Monthly Archives: August 2011
Right you are Klavan on the Culture! If I may add to your list of tips for pundits:
4. Do not pontificate on subjects that you are bone ignorant of.
5. Remember that taking a middle course on an issue is not inherently going to be the correct course.
6. Whatever else you do, try not to bore your readers or listeners. Continue reading
I was struck by Kyle’s post on Friday “Abortion, Rational Decision-Making, and Informed Consent“, but it took me a while thinking it over to come to an explanation of exactly what I find wrong about it. Kyle is addressing the issue of “informed consent” laws which require a woman seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound of her baby or read an explanation of fetal development at the stage of pregnancy her child is at. He is concerned, however, that such laws miss the real moral point:
Catarina Dutilh Novaes explains her worry about some new laws requiring physicians to show a woman an ultrasound of the fetus and describe its status, organs and present activity before performing an abortion. She writes: “It does not take a lot of brain power to realize that what is construed here as ‘informed decision’ is in fact yet another maneuver to prevent abortions from taking place by ‘anthropomorphizing’ the fetus” and “it is of striking cruelty to submit a woman to this additional layer of emotional charge at such a difficult moment.” She’s right, I suspect, about the underlying motivation behind the laws and the suffering their practice would impose. If the legislators and activists pushing these laws recognize the suffering they may inflict, they clearly see it as justified, weighing, as they do, the vital status of the nascent life as greater than the emotional status of the expectant mother.
There’s something to this. The information the physician is legally required to communicate by these new laws informs in a very limited way: it doesn’t provide evidence of personhood or a right to life or any such metaphysical or moral reality. The sight and description of the fetus may give the appearance of a human life worthy of respect, but, as pro-lifers note, appearance is not indicative of moral worth. An embryo doesn’t look like a human being, but that appearance doesn’t signify anything moral or metaphysical about it.
The woman, for having this information, is not in any better position to make a rational, ethical decision. It may cause her to “see” the nascent life as human, but it doesn’t offer her a rational basis for such a perception. Her consent is no more informed after seeing and hearing the physical status of the life within her, and so these new “informed consent” laws don’t achieve what they are supposedly designed to do.
There are places conducive to informing people about the nascent life’s stages of development and about what exactly, scientifically speaking, abortion does to that life. A high school health class, for example. There, the scientific information about the unborn life and abortion can be more thoroughly considered, and once fully understood, serve in other settings as a reference point for metaphysical and moral considerations. Consent to abortion should be informed, but the information these new laws require to be communicated does not on its own result in informed consent or provide an additional basis for a rational, ethical decision. Why? Because, by itself, appearance is not ethically relevant and can also be misleading.
Now on the basic point, I agree with Kyle: appearance is not moral worth. A person is not worthy of human dignity simply because someone looks at him or her and sees similarity. To say that would be to suggest the converse: that when someone looks at another and sees simply “other” he is justified in not treating that person with human dignity. For instance, one could imagine (though I think it is the far less likely option) a situation in which a woman is leaning against abortion because she thinks that the child inside her will look “just like a baby”, she sees a fuzzy ultrasound of something that still looks like a tadpole on an umbilical cord, and she thinks, “Oh, that’s all? It must not be a baby yet. I’ll abort.” Clearly, in this case, the information would have led to the wrong conclusion. An appearance of similarity or dissimilarity does not a person make.
At the same time, the suggestion that informed consent laws are a bad idea just rubs me the wrong way, not just from a pragmatic point of view but from a moral one, and when I have this kind of conflict between instinct and reason, I tend to poke at the issue until I come up with a reason why it is that the apparently reasonable explanation seems wrong to me. Continue reading
John C. Fremont led a life of considerable achievement and seemed to many of his contemporaries a man of destiny. However, in the Civil War his destiny eluded him. An engineering officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers, his personal charm led to his marriage in 1841 to Jesse Benton, a woman of considerable ambition and the daughter of the legendary Senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Bent. Now politically well connected, Benton achieved fame and the title The Pathfinder, by leading settlers along with scout Kit Carson over the Oregon Trail. In the 1830’s Fremont had taken part in various topographical mapping expeditions into the West and this served him in good stead in determining the best routes for the pioneers. His exploits were steadily followed in the eastern papers, and Fremont became a national celebrity. During the Mexican War, Fremont played a major role in the conquest of California, although he displayed much energy but little military skill. After the war he served as military governor for California, and, after California was admitted to the Union, Fremont served briefly as a US Senator for the state.
