The Vast JournoList Conspiracy

Tuesday, July 27, AD 2010


The vast JournoList conspiracy can be called over-heated rhetoric.

But then again, facts get in the way.

The liberal staff writer for the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz, agrees with me on the left-leaning JournoList:

To conservatives, it is a pulling back of the curtain to expose the media’s mendacity.

To liberals, it is a selective sliming based on e-mails that were supposed to remain private.

But there is no getting around the fact that some of these messages, culled from the members-only discussion group Journolist, are embarrassing. They show liberal commentators appearing to cooperate in an effort to hammer out the shrewdest talking points against the Republicans — including, in one case, a suggestion for accusing random conservatives of being racist.

Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller site, which has been dribbling out the e-mails, drew fresh reaction Thursday with a piece about Journolist members savaging Sarah Palin. The former Alaska governor responded with a slam at the media’s “sick puppies,” saying she was confronted during the 2008 campaign by “hordes of Obama’s opposition researchers-slash-‘reporters.’ ” But the people making the most stridently partisan comments in the invitation-only group weren’t reporters at all — they were out-of-the-closet liberals acting like, well, liberals.

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12 Responses to The Vast JournoList Conspiracy

  • William Tecumseh Sherman:
    “I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast.”

  • “To liberals, it is a selective sliming based on e-mails that were supposed to remain private.”

    Well, all the participants need to do is to release the archive, something they have been unwilling to do. Of course to conservatives none of this comes as a surprise: the mainstream media, by and large, is made up of men and women who tilt left and despise conservatives. None of this of course affects their coverage of news. 🙂

  • No, not at all. Their views never affect how they report it.

    Thank beelzebub for MSNBC and CNN!

  • Iowahawk has his own special take on the controversy:

    “Welcome to the Journolist Top Secret Progressive He-Man Wingnut Haters Club and L33t H4xoR Chat Room. Disclaimer: this is a private discussion forum intended solely for the benefit of JournoList members. Reproduction, transmission, redistribution, or description, in whole or in part, of any content (including, but not limited to, private insults, insider innuendo, political manifestos, hair styling tips and/or gossip) without the expressed written consent of the commissioner is strictly prohibited. Please read and agree to the User Consent Form. And, as always, remember the first rule of JournoList: there is no JournoList.”

  • Mickey Kaus:

    “”Shut up” seems to be a favorite talking point of Journolist defenders. But I don’t think non-members need to accept their message discipline.

    Journolist was a terrible idea from the start, not so much because it enabled the promotion of “lock-steppedness” and a progressive party line across media organizations (though Salam more or less concedes that it did), or because it fostered an “us vs. them” mentality (which it also obviously did). It was a bad idea, mainly because it took a process that could have been public, democratic and transparent and gratuitously made it private, stratified and opaque. This was an odd move for “progressives” to make when confronted with the revolutionary openness of the Web. It’s as if they’d looked at our great national parks and said hey, what we really need is to carve out a private walled enclave for the well connected. Invited to a terrific party, they immediately set up a VIP room.”

  • Invited to a terrific party, they immediately set up a VIP room.”

    That seems to define many, if not most, liberals, including his Liberalness Obama, peace be upon him.

  • I wouldn’t have problems with these sorts of revelations if they were just honest in their work.

    I make no secrets about my biases and points of view, why should they? Oh yeah, to be “objective.” Well, that was their first mistake. There’s no such thing as objective journalism.

  • One feature of modern journalists is a shameless tendency to overestimate themselves. Some of them truly believe that they can reshape people’s minds, many more pretend to believe it. Or they start barking when the Vatican issues a statement in a way they wouldn’t have done, because PR is oohhh soooo important, don’t you know……
    This is simply not the case.

    I am Italian and I can tell you that even after 17 years of shameless linkage between media, politics and business the impressive media apparatus of the most famous thief in the land could never move more than a couple of percentage points of the electorate; and this not without an immense effort and expense and losing two elections in the process.

    In the UK where I now live the amazingly leftist BBC is omnipresent and utterly ignored by the electorate in its voting decisions.
    In May the “Guardian” (and old-style socialist newspaper) tried to separate themselves from the sure loser, the Labour party and supported the Liberal Democrates; the LibDems promptly went on to lose votes and seats.

    Another big newspaper, the Sun, only support the probable winner in order to be able to say that they are the kingmaker; they are rather the king’s jester, methinks

    There are notable exceptions of course, but you get my drift.

  • Has anyone really taken the MSM seriously for the past two decades? I mean, besides themselves and fellow travelers, of course.

  • Thanks to a diversity of media options and the rise of new media, liberals have lost their choke-hold on the “message” and are now complaining like a flopping fish on the beach.

  • And they’re asking for govt. money to keep them going.

  • Well, why not? everyone else is asking.

Hobbesian Gun Control

Tuesday, July 27, AD 2010

I was struck by a passage out of this recent National Review piece by Keven D. Williamson in reference to gun control:

People have a visceral reaction to guns, which is why the reactions to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago have been so emotional. One extraordinarily telling reaction came from David Ignatius of the Washington Post, whose response was headlined: “The Supreme Court Gun Decision Moves Us Toward Anarchy.” Mr. Ignatius wrote: “My biggest worry with Monday’s Supreme Court decision is that by ruling, in effect, that every American can apply for a gun license, the justices will make gun ownership much more pervasive in a society that already has too many guns. After all, if I know that my neighbor is armed and preparing for Armageddon situations where law and order break down (as so many are — just read the right-wing blogs) then I have to think about protecting my family, too. That’s the state-of-nature, everyone for himself logic that prevails in places such as Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Mr. Ignatius here is remarkably forthcoming:

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18 Responses to Hobbesian Gun Control


    The logic of David Ignatius is frightening and sobering. Unfortunately there are some Catholics who tend to agree with this absurd paranoia and distrust of fellow citizens.

    With due credit to Hobbes, he recognized as absolutely paramount the right to self-preservation. Modern “progressives” are even sub-Hobbesian, willing to throw their own lives onto the pyre – what WOULD they do if it all broke down? They’d be dead in a week, and the right-wing “nut” would survive.

    No one WANTS the state of war, moreover – as if the Lebanese people like living that way, or as if anyone does – and it isn’t entirely irrational to take modest precautions in the event of societal collapse, especially in times such as ours, during which the government is determined to see how much money it can create and spend before destroying the entire economy.

  • There is also a decided element of class snobbery to this as well, a profound distrust of/disgust with the great unlettered and their pastimes.

    It’s enclave thinking, and Ignatius needs to leave his bubble much more often.

  • The Hobbesian horror is a failure of the progressive’s imagination. Short of the managerial state, there are no intervening institutions or intermediary forms of community that act as a bulwark against chaos. In their view, we are all violent individualists at heart. Those of us with strong families, churches, etc., know otherwise.

    There is also an imaginative failure of the “wisdom of crowds” sort: That decentralized decisions lead to chaos, and only centralized direction works.

  • …Plus guns are just oogedy-boogedy scary to people who haven’t been around them. I don’t own any guns (Hello, criminals!), but my father was a police officer who came home with a .38 every day. It was no big deal to me, but it seemed to shock certain “enclave types” (to borrow from Dale, above) who were surprised to learn that no one actually shot anyone with anything all those years in our home.

  • I don’t own a gun (unless you count a WWII German pistol given to me by my late uncle, which is probably non-functional), and I have zero interest in owning a gun. And I favor reasonable gun regulations. I also favor a faithful interpretation of the Second Amendment just as a matter of principle. Ignatius’s criticism is telling in that it is a policy analysis, not a legal one. Like most Lefties he thinks that the SCOTUS should make policy rather than interpret our laws, including the law of the land, with fidelity. Of course he compounds his felony by commiting poor policy analysis.

  • I have never liked firearms. I haven’t fired one since I left the Army and bid a not so fond farewell to my M-16. However, I fully support the right to keep and bear arms pursuant to the Constitution. I also agree with many of the Founding Fathers that an armed populace is the final defense against a tyrannical government.

    “Conceived it to be the privilege of every citizen, and one of his most essential rights, to bear arms, and to resist every attack upon his liberty or property, by whomsoever made. The particular states, like private citizens, have a right to be armed, and to defend, by force of arms, their rights, when invaded.”

    Roger Sherman 1790

  • I don’t own any guns, and don’t plan to. But I certainly do not begrudge anyone from obtaining one legally.

