No War Crimes Trials

Friday, January 16, AD 2009

In the comments on a post on another blog, I was challenged with the following question, which while fringy in origin strikes me as being the sort of thing which requires a post-length answer if it’s going to be answered at all. (I’ve put together the content of a couple comments in the following summation.)

Given the statement by president-elect Obama’s incoming Attorney General that waterboarding is torture, shouldn’t one want to see “everyone in the Bush administration who authorized torture” sent to the Hague to stand trail for war crimes?

My short answer is, “No.” And I think there are a number of interesting reasons for saying this.

16 Responses to No War Crimes Trials

  • Just because something is wrong does not necessarily mean that one must prosecute it as a crime — something I think applies at all levels of society.

    Unbelievable! What a telling line. You are using EXACTLY the logic of pro-choice america here, PRECISELY to provide an escape from criminal consequences for war crimes including the direct and willful killing of innocent persons which THE CHURCH KNOWS is just a morally grave as the killing of babies in the womb. Aside from the other disgusting, glaring moral mistakes you make in this post from a Catholic point of view, this is perhaps the most severe and transparently demonstrates your double-standards and obvious non-commitment to anything remotely resembling a “pro-life” position.

    I dunno… hard to say which is the most severe. That, or your idiotic notion that war crimes committed against non-soldiers don’t matter as much. Um, the definition of war crimes INCLUDES crimes against non-soldiers.

    We have never yet reached a point where a presidential administration has turned around and prosecuted key members of its predescessor. To move in that direction would, I think, signal a very bad turn for our country.

    Or maybe this idiotic idea, that countries should always “stay the course” and never fix their problems. My country, right or wrong is essentially what you are saying here.

    f anyone thinks this analysis is overly partisan, seeing as I am a Bush supporter (given the alternatives), ask yourself: Why is it that the incoming administration shows absolutely no interest in prosecuting the Bush administration?

    The fact that the Obama administration does not want to prosecute Bush does not mean that their reasons are the same as yours.

    This has to be one of your most outrageous and poorly thought-out posts yet.

  • And what the hell do you mean by “fringy in origin”??

  • And what the hell do you mean by “fringy in origin”??

    As in, it’s only the most politically fringy elements who have suggested with any seriousness that members of the Bush administration be tried for war crimes.

    Unbelievable! What a telling line. You are using EXACTLY the logic of pro-choice america here

    Actually, no. Pro-choice advocates generally insist that abortion isn’t wrong, not that it is but shouldn’t be punished. And actually, the “wrong but not punished” point is one normally used by pro-lifers when talking about how to outlaw abortion — except in a few rather extreme cases. Few people suggest life in prison or execution as the penalty for abortionists and women who abort their children. Generally it’s just suggested that abortion be banned as a medical procedure. This means that pro-lifers are also advocating not prosecuting a crime to the fullest extent possible.

    PRECISELY to provide an escape from criminal consequences for war crimes including the direct and willful killing of innocent persons which THE CHURCH KNOWS is just a morally grave as the killing of babies in the womb.

    The question I was addressing was whether members of the administration should be tried for waterboarding a half dozen terrorists in Guantanamo. That was what I stated in post. If you wanted me to write a post about addressing another situation, you could ask. But this post is about whether Cheney and such should be tried for authorizing waterboarding of “enemy combatants” — which if they were POWs would be against the Geneva Conventions.

    Or maybe this idiotic idea, that countries should always “stay the course” and never fix their problems. My country, right or wrong is essentially what you are saying here.

    No, I’m saying it’s bad for a country’s stability when the engines of justice are used as a political weapon. Perhaps as an anarchist you think the common good is served by a country collapsing into civil war, chaos, or dictatorship, but since I’m personally against those things I think there’s a very strong case for being prudent about these things.

    The fact that the Obama administration does not want to prosecute Bush does not mean that their reasons are the same as yours.

    Well, that’s certainly true. Do you have another theory?

    This has to be one of your most outrageous and poorly thought-out posts yet.

    Given how incorrect I generally find your political and moral thinking to be, I have to admit I find that somewhat encouraging. Perhaps I’ve written something truly reasonable!

  • “No, I’m saying it’s bad for a country’s stability when the engines of justice are used as a political weapon.”

    Quite right Darwin. As you pointed out prosecutions for political purposes were one of the prime factors in the fall of the Roman Republic. Once members of poltical parties realize that losing an election also means losing one’s life and liberty, it is a very short step to civil war.

