The Democratization of Narnia

Apparently the new Narnia films significantly misrepresent Lewis's books. See this essay from Touchstone Magazine. The specific claim of the essay is that hierarchy and moral greatness are crucial to Lewis's story, and that these features are absent from the films. Lewis's moral heroes have been replaced with characters that are easier for us to understand and to relate. Stephen Boyer gives us an example of this in his essay:
Then follow some remarkable lines. Says Peter, “Don’t you ever get tired of being treated like a kid?” “We are kids,” Edmund wryly observes. “Well, I wasn’t always,” Peter retorts. He is obviously remembering that he used to be a king in Narnia—and he wants the kingship back.

Director Andrew Adamson helps us understand just what is going on in this scene in a commentary that is one of the bonus features on the Prince Caspian DVD. Adamson explains,
I always felt . . . how hard it must have been, particularly for Peter, to have gone from being high king to going back to high school, and what that would do to him, do to his ego. . . . I always thought that would be a really hard thing for a kid to go through.
Adamson acknowledges that this emotional turmoil was “not something that C. S. Lewis really got into,” but as director he wanted “to create more depth for the characters, more reality to the situation.” He wanted “to deal with what all the kids would go through having left behind that incredible experience and wanting to relive it.”

This emotional realism was Adamson’s explicit aim, and as a result, the screenwriters who put this scene together were actively encouraged to think about what it would be like to go from “king” to “schoolboy”—not a pleasant prospect, of course, and one to which any of us might react with bitterness and resentment, just as Peter does.

Right, any of us might react that way—but that is because we have not breathed the air of Narnia. We are thinking like ordinary persons (and worse, like self-sufficient, twenty-first-century, Western intellectuals) instead of like knights or kings. In Lewis’s telling of all of the Narnia tales, the children’s experiences as kings and queens in Narnia consistently transform them into nobler, more virtuous people in their own world. They are not spoiled children wanting to be kings again; they are noble kings who carry that very nobility back into their non-royal roles as schoolchildren.
Our Hollywood directors know something about the culture that is not completely obvious. That is, our culture has no concept of saints. We cannot see them, because we do not know what they look like. When we are presented with a saint, in literature or in the movies, we re-imagine them to be more like us, rather than aspire to be more like them. We don't believe in saints anymore. Moral goodness is offensive. A morally good person makes you feel bad about yourself! Only morally weak people, people like us, are truly lovable. The saint is not lovable because he is not real.

I think this is a great challenge for modern Christians.


Kinda sad

Protestantism in New England, 2010:
DERRY – A local congregation is taking a leap of faith: They're looking at selling their Calvary Bible Church building in an effort to reduce their debt and find a more suitable use for the sprawling $5.5 million 18-acre parcel that used to also house a K-12 school.


Peter Lawler Has a Blog

And everyone should read it.

He's the best political thinker there is.

Here he is, on INDIVIDUALISM, rightly understood:
According to Alexis de Tocquevile (who is--I hope you've figured out--an authority for me on just about everything), the vice of modern democracy is INDIVIDUALISM. He doesn't mean of course the "rugged individualism" or John Wayne or even the entrepreneurial individualism praised by our Randian libertarians. He means apathetic withdrawal into a small circle of friends and family, a withdrawal based on the mistaken judgment that, in general, love and hate are more trouble than their worth. Individualism is a kind of "heart disease" that turns active citizens into passive dependents, a disease that can morph democratic self-government into a kind of despotism.

The Government's Taking Over

From the Washington Examiner:
Here are 10 reasons why they are right that it is a government takeover of health care:

1. For the first time in our nation's history, the government will order citizens to spend our private money on a private product -- health insurance -- and will penalize us if we refuse.

2. Any employer with more than 50 employees will be told it must provide government-decreed health insurance to its workers -- or face financial penalties.

3. Government has the authority to the destroy the private insurance market by preventing insurers from earning a reasonable return. If companies charge "unreasonable" premiums, as determined by Health Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, she can block them from participating in a huge sector of the market -- as she already has threatened to do. Michael Barone calls this "gangster government."

4. The law provides the foundation -- and $6 billion -- for a stealth public plan. The Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program will help set up non-profit, member-run health insurance companies in all 50 states.

5. As many as 80 to 100 million people will not have the option of keeping the coverage they have now, per President Obama's promise. According to analyst Allisa A. Meade of McKinsey & Company, they will be switched into other policies after the insurance mandates take effect in 2014 ?-- whether they like it or not.

6. The federal government will determine what health benefits are essential -- or not.

7. Doctors and hospitals will face an avalanche of new reporting rules to make sure they are providing health care that fits the government's definition of "quality care."

8. The legislation creates the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute that is modeled on rationing boards in other countries with government-run health systems. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the U.K., for example, has a record of denying access to the newest drugs, with government officials often deciding they just aren't worth the cost. That's already happening here with the FDA'S withdrawal of its approval for Avastin last week.

9. States are being treated like contractors to the federal government, ordered to expand Medicaid to levels that could bankrupt them, and to set up new Health Exchange bureaucracies lest the federal government sweep in and do it for them.

10. Obamacare expands Medicaid, the worst health plan in the country, to cover 84 million people by 2019, stretching yet another of our government-run health programs to the bursting point.


The Sing-Off

Yeah, I really enjoy the television show "The Sing-Off."

My wife and I were floored that Committed won the show last night. America voted and I think they actually chose correctly! I was shocked because democracy rarely works like this. Rarely does the natural aristoi rise to the top. But I guess it does on NBC!

It was also great to see Ben Folds sing one of his songs.


Friendship and the Truth

I recently ordered "Voegelin in Toronto" from the University of Missouri Press. This is a four and one half hour DVD of a conference held in the late 1970s. Part of this DVD is a discussion held on reading Plato's Republic, with the great Professors Allan Bloom and Eric Voegelin.

At the beginning of the talk, Professor Bloom utters something marvelous about friendship. Friendship, he says, is possible only given the oneness of the truth. This is the Platonic view of things, anyway; the reason for philosophy was ultimately true friendship - friendship being two persons able to communicate without any misunderstanding, and delight in what is together. This is only possible with true knowledge of what is.

This idea stands in stark contrast to modern philosophies which emphasize individual perspectives and claim that ultimately, there is no truth, and that nothing is really held in common. Friendship, in this understanding, is really quite impossible. You cannot be truly friends with anyone because there is no way to relate to anyone else. Everyone is isolated from each other because there is no common language.

I'm further struck that this is an idea coming from an ancient Greek and an interpretation of his work by a Professor reputed to be areligious(Bloom). This is strange because this idea, of course, is a thoroughly Catholic idea. It is the Eternal Word that makes all life and all true friendship possible. Father Neuhaus said once that the deepest ground for human friendship is Jesus Christ. Christ is the source of all truth and all goodness and is indeed these things himself. So the ancient Greeks and the quirky professor know the same thing as the Christian mystic but without any knowledge of Revelation. From this it is clear that some aspects of the beauty of God's design for human life, love and friendship are knowable without the Gospel. But oh, how they are lit up and glorified with it.


Edward Feser Explains the Church's Teaching on Health Care as a Right

Entirely lucid, as Professor Feser's writing usually is:
It is in any event important to remind ourselves of what the Church actually teaches, and what she teaches is not at all what such liberal Catholics think it is. To be sure, in line with statements made by popes John XXIII and John Paul II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church does indeed speak of a “right to medical care” as among those the “political community” has a duty to uphold (2211). But does this entail that universal health care must be funded by and/or administered by the federal government, or indeed by any government? No, it doesn’t. Consider first that the same documents that affirm a “right” to medical care also affirm “rights” to “food, clothing, [and] shelter” (John XXIII, Pacem in Terris 8) and “to private property, to free enterprise, [and] to obtain work and housing” (the Catechism again). But no one claims that the Church teaches that governments have a duty to provide everyone with a government job, or free food, clothing, shelter, or other kinds of property at taxpayer expense, or a guarantee of entrepreneurial opportunities.

