Wednesday, April 28, 2004

DoD on LAT

Jonah Goldberg on NRO points to this bit of classic Rumsfeld from yesterday morning's press briefing (and you can just see him delivering it with the free-verse style pauses):

There are two ways, I suppose, one could inform readers of the Geneva Convention stipulation against using places of worship to conduct military attacks. One might be to headline saying that "Terrorists Attack Coalition Forces From Mosques." That would be one way to present the information.

Another might be to say: "Mosques Targeted in Fallujah." That was the Los Angeles Times headline this morning.

So true. But there's no spin coming from the media on Iraq, right? None at all.

I have a lot to blog on, but Tax is killing me right now and Copyright's right after that (and then I owe my best friend a letter), so stuff may have to wait 48 hours. Hasta entonces :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Too late for me

I had read this great Wings&Vodka post the other day on the unlikely joys of BlueBooking, and then it was all brought home for me. Last night my sister (in high school) asked me to proofread a short paper of hers, including the works cited page, and within minutes I had it all in working BlueBook order. Italicize "available at". Two spaces after periods. Proper line spacing. Don't italicize the wrong punctuation marks . . . And there you had it. I officially can never look at a footnote again without having the urge to pick up a pencil and go at it.

Reality bites

A round-up of some of the coverage of Sunday's March: Annie at After abortion shared her experience holding a sign saying "I regret my abortion," as part of the Silent No More Awareness group at the March. While many marchers did not respond to these women (and some men with signs saying "I regret lost fatherhood"), many were personally abusive, hurling invective at the women and laughing at them. But the women's witness did touch several individuals. Maybe marches have little political impact, but Annie testifies to the personal impact that can be made.

The whole point of the protest was to let our signs do all the talking for us. We were to not respond to anything. It was hard to do. . . . The silence had the most incredible impact on the pro-choice people walking by. They seemed to fully expect a barrage of insults and condemnation. Some actually crossed the street to avoid us, but most did not. It was actually eerily calm and quiet even while probably a couple thousand walked by [before the march].

At least a dozen women (I’m guessing they were between 45 and 65 years old) who saw my sign before the march sneered at me saying, “I had TWO [abortions] and I don’t regret them for a second!” The bragging quality shocked me at first, but as the day wore on, it just saddened me.

Terry Mattingly at GetReligion looked at aspects of the aspects of coverage of the March. There's a good discussion going on at Amy Welborn's blog here. And Kathryn Lopez at NRO gives her take on the March here (as a politically-minded operation with an "Anybody But Bush" theme) and comments on the hostility of a lot of the feminists here.

Of course, there were plenty of relatively hum-drum placards and t-shirts, etc., around the nation's capital this weekend: "It's Your Choice...Not Theirs," "Stop Bush's War on Women," and the like. But you couldn't avoid the obvious: At the official march kickoff rally Saturday night, the most frequently used word was the f-word — and I don't mean "feminist." There was a crass, angry framework to the whole march weekend, in fact. President Bush hates women, for sure. And, mercy be on any woman in the line of sight of John Ashcroft (that would be, for the record, every American woman). Abortionist George Tiller actually referred to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft as "the four horsemen of the apocalypse" — which, I guess, makes eternal damnation all the more fitting. The war being waged is against women; as one attendee put it: "Pro-life is to Christianity as al Qaeda is to Islam." . . . What was desperately lacking at the March for Women's Lives was any sense of perspective.

Finally, lest anyone (like the folks who think I'm "absolutely frickin' crazy" over at Law Dork) still think the pictures I linked to below were unrepresentative, Steve at SA links to these pictures of many more signs at the March, and Kathryn Lopez points to these. Some of them are pretty crude. Even NOW's photo page includes Whoopi Goldberg with coathangers and some crude signs (Cybill Shepherd's is cut off here, but is visible in the ACLU's photo gallery as saying "Too bad John Ashcroft's mother didn't believe in abortion"). Not everyone was like this, of course, but it was far from a fringe group of marchers, and certainly not repudiated by most. These were not people marching with a sense of sorrow that abortion might be wrong but somehow necessary in "rare" circumstances. These were people celebrating abortion itself.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Day of the locusts

So the pro-choice "March for Women's Lives" has garnered a few hundred thousand people today and overrun the Mall. Although, as WSJ's James Taranto would probably note, it's fewer people than might have been there, given the fact that pro-choice people have more abortions, and thus naturally lessen their own numbers over time: the Roe effect in action. In any event, La Shawn Barber has a good post today on the right mindset with which to approach the marchers (which mindset is properly opposed to those "pro-life" people who hold signs saying things like "God hates you" - it's untrue and wholly lacking in the compassion and humility which we all should feel toward women and men faced with difficult situations in pregnancies). La Shawn is right that prayer is what is most called for on a day like today, in the face of the Culture of Death.

On a related note, I wrote a little the other day about Martin Sheen's comments that while he was strongly pro-life, he didn't feel he could generalize the principle to speak for others, "particularly a black or brown or poor pregnant woman." On the contrary, those women are exactly who he should be standing up for, since abortion has disproportionately affected minority and poor women. In light of today's March purporting to stand up for all women and their rights, I wanted to post a bit more about the hard realities here: whole communities have been exploited and decimated.

12.1% of Americans were below the poverty level in 2002. But according to Planned Parenthood's research arm, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, that income group has 27% of all abortions. African-Americans and Hispanics make up about 12% and 13%, respectively, of the American population. But African-Americans have 32% of all abortions, and Hispanics have 20% - which means a group that makes up a quarter of the population has more than half of all abortions. Unfortunately, this fact is not as widely known by members of the communities themselves, and there is often denial about it - especially given the contradiction between the numbers of abortions here, and the numbers of people who still say they don't believe in abortion. Pro-life African-American groups such as the Life Education and Resource Network (LEARN), who are working to raise awareness, decry the fact that over 13 million black children have been aborted since Roe v. Wade in 1973 - meaning the African-American population would be a third larger today without abortion. As writer Michael Novak has noted: "If this were any other activity, less protected by the liberal elites, this fact alone would brand abortion a racist policy."

It's certainly a profitable enterprise for those engaged in its promotion. Planned Parenthood, among others, rakes in the money. In 2002 the non-profit group had, in fact, over $35 million in profits in the course of providing over 227,000 abortions (about 20% of all abortions done that year).

Planned Parenthood et al. claim to be in solidarity with minorities and poor women. In fact, their multi-million-dollar industry counts on these women killing their own children, and further devastates and exploits their communities. Principle? Don't be fooled: the financial interest is at least as strong as the ideology here. The "choice" they fight for is bought and paid for with blood money.

This is what a feminist looks like

I hope it's okay to link to photos I'm not hosting . . . just in case, the photo is by the AP. (I also hope I know the answers to questions like this by the time I take my Copyright exam on Friday :) In any event, here's a sample of the "highly festive" marchers standing up for the right to kill the unborn.



This Reuters image also struck me - these women seem to be dancing around and taunting the pro-life demonstrator, who doesn't seem to be saying anything but just standing with his poster showing the reality of abortion. The macabre dance around an image of death is about as illustrative of what's going on here as you can get.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Present sense impressions

Evidence exam tomorrow (a four-hour happy fun event), and then I'm heading up to South Bend to visit my sister and a good friend from college. In the meantime, I recommend this topical article from the new First Things on a study about politics, religion, and journalism (are the GetReligion guys on this one?). I haven't finished reading it all yet myself, but like most FT articles, it promises to be good :)

Americans who want to understand conflicts between Democrats and Republicans during the election season have received precious little help from the media. While reporters usually recognize that there is some sort of problem about “values” and about “faith-based” principles, and that the Democrats and Republicans are often on opposite sides, writers and editors tend to publish news and analysis as if the situation were as follows: The Christian right, having infiltrated the Republican Party, is importing its divisive religious ideas into our public life, whereas the Democratic Party is the neutral camp of tolerant and pluralistic Americans. . . . What the journalists leave out of their accounts is the fact that the nonreligious have also become aggressive actors on the political stage and that they possess and promote, in fact, an overarching religious worldview of their own—one that can fairly be called secularism.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Compare and contrast

Annie at After abortion makes a prediction (quite probable in light of the great amount of coverage that's already been given this march, in comparison to the annual January March for Life):

Don't need to be psychic to predict this: next Sunday night on the major news channels and Monday in all the 100s of liberal rags, you'll see huge, color, opportunistic photos of whoever showed up, splashing in front of our eyes, covering the top halves of every front page and leading each 'newscast,' not a pro-life counter-rally person in sight, and whatever numbers are quoted will be exaggerated upward. Bias is as bias does.

