Thursday, April 29, 2004

Every now and then when I'm at the grocery store, I take a look at the cover of one of those fictional tabloids (the ones that run stories like "Alien found in stomach of Loch Ness Monster!" all in capitals, of course.) just to see what sort of things they've come up with this time.

The most recent issue bore the headline "Pope Wants Mel Gibson as Successor". Seriously.

[Insert you own schism joke here...]

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I don't normally consider opinion polls to be 100% accurate and foolproof, but by virtue of their margins, the following polls which I lifted from the Susan B. Anthony list are very interesting indeed.

American attitudes on abortion overall.

Women and abortion.

Youth and abortion.

American attitudes on abortion restrictions.
Something funny:
Last night, I had a dream in which I met Mozart in person (If you don't know me personally, it will be useful to note that I think Mozart is the best writer of music ever). He was teaching a student of his at the time, and I couldn't even get to him except by scurrying over rooftops, up water pipes and through windows. When I did find him, he seemed rather testy (probably because he was in the middle of giving lessons), so our conversation was short.
I've had other dreams of meeting famous people, including Albert Einstein (I discussed nuclear arms with him). What could it all mean?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Kari at Blurry Flurry linked to something that interested me about the "march for women's lives", better known as the "march-against-the-lives-of-unborn-children-but-we-don't-want-to-say-that-or-people-will-think-we're-crazy-so-we-have-to-disguise-it-behind-a-warped-and-totally-meaningless-euphemism".
These are the people who are supposed to be so tolerant. It's the right that's supposed to be arrogant, dogmatic, and hateful. One wonders what goes through some people's heads. I don't pretend to know, but I have a theory or two I would like to share.
1. They figure they're so compassionate, they have earned the right to be sadistically hurtful.
2. They figure they're so open-minded, they have earned the right to treat those who disagree with them as being foul disgusting creatures from a some kind of totalitarian nightmare.
3. They also figure they're so open-minded that those who disagree with them have no right to show up and voice unapproved positions.
4. They figure they care about women so much that they don't actually have to listen to any of them, much less the ones who have had abortions and regret them.
5. And of course, the fact that they believe they are standing up for a right, and that some have even deluded themselves into thinking that they're standing up for their "lives", has led many of them to believe that there are few, if any, things they can do to pro-life protestors that are not completely justified by their code of ethics.

Annie, if you're reading this,
First of all, props to you and to the others who were there. I imagine it must have been like going to a zoo in which the animals were not kept in cages. Secondly, if that woman who wanted to trade in her sign was sincere, congratulations. Even a small difference is a difference nonetheless. The Talmud advises that whoever saves one life in this world will receive the credit of having saved the whole world. You might never what know what goods you have done or have contributed to.

Monday, April 26, 2004

If this article is to be believed, then the most whiny rhetorical question arising out of the recent war has now been answered with a whoop.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

"...all [of the Arab Muslim tribes in The Sudan], without exception, were hunters of men. To the great slave markets of Jeddah a continual stream of negro captives has flowed for hundreds of years. The invention of gunpowder and the adoption by the Arabs of firearms facilitated the traffic...Thus the situation in the Sudan for several centuries may be summed up as follows: The dominant race of Arab invaders was increasingly spreading its blood, religion, customs, and language among the black aboriginal population, and at the same time it harried and enslaved them...The warlike Arab tribes fought and brawled among themselves in ceaseless feud and strife. The negroes trembled in apprehension of capture, or rose locally against their oppressors."

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities...but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled,the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."

No, those were not the words of the Rvd. Billy Graham. They were the words of a very different "minister". Those words are from the book The River War by none other than Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill. That was in 1899. In other words, "pre-9/11".
Uncanny, isn't it?

