Edward Oakes quoting the Pope:

What Pope Benedict XVI said in Spe Salvi specifically of Karl Marx can be extended to most other atheists: “He forgot that man always remains man. He forgot man and he forgot man’s freedom. He forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. . . . His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favorable economic environment.”



I give my very highest recommendation to the movie "Stardust". That is all!



An excerpt from This Side of Paradise:
"It's the whole thing," he asserted. "It's the one dividing line between good and evil. I've never met a man who led a rotten life and didn't have a weak will."

"How about great criminals?"

"They're usually insane. If not, they're weak. There is no such thing as a strong, sane criminal."

"Burne, I disagree with you altogether; how about the superman?"


"He's evil, I think, yet he's strong and sane."

"I've never met him. I'll bet, though, that he's stupid or insane."

"I've met him over and over and over and he's neither. That's why I think you're wrong."

"I'm sure I'm not - and so I don't believe in imprisonment except for the insane."

F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my favorite writers.


The Times on the Other Side of the Pond Responds

Daniel Finkelstein of the London Times responds to the absurd column in the NY Times remarking on the addition to Bill Kristol to its pages.

Anyway, you are fortunate that The New York Times carries many great columns. If Kristol offends you I have a brilliant technological solution.

Turn the page.

Check out the whole column here.

Modern America

Professor Martin Diamond was a student of the great political philosophy teacher Leo Strauss. I found a lecture of his on the Intercollegiate Studies Institute Website the other day.

In this lecture, Diamond analyzes the American experiment through the Straussian dichotomy of Ancient / Modern political thought. His principle argument is that the American regime is thoroughly modern, through and through. He supports this claim with textual evidence from the Federalist Papers and Tocqueville. He also argues that modern character is not wholly a bad thing - even if the Founders accepted certain debased aspects of modern political philosophy. e.g., they accepted Machiavelli's notorious lowering of political possibilities - his claim that politics is the art of the possible, not the quest for virtue. Diamond goes on to explore how other influential modern thinkers influenced the American regime.

If you want to better understand America and why it is the way it is, then this lecture is for you! Listen here


The Difference Between Edwards and Huckabee

Both Huckabee and Edwards are called populists. Jim Geraghty over at National Review's campaign spot cited this account of Huckabee to compare Huckabee to Edwards:
He also told a perfectly schmaltzy story about Randy Bishop, a truck driver, making a speech for him at a Republican dinner, where the other candidates were represented by a Congressman and a Senator. He didn't even own a suit, and the MC at the event (presumably accidentally) called him, "undressed." Huckabee said he's going to get Randy Bishop a suit and put him up on stage on Inauguration Day.
Geraghty goes on to say that Edwards often complains about little girls not having coats. I sent Geraghty an e-mail saying that there is a difference:
UPDATE: Campaign Spot reader David makes a good point: "The major difference between Huckabee and Edwards here is that Huckabee is going to pay for it himself, whereas Edwards complains about the government's failing to provide the little girl a coat. Edwards is a liberal populist. I hope Huckabee is a conservative populist, that remains to be seen."
Check out the whole post here.

pastoral care par excellence

Absolutely essential reading from Archbishop Charles Chaput, for anyone concerned about the relationship between Catholic teaching and social practice. From today's First Things' article:
7. But how do we make good political choices when so many different issues are so important and complex? The first principle of Christian social thought is: Don’t deliberately kill the innocent, and don’t collude in allowing somebody else to do it. The right to life is the foundation of every other human right. The reason the abortion issue is so foundational is not because Catholics love little babies—although we certainly do—but because revoking the personhood of unborn children makes every other definition of personhood and human rights politically contingent.

8. So can a Catholic in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate? The answer is: I can’t, and I won’t. But I do know some serious Catholics—people whom I admire—who may. I think their reasoning is mistaken, but at least they sincerely struggle with the abortion issue, and it causes them real pain. And most important: They don’t keep quiet about it; they don’t give up; they keep lobbying their party and their representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn. Catholics can vote for pro-choice candidates if they vote for them despite—not because of—their pro-choice views. And they also need a proportionate reason to justify it.