Well, hopefully the images will reveal the true nature of the march. If we can get huge splashy images of hippie radicals (in favor of genetically pure trees, rhapsodic Shakespeare, Trotskyism, and the right to kill almost-born children by collapsing their skulls) engaging in property destruction and screaming obscenities at pro-lifers, I'd be in favor of printing those. Let's let everyone see, shall we?

On a more positive note, it appears according to LifeNews that Martin Sheen has taken his name off the list of those in support of this weekend's march. A poster on Amy Welborn's blog linked to an interview with Sheen in which he had expressed fairly strong pro-life views:

"We are addicted to power, we're addicted to our own image of ourselves, to violence, divorce, abortion, and sex. . . . As a father and a grandfather, I have had experience with children who don't always come when they are planned, and I have experienced the great joy of God's presence in my children, so I'm inclined to be against abortion of any life."

Yet he maintains a strong "I can't tell anyone else, especially poor or minority women, what to do" attitude in spite of this conviction. No, no - it is precisely the poor and minority women, who often feel they have no choice and who are disproportionately affected by the tragedy of abortion, for whom he must speak. God's presence is in all their children, too. In this as in many issues, Sheen reaches somewhat confused conclusions about issues fundamental to his professed faith - but at least in this instance, he's taken some step not to be so directly aligned with pro-abortion forces. It's at least a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Database junkies

Jeremy on "Wexis" training. Hee hee :)

"The irksome constraints of civilization"

Also in this week's NRODT, my favorite social commentator, Theodore Dalrymple, on those who murdered and then mutilated the bodies of American contractors in Fallujah:

The perpetrators were declaring by their actions that their hatred, anger, and enmity knew no limits, and that in their view, their hatred, anger, and enmity justified any violation, any act whatever. The joy they expressed during their gruesome performance was in part the joy of having liberated themselves from the irksome constraints of civilization itself. Henceforth they could give vent to their primitive and cruel destructive urges, such as lurk in the breast of all mankind, in the belief that they were serving a higher cause. There is no joy greater in the sinful heart of man than to do evil in the name of good.

This came to mind while reading about the carnage, including the bodies of schoolchildren on their way to kindergarten, and police officers, strewn across the streets today in Basra and Riyadh. People maintain that it is the United States that is hated, with good reason: but what an offensive canard is this. We, along with 30 other countries, got rid of a totalitarian dictator in Stalin's image, and are working to open and operate schools, hospitals, places of business; and keep the peace until we can hand over power to Iraqis to govern themselves. There's no rationality whatsoever to the terrorists' hatred, except insofar as we have threatened their authority previously gotten only by totalitarian tactics. There's also no consistency to their hatred, except insofar as they hate the Other, which includes everyone including their own people, including children. They may have persuaded themselves they are doing good, but only a twisted perception could find anything but evil in their actions.

So I wonder: what kind of twisted perception sees the terrorists' actions from a sympathetic perspective? Why are the media so eager to paint a picture of some patriotic "uprising," to see Americans and British and Spanish and Poles as heartless imperialists, to see coalition forces bogged down in a quagmire? Why are some segments of the Left (including the idiotic Michael Moore) decrying American contractors who've volunteered to help rebuild a country as "mercenaries" somehow deserving of having their burned bodies hung from a bridge? I know reasonable people disagreed on the need to take the war to Iraq, but having been done and a dictator having been deposed, I just can't understand how some people can maintain that the coalition troops and those working to rebuild the country's internal infrastructure and governing bodies are the evil ones - instead of the actual terrorists.

Too right

I had to post an excerpt from Rob Long's column in this week's print version of National Review, just because (along the lines of that thought experiment I linked to last week) it is so true. (And funny.) Heck, sympathetic reactions like this from the liberal media have happened since the attacks . . . nothing really changed! From a "Transcript from ABC News's Nightline with Ted Koppel, September 15, 2001":

TED KOPPEL: 'And so then what happened?'
MOHAMED ATTA: 'Well, Mr. Koppel, as I was boarding the plane, or should I say, trying to board the plane, a uniformed officer took me aside . . .'
TED KOPPEL: 'Just you?'
MOHAMED ATTA: 'No, no. That's the thing. It wasn't just me. It was me and a guy named Abdulaziz Alomari, a guy named al-Shehri . . . and a couple of other guys. I mean, do you get it? Do you see what's going on here?'
TED KOPPEL: 'Mr. Atta, if I may, it seems that what you're saying here . . .'
MOHAMED ATTA: 'It's all in our lawsuit.'
TED KOPPEL: 'If I may, sir, it seems that what you're saying here is that the government systematically profiled you and your associates . . .'
MOHAMED ATTA: 'My associates? Mr. Koppel, I didn't know all of the gentlemen they detained. Oh, one or two I knew from around, you know, Hamburg and Kabul and flight school. But we were nodding, hey-how-are-you friends. Not close. I wouldn't say close.'
TED KOPPEL: 'In any case, sir, the essence, if I may, of your complaint, if I may call it that, is that the FAA, acting on a directive from the intelligence branch of the federal government, detained several Arab men and prevented them from boarding their flights?'
MOHAMED ATTA: 'Yes. That is correct, Mr. Koppel. And that's racism. Racism and racial profiling and it's illegal and we're suing for damages.'

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Usual suspects

Last week I posted a sampling of the wonderfully diverse (or not) groups coming together in Washington this weekend in a "March for Women's Lives" (never mind that if the choice to abort had been exercised by any of the women marchers' mothers, they wouldn't have their lives to march for). I forgot to give a sample, though, of the star power being lent to the march. Amy Welborn links to this LifeNews article quoting a bunch of them. There are some Hollywood personalities, like Patricia Heaton and Kathy Ireland, who are courageous to stand up to conventional wisdom in the city, to stand up for life. But they're vastly outnumbered. Among the reliably lefty celebs giving support to the march are Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Janeane Garofalo, and Whoopi Goldberg; some not-as-usual lefties, like Ewan McGregor and Kirsten Dunst; and half the cast of West Wing, including Stockard Channing, Mary-Louise Parker, Bradley Whitford, Kathryn Joosten, Joshua Malina, and Martin Sheen (not as though that show's politics were ever in doubt).

(I have to admit to always being disappointed, since I like him as an actor and respect his commitment to his faith, that Martin Sheen is so reliably leftist. I did a profile of him in the ND student magazine during the second year of TWW, when the show was still good, about how he had worked faith into the character of President Bartlet - and the way he was a Domer on the show :) He wrote me a personal, very kind letter in response, which I always appreciated. But why does he have to be so radical?)

Finally, of course, as Amy Welborn also notes, the (not-so-)personally-opposed (does he even try to maintain that implausible posture any more? I'm not sure) John Kerry will be running pro-abort ads this weekend. "Help elect John Kerry and join the fight to protect our right to choose," the ad says. Well. No ambiguity there, as if there was ever any question (particularly given his cheerleading for NARAL).