    Every time this debate comes up I recall the scene from Zombieland:

    “Thank God for rednecks!”

  • There is also a decided element of class snobbery to this as well, a profound distrust of/disgust with the great unlettered and their pastimes.

    Can’t imagine who you have in mind.

  • guns are just oogedy-boogedy scary to people who haven’t been around them.

    I suspect that this effect is exacerbated by the fact that on tv and in the movies guns seem to be an almost magical cause of violence.

  • This is doubtless because they haven’t read enough classic British mysteries, in which people seem always to be mysteriously bludgeoned.

    In addition to the fun of the world “bludgeoned”, we also have the fun that everyone is a suspect!

  • Indeed. There are people around whom I am totally relaxed and at ease when they are holding a gun, and there are people who make me nervous when they hold a sharpened pencil. The problem with gun crime is not the gun, its the crime. The progressive penchant for holding things instead of people responsible is the key difference in the views.

  • “Can’t imagine who you’d have in mind.”

    Believe it or not, not anyone I’ve sparred with on the ‘net.

    It’s implicit in Ignatius’ horrified acknowledgement that “every” (read: the wrong kind) law-abiding American has a protected right under the Second Amendment.

  • Excuse me but are we to assume a rush to purchase most guns today is to protect ones life from other law abiding gun owners? Isn’t that a little absurd?
    If a poll were taken I believe we would find the average first time gun buyer today is most concerned with protecting his liberty and pursuit of happiness. This is the greatest threat to the average American at this time, not common criminals with guns but radical politicians with one party rule and a large following of thugs to enforce their tyrannical agenda.

  • Actually, I think most guns are purchased because people enjoy hunting and/or target shooting.

    Defense against crime probably comes second after that, and defense against the government a distant third.

  • I agree but in your haste..

    You missed my point. Did you not notice I said “first time buyers today”.

  • This is a recurring problem of the leftists.
    They play “humanitarian” but as soon as you scratch the surface you discover that they don’t like humans.

    The nanny thinking is the fruit of the same mentality: “you are a bunch of savages and we enlightened people must make civilised being out of animals like you” is the implied message.

  • So according to this article, progressives/liberals think the only thing standing between us and Mad Max-style anarchy is an all-powerful nanny state. Well, pardon my bluntness here, but what did they expect when they have been going around for decades trying to convince people that the freedom to copulate at will like savages is the only freedom that really counts, and anything or anyone that gets in the way of it (particularly inconvienient spouses and unborn children) can and should be disposed of at will? Or when they blame crime solely or primarily on poverty, lack of education, racism, mental/emotional illness, etc., and disregard the notion of free will? In essence, they’ve already conceded a low opinion of the common person as little more than animals who can’t help themselves, so it’s no wonder they assume that anyone who gets their hands on a gun has the potential to turn into some kind of crazed psycho.

  • Once guns are taken out of the commoners’ hands, knives and other sharp objects begin to take on the oogedy-boogedy scary aspect. Not sure what comes after that. Brass candlesticks perhaps.

    I admit to having a visceral reaction to the AYA side-by-side in the LL Bean hunting catalog, but it has remarkably little to do with my fear of a tyrannical government.

Motivation and Performance

Tuesday, July 27, AD 2010

Hattip to the Acton Institute PowerblogDan Pink, the man behind the video, worked in the White House 1995-1997 as a speechwriter for Al Gore.  I doubt if he and I would agree on much of anything politically, but he is on target in this video.  Money as a motivator is useful only up to a point.  Granting employees as much autonomy as possible, and making them passionate about improving what they are doing at work, is obviously the goal of any wise employer.  How to accomplish this  is a good deal more difficult than Mr. Pink’s well done video indicates.  However, it is a good goal, and I know that with my employees I have always tried to grant them a great deal of autonomy, usually with good results, although some have indicated to me that they really preferred simply being told what to do and how to do it.

Of course there are other schools of thought regarding employee motivation:

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Caritas in Veritate 25, By the Numbers

Monday, July 26, AD 2010

My co-blogger Tim recently highlighted the following statement from Pope Benedict’s latest social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:

The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development in terms of greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market. Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers’ associations.

Now in this passage, the Pope makes a number of factual and causal claims. First, he claims that the global market has led countries to “attempt to attract foreign businesses” by adopting “favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market.” Second, the Pope claims that these reforms (i.e. adopting “favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market”) have led to “a downsizing of social security systems” and “cuts in social spending.”

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0 Responses to Caritas in Veritate 25, By the Numbers

  • I believe in one social encyclical by JP II (can’t recall which one) it was noted that social teaching was subject to correction as historical, sociological etc.understanding advanced. Perhaps this is a case where evolving economic understanding would correct prudential assessments.

  • That’s a great post. It needs to be stressed really forcefully that the Pope’s comments in an encyclical like Caritas vary in nature quite dramatically, and many of his statements are simply the opinion of a wise but limited individual.

    Two other aspects of the document struck me as showing unusually clearly that the document drew from distinct, and to some extent opposed, sources. (1) On the one hand, the Pope suggests that globalization and its progeny have the danger of suppressing the distinct characters of separate peoples. On the other, he seems to laud the ability of people, labor, goods, and ideas to move freely around and mix, to the potential betterment of all. Well, you can’t have the latter without the former, so which is it?

    (2) In a like vein, the Pope makes it entirely clear that stronger world governance is needed, “with teeth”, and that the UN should take steps in dealing with the dramatic poverty caused by the 2008 crisis in short order – months to a year timeframe – steps that would in fact require such “teeth” as the UN does not possess. On the other hand, the Pope makes it clear that any world organization for governing must be organized with subsidiarity as a founding principle. But the UN, and especially the UN aspects that are the strongest in terms of “teeth”, exhibit nothing whatsoever in the nature of subsidiarity, and indeed the ruling class of bureaucrats in NY and Geneva, (and in Brussels and the Hague) are quite adamantly opposed to subsidiarity whenever they come up against it. So, again, which is it?

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Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 4 & Conclusion)

Monday, July 26, AD 2010

[Continued from Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3]

NFP and the Contraceptive Mentality

In concluding this series, I’d like to address the question which originally set me on on this overly extended journey: Is it possible for users of Natural Family Planning to have a “contraceptive mentality” and if so what does that mean in the context of NFP?

I’ve described the contraceptive mentality as: The idea that having sex and reproducing are two activities with no necessary connection, that having sex in no way suggests a desire or willingness to have children with the person you are having sex with.

At root, I think that NFP is formulated in such a way as to be in direct opposition to the contraceptive mentality. According to an understanding of sexuality rooted in human instinct and biological reality, the way to avoid conceiving children is to not have sex. This is also the means of avoiding conception which is considered acceptable by the Church in the context of its understanding of the moral nature of sexuality. NFP is considered morally acceptable by the Church for the reason that it consists of avoiding pregnancy by not having sex, with the modern refinement of allowing the married couple to understand with a certain degree of confidence when it is that they need to avoid having sex in order to avoid conception. Rather than abstaining all the time in order to avoid pregnancy, the couple can abstain for between a quarter and half out of the woman’s cycle, and achieve the same result with relative certainty.

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4 Responses to Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 4 & Conclusion)

  • Isn’t it true that the self denial is linked to income and increases with lower and lower income? Indeed the very rich Catholic of the level of a Mel Gibson (cited here only for the income and number of children aspect) do not even have to resort to NFP nor do they have to self deny in this area. Far on the other extreme is the poor Catholic in mainland China in those areas wherein the one child policy is brutally enforced so that after one child, the couple can be coerced physically into an abortion if NFP fails in their case for several decades straight. This area is so serious for particularly the Chinese that I will never comprehend how no Pope has worked on this in terms of an ex cathedra encyclical
    to resolve all doubts that arise thus far in the ordinary magisterium. Indeed few Popes have actually written about this (about 8 out of the 265 total) and the ones long ago wrote only fragments. It was more theologians (principally Augustine ( as Fr. Hardin noted) and canon law after several early councils.
    For the high stakes that the Chinese must face, Popes should have made this a priority
    as to facing this area with a view toward an ex cathedra encyclical or admit that they are not sure enough for that level. The rich need not sacrifice in this area but the Chinese couple face enormous fines and forced abortion in some provinces.