Saturday, April 24, 2004

On Townhall.com, libertarian Neal Boortz has a column titled "The Federal Censorship Commission", in which he talks about the FCC possibly censoring Howard Stern and others for excessive vulgarity.
In the opening paragraph, he says "I've searched to the ends of the Internet and as many of Nebraska's best weeklies as I could, and I have yet to turn up one story about one single human being anywhere in this vast country of ours who was in any way harmed by anything they heard from a radio dialed to Stern. Not once have I heard even whispers of a situation where a Howard Stern broadcast violated any individual's right to life, liberty or property."
I'm not going to attempt to "Fisk" the article here, partly since I didn't even read it to the end (I have better sense than to read a piece of libertarian literature all the way through. It's barely even any use trying to reason with the poor blighters). I am instead going to expound on their rather strange notions of damage and harm (particularly as they pertain to laws and other government actions). Why? Because as it happens, this same issue ties in very closely to the debate over gay marriage.
The way I see it, damage and harm from the law or status quo can be divided up into four categories:
1. The individual immediate. As the name suggests, this sort of damage harms the individual without going through a middleman. With this, the individual may suffer regardless of whether the collective society changes. An example would be, say, the raising of taxes. Lots of people suffer, but I consider it to be individual damage because they suffer the effects directly.
2. The collective immediate. With this, something happens to change status quo and as a result, individuals suffer; not as a result of the cause, but as a result of the change in the status quo, which in turn was a result of the original cause. Often, the original change is good, or at east superficially so. An example of this would be if they started massively devaluing the currency by printing lots and lots of $100 bills and distributing them. If they were distributed to one person, there would not be much of a bad effect, and even distributing them widely would yield pleasant results at first. But within a year or less, the currency would be completely devalued and a lot of people would see their life savings basically worthless.
3. The individual long-term. This basically means when something happens to an individual which does not have any bad effect for a long time. It does not in all cases have to do with an action by the government. A prime example would be smoking or drinking. Neither of those things kills you right away. They are a long time coming.
4. The collective long-term. This is the biggie. This is when something is done to change the status quo or some aspect of the way things are done and as a result, there are bad effects somewhere down the line, often a whole generation later. They may have immediate effects also, but there is no guarantee. This is also the one libertarians do not believe in (at least not yet), and it is one which liberals believe in only in few cases, such as global warming (the idea being, atmosphere gets changed gradually, and as a result, future generations suffer). Slightly more germane (and, I might add, slightly more substantiated) examples include no-fault divorce, the Great Society, and to skip ahead to the current debate, gay marriage. The Great Society looked excellent on paper to many people, but eventually it bore ill fruit when some blacks expected immediate ends to their problems, many poor black families became hopelessly dependent on welfare, and the liberal conviction that government solves all was invigorated anew.
Back when no-fault divorce was being considered and debated, people probably asked, as they do about gay marriage now, "how will it harm you?" Well, many did believe that we could make divorce as easy as getting a passport and not have any ill effects. So much for that. One need only look at the situation today. Divorce rates are high, and when they get high, faith in marriage as an institution erodes, and divorce rates get even higher. It will always get hard to keep your marriage intact at some points, but it was probably easier when there was an external expectation to do so.
It is a similar thing with gay marriage. If marriage simply means "a legal union of any two people who are attracted to each other", what will be special about it? Of course, entering into a traditional marriage will always be special in the eyes of God, but gradually, society may come to see little or no different between Scott and his wife, and Dan and his "husband". This is jarring enough on it's own. It becomes even more unsettling when you consider that gay marriage will open the doors to recognition of many other forms of perversion. Incestuous marriages, bestial marriages, all will be declared a "right" if the underlying principle of gay marriage becomes validated, namely that people have a right to do anything weird they want and the government should not make any distinctions that make those with sexual disorders feel excluded. Such distinctions are a violation of rights. Many people will still ask what the problem with that is. Speaking for myself, I'm not going to be happy about being the only genuine thing among a sea of forgeries and being regarded as no more valid than the rest. There are no laws whatsoever prohibiting gays from living together anymore than there are laws prohibiting straight people from living together. It may even come as a surprise to many people that the government does not even know if you're gay, because homosexuality, like illegitimacy, is not anything the government makes any distinctions about.
Secondly, a healthy nation depends on healthy families. Legalizing gay marriage will not prohibit normal people from having normal marriages, but when more and more people are opting for some various form of marriage centered around self-gratification, and there is less and less pressure to take on the responsibilities of a regular marriage, such marriage may be transformed from being to norm to being a dissenting minority. A nation is unable to survive indefinitely if they do not hold themselves and each other to a certain standard and expectation regarding the more important aspects of life. The health of the home is the health of the state.
The number one argument of the gay-okay crowd on this issue is that it will not harm anyone else. The number two argument is that there have already been many gay marriages conducted nationwide and in other countries, and the sky hasn't fallen yet. The first argument does not acknowlege the above mentioned principle of collective harm, and the second one ignores the principle of long-term harm.
One brief note on equal rights: The government can't possibly discriminate against gays since being gay is not an official status (like being hadicapped or a veteran). The government gives gays the same right that straight people have; namely, to marry a person of the opposite sex because that is traditional, and also because a traditional marriage will likely result in a tax paying, wage earning, economy supporting citizen. Why should the government give benefits to people whose union is strictly one of Peter Pan style immaturity and self gratification? The right to marry is the right to choose someone of the opposite sex, of an age of discretion, and to whom you are not related. It does not mean that whoever you are, you have the right to marry whoever you want regardless of age, sex or even species. Thus, banning gay marriage does not violate anyone's equal rights, and as we have seen, there are very real, very serious effects to consider, and we must not ignore them simply because they are a ways down the road.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Has anyone been closely following the proceedings of the 9/11 commission? I haven't, but from what I've heard what's going on recently is that the completely objective, non-partisan members and eager onlookers continue to ask President Bush to apologize for allowing September 11 to happen. Perhaps I can be of assistance by suggesting who is actually responsible for the attacks. I'm not going to name any names, but...