  • As in, it’s only the most politically fringy elements who have suggested with any seriousness that members of the Bush administration be tried for war crimes.

    Simply not true.

    No, I’m saying it’s bad for a country’s stability when the engines of justice are used as a political weapon.

    So you’re assuming that anyone interested in prosecuting Bush for war crimes is doing so as a “political weapon” and is not interested in justice. That quite the easy way to dismiss the idea without at all taking seriously the crimes of the Bush administration. Why would folks interested in prosecuting Bush be interested in using a “political weapon” against him, apart from the actual context of his administration? Do you think those who oppose Bush simply don’t like how he looks? Don’t like his ties? Don’t like Texans? Are you nuts? People who oppose Bush oppose him because of his policies which have killed thousands upon thousands of innocent human beings. You need to take that seriously in your moral reasoning, and you don’t. To you, some human beings simply don’t matter.

    Could you just admit that you don’t actually think the Bush admin. committed war crimes. THAT’s why you don’t think he should be prosecuted for any. Right?

    Given how incorrect I generally find your political and moral thinking to be…

    Perhaps as an anarchist you think the common good is served by a country collapsing into civil war, chaos, or dictatorship, but since I’m personally against those things I think there’s a very strong case for being prudent about these things.

    If that’s how you characterize my “political and moral thinking” (being in favor of civil war, chaos, and dictatorships) then you have no idea what anarchism is, nor have you read any of my comments very closely. In fact, if you think I am in favor of any of those three things, it would be entirely fair to say you are incredibly… what other word is there but stupid.

  • Michael,

    You are using EXACTLY the logic of pro-choice america here, PRECISELY to provide an escape from criminal consequences for war crimes including the direct and willful killing of innocent persons which THE CHURCH KNOWS is just a morally grave as the killing of babies in the womb.

    1. This is incorrect on it’s face in that the Church recognizes that abortion and euthanasia are the most grave evils becuase they are an attack the most innocent by those who should be protecting them. This is found in many documents, particularly “Evangelium Vitae”:
    58. Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an “unspeakable crime”.54

    But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception. In this regard the reproach of the Prophet is extremely straightforward: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Is 5:20). Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as “interruption of pregnancy”, which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience. But no word has the power to change the reality of things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth.

    The moral gravity of procured abortion is apparent in all its truth if we recognize that we are dealing with murder and, in particular, when we consider the specific elements involved. The one eliminated is a human being at the very beginning of life. No one more absolutely innocent could be imagined. In no way could this human being ever be considered an aggressor, much less an unjust aggressor! He or she is weak, defenceless, even to the point of lacking that minimal form of defence consisting in the poignant power of a newborn baby’s cries and tears. The unborn child is totally entrusted to the protection and care of the woman carrying him or her in the womb. And yet sometimes it is precisely the mother herself who makes the decision and asks for the child to be eliminated, and who then goes about having it done.

    It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother, insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place. Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being.

    The Holy Father cautions against attempts to diminish the the seriousness of abortion relative to other evils.

    2. This is incorrect because there is no evidence that the US ever intended to cause the death of innocent persons, and clearly have taken massive and extremely risky steps to avoid that. Do you really believe that if the US had used it’s airpower indiscriminantly against Iraq that there would be ANY people left alive in Baghdad??? Are you unfamiliar with the extent of damage that can be caused by even conventional weapons? The largest US conventional weapons would kill aroun 10,000 people per strike in a city like Baghdad. It is clear that civillian casualties were not intended.

    That, or your idiotic notion that war crimes committed against non-soldiers don’t matter as much. Um, the definition of war crimes INCLUDES crimes against non-soldiers.

    You are deliberately misinterpretting Darwin’s point, yet he shows incredible restraint in the face of such an offensive response. Obviously offenses against non-combattants are war crimes, on the other hand actions against unlawful combattants are not war crimes as such, terrorists are not protected by the Geneva Convention for several reasons nor would they be afforded the same protections under natural law:

    1. They are not signatories to the Geneva Convention so by definition it does not apply to them.

    2. Morally they are murderers and not soldiers, they also have information on future terrorist operations.

    Of course they are still protected by natural rights, but most natural rights are not absolute. They can be punished (unlike POWS who can not be punished) for their actions, and they can be compelled to reveal informations about terrorist attacks (unlike POWS who can not be compelled to reveal any information beyond their identity). The means to compel them to reveal information is limited by morality of course, but it is not clear which particular means would be moral and which would not. The Obama nominee for AG is not a definitive source for such conclusions, nor has the Church declared any of the means authorized by George Bush to be immoral. No declaration by a competent authority has declared these means to be illegal… period.