Monday, April 19, 2004

Facing an ugly reality with courage

It's hard to believe these two pictures are of the same woman, but domestic abuse is the intervening event between beautiful "before" and grotesque "after" pictures published of a popular talk show host - in Saudi Arabia. Saudi television personality Rania al-Baz was violently beaten by her husband recently, but instead of staying silent in a culture that oppresses women in many ways, al-Baz decided to speak out against domestic violence. This is apparently one of the first times that the topic has been raised publically in the country.

Domestic abuse is terrible wherever it occurs. It doesn't receive as much attention as it should (as would be enough to stop it) in this country, and we have women's shelters and crisis hotlines, and volunteers and activists (including several of my friends, who are wonderfully compassionate and dedicated) who work tirelessly to promote awareness. But in a country as repressive as Saudi Arabia, there are even more hurdles to overcome just to make the issue a viable one.

Bashatah [a Saudi who has written extensively about abuse of women] pointed out that Saudi women need to be accompanied by a male guardian even if they want to go to the police to report abuse.

Saudi law requires a woman to be accompanied by a male guardian - her husband, or, for unmarried women, her father, brother or son - on almost any public chore. Saudi women also are not allowed to drive.

It's hard to get help if you can't leave your house without permission and accompaniment of your abuser. The woman quoted here says that courts sometimes find in favor of abused women, but the problem of abuse is still widespread. I hope that Rania al-Baz keeps her courage and succeeds in changing attitudes towards women's rights for the better.

Terrorist praises capitulation to terrorism

Radical inciter of violence against coalition troops al-Sadr is happy that Spain is withdrawing its troops from Iraq. The withdrawal is in accordance with the Socialist PM's election promise that he can now fulfill, since enough people were cowed by the al Qaeda attacks on their country before the election that they voted in an appeaser. I hope Spain keeps some of the rest of its commitments, as it's promised, but as it looks now this is just (predictably) disappointing news. I agree with Senator Warner:

"I hope al Qaeda does not misinterpret this, and I hope it's temporary and the Spaniards will be back," Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia, told CNN.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

To make a point

Mark Shea links to this story about three heterosexual couples being turned away from a gay Florida hotel because "the majority wouldn't want straight people there." The local GLBT spokesman was quick to piously opine that all discrimination based on sexual orientation is equally unacceptable. Grant that he's sincere. But there's an implied "How do you like it now?" aspect to the whole story.

Well, I think the point that "all discrimination is bad" is silly and false. (First, in the case described, instead of being outraged that my 'rights' were violated I'd be more likely to say, "Whatever. I'll take my business elsewhere then.") The term "discrimination," like "diversity," is on its face neutral (see this excellent First Things article for more on the concept). That's why we have to clarify it, as the Supreme Court does, with adjectives like "invidious" when we refer to discrimination that is wrong and destructive, as with discrimination based on race. But discrimination could also be positive or neutral. Professor Bainbridge probably discriminates against inferior wines. Harvard's admissions committee discriminates against dumb people. Our culture discriminates against criminals by putting them in jail. Augusta National discriminates against women, but no one besides Martha Burke really thinks that's a big deal. So those who would cry "discrimination!" as if it is always self-evidently a bad thing have not scored any points.

But what about discrimination on sexual orientation? Isn't that always bad, no matter who's doing it or for what reason? Well, I don't necessarily think so. Should it impact hiring decisions for a job? Probably not, if you're talking about being a lawyer or a businessman, but I support the Boy Scouts' right to say that practicing homosexuals should not be Scoutmasters, or the Church to be careful about admitting homosexuals to the seminary. Should it impact where you can stay or live? Probably not (and apparently Key West has local laws saying that such discrimination is illegal) but I would support the right of a private lessor not to let space to individuals whose actions the lessor believed were immoral. Heart of Atlanta Motel said housing discrimination was wrong - but that was with regard to race, which is qualitatively different than actions based on sexual orientation. . . . I expect I've scandalized people with these ideas, but I think that's just par for the course.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Good question

From columnist David Limbaugh:

Why is it that the very same people who refused to demand an authentic apology from former President Clinton for actual felonies he committed demand a bogus apology from President Bush for something that was not his fault?

The reason, of course, as Limbaugh writes, is partisan politics. Which is, perhaps, only to be expected; and the game is played both ways sometimes. But the question still scores a point.

Beautiful day

I completed my Ethics final this morning, and then had a few meetings, and now am back at home. Tasks for this weekend: start listening to all the Sum & Substance tapes I check out from the library each semester (which fortunately I can listen to outside, where, happily, it's finally sunny and warm) and start thinking more about judicial clerkship application season. Horrors. Our career placement people are pretty good about helping students out with this (and doing the hard sell on the concept . . . I can attest that it works) but it's still kind of an intimidating process, probably more so because we aren't coming out of an Ivy. Still, OSU has a decent track record, and any given individual always has a shot.

I believe I saw Law Dork and Law v. Life at the info meeting yesterday too . . . so it looks like we'll all be adding our dozens of applications to the flood in the mail this fall! :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

"The Soul of a University"

Speaking of the character of Notre Dame, of what the school means to so many, I thought this article by New York Times reporter Anthony DePalma was strongly moving and thought-provoking. Interesting reflections near the end, too, from Fr. Hesburgh, in response to the author's general uneasiness (shared by me sometimes) about the future of ND:

He said his biggest concern was that it would be so easy for the University to become more like other universities where, in the race for ratings, in the fanatic competition with peer institutions, the human side becomes little more than a trapping. He wasn't talking just about an institution's denominational identity. What he feared could be lost is the soul of Notre Dame itself, the very same fierce familiarity with which we watched it respond to us when, barely here a few days, we needed it most.

"At the heart of everything we do here is the faith that anything is possible if you are willing to go in there and work harder," he said. "I would hate it if we ever lost that common touch, that concern about everyone here as an individual."

Oh, the horror

One of the letters to the editor (scroll down to "Not so great") for this quarter's Notre Dame Magazine I found a bit amusing.

[W]e must take dead issue with a clear theme of the article. Specifically that it is "great" and "special" for Notre Dame to have single-sex dorms, parietals, in loco parentis and "SMC chicks." We are considerably shocked to think that there are still people in the third millennium who champion parietals and university babysitting. I dare say a majority of the alumni and a nearly unanimous student body do not feel the same. What was distinctive and "Catholic" for the 1960 and '70s is downright absurd and ludicrous for 2004.

Well, this alumna is living in the third millennium, and thinks single-sex dorms and parietals (opposite-sex visiting hour limits, up until midnight on weekdays and 2a.m. on weekends, last I checked) are still a pretty good idea for Notre Dame. Far from being absurd and ludicrous, they still are part of what makes ND distinctive and Catholic (no scare quotes) in 2004. The dorm life at ND really is unique among top national universities, and must seem hopelessly outdated to some, but I think it worked. Yes, most of us chafed at the parietals hours sometimes (and undoubtedly they're broken occasionally), and there's eternal griping about the dating scene at ND, but overall this is what contributes to the character of ND. The men's and women's dorms all have unique characters and traditions; with no Greek life, men's dorms in particular take on aspects of fraternities - identities that hold for life. The extensive interhall sports networks counts on each dorm being its own team. The hall dances are organized around this system. It is a visible (and real) symbol of the commitment to maintaining a Catholic environment. And besides, the men's dorms smell worse - who wants to integrate those? :)

I also think that the resident assistant system is an outstanding part of the dorm system for this uniquely residential campus. A lot of my closest friends were RA's their senior year (the only year you can be an RA at ND), and my sister is one now. Bonding with the men and women of their sections, working together to lead the dorms, taking care of the people under their charge, and really living the mission or calling that many RA's see their jobs as, means a lot to the RA's themselves and to the students living with them. They aren't babysitters - they're much, much more than that. They largely create senses of unity - and this is helped by the single-sex dorm environment. There's always plenty of time for the "real" world (and students can move off-campus if they want to, as many do). But for the majority who stay on campus, and for the parents who send their children here, I think many feel the ND system works pretty well.