Although he was of Southern birth, Fremont was an ardent foe of slavery and became the first Republican candidate for President in 1856. Obtaining a third of the vote, and 114 electoral votes, Fremont proved that the new Republican party was a serious contender in national politics. His electoral slogan of “Free Men! Free Soil! Fremont!”, resounded throughout the North, Fremont winning all of the Northern states except Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana, demonstrating that if the North was unified, it could elect a President. Fremont suffered in the election by false allegations that his father was a French aristocrat and that Fremont was a Catholic. (Fremont’s father was a middle class Frenchman who fought for the Royalists in France and who immigrated to America. Fremont was an Episcopalian.) The Democrats also made hay of the fact that Fremont had been born out of wedlock, and that at the time they started their romance, his mother had been married to a man not his father. Salacious political gossip is not an invention of the Twenty-First century.
August 29 is the feast day of the beheading of John the Baptist, the herald of Christ. Charlton Heston, in the video clip above, gave a powerful portrayal of the Baptist in The Greatest Story Ever Told, capturing the raw courage and energy that animated John the Baptist as a result of the blazing faith he had in God. Like Elijah, John came out of the wilderness to fearlessly proclaim the word of God, but what Elijah and the other prophets could only glimpse darkly, the coming of the Messiah, John saw with his own eyes. The last and greatest of the prophets, John fulfilled the role of Elijah as proclaimed by the prophet Malachi:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. Continue reading
“Pacifists are the last and least excusable on the list of the enemies of society. They preach that if you see a man flogging a woman to death you must not hit him. I would much sooner let a leper come near a little boy than a man who preached such a thing.”
With the resignation of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple Corporation, it seems timely to revisit a classic piece of prose from Umberto Eco. Many have seen this, some have not.
For my own part, I have always been an Apple guy at heart. My family’s first computer was an Apple IIGS, purchased in 1986, retailing at just under $1000. My first personal computer was a Power Macintosh 5260 during my Freshman year at college. (By the way, had I taken my $2000 and invested it into Apple stock rather than buying the computer, it appears that the stock today would be valued over $100,000.) Shamefully, I admit that I went through a three year stint on a Sony Vaio that I obtained as a gift. To this day I still question the decision that a free PC was better than a paid-for Apple. Nevertheless, I returned to Apple when the Vaio crashed and burned, and needless to say, Steve took me back with open arms and a big smile of forgiveness. Yes, folks, I am a revert.
Umberto Eco wrote “The Holy War: Mac versus DOS” on September 30th, 1994, for the Italian weekly publication Espresso. I altered his title in my post as we are seemingly past the point where the three letters D-O-S mean anything to the average consumer. His piece, however, is brilliant, and confirms what I have always suspected. Moreover, with the stepping down of Apple’s “pope” and the “election” of his successor, Tim Cook, the nostalgia of this article that I read years ago was fueled by its recent mention by Whispers. (Yes, I am well aware that I am taking the analogy entirely too far.) Enough of all that, though. Without further delay … Umberto Eco:
The Holy War: Mac versus DOS
by Umberto Eco
Friends, Italians, countrymen, I ask that a Committee for Public Health be set up, whose task would be to censor (by violent means, if necessary) discussion of the following topics in the Italian press. Each censored topic is followed by an alternative in brackets which is just as futile, but rich with the potential for polemic. Whether Joyce is boring (whether reading Thomas Mann gives one erections). Whether Heidegger is responsible for the crisis of the Left (whether Ariosto provoked the revocation of the Edict of Nantes). Whether semiotics has blurred the difference between Walt Disney and Dante (whether De Agostini does the right thing in putting Vimercate and the Sahara in the same atlas). Whether Italy boycotted quantum physics (whether France plots against the subjunctive). Whether new technologies kill books and cinemas (whether zeppelins made bicycles redundant). Whether computers kill inspiration (whether fountain pens are Protestant).