  • That should be Fr. Hardon not Hardin for those unfamiliar and wanting to do a search on him.

  • Bill, even for rich Catholics, there are valid other reasons to delay additional children. In Mel Gibson’s case, even if he were still living with his actual wife, his alcoholism could constitute serious reason. I know more than one couple where there is grave mental illness that looks (at least from the outside) as appropriate reason for employing NFP to avoid pregnancy.

    Also, while the general standard of NFP is that you use it to avoid pregnancy “for a time”, that standard is subject to common sense. If the condition that causes the problem that presents serious reason for delaying another child is something that, at least with respect to natural causes, is expected to be permanent, the couple’s use of NFP would be under the same understanding: to avoid pregnancy permanently, unless a miracle solves the problem.

  • Tony
    You are talking of exceptional cases in regard to mental illness. And drinkers like Mel who are rich do not ask what is prudent in this area because they underestimate their problem…since they are bringing in millions.
    Mia Farrow, Madonna, Angelina Jolie…most of the wealthy can have children and adopt also with no practice of birth control or nfp and no self denial…which is the case too with those Catholic who are sterile by nature. There is no encyclical telling the naturally sterile to abstain. Work stress by nature limits over doing this area unless there is the rare mental disorder around this issue.
    And on top of that, Angelina Jolie gave to Haiti 4 times the donation amount of money that the Vatican gave to Haiti. That is real wealth.

    All couples in parts of China have the exact opposite situation on a non exceptional basis. After one child they must use something to prevent a second child which will be killed in some provinces. Yet Scripture told some of the more passionate ones… “it is better to marry than to burn” …(with desire).

Civil Dialogue Between a Darwin Evolutionist and Natural Law Theorist

Monday, July 26, AD 2010

On Blogging Heads TV, Robert Wright discusses how we reason about the human good with Robert P. George of Princeton University, a leading scholar of modern natural law theory (with whom readers are no doubt familiar).

Subjects discussed:

  • Chapter 1: Natural law vs. utilitarianism (12:01)
  • Chapter 2: Why exactly is friendship good? (14:03)
  • Chapter 3: Euthanasia and human dignity (7:22)
  • Chapter 4: Natural law and conservativism (5:02)
  • Chapter 5: What can be done in the name of the greater good? (12:28)
  • Chapter 6: Just war theory (6:17)

Robert Wright is the author of The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, and The Evolution of God.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a member of the Task Force on the Virtues of a Free Society of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His books include In Defense of Natural Law and Clash Of Orthodoxies: Law Religion & Morality In Crisis.

I’ve watched a few episodes of ‘BloggingHeads’ — video debates between leading bloggers/authors — but this was the first with Dr. George, who is very adept at getting right to the point and crystallizing the respective positions of each side. Likewise this may serve as a good introduction to viewers who aren’t generally accustomed to analyzing moral situations from a (Catholic) natural law perspective.

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Dr. Kenneth Howell-Update

Monday, July 26, AD 2010

Back on July 9, here, I wrote about Dr. Kenneth Howell who was fired by the University of Illinois for setting forth Catholic doctrine on homosexuality in a class that he was teaching on Catholicism pursuant to a contract between the University of Illinois and the local Newman Center on campus.  On July 14, I reported here that the firing was under review by a faculty committee of the University of Illinois.  The committee hasn’t completed its review, but there have been a few developments that I thought our readers might find interesting.

1.  An interesting story here by the News-Gazette, the local Champaign-Urbana paper, detailing how Dr. Howell went from a Presbyterian Minister to a lay Catholic.

2.  The Alliance Defense Fund which is representing Dr. Howell, sent a letter to the University of Illinois on July 12, demanding his reinstatement.  Read the letter here.  The Alliance Defense Fund highlights the absurdity of this situation rather well with this statement:  “A university cannot censor professors’ speech–including classroom speech related to the topic of the class–merely because certain ideas ‘offend’ an anonymous student,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French. “To fire a professor for teaching the actual subject matter of his course is outrageous. It’s ridiculous that a school would fire a professor without even giving him a chance to defend himself when he simply taught Catholic beliefs in a class about Catholic beliefs.”

3.  One thing I have learned while examining this controversy is just what a nice guy Dr. Howell is, and how open to argument and debate he is.  These characteristics are both noted by atheist John Loftus at his website here.  Dr. Howell is a model of what a university Professor should be:  knowledgeable as to his subject and willing to discuss and debate with anyone in an atmosphere of mutual respect and open inquiry.  That a man of his calibre has been subject to this type of politically correct firing is a total travesty.

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9 Responses to Dr. Kenneth Howell-Update

  • At the risk of complicating things, it should be noted that Howell’s status as “adjunct” allows UI to fire him for “no cause.” They therefore are not legally obliged to state the rationale behind his termination. Whether this is right or wrong, it’s perfectly legal.

    Secondly, as other publications have pointed out (most notably Inside Higher Ed), Howell was the beneficiary of a particularly odd arrangement between the Diocese and the University, according to which the faculty of Religious Studies had no say in his hiring, even though he was teaching classes in their department. The Diocese’s refusal to allow for peer review of their hiring decision thus rankled the faculty for a long time prior to this event, which was (in my opinion) merely an opportune moment for them to pounce. The arrangement itself was pretty delicate and tenuous, and I can see how, no matter what Howell was teaching, the mere fact of his being appointed outside regular procedures may have upset a good number of faculty.

    All this is to say nothing of his email, the merits and problems with it, whether he is being made a scapegoat (he undoubtedly is, in my opinion), but merely to point out that there is a much more complicated backstory there.

  • They therefore are not legally obliged to state the rationale behind his termination. Whether this is right or wrong, it’s perfectly legal.

    Perhaps Mr. McClarey might clarify whether, under Illinois law, they can be compelled to give an accounting of themselves before a committee of the legislature.

  • Art Deco,

    I hope that Donald does clarify the point of law at issue, but my understanding is that, if UI were to defend their non-renewal of Howell’s contract on the basis of the email in question, this would indeed provide Howell with a colorable First Amendment suit against UI. However, UI need simply provide *no* reason for their termination of Howell in order to avoid such a suit. (Of course, their own statements about the Howell case might make this latter move a difficult one for them to make. It may be too late to avoid.)

    Still, what the backstory of Howell shows, at least to my mind, is that there *are* issues of academic freedom and governance at play here other than the immediate issue regarding Howell’s email.

  • WJ, that’s my (non-professional) understanding also: If UI had simply said “your services are no longer required” and nothing else they would have a hide-bound case to stand on. But they have already gone way, way beyond that, and it would probably be true that based on the public evidence, they would be forced to give up internal documents relating to the discussions before his firing. If the public and internal documents show an action taken precisely on account of his teaching of Catholic standards, they will be hung out to dry in court.

  • “At the risk of complicating things, it should be noted that Howell’s status as “adjunct” allows UI to fire him for “no cause.” They therefore are not legally obliged to state the rationale behind his termination. Whether this is right or wrong, it’s perfectly legal.”

    Illinois is an “at will” state. What this means is that traditionally in Illinois employees, absent a contract, could be fired for any or no reason. However this has been modified over the past few decades by federal and state legislation that has prevented employers for firing employees for discriminatory reasons.

    “I hope that Donald does clarify the point of law at issue, but my understanding is that, if UI were to defend their non-renewal of Howell’s contract on the basis of the email in question, this would indeed provide Howell with a colorable First Amendment suit against UI.”

    I believe that a 1983 civil rights discrimination action might well succeed. The University is a governmental institution, and I would imagine that internal U of I e-mails, all of which would have to be turned over for discovery, would present plenty of evidence that Howell was fired precisely because he was presenting Catholic doctrine. In short Howell was fired because he is a believing Catholic presenting Catholic doctrine in a class about Catholicism.

    “Perhaps Mr. McClarey might clarify whether, under Illinois law, they can be compelled to give an accounting of themselves before a committee of the legislature.”

    That is not uncommon. The University is a state supported institution and its employees can be called to testify about the operation of the University at any time by the legislature.

    The backdrop to this is a major scandal where members of the University co-operated with powerful politicians to rig admissions for the offspring of the influential.

    Sad to say, Illinois is a very corrupt state, and my alma mater fully reflects this wretched culture of corruption.

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  • I have written four time about this matter on my blog (click my name if you’re interested).