"Didn't the President ignore clear signals warning us of an attack on our own soil which was to kill 3000 or more?" Yes, clearly the president did exactly that. And yet even he was not responsible for that attack. The main culprit was a fellow by the name of Hideki Tojo.

Oh wait. You're talking about modern day politics. Bill Maher was on the Tonight show last night with Jay Leno, and talking about President Bush, he said "shouldn't somebody say 'my bad'?" Yes, someone should. Let's see...

Osama bin Laden is 47 years old. Unless my math is wrong, he was alive for the whole of the Clinton years. I can't claim that we intercepted coded messages talking about the attack, but there were no indications of al-Qaeda activity during the first 8 months of the Bush presidency that were not present during the Clinton presidency. It was Richard Clarke's job to look out for this sort of thing. I forget who pointed this out, but liberals are faulting the Bush administration for not using on al-Qaeda the same sort of preemptive measures which they said were unjust and highly speculative to use against Iraq.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I any of you have seen this letter on the net or in your inboxes, be aware that it is a complete hoax from beginning to end. A lot of people are taking it quite seriously, but it is demonstrably a forgery:
1. Females train at Parris Island, not San Diego.
2. Females do not even train in the same battalions as guys, let alone the same platoon, let alone fight with them.
3. The tone is all wrong. Even if she was inured to early risings and hard work, she would still be unused to the Drill instructors and their constant orders. They force you do pointless and meaningless things like run this way and immediately run back as soon as he tells you to. This is to train them to carry out orders quickly and willingly, so technically it isn't "pointless".
Most letters home are full of gloom and stress from the constant barking and bellowing. Farm kids are probably used to the "do your chores real good and you won't get in trouble" lifestyle. Drill instructors are NEVER satisfied with the job you do until graduation day.
4. She said that they keep on giving her medals for shooting. Actually, you don't get medals at all until the very end, and then you only get one medal, depending on your rifle qualifications (marksman, expert, or sharpshooter).
5. In any case, with the possible exception of the Crucible, there is only one week in which you actually fire the rifle. That's week 7. There would not be time for them to "keep on giving" her medals.
6. She's talking about the ways in which boot camp is different from home (the food, the rising, the guns), but most recruits have already talked about that enough by week 7.
7. Before week 7, there are four days of combat water survival which involve leaping into the water in full gear and swimming. She makes no mention of this, which is odd.
8. A woman with Marine toughness might be able to beat up a normal guy, but not a man who was tough enough to be a Marine, particularly one with 170 pounds on her.
9. She says that you just sit there and hit the target. Not quite. You have to monitor on a little card every single shot you fire, the time, what you hit, and even the wind direction and speed. Surely she would have been sufficiently surprised at that to include it in her letter.
10. I can't guarantee this is an inaccurate detail, but if they really do let you ride home on a bus after your long march, rather than marching back, I would be very surprised.
Of course, many will say that this is just a joke to make people smile. Another inaccuracy: it's not funny. ;)
Master and Commander was released on DVD yesterday. I was seriously disappointed in November when I missed out on all chances to see it. I look forward to getting a chance to see. I heard it's really good, and it looks like the sort of thing that would greatly interest me. I like historical movies. Braveheart, The Patriot, Gladiator, despite it's inaccuracies (Commodus ruled for thirteen years, not one, he had no siblings, and I think he died from poison), and The Passion. In addition to M&C, I am also looking forward to the release of Troy in May. I'm afraid though, that it may not released until I'm already at boot camp (any of you who are going to write to me, understand this: NO SPOILERS. I don't want anyone to tell me how it ends). Other historically based films in progress include a movie of the story of Spartacus and his slave rebellion, and also a Colin Farrel movie about Alexander the Great. Is Hollywood suddenly acquiring taste, or is this just a niche they have only recently discovered? In any case, my calendar is marked.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