One can continue with: whether Moses was anti-semitic; whether Leon Bloy liked Calasso; whether Rousseau was responsible for the atomic bomb; whether Homer approved of investments in Treasury stocks; whether the Sacred Heart is monarchist or republican.
I asked above whether fountain pens were Protestant. Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground religious war which is modifying the modern world. It’s an old idea of mine, but I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately agree with me.
The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the ratio studiorum of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory; it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach — if not the kingdom of Heaven — the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: The essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a right to salvation.
DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can achieve salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: Far away from the baroque community of revelers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.
You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It’s true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions: When it comes down to it, you can decide to ordain women and gays if you want to.
Naturally, the Catholicism and Protestantism of the two systems have nothing to do with the cultural and religious positions of their users. One may wonder whether, as time goes by, the use of one system rather than another leads to profound inner changes. Can you use DOS and be a Vande supporter? And more: Would Celine have written using Word, WordPerfect, or Wordstar? Would Descartes have programmed in Pascal?
And machine code, which lies beneath and decides the destiny of both systems (or environments, if you prefer)? Ah, that belongs to the Old Testament, and is talmudic and cabalistic. The Jewish lobby, as always….
Something for the weekend. Te Deum (To God) sung by the Benedictine monks of Saint Maurice and Saint Maur. A song sung by Catholics in moments of triumph and thanksgiving, it was probably written by Saint Nicetas in the late Fourth century or early Fifth century.
One of the swear words common since Vatican II in the Catholic Church is triumphalism. We are to avoid it at all costs, and it is a bad, bad thing. In a small way this makes sense. The Church is both a divine and a human institution. As a divine institution the Church is always victorious and triumphant as result of the Triumph of the Cross, and proceeds serenely through time and eternity. As a human institution the Church consists of we sinful individuals here on Earth, and meets with victories and defeats as she seeks to spread the message of Christ, often on very stony fields indeed. To view the Church here on Earth through rose colored glasses and to assume that simply because the ultimate victory will be claimed by the Church against the Gates of Hell that all is well within the Church is to mistake the Church Triumphant for the Church Militant.
Hurricane Irene is aimed at the East Coast and now maybe people in the Northeast are trying to figure out what to do about it. I figured a guide written by someone who’s lived in hurricanes might be useful .
What are the Dangers?
For all dangers, it’s worse on the east side of the “eye” because hurricanes move in a counter-clockwise direction. By the time the wind and rain hit the western side, much of the punch is gone having been used up.
Wind: This is the danger that measures the strength of hurricanes. How much damage it can do depends on what it has to work with. For homeowners, the threats are numerous. There is debris flying around, such as patio furniture, plant pots, etc. This stuff has the potential to break windows, which can lead to serious damage inside the house (b/c the rain and wind will get in).
However, the more likely damage is to roofs and trees. My guess is that roofs in your area aren’t built up to the codes they are in LA, so you’ll lose plenty of shingles (these shingles and the tacks & nails they contain will litter the roadway, so be careful driving afterwards. Likely you’ll get a flat so be prepared for that). You could have more serious damage: That would be the roof of my apartment after Hurricane Gustav. The jerk making the thumbs-up sign would be me.
The other danger wind causes is falling trees. Yes, trees provide nice shade which keep down energy bills in the summer, but trees in these storms are nothing but logs waiting to be pushed over. Branches over houses can get knocked off and crash into the house, if not the tree itself. If you haven’t been making sure your tree is still alive and healthy…well, now if probably too late. If you know a tree is dead and have the time to cut it down, that’s probably a good idea.
Storm Surge: This only applies to those living on the coast. How far from the coast depends on the hurricane’s strength at landfall, but this is the most powerful part of the storm. It’ll wipe out floors or entire houses depending on its size. Essentially, storm surge is the wind pushing the waters, so that it’s frequently described as a wall of water coming at you.
Flood: Although this is a bigger fear for New Orleans, you’ll still have to deal with. Chances are you just lose your carpet, but if the water sits you may have to replace the drywall in your house. That is not fun, especially if you don’t have flood insurance, which most people don’t have.