Passing marks?

Conservative comments on the presidential press conference: Jonah Goldberg and John Derbyshire at NRO ("I'm sorry, but I think the President is desperately, hopelessly inarticulate"), and Professor Bainbridge ("He desperately needs a Churchillian or at least Reaganesque ability to communicate with the American people") were all underwhelmed by the President's rhetoric and delivery last night, while generally finding the substance passable.

I understand what they're saying. One can always think, when listening to this President speak, of better ways for him to make his own case - usually, as with Professor Bainbridge's cite, another contemporary commentator's ways (even a humorist's!). But I long ago stopped setting expectations too high for Bush's speeches. I think he knows what he's talking about, and he's sincere, both of which things count for a lot with me. And overall he has a good, strong, consistent message that I feel comes across decently well. But while sincerity usually comes through, the message sometimes gets bumbled by a lack of Churchillian facility with words. Would that rhetorical style be more desirable? Particularly in wartime, yes. But two thoughts: First, I don't think all Americans hold politicians to a Churchillian standard; conservatives among the chattering classes are pretty (perhaps overly) sensitive to how the President comes off, and tend to notice more minor gaffes and cringe at more statements than average viewers do. Second, yes, I'd prefer Bush be a better speaker, but the most ready contrast with Bush in my mind is Clinton, who was an excellent, articulate speaker, but always radiated insincerity. Between those two choices, I'll take the less artful, but more sincere and resolute, speaker any day.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Why I like W

There's a fair number of quotes to choose from in his press conference right now, but I liked this one a lot: "If I tried to fine-tune my messages based on polls, I'd be pretty ineffective." See Clinton, Bill.

Random words

From Will Baude at Crescat (Sudeep Agarwala's results here) - I followed the instructions, so I had to post:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

"Along with these rather offhand comments was a photograph, I think the first I ever saw of Mr. Coolidge."

I was pleased to find that the closest book at hand on my desk was this last novel I read (Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream, by John Derbyshire, a quirky and literate read according to even the New York Times Book Review and the New Yorker) instead of my Evidence book. What, me, do homework? :)

The thought that counts

Interesting article in this quarter's City Journal on daytime TV and moral standards. Do these two ideas go together? Give author Harry Stein the benefit of the doubt to make his case:

Springer ends every broadcast with a brief segment called “Jerry’s Final Thought,” in which he pretends to wring some social, even moral, meaning from the insanity just concluded. “The fact is,” he intoned on a recent show about cheating—in one guise or another, the subject of almost every installment—“if you’re willing to screw over a family member or friend for a screw with his or her mate, how can you ever be committed to any relationship—and why would anyone be willing to risk being committed to you?”

Never mind that as he reads from the monitor, Springer radiates smarmy insincerity. Given the context, it says quite a bit that vice goes out of its way to pay tribute to virtue.

Kumbaya!

I have to post on this article, which was just forwarded to me by a friend. Over the last couple of months, I've seen the signs in D.C. advertising this March for Women's Lives, but I hadn't realized just how happy and inclusive the march would actually be. But yes! It is not just limited to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW; it also includes:

  • Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN (affirmative action, abortion . . . it's all linked, right?)


  • Communist Party USA (yep, the communists are great believers in "population control" . . . cf. China or the old Soviet Union, where more children were aborted than actually born)


  • Gay Men's Health Crisis (because pregnancy and abortion are highly relevant to this group, obviously . . . oh, wait . . .)


  • Global Justice for Ecology Project (promoting "crucial holistic analysis to unify and strengthen movements" . . . and one thing's for sure, they really don't like genetically engineered trees)


  • Nevada Shakespeare Company (they're dedicated to "rhapsodic contructivism and the principles of Universal Access" . . . huh?)


  • Orlando Direct Action (your basic socialist/communist/legalize SSM/anti-Bush/anti-war group)

Plus all your local NOW affiliates, et al. The letter I've linked to cautions those groups who normally have a "strong affinity for property destruction" or police confrontation to tone it down a little bit, and maybe limit themselves to throwing paint on pro-life posters or signs. Such "tactical diversity" (yes, diversity in all things! . . . except thought) will also include less threatening or objectionable methods such as use of drums and puppets. You gotta love the "highly festive" angry Left.

Last note: Unfortunately, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and other Latino organizations will also be there (I note, this is why I worked at a more moderate Hispanic civil rights group, which focused very specifically on Hispanic civil rights and local civic organizations). Of course, these leftist organizations identify themselves as Latino, not Hispanic. (It's a curious thing, but while the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, when used for self-identification they can vary politically in this way . . . unsurprisingly to readers of this blog, I've always preferred "Hispanic," not "Latina." So the groups at the March for Women's Lives, being of the more radical variety, will naturally be for Latinas.) But more to the point, I used the term "unfortunately" because Hispanics are disproportionately affected by abortion, making up almost twice as high a percentage of all those who have abortions (20%) as the percentage of Hispanics in the population as a whole (13%). This is a crisis, not a reason to go out and encourage more abortions for these often economically disadvantaged women.

Chasing the story

Survey of media coverage of The Passion from Terry Mattingly of GetReligion: "Journalists expect the Passion to mean something big, one way or another."

It is a bit difficult to read Mattingly's tone, since he seems to be expressing a general weariness in the way the cultural/religious repercussions of the film are being reported on, though he also recognizes some of the stories have been well done. However, Mattingly mostly conveys a sense of cynicism about the utterly formulaic way in which these stories are done:

You know what "trend story" means: That it's time to get out those words that journalists aren't supposed to use that much, words like "seems," "hopes" and (cue: drumroll) "is expected to." It makes me shudder just thinking about it. . . . There is a classic formula for these stories. You need a minimum of three local anecdotes, some kind of poll or impressive statistic and, finally, a quote from a respected academic leader . . .

Maybe his cynicism is merely directed at the way secular editors expect religious stories to be done. However, I found this, for some reason, generally depressing. I wrote for the ND student magazine for four years, but while I love writing, reporting never came naturally to me (hence why I worked in Campus Life instead of News), and I think Mattingly hits at the reason why. The formulas are pretty standard, and they give you a template for how to "report" news which you are actually creating. You have to fill your word count, after all. But then, you don't want to fill it just by reporting, since that way, how are you to distinguish yourself? So you dig to find (or invent) another angle, or you select quotes to seem a bit more edgy or controversial than the speaker might have actually been or intended to be, or you work your own views into the analysis.

The book that probably started my skepticism toward mainstream American journalism, particularly with regards to the interplay between journalism and politics, was Thomas Patterson's Out of Order, and later William McGowan's Coloring the News. Patterson faulted the media for putting too much of its own "spin" on political reporting, but partially excused the fault by explaining that members of the elite media simply had their own, understandable, agenda: to be professionally distinguished and independent, and to make a profit on their product. As I dealt with the subject in my undergraduate thesis, this agenda conflicted with politicians' agenda of wanting to get their message out unfiltered, since journalists' agenda of maintaining professional pride could not admit their being mere mouthpieces for the politicians. Again, understandable. But when these ostensibly independent journalists exercise their professionalism, they inevitably (ironically, since they think they're being unique) put a slant, usually negative, on the news; and when ostensibly netural journalists set out to report, they often go out of their way to create stories where there may not be any. Conflict, after all, makes news; news sells. Add to all this the overwhelmingly secular and liberal bent of the elite media, and it gets a bit tiresome.

This topic has gone rather far afield from its inspiration, and may not be entirely cohesive, but I suppose I'm just expressing general discontent with the way the media follows its formulas in chasing after and creating the news. For what it's worth . . .

Lest ye be judged

Amy Welborn has a good post on the proper context in which to approach the discussion over Kerry's Catholicism (such as it is).