    Darwin:
    As in, it’s only the most politically fringy elements who have suggested with any seriousness that members of the Bush administration be tried for war crimes.

    Michael:
    Simply not true.

    Stunning response. Cite one non-fringy element that is proposing prosecution?

    People who oppose Bush oppose him because of his policies which have killed thousands upon thousands of innocent human beings. You need to take that seriously in your moral reasoning, and you don’t. To you, some human beings simply don’t matter.

    What a foul thing to say about a fellow blogger. With such a stunning regard for innocent human life, I trust that you opposed Obama because the policies he has enacted (via legislation), supports, and promises to enact which kill millions upon millions of unborn babies….

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • I think ideally that legal violations committed by outgoing administration officials would be prosecuted like other legal violations. But that’s not how it works in the U.S., and I think there are very sound reasons for this.

    The first is that changes of power are traumatic enough without the threat of punishment for those leaving office. The second is that it would be difficult to ensure just and impartial investigations in the type of frenzy such trials and prosecutions would cause. The third is that a precedent of prosecution would create a number of undesirable incentives prior to the transition for every ensuing administration (e.g. purging records, or even resistance to the transition in worst cases). And notice, the worse an administration was ethically, the more incentives they would have to engage in these behaviors.

    There may be some circumstances where such prosecutions were necessary; but waterboarding of prisoners signed off on by the leaders of both parties (high ranking Democratic congressional officials signed off on these methods also), does not approach that threshold imo. Particularly when placed in the context of the last half century of U.S. history, when many of the Presidents have signed off on analogous tactics without even the mention of prosecution. It would be great in the abstract if every crime was punished fairly (and that we had fair laws for punishing them), but that’s not the world we live in. Sometimes we don’t prosecute people who have broken the law because it might do more harm than good. That does not mean we condone their actions, or shouldn’t condemn them; it means that in practice we’ve made the prudential judgment that prosecuting some crimes is not beneficial to society (as Augustine observed about prostitution).

  • I was hearing some interesting reports today, apparently the practice of extraordinary rendition originated under Bill Clinton, when the great one’s Secretary of State was the First Lady, his AG (the one who now declares water boarding a crime) was deputy AG, and his CIA director was chief of staff and his Treasury Secretary (head of the IRS) was evading taxes (alright this last one has nothing to do with torture, but it’s a riot).

    http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/pdd39.htm

    I guess if we’re hauling in G W we should add Bill Clinton, and his administration too? Of course, that would leave Obama’s administration a little light.

    Oh, and since, as pointed by John Henry, that the Democrat house and senate leaders all signed off, then they should be charged as well.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • What a foul thing to say about a fellow blogger.

    Wasn’t aware that there was some kind of blogger’s fellowship code to which I need to adhere. Is there a handshake?

    Seriously. It ain’t “foul” if it’s true. I would not hesitate to tell a “fellow blogger” who had utter disregard for unborn human life that some human beings simply didn’t matter to him or her. And I don’t think you would have a problem with me saying it.

    In the case of DC, it’s not “foul” because it is simply true. If the human lives involved mattered at all to him, he would clearly denounce the actions of George W. Bush. There is no possible way to deny the utter disregard and willful destruction of human life that his administration has been responsible for (in the tradition of a long line of “fine” presidents, but clearly in a class by himself). He is more concerned with defending Bush than he is defending human life.

    With such a stunning regard for innocent human life, I trust that you opposed Obama because the policies he has enacted (via legislation), supports, and promises to enact which kill millions upon millions of unborn babies…

    I certainly did oppose and still oppose Obama when it comes to his views and his policies on abortion.

    I guess if we’re hauling in G W we should add Bill Clinton, and his administration too?

    I am all for adding Clinton to the list.

  • Michael,

    just because you disagree with someone’s interpretations of a leaders intentions doesn’t justify accusing him of such grave immorality as to not care for human life. That accusation is completely baseless.

    With such a stunning regard for innocent human life, I trust that you opposed Obama because the policies he has enacted (via legislation), supports, and promises to enact which kill millions upon millions of unborn babies…

    I certainly did oppose and still oppose Obama when it comes to his views and his policies on abortion.