    In my eyes the matter of employment is secondary to the mater of freedom of expression and academic freedom. Dr. Howell will certainly have no problem whatsoever in finding another suitable position as his reputation was and is outstanding. It might be that he decides to leave whatever the outcome of this controversy.

    What I think is more important here is that the principle is established that a teacher of a Catholic course can’t be fired for teaching Catholicism and that homosexual “sensitivities” are no meter for deciding what the subject of a religious course should be.

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Sunday, July 25, AD 2010

A lookalike of the Protestant Reformation leader John Knox will welcome Pope Benedict to Scotland. Mike Merrit reports for the Daily Record (UK) July 25, 2010:

The actor has been hired by the Catholic Church to play the leader of Scotland’s Protestant Reformation in a pageant of the country’s historical figures. …

Knox’s surprise inclusion by Catholic Church leaders follows accusations that this year’s 450th anniversary of the Reformation is being ignored by the Scottish Government.

The Reformation of 1560 revoked the Pope’s authority in Scotland and banned Catholic Mass. …

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “It is a sign of a healthy nation that diversity within the Christian community is something to be celebrated as opposed to a source of division and struggle.

“It is a gift to those of us of a Protestant persuasion that by including this figure, the Catholic Church is contributing to the celebrations of the Reformation.”

(Regular roundups of news relating to Pope Benedict’s September visit to the UK may be found here).

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5 Responses to Awkward.

  • Ah, John Knox. I agree with this passage on him from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    “As to Knox’s religion, it is sufficient to say, without questioning the sincerity of his convictions, that the reaction from the Catholicism of his youth seems to have landed him outside the pale of Christianity altogether. Permeated with the spirit of the Old Testament and with the gloomy austerity of the ancient prophets, he displays neither in his voluminous writings nor in the record of his public acts the slightest recognition of the teachings of the Gospel, or of the gentle, mild, and forgiving character of the Christian dispensation. Genial, amiable, and kind-hearted he may have been in private life, though it is difficult to see from what premises his panegyrists deduce his possession of those qualities; but the ferocity and unrestrained violence of his public utterances stand out, even in the rude and lawless age in which he lived, as surpassing almost everything recorded of his contemporaries, even those most closely in sympathy with his political and ecclesiastical views.”

  • God Bless the Highlanders who resisted him and his creed.

  • “It is a gift to those of us of a Protestant persuasion that by including this figure, the Catholic Church is contributing to the celebrations of the Reformation.”

    Isn’t ecumenism grand! 😉

  • My thoughts entirely Chris. 🙂

  • Gad – what a horrible person I must be, just looking at my “picture”.

    I am really much better looking than that – maybe a little older 😉

    Perhaps I should forward a photo……..?

Inception's Leap of Faith: Christianity v. Neo-Conservatives

Sunday, July 25, AD 2010

My wife and I went to see Inception this weekend and I’ve been mulling over it the past two days. I’ve been looking through the internet to find a good analysis and, not finding one fully to my satisfaction, look Tolkien & Lewis’s advice and just wrote my own. If you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t know why you’re reading this but rest assured you will be lost. For those who did see it, I’ll see you after the break.

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25 Responses to Inception's Leap of Faith: Christianity v. Neo-Conservatives

  • you may want to check out memento it could give you a deeper understanding on what nolan planned to do at the end of this movie, at-least with the open ending that requires your own interpretation and both answers are good answers

  • So yeah, I thought the movie was brilliant for quite a few different reasons. He, I’m assuming intentionally, sets the viewer up to WANT to make a decision as to what the meaning of the film is – interpreted through the glass of whether he truly was in a dream or not. But as I have pointed out (and you cursorily suggested here yourself), they BOTH have issues. Questions like how did the grandfather know to be there, why were the kids the same age and in the same position as in his dreams come to mind trying to indicate it is still a dream. And yet, at the same time, the top DID wobble, and it was not a scene of, “how did I get here”.

    Truth be told I think the genius of the movie was not in the fairly amazing cliff-hanger at the end, but rather in the VERY thorough representation that both sides have their defects. If you take this in light of your interpretation using Stauss, then it becomes apparent that somehow Stauss is both, simultaneously, right and wrong. I like the analogy you pulled here for a few reasons. It is CLEARLY a movie which will be interpreted by philosophers for years to come, and I think it was intended to be such. He raised a very difficult question, said which side is right, and then on a less superficial level says, “what if neither of them ARE?”

    I could ramble on much more about this movie as I thought it was downright brilliant in its acting, its casting, and its directing alike, but I think this is a set of questions that will continue to be “up in the air” so to speak for a long time to come. I’d love to speak with you in person about the movie if you’d like.

    Pax Christi

  • For those who may not know who the heck Leo Stauss was, wikipedia does a fairly good job at the link below.

    In regard to Strauss and religion I believe this passage in the article does a good job of correcting some of the misconceptions of the views of Strauss:

    “At the end of his The City and Man, Strauss invites his reader to “be open to the full impact of the all-important question which is coeval with philosophy although the philosophers do not frequently pronounce it–the question quid sit deus” (p. 241). As a philosopher, Strauss would be interested in knowing the nature of divinity, instead of trying to dispute the very being of divinity. But Strauss did not remain “neutral” to the question about the “quid” of divinity. Already in his Natural Right and History, he defended a Socratic (Platonic, Ciceronian, and Aristotelian) reading of divinity, distinguishing it from a materialistic/conventionalist or Epicurean reading (see especially, Ch. III: “The Origin of the Idea of Natural Right”). Here, the question of “religion” (what is religion?) is inseparable from the question of the nature of civil society, and thus of civil right, or right having authoritative representation, or right capable of defending itself (Latin: Jus). Atheism, whether convinced (overt) or unconvinced (tacit), is integral to the conventionalist reading of civil authority, and thereby of religion in its originally civil valence, a reading against which Strauss argues throughout his volume. Thus Strauss’s own arguments contradict the thesis imputed to him post mortem by scholars such as S. Drury who profess that Strauss approached religion as an instrument devoid of inherent purpose or meaning.”

  • Michael, did it remind you at all of a law school exam? Almost the same amount of factors for either interpretation are there, and you can interpret it either way. I kept thinking of the instruction: “It doesn’t matter which side you come down on, just pick one and argue it, but don’t forget about the other side”.

    The funny thing is, I still think my interpretation of the ending is right, and I’ll argue with anyone who picked the other one.

  • Interesting post, apart from the subtitle — I confess I’m really tired of seeing ‘neocons’ played as the token enemy absent — 1) a clear definition of who the ‘neocons’ were; 2) what ‘neoconservatism’ is.

    Likewise, as Robert Alter puts it, “it has become received wisdom that a direct line issues from Strauss’s seminars on political philosophy at the University of Chicago to the hawkish approach to foreign policy by figures like Paul Wolfowitz and others in the Bush administration.” Several books of late have challenged this: Steven B. Smith’s Reading Leo Strauss: Politics, Philosophy, Judaism (Excerpt); Straussophobia: Defending Leo Strauss and Straussians against Shadia Drury and Other Accusers and “Will the real Leo Strauss please stand up?” (Nathan Tarcov, American Interest).

    The movie does sound interesting, however. =)

  • Tim:

    I think I’ve been sold on seeing a few more Nolan works, Memento being at the top of the list.


    The grandfather being there doesn’t bother me too much. Now, as far the kids go, the article I link to states that according to the credits, there are two sets of kids: one with the girl at 3 and one again at 5. That would be consistent with the kids changing, and the ending being reality not a memory-unless of course the different actors were one for the phone call and one for the screen time. You can play these games all day; nothing is a solid argument.


    Now that you say that, it does remind me of a law school exam. Thank you for ruining the movie for me eternally.

    But what interpretation of the ending do you have?

    Don & Chris:

    You both may be right in that this isn’t Strauss’s worldview. As I said, I didn’t have the time to write an article about whether it is or isn’t his position. I do think however that people have ascribed it to him and that some who call themselves neo-conservatives have that viewpoint. I probably wouldn’t have used the term “neo-con” at all if I didn’t think that the Dark Knight represented a lot of things that the”neo-cons” approve of, but I agree with Chris that the term isn’t all that useful.

  • I want to know if the movie is worth watching for someone like me that has at best a rudimentary understanding of philosophy.

    That and I caught a snippet of a review that it was a pro-environmentalist film (didn’t hear the whole review though).