It's not important because any one of us, least of all me, are "judging" John Kerry as a worse Catholic than ourselves. Some might have that mindset, but I try very hard not to. I try to see all of us as basically in the same boat. That boat, in case you're wondering, is the Good Ship Catholic, and what that means is that as a passenger on that boat, I'm oriented, not towards what my conscience tells me a good Catholic is all about, but how I can form my conscience so that it reflects more clearly the Mind of Christ.

. . . The basic point here, is that as individual with power, John Kerry is an enabler of legalized, easily-obtainable abortion. He seeks and values the support of abortion advocates and providers. We're not just talking about ideas, although that is not unimportant. We're talking about a person who, when given a choice to support the abortion industry and abortion advocacy groups or not, chooses, by his votes and his stated positions, to support it. He doesn't have to. No one is forcing him to. But he does. This active support of abortion is incompatible with the life of a disciple of Jesus. That's not me talking, by the way. That's the ancient Christian witness to the preciousness of life.

Part of Kerry's confusion with what the Church teaches is in his apparent belief that Vatican II gave Catholics free reign to decide right and wrong according to their own consciences, however formed. Yet what the Church has always taught is that we may follow our conscience, but our conscience must be informed so as to be in accordance with God's will (otherwise, our conscience will be wrongly oriented). Part of the way we can inform our consciences is to study Scripture, history, or the authoritative teachings and writings of the Magisterium that shed light on revealed truths. When it comes to abortion, there is, given the Scriptural teachings on the beginnings of life, human knowledge of biology, and as Amy notes ancient Christian witness to the preciousness of life, there is only one right way for a Biblical Christian to believe. That right way isn't to, as Kerry told NARAL last year, "honestly and confidently and candidly . . . speak up and be proud of what we stand for," namely, unfettered access to abortion and more widespread use of abortion as "population control" around the world.

Nevertheless, if Kerry truly believes this, at the very least he must not represent this as a valid position for a Catholic Christian to have, or a position that the Church would ever sanction. Though we may hope that Kerry is truly open to informing his conscience about abortion and that he may someday come to change his views. In the meantime, it is appropriate to point out that he is not representing any authentic Catholic view on the matter, while asking for humility ourselves.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Outrage alert

Mark Shea links, with the following commentary regarding Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley, to this article by Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara: "Anybody who can raise McNamara's voice to a shriek of panic audible only to dogs is alright in my book."

McNamara is outraged that the archbishop has linked feminism to, among other things, the sexual revolution, the Culture of Death, and divorce. Well: the feminism McNamara champions is indeed linked to all these. Feminism, as Abp. O'Malley and others are referring to it, is not "the advocacy of equal social and political rights for women," as McNamara defines it; since equal opportunity in the workplace or, say, voting rights are hardly something the Church opposes. No, McNamara's brand of feminism is that which celebrates the sexual revolution and, above all, abortion.

In Britain, Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, Wales, applauded plans by a television outlet to broadcast an abortion procedure later this month. It would be educational, he said, "especially for women," the suggestion implicit that women have no idea what they are doing when they terminate a pregnancy.

Why doesn't she humor us and spell out what women are doing when they terminate a pregnancy, then? But McNamara, a speaker at NARAL events who has railed against "anti-choice" politicians and described abortionists as simple providers of a "medical procedure," seems to be hazy on these details of what terminating a pregnancy actually entails. That is, killing an unborn child, which is what the British broadcast apparently is going to show. I think everyone, but especially women, could benefit from that. And if the archbishops are showing contempt for the feminism whose raison d'etre is to protect abortion, it should hardly come as a surprise to . . . anyone, really.

In any event, for critics like McNamara, all of this is only to confirm their already long-held biases against the Church, and to fuel their righteous indignation. Meanwhile, as David Morrison notes, many self-respecting, intelligent women do feel quite at home and well-respected in the Church. We don't feel disenfranchised from "full participation in the rituals of [our] faith," and we don't feel patronized. Except, that is, by people like McNamara, who assume if we're happy in the Catholic Church, we must not have thought the issue through carefully enough, or we must not be smart enough to perceive all the oppression to which we're being subjected.

Thanks for the concern. As for myself, I'm getting a kick out of Abp. O'Malley. About the boomers, quoth he: "Not big on dogmas. My karma ran over my dogma could be their motto."

Happy Easter!

Yesterday's holiday means that Mark Shea is back, always welcome news! Easter did not mean, unfortunately, that I was able to have popcorn (which I had given up for Lent) since I was stuck in bed all day with an unpleasant 24-hour bug. No fun. In any event, all seems better today, so I will try to be back to blogging after class this evening.

For one new link, I point y'all to Catholic Kerry Watch, which seems to be a new clearinghouse for Kerry-the-not-so-Catholic stories. I had been thinking this story was gaining some momentum, with as much commentary as has been flying around the blogosphere (and in the media - it's even attracted attention from the Times) but so far, no new comments from the bishops. On the other hand, the "kind of New Age" church Kerry attends in Boston doesn't seem to be a parish actually in the archdiocese, so if he's not even attending an actual Catholic church, maybe that helps answer the issue - he's already left. (Not that the media - or Kerry himself, apparently - would stop representing him as Catholic.)

It's worth saying again that it would be great if Kerry came to believe in the truths his church teaches; if someone like Kerry came to recognize the evil in abortion, or stood up strongly for marriage, what an amazing witness that would be. If, on the other hand, he decided to stop identifying as Catholic because his personal beliefs simply did not accord with the faith, that would be unfortunate but appropriate. When Kerry continues to call himself Catholic, however, while actively (even "personally") supporting abortion and other things which are wholly and unequivocally contrary to the teachings of the Church, that is inappropriate. He's not the first or only prominent politician to do this, but he is the most prominent right now, and I think the Church has woken up to the fact that such public misrepresentation of the faith should not stand unchallenged.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Try this one on for size

Columnist Kathleen Parker writes on a thought experiment that seems to me absolutely dead on. What if Bush had attacked the Taliban and arrested 19 Saudi nationals in the U.S. at the beginning of September 2001 on the basis of "chatter" on the intelligence networks? The world (count 'em - France, Germany, Russia, the U.N., Democrats, the ACLU) would have been outraged; Bush would have been positively excoriated; no one would ever have known the massive scale of what he had prevented.

I believe it is simply the case that no one - no one, with the exception of fiction writers like Tom Clancy - ever would have believed that the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon could be attacked by hijacked planes used as fuel-laden bombs, that the Trade Centers could actually collapse. (Even Clancy hadn't conceived of using planes full of passengers in his novel Debt of Honor, he said - that was too implausible even for him to swallow.) America and the world were simply stunned, as we hadn't been stunned for sixty years. In order for us to be where we are right now (with major terrorist threats to world order now removed from the scene, or scattered), an event on the order of which hadn't been experienced in generations had to be experienced. I wish it hadn't happened. But I know we could never have come close to dealing with the terrorists until we had experienced something like it; and it was almost inevitable that we would.

Inverted values

Another good article by Fr. de Souza, this time on NRO, commenting on the popular analysis of Pontius Pilate by many critics of The Passion. Several critics believed (as support for their claims to (non-existant) anti-Semitism in the film) that Pilate was depicted with the most sympathy. He was caught, you see; sure, he could find no fault with Jesus, but Rome would come down on him if a rebellion started by freeing Jesus, and the crowd would rebel unless he condemned him. He tried to abdicate responsibility for Christ; he mused philosophically about the nature of Truth; and ultimately he condemned Christ, and then famously washed his hands of the affair. The critics see in this depth, dimension. The Sanhedrin, on the other hand, are irrational and vindictive. Well: their power was threatened by Jesus, but so was Pilate's. And Pilate is ultimately the one who condemns Christ to death on a cross, and to this day we remember his name for what he did: "He was crucified under Pontius Pilate . . ." Of course, the greater point of the gospels is that Christ died for and because of all of us; we are all part of the crowd that called for death, and he accepted it willingly for us. Which is why the antecedent to the line in the Creed is, "For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate . . ."