When things flood, animals get displaced, so you have to watch yourself for snakes and other creatures, especially in the flood water.
Chances are you will lose power. How long depends on the damage to the area, your type of power grid, and where you are on that grid. You’ll find out that if you’re close to businesses, you’ll get power back faster. If your area has underground power, you have a good chance of keeping it but overhead wires are likely going to be blown over or knocked down by falling tree branches.
Looting: likely not an issue, but if the damage disrupts the police department (specifically by making roads impassable due to water or debris) it will happen. This is more of a concern for business owners. Fire protection is also hindered due to low water pressure and again roads.
FEMA & Insurance co. They suck. No two ways about. Judging by the handling of BP, the Obama administration is even worse than the Bush in this area. The only thing that it’s in their good hands is your money. While some insurance companies are reasonable, sometimes they’re not.
How to prepare:
Evacuate: if the government is telling you to get out, it’s probably because of the storm surge. If power could be out a while and you have small children, you might want to take a trip to grandma’s house. Bring about a week’s worth of clothes because you don’t know how long it will be before they start allowing people back into the area.
Canned food, water, batteries, flashlights, other necessaries: remember, power is likely out and cooking is not an option (gas may still be there, but gas lines could be broken so you can’t count on that). BBQ is a possibility, but not during the storm (this should be obvious. it’s not apparently).
Entertainment. You’re going to be sitting in the dark without A/C with no TV, Internet, phones, etc. You may have to talk to your family. Board & card games are the best options; books won’t work too much. If you have a laptop with a good battery, charge that up (charge up all your stuff to be honest) and use it as a DVD player. If this sounds terrible to you, you can buy a generator but they can be expensive and dangerous (every storm someone puts a generator inside and it either it catches fire or the people die from carbon monoxide poisoning).
Gas up the cars: some pumps don’t work without power, so you need to do this before the storm.
Hurricane Party: You may think I’m joking, but there’s a reason New Orleans has made this famous. You can’t do anything at this point to stop it (other than pray). Alcohol is a must, such as the hurricane drink. If you’re adventerous, you can go outside during the beginning stages of the storm and play frisbee or football. You can go instead when moving becomes difficult.
The important thing is to have a good attitude. Everyone’s in the same boat, and chances are you’ll get to meet and deal with people you don’t usually get to. New Orleans ended up a stronger city after the storm because everybody went through the pains together. Complaining does no one any good.
So those are some quicks tips from Louisiana. Glad to help y’all out. But if the next time a hurricane is pointed as us, you Yanks could refrain from questioning why New Orleans ought to be rebuilt, we’d much appreciate it. Enjoy your hurricane party!
Imagine you lost your mother, after an illness, at the hospital. In as much as any death is easy, hers is… and then it starts.
Months later, after much legal fighting, they finally give you her mortal remains– a couple of tissue samples in little boxes, kept behind the secretary’s counter for when you came in to get them for a proper burial. You’re handed the shoebox and told to sign here, here and here, be careful, those are bio waste.
Horrifying, isn’t it?
How about this:
One of the most irritating aspects of life for faithful American Catholics over the past several decades has been how quiet most of our bishops have been in the face of outrageous attacks on the Church. Too many of our bishops have acted as if they had their spines surgically removed upon consecration. Fortunately there have always been a handful who have been willing to speak out and suffer the media attacks that then ensue, along with the ambushes of heterodox Catholics frequently eager to lend a hand to anti-Catholics in their ceaseless war against the Church. One of the more outspoken bishops is Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who has never been afraid to proclaim the truth, and to do so eloquently. He is at it again over at First Things.
Well, I must say that whenever I have had involvement with government on the state or federal level, I have thought that a circus was surely running things!
The French author and philosopher Montesquieu, leaning heavily on Aristotle and the Greek historian of the Roman Republic Polybius, in his The Spirit of The Laws (1748) helped popularize the notion of a mixed government: executive, legislative and judicial, providing a safeguard to liberty. As our history has shown, it is hard for the components to stay in balance. Continue reading
Hattip to Instapundit. One chart. No other commentary is needed.