    So I pretty much decided not to watch it in order to save my soul.

    But if the movie is worth watching and I won’t lose my soul over watching it, tell me without giving away the plot (I haven’t read MD’s post).

  • I probably wouldn’t have used the term “neo-con” at all if I didn’t think that the Dark Knight represented a lot of things that the”neo-cons” approve

    Why not rummage through the writings of some folk associated with the Committee for the Free World &c. and tell us all why you think they were advocates of relgion-as-crowd-control? I’ll give you five names:

    Edward Banfield
    Midge Decter
    Joseph Epstein
    Jeane Kirkpatrick
    Robert W. Tucker

  • Tito,

    If there was an environmentalist message to Inception it slipped past me.

    All of Nolan’s films are excellent. Insomnia doesn’t focus on deception vs. reality like the others, but is a fascinating reflection on conscience. And The Prestige involves the same themes as Inception and Memento.

  • Hmm.

    Since I’m bringing up neo-cons in my next post, I may as well link to a post where I discussed them before:

    One thing I never quite understand about people who take umbrage at the word “neoconservative” is whether or not they a) deny the existence of neoconservatism, placing it in the same category as the tooth fairy, or b) understand that it is a real tendency in political thought but is poorly understood.

  • BA,

    That’s enough for me!

    I’ll be catching this film later this week.

  • I admit to an appreciation of the original neoconservatives — Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz — discovered by way of the original ‘Catholic neocons’ (Fr. Neuhaus, Michael Novak) of First Things which I digested back in college.

    But since 9/11, ‘neoconservativism’ has come to mean everything from a Straussian-Jewish cabal covertly manipulating the Bush Administration to practically anybody who supported military intervention in Iraq (ex. Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld are all labeled such).

    The term has become so amorphous (much like “liberalism”) that, if used at all, I prefer context and clarification.

    (Apologies to Michael D. for getting off-topic).

  • One thing I never quite understand about people who take umbrage at the word “neoconservative” is whether or not they a) deny the existence of neoconservatism, placing it in the same category as the tooth fairy, or b) understand that it is a real tendency in political thought but is poorly understood.

    It was an intellectual circle of liberals disaffected with the run of political discourse in the Democratic Party, the media, and academic life. In some cases social policy was the primary source of disaffection, in others foreign policy and a general disposition toward the military and patriotism, and in others the degradation of the universities. Their views on most questions of public policy were variegated and a number (e.g. Penn Kemble) returned to the fold of the Democratic Party after the end of the Cold War.

    What was common to them was elements of biography and networks of personal association. Neither aspect includes an association with Leo Strauss. Norman Podhoretz’ mentor was Lionel Trilling, if it matters. The palaeobabblers who complain about ‘conservatism’ being hijacked by Trotskyists have likewise forgotten that the earlier cohort of publicists which assembled around WF Buckley was shot through with disaffected reds, Whittaker Chambers and James Burnham to name two.

    It isn’t ‘poorly understood’. It is a cuss word favored by the twits who don’t know crap from apple butter.

  • “It isn’t ‘poorly understood’. It is a cuss word favored by the twits who don’t know crap from apple butter”

    Precisely. This is a debate over foreign policy and has nothing to do with Leo Strauss and the handful of people who actually could be called neo-conservatives. What rankles self-proclaim paleo-cons is that most conservatives do not share their views on foreign policy. The neo-con charge is merely a tactic in the on-going debate and doesn’t say amything of substance in regard to that debate.

  • I have seen the movie the day before yesterday and I enjoyed it. Having said that, references to Christianity seem far-fetched to me.

    I can’t recall see anyone praying, or crossing himself; there is no sign of anyone of the main characters having any sort or organised religious life (going to Church, say), no single (serious) mention of Jesus in a film which obviously plays in the present days (the cars).

    ” The Book of Eli” was the last movie of which I could say that Christian themes were evident.

    I have seen more crossing oneself and faces put heavenward in prayer during the last Football World Championship than in a couple of years of films at the cinema. In a way, this is encouraging, we know Hollywood “doesn’t do God”, at all.

  • we know Hollywood “doesn’t do God”, at all.

    Hence why they are out of touch with society and are slowly becoming irrelevant with each new movie release.

    Look at the bombs that Hollywood continues to make and the only real successes they have are ‘family’ films.

    Yet they don’t ‘get it’.

  • Fully agree, Tito.

    The last movie with Jlo about the woman who wants an artificial insemination (how so very funny, not) has already disappeared from London’s screens. But a movie like “The Passion” becomes a worldwide success.

    It is the same with bookstores, at least here in England. The best selling books are Christian books but you find everywhere huge “gay and lesbian” section and not much (and that, often stupid) in the religion section. Often there is not even a religion section, but a “spirituality” section with a lot of new age bollocks for aging wiccans and, amazingly, books from atheist authors.

    Then they complain that Amazon & Co. increase sales whilst they go bust (here in the UK, “Books etc.” and “Borders UK” alone in the last 12 months).

  • Mundabor:

    While I agree with the idea that hollywood is shooting itself in the foot by not pursuing more Christian movies, I disagree with the way you evaluate whether a movie has “Christian themes.”

    I don’t think it’s necessary to mention Christianity explicitly to touch on a theme that is represented by Christianity. In this movie for example, they discuss how they desire to create their own world, their own cathedrals is out of a desire to play God and the movie shows how this desire ultimately is destructive.

    The point isn’t whether Inception is Christian; that’s debatable. But I don’t think it has to explicitly show someone praying or mention Jesus to be Christian. Tolkien actually thought that such mentions detracted from the message, and he managed to produce one of the greatest and most Catholic works of literature ever in Lord of the Rings. I just don’t like the idea that Christian works & themes are found only in the Christian section of the bookstore.

  • Michael,
    I agree with you that to have a Christian theme, a film does not have to be explicitly labelled as Christian. As you say, Tolkien but also C.S. Lewis, the Italians Manzoni and Fogazzaro, or in his own peculiar way G.K. Chesterton come to mind.

    But in my eyes a couple of phrases in a two-and-a-half-hour film do not really qualify for the film to be defined in that way, nor does it the general theme of the film. The theme of the Hubris leading to self destruction is very old and certainly pre-Christian; many atheists would instinctively agree with the concept without becoming an ounce more Christian.

    In my eyes, as we still live in a world shaped by Christian values it is very easy that some concepts shared by Christianity find their way in a film, but I think “Inception” stops short of the insistence and pervasiveness of Tolkien’s, Manzoni’s, Chesterton’s message.

    Just my two cents of course.

  • This movie is ENTIRELY about faith. Here’s how I interpreted the film…allow me to “enlighten” you: This movie is about Dom Cobb being stuck in purgatory. The movie starts with him there, washed up on the shore. He sees his kids, and falls alseep – from then on he is dreaming while in purgatory. God (Michael Caine) with the assistance of Angels (Ariadne, Arthur, Eames, Saito, Yusef) perform Inception on Cobb so that he may have emotional catharsis and accept his faith. So basically, Cobb is in purgatory, has a dream that allows him to forgive himself of his sin and take his leap of faith, and then wakes up on his plane “home” to Heaven with the angels. He is even greeted at the GATE by a guard (St. Peter) who says “Welcome Home.” God then personally escorts him to his children. That’s the true reason why it doesn’t matter if the totem keeps spinning or it doesn’t – since they are in heaven either outcome if justified. There is so much evidence of all this throughout the movie. Watch it again and find all of the religious references – there are TONS OF THEM! For instance, that scene where the walls are closing in on him?- Look at the screen right before he gets out. Everything is black, except for the BIG BRIGHT LIGHT at the end of the alley. He’s trying to get to it, but he can’t because he is not ready. When Cobb is training Ariadne why does she line up those mirrors that show them infinitely? She’s trying to show him eternity, but he’s not ready for it so it shatters. What is the basement where all the people who cannot dream go to dream? It’s hell. They are showing him what hell is like. Also pay close attention to Caine’s character who is simply seen as a father figure-it is never stated whether he is Mal’s Father, or Cobb’s. He is also a teacher, so: Teacher+Father to all=God. At one point Eames and Cobb were talking about how to perform inception. He then says that they need to start with the “relationship with the Father” (Cobb’s faith and relationship with God). ALSO, Fischer is Cobb’s subconscious. That’s why it’s so important that they make Fischer forgive his father and have his catharsis, since it really means that Cobb had his. Go see the movie again and you’ll realize that there are piles and piles of evidence that support this theory, and every single question gets answered. That’s why Cobb isn’t with his kids, because children get a pass from Purgatory. Mal doesn’t get to heaven because she committed suicide-which is an unforgivable sin, but in Cobb’s dream in purgatory, Mal is the devil taking the form of Cobb’s love, knowing that Cobb will just assume that Mal is his own mind’s projection. She then uses temptation and guilt to try and convince Cobb to stay in Purgatory. THIS IS JUST A TASTE of WHAT I”VE FOUND! SEE THE MOVIE AGAIN AND FIND MORE EVIDENCE ON YOUR OWN. Interpreting this film is a fulfilling adventure that just might help strengthen your own faith.