This is more of an article than a normal blog post.
Cacciaguida recently posted an article from a San Francisco bath-house newspaper advising girly boys how to make it through the mental trauma of watching Mel Gibson's The Passion. He commented on some of the emotional objections raised ("The Passion for those who have already chosen their passions"), but I would like to indulge my compulsive arguing reflex by disputing some of the factual objections. Why? Because the author "deserves it".
"It is, clearly, a cry for help." No thank you, neither Mel Gibson nor any of us need any of your help, especially because in your vocabulary, "help" usually comes in bottles.
"You are not stupid. You have read The Da Vinci Code. You know damn well that the truth about Mary Magdalene -- along with all juicy goodness of the divine feminine in general -- has been beaten out of Christianity like joy is beaten out of American teenagers." And all that stuff about Mary is...what? Did it get in there accidentally despite the Church's attempts to get rid of any favorable portayals of women?
The reference to the Da Vinci Code reminds me of a Simpsons episode in which they are hiring a nanny and when she arrives, she introduces herself as the new housemaid. Homer chases her out of the house and down the front walk saying "oh no you're not. I've seen Mrs. Doubtfire! You're a man in a drag!" Evidently, some people should not be let near certain books or movies if they don't have the intellectual independence to doubt what they read. And people think Christians are dogmatic and easily duped! At least people have given their lives for professing the scriptures.
"And you know that if Mary Magdalene looked the slightest bit like Monica Bellucci....well, Jesus would've been preaching a lot more of the gospel of oh my freaking God look at those lips." You know, if you actually knew anything about Christianity (like you think you do), you could start by trying to grasp that Jesus was not like the rest of us. The world is full of ordinary guys who can keep their urges under wraps when necessary. Can't we believe that God Made Man could?
"You wail, you scream, you nearly call an ambulance when you burn your finger on the stove while making popcorn. You know for a fact that no human body, no matter how divinely inspired, could ever withstand so much gleeful ultraviolent comical blood-drenched flesh rending as poor ol' Jesus does in the Jerusalem Chainsaw Massacre and not instantly pass out and/or immediately demand three quadruple Martinis and a fistful of holy Vicodin. I mean, please." Ever read the book of Maccabees? (Hint: It's in the Bible). Jews who refused to worship Greek gods were roasted alive. Christians endured almost the same torment during the Great Persecution (first decade of the 300's A.D.). Other were eaten by lions (who were not enthusiastic about the whole table manners thing) or torn to shreds with machines. They endured it. "Freak" is often a word used by people to refer to someone who can do what they could never hope to do.
Then the author complains of kids being allowed to see it, their parents "apparently believing Mel's R-rated bloodbath would offer up some sort of constructive lesson, something deep and divine and unforgettable." Well, that's the effect it had on most people.
In a column published shortly after the release of the movie, Ann Coulter showed her remarkable ability to zero in on the crux of a problem. In this column, she observed that "liberals haven't the vaguest idea what Christianity is." If they did, they would understand the significance of all the suffering and the tears. Unlike the author of the article, I have actually attended a Stations of the Cross. Several, in fact. Liberals think the message of Christianity is "love your brother." I could be thinking of something else, but doesn't "love your enemy" come into it somewhere?
For the sake of her liberal students, Coulter boils the message of the movie down nicely: "'People are sinful and need to be redeemed, and this is your lucky day because I'm here to redeem you even though you don't deserve it, and I have to get the crap kicked out of me to do it.' That is the reason He is called 'Christ the Redeemer' rather than 'Christ the Moron Driving Around in a Volvo With a "Be Nice to People" Bumper Sticker on It.'"
"And then the whips rended....and the sadomasochism amplified to a fever pitch and the families all sat there, stone faced and lost, apparently convincing themselves they were seeing something glorious and profound, as the hapless kids stared down a future full of bloody Jesus nightmares and psychotherapy until many years and many prescription meds later when they finally realize, damn but that movie messed me up." I watched Jurassic Park some months after it came out. In ten years, I have had maybe one or two nightmares. Why shouldn't children be allowed to see such an edifying spectacle? "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them."