Why not? Because the term “right” is simply not used in Catholic moral theology in the crude manner in which modern American liberal politicians like to use it, viz. as expressing a legally enforceable demand on the part of an individual that he be provided with some benefit by government (either in the form of a service funded by the taxpayer or in the form of coercion of those who might otherwise “discriminate” against him). Rather, the theory of rights enshrined in traditional natural law thinking and the traditional Catholic moral theology informed by it is very complex and nuanced, and includes a number of crucial distinctions that must be borne in mind in any analysis of what the magisterial documents of the Church entail. There is, for example, the distinction between objective right – some thing or act one might in some sense have a claim to – and subjective right – the moral power he might have to claim that thing or act he has an objective right to. There is the distinction between natural rights – rights we have simply by virtue of being human – and positive rights – those that exist only given a certain man-made legal framework. There is the distinction between a connatural right – a right one has independently of any conditions – and an acquired right – a right one has given the fulfillment of certain conditions. There is the distinction between an affirmative right – a right to have some good provided to one – and a negative right – a right merely not to be impeded in the pursuit of some good. There is the distinction between a perfect right – a right which is a precondition of the possibility of everyday moral life – and an imperfect right – a right which is not strictly necessary to make everyday moral life possible but which nevertheless considerably facilitates it. Among perfect rights, there are those which must be enforced via the power of the state (e.g. the right not to be killed unjustly) and those which are not appropriately enforced in this way (e.g. the right to be treated with respect by one’s children). Among imperfect rights, there are rights to things strictly due to us (e.g. gratitude from those we have benefited) and rights to things that are not strictly due to us (e.g. to be treated pleasantly by those we come into contact with in day to day life). There are further distinctions to be made, and elaborations and qualifications to be made to the distinctions already made; and a good book on ethics or moral theology of the sort I recommended in an earlier post will spell them out for the interested reader. (Volume I of Cronin’s Science of Ethics is particularly good on this subject, as on so much else.)

The point for present purposes is to emphasize that noting that a magisterial document speaks of a “right” to something by itself does nothing to show that government must provide it. All it shows is that people have a claim of some sort against others – how strong a claim, how that claim is to be respected, whether and to what extent government has a role in ensuring that it is respected, etc. are all further issues requiring careful analysis. This is especially so of something like a “right to medical care,” which, unlike such negative rights as the right of an innocent person not to be killed, involves a positive claim against others that a certain service be provided. Does the right to medical care entail that government itself must provide medical services? Or only that it provide citizens with the means to purchase such services? Must it provide them to all citizens, or only to those otherwise unable to afford them? What level of government is supposed to do this – municipal, state, or federal? Does it require government to force some individuals to become medical doctors, nurses, and the like so that the services can be provided? (They don’t grow on trees, after all.) Or is government involvement really necessary here at all? Is the right in question instead only a right that others provide those who need medical assistance with the means to do so in some way or other – through government if necessary, but through private means if possible? And if so, which persons in particular are supposed to provide this aid – family members and friends, churches and charities, or total strangers too? Merely noting that the Church teaches that people have a “right” to medical care (or to food, shelter, a job, etc.) answers none of these questions.



Ha, ha! keep time: how sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!
So is it in the music of men's lives.
And here have I the daintiness of ear
To cheque time broke in a disorder'd string;
But for the concord of my state and time
Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;
For now hath time made me his numbering clock:
My thoughts are minutes; and with sighs they jar
Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch,
Whereto my finger, like a dial's point,
Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears.
Now sir, the sound that tells what hour it is
Are clamorous groans, which strike upon my heart,
Which is the bell: so sighs and tears and groans
Show minutes, times, and hours: but my time
Runs posting on in Bolingbroke's proud joy,
While I stand fooling here, his Jack o' the clock.
This music mads me; let it sound no more;
For though it have holp madmen to their wits,
In me it seems it will make wise men mad.
Yet blessing on his heart that gives it me!
For 'tis a sign of love; and love to Richard
Is a strange brooch in this all-hating world.
King Richard III



"For they are all poor men and get little from their occupation beyond dreams and death."


Quotes upon Quotes

a source of our moral disorientation today: the ambiguous but overwhelming influence of John Locke on the Founding. That our principles are primarily Lockean is not all good or all bad, but it is a problem that should receive scrutiny from conservatives in a friendly and loyal but nonetheless real criticism of the Founders as theorists. These individualistic principles fail to do justice to who we are as political, social, familial, and communal beings who lovingly assume personal responsibility for the duties we have been given.
Apropos of the John Locke fiasco going on at the American Catholic is this book review by Peter Augustine Lawler.

A Quote

"Eric Voegelin remarked that Christian men with weak faith would look to ideology, to this-worldly projects, to replace the faith they were not strong enough to believe."


I saw a debate about Islam tonight.

Summarized this way: "Do you think Islam is an evil religion?"

Participant 1: Yes
Participant 2: Yes and No, it is a mixture

I should expand on this later.


How Stress Has Changed

A friend of mine recently made the following comment to me about his modern life:
"200 years ago getting your hairless cat an oncology consult would be unheard of.This is the life I lead."


Healthcare Plan Likely to Include Free Contraception

Another pertinent reason for Catholics to oppose the Democrats and their health care bill:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Fifty years after the pill, another birth control revolution may be on the horizon: free contraception for women in the U.S., thanks to the new health care law.

That could start a shift toward more reliable - and expensive - forms of birth control that are gaining acceptance in other developed countries.
As Nancy Pelosi said,
"Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."
It's a cost cutting measure. It's also a grave sin! But if you're Nancy Pelosi, or most of the rest of the American Catholic population, you say, "Who cares! We need to have this!"


Clarity on Catholic Social Teaching and Political Life

But the specifics of electoral politics are a messy business, and it’s often a long way from the principles of Catholic social teaching to the specifics of political choices.

Even the politics of the pro-life cause isn’t always clear. The imperative to protect innocent life translates pretty directly into opposition to our current legal arrangements, which permit abortions. But what will move us forward? Here political judgment comes into play, which is a species of prudence. Should I vote for a pro-life Democrat on the theory that a lasting pro-life consensus will require bipartisan cooperation? Or is the next Supreme Court appointment so decisive that I ought to vote for the Republican candidate?

These difficult questions are all the more pressing when it comes to economic justice. Raise the minimum wage? Yes, it seems like a clear case of expressing a preferential option for the poor, but as some point out the effect may be to reduce the number of jobs for the poor. Bottom line: further isolation from the culture of work that is also an important social value, much championed by Pope John Paul II. What, therefore, is the “Catholic” way to vote?

In view of these ambiguities, about which men and women of faith and of good will can disagree, there is a danger when we theologize our political judgments. It threatens the unity of the church by turning prudential judgments about how to implement Catholic social doctrine into defining issues.

This doesn’t mean that anything goes. Obviously, one cannot claim to be in accord with the magisterium of the Church will asserting the women have a right to abort the children in their wombs. And one cannot affirm social Darwinism or Ayn Rand’s view of the natural right of the rich to dominate the poor and imagine oneself in accord with Catholic teaching. The clerical vocation is to teach the principles that must norm and leaven civic life—some available to reason; others stemming from the Gospel. But the distance from moral principles to political parties should induce caution.
RR Reno, First Things.


Here is One of Sickest Things I've Come Across in a while

IT IS apparently commonplace in the West to let newborn babies starve to death. So commonplace, in fact, that a Canadian group of doctors have released a study on the effects of starving newborn infants - both the physical effects on the newborn, and the psychological effects on the mother and father. They note, with sickening sterility, that "These babies live much, much longer than anybody expects - " you know, longer than you would expect a little baby to live without any food.

But the main concern of the study is for the parents and the doctors responsible for the starvation. It's hard to watch a newborn baby starve, because the baby becomes noticeably more emaciated as time progresses. Apparently the sight of emaciated babies produces bad feelings in the responsible parties. The paper explains that the "doctors" who are responsible for starving the newborns ought to be aware of this phenomenon, so they can provide the right counseling to those involved, and assure them (teach them) that there is nothing wrong. Here's the article:
Despite this, there is one factor that medication cannot alleviate, and that is the visual signs of emaciation, said Ms. Keats. “The longer a child lives, the more emaciated he or she becomes. This is something that we as clinicians need to anticipate. You can alleviate some of the physical symptoms, but this is one symptom, or result of our action, that we can’t relieve. A critical factor for counseling is to anticipate the kind of suffering that comes with witnessing the emaciation. It isn’t something people can prepare themselves for.”Autopsies are often encouraged in such neonatal palliative care cases to help both parents and medical staff gain a better understanding of the reasons for the death, said Dr. Siden. Parents should be warned that the report will document the technical cause of death as “starvation” — a loaded word for all concerned. It is important that parents separate this word from any notion of suffering, he said.
I know there are lots of terrible things that go on, but this strikes me as particularly obtuse and evil. It's not like abortion, where the people performing the procedure are under the delusion that the baby is not a baby, or that the baby is not really alive. In this there is very clearly a baby who is alive and wants to be nourished. This basic need is consciously and actively denied by the people who are responsible for the baby's care.

St. Thomas Aquinas taught it was impossible to eradicate the conscience from the human person; he may have been right technically but I think this proves that it is possible to suppress your conscience to the point where it has no bearing on anything you do. I am terrified.


Similarities and Differences

Both parties care about primarily about money, because they reflect the population, which cares primarily about money. Our culture is not a culture that seeks the common good. If there's anything we seek together, it is shared material prosperity.

But a substantial difference between Republicans and Democrats is that the Democrats care only about money. Democrats are materialists to the core; they believe material well being is the ultimate good of human life and that all efforts should be directed towards increasing our material well being. Democrats believe that justice is material equality in both theory and practice.