  • I’ve seen reviews comparing this movie’s worldview to Buddhism. Can someone explain that to me?
    I think one would have to BE a Christian to see any comparisons to our faith in “Inception.” The leap of faith references in the movie had nothing to do with religion, per se. I agree with the article’s explanation of the Christian “leap of faith”, which is NOT created from our dreams or imaginations or false beliefs. It is created by God through incarnate Christ. This movie was meant to be psychological, not religious.

  • I should add, I’ve seen the movie 3 times in a little over a week. It completely intrigues me!

  • We’ve gotten for the stage wherever a film that wanders remotely away the reservation stuns and wows us and leads us to believe it is terrific. “Inception” isn’t a terrible dvd. It’s definitely improved than something else Hollywood has to provide this year. Neither, having said that, is it wonderful.

  • Just one little point that you can discuss with your wife. The totem wiggles but we don’t see it fall But remind your wife that the point of having the totem is that it would only work if no one else touched it. They couldn’t be allowed to know the exact weight and shape and feel of it. In this case cobb’s totem was compromised when he washed up on the shore and the Asian man played with it.

    I think it was a dream because all the characters at the airport continued to look at him, like he maybe wasn’t suppose to be in that persons mind.

    In general i liked it and can’t wait for it to come out on DVD so i can watch it again. I just refuse to pay another $10 to see a movie in the theatre.

  • My two cents worth.

    I saw nothing Catholic about it.

    What I did see was a lot of Mormon theology.

    Being your own “god” kind of thing when they keep falling into a sleep.

On Not Having Sex At Harvard

Sunday, July 25, AD 2010

From the New York Times:

There was a time when not having sex consumed a very small part of Janie Fredell’s life, but that, of course, was back in Colorado Springs. It seemed to Fredell that almost no one had sex in Colorado Springs. Her hometown was extremely conservative, and as a good Catholic girl, she was annoyed by all the fundamentalist Christians who would get in her face and demand, as she put it to me recently, “You have to think all of these things that we think.” They seemed not to know that she thought many of those things already. At her public high school, everyone, “literally everyone,” wore chastity rings, Fredell recalled, but she thought the practice ridiculous. Why was it necessary, she wondered, to signify you’re not doing something that nobody is doing?

And then Fredell arrived at Harvard.

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0 Responses to On Not Having Sex At Harvard

  • We need more Janie Fredells and Mary Anne Marks

  • We need to pray for them and the many others that have to live in a sex-saturated society such as ours.

  • Unforetunately one night about a year ago, I stopped at a serious tv documentary which was about a Catholic author who found extensive non marital sexual activity at Catholic colleges which went on to note then the gradual regrets of the females but with this caveat…that the females doing this outnumbered the males doing so but not by much.

  • Something which seems to be downplayed in the article is the belated realization that the annoying evangelicals of the first paragraph had a point.

    I think that both young evangelicals and young Catholics are young; they have things to learn about life. The evangelicals in this case seem to have not learned how to read Janie Fredell so as to speak with a potential ally in a winsome way.

    But Janie herself seems to have misunderstood her circumstances; it took immersion in Harvard to wake her up. Little or no sex amongst unmarried teens in Colorado Springs? I doubt that. The evangelical chastity ring culture may have seemed odd to her, but it grew up as a response to something. It was a rallying cry for Jesus, but also against a threat.

    The whole secular world is engaged in undermining the sexual virtue of the young so as to preemptively undermine their relationship with God before it can grow into something world-changing. From the WWJD shirts to the multicolored bead-bracelets to the chastity rings, evangelical expressions of counter-cultural fervor are like the redness and puffiness of a histamine reaction. They may border on kitch, but they are the signs of an immune system rising up to fight an invader.

    Miss Fredell is a Catholic; I hope however that now that she’s seen the infection up close, she’ll give her evangelical brothers and sisters their due props.

  • Catholics who insist that evangelicals have had a baneful effect on us (as evidenced in the recent sparring with Vox Nova) tend to deny the importance of chastity as a criterion of Christian fidelity. In so doing, they deny the importance of what the Church teaches is the very groundwork of a just society: strong family life. It may take people like Miss Fredell, educated in an elitist environment but respectful of the position of the evangelicals, to help our co-religionists to see the light here.

  • I’m not sure delaying sex until one is 30 is “pro-family.” I take that back, 30 is when they want folks to get married. Abstinance programs tend to delay sex only until 18-21. Certainly that is better than 14 or 16, but that is more a public health issue. If stop gazing at evangelicals long enough, we’ll see that they aren’t retaining their youth either.

    The time between when one is capable of producing a child and when one gets married has traditionally been called adolescence. Our model has now stretched that well past the early twenties. Having a large adolescent culture is not pro-family.

  • MZ, I do have to agree with you – adolescence has been unnaturally extended well beyond its due course. Largely due to materialism I would wager.

  • I take that back, 30 is when they want folks to get married.


  • I’m unclear what relation, if any, MZ’s comment is meant to have with the article quoted.

Three Cheers for a Partisan Media

Sunday, July 25, AD 2010

Americans often complain about how dirty and mudslinging politics have become.  This complaint demonstrates the lack of knowledge of their own history that many Americans today display.  As the imaginary attack ad by Adams at the beginning of this post illustrates, politics tended to be much less restrained in political attacks in the early days of our Republic.  During the campaign of 1800, Jefferson and Adams, two of the primary Founding Fathers, were called every name imaginable.   Jefferson was called, among many other things, an atheist, a weakling, a coward, a libertine, mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, and the son of a half-breed Indian squaw sired by a Virginia mulatto.    A few of the insults hurled at  Adams included  fool, hypocrite, criminal, tyrant, and that he was possessed of a hermaphroditical character which had neither the force or firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of  a woman.  The passions that were roused in that campaign are shown by gentle Martha Washington, the widow of George, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was one of the most detestable of mankind.  The press were at the forefront of this battle, with the papers of the day wearing their political affiliations emblazoned in their headlines.

And so it remained in America until after World War ii.  Up until that time, most  papers adhered to a set of political beliefs determined by the owners of the papers, and they were very upfront about it.  It was only in the postwar era, with the attempt to instill professionalism into the always somewhat disreputable ink-stained wretches, that the concept of objective journalism came to be prized as a goal and embraced by most organs of the media.  Papers that wore their ideological hearts on their sleeves, the prime example being the New Hampshire Union Leader, were viewed as survivors of an earlier stage of journalism that the press had outgrown.

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  • One area not discussed though is the Associate Press’ impact.

    Applying the Marketplace of Ideas theory at the core of Free Speech jurisprudence, so long as there is a robust dispute between ideas and the freedom to express them, liberty is preserved. While the Framers of the Constitution knew a thing or two about partisan politics and, while President Washington warned about the dangers, he appears to have accepted and used his party to affect policy.

    As noted above, the great variety of traditional media outlets that were aligned with particular socio-political movements balanced one another. As importantly though, most media outlets understood that “getting the scoop” was an important part of their business model. While a particular paper may have been aligned with the GOP, for example, it understood that having been “scooped” on story by a Democratic rival was bad for business. There was an intense contest for stories with reporters traveling all over the place to get or follow-up on stories.

    What we no longer seem to have is this sort of “investigative journalism.” We have the AP to thank for that.

    It is cheeper and more efficient to pick stories from the hourly AP list. Find a story on-line that you think is important? Click on any other story on the same subject and you will see that it is the same story. Thus, the readers now HAVE to rely upon the objectivity and competence of the original writer since there will be no other reporter out there writing about that particular subject or taking other photographs of the particular event.

