Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson.

First, I'd like to take the opportunity to point out that my friend Paleface, with the essential help of his wife, has produced a lovely daughter. Let us heap our congratulations on the blessed couple! :)

Now, regarding the suicide of Hunter S. Thompson, I direct your attention to the following article at the Daily Standard: The End of the Counter-Culture (Hunter S. Thompson, 1939 - 2005) by Stephen Schwartz. A remarkable set of reflections, I'd say, and full of gems such as the following:

It has long been argued that lasting literature is an impossibility without imitation and emulation, and that although young authors often produce works ridiculously imitative of their idols, real writers grow out of such mimesis to gain recognition for their own, individual abilities. But who can imagine a youthful talent beginning with an exercise in the gonzo style? Thompson produced no others like him, for the same reason Burroughs and Ginsberg generated no schools of novel-writing or verse. One may go further and say they had nothing to teach the young, except to emit a cacophony.

Indeed, it would be one thing to say that Thompson and the others like him, such as Burroughs and Ginsberg, are dated. Even embarrassingly old-fashioned artistic works, bereft of immediacy for those who are not part of the environment from which they emerged, have the capacity for revival. But Thompson produced a clamor without content. Doubtlessly, the most pathetic aspect of the '60s phenomenon was the absolute conviction of Thompson and those who encouraged him that "living in the moment" really did count more than anything else in the world, that history never existed and that the future was their property.


And the piece de resistance!

One must imagine that in his own middle '60s Hunter Thompson looked into the mirror and saw that nobody needed a gonzo interpretation of the world after September 11, that nobody was amused by his capacity to survive fatal doses of sinister concoctions, and that, increasingly, nobody knew or cared who he was.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Politics and Natural Law

Or, why we need statesmen.

As stated above (2,3), to the natural law belongs those things to which a man is inclined naturally: and among these it is proper to man to be inclined to act according to reason. Now the process of reason is from the common to the proper, as stated in Phys. i. The speculative reason, however, is differently situated in this matter, from the practical reason. For, since the speculative reason is busied chiefly with the necessary things, which cannot be otherwise than they are, its proper conclusions, like the universal principles, contain the truth without fail. The practical reason, on the other hand, is busied with contingent matters, about which human actions are concerned: and consequently, although there is necessity in the general principles, the more we descend to matters of detail, the more frequently we encounter defects. Accordingly then in speculative matters truth is the same in all men, both as to principles and as to conclusions: although the truth is not known to all as regards the conclusions, but only as regards the principles which are called common notions. But in matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all, as to matters of detail, but only as to the general principles: and where there is the same rectitude in matters of detail, it is not equally known to all.


St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, 94, a4.

As stated above (90, A1,2), law is framed as a rule or measure of human acts. Now a measure should be homogeneous with that which it measures, as stated in Metaph. x, text. 3,4, since different things are measured by different measures. Wherefore laws imposed on men should also be in keeping with their condition, for, as Isidore says (Etym. v, 21), law should be "possible both according to nature, and according to the customs of the country." Now possibility or faculty of action is due to an interior habit or disposition: since the same thing is not possible to one who has not a virtuous habit, as is possible to one who has. . . . Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.


Ibid, 96 a2.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Death Wish

My pal the Concerned Catholic brings up this condemnation of Bill Buckley's column hoping the Pope dies. What to think of this? I think it's hard to excuse.

Buckley is characteristically obscure in his reasonings. What on earth could be the point of this man going on, he seems to wonder. That the man might have a mission does cross his mind, but he dismisses it with the vaguest of assertions.

There is the further question, distinctive to the throne of St. Peter. To leave it before death can be construed as forsaking a mission charged by God almighty. That isn't the consensus of theologians.


Actually, that is not distinctive of the throne of St. Peter -- each and every one of us possesses a vocation, which we ought to pursue until death. Does Buckley think of his task as a columnist that way?

I am not overjoyed at everything John Paul II has done or ommitted to do. I am not quite as adoring of him as Peggy Noonan in this piece. But I would say that, in contrast to Buckley, Noonan has a genuinely Catholic perspective on this.