The Republicans care about money, too. They are, like the Democrats, philosophically committed to our material-well being, and practically committed to it as well, much more than they should be. But the philosophy of American Republicans also includes commitments to principles and truths that have nothing to do with money.

Even if it is the case that more often than not they ignore or forget their principles, that they have principles that are not materialistic in concern is the Republican party's distinguishing characteristic. It's also the only reason I can stand to vote for anyone in the party these days, with all the talk of money, money, money, money, and how the government will change to fix the problems with our money, and our money and our money.


Patrick Deneen on What I'm Thinking

This guy always has it right:
We are once again in the silly season when small-Government proponents strive desperately to move to Washington and incumbents pretend to be outsiders. Anti-Washington sentiment is waxing as we build to the mid-term elections, with everyone promising to tilt at the windmills of federal spending, and no-one suggesting how any substantial cuts might be effected.

We love to blame Washington and its politicians, but our hatred of D.C. is really only a projected form of self-loathing. Washington is simultaneously the locus of our fears and our expectations: we want to be left alone, but we want to be taken care of. We want government out of our lives, but we want it to solve our problems. We insist on more local solutions, but grow immediately impatient when solutions are not immediate. We look with fear and longing on our President – no matter whom – as the one we despise and the one we adulate.
Liberalism has collapsed on itself, and conservative liberalism is merely a reaction to liberalism's failures.



Choose whichever you like—standard utilitarianism, Rawls’s theory of justice, attempts to ground moral thinking in evolutionary biology or neurophysiology—you will always find, if you subject your preferred ethical naturalism to sufficiently unflinching scrutiny, that at some primal and irreducible point it must simply presume a movement of good will, an initial moral impulse that, with a kind of ghostly Gödelian elusiveness, can never be contained within the moral system it sustains. All the polyphony of nature falls mute when asked to produce one substantial imperative, unless one believes (explicitly or tacitly) that the voice of nature has its origin and consummation in the voice of God.
David B. Hart


Phillip Blond on American Society

The loss of our culture is best understood as the disappearance of civil society. Only two powers remain: the state and the market. We no longer have, in any effective independent way, local government, churches, trade unions, cooperative societies, or civic organizations that operate on the basis of more than single issues. In the past, these institutions were a means for ordinary people to exercise power. Now mutual communities have been replaced with passive, fragmented individuals. Civil spaces have either vanished or become subject-domains of the dictatorial state or the monopolized market.



“The Mass is becoming less and less about the Mass and more about the music, special prayers for individuals, and announcements. Our Mass is always the short form."


World and Church

Today, as he met with the journalists who are accompanying him on his trip to Great Britain, the Pope made the point deftly, clearly-- and quite unexpectedly, I think-- in response to one journalist's question. The question was how the Church could be more attractive to the public. Notice how the Pope, in the very first phrase of his reply steers the conversation off its predictable course to make a more important point:
I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths and great forces of love, reconciling love that appeared in this figure and that always comes from the presence of Jesus Christ.


Gotta Remember This and Think About it More Clearly

"Ideas create idols; only wonder leads to knowing."

St. Gregory of Nyssa

Doesn't this statement commit suicide? Isn't that statement an idea? Then again, it depends on what he means by ideas. Probably something similar to what we mean when we say ideology.



I overheard someone play “Imagine” by John Lennon to begin a Confirmation class for 9th graders tonight. What do I do about this?

And for my own class: are Confirmation classes supposed to be structured? Should the kids learn something? How should they learn? I have answers to these questions but I think my DRE would not agree with my thoughts.

How to handle this....


Manufactured Crises

George Packer writing in the New Yorker:
A Florida preacher with a congregation barely twice the number of the September 11th hijackers can rivet the world—will he do it, or won’t he? Where will the first post-Koran-burning terror attack happen, and how many people will die? The media senses a big story and makes him an international figure, with the tautological self-defense that he had become a big story. Halfway around the globe, in Jalalabad, Afghans riot, someone is killed, and Obama is burned in effigy—Obama, whom twenty per cent of Americans believe to be a Muslim, who has used whatever moral authority he has to stop the Florida nut from doing it. One man in Gainesville who represents next to nobody triggers thousands of men around the globe who know next to nothing about it to turn violent, which triggers more violence, which Fox and Al Jazeera air relentlessly, which makes people in front of TVs around the world go crazy.
He has some other stuff in their about everyone being unreasonable, and we are, but it's a bit too condescending for my taste.



This entire clip is pretty priceless, from Karen what-the-hell-is-she-talking-about Testerman to John always-on-the-verge-of-tears Stephen. But the real winner is Frank Emiro: After a previous question and answer period in which he lets everyone know that he would have no problem killing people on death row, he waxes poetic about wacky ties and young ladies wearing flip flops in schools. In his own words, this nonsense has to stop.

They Just Don't Believe That Stuff

Father Longenecker on reverence:
G.K.Chesterton said every argument is a theological argument. Here is where we must agree: the real reason for lack of reverence at Mass is the erosion and eventual abandonment of a real, solid and actual belief in the Real Presence of the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. Behind this is an even more insidious abandonment of the Catholic faith--a gradual ignorance of and denial by neglect of all the cardinal doctrines of the faith from which a belief in the real presence is derived: that is to say, the central beliefs of the Immaculate Conception, the Incarnation and Virgin Birth, the Atoning Work of Christ on the Cross of Calvary, the Resurrection and Ascension into Glory and the Hope of his coming again.

The real reason for lack of reverence at Mass is because huge numbers of Catholics just don't believe that stuff. They've never been taught it (except in some vague theoretical manner which implied that it was all some ancient system of symbolism) If they have been taught it they've forgotten it. They never hear it preached from the pulpit and they've never been fully catechized. If priests and people really believed that Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, who really took human flesh and died for the redemption of the human race and who really rose again on the third day and left a sacrament of the memorial of his suffering and death to be re presented by his mystical body the Church, why then, like the homeless man in Westminster Cathedral and my Baptist friend, there would suddenly be reverence in church.


The Senate and New Hampshire and Republicans and Political Power

Next week, New Hampshire Republicans, and probably some irritating Democrats, will decide who the Republican Nominee is for the Republican New Hampshire Senate Candidacy. It appears to the best of my knowledge that Ovide Lamontange is the only consistent pro-life and limited government candidate on the ticket. I urge anyone you know who lives in New Hampshire to vote for Ovide. Primaries should be about principles. Playing Machiavelli can wait until November. We have to choose the right people to put up for office, and the right people are principled people who think that government is more than simply another way to stimulate the economy. We have a debased and corrupt form of politics that only recognizes the material dimension of our lives. We need candidates who understand that material life is not the only good, and that material well-being is in some way really dependent on our spiritual well-being. Our spiritual well-being is in a real way determined by our laws, and our politicians create our laws, not just “our jobs” (which is ridiculous, politicians don’t create jobs). We need to look for politicians who have but an inkling of an understanding of this countercultural idea. Our laws are not just about money; they are about truth and justice and goodness and even beauty.

Republicans are upset about not being in power. Republicans are not in power because they have failed to live up to their principles, and everyone knows it. Republican principles are good principles, and we should not concede them because we have hopes of winning an election. Republicans have won elections, and they have acted frivolously and ignorantly with their power because they were not principled. We need to elect politicians who will behave responsibly with their power, and not just win the election. Elections don’t matter; justice and truth do.


Do we not have enough roads?

WASHINGTON (AP) - Vowing to find new ways to stimulate the sputtering economy, President Barack Obama will call for long-term investments in the nation's roads, railways and runways that would cost at least $50 billion.

Just Rename It

A country withdraws their combat troops from battle, implicitly and not explicitly declaring victory. Days later, the tens of thousands of troops that remain at the battlefield get into skirmishes, and many are killed. Were these troops not in battle? Regardless of this point the President marches onward. He has renamed the Iraq War and created artificial milestones for us to celebrate. It doesn't matter to him, or to anyone else in the media, that these milestones are not connected with anything in reality. They make us feel better about what we are doing.
BAGHDAD (AP) - Days after the U.S. officially ended combat operations and touted Iraq's ability to defend itself, American troops found themselves battling heavily armed militants assaulting an Iraqi military headquarters in the center of Baghdad on Sunday. The fighting killed 12 people and wounded dozens.

It was the first exchange of fire involving U.S. troops in Baghdad since the Aug. 31 deadline for formally ending the combat mission, and it showed that American troops remaining in the country are still being drawn into the fighting.

The attack also made plain the kind of lapses in security that have left Iraqis wary of the U.S. drawdown and distrustful of the ability of Iraqi forces now taking up ultimate responsibility for protecting the country.