Next he complains about the nails going into the hands. "Like that's important to fetishize so explicitly, Mel. You sure you couldn't get the camera a little closer? Maybe more blood splattered directly on the camera lens as the mallet slammed down? Maybe you could've jammed one of those tiny medical cameras inside the bloody hole itself and really hit your point home, so to speak?" Okay, we get the point. It grossed you out. That's because you're a wimp, not because the rest of us are unnatural.
The author also observes that it would be impossible to crucify someone though their hands and not have them fall off. That actually happened in Japan during one of their 16th century persecutions of the adherents of a newly introduced foreign religion. The shroud of Turin shows that Jesus did indeed have the nails driven through His wrists, but in his own depiction, Gibson is simply referring to 17 or 18 centuries of Christian art. Another minor point: their is nothing implausible about the way he was crucified in the movie. He had ropes around His wrists which kept him from falling off. It's not inconceivable that some people were crucified like that.
"Many argue that, despite the truckloads of blood and unchecked violence, Gibson's heart was surely in the right place and his objective was pure. But let's just say it right here and now: bull. You could feel Mel's fetish for torture veritably oozing off the screen like visual razor blades. There was no loving intent in this film. There is no tender message. There is no deep desire to move and inspire and uplift." There was none for you. Try asking an actual Christian what it meant to them. That's assuming you know any. As for the tender message, there was not any in the movie, nor was there any in the true story on which it was based. It's more of a serious, grave and solemn message.
"How many times can you watch Jesus fall to the hard gravel ground with a long, low moan in terrible blood-drenched slow motion without, finally, stifling a laugh?" I should imagine that if you don't believe that anything like this ever happened, the answer is very few. For earnest Christians, it's more a matter of how long you can keep back you tears. (I'm not a big crier, least of all at movies, but I definitely reached the border between crying and not crying).
"This is not Christianity. This is not a message anyone needs. This is the exact opposite of spiritual progress or insight or gentle divine heat and if Jesus came back right this minute and was made to sit through this film, he would sigh gently, shake his short, shaggy hair (long hair was forbidden by Jewish law -- wrong again, Mel), and, you know, hold a nice seminar or something." Confirmation is a sacrament which affirms the candidate's maturity from one who thinks of Christianity the way you do ("gentle divine heat") into one who thinks of Christianity as a duty and a commission. Christ's command to "make disciple of all nations" is referred to by Catholics and others as "The Great Commission". Oh, and incidentally, Christ broke the Sabbath and other Jewish traditions. Who's to say He didn't grow His hair long? If Mel is wrong on that, so is almost every Christian artist since at least the time of Clovis and the conversion of the Franks.
"You think this is how I want to be remembered? This is what he'd say, calmly and lovingly and more than a little sad. You really think this was my message? You believe this is what I want the world to focus on, two hours of deranged apocryphal torture and close-up butchering? Is really where humanity is still stuck, in bloodlust and shallow emotional manipulation and cheesy movie tie-ins and $17 popcorn?" Here's a hint: We don't build war memorials to social workers and seminar speakers. They are built to honor people who died bloodily and painfully (can you believe it?) on the shores of Normandy or Tarawa, or on the slopes of Suribachi on Iwo Jima. It's how they would like to be remembered. Besides, why would Our Lord not want to be remembered for a cosmically amazing act of love? (Another fine point: Christians don't just remember Him, we anticipate Him).
" And, finally, Jesus, he would absolutely agree with the following: If you must see this movie just to see what the fuss is all about, do what I did: Sneak into it after seeing some other, wildly superior film -- like, say, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" -- so as not to contribute one dime to the Mel Gibson Fund for the Spiritually Hysterical.