9. What is a proportionate reason when it comes to abortion? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them in the next life—which we certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives, then we can proceed.


The public editor of the New York Times provides us with an illustrative example of liberal tolerance. The paper has been receiving emails about William Kristol's appointment to the editorial page:
Rosenthal’s mail has been particularly rough. “That rotten, traiterous [sic] piece of filth should be hung by the ankles from a lamp post and beaten by the mob rather than gaining a pulpit at ANY self-respecting news organization,” said one message. “You should be ashamed. Apparently you are only out for money and therefore an equally traiterous [sic] whore deserving the same treatment.”
And the attempt at chastisement:
Kristol would not have been my choice to join David Brooks as a second conservative voice in the mix of Times columnists, but the reaction is beyond reason. Hiring Kristol the worst idea ever? I can think of many worse. Hanging someone from a lamppost to be beaten by a mob because of his ideas? And that is from a liberal, defined by Webster as “one who is open-minded.” What have we come to?


My Reasons for a Romney Vote Published on National Review Online

"I have to say that I was really tempted to vote for McCain for “personal qualities”. I was literally undecided (and I’ve watched every debate and paid very close attention to this primary) walking into the booth last Tuesday. In the end, however, I couldn’t vote for McCain. I like and admire President Bush, but I disagree with him on so many domestic policies (Medicare, immigration, education, etc.), but each of these domestic policies are what President Bush campaigned on. Could I stand by for the next 4 to 8 years repeatedly being upset for McCain on immigration and other issues? No, in the end I decided to vote for Romney, because issue by issue he lined up with what I want in a President (who is also viable in NH, because I could argue that Thompson is also good).

I think with a little more time, Romney could have pulled a win out of NH. [I would also argue that the conservative “base” of the State is in Rockingham county; the only county that Romney carried.]"

The last part was not "printed" in the post, check it out here.

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Steven Pinker is a psychologist from Harvard who has written extensively on the foundations of morality. Recently he published an article in the New York Times Magazine titled "The Moral Instinct". Commenting on the article, Peter Suderman from The American Scene writes:
After several thousand words of genuinely curious, thoughtful investigation into the idea that humans may have some innate moral sense, he closes with the thought that what’s really important is… implementing a carbon tax."
Suderman continues,
"Can we not simply investigate human nature without drifting into the territory of contemporary politics? Is all science journalism for the next decade doomed to this fate?"
I have a sense that this is a widespread problem - at the bottom, I think it is the inability to make clear distinctions. We should be able to make distinctions in terms and ideas. These things are necessary for any meaningful conversation. The modern mind lumps everything together. I'm not sure whether it's laziness or has a deeper intellectual source, but I suspect it's a combination of both. It's easier to assume that every problem is related or basically the same. It is thus easier to conclude that the source of these related problems is the same: it's the Republicans, the Democrats, this idea, or that President that ruins the world. If we could just get rid of the advocates of the free market, everything would be better! etc., ad infinitum.

It seems to me that it's never that simple.


Humanae Vitae

If you're anything like me, you've probably been in a situation where someone has asked you about the scientific status of nascent human life. Is it human? As I am not familiar with any specific biology textbooks, I'm usually not able to provide a satisfactory answer. This morning on First Things, I find something to help:
The leading works of human embryology corroborate this. The chapter on human development in Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud’s The Developing Human begins with this sentence: “Human development begins at fertilization when a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell—a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” Or their definition of embryo: “The developing human during its early stages of development.” And consider their definition of the term zygote: “This cell results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm during fertilization. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo)” (emphasis added).
The piece this is taken from can be found here.


on Arguments

The purpose of arguing is not to win. Arguing is not a game. It's not, "I'm cleverer than you are." The purpose of argument is like the purpose of science: to know. It's a means, not the only means, of knowing, of transferring us from ignorance to knowledge, a way of getting out of that cave. Philosophy is, in some obvious ways, not like what we today call science, but in some other less than obvious ways, it's very similar to what we today call science.