His suffering is his witness. It has a purpose. It is telling us something. Yesterday, in thinking about this and remembering that audience, I called the great writer and thinker Michael Novak. He thought aloud for me. St. Therese of Lisieux, he reminded me, believed her suffering could help others. She would take her moments of pain or annoyance or sadness and offer them to God, believing that they became united with God's love, united that is with something infinitely powerful which works always for the betterment of man. She would ask God to take her suffering and use it to help the missionaries of the world. . . .

What should the pope's suffering tell us? Several things, said Mr. Novak. He is telling us it is important in an age like ours to honor the suffering of the old and the infirm. He wants us to know they have a place in life and a purpose. He not only says this; he lives it. He was an actor as a youth; he teaches by doing and showing, by being. His suffering is a drama he is living out quite deliberately. John Paul stands for life, for all of life. He wants to honor what the world does not honor.


Let's all pray for the Holy Father's health, physical and spiritual, for his salvation, and that the sacrifice he is offering up to God for our sakes finds its fruit in the redemption of souls, as he so profoundly desires it to do.

And let's follow his example. Especially during Lent, let's offer our daily self-sacrifices to God for all souls, especially those most in need of His mercy.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Evil & Order

If evil were taken away from some parts of the universe, then much of its perfection would disappear, for its beauty arises from the orderly union of good and evil, while evil springs from the waning away of good. Nevertheless, by the foresight of the governor of the universe, good follows from evil just as the song receives its sweetness from the interval of silence.


St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles 3, 71

Modern Architecture

I often wondered whether its makers were insane, or what. This seems to answer that one.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ominous

The perversity of the Supreme Court could be coming to a church near you . . .

Thanks once more to JT.

More Taranto

I could not pass this one by:

New Yorkers: World's Biggest Wimps

"Cuba banned smoking in public places yesterday, an uphill struggle in a country that evokes images of cigar-chomping revolutionaries and where more than half of adults smoke," Reuters reports from Havana.

So a totalitarian dictatorship finds it an "uphill struggle" to control its citizens' behavior, but when New York City passed an antismoking law two years ago, people fell right into line. As a New Yorker, we hang our head in shame.

Can't Resist Another One

from Taranto:

A Real Free-Speech Supporter

In Rockland, Maine, "free speech clashed with free expression" over the weekend, reports the Bangor Daily News. Say what? Well, it seems that a group of "artists" are demonstrating against art they don't like:

Artists opposed to war protested the showing of combat paintings of Marine Sgt. Michael Fay at the Farnsworth Art Museum. Sgt. Fay stood ramrod straight when confronted by the small group of protesters upset with the Farnsworth for exhibiting his paintings of combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The afternoon sun reflected off the combat ribbons pinned to his green uniform, and the red chevrons on his sleeves glinted in the finish of his spit-shined shoes as Fay listened to his challengers. . . .

The protesters objected to the show's content and what they claimed was the museum's "implicit support of war." They said a more balanced show would include images of civilian deaths and mass destruction. To represent one facet of military life in combat zones without placing it in the context of the true costs of war displayed a lack of sensitivity, they said.

"We are fighting an illegal and immoral war," Suzanne Hedrick, 73, of Nobleboro told Fay. "Without another viewpoint, without the faces of the victims and the ruining of the country, I'm deeply concerned." . . .

When asked his reaction to the protest, Fay said that he believed "most servicepeople would say, 'That's why we do what we do.' People have that right to express themselves in this country and I support that. Most are very pleasant, but some are mean-spirited and aggressive."


Of course, even jerks have the right to free speech--but the jerks, unlike Sgt. Fay, seem to forget that others do as well.

Academentia

James Taranto with another good one:

Great Moments in Higher Education

Hans Hoppe, an economist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is under fire for doing his job. In March, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he was giving a lecture to a money and banking class on "groups who tend to plan for the future and groups who do not":

Another example he gave the class was that homosexuals tend to plan less for the future than heterosexuals.

Reasons for the phenomenon include the fact that homosexuals tend not to have children, he said. They also tend to live riskier lifestyles than heterosexuals, Hoppe said. . . .

Within days of the lecture, he was notified by school officials that a student had lodged an informal complaint. The student said Hoppe's comments offended him.

A series of formal hearings ensued.

Hoppe said that, at the request of university officials, he clarified in his next class that he was speaking in generalities only and did not mean to offend anyone. . . .