Rest assured, Jesus would've wanted it that way.

This is one difference between Conservatives and Liberals: Liberals are far more likely to arbitrarily assert that God agrees with them, whatever else you may have been led to believe. In a recent issue of the Washington Post Sunday magazine section, normally funny humor columnist Gene Weingarten writes a column from the Divine perspective in which he shows that God agrees wholeheartedly that Bush v. Gore was a travesty of justice. It seems to me that if Our Lord didn't want people to know or think about His death, He would not have gotten four separate publishers to write it down and publish it. Even If He did disapprove of the film, would He really sanction fraud as a means of avoiding any money going to Mel Gibson?
Let me ask a few questions: Do you believe that when Christ was handed over to be scourged by Romans, that they scourged Him in the same manner that they scourged everybody else, or do you believe that they just tied Him up and gave Him a spanking? Do you believe that He was tied to a tree and had His feet tickled, or do you actually think that He was executed in the same manner as other criminals under Roman rule? Catholics meditated on these scenes in the Stations of the Cross years before the movie was released. None of us were really surprised at what we saw.
In conclusion, we may very well wonder, "why all the hate?" Even if you disapprove of the film, it wasn't that awful (certainly by Hollywood standards). I think the answer is that such a brazen salvo of pure undiluted Christianity shakes their materialistic sense of security. We all know that a life without God is a life of uncertainty and the torment of insecurity. Some people deliberately shut God out of their lives, letting Him in only in the form of a flower child who hates blood and makes minimal demands on people as far as sanctity goes.
I guess I'm not exactly famous for my humility, but when I left this movie for the first time, none of us said anything for several minutes. We were all thinking the same thing: "Gee, don't I feel like a heel".
If you're a liberal snob, you are unable to reconcile that notion with your snobbery, and so you must attack the message, the medium in which it is contained, the author of that medium, and all others who saw it and were moved. To be a Christian, one must have several things, perfection not among them. But one thing one must possess to have a meaningful Christian faith is the masculinity to admit that you committed some huge misdeeds, Someone covered up for those misdeeds, and a huge amount of thanks is in order considering that no amount can suffice. In fact, the thanks to be given to God is so profound and so different from normal human thanks that the term "thanksgiving" was coined.
If you can't give that sort of thanks, contemplate that sort of sacrifice, or consider the possibility that you are not a person of supreme wonderfulness, then you must hate this film and any other accurate depiction of the suffering of the Greatest Hero ever.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Just a little question: Am I the only one who gets annoyed by amateur, buck-fifty philosophy? As I shoot my memory back, I conjure up the recollections of a hundred different phrases, all of which had the same effect on me: "What in the hell does that mean?"
Columnist Andrew Sullivan wrote a few years ago in a New York Times column that "most human goods are alloyed with most human failings". Oookay, let's follow this up. It basically means that you can't be good or do a good thing without ipso facto and at the same time doing or being something evil.
I recall someone at the restaurant I used to work at who came in one day to get her paycheck, wearing a tee shirt that said "betrayed by truth". I asked, and their explanations made no sense to me. The best explanation put forward was a girl who said "it just sounds cool".
Last but probably most egregiously, I was walking out of the bank a month or so ago when I saw a guy wearing a sleeveless tee shirt. On it was written something like "These are the days that expound the inner darkness of our souls." WOW! I must remember to mark my calendar. But seriously, I doubt that people actually mean anything by theses baubles. They're just a cheap way to sound sagacious.
At first, I think this trend began in a very Bohemian manner. Simon and Garfunkel had a part in popularizing the stereotype of the struggling artist who was also a philosopher.
If I had to guess, I'd say that what really popularized this sort of thing was the Matrix. The first one was good, but the second one was very heavy indeed on the amateur and not-so-sound philosophy. Where exactly did they get the notion that Neo made a choice without knowing it and long before he carried it out, and was simply trying to understand why. The stuff about causality was a bit confusing also, but only because I had a few doubts as to who the moviemakers meant to cast as correct and who they meant to cast as incorrect. In any case, I disliked that scene for the same reason I dislike many other attempts at nickel-and-a-dime philosophy:
I hate expositions that raise more questions than they answer. I like answers, and I don't believe in the existence of unanswerable questions.
Say, I'd like to hear from anybody else who has seen or heard such examples of meaningless, pseudo-philosophical jargon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