First of all, it's about the real world. Not about ideas, concepts, ideologies; those are the poker chips but not the money that you play for. Secondly, philosophy, like science, tries to prove things. There are tests, there are criteria. It's not just exuding your personal opinions or dreams. Some of the proofs claim to be certain, some of them claim only to be probable. A probable proof is still a good one. And finally, like science, philosophy uses experiments, only the laboratory is mental, not physical. An argument is a thought experiment. A syllogism is something like mixing two chemicals in a laboratory and seeing what comes out. Mix two true propositions, click them together in your mind, and see what conclusion comes out. There are objective standards for being right and wrong.


His Dark Materials

I finished Phillip Pullman's anti-theistic scold/children's story, the series titled His Dark Materials. My two cents: Pullman is a great storyteller and I really enjoyed the books. However, the books are littered with out of place polemic and hyperbolic characterizations of religious people that detract from the overall mood of the novel and the story itself. But the overall theme of fighting the good fight in the name of Truth is right on. I recommend reading the books. If you've read them (or even if you've seen the movie "The Golden Compass", I'd be interested to hear what you think.

Primary day as seen from New Hampshire

Drudge is reporting that many districts in New Hampshire are running out of Democratic ballots. It looks like we should be welcoming a new political superstar, Barack Obama.

Evidence of his greatness from the Associated Press:
"Today you can make your voice heard—you can insist that change will come," Obama told a crowd Tuesday at Dartmouth College. "The American people have decided for the first time in a very long time to cast aside cynicism, to cast aside fear, to cast aside doubts."

Oh wait, that's the most vacuous thing I've ever heard. But apparently, this is what appeals to voters today.


And My Long Awaited Endorsement Goes to. . .

Back in April, like the political geek that I am, I eagerly awaited the first debate for the Republican nomination on May 3rd (seems like an eternity ago). Throughout the first few months of 2007, the only thoughts that I had were that John McCain had been a tireless defender of the war in Iraq and was a logical candidate for Commander-in-Chief and I was (relatively) open-minded to the other candidates. However, the immigration debate heated up as Sen. McCain and Ted Kennedy lead the charge for “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” (read: amnesty for illegal aliens). This in my mind was a major blow for my early support for McCain.

Now enter the first debate. I sat, by myself, and watched the first debate. McCain did little to redeem himself with immigration, but he continued to impress me as the most authentic person on the War in Iraq. Mayor Giuliani offered nothing new and only reminded us of the fact that he was mayor of New York City during 9/11. Gov. Romney failed to impress me. However, this folksy Governor from Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, really impressed me. Governor Huckabee came across as authentic, articulate, and smart.

I wanted more. I got more at the next two debates (May 15th and June 5th). After doing some initial research, I found that Huckabee maybe weak on fiscal conservative issues like taxes and the concept of limited government. My personal research left me satisfied that he would fight to keep taxes low and to reduce the size of the federal government. I went up to an event in Concord to hear him play with his band, expecting to hear him speak, but his event was only limited to his band playing. They weren’t bad and the food was pretty good.

The campaign for the Republican nomination carried on and I watched more debates with interest. I even watched C-SPAN to see Huckabee come in 2nd place in the Iowa Straw Poll on August 11th. I again went to see Huckabee in Manchester on August 17th coming off of his strong finish in the straw poll. At this point, I would have to admit that I was solidly in favor of a Huckabee Presidency.

Finally, September rolls around, we’re starting to get into the real “beginning” of the campaign. At my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, McCain finally does what he needs to redeem himself. He speaks passionately about the success of the surge (that he pushed hard for), he comes out for border security first, recognizing that the American people have a fundamental distrust in government citing failures in Iraq and with Hurricane Katrina. I see truth in his words and I believe him.

Nine debates and three months later, we’re less then a month from the NH Primary. Gov. Huckabee’s popularity has risen tremendously, but in the same time period, my confidence in his ability to be an effective Commander-in-Chief has gone down. Also, Sen. McCain has continued to demonstrate strong leadership on the War in Iraq. I discredit Governor Romney early on, because I felt that he was not authentic enough. I believe him to be strong on the economy and fiscal issues, which makes sense considering he is a businessman by trade, but on social issues and foreign policy, I feel as if he is just taking those positions to pander to the Republican base (this is reinforced by the fact that he has “flip-flopped” on each of these issues with every election he’s run in). However, he delivered a great speech on faith in America and for the first time he looks Presidential to me.

