limited as possible. Thus, it can be considered prudent to attempt to separate the "terrorists" from the religion of Islam itself, from its history of military expansion in the name of religion, and from those who are called "peaceful" Muslims. This attempt implies a reading of western history that must deliberately close its eyes to the record of conquest and of the record of actual Muslim states with regard to how they treat their own and other people within their political confines. In this latter light, it might be easy to call the premises of President Bush's explanations seeking to restrict the scope of the problem to be highly suspect, to be missing the real problem.

The Koran, Sura 5, verse 85, describes the inevitable enmity between Moslems and non-Moslems: "Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans." Sura 9, verse 5, adds: Athen fight and slay the pagans wherever you find them. And seize tem, beleaguer them and lie in wait for them, in every stratagem [in war]." Then nations, however mighty, the Koran insists, must be fought "until they embrace Islam." ... Koranic teaching that the faith or "submission" can be, and in suitable circumstances must be imposed by force, has never been ignored. On the contrary, the history of Islam has essentially been a history of conquest and reconquest. Clearly, among Muslim peoples throughout the world, there is evidently a great sympathy for the deeds of bin Laden and the attacks on America.

On the other hand, a politician can be excused if he so shapes his policy as to direct the long range problem into a more manageable form by ignoring it or even pretending it is not a problem. One might think of it as a "Platonic lie," that is, an explanation that describes the way the world ought to be now, what is best for us, even though it does not fully correspond to the reality of what goes on in the world. We would like to think, in other words, that most Muslims are peaceful, that they will help us find and eliminate "terrorists," even among their own families and states.

By explaining his concept of the war the way he did, President Bush made it possible to reach some sort of agreement on the common denominator of horror of "terrorism" wherever it appears on the part of all God-fearing men, including Muslims. In a sense, it is a challenge to Islam to be what many of its teachers are now claiming it to be, a peaceful religion. I cannot but think that this is a very prudent approach. It may not work. Indeed, bin Laden in the beginning seems to have thought that he would be able to cause a mass rise in Islamic sensibilities towards a world-wide holy war precisely by our efforts to defend ourselves against the annoying and destructive tactics that he and his cohorts have set in motion. The urgency to stop the immediate cause of terrorism as seen in certain militant cells located in some sixty countries is one of the prudential efforts to stop the move to a holy war at its beginning.


That's one we still need to chew on. However difficult it may be to use democracy as a weapon against our Islamist enemies, the alternative may be to brace ourselves for a host of September elevenths.

The Character of a Great Nation

I didn't get to see Bush's speech (the only TV channel I get seems stuck on 24-hour weather and cooking tips) but reading it this morning, I'm impressed. The contrast between this man and Kerry is phenomenal -- and though I expect Bush to win comfortably, the tie that currently exists in the polls shows at least that a large segment of the populace is a bit unfamiliar with the whole idea of virtue.

Consider the way Kerry has treated military men: he denounces them as sadistic criminals when it suits him, and then brags about his own (truncated and dubiously honorable) service. He has not a word of encouragement for the souls out there right now risking all for their country. And it is clear that the reason is he has no love of his country. Consider this simple example, which is one of the many eloquent passages in our president's convention speech:

My opponent takes a different approach. In the midst of war, he has called America's allies, quote, a "coalition of the coerced and the bribed." That would be nations like Great Britain, Poland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, El Salvador, Australia, and others — allies that deserve the respect of all Americans, not the scorn of a politician. I respect every soldier, from every country, who serves beside us in the hard work of history. America is grateful, and America will not forget.

For John Kerry, to stand with America is to earn his reproach -- because America is a force for evil in the world. Is this how patriots think? Again, consider how lovers of their country speak:

One thing I have learned about the presidency is that whatever shortcomings you have, people are going to notice them — and whatever strengths you have, you're going to need them. These four years have brought moments I could not foresee and will not forget. I have tried to comfort Americans who lost the most on September 11th — people who showed me a picture or told me a story, so I would know how much was taken from them. I have learned first-hand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right. I have returned the salute of wounded soldiers, some with a very tough road ahead, who say they were just doing their job. I've held the children of the fallen, who are told their dad or mom is a hero, but would rather just have their dad or mom.

And I have met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers — to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic, and strong.


If that isn't genuine humility, gratitude, and love of the good I don't know what is.

I know where Kerry's coming from because I spend a lot of time with the "elites" who think as he does. I know they hate America beacuse (at its best) it stands for the good against the resentment of the desparate and the blind. (By desparate I mean those who give into despair, which is, I believe, a mortal sin.)

I am going to be very happy to vote for Bush this year.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Fecundity Rules

James Taranto directs us to the following, a confirmation of his "Roe effect" theory, which I could not help but broadcast:

High fertility . . . correlates strongly with support for George W. Bush. Of the top 10 most fertile states, all but one voted for Bush in 2000. Among the 17 states that still produce enough children to replace their populations, all but two--Iowa and Minnesota--voted for Bush in the last election. Conversely, the least fertile states--a list that includes Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut--went overwhelmingly for Al Gore. Women living in Gore states on average have 12 percent fewer babies than women living in Bush states. . . .

In states where Bush won a popular majority in 2000, the average woman bears 2.11 children in her lifetime--which is enough to replace the population. In states where Gore won a majority of votes in 2000, the average woman bears 1.89 children, which is not enough to avoid population decline. Indeed, if the Gore states seceded from the Bush states and formed a new nation, it would have the same fertility rate, and the same rapidly aging population, as France--that bastion of "old Europe." . . .