Fr. de Souza's article, at any rate, examines the way in which the modern critical sympathy for Pilate represents an inversion of political values.

The Pilate of the gospels — and Gibson's Pilate — is not a bloodthirsty tyrant. Perhaps he was in point of fact, but the gospels present us with a lethal pragmatist rather than raging killer. Pilate is depicted as a man prepared to shed innocent blood to solve a political problem. In a healthy political culture, to accuse a man of sacrificing principle for political advantage would be a searing indictment. But in a culture in which has turned triangulation into a political rather than cartographical term, Pilate's conduct is not so much admonished as admired. . . .

That such conduct would be considered admirable reveals serious moral confusion. The evangelists likely did not doubt that they were painting a damning portrayal of Pilate. His conduct is not that of a man consumed by rage or overpowered by events. He is cool and in control of himself. His compromises are not capitulations. They are careful calculations; calculations in which the fate of an innocent man is no more than dust on the scales.

Perhaps, as St. Thomas More is the patron saint of politicians, Fr. de Souza suggests somewhat ruefully, Pontius Pilate is the "patron saint" of our political culture.

Friday, April 09, 2004

The coercion of conscience

In this month's First Things, Father Raymond de Souza examines the state of liberty in Canada, and finds "ominous" signs of a "totalitarian impulse" developing there. The Canadian government last year introduced legislation to redefine marriage to permit SSM, in line with their Supreme Court decision of summer 2003. It then, with a great show of concern, asked the Court to give an opinion on the constitutionality (well, compatibility with the Charter) of an exemption for clergy, so that they would not be required to preside over SSM ceremonies under this new law (this, in order to head off any possible future ruling that might somehow force a clergyman to so preside).

The reference question is deeply worrisome. It is widely expected that the Supreme Court will approve the exemption for clergy—though one can never be sure. But the fact that the question is even being asked is an ominous portent. The Canadian federal government has asked the chief judicial authority whether a bill which exempts religion’s blessings of marriage from government redefinition is constitutional. One would hope that the question need not even be asked. Yet so advanced is the totalitarian impulse in Canada that advocates of the federal redefinition of marriage positively boast of how broad-minded they are in allowing churches to administer their own sacraments as they see fit.

Fr. de Souza admits that it might seem farfetched that a government tribunal or court might order a clergyman to preside at an SSM cermony, but he sketches a too-plausible outline of the way in which religious liberties could be incrementally circumscribed along the road to that destination.

That is the worst-case scenario of state expansion. But state expansion will likely pass other milestones on its way there, eroding religious liberty on questions related to marriage. First it will be churches forced to rent out their halls and basements for a same-sex couple’s wedding reception. Then it will be religious charities forced to recognize employees in same-sex relationships as legally married. Then it will be religious schools not being allowed to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage. Then it will be a hierarchical or synodal church not being allowed to discipline an errant priest or minister who performs a civilly legal but canonically illicit same-sex marriage. All of this can happen short of the worst-case scenario specifically exempted in the federal government’s proposed law.

Not likely, one objects? Fr. de Souza gives several examples where heretofore unobjectionable actions in accordance with religious beliefs have already run afoul of "progressive" pro-homosexual or pro-abortion laws in Canada, resulting in fines, sanctions, and other significant penalties. It is not always so easy to recognize the "thinly disguised totalitarianism" as it is imposed and accepted by degrees, but if and when this starts to happen in America, we will not be able to claim innocence. Other countries are farther along in the anti-democratic process than we are, with their examples plain for those who care to see.

Sometimes evil is banal...

And sometimes it's unmistakeably ugly. May God bless the hostages. And I hope Japan's resolve not to give in to the terrorists stays firm: it is, as the government has said, an "intolerable, inhuman criminal act" and it cannot be permitted to triumph.

Stop the presses

K-Lo of The Corner points to this shocker. Reports the BBC: Promiscuity 'fuelling HIV spread'.

I thought it was abstinence?

Well, I say that sardonically, but the article actually contains this gem: "The message [to have fewer partners] appears to have been lost, as campaigns put the emphasis on abstaining from sex or using condoms." Right. Because abstaining has the same effect on HIV transmission as using faulty condoms. . . . or something . . .

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Blawg honors

Prof. Gordon Smith at Venturpreneur has created an Honor Roll of law student blogs, including Anthony Rickey's site and De Novo. He's currently running a poll to choose five other student blogs to add to his list, and I'm quite honored to be among the candidates. Most of the other blawgs he links are far longer established than mine, so it's very thoughtful of Professor Smith to include me. Thanks to him -- and thank you to all of my readers for continuing to visit!

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Revisions, decisions

Crescat's Will Baude posted a few days ago about his considerations on where to go to law school. Jeremy Blachman gave some nice thoughts on the matter here. I had wanted to respond to just a few points, also.

There are plenty of ancillary factors that I've told myself shouldn't matter-- money, living environment, friends, free time to blog-- but simplifying the analysis doesn't actually make it any easier.

I sympathize with the "not easy" part - but some of what Will mentions here wasn't ancillary at all to me. When I was considering law school, a few of the most important factors in my decision-making process were financial aid, the people, the sense of balance between school and free time, and the location. Location matters, because where you decide to go to school is, at the least, where you'll be for three years of your life - but possibly more. After four years in South Bend, I knew I couldn't deal with quite so severe of winters anymore, and consequently, my strongest inclinations for school were Pepperdine (love that view of the Pacific :) and Emory (in my original Southern hometown, Atlanta), as well as Texas and Miami. In that sense, coming back to Columbus was a compromise - but on the other hand, I considered when coming to OSU that while the school was very strong in-state, it also had a good enough name to allow me to go outside the state. Accordingly, I'm planning to end up in D.C., which by all accounts (and my own research :) has a milder climate than the Midwest, and definitely more sunny days. Weather and location can really matter.

Money can also matter. As beautiful as Pepperdine's campus was and as generous of aid as they offered me, the cost of living in L.A. is really prohibitive. I considered when looking at law school that I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do when I graduated, so I wanted to have options. I didn't want to be saddled with so much debt that I would be forced to take a large firm job even if I hated it, just to pay off the debt. Ohio State gave me a great opportunity financially, and thus I am fortunate to have had some choices - this summer and (hopefully) after graduation I will be working for a firm, but it's because I've chosen to, not because I have to. Now, when choosing between a Chicago and Yale (as Will is doing), money may not matter - when you have earned the opportunity to go to schools like that, you should probably take it no matter what the cost, simply because of the experience you will get. But for many other people looking at law schools, I think it's entirely reasonable to consider how much all of it will cost. Freedom can be worth a lot.

Finally, living environment and people were important too. You're choosing a place to be for three years of your life. You're going to be working incredibly hard. You better be in a place you feel comfortable. So you gather the best information you can, and then you just go with your intuition. Will seems to be thinking that he should want to go to Yale, but in spite of that, he keeps having a better feeling about Chicago. I say, go with that. Either school is obviously outstanding and will allow you every opportunity in the future; but where will you be happy for three years? That matters. And are the people the cutthroat, Scott-Turow-One L types you always hear about, or do people just care about challenging themselves, not competing with others? OSU has been a great place in that sense. Most of us are Type A high achievers, but that doesn't translate to uncomfortable, but just healthy, competitiveness. It's a positive environment to be in. Sometimes your gut is the best indicator on this.

Add to this level of back-and-forth-ing a set of meta-worries. Do I know myself well enough to know of myself what I want out of law school? Does it make any sense to proclaim that one wants to go into academia and that therefore one will go to Chicago? Which of the two choices am I less likely to regret later? Would I regret having made a choice in a way that minimizes expected regret?