    But since he agrees with you on lesser issues, you’re happy that he was elected?

  • Its simple: there won’t be a trial or investigation because the Democrats will want the same wiggle-room to immorally use their power.

    The surprise of this next year will not be how much changes…it will be how little things change. The first 100 days will be full of superficial bones thrown to the liberal base.

    Its why there has been no investigation to into wire-tapping and other post 9/11 decisions- it would reveal the Democrats (like Pelosi) to be complicit in the government’s disregard for civil rights/liberties.

  • But since he agrees with you on lesser issues, you’re happy that he was elected?

    “Happy”?

  • clearly in a class by himself

    Ever heard of FDR?

  • I think John Henry’s comment above does a good job of summarizing and expanding on my view. I’d especially highlight his point:

    There may be some circumstances where such prosecutions were necessary; but waterboarding of prisoners signed off on by the leaders of both parties (high ranking Democratic congressional officials signed off on these methods also), does not approach that threshold imo. Particularly when placed in the context of the last half century of U.S. history, when many of the Presidents have signed off on analogous tactics without even the mention of prosecution.

    The assumption that I’m working here is that the “war crimes” of which the Bush Administration could legitimately be accused would be of inhumane treatment ordered during the interrogations of a fairly small number of Al Qaeda suspects in Guantanamo. If, as Michael seems to, I thought that the Bush Administration had been routinely ordering the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians, I might have a different view on this. But I disagree with Michael on that matter of fact.

    The reason I suggested that an attempt to prosecute the Bush administration for war crimes would smack of political revenge through the justice system (and would thus be massively destablizing for the country) is that the accusations against the administration which strike me as credible (using harsh interrogation tactics and having a poorly thought out system of bringing people in without being sure what to do with them afterwards) do not strike me as being at all more severe than the bad choices which other recent presidents have made in some of their foreign policies. (And given how much they’ve been involved in, the small number of really bad choices is not necessarily the major theme of their foreign policies either.) If Bush is a slam dunk for the Hague, than I would have to assume that at a minimum FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan and Clinton would have been triable as well — which basically means every president in the last 60 years except the least remarkable one-termers, and in those cases it may be that I just don’t know enough.

    Trying every president for war crimes doesn’t sound to me like something that would be good for the country as a whole. And so no, I don’t support it.

    Now, I can see why Michael objected to my comments saying:

    If that’s how you characterize my “political and moral thinking” (being in favor of civil war, chaos, and dictatorships) then you have no idea what anarchism is, nor have you read any of my comments very closely.

    While he surely knows that some anarchists do support civil war and chaos (which tend to lead to dictatorships, so doubtless the anarchists don’t explicitly support those) I realize that he does not support them. My point, however, was to point out that making a routine of prosecuting outgoing administrations would result in precisely those things. If Michael is strongly in favor of prosecuting the Bush administration (and unsurprisingly, I must admit that I do find Michael a rather “fringy” political thinger — one pretty much asks for then when calling onself an anarchist) then I would assume one of the two following to be the case:

    1) Michael disagrees with me on a matter of fact, in that he thinks that Bush had committed crimes far in excess of all or nearly all past US presidents. I don’t see how one could maintain this, but it is quite possible he does.

    2) Michael does not think the above, but he believes that one can make a habit of political prosecutions without the above results occuring. I think he’s clearly wrong on this, which is why I made the rhetorical attempt to make clear to him the implications of his suggestions.

  • Well, I for the most part agree that it would be a travesty to hand our outgoing president over to an international tribunal, for many reasons, most of them noted above. On the other hand, I do think there’s room to continue to argue for a case for prosecution. Personally, I don’t believe Bush should be prosecuted for his administration, but there are aspects that deserve some thought.

    First, arguments about the Iraq War still rage hot. As Catholics, I feel we are practically obligated to believe that the Iraq War did not meet the just war doctrine. No matter our fears of the weapons Saddam was amassing, no matter the continual defiance of U.N. resolutions (some of which carried the consequence of military reprisal, from what I understand), and no matter the atrocities he committed against his own people. I know, that’s quite a list, and because of it I have long held out that the Iraq War, at the very least, was legal by international standards. But just because something is legal…

    Second, the use of even “harsh interrogative techniques” that fall short, in theory, of the standard of “torture”, are worrisome. I’m of two minds on the issue, and not even talking about waterboarding here. On one hand, we know that physical and even emotional and psychological discomfort are viable options for the treatment of prisoners, especially as a punitive/corrective measure geared towards impressing on the prisoner the extent of his crimes. How that squares with trying to extract information or confessions out of a person, I’m not so sure about.