Sunday's hour-long assault was the second in as many weeks on the facility, the headquarters for the Iraqi Army's 11th Division, pointing to the failure of Iraqi forces to plug even the most obvious holes in their security.
There was a philosopher that believed that words are weapons to wield power, and I believe our current President is his disciple. Don't like what's happening in Iraq? Call it something else. Describe it in different terms. The economy is not going well despite your policies? Spin the media - tell a different story. Make people believe something else and maybe you will give them "hope". Make them "hope" in you, and maybe they won't notice the city that's burning.


President Barack Obama is Overexposed

And so he has given up his novelty and authority. Does anyone really want to listen to what he says, especially when it's always half-truths? "Withdrawal from Iraq" is, in actuality roughly 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq with special new job titles. We have not won the war; we are renaming the war. The President blames his predecessor for his economic woes, despite spending in two years more than his predecessor did in eight. And on and on...


Forgiving God

"I think everyone has a secret resentment against God, against our very creation, against the fact of our being what we are. Freud called this the death wish, resentment against being born into this pain-full world."
Peter Kreeft says something surprising in Back to Virtue: that we need to learn to forgive God. He is quite clear that this is not for any evil or debt he owes us, but for His goodness. As Kreeft says in his book, God loves us more than we would like, and we need to forgive him for interfering with our foolish will again and again". We need to "forgive him for his blessed but painful surgery on our spirits."

At first, I thought Kreeft was wrong. Forgive God? Why would we lowly creatures need to forgive God, who is infinite goodness? How absurd! Then, giving the great Peter Kreeft the benefit of the doubt, I thought it over and had a realization of sorts. We need to forgive God lest we hold a grudge against Him. God calls us out of ourselves. He asks us to give up ourselves and our particular desires, and this can be very difficult, even aggravating. Our broken nature rebels against God's will. We must say with Jesus, "not my will Father, but yours be done," but we do not want to. We often say, leave me alone to what I want! Christians say this even when they know this is foolishness. We are broken and part of our brokenness is a wrong-relationship with God: we blame him when he is not at fault. Our hearts must be at peace with God. And our hearts, misshapen as they are, cannot be at peace with God unless we forgive him. How ridiculous we are!


Aren't Babies Supposed to Sleep?

At least occasionally?


Martha, Martha

In the process of moving again!

Life is very busy.


What's Wrong with Republican Politicians?

The 2010 New Hampshire Senate Race is starting up. It's an especially hopeful time for Republican candidates in the state hoping to capitalize on the supposedly unpopular Democratic rule. So lately we've been treated to political advertisements for some of these fresh-faced political hopefuls. Not surprisingly, there's no one in the field who's particularly exciting or who seems to have any knowledge of political things.

One man with disappointing advertisements (and probably politics) is Republican Senatorial Candidate Bill Binnie. His radio ad begins with "Republican Businessman Bill Binnie has a plan to get America back to work." The whole ad is filled with political assumptions that are identical to the assumptions of the Democrats. Embedded in that single quote is a number of flawed ideas. The idea that it's the government's job to get us back to work. There's the idea that a single Senator can effect great change in our laws. There's the tired assertion that somehow competency in leading in a business environment entails competency in politics. This is particularly offensive because the idea that the government is a business is untrue and the parallels are realistically few, and ought to be few. Finally, Mr. Binnie's ad is just plain cheesy. There's nothing unique, nothing that expresses any developed understanding of a political philosophy - just tired Republican soundbites about cutting wasteful spending and curbing earmarks - things the Republicans have failed on delivering for years.

I hope in my lifetime I get to hear a politician who can articulate a coherent philosophy rather than merely cheap and vacuous sloganeering.


Starcraft II

July 27, 2010


Happy Independence Day

America, the Beautiful

Confirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law!

As we celebrate our Independence from the British Empire, let us remember our total dependence on God.


Excellence Round-Up

(1)Archbishop Chaput's very moving piece about liturgy: "Glorify God By Your Life":
Our worship is an icon of heavenly things, a window through which the reality and destiny of our lives is glimpsed. And the heavenly liturgy is the key to the universality of the Church’s mission. In the Catholic vision of history, God’s plan of salvation is destined to culminate in a cosmic liturgy in which all creation gives praise and glory to God, the Creator of all things. We have a foretaste of the liturgical consummation of history every time we celebrate the liturgy on earth.

This truth should transform the way we worship. It should move us with gratitude that our God would grant us the privilege of joining the angels and saints who worship before him. It should make us strive for liturgies that are reverent and beautiful, and that point our hearts and minds to things above.

This truth should also change the way we think about our public witness in this culture. We’re called to testify to Jesus Christ, to make his teachings known, to fight against all that violates God’s holiness and justice. And we need to understand our mission in the light of God’s larger plan, conceived before the foundation of the world.

The ultimate purpose of our witness is to prepare the way for the cosmic liturgy in which all humanity will adore the Creator. Our work takes part in this redemptive plan in which Christ continues to reconcile all things, until that day when every knee in heaven and on earth shall bend in worship, and God is “all in all,” as St. Paul put it.

(2) Crankycon on everything political.

(3) Two new lectures from Professors Patrick Deneen and Peter Augustine Lawler. If you want to know what I think about politics, listen to these guys! It's a privilege to listen to them.


Community as Mirror of Self

A cousin of mine wrote this and I thought it was particularly perceptive.
I think I wrote in one of my previous letters that living in community can be like living with a mirror that shows you your true self in all your beauty and ugliness. It can be really hard, but at the same time very helpful if you’re willing to accept yourself as you are and as you must change. I think I also wrote that it’s the members of this community that function as this “mirror of true-self”.
This is probably how human beings are supposed to live - together. You can really only see yourself if you're looking at another person. I think that's some deep truth.


The Television Ethic

It seems to me that the shows on TV have gotten worse, much worse than they have ever been. Shows like "Cougar Town," "Super Nanny," "One Tree Hill" and "The Bachelorette" - basically any show on any of the major networks. These shows are either a shameless "sitcom" with bad and awkward sexual humor, a boring reality show that smug Americans watch so they can make themselves feel like they're better than the narcissistic dweebs who end up on those shows, or an overwrought "drama" that lacks any sense of humanity instead substituting gratuitous sexual content.

I suppose what's most striking is the total absence of anything sacred. If you watch TV, it's clear there's nothing special about human affairs and human relationships. Television teaches us that we're all really only out for ourselves. Other people are a means to increase our "happiness" and to the extent they do that they are valuable. Traditional human virtues like love, gratitude, forebearance, patience, loyalty, faithfulness, and peace are mocked on television. No one on television takes any of these things seriously. In fact nothing on television takes anything seriously (maybe a few rare exceptions e.g. LOST). After all, persons who take things seriously are really just fooling themselves that who they are matters or what they do matters. It's not who you are, it's what you have, or who you have. Television teaches an ethic of exploitation for personal gain and I think it's terrible.

But maybe it's always been this way and I haven't paid close enough attention.


the philosophy of science

Here's a really interesting section in Edward Feser's book on Aquinas! He's talking about how science has putatively rejected the Aristotelian notion of final causation, but in practice acts otherwise. Final causation, or the end, goal, or purpose of a thing, has been rejected by scientists as irrelevant and possibly anti-scientific, as purpose is an immaterial thing. Part of the project of modern science is to prove the philosophy of materialism, (look at neuroscience, for example) so they avoid talk of anything that even resembles such antiquated ideas as "purpose". But it seems that scientists have been unable to avoid using the concept, as Feser explains on page 49 of his book
Moreover, physicists do not in fact embrace a regularity as a law of nature only after many trials, after the fashion of popular presentations of inductive reasoning. Rather, they draw their conclusions from a few highly specialized experiments conducted under artificial conditions. None of this is consistent with the idea that science is concerned with cataloguing observed regularities. But it is consistent with the Aristotelian picture of science as in the business of uncovering the hidden natures or powers of things. Actual experimental practice indicates that what physicists are really looking for are the inherent powers a thing will naturally manifest when interfering conditions are removed, and the fact that a few experiments, or even a single controlled experiment, are taken to establish the results in question indicates that these powers are taken to reflect a nature that is universal to things of that type.
In my experience, as something of a scientist myself, this is absolutely true. No one would ever want to admit that what scientists are really doing is uncovering universal truths about a things nature and end, but it is probably the case.


John Rawls Made a Mistake at the Beginning

And so he got everything basically wrong.
Because “comprehensive doctrines” and the robust moral convictions that stem from them tend to collide and compete, Rawls thought that a pluralistic society needs to take a very modest approach to political debate, restricting arguments to “public reason,” which in his terminology means giving arguments based on principles that most people will accept.

Here’s how it works. For the most part those who support voluntary euthanasia do so because of their beliefs about the meaning and purpose of human life. “It’s futile to prolong a life that has no hope of fulfillment,” someone might say. Meanwhile, those who are opposed to doctor-assisted suicide often say: “It’s not our place to decide who dies and when they die.”