I can't answer the first two questions, but I think you do have to make a choice that minimizes possible regrets. Consider all of these questions, visit the schools, look at practical indicators - and ultimately, go with what you feel is right. But the catch is: once you've made the decision, don't look back. It wouldn't be productive to regret making a choice to minimize regret.

Ohio State was the first place I applied and the last place I considered. But when I put everything down on a sheet of paper and really considered the tangible factors, then even though my heart was pulling me toward Pepperdine (where I'm positive I would have been happy) I knew the right decision was OSU. So I made the call, and didn't look back. And it's worked out great so far. It does sound like this "embarassment of riches" argument is rather pat, but I really think that at a certain level, it's true. I don't think there's a wrong choice between Chicago and Yale: but I think Will believes there's a right one, so I hope he makes it :) I wish him (and other pre-law students) good luck!

Newspeak: equality = preference

Ward Connerly writes on NRO about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, intended to do away with racial preferences in public life in the state. He's obviously a biased writer, seeing as how he's sponsoring the initiative, and I wouldn't agree with some of what he writes, but he points out some apparently rather egregious bits of activism taking place to prevent the initiative from ever seeing a ballot.

A call to perfection

Interesting discussion over at Letters from Babylon regarding the degree of reflection that leaders should engage in before bringing their faith into their public life. Joshua Davey writes that he has "expressed a desire that professing Christians not tarnish God's image in the eyes of unbelievers," and adds that this is no new concern: St. Augustine wrote on similar concerns 1700 years ago. In his commentary on Genesis, St. Augustine wrote:

If they [non-Christians] find a Christian mistaken in a field in which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and from the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion [1 Tim. 1:7]

I hadn't read this quote from Augustine before, so I thank Joshua for posting it. It seems highly relevant still today. In order to be taken seriously in a largely secular culture and to represent well the faith which has been entrusted to us, as Christians we must always strive to know our own faith as well as possible, and also to be knowledgeable about science and the natural world. Reason, of course, is entirely compatible with faith: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth," John Paul II wrote, and the Christian tradition bears this out. But the best way to represent this to the world is for individual Christians not to be casual about their own faith (and thus incapable of response when a secular critic can quote Scripture falsely), and not to be unable to engage in rational public life. Right knowledge is what we are called to, to live the Gospel faithfully.

Tony Jiminez responds here to Joshua Davey, and appears somewhat skeptical of Augustine's caution:

As for Augustine, it seems to me that this argument has been made in the past from the Catholic church as for why the lay person should not read the Bible, and let only the priests interpret it for them. Would it be a sin for the lay person to read the Bible? Think of the danger. Or can God work through and in spite of flawed humans? I would imagine that a Calvinist would not share the same basis from which you wrote your last post, or I should say from which Augustine wrote. Though, maybe I do not have a full understanding of Calvinism.

I also do not have a sufficient understanding of Calvinism, but I make the friendly note to Tony that the Catholic Church has not discouraged the lay person from reading the Bible. On the contrary, from the earliest days of the Church, it has been understood that, as St. Jerome wrote, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." (It is unfortunately the case that many Catholics are not as familiar with the Bible as many other Christians are, but that is not because reading is discouraged.) Thus, I do not believe that Augustine's words were intended to suggest that laymen should not read the Bible, or that it is sinful to do so. Rather, on my reading, they are simply intended as a caution against "reckless and incompetent" expounding of the Word. When we represent our faith in our lives, by our actions or by our words, we are told that we have an obligation to 'understand what we say'. And so we do.

The Catholic student

Kathryn Lopez on NRO links to this speech by Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, on the Catholic university student today. It's a very good talk overall. I was particularly struck by her analysis of a great quote from the papal encyclical Novo Millennio Ineunte (which I hadn't been aware of before ... this pope puts out a lot of encyclicals!).

"For Christian witness to be effective," [Pope John Paul] writes, "it is important that special efforts be made to explain properly the reasons for the Church's position, stressing that it is not a case of imposing on non-believers a vision based on faith, but of interpreting and defending the values rooted in the very nature of the human person" (51).

The former position is impermissible, because faith by imposition disrespects freedom of conscience and will; the latter is what Catholics should strive for, because arguments from human nature and affecting the human condition have validity for everyone, and Catholics as well as anyone should have a place to advocate in public life. Professor Glendon responds to this passage in this way:

Three implications of those wise words need to be spelled out:

First, those of us who live in pluralistic societies have to be able to give our reasons in terms that are intelligible to all men and women of good will, just as St. Paul had to be "a Jew to the Jews, and a Greek to the [pagan] Greeks." Fortunately, we have great models of how to do that in Catholic social teaching, and in the writings of John Paul II.

Second, we who labor in the intellectual apostolate need to keep our intellectual tradition abreast of the best human and natural science of our times, just as St. Thomas Aquinas did in his day.

And third, because we live in a time when our Church is under relentless attack, we need to be equipped to defend her. That does not mean we have to react to every insult no matter how slight. But we do need to learn to have and to show a decent amount of pride in who we are.

There is nothing wrong with taking pride in our Church's intellectual tradition -- a tradition that predates and outshines the impoverished secularism that is stifling thought in many leading universities. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in our Church's record as the world's foremost institutional voice opposing aggressive population control, abortion, euthanasia, and draconian measures against migrants and the poor.

At a time, and in a culture, where Christianity is under assault from many directions, Catholics do a great disservice when they do not contest the myth that the history of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular is a history of patriarchy, worldliness, persecution, or exclusion of people or ideas.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Qui tollis peccata mundi

Yesterday was Palm (Passion) Sunday, otherwise known to Catholic kids as 'the Sunday you have to stand up for a really long time' (owing to the length of the Gospel reading :). This year the reading for the Passion was from Luke. The Passion narrative is always powerful and painful, because of its involving the congregation in the role of the crowd (everyone must read together: "Crucify Him! Release Barabbas!") so that everyone must confront his or her own role in condemning the innocent Christ to die, by and for our sins. Holy Week is then a time for serious reflection on the meaning of Christ's suffering and death, and ultimately becomes a celebration of the mystery of his conquering of death and his Resurrection.

For me, the Gospel reading yesterday was even more moving than usual because I could not help but think of the vivid images from The Passion. I will probably see the movie again this week. Apparently, lots of other people are planning to do so as well. The Passion is now the 10th-highest-grossing domestic film of all time, and is expected to rise further this week leading up to Easter. And churches are continuing to encourage parishoners to see it, particularly this week, to reflect on Christ's death and Resurrection.

Letters from Central Asia

My best friend, who has lived in inner-city Chicago, Israel, and Gaza City, and been to Slovakia, Turkey, and Egypt (among other places), is currently living in Uzbekistan, about to wind up a stint in the Peace Corps. For all that Uzbekistan is a police state in not-so-great standing when it comes to minor things like human rights violations and torture, I think I have been worried about her less there than in places like Palestine - until this week. Uzbekistan is suddenly much in the news, following terrorist attacks in the capital city of Tashkent last week. Given that this seems to mark the opening of a new front by Islamist terrorists - against fellow Muslims, not necessarily Westerners - I think it's probably important to be a bit more informed about what is going on there (aside from English classes being taught to fairly enthusiastic students in a little town out east :). And hope that the terrorists do not gain a foothold in this country, which has been a fairly steady U.S. ally since 9/11.

The WaPo notes that Uzbekistan does not have a great record on human rights.

Arbitrary arrests and torture have been routine under President Islam Karimov's rule, according to the U.S. government and human rights groups, which estimate that about 7,000 people are being held in Uzbek prisons because of their political or religious beliefs. In the aftermath of five days of explosions and gunfire that have killed at least 47 people this week, authorities are again going door to door inspecting documents, making what they call "preventative" arrests of people on watch lists and even rounding up more prosperous Uzbeks so they can extract money for their release, according to witnesses.