A defense of the Iraq War from Catholic Just War Doctrine.
"The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain." For most opponents of the war, this is their favorite condition. Owing to lack of an Iraqi attack on the U.S., many assert that the Iraq war's causus belli horse breaks a leg at the starting gate.
Two points must be made at the outset:
First, look more closely. It says "damage", not "attack". This is unlikely simply to be a meaningless technicality or an oversight. Immediately, it opens the door to justifications for war based on long-term damages such as occupation or things like that. One might ask whether avoidance of U.N. resolutions would count. Possibly, but it's rather irrelevant. Saddam spent twelve years disobeying the terms of his surrender. The learned student of history will recall that the consequences for the losing side for disobeying treaties was traditionally.....resumption of the war. (The consequences for a similar action by the winning side are the same. However, depending on how completely they won, resumption of the war may be less of a con, or even not a con at all).
It is equally important to note the first condition does not say that the nation responding to the aggression must be the same as the nation upon whom the original damage was inflicted. The fact that an attack or other form of damage was not made on the United States should not obstruct the United States from reacting to Iraq's aggression against Kuwait (First Gulf War) or Hussein's threatening of neighbors and mass torture.
"All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective."
Little needs to be said here except for the obvious question: "How many resolutions must be ignored and how many sanctions must not work before we are ready to admit that we're spinning our wheels with regard to this guy?" Plausible alternatives to the war (even in retrospect) are even harder to find the Weapons of Mass Destruction.
"There must be serious prospects of success."
I read an article in National Catholic Register which claimed that in view of the resistance and the insurgence, there may not actually be serious chances of success. I think this must be a difference of terms we're using. This condition simply means that there must be prospects of success which are more than mere idle fancy.
"The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition."
I think the score so far is Saddam: several million; U.S. Forces: A couple thousand. I think this condition gets a little misunderstood. It simply needs to be read literally. Even the bombing of Hiroshima was just in this regard, because this condition does not judge actions by themselves, it judges them next to another variable: the "evil to be eliminated"(Historians estimate that if not for the A-bomb, more that 20 million would have died in an invasion). By the way, I'm not sure, but I think that last sentence was added sometime during the Cold War.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Well, first of all, the fact that we haven't found them does not prove they did not exist any more that the fact that we have not found bin Laden proves that he didn't exist. Secondly, he never came clean. If the police were chasing a suspect and yelled after him to drop his gun, he might do it or he might not. Suppose he went around a corner and up an alley. When they regain sight of him, they can't see his gun. What do they do? The answer is simple: I they aren't certain he dropped his gun, they must assume he still has it and act accordingly.
When the U.S. again focused on Saddam, he had not accounted for his WMD's, so he was assumed to still have them and the administration acted accordingly.
Before the war, many jeered at the thought that Saddam was involved in terrorism and therefore deserving of attention in a war waged against terrorism. It was alleged that Hussein and bin Laden were "bitter enemies" and would never forge an alliance. This looks silly enough in the light of bin Laden tapes leading upto the war telling Iraqis to be willing to die for the regime. It is even less tenable in the light of the fact that al-Qaida punished Spain not for working with the U.S. in Afghanistan, but for doing so in Iraq. In fact, many events have struck severe blows to the credibility of saying that the terrorist world is divided and disjointed. Although intelligence is a difficult business and the terrorist world is indeed difficult to understand, evidence seems to suggest that by and large they are more cohesive than previously thought.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

I did some counting the other day, and I figured that in my 18 years I have been to Mass in 36 different places including three cathedrals (Washington, Arlington and Cincinnati), two Basilicas (National Shrine and St. Peters), dozens of parishes, several chapels and even a courtroom. :)
Kind of funny since it's not the sort of thing one thinks of very often. How many places have you been to?
I picked up and read New Oxford Review the other day, and I intend not to do it much more in the future. They have established for themselves and are very proud of they're style of not mincing words. Well, bravo. Their ads always advertise such a style, and they certainly make interesting reading in and of themselves. Except the magazine still stinks.
The articles were fine. I read one about new Cardinals and another one reviewing The Passion, but those are contributed by others. The editorials and others made me wince throughout.
In the letters section, they published, without any refutation or rebuttal of any sort, a letter from someone saying that Catholics were "conscience-bound" to boycott the November election. Here's why: There were not, in the authors opinion, any "consistently" pro-life candidates, because, as the author informed us, a "consistent" pro-life position in accordance with Church teaching would require opposition to the legal death penalty and to the Iraq war. Such premises were not open to question. The author stated them as if they were truths held to be self-evident. In point of fact, the Church does not oppose the death penalty, and the Iraq war checks out with just-war doctrine (that is something I can elaborate on later).
Another letter was from a woman signing herself as "annoyed". She talked about how tacky and irreverent her parish was. She told of women braiding each other's hair or rubbing each other's shoulders on they way to communion. I'm glad I don't go to her parish. She then talked about going to a Latin Tridentine Mass and coming away with the feeling "that I had really been to Mass". The difference is a big one, and one that I have felt myself quite a bit. When I'm in really awful churches hearing really awful masses, I feel almost like a spy. The letter annoyed me in only one little way, and one in which the authors was not responsible for. Basically, I don't quite understand why for some people the Latin Tridentine is the only Mass that doesn't sound like fingernails on a blackboard. Ask any devotee of the Tridentine rite (and the Tridentine only!), regardless of whether they are schiz' or legit', why they drive an hour and a half (or relocate their family) to go to that one, and they will say "oh, I can't stand the mini-skirted liturgical dancers, the clowns, the balloons, the self-obsessed choirs and the content-free sermons."
Well, neither can I. We should get to know each other better. But seriously, is there no middle ground? There are other churches that can be found here and there which are satisfactory. They don't have a choir loft but at least they don't have balloons or clowns. The music is a little misguided and the sermons are a mix of stale and replete. But all things considered, they DO leave you with the feeling of having been to Mass and in my own humble opinion, they should be encouraged at least somewhat.
Of course, when talking about this sort of thing, empiricism plays a large part. I have been to seashell-shaped churches built in the 70's where the liturgy was reverent and glorious, and I have been to Tridentine Masses where the homilies were completely bland if they were even given at all.
They also had an editorial which basically said that homosexuals have no human dignity which we are bound to respect. It is obvious that we are using different definitions of human dignity. Without pursuing that point any further, I want to ask a question: If we can believe that by acts people can forfeit their rights (a concept which is completely defensible), where does that leave NOR on the issue of capital punishment?
One last thing on the issue of New Oxford Review: Although I agree with them on (most) social issues, I'm not sure what sort of impression readers will get when they see NOR editors openly long for an America of laws they themselves describe as "Stalinist".