Very different views of what it means to be human lie behind these statements, with one side elevating autonomy and the quality of personal experience, and the other side emphasizing a submission to reality, even it its painful and challenging forms. Yet, according to Rawls, because they—man-as-maker-of-meaning vs. man-as-grateful-recipient—are “comprehensive doctrines,” they should not be invoked as public reasons.
Thanks Prof. Reno!



G. E. M. Anscombe famously held that there are some positions in ethics that are so odious that in many cases the proper way to respond to someone who holds them is, not to discuss his error with him, but rather to refuse to discuss it. Her example was someone who proposes, in all seriousness, to kill an innocent person for the sake of some allegedly greater good. In Anscombe’s view, the person who makes such a proposal manifests a “corrupt mind,” even if he is sincerely open to debating its merits; we might even say that his corruption is all the greater precisely because he sincerely wants to debate it. One way to understand the reasoning behind her view is in terms of the Aristotelian idea that moral understanding is more a matter of having the right sensibilities and dispositions than it is the having of a correct theoretical understanding. Indeed, it is on this view difficult for someone even to have a correct theoretical understanding in the first place if he does not to some extent already have the right traits of character. This seems to me an eminently conservative view to take, insofar as it reflects the insight that much of our knowledge is tacit rather than articulate, embodied in habit and tradition rather than in the explicitly formulated propositions of a philosophical theory. It is a paradigmatically anti-rationalistic conception of ethics (which, of course, does not mean that it is anti-reason).
Feser on Anscombe.

Some propositions are so odious the correct response is to refuse to discuss them! A great truth.


busy busy!

buying a house, taking care of a newborn, working all the time. things might settle down in a few months!


Nancy Pelosi says: Give poor people contraception so they stop reproducing

Remember this gem from the wretched Speaker of the House?:
“Family planning services reduce costs.”

That’s what Speaker Nancy Pelosi told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week. She was defending a provision in the original stimulus bill that would have spent hundreds of millions of dollars for birth control. Republicans had criticized this provision, and so the Speaker responded that promoting contraception among poor people would both stimulate the economy and save the government money on welfare payments.

As the video clip shot around the web, public reaction was intense, and overwhelmingly negative—how could anybody think that preventing poor people from being born was the moral way to help poor people out of poverty? It had the air of eugenics about it, as if she were saying that one generation of poor people is enough. Even the liberal partisan Chris Matthews thought Pelosi’s position resembled China’s one-child policy. In response to the backlash, the President told Pelosi to remove the contraception funding from the stimulus bill.
And she's a Catholic. Now that's concern for the common good!


What the Church is Not

The Church is not perfect; The Church is not the Bishops; the Church is not the congregations; the Church is not the Pope; the Church is not the pedophile priests; the Church is not folk masses; the Church is not rule-based; the Church is not judgmental; the Church is not her sins; the Church is not omnipotent; the Church is not omniscient; the Church is not hypocritical; the Church is not your parents; the Church is not your CCD instructors; the Church is not in your mind; the Church is not empty; the Church is not full;the Church is not something you invent; the Church is not what Time Magazine says it is; the Church is not human; the Church is not something to be ignored.


News Flash!

The President is not responsible for the oil spill disaster on the Gulf Coast. And he's not even responsible for cleaning it up! Rest easy, liberals.


What's Wrong With the World

As far as I know this isn't a prank:
High school students and college-age adults have been complaining to District officials that the free condoms the city has been offering are not of good enough quality and are too small and that getting them from school nurses is "just like asking grandma or auntie."

So D.C. officials have decided to stock up on Trojan condoms, including the company's super-size Magnum variety, and they have begun to authorize teachers or counselors, preferably male, to distribute condoms to students if the teachers complete a 30-minute online training course called "WrapMC" -- for Master of Condoms.
Now that's tax money well spent!


Friday Night Whiskey Thoughts

I'm not sure how old you are, but I'm 25. I'm amazed that, if I turn out average, I'm expected to live for roughly another 50 years! It's certainly not a guarantee, but I've been taught to believe, and have otherwise good reason to believe it is possible and maybe even likely.

This is hard for me to fathom! I've already seen so much and lived so much. Imagine what 50 years could bring! Although I will be happy with whatever God decides to do with me, I hope that I get to see the love in my life grow.

I love my wife so much, and my new baby is a beautiful and amazing gift. I hope I'm able to appreciate both of them in 50 years as much as I appreciate them now. God grant me the strength to do this no matter the circumstances I face.


Jonah Goldberg at Commentary on the Term "Socialism" as applied to President Obama

Now, when conservatives dare to suggest, tentatively or otherwise, that Obama or his party might be in the thrall of some variant of socialism, they are derided for it. In the wake of health care’s passage, for example, a Salon article mocked conservatives for thinking that Americans now live under “the Bolshevik heel.” When the RNC was debating its resolution in 2008, Robert Schlesinger, the opinion editor of U.S. News & World Report, responded: “What’s really both funny and scary about all of this is how seriously the fringe-nuts in the GOP take it.”

Similarly, in a May 2009 interview, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham mocked the president’s critics for considering Obama to be a “crypto-socialist.” By these lights, socialism is a very sophisticated, highly technical, and historically precise phenomenon that has nothing to do with the politics or ideas of the present moment, and conservatives who invoke the term to describe Obama’s policies and ideas are at best wildly imprecise and at worst purposefully rabble-rousing. And yet when liberals themselves discuss socialism and its relation to Obama, the definition of the term “socialist” seems to loosen up considerably. Only four months before Meacham’s mockery of conservatives, he co-authored a cover story for his magazine titled “We’re All Socialists Now,” in which he and Newsweek’s Evan Thomas (grandson of the six-time Socialist-party presidential candidate Norman Thomas) argued that the growth of government was making us like a “European,” i.e. socialist, country. At the same time, a host of Left-liberal writers, most prominently E.J. Dionne and Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post, were floating the idea that the new president was ushering in a new age of “social democracy.” The left-wing activist-blogger Matthew Yglesias, echoing the Obama White House view that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, said the Wall Street meltdown offered a “real opportunity” for “massive socialism.”
But is it correct, as an objective matter, to call Obama’s agenda “socialist”? That depends on what one means by socialism. The term has so many associations and has been used to describe so many divergent political and economic approaches that the only meaning sure to garner consensus is an assertive statism applied in the larger cause of “equality,” usually through redistributive economic policies that involve a bias toward taking an intrusive and domineering role in the workings of the private sector. One might also apply another yardstick: an ambivalence, even antipathy, for democracy when democracy proves inconvenient.1 With this understanding as a vague guideline, the answer is certainly, Yes, Obama’s agenda is socialist in a broad sense. The Obama administration may not have planned on seizing the means of automobile production or asserting managerial control over Wall Street. But when faced with the choice, it did both. Obama did explicitly plan on imposing a massive restructuring of one-sixth of the U.S. economy through the use of state fiat—and he is beginning to do precisely that.
Seems to be a great essay. Goldberg is one of the few writers left at National Review who is still cranking out great stuff.


“He’s a conservative by temperament, one of the people who would have complained on the second day of Creation.”

- Father Neuhaus


A Confession

Sometimes, (big surprise) I am a terrible Christian. I missed Mass today - a Holy Day of Obligation - simply because I totally forgot until 7:45pm, 45 minutes after the last Mass of the day started. I got home at 6:30pm, and easily could have made it to the Church. But I am so preoccupied with other things in my life - family, work, and relaxing in front of the television or the internet - that I do not make enough time for God even just to think about Him, to think enough that I would remember that He calls me to worship on some days set aside for Him. For this I am sorry, and I am embarassed. I do vow to change this bad habit I have developed, the habit of forgetting the most important Person in my life, and to pray daily to change my ways.

Happy Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ!



New babies seem to have inverted sleeping schedules, or at least ours does!


Your thoughts appreciated

Should I move into the woods, 40 minutes away from family, friends, and civilization ? (I found a cheap, beautiful new house there)


the Boston Globe has a great article about religion?

It's true! They let someone onto the pages of the Boston Globe who knows a little bit about religion. Professor Stephen Prothero of Boston University (?) writes about how all religions are actually different, and that these differences matter. We cannot and should not pretend that all religions lead to the same God, because believers do not believe so. To think otherwise is to disrespect believers of all kinds, and it is the opposite of "celebrating diversity" - it ignores diversity and replaces it with a lie. The Professor clearly sees the motivation of advocates of this "all roads lead to the same God" idea in a particularly perceptive passage in the middle of the article:
I understand what these people are doing. They are not describing the world but reimagining it. They are hoping that their hope will call up in us feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood. In the face of religious bigotry and bloodshed, past and present, we cannot help but be drawn to such hope, and such vision. Yet we must not mistake either for clear-eyed analysis.
Those who preach one world religion and who ignore genuine religious differences are reimagining the world, as Professor Prothero aptly puts it. I believe this tendency - the tendency to reimagine the world - is omnipresent in our world today. I get this idea from a philosophy professor of mine from way back when who was fond of saying that the single unifying characteristic of modern philosophy is that tries to project itself onto the world. Modern minds want to project their vision of reality onto the world. This stands in stark contrast to the ancient thinkers, who understood the purpose of philosophy and indeed of reason itself to know the world as it is, and to conform one's actions to this reality. In ignoring religious differences, modern thinkers indulge in a fantasy that renders them ineffective and unpersuasive. Pretending differences do not exist does not eliminate the differences. In fact, it may aggravate things by obscuring what is truly held in common, these commonalities being the prerequisite of a true conversation. Not to mention, pretending all religions are the same is simply rude. Professor Prothero's article is a great antidote to the modern way of thinking and I hope read more from him in the future.