Zeyno Baran on NRO looks at the background of those possibly responsible for the terrorist attacks of last week here. And the Times calls for America to keep a watchful eye on how Uzbekistan responds to the attacks.

But that is hardly the whole story. Uzbekistan's ruthless dictator, Islam Karimov, uses his country's role in the campaign against global terrorism as cover for repression that only foments further terror, of the homegrown variety. Rather than look the other way at what many expect will be another wave of repression in response to last week's violence, Washington should push the government in Tashkent to keep its promises of democratic reform. This would protect Uzbekistan's people and America's credibility in the region.

Finally, Newsday gives an account and analysis of the attacks here. I note that while terrorism and political repression are what make the news, it doesn't seem to affect people's movements or daily lives too much (at least that's my impression from my friend's accounts). Just as living in London during the height of IRA activity, or in Spain during the worst of ETA activity, or in Israel on a daily basis, or anywhere else terrorism occurs, people can't (and don't) let it circumscribe their lives overmuch. (Of course, in places like Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan (where another friend of mine is also in PC), the political repression is always there and can stifle and cripple entire cultures, but people still must live their lives as normally as possible.) So while it may be a facile point, I think it is important to remember that if we only notice Uzbekistan or other countries when terrorist attacks occur, life is still going on there. At least in one school in Uzbekistan, the biggest question currently being faced is when "Finding Nemo" will be shown at Movie Club.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Political sidesteps

Good point from Family Scholars's (formerly Marriage Movement) David Blankenhorn on Dem positions on SSM. However, I think part of the reason pro-SSM journalists are giving a pass to some of the Democrats' "opposed to SSM but against an amendment that would embody that opposition" stance is because many leading Democrats aren't actually opposed to SSM at all - they just don't think it'd be politically prudent to actually announce public support for it at this time. If the polls shifted, no doubt Clinton and Kerry et al. wouldn't hesitate to say they'd always been in favor of SSM.

What, Europe? Anti-Americanism?

The Corner's reliable weekend poster, Andrew Stuttaford, comments on a predictably ugly off-West End production that premiered last week. No doubt it will play wonderfully to the "certain sections of the European intelligentsia" that Stuttaford notes.

Cue the piano man

Fun song parody from Jeremy Blachman about law school rankings (about which there has been some lamenting from my own law school, which by all accounts was supposed to have moved up - but didn't).

Cool new blog, C.S. Lewis, and natural law

Steve at Southern Appeal points to a new Christian group blog called letters from babylon. It includes among its bloggers Joshua Davey, of Locke v. Davey fame (well, fame to law students like myself who had to argue the case for appellate advocacy classes last semester :) who is now at Harvard Law. Scrolling through the posts, it looks like a thought-provoking blog that I will look forward to reading more of, particularly re: the ongoing discussions of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. I only discovered Lewis a few years ago, and continue to regularly head back (note split infinitive) to his books for great insights on Christianity and life.

In this post, John Zimmer asks:

Specifically, my friend and I explored the question of whether it is possible to hold to a coherent moral code while also disbelieving in the existence of God or a higher law. Of course an atheist can be moral in terms of behavior; but is it possible for a moral atheist to claim that his morality is in fact “better” in some way than an arbitrary code by which another person might justify rape, pillage, and murder?

The author of Starship Troopers argues yes, because Darwinism gives you a code by which to say whatever promotes survival is good. But this seems an incomplete response, particularly because it seems only to address the largest questions, like murder.

But for other immoral acts like greedy behavior and selfish manipulation of others, more sophisticated arguments must be formulated, since a certain amount of selfishness is necessary for survival of the fittest, making a certain amount of selfishness moral under Heinlein’s model.

So how do we account for altruism or empathy generally seeming good or moral? As Zimmer puts it, if altruism is, say, a purely biological characteristic that could be justified by being an evolutionary "part of our nature," then wouldn't it follow that if we ever recognized altruism as being contrary to the higher Darwinist principle of survival, there isn't much "moral" about altruism at all - it's an expedience?

I think Lewis, looking at these questions, believes that the conclusion must follow that there is a higher, natural law to which we can appeal to say that some actions are better than others. If an atheist's morality includes being nice to people and not killing them, the only way to say that morality is any better than another person's morality premised purely on selfishness and not precluding murder (in other words, the only way to say with any coherence that the first person's morality is "good") we must appeal to some objective moral standard. That higher, external law provides coherence for "shoulds" and "oughts" in our lives, to which we naturally appeal as human beings - even given broad diversity across cultures in many ways. For Lewis, this, combined with a few other premises, leads to the conclusion that the only source for such a higher law must be a higher being, but specifically, God.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Killing a dream

Last week, a leftist group called the National People's Action sent nine busloads of people to harass Bush advisor Karl Rove. Several hundred people swarmed his lawn, pounded on the windows, frightened his children, and promised more direct action if their demands were not met. What was the demand? Passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

The DREAM Act is designed to repeal provisions of the 1996 immigration act that prohibit states from determining their own residency requirements for purposes of granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrant children. At least 20 states, including those with some of the largest immigrant populations (like Texas and California) have either passed or are considering passing legislation that would allow in-state tuition to be given if students met high academic standards, had paid taxes, had lived in their states for at least five years, and promised to apply to normalize their status as soon as eligible. I disagree with Michelle Malkin's characterization of the bill as "abominable" - I did a lot of research on the DREAM Act (and its House counterpart, the Student Adjustment Act) when I worked for a Hispanic civil rights group last year, and my conclusions were that the bill was a piece of immigration legislation that even amnesty-wary conservatives (such as myself) could support. The broad bipartisan support enjoyed by both bills helps demonstrate that.

For one thing, it does not "reward" illegal immigration, since most of those who would be affected by the act were brought here as children by their parents, and thus were not conscious lawbreakers themselves - many do not even realize their alien status until trying to apply for college. They cannot be deterred from illegally immigrating since they're already here, and a residency status for college tuition purposes is not likely to encourage in itself other people to come here illegally (particularly since the DREAM and SAA have time-limited provisions, applying only to those already in the country). Many are outstanding students whom we should encourage to pursue a college education, which can only be a positive for our society - better education means higher productivity and lifetime earnings, and if students are able to normalize their status these are exactly the students who will become active citizens. I don't believe this is an improper subsidy or undeserved entitlement plan; and it does leave discretion to the states themselves on whether to pass these types of acts.

Having said all that, NPA's actions were despicable. Karl Rove isn't a congressman whose vote could move the DREAM or SAA out of committee. All norms of decency suggest too that political discourse or citizen action on legislation should not be accomplished by personally harassing someone (not even directly related to the piece of legislation!). That's why you have lobbying and peaceful protests, or letter writing, or gee, you know, the vote. And finally, as the Wall Street Journal points out, this action was all the more ludicrous because the Bush White House is more pro-immigration than we've seen in a long time:

It's hard to know which is more outrageous here: the thuggery or the stupidity. The thuggery we've mentioned. But let's not discount the stupidity. Mr. Rove serves a President who has proved himself willing to buck a significant part of his own coalition by pushing a forward-looking, pro-immigration plan. To put it another way, what we had on Sunday was the spectacle of immigration "leaders" directing their ire at the most pro-immigration Administration in recent memory.

I don't know who the NPA claims to speak for. But their actions are just beyond the pale (not to mention completely counterproductive). There ought to be far more publicity about this and objections from the media than there has been.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

A good act

Nice words from the president this morning when signing the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

As these and the other families understand, any time an expectant mother is a victim of violence, two lives are in the balance, each deserving protection, and each deserving justice. If the crime is murder and the unborn child's life ends, justice demands a full accounting under the law.

Dianne Feinstein can deny reality all she wants. But people, increasingly, are recognizing the truth.