    The optimal condition, as I see it, is to offer a reprieve from what is regular punishment in return for information. If we are offering to stop rounds of sleep deprivation, slapping, and forced nudity in exchange for information, then those activities would have to be part of normal punishment, even when there is no need to interrogate the prisoner. That’s not something I think any of us would agree to. To deliberately add those in just for the sake of obtaining information is something I simply can’t accept.

    So where does that put us in relation with Bush? That he has been more of a “might-makes-right”, “end-justifies-the-means” type president in regards to our war on terror (though I know many will argue there is simply no other way to fight this war) is disappointing. From a moral perspective, I think Bush deserves to answer for what he has done in that regard. That, I am content to leave between him and God. From a legal perspective, though, given the precedent of other presidents, given the legal jargon which justified the Iraq War, and so on, I don’t believe there’s any case whatsoever against Bush. Even in those areas where we can all agree that Bush overstepped the lines of justice and morality, there is simply not a legal case against him.

    That is not to say that we can’t fight to make it so that future presidents cannot overstep into realms of injustice and immorality. I think we should. We need to reclaim the high ground and stay there. (Or, if we have to move, only to even higher grounds.) In regards to Bush, I think this one of the realms where we are called to do the hard thing. Never forget, but still forgive.

  • Breaking News:
    Al Qaeda Cell Killed By Black Death Was Developing Biological Weapons

    It seems to me very important that we use every moral means possible to prevent these terrorists from killing millions of people to further their cause. It would be deeply immoral to not use every moral means. I don’t believe it is acceptable to err ALWAYS on the side of caution as to whether or not a tactic is moral, but necessary sometimes to use means which we find offensive, and which approach the line of immorality but do not intentionally cross it.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t question the use of any particularly offensive tactic, or wring our hands over it, but sometimes we will just have to live with it, pray that we have not erred in either direction, and forgiveness where we have. If that means that we are unpopular, so be it.

    God Bless,

    Matt

The Promises of Artificial Intelligence

Friday, January 16, AD 2009

Most of us are familiar with some concept of artificial intelligence, be it Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, C-3PO and R2D2 from Star Wars, HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Skynet from The Terminator, or Joshua from War Games, to name a few popular examples. We’ve long been introduced to the notion of the struggle to determine if artificial intelligence constitutes life whether these beings, which we have created, deserve rights. We’ve also come across the notion of whether we need to restrict these beings so that they cannot turn and extinguish human life (think Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and movies like The Terminator and The Matrix, where the artificial intelligence has turned on humankind). Yet we very rarely hear the debate as to whether such artificial intelligence can ever be a reality. In fact, and partially due to the promises made in the 50’s and 60’s, many people think that super-intelligent machines are destined to occur any day now.

15 Responses to The Promises of Artificial Intelligence

  • The books of Father Stanley Jaki pretty well cover the topic.

  • “Did you know that we cannot truly generate random numbers on a computer?”

    Ryan! It warms my heart to see this post and that statement. I was just having a conversation with my wife the other day about this very thing. (I think we’d just watched an episode of Battlestar Galactica and the whole Cylon thing sparked it.) I was telling her about my grad school class in math modeling and operations research, and how random number generators always need algorithms with seeds. My take on the whole problem is the same as yours. If the cosmos is just colliding atoms without supernature, how do we escape determinism? Just how sohpisticated would a computer have to be to mimic a human mind and be self-aware? What is “understanding” and “meaning” in such a universe???

    Sometimes I just don’t get materialists…

  • In your introduction you state that we rarely debate whether AI is actually possible. Actually I think that there is way too much time spent on this question. All the available evidence indicates that the universe is Turing computable. If anyone can prove, or even find any evidence at all that there was a part of the universe (such as the human mind) that was not Turing computable that would be a huge revolution in physics bigger than anything since Newton.