The student then filed a formal complaint, Hoppe said, alleging that Hoppe did not take the complaint seriously.

He said university officials first said they would issue him a letter of reprimand and dock him a week's pay.

That option was rejected by Hoppe's dean and by the university provost, Hoppe said.

More hearings ensued, he said. In the end, the university gave him until Friday to accept its latest offer of punishment: It would issue him a letter of reprimand and he would give up his next pay increase.


Hoppe's ideas seem reasonable and are clearly relevant to his scholarly discipline. Contrast his experience with all the university types defending the intellectually bankrupt anti-Americanism of a Ward Churchill, and it's clear that the idea of academic freedom has degraded into what one might call academentia.

Taking Action

I don't know the details about these fellows, but I assume we could use much more of this stable-cleaning over here.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has condemned the work of an American Jesuit theologian, and barred him from teaching.

In a "notification" approved by Pope John Paul II (bio - news), and signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (bio - news), the Congregation said that the work of Father Roger Haight contained serious doctrinal errors, and forbade the Jesuit priest from teaching theology until the errors have been corrected. The notification was dated December 13, 2004, and made public by the Vatican this week. The Vatican notification came after a 5-year investigation, prompted by the publication of Father Haight's book, Jesus Symbol of God. During the investigation, Father Haight had resigned his teaching post at the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. . . .

Soon after the book was published, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found that Jesus Symbol of God contained serious doctrinal flaws. In July 2002 the Congregation submitted a list of errors to Jesuit superiors, inviting Father Haight to correct his work.

Father Haight is the second Jesuit theologian whose work has drawn a formal rebuke from the Vatican in the past five years. In February 2001, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith warned of doctrinal errors in the work of Father Jacques Dupuis, a Belgian Jesuit and former professor at the Gregorian university, who died in December 2004. In the case of Father Dupuis, too, the central doctrinal problems cited by the Vatican involved the unique role of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church in the work of salvation.


Update

From Brian Saint-Paul's Crisis e-letter:

An interesting side note: The book that earned Fr. Haight the Vatican's condemnation also won him an award from the Catholic Press Association in 2000 for best book in the theology category.

Old Europe

Thanks to James Taranto for this one:

In their first foreign-policy victory since joining the EU, Czech officials in Brussels have blocked a proposed ban on inviting Cuban dissidents to receptions at European embassies in Havana.

The ban would have suspended a 2003 resolution that called on EU countries to support anti-Castro dissidents by inviting them to parties celebrating national holidays.

Spain proposed the ban as part of a package of measures -- including the resumption of EU missions to Cuba -- designed to ease tensions with Havana. It became a sticking point when the Czechs threatened to use their veto in the 25-member Council of Foreign Ministers, where unanimity is required on policy decisions. . . .

The EU adopted sanctions in 2003 after Cuban leader Fidel Castro imprisoned 75 dissidents. Europeans began inviting free dissidents to receptions, and Havana froze ties to the embassies.

Since last fall, when Spain broached the subject of repealing sanctions, Havana resumed contact with the embassies -- including the Czech Embassy -- and released 14 prisoners. Spanish officials said that Castro might relax his grip on free speech to a greater extent if Europe resumed diplomatic missions to Havana and stopped hosting dissidents at receptions. . . .

The "Cocktail Wars," as one paper dubbed them, ended Jan. 31 when Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda convinced other ministers to remove the ban during a closed-door lunch.

"I consider this an unequivocal success," Svoboda later told reporters.

Debate over the ban touched a nerve here, where many former dissidents entered politics after communism fell in 1989.

Former dissident-turned-president Vaclav Havel wrote in the Jan. 28 edition of the French newspaper Le Figaro, "I can hardly imagine a better way for the EU to spit on [its] principles. ... We will start discriminating against free-thinking people." . . .

"Considering our totalitarian past, it was unacceptable for us to accept limitations on contact with people who are fighting for democracy," Svoboda told reporters.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Valentine's Day.

Demographic Shift

Check this out.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Licence to clone.

Dolly scientist given human clone licence. James Bond's licence to kill seems modest by comparison.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Are all women "going wild"?

Female GIs flash breasts, thong in mud-wrestling contests. Is this what women contribute to the miltary (to say nothing of the university!)?
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