Father James Schall Quotation #34,331

Father James Schall writing about justice:
More injustice is caused in the world by philosophers and politicians who rashly pursue its perfection than by those who simply do unjust things. Almost every disordered political movement is postulated as a form of justice. The movement explains itself in justice’s noble name. Democracies, including our own these days, are susceptible to such aberrations. The danger is acute when leaders, who concoct such “justice” ideas, are little aware of the final or immediate ends of man. The new “justice” is designed to replace something basic to natural law or revelation.

Tradition defines justice: “To return to each what is due.” Aristotle distinguishes its different kinds. He lived before “Earth Days.” Their advocates consider the planet itself to be an object of “justice.” Therefore, the state is empowered to “save” us by imposing “environmental justice” on us all. To many, if the planet is used for that which the planet is intended, namely, for man, this use is an injustice against some unknown generation down the ages.
Read the whole article! More:
Earlier, in the Republic, Socrates formulated five definitions of justice: Justice is 1) to return what is due and tell the truth; 2) to do good to your friends and evil to your enemies; 3) the interest of the stronger (Machiavelli); 4) a pact whereby we stand midway between doing the worst evil and suffering the worst evil, and, finally, the proper one, 5) when every specialized part of a whole functions as it should for a common good.
He's still writing with great wisdom and lucidity in his mid-eighties. Awesome.


Philosophy and Alcohol Go Together

Prof. Edward Feser on "the Metaphysics of the Martini"
But is there a norm here? I addressed the question once before in a gag post, but since we’ve been discussing the metaphysics of artifacts, let’s address it semi-seriously. To certain super-sophisticates, vermouth, never mind scotch, shouldn’t appear in a Martini at all. (There’s the famous crack about Churchill to the effect that when mixing his Martinis he’d look in the direction of France, which would suffice for the vermouth. Perhaps Churchill’s Burnt Martini recipe would have called for a mere glance northward toward Scotland or a toot on the bagpipes.) This seems to me more than a little precious. And just false. Here’s the basic reasoning: A Martini is a kind of cocktail; cocktails are mixed drinks; gin by itself is not a mixed drink; ergo, gin by itself is not a cocktail, and thus not a Martini.


22 Week Old Baby Survives Abortion Attempt

News from Italy:
The 22-week infant died one day later in intensive care at a hospital in the mother's home town of Rossano in southern Italy.

The mother, pregnant for the first time, had opted for an abortion after prenatal scans suggested that her baby was disabled.

However, the infant survived the procedure, carried out on Saturday in the Rossano Calabro hospital, and was left by doctors to die.

He was discovered alive the following day – some 20 hours after the operation – by Father Antonio Martello, the hospital chaplain, who had gone to pray beside his body.

He found that the baby, wrapped in a sheet with his umbilical cord still attached, was moving and breathing.

The priest raised the alarm and doctors immediately arranged for the infant to be taken to a specialist neo-natal unit at the neighbouring Cosenza hospital, where he died on Monday morning.

Italian police are investigating the case for "homicide" because infanticide is illegal in Italy.

The law means that doctors have had an obligation to try to preserve the life of the child once he had survived the abortion.
But abortion should be legal, right? Unrelated - what did they do with baby after they tried to abort him such that someone found him lying in a blanket? I thought they through dead unborn babies in biowaste containers, or something like that.


The State's Incentives

State funded health care necessarily incentivizes the state to increase the number of abortions, the practice of euthanasia, and the availability of contraceptives. The state is also perhaps paradoxically incentivized to regulate with great precision the habits of its citizens with specific regard to food, alcohol, tobacco, and exercise. This brief commentary will explain why this is the case and some of the first order ramifications for our culture.

One must begin with a clear conception of the nature of the modern state. The state is not a charitable organization with infinite resources, but a bureaucratic machine whose goal must be to efficiently collect and redistribute the wealth of its citizens. This collection and redistribution process is necessary to maintain the services (like health care) and programs the state provides for its citizens, for the state cannot create wealth and prosperity ex nihilo - persons create wealth and the state can only subsist off the wealth of these persons. The state has a budget and it must maintain its budget and eventually pay its debts, or the state will risk war with lending countries. In all of this it is clear that the primary interest of the state is not its citizens but money or wealth, for the collection and redistribution of money is the state’s modus operandi.

The state is interested in increasing abortions for the following, hopefully intuitive, reason. Abortion causes the death of an individual person, and death in general alleviates the financial and technical burden of the state (the less people within the state’s provision, the more effective the state’s control can be). The death of the young and the death of the old are of particular interest to the state, because these groups of people require the most care and the most money.

It follows from the same logic that contraception, which cuts off the source of life, is highly regarded by the state. The state may even have an interest in increasing the availability of contraception in populations that are particularly burdensome to the state. The state has an interest in maximizing the number of contributors to the state’s wealth, and also maintaining or minimizing the number of people who are dependent on the state. Contraception helps the state attain this goal.

Finally it is worth mentioning that this also applies, maybe especially, to the practice of euthanasia, which no doubt will be legal in our country soon. Old people are perhaps the most expensive to care for, and so they will be the most expendable. This will be further justified by the state’s alleged virtue of alleviating the suffering of its citizens, its true motives obscure from common public view.

In abbreviated terms, the state has an interest in minimizing the number of people for which it is responsible, and will accomplish this goal through the means of abortion, contraception and euthanasia. But this is only one half of the picture, only one means by which the state controls its citizens. The second is more insidious but less morally serious.

Let’s say you eat too much sodium. Too many cheeseburgers, or something. You will eventually require expensive health care, which is the responsibility of the state. But the state does not want to pay for your bad habits. It needs to reduce the money it spends, and so it has to regulate sodium consumption. But it doesn't regulate abortion because abortion eliminates the need to provide care for anyone in the first place. I suspect sodium is just the first in a long line of things that will be regulated. "It's for the common good!"

The state is thus concerned with the de-regulation and indeed proliferation of some things, and the precise regulation and control of others. The state is both liberal and illiberal, but it is above everything and directs the affairs of everyone. In the process it fosters a culture that is opposed to traditional morality and common sense. All people of good faith and good will ought to oppose the very far-reaching actions of the state. Limited government is a public good not because the government is evil but because there are practical limitations on what the government can be expected to do without having to disrespect the dignity of the human person.


A simple truth

I was listening to a new Peter Kreeft lecture the other day and he made an astoundingly simple point that struck me as worth writing down and sharing with others. He asks a question at one point: "Why should we love each other?" After all, everyone agrees we should. But most everyone disagrees about why we should. Modern culture teaches us that the answer must come from this world, that our reason for loving should be something in this life. But this answer is never and can never be enough. The true answer, and the only satisfying answer is because there is life after death. Because whether or not we love matters eternally. I think every human person knows this if they are honest with themselves.


Hospitals with wireless internet are neat!


I Can't Believe I Missed Equal Pay Day!

There I was, blissfully loafing around like the very pregnant lady that I am, and I somehow managed to miss Equal Pay Day! It's so hard to stay on top of these things when you no longer live on a campus and no one actually cares what the feminists have to say. The official holiday was on Tuesday, and is meant to "'symbolize how far into 2010 women must work to earn what men earned in 2009,' says the National Committee on Pay Equity."

How does the enlightened individual celebrate such a holiday, you ask? Why, with the feminist trifecta, of course: rallies, speak-outs, and bake sales. Nothing says "I deserve a higher salary" like a chocolate chip cookie baked with love. Equal Pay Day is also a great excuse to indulge in some (legal) substance abuse: "NOW suggests women gather together at local bars for “Un-happy Hours” where they can share their dissatisfactions. 'See if a local bar, club, or restaurant (try the women-owned ones first!) will give you drink specials [where] women pay 78% of their tabs and men pay 100%'." Women are allowed to own bars now?! Wow, thanks feminists!

Anyway, Christina Hoff Sommers of AEI takes the feminists to task over the idea that women earn 22% less than men for doing the same work.


What happened, Peggy?