    And that’s the problem with any contention that AI is not possible. A scientific demonstration that AI is not possible would amount to such new physics as I just mentioned above. Without a scientific demonstration you are left with saying that you could have something which passes every test you can devise for intelligence and yet you do not regard as being intelligent (likewise concious etc.). This has the standard solipsistic problems. So unless this is the possibility you are considering then the idea that AI is impossible (rather than just very very difficult) is mere wishful speculation and will remain so until some actual evidence is presented.

    I should also point out that Turing computation isn’t the only possible determinist framework for physical theories. But for you to be right would really imply that some form of hypercomputation is at work within the human brain/mind. Hypercomputation is a research interest of mine and take it from me there is no evidence that my research is physically relevant (let alone relevant to the philosophy of mine)!

  • “This has the standard solipsistic problems. So unless this is the possibility you are considering then the idea that AI is impossible (rather than just very very difficult) is mere wishful speculation and will remain so until some actual evidence is presented”.

    This is asking to prove a negative. If AI is possible, it is AI that must be demonstrated. Among the great problems [as usual] is that of defining intelligence. I take it to be the ability to make connections [inter legere] without having to install the connections in the machine. In a phrase, can the machine make its own connections.

  • It isn’t asking you to prove a negative because there are examples of evidence that would make the contention that AI is impossible more plausible:

    1) Finding a problem class which can be solved by minds (reliably) which is not Turing soluble. An example would be the Turing halting problem and another the word problem.

    Technically you’d need to show that the minds can do this without significant external input to rule out nature containing the necessary information but this is a logical subtlety.

    2) You could find new laws of physics that are not Turing computable (or Turing computable with some random noise added).

    If the laws of physics, relevant to the functioning of the human brain/mind, are Turing computable and we reject a solipsistic position then artificial intelligence is possible (or at least as possible as normal intelligence!). Now in order to contend that it is not, one would have to show that there are laws of physics that are relevant to the human brain/mind which are not Turing computable. A solipsistic position wouldn’t help because then you could not demonstrate that other people were intelligent.

    As I said before demostrating either (1) or (2) would qualify you for a nobel prize. This doesn’t mean you can’t! But it does make me doubtful.

    Furthermore the argument I am trying to make is for the possibility of AI in principle. Thus it is not necessary for me to exhibit an AI to prove my point. I doubt anyone will do that for at least another decade or two.

    Incidentally I meant “the philosophy of mind” in my original comment.

  • “Did you know that we cannot truly generate random numbers on a computer?”

    This is not quite correct. As far as we know, nuclear decay is non-deterministic and has been, and can be used in random number generators. Other sources of (as far as we know) truly random or random-enough numbers exist, including taking photographs of incoming cosmic rays, the time and type of user input and so on. This is not limited to seeding the generator, but, for example, the UNIX device /dev/random will force anything reading bits from it to wait until it has got enough entropy before continuing.

    But anyway, you don’t provide anything to tie together free will and self-awareness on the one hand, and intelligence on the other. You equate free will with nondeterminism – very dubious since it gets the “free” bit right but what happens to the will? A computer program which uses true randomness in combination with algorithmic rules does not have free will. Self-awareness is apparently something more than just “having information about oneself” (more generally, I presume you think that awareness is more than possessing information) since computers are already aware in this sense of their internal environments such as their temperature, and are easily made aware of other things.

    But even so, you don’t set up any implications between lack of these qualities and lack of intelligence. The Chinese Room thought experiment is interesting but hardly settling!

  • I will insert my admittedly uneducated, and largely intuitive perspective on this.

    If AI is possible, it would not look like human intelligence, making it a questionable possibility. Take for example this discussion, it demonstrates considerable intelligence among other capabilities in both interlocutors…. AI may be able calculate amazing scientific possibilities, but when it comes to non-material ideas there is no comparison between man and animal, nor do I think that there could be a reasonable comparison between man and machine.

    As a common person, in order to accept true intelligence in a machine it would have to be capable of developing abstract, non-material, and original ideas.

    God Bless,

    Matt
    ps. the computer’s self-awareness (as in it’s temperature) is not really the computer’s but the programmer’s awareness, encoded in the system in order to respond to a future event.

  • Response to Matt: My inuitions and yours differ here so I’m not prepared to accept an argument based just on your intuitions.

    I think the problem with your argument lies in the very dubious assumption that people have an unbounded capacity for abstract reasoning and for creating novel ideas (in the absence of significant environmental input). Sure we have some capability but your argument needs that capacitiy to be unlimited. Given what we know about the human brain/mind this would be a very speculative assumption.