Fast forward a little more, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan is assassinated and Gov. Huckabee responds by linking the issue to illegal immigration… This is the camel on the straw’s back, and I am sorry to stop my support for the Governor, but feel that I can no longer support him.

To me, the most important issue has been the war. The person that I will vote for must be a competent leader who can articulate to the American people why we must win the War in Iraq. The American President is first and foremost the Commander-in-Chief.

We are finally seeing progress in the War in Iraq. If we chose to, we will elect a man who will rally the American people to win and bring the troops home once we achieve victory. So, why isn’t my choice obvious? Sen. McCain is most surely the most qualified to do this.

This is probably the case, but I believe Gov. Romney is qualified to do this. In Gov. Romney, I see someone who is presidential. He’s strong on all of the issues that are important to me (immigration, the war, the economy). He is articulate.

I personally believe that Sen. McCain has learned that it was a mistake to try to pass comprehensive immigration reform without securing the border first. I realize that until we secure our boarder we essentially have de facto amnesty. Do the American people believe Sen. McCain though? I’m not so sure.

I am deeply troubled by Sen. McCain championing the limitation of one our most precious rights: political speech. Will he further restrict free speech by restoring the fairness doctrine?

Can I vote for Gov. Romney who I have a hard time connecting to at times? Can I risk nominating a person that may not be able to get elected? He’s the only Republican candidate that puts traditionally safe states like Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia, and probably more into play. Some say its because he is unknown, but Huckabee is equally unknown and he polls much better in head-to-head matchups. I think its because of his religion. America says over and over again that religion should have nothing to do with politics and Gov. Romney has said that he will not be “Pastor-in-chief”, but unfortunately it still remains an issue.

So, my endorsement is for whatever you feel most important as you enter the voting booth and mark your ballot. Will I vote for leadership/electability or someone who I align on with most of the issues. A principled person might tell you to vote for the person you align with on more issues, but I would also contend that leadership in a person is important, especially now.


Tim Russert said hi to me!

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a National Review gathering in downtown Manchester, NH. I listened to Jonah Goldberg, Mark Steyn, and Rob Long crack jokes and talk politics for roughly two hours, and it was excellent. I was surprised at how funny they all are (it's not just on paper). I'm bad at repeating jokes, so perhaps if Catherine remembers some of them she can post them here. But I can give you some take on their opinions about the elections.

First - None of the commentators believed that Huckabee is healthy for the party. One went as far to say that he represents a nascent right-wing identity politics, which I think is an idea with great merit.

Secondly, they all think Barack Obama is going to take off in a big way. After seeing his performance in the debate last night, I have to agree. He is a very appealing candidate, and it would be very difficult for the Republicans to beat him come November.


For whom do I vote?

McCain, Romney, or Paul?

Not that anyone reads this blog, but on the office chance you're reading, and you're sufficiently bored, tell me who you are voting for and why.

It would be appreciated.


Ken Masugi interviews Father James Schall, S.J

I highly recommend this interview with Father James Schall.

So, I suppose that I should say that the Church should seek to influence elections by teaching the truth about man, cosmos, and God in such a fashion that politics be restored to itself as a prudential area largely dependent on a correct understanding of man's transcendent end and the arena in which this end is worked out in our lives. The reason politics is considered to be so important is, too often, because we suspect that this world is all there is. If this were true, of course, we can do whatever we want. To oppose it will seem to be inhuman.
The Trinity is the answer to the great Aristotelian enigma of whether God is "lonely." If He is, then it would seem that He needs us. But were this so, God would not be God. The Trinity means that God is not lonely. In my first book, Redeeming the Time (1968), I entitled the chapter on this topic "The Trinity: God Is Not Alone." That still is the central point. Since God is complete in Himself and does not need anything, including us, it follows that we exist out of the abundance of God's love that can seek to create what is good outside of Himself. This is what we are, except in our human case, we are specifically created, each of us, to see God face-to-face. Nothing less. The central dynamism of the universe stems from this source.