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks Peggy Noonan has lost her appeal as a thoughtful political commentator: Professor Francis Beckwith expresses my thoughts exactly in a comment over at What's Wrong With the World.
Peggy "A thousand points of light" Noonan often confuses a turn of a phrase with an insight in thought. The lady who is "all words and no action" wrote the speeches for the first President Bush who was "all action and no words."

I used to like Noonan, but now I find her to be pretentious and annoying. Ever since she went after Sarah Palin, I began to see Peggy as a smoldering cauldron of rage carefully hidden under an overly polite literary smugness.
Case in point: a recent op-ed of hers was titled "How to Save the Catholic Church". One would think a Catholic would acknowledge that only God was capable of that prodigious task. But Ms. Noonan would now lead us to believe that all one needs to do is look to a human idea scrawled in an op-ed. It's just silly to me.

But please do not get me wrong, I do not revel in saying this. Ms. Noonan was friends with one of my heroes, the Late Father Richard John Neuhaus, and I know he had great respect for her. I wonder if Father Neuhaus would have respect for her columns as of late?


The Impracticality of Distributism

Why is distributism overlooked? Because it's nice in theory but in practice requires a centralized administrative state to ensure everybody follows the rules.

Distributists have some serious questions to answer: how do we implement distributism in practice? Where are the historical models we can look to in forming the new distributist economic arrangement? How will distributism change our political institutions, and what kind of political institutions are required to sustain a distributist economy? How does a distributist economy interact with other, free economies? How do the limitations imposed by a distributist economy affect the culture? I'm not the person to answer these questions, and I haven't found anyone who can answer all of them persuasively. Such a great political thinker the world has not yet seen. Maybe he will someday arrive. Until then it is best to spend our energy reforming and perfecting the current political and economic arrangements, because they are what we have now. There is something to maintaining the status quo, especially when the status quo has been conducive to prosperity and peace, two things which are not the historical norm. So people, rightly so, are not concerned with distributism because the implementation of distributism requires a full scale socio-political revolution. No one wants to wage a revolution because things are, on whole and considering the witness of history, pretty good.

The truth of the matter is that no one has laid out a persuasive practical plan for a distributist society, and until this happens distributism will continue to be marginalized by political philosophers everywhere.

Lastly a remark about distributism and what can correctly be called "beyondism". Distributists are often concerned with "getting beyond partisan divides," i.e. getting beyond capitalism and socialism. This is a particular temptation for Catholics, who are correct in thinking that Catholic morality (personal and social) transcends partisanship, but incorrect in thinking that a parallel truth exists for Catholic political thinking. Partisan political divides within and without the Church are not a bad thing. The only way we can expect all Catholics to agree about the best political and economic arrangements is if such truths (a) exist and we can know them and (b) such truths are divinely revealed. We know definitively, as the Church repeatedly teaches in Her social thought, that the specifics of politics and economics are not part of revelation. Therefore we should not expect Catholics to speak with one voice about politics: we should expect a healthy plurality of political and economic opinions grounded in the divinely revealed principles of Catholic Social Teaching.



My husband was pretty excited to find this post over on the First Things blog yesterday. He and I have about five giant bookcases in our small one-bedroom apartment... and that doesn't even account for the books we have squirreled away at our parents' homes. To be frank, we love books. Like, really love them. Old books, new books... I enjoy just looking at all their spines, ready and waiting for someone to pluck them off their sagging shelves. I adore reading with and to children, and we've already started a small collection of books to enjoy with Baby Boy once he decides to arrive...assuming he savors the written word as much as his parents.

The First Things post is about a study which finds that “Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books. This is a large effect, both absolutely and in comparison with other influences on education,” adds the research team, led by University of Nevada sociologist M.D.R. Evans. “A child from a family rich in books is 19 percentage points more likely to complete university than a comparable child growing up without a home library.”

Now, to me, this just seems obvious. Children take their cues from the world around them, and if Mommy and Daddy spend hours a day watching television, then the children tacitly understand that television is highly valued. Children have far more common sense than we give them credit for - just take a look around you the next time you're at Mass. Find the children who don't kneel or sing along or reverently receive the Eucharist - are Mommy and Daddy kneeling or singing along or reverent? It follows that a home with books (and not just as decoration, but as something read and shared and discussed) will foster children who see that reading and thinking are worthwhile endeavors.


Congress Members Caught in a Lie

Apparently the Congressional Black Caucus members accused tea party protesters of shouting racial slurs at them while they walked into a Congressional building. Trouble is, there is video footage of the event that gives no evidence of such a thing ever happening. Andrew Breitbart has put out a $100,000 reward for any person who can produce a video tape of the supposed racially charged comments. If it happened, there is a good probability that such a video exists because of the all the new-fangled technology that exists (small video recorders, etc), and may people were recording the event. As of yet Mr. Breitbart has been unable to hand out his reward and there so there is no evidence that the alleged racially charged comments were ever made.

The Congressmen have backed away from their original remarks and have refused to talk to media outlets since the event occurred (this includes the AP). This is a problem, not just because they lied about what happened, but because of the content of the lie. The intention of the lie was to produce animosity between different races in this country - to create a conflict that doesn't really exist, and to distract the rest of the country from the real debate, which is about the role of government in our lives today. This is, in my opinion, deplorable. We should work to vote these Congressmen out of office in the next election.

But of course, we won't, because we don't pay attention to politics and we have a short memory and we never hold our politicians accountable. This is what will make America fail. We do not participate in our democracy.


Flushing an Extra Time

National Review has a funny piece up that nicely details some of the frustrations of modern life. Please permit to quote ad nauseum:
Bleary-eyed, I crawl out of bed, shuffle into the bathroom, and flip on the lights, but the bulb is out. I remind myself to get to Home Depot and stockpile a few cases of good, old-fashioned incandescent bulbs while I still can. After my morning business, I flush an extra time, since 1.6 gallons just doesn’t seem to do the trick. But at least we’re saving water, huh? Hop in the shower, where the water trickles out at an EPA-limited 2.5 gallons per minute. I think I’ll stay in here for an extra ten minutes or so.

I walk out to get the morning paper and take out the trash. “Honey, make sure to put out the recycling, too.” Right. I hope we sorted this stuff correctly. As I’m contemplating whether you can recycle pizza boxes, my dog fertilizes the lawn, so I go looking for a plastic bag (without holes).

I load my daughter into my fuel-inefficient SUV, asking myself how many hybrids the manufacturer had to make to offset the hit against Department of Transportation CAFE standards. She’s comfortably seated in her state-mandated booster seat. With no time for a decent breakfast, we hop in the drive-through lane at McDonald’s. I wonder how they’re going to get all that nutrition information required by Obamacare on the drive-through menu. Or how I’m going to be able to read it. Not to worry, though — at least no insurance company can refuse to cover me for my high cholesterol now. Who says there is no such thing as a free breakfast?

On the way to the office, my cell phone rings, but I can’t answer it because I can’t find my hands-free device. I drop by the bank for some cash and ponder whether I’ve exceeded the six withdrawals per month permitted by the Fed’s Regulation D. I spend my day at work trying to save a client facing possible extinction from a federal regulation that would effectively shut his business down. Thank goodness I don’t have to deal with such oppressive regulations in my daily life.

On the way home, I stop at the drugstore to pick up some cold medicine. They ask for my ID and check the log to see the last time I bought any. The feds want to make sure I’m not manufacturing crystal meth. Me, manufacture meth? I have a hard time making pancakes.
The whole article is great.


Our Formerly Decent Society

Even a casual observer of American society can tell that there is a certain sinister chaos spreading throughout every aspect of public life these days. Naturally, as it filters through society it finds its way into our homes, families and personal lives as well. The reports of monumental breakups and takeovers, meltdowns, dysfunctions, cutbacks, disasters, protests, catastrophic events, scandals, and just plain moral chaos are, shall we say, legion, and it does not look like there will be any let up in the dismantling of our formerly decent society any time soon. Public officials and the movers-and-shakers of social communications long ago divorced American culture from authentic Christian values, and the result is that modern America has found itself first wandering then running down a very slippery slope to moral and social anarchy. The darkness has settled upon us.
Father Eutenheuer is right.


This Guy Makes Biden Look Like a Genius

Rep. Johnson's reply to the general public's shock is below, too. Judge for yourself...

Rep. Hank Johnson responds:
“I wasn’t suggesting that the island of Guam would literally tip over I was using a metaphor to say that with the addition of 8,000 Marines and their dependents – an additional 80,000 people during peak construction on the tiny island with a population of 180,000 – could be a tipping point which could adversely affect the island’s fragile ecosystem and could overburden its stressed infrastructure. Having traveled to Guam last year, I saw firsthand how this beautiful – but vulnerable island – could easily become overburdened, and I was simply voicing my concerns that the addition of that many people could tip the delicate balance and do permanent harm to Guam.”