    Case in Point:

    Last year, there was an immigration story that ran internationally about a couple, the husband of which had obtained his immigration status as the “Unmarried Son of an United States Citizen.” That classification requires that the Beneficiary be “unmarried” at the time that they obtained their Lawful Permanent Residence. (Let us set aside whether this statute is the best rule or not. It is the law, whether or not it is the best law imaginable.)

    When the US Consulate interviewed the Beneficiary, he testified under oath that he was unmarried and had never been married. He obtained his visa and the couple came to the US. Six years later, he applied for citizenship and an Examiner with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services discovered that he had obtained his status in the US through fraud. Apparently, the Examiner did not accept the claim that the Beneficiary had not understood what “unmarried and never married” meant and, whether or not intentional, the fact remained that the Beneficiary had never been eligible for the visa that he came to the US on. His citizenship application was denied. He appealed and that was denied. He was placed into immigration removal proceedings to be deported from the United States and an immigration judge found him removable. He appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals and the BIA found him removable. He appealed that decision to the District Court what found him removable and obtained an en banc review by the Circuit Court of Appeals which also found him removable. The US Supreme Court denied him certiori.

    Now, those are the undisputed facts. (I know both their attorney and several of the immigration officers that worked the case.) However, the reporter who picked up the story for the AP stated that the Beneficiary was only asking for his “day in court” – that he had not had a chance to present his case before a judge. Further, he repeated his claim that he had not understood what the Consular Officer he was originally interviewed by meant by “unmarried” or “never before married.” The immigration matters and law were utterly muttered, at one point, the reporter stated that the Beneficiary had gotten his citizenship when he came to the US and the government was now taking it away – a patently false statement and wrong as a matter of law.

    I did some digging and figured out that the “reporter” was a college Journalism major who had been published in his school paper and had had two articles about his college football team published in a local newspaper. Stated differently, the “reporter” was not a professional at all, had no experience in writing legitimate news stories of this type, and had not interviewed anyone other than the Beneficiary himself. Even the facts obtained from the Beneficiary were muddled and the legal issues could have been determined with a few very simple internet searches. And yet, the Associated Press purchased this guy’s article and then sold it to media outlets such as the Philadelphia Inquirer (where I read it). On-Line searches showed that it was picked up by overseas outlets as well.

    My point is just this… At an earlier time, there were lots of legitimate reporters out there trying to beat one another to stories and make the other outlets look foolish. This competition forced the outlets to be “professional” and to make at least a reasonable effort to get stories right or correct them later. This is no longer the case and the AP is to blame.

  • “At an earlier time, there were lots of legitimate reporters out there trying to beat one another to stories and make the other outlets look foolish… This is no longer the case and the AP is to blame.”

    Actually, I think the decline of family-owned and locally-owned newspapers in favor of corporate chains that believe the fastest way to making a profit is to drive their papers into debt and then cut (and cut and cut) staff in order to pay that debt off is far more to blame. The AP has been around in some form since the 19th Century and was around long before the age of competitive and “objective” journalism.

    The main reason you see newspapers and TV stations relying more on AP these days is because they’ve cut their staffs to the point where no one has either the time, skill, or experience to do serious investigative reporting — they can barely keep up with fires, accidents, crime reports, city council meetings, etc. Many major newspapers have also dumped their Washington D.C. bureaus and their state capital bureaus, again, forcing them to rely on AP.

  • You know, our presidents used to kill people in duels.

    Not that I’m defending dueling morally of course. I just think we were made out of tougher stuff in generations past.

  • Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, a true larger than life character, became a fast friend of Andrew Jackson after their duel. Late in his life he was asked by a young man if he had known President Jackson. “Knew him sir? I shot him sir!”

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From Harvard To Her Religious Calling

Sunday, July 25, AD 2010

Mary Anne Marks graduated from Harvard University at the top of her class.  You may have heard of her, she is the one that gave the salutatory address all in Latin.

She received a standing ovation.

In addition to graduating with a Classics and English double major with honors, she will be entering the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

You may remember these nuns from their appearance on the Oprah Show earlier this year in February and how they dazzled the audience as well as Oprah Winfrey herself with their simple devotion and love of Jesus in the Eucharist.

The following video is Mary Anne Marks being interviewed by Net New York‘s Outstanding Anchor Francesca Maximé on the Currents program.

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5 Responses to From Harvard To Her Religious Calling

And The Money Kept Rolling In

Saturday, July 24, AD 2010

Something for the weekend.  And the Money Kept Rolling In from the musical Evita.  I have always loved Evita, a rousing extravaganza that warns of the dangers of electing charismatic clueless demagogues who then bankrupt a nation with hare-brained policies.  The 1996 film version managed the major miracle of being the only film featuring Madonna Louise Ciccone that I can watch without brain cells dying en masse.

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7 Responses to And The Money Kept Rolling In

The Secrets of Irish Music

Saturday, July 24, AD 2010

Regular commenter cminor, at her blog The Minor Premise, reveals to us how Irish ballads come to be:

The Evolution of an Irish Ballad

Being the surmises of a musical amateur who has lately spent entirely too much time online trying to track down folk music lyrics.

Gen. 1. The Irish take on the British in a battle somewhere on Irish soil. Being seriously outnumbered, they are defeated utterly with great loss of life. Anonymous Irish balladeers compose lyrics honoring the courage of the dead, with individual verses devoted to units from each county involved and to fallen leaders. The result is about 40 verses long, though only six or seven are actually remembered by anyone after the debut.
[Alt. Gen. 1. A minor Irish nobleman takes to the hills after a dustup with British occupiers. Anonymous balladeers compose a mercifully brief ditty depicting the outlaw as a romantic hero and emphasizing his revolutionary cred and sheer heartthrobbiness.]

Gen. 2. The simplified lyric becomes a popular drinking song.

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4 Responses to The Secrets of Irish Music

  • My son’s a big fan of Shellalagh Law, an Irish band, in NYC. One of his pals is a world-class piper.

    Someone said, “The Gael is the man that God made mad. All his wars are joyous and all his songs are sad.”

    I had never heard the one about the IRA (“I Ran Away”).

    Truth! De Valera absconded to Brooklyn after the 1916 Rising and stayed away while Mick Collins and his martyrs beat the Brits.

    Then, Dev slinked back and started the civil war in which his gangsters assassinated Collins, the man who freed Ireland, and hundreds of others that had stayed and fought.

    Your #3 is totally TRUE.

    “Brittania’s sons and their long range guns, came sailing in the foggy dew.”

    Somewhere in the movie, “Hamburger Hill” one of the bloods totally explains country music in three phrases.

  • For the great Gaels of Ireland
    Are the men that God made mad,
    For all their wars are merry
    And all their songs are sad.

    G.K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse

  • Gosh, Donald, I’m flattered! And I enjoyed the Lehrer video, though that was one Typical Irish Ballad I didn’t have in mind while composing my list!

    Re your item # 3: I take it you listen to The Pogues?;-)

    T., while tracking down the history of “Rosin the Beau” (a song that was much on my mind while writing) I came across a spirited defense of the lyrics’ American origin on the grounds that the title pun clearly required mastery of English and the Irish at the time still spoke Gaelic. Well, maybe. The tune, of course, is Irish.

  • “And I enjoyed the Lehrer video, though that was one Typical Irish Ballad I didn’t have in mind while composing my list!”

    True, cminor, but as we both know the best Irish ballads have always been written by Jewish Professors of Math! 🙂

    “Re your item # 3: I take it you listen to The Pogues?”;-)

    “The band has received mixed reviews of its recent performances. Reviewing a March 2008 concert, The Washington Post described MacGowan as “puffy and paunchy,” but said the singer “still has a banshee wail to beat Howard Dean’s, and the singer’s abrasive growl is all a band this marvelous needs to give its amphetamine-spiked take on Irish folk a focal point.” The reviewer continued: “The set started off shaky, MacGowan singing of `goin’ where streams of whiskey are flowin,’ and looking like he’d arrived there already. He grew more lucid and powerful as the evening gathered steam, through two hours and 26 songs, mostly from the Pogues’ first three (and best) albums”.

    In regard to item 3 I have always had a fondness for Irish rebel music as readers of this blog can attest, but after a while hearing Irish singer after Irish singer damn the Brits, and I having a passing familiarity with Irish history and all the self-inflicted wounds therein by the Irish on the Irish, I reach for this video clip from the Life of Brian:

    The Irish folksinging scene really needs a This Is Spinal Tap level spoof!