Friday, April 09, 2004

I suppose in addition to all the Marine stuff, I ought to give a (brief) overview or who I am.
My name is Jonathan Lee Morris. I'm 18 and I live in VA. I've been homeschooled much of my life (including all of High School), and that experience has acquainted me with the advantages and flaws of that particular education path.
Childhood is over. I leave for boot camp hopefully sometime next month, and in the fall I will start Freshman year at Christendom College.
To tell you the complete truth, that's about as far into the future as I can see.
Almost as soon as I enlisted in the Marines, indeed sooner than that, people have been asking me why. They would ask me my reasons when they heard it for the first time, and they would ask me why even if they knew it for a while. Even the Marine who drove me from Richmond back to my home town asked us why.
Well, almost any Marine will say that everyone has a different reason, so I can't bluff by saying "Oh, same reason all the rest joined".
Let me try to compile a list here and now of all the reasons.
1. Someone has to do it.
2. The Marines are widely recognized as the best. Leaders such as Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan have come to the unremarkable conclusion that the U.S. Marine Corps can make any other military body on earth cry uncle.
3. The Uniform is the best. Navy whites come in second, and Army and Air Force are both somewhat lame.
4. Only branch where even enlisted men get a sword. ;)
5. The Marine Corps takes change slowly if at all. They are just about the only service that is not half military/half jobs program. Journalist Thomas Ricks describes Parris Island boot camp as "one of the few rites of passage left in America". "I'm an airman!" How many people are impressed with that? More to the point, why are they not impressed? The reason people are more impressed with the existential fact of being a Marine is not that the Marines have a higher maximum (though that is probably true), it is that the Marines have a higher minimum.
6. I find almost all other measures of social status among people my age as being remarkably hollow. I'm tired of trying to be cool on other people's terms. I want something to be my own thing. I've always felt rather out of place in most circles. If I am in the Marine Corps, I'll be glad to feel out of place.
7. I can only be young once. A lot of guys my age would use this as a reason to hold off the Marines with a barge-pole. I don't know. They and I are all destined to end up as old fat bald men. But if I succeed, I will be an old fat bald former Marine. This isn't to say that not joining the Marines means not accomplishing anything. It just means that others must make their accomplishments at other times, in other fields, and must face the possibility that they may never quite finish what they started.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Now down to the issues...
First there's this new movie, The Passion. As meticulously researched and defensible as it is, it not as easy for the secularists to attack. So, instead, it has been criticized for being too violent. A couple of thoughts on that:
For one thing, my dad made a fairly interesting observation that there is much Manicheeism in that sort of criticism. "They're just embarrassed that Jesus took on a body."
Another thing is how unaware of themselves many of these liberal literati are. If there was a movie of equal bloodiness about, say, the sufferings of blacks or indians, it would be acclaimed in The New York Times as an epic masterpiece. In fact, if the movie were reshot to show a homosexual instead of Jesus receiving precisely the same treatment at the behest of the High Priest Jerry Falwell, it would also be acclaimed as an epic masterpiece.
However, we're still on the lookout for anyone who cares. The movie has grossed several skillion dollars, and seems to appeal to evangelicals, catholics and almost all Christians. I was not displaying excellent foresight a year or more ago when, after hearing that Mel Gibson's forthcoming movie was aimed at being the most accurate depiction ever of the Passion (including using ancient languages), my big worry was that it would not have wide appeal.
This is my first post of my first real blog.
With an eye to my blog turning up on certain searches, here is a list of words that have to do with me and my life:
Christendom, Western Civilization, Marine Corps, Right-wing, Catholic Church, The West, President Bush, John Kerry, Cacciaguida, Elinor Dashwood, Rome, Livy, Plutarch, Tacitus, Anne Carroll, Paul Johnson, Warren Carroll, and Gauis Suetonius Tranquilus.
That should do it.

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