Hmmmm. Somehow I think that if this is what he had actually meant, he probably would have said this. Instead of implying that the island was a giant Ritz cracker, floating precariously on the ocean.



Casting Stones

Jimmy Akin does a great job of clearly describing the details of the case that is the focus of the recent sex abuse hysteria.

It is still fascinating to me that publications like the New York Times can spiral downward into the realm of tabloid sensationalism, hardly conducting legitimate research or verifying sources - editors of high school newspapers appear to have higher standards. As Akin notes, the NYT ultimately shoots itself in the foot by providing links to some primary source documents that pertain to the case. Savvy readers of the sources can come to their own conclusions, after sifting through the mud that serves as unbiased reporting in NY.

As disturbing and frustrating as some facts of the case are, and as tempting as it is to bury one's head in the sand and pray that the articles and hysteria just go away, it is ultimately important that Catholics do two things: (1) Pray for everyone involved in the scandal, from abused to abusers to Catholics with the courage to speak out against the mistreatment of the Pope and (2) Make ourselves as knowledgeable about the case as possible because when others ask you about the facts or make rude comments, which they will, we need to be armed and ready.

Let me end by saying that I in no way condone any misconduct on the part of the Catholic Church, especially where the abuse of its youngest members are concerned. I do take umbrage, however, at the way in which so-called journalists, New Atheists, and others of a similar stripe rabidly snatch at any and all things negative that can be associated with the Church and boldly broadcast them as "fact." You can practically hear them giggling with glee at the thought that they contributed to the witch hunt that may finally take down the monolithic Catholic Church.



Health Care: What does the bill do?

One of the few things I know about the health care legislation is that it forces everyone in the country to buy insurance from an insurance company, with the idea that this will lower the premiums people pay because there will be more healthy people paying into the system, and this increased revenue (FOR THE INSURANCE COMPANIES) will subsidize the sick people.

My question is this: what's to stop the health care insurance companies from increasing the cost of the premiums for everyone? Does the legislation regulate the prices that health care insurance companies can charge, too? If so, how and by what standard?


People with Power Naturally Abuse It

In other words, only a saint makes a good politician.

With this on his mind, Joseph Bottum of First Things expresses his concern with the health care plan: (Courtesy of Professor Garnett at Mirror of Justice)
. . . The iniquitous distribution of American medicine is a scandal, but even the incomplete moves of the current plan create a system that no future bureaucracy will be able to resist using for social engineering. It puts an enormous section of the American economy and a huge slice of decisions about life and death in the hands of a government-employed elite. And, given the condition of elite opinion today, that will always mean increased government-sponsored abortion and euthanasia. We have seen it at the United Nations, and we have seen it in the European Union, and we will see it in the United States as well: You cannot create a system that allows bureaucrats to undertake major social changes and imagine that they will not use it. You cannot put their hands on the wheel and expect that they won’t start turning. . . .
To this progressive and liberal-minded people have no rejoinder, only denial and unflagging optimism. Unfortunately some actions carried out with good intentions have terrible unintended consequences. One wishes for politicians long-sighted enough to see.


Things to Do

My heart is broken to hear these stories about the Pope.

I pray they are not true.

Pray for the Church and pray for the truth.


Read Patrick Deneen

The Current State of The Institution of Marriage

Via First Things
Marriage, in what is evidently its most popular version, is now on the one hand an intimate “relationship” involving (ideally) two successful careerists in the same bed, and on the other hand a sort of private political system in which rights and interests must be constantly asserted and defended. Marriage, in other words, has now taken the form of divorce: a prolonged and impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided. During their understandably temporary association, the “married” couple will typically consume a large quantity of merchandise and a large portion of each other.

—Wendell Berry
Sure, this is a reason to be sad but it also is a call. Great marriages are needed badly to buck this trend. Make your marriage a great one: love your spouse!


Health Care

Can anyone explain to me in a short paragraph what the health care bill does? Or point me to an article where it is explained? I would be much obliged. I question whether anyone knows what the bill does; it is approximately 2300 pages and no longer includes some of the major features that were readily identifiable as significant changes. This is especially concerning when the President's Chief Actuary at the Department of Health and Human Services says: "I regret that my staff and I will not be able to prepare our analysis within this very tight time frame, due to the complexity of the legislation."


the limits of the "blogosphere"

Nate Wildermuth wants to Christianize the blogosphere. A noble goal, indeed. In the course of his proposal, he suggests that the Catholic blogosphere is concerned with evangelization or formation. Broadly speaking, I think this is not true. The blogosphere is concerned with the application of Catholic principles to public life. This means the blogosphere deals in opinion where reasonable people can disagree. There is less light here. Because of this, the most important intellectual quality for Catholics is proper perspective, i.e. an appreciation of the hierarchy of truth. This is another way of saying we must be humble. If we cannot distinguish between principle and practical judgment, between dogma and opinion, and between the highest truths we know with certainty by faith and the lower truths we know with much less certainty by reason, we will not be able to find our common ground nor the true source of our disagreements. The internet is really nothing but a good place to have a conversation with people you might not encounter in your daily life. I think it's silly to expect much out of it...except perhaps a way to challenge your ideas. But I don't mean to knock Nate for trying...


2074 Pages of Absurdity

Fr. Robert Araujo thinks we should be able to read and understand the legislation passed by our Congress. How quaint!
I am one of those folks who thinks that the parliamentary process of legislation necessitates the deliberation of texts so that legislators and citizens can know, if they read it, what pending legislation says and what it does not say. This is a point I have been making in my legislation courses that I have taught over the past twenty-four years. I find it of great concern when legislators do not know on what they are voting regarding the content of the text. I realize that there are occasions, especially when legislative proposals are hundreds or thousands of pages long (such as the stimulus package of last year) that legislators’ familiarization with the text is difficult to master. But this is not a good pretext to excuse legislators from having the opportunity to know on what it is that they are committing the nation whom they represent. Texts and familiarization with what they contain are vital to law-making and to the democratic process to which we citizens entrust to our legislators.
Father Robert should understand that sometimes the common good requires getting past our common sense and that we should simply trust our congresspeople to do the right thing. Words are just a social construction, anyways. They mean one thing today, and tomorrow something else. They are useful insofar as they influence who holds "the power".


Arbitrary Privileges

Charles Kesler understands the health-care reform legislation:
Can you have a bill, a single law, that is almost 3,000 pages long? In the old days, that would have constituted a whole code of laws. When our founders thought about law, they often thought along the lines of John Locke, who described law as a community's "settled standing rules, indifferent, and the same to all parties," emphasizing that to be legitimate a statute must be "received and allowed by common consent to be the standard of right and wrong, and the common measure to decide all controversies" between citizens.

This phonebook-sized law that would control a sixth of the U.S. economy cannot be a law by that definition. If you rummage through the text of, say, the House of Representatives' version of the bill, you find scores of places where power is delegated to administrative agencies and special boards, which are charged to fill the gaps in the written legislation by promulgating thousands, if not tens of thousands, of new pages of regulations that will then be applied to individual cases. Voters sometimes complain that legislators don't read the laws they enact. Why would they, in this case? You could read this leviathan until your eyeballs popped out and still not find any "settled, standing rules" or a meaning that is "indifferent, and the same to all parties."

In fact, that's the point of such promiscuous laws. They operate not by setting up fences to protect each man's liberty. They start not from equal rights but from equal (and often unequal) privileges, the favors or benefits that government may bestow on or withhold from its clients. The whole point is to empower government officials, usually unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, to bless or curse your petitions as they see fit, guided, of course, by their expertness in a law so vast, so intricate, and so capricious that it could justify a hundred different outcomes in the same case. Faster than one might think, a government of equal laws turns into a regime of arbitrary privileges.


Omnipresent Pride

Mary Eberstadt has an excellent column in today's Catholic Thing.
All of us face the same problem of distinguishing what must be done to build the Kingdom from what must be done to build the Kingdom of Me. Does the diligent student work harder than anyone else in class to develop God-given talents – or because he wants to be godlike in academic prowess over others? Does the zealous volunteer labor selflessly for the good of the hospital or school – or does she work to burnish the image of herself as top charity dog?

Or consider the enormous role of “social networking,” meaning life lived online – a world in which the constant updating and promotion and image-building of oneself is not only socially acceptable, but the necessary norm. Has there ever been a bigger labyrinth than the Internet for the sin of excessive self-regard to hide?
To which one might add, does one write on a blog for the greater glory of God, or does one write on a blog to promote oneself and one's own excellence? I wish I could say I always act for the former reason, but all too often I think of myself first. This is a struggle not just on the internet, but everywhere and always in my life. Catholics are called to put God first, in everything we do. When you get up and brush your teeth in the morning, it should be to glorify God - even something as simple as bending over to tie your shoe can be offered up to God as a form of praise. I hope to learn to live my life this way before I die.