All That Is Necessary For The Triumph Of The Same Sex Agenda Is That Good Men Do Nothing

Friday, July 23, AD 2010

All that is necessary for the triumph of the same sex agenda is that good men do nothing.  The fear of reprisal, both materially and physically, can cause good men to do nothing.

Having not experienced this form of intimidation, I am still disturbed by the tactics that are utilized by the more militant arm of the same sex marriage agenda.  This exposure to such violence is almost non-existent for me.

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12 Responses to All That Is Necessary For The Triumph Of The Same Sex Agenda Is That Good Men Do Nothing

  • I fully agree that prayer is the answer. I believe that both action and informing the public about the purpose of traditional marriage, how it relates to Christianity, and explaining the reasons why same-sex “marriage” goes against the purpose of marriage- procreation- is very important for traditional marriage defenders to be able to win this debate or culture war. It is impossible for same-sex couples to have an openness to procreate. Traditional marriage couples have that openness (to procreate) regardless of whether the couple is having infertility issues or not. But, it is an impossibility for two males or two females to procreate naturally.

  • Seems extreme/fanatical narcissists believe in free speech for themselves but not for us. That they can silence those who may believe differently than they. The Age of Enlightenment is past.

    When we find ourselves alone and the government is derelict in its duties to protect liberties and persons. There are instances wherein physical force is justified.

  • I just can’t take this debate seriously any more.

  • Anthony,

    Should I laugh at your comment?

  • Do what you like, Tito.

    I just think that its near impossible to discuss the matter in a rational way.

  • I think I agree with Anthony.

    As Orwell (or was it Gibbon?) said (I think, I don’t have it here.) “I never make the mistake of arguing with irrational people over beliefs/issues to which they they cling that have no moral or rational basis.”

  • I’m just a little blogger, myself, and yet I’ve had a radio host suggest that people beat me up, while a kind person over at Daily Kos once opined that I should be strung up from a street lamp with a meat hook. Meanwhile, my partner in blogging was once upon a time roughed up by union goons who didn’t like his opinion being expressed in the public square.

    Some years back I managed to catch some flak for calling our progressive friends “junior-league Leninists” – it was a “how dare I?” moment. But that is what they are: narrow minded, bitter, hate-filled fanatics. They don’t want debate – to debate implies that the other side might have a valid point, and they’ll never accept that.

    And so, this is what we see – and I really doubt its a new phenomena; its likely that we’re just seeing more of it due to the advent of the New Media. In the end, this is a good thing – the more these kooks are exposed, the more outrage builds among average Americans and thus comes the greater chance of securing the power necessary to make real changes.

    Mark Noonan

  • Anthony,

    I understand now.

    n4nadmin, Teresa, T. Shaw,

    Yeah, at times (maybe most) it is impossible to engage in any dialogue with people that are this intolerant and bigoted against us.

  • “the more these kooks are exposed, the more outrage builds among average Americans and thus comes the greater chance of securing the power necessary to make real changes.”

    Just to ruffle feathers, I will say that I have little confidence that once power is obtained it is utilized properly. Power is predictably used to (1) bring reprisal on political enemies and/or (2) make it difficult to dislodge who’s in power.

    Supporters of “traditional marriage” are just as susceptible to that kind of corruption as the pro-gay marriage side.

    To this day I still believe the only peaceful way out of the argument is to walk away from state-sanctioned marriage. Both sides of this debate concede a crucial (and I think, fatal) point: that governments, even secular ones, have authority to tinker with the personal relationships between consenting adults.

    There are moral hazards on both sides of that coin. On the pro-gay marriage side there is a real risk that the next logical step is a breach into theological issues by governments, forcing religions to accept same-sex marriage or finding ways to punish them for not. On the traditional side, there is a real risk of some individuals hiding behind the issue in order to enact homophobic policies (the genuine kind, not the trumped-up kind).

    The only role I could possibly see for governments is in their authority to enforce contracts and mediate contractual disputes between individuals. There’s nothing about that power which requires the word “marriage” attached to it.

  • I tend to lean to Anthony’s side–the State didn’t create marriage, and if it were to get out of the marriage business entirely there wouldn’t be much to yell about, would there?

    Realistically, I don’t see that happening. It may be useful to remind folks who think their “tolerance” badge will be tarnished if they don’t give in to this exercise in social engineering that the State really shouldn’t be meddling if it can’t demonstrate a compelling interest. The State’s interest in traditional marriage is that it provides the best environment for raising children who do not subsequently become problems for the State. I believe that compelling interest is largely absent (or at least, highly optional) in same-sex relationships.

  • My qualm with “the State’s interest” is that it shifts with the political winds.

    Under certain circumstances it could be in the state’s “interest” that abortion become illegal. The need for cheap labor, future soldiers, taxpayers and population collapse could all be reasons for the state to do away with abortion. On the other hand, reducing costs, freeing the supply of goods, eliminating undesirable traits and population control could (and are) used to justify abortion.

    Take marriage. I could just as easily justify allowing gay marriage by saying the practice would (or could) stabilize promiscuous behavior, “normalize” certain consensual sexual acts, reduce instances of violence against gays while providing the state with fiscally stable homes in which to place unwanted children. All are reasons to be a-okay with letting gay marriage move forward. And, selfishly, the State will undermine the Church, thus increasing government’s sway with people over that of religion.

    Where do we really go to worship? The Church, or the State? It’s an important question to answer because it seems that both sides wish to see their values either codified or validated through the coercive powers held by government. If “my values” receive the government’s stamp of approval then “the Truth” be damned.

    These are questions Christians of all stripes should think long and hard on before rushing to pass laws or fire shots in the culture wars.

  • The State isn’t going to get out of the marriage business. Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock foundation of our society. Homosexual “marriage” is a travesty being foisted upon society by those who wish the State to give its stamp of approval to homosexuality and use the coercive power of the State against those who dissent. This is an important battle and should be fought against by all those who realize that this is part of a struggle waged by those who wish to turn the concept of family on its head.

Only Little Yacht Owners Pay Taxes

Friday, July 23, AD 2010


Thurston Howell III  John Kerry (D. Taxachusetts), is drawing flak for mooring his 76 foot sloop Isabel in Rhode Island rather than in Massachusetts.  By keeping his ship in Rhode Island, Kerry is avoiding paying taxes to his home state of an estimated $437, 500 in sales tax and $70,000 a year in excise tax.  Go to the Boston Herald here to read all about it.

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6 Responses to Only Little Yacht Owners Pay Taxes

  • Sen. Kerry is such a hypocrite. He wants every other “rich” person to pay exorbitant taxes but he’ll do anything he possibly can to avoid paying high taxes.

  • This kind of tax planning is pretty typical, and not immoral at all in my view. But it is hard to square with Kerry’s political views on taxes though.

  • Do as I say, not as I do.

  • Its definitely a rort. They claim its being kept at Newport for long term maintenance, upkeep, and charter puroposes.

    Now charter purposes I will concede – but beautiful New Zealand build yachts need no upkeep, and almost no long term maintenance. 😉

  • Normally I’d agree with you Don, but with Captain “Both ways” Kerry at the helm, I pity the poor Kiwi yacht!

  • I apologize for this outburst. I am really tired of all the charade and deception.

    The law of (Obama Land) now is the “Ruling Class” in America (congress and their financial friends and lobbyist), especially those associated with the progressive socialist movement, gain and maintain their cherished power and control through “entitlement” programs benevolently granted to their humble and obedient “Subjects” (constituents) and these have become more and more the sustaining source of income for nearly half of the population. The remaining subjects by necessity must be “encouraged” to continue producing the wealth needed to operate the system in order to complete the fundamental changing of America.

    That’s why some see Johnny’s tax tactics as “normal” and accept his logic and return to their love of labor for the liberal philosophy of divide the people and conquer the wealth.

    Therefore, the honorable John Kerry, loyal traitor, devout and highly regarded by the clergy Catholic In Name Only, merciful champion of abortion and gay rights, and our finest congressional example of a kept man (he knows he’s so handsome) appears as an icon for the American business man and the “little people” with little faith but who have placed it in his ability to maintain his glorious image and ‘keep the entitlements coming’.