When secular-minded Americans decide to have few if any children, they unwittingly give a strong evolutionary advantage to the other side of the culture divide. Sure, some children who grow up in fundamentalist families will become secularists, and vice versa. But most people, particularly if they have children, wind up with pretty much the same religious and political orientations as their parents. If "Metros" don't start having more children, America's future is "Retro."


Who was it that said, "Throw nature out with a pitchfork, and the wind blows it back into your ear"? Oh wait, maybe that was me . . . . ;)

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Politics and the Soul

Could I pick a broader theme than that? For me, all politics is about the soul. For some reason, political events of late have brought this to the surface of my consciousness. I will try to blog about it periodically in the next little while.

(Please note: I use a bit of colorful language in this post. Be assured that neither small animals nor my love of fellow man were harmed in its composition, which is more than I can say for some of the social trends I discuss . . . ;)

To begin with, I was exchanging some e-mails with a friend about homosexual "marriage". I think it all began when he remarked that he'd been visiting a chat room full of people who appeared to be passionate about politics, even perhaps in a conservative direction, and none of them seemed worried about this travesty of the law. He tried pointing out that once this went through, teachers would be required to indoctrinate these people's kids with pro-buggery propaganda. To attempt to avoid this would bring on discrimination charges. This did not seem to phase the chatters, though presumably some of them had brought forth children into this world and sent them off to school.

I responded that, unfortunately, "politics" for very many people tends to work through tangible interests (such as national security) which don't help much when it comes to more purely moral issues. It's hard to make people see that their own behavior is affected by the signs of morality around them and that the breakdown of the family has so many spillover effects. Some are perhaps blind to the reasons why the celebration of sodomy corrupts the family at all. They don't realize that human beings always live in light of a purpose and that sex, which consumes so much of our energies, either has to be channeled into a healthy purpose or it will tear our lives apart.

I speak of this in terms of our end or telos. This is primarily what it means to have a soul in my parlance: to have an end whether we know it or not. As "gay-marriage" advocates only confirm, sex is a powerful thing that tends to define who we are -- mothers, fathers, circumcised, celibate, etc. You can try detaching your sex life from the rest of your life; good luck to you. If you succeed, you are one in many millions or more. This is why if you are going to live a proper life, your sexual behavior had better be in line with that life.

For society to function, most of us must beget and rear children. As your parents will tell you, this requires motivation. Since there is such a wide separation between copulation and labor, you are not going to get many a man to look after babies unless the mother seems bound closely to him, and therefore the child seems truly his. Nor is a father who trolls around for tuna the best candidate to bring home the bacon for his own wife and child.

I speak on the crudest level to make a point, but there are better motives as well for ordering ourselves toward the family -- namely that we were made for it, and few of us can be complete or happy without it. Of course, anything good can be botched. But I think the satisfaction men and women take in raising a family together would seem much more evident and attractive to people who were not ceaselessly bombarded with music, images, and speeches that stoke their egos and genitalia in unison, rendering them unfit for any union that goes long past fifteen minutes (I mean without employing the latest drugs, though if some had their way your health insurance would cover them I suppose).

Think of how many parents have divorced because "they just don't love each-other like they used to" -- the result, I think, of our sappy romantic ideas of what love is "all about" -- eternal teenage excitement -- and increasing permissiveness regarding sex: it is no longer shameful to have pre-, extra-, or post-marital relations (I won't get into some other "extras" that could apply here). All of these things send a clear message that it's all about your feelings, baby. Your life is ordered toward your self, not to your spouse or children or God forbid grandchildren, so tune into Oprah and practice your orgasm achievement skills.

Aristotle famously noted that you can't ejaculate and think at the same time. If our society is veering over the cliff, blame onanism above all.

In such an environment, it is no wonder that people see nothing wrong with conferring official honors on men who poke each-other in the rear and brag about it publicly. After all, it seems to make them happy (why else would they be called "gays"?)

Does this mean people wouldn't mind if their children were to became homos ("not that there's anything wrong with that!")? I doubt it. Attitudes are changing but not that fast. People don't really believe anything will come of all this. Divorce can be solved by remarriage, and childhood sexual escapades will have nothing to do with adult behavior -- at least when it comes to trivial matters such as the ordering of one's most deeply felt desires.

As my friend pointed out (this is an e-mail conversation, recall), it is characteristically modern to see children as innocent and in need of no fundamental guidance -- you keep them from hurting themselves, give them computational and social skills, but otherwise leave them to their ways. Of course the educators want more: to brainwash them in egalitarian claptrap. These parents don't seem to take this seriously because it won't stop junior from playing with his friends and having a good time, or from succeeding in society and business. And sex is nothing but entertainment anyhow -- as for family that just sort of happens on its own eventually, when you (unfortunately) settle down. Or maybe it will happen in a test tube. In any case, why would it affect someone's basic decency or well-being? I would almost say we have a generation rearing another one by accident.

The soul, as usual these days, looms large even as it's being completely ignored. If there is a soul that means our life has direction (God and rational society) and the child cannot so direct his life. Therefore he is to be guided, sternly if necessary, until the age of reason and belief kicks in -- which of course happens gradually and through habituation or rearing. If the "self" is a chaos on the other hand, there is no particular end in light of which children can be seen to be categorically deficient -- they are less able but not less wise than we. In fact they are probably wiser since they worry less about artificial constraints on their behavior. At least if we have not corrupted them by stern rules that diminish their blessed condition.

What we need, I fancy, is the return of metaphysical psychology. I don't know how much good it would do, but without it we seem to be heading toward ever higher levels of insipidity, at best.
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