Though the great houses love us not, we own, to do them right,
That the great houses, all save one, have borne them well in fight.
Still Caius of Corioli, his triumphs and his wrongs,
His vengeance and his mercy, live in our camp-fire songs.
Thomas Babbington Macaulay
The above film is being released on December 2, 2011 here in the US, and I am greatly looking forward to it. Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s plays that is not performed as regularly as other plays of the Bard, which is a shame, because it is a powerful play about love and hate. Gnaeus Marcius is a Roman patrician who fought in Rome’s wars shortly after the expulsion from Rome of the last of the Tarquin Kings and the foundation of the Roman Republic, conventionally dated at 508 BC. Our ancient sources in regard to his career are plentiful, including Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Livy, Appian and Plutarch. Unfortunately these writers wrote 450-600 years after the time of Coriolanus, and early Roman history is almost impossible to distinguish myth from fact.
On Sunday I received a request from a Catholic blogger for my suggestions for readings in regard to the Spanish Civil War, a subject which I have always found fascinating. Here is my response:
The go to man on the Spanish Civil War is Stanley Payne. He has been writing on the conflict since the Fifties. He interviewed many of the leaders of the various factions in the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. Originally a man of the Left, I think it would be fair now to call him a conservative, but what he is above all is a first class historian.
Congressman Ron Paul (R. Pluto) is running for President again, and I assume his views on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln haven’t altered since this interview which took place in 2007. I will leave to other venues debates as to Ron Paul and his stance on current issues. I would merely note that in regard to the Civil War he appears to be singularly ill-informed. According to Mr. Paul the entire Civil War could have been avoided with a plan for compensated emancipation. Now if only Abraham Lincoln had thought of that! Wait, he did! Continue reading
The Cross & Eagle Awards (C&EA) will be recognizing another legend and this particular blogger is in the field of apologetics.
This defensor fidei travels the country evangelizing both Catholics and non-Catholics alike, educating in the Catholic faith, and defending the eternal Truths.
In my estimation, he probably created his blog with minimal thought, not knowing what a tremendous tool it could be to evangelize.
Imagine not having to travel to another parish hall or hotel to do another presentation in person. Not that he has stopped doing this, it’s that he can now reach a wider audience.
Unfortunately his blog wasn’t one of the best out there.
This all changed recently.
He changed the layout, improved the graphics by leaps and bounds, and made it much more interactive. Yes, he improved the look of his blog overall.
Who is this mustachioed Catholic?
I am happy to present the 2011 Cross & Eagle Award for the Most Improved Blog in the Catholic Blogosphere to. . .
There are times when I read a blog and slap my forehead and think to myself that I really wish I had written that. I had one such forehead slapping moment when I read this gem at Creative Minority Report by Matthew Archbold:
Hey, some are saying, Obama’s sagging job approval numbers don’t mean anything because his personal favorables are doing fine.
Hot Airhas this quote from the National Journal but as Ed Morrissey says, they’re far from the only one pushing this meme.
President Obama, whose job-approval ratings are mired well south of 50 percent, has an important factor breaking his way as he seeks another term: Americans still overwhelmingly like the guy.
So we’re supposed to ignore his job approval numbers and focus on whether people like him as a person.
Hmmm. It doesn’t seem that long ago that the exact opposite was true. Remember around the time of Bill Clinton’s impeachment all the media would talk about was that while his personal approval numbers were in the tank, HIS JOB PERFORMANCE NUMBERS WERE SKY HIGH!!!! AND THAT’S WHAT REALLY MATTERS!!!
ABC News had this to say:
You can’t trust him, he’s got weak morals and ethics — and he’s done a heck of a good job… Despite his prevaricating, his sexual misadventures and his impeachment by Congress, a remarkable 65 percent of Americans approve of the way Clinton has done his job —
Even on the weekend of his impeachment trial, CBS News reported:
Throughout most of this year, more than six in ten adults have approved of the way the President has handled his job. Approval has occasionally risen even higher, as the public rallies to Bill Clinton in times of crisis.
So…long story short. Under Bill Clinton all that mattered was job approval numbers but now under Obama all that matters is personal favorability. Continue reading