    Artificial intelligence programs may well have limits to their ability to engage in abstract reasoning, create new ideas or understand concepts but the issue is whether its possible in principle to produce a program which has about the same level of limitation that humans have.

    In summary in order to show that AIs could not be intelligent (at the same level that humans are) you must not only show that artificial intelligence will be limited but you must also show that human intelligence is not likewise limited. But the same reasoning (based on the halting problem) that shows that AIs will have certain limits can be applied to humans if the laws of physics that are relevant to the brain/mind are Turing computable.

  • Well, thanks all for the interesting comments. I’ll try to address some things that caught my eye as demanding a response.

    This is not quite correct. As far as we know, nuclear decay is non-deterministic and has been, and can be used in random number generators. Other sources of (as far as we know) truly random or random-enough numbers exist, including taking photographs of incoming cosmic rays, the time and type of user input and so on. This is not limited to seeding the generator, but, for example, the UNIX device /dev/random will force anything reading bits from it to wait until it has got enough entropy before continuing.

    You then misread what I was meaning. For the first half of your response, you’re talking about seeding the generator or otherwise taking in random input to help produce numbers at random. I’m saying that no algorithm can, of itself, produce random numbers because the whole notion is contradictory. We cannot use deterministic means to produce random effects. As for taking in input to produce random effects, that does very well in practice, but does not alter my point. I’d also warn about paying too much attention to entropy in the matter of randomness, as the two are not necessarily correlated. Indeed, I can produce (with enough time) from an algorithm that takes in no input, a sequence with maximal entropy for any string length. Our standard compression algorithms increase the entropy of files by removing redundancy.

    Self-awareness is apparently something more than just “having information about oneself” (more generally, I presume you think that awareness is more than possessing information) since computers are already aware in this sense of their internal environments such as their temperature, and are easily made aware of other things.

    Self-awareness is the understanding of the concept “I” as distinct from “you” or “it”. Thus having data on processor temperature, failure status of devices, what devices are present, and whatnot does not constitute to self-awareness. Have data on “my” processor and “my” devices and whatnot is closer.

    You equate free will with nondeterminism – very dubious since it gets the “free” bit right but what happens to the will?

    As I feel nondeterminism is a component of free will (not necessarily the whole shebang), and we cannot compute nondeterministically, I felt the case sufficiently made there, though. You do have my back against the wall with:

    But anyway, you don’t provide anything to tie together free will and self-awareness on the one hand, and intelligence on the other.

    Tying these together is hard to do, and my attempt basically went like this: Suppose intelligence does not depend on free will. Then intelligence is deterministic (denying truly random in nature) and thus equivalent to a giant lookup table. Since I deny that intelligence is simply a lookup table (asserted by appeal to appeal), intelligence must depend on free will. This argument is full of gaps, so if anyone else would like to take a stab at it, I’d love to see what others can say!

    Thanks, C. Le Sueur!

    All the available evidence indicates that the universe is Turing computable.

    I have a hard time with that one. I think you’ll need to clarify “universe” in this discourse, because my universe contains abstract concepts that are not computable in any paradigm. And then I would appeal to the seemingly truly random events in nature, mainly those posed by quantum mechanics–particle decay, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, superposition of states of particles, and so on–and ask how you justify the computability of such phenomena. Do you hold to hidden variable theory?

    But for you to be right would really imply that some form of hypercomputation is at work within the human brain/mind.

    Assuming that intelligence, thought, etc are actually phenomena of computation, I would maybe concede that this statement is essentially correct. However, I’m not a student of mind/brain interaction, save on the theological side, so I can’t really add more to this argument than what I’ve said in my post. Theologically speaking, thought, self-awareness, and intelligence in general are manifestations of our spiritual souls, which in themselves have no parts, which to me denies that there is any computation (hyper or otherwise) going on in us. But I doubt that’s a satisfactory answer to your charge (indeed, I think I’m just copping out…).

    2) You could find new laws of physics that are not Turing computable (or Turing computable with some random noise added).

    There’s something about this statement I just don’t like, and I’m not sure I can put a finger on it. What specifically do you mean by laws being computable? I can think of a couple possible meanings of this–the effects of the laws can be simulated, or the laws are derived algorithmically from a set of axioms–but you’ll need to clarify.

    Now, I don’t mean any insult, but you do brandish “Turing computable” around like a magic sword, and I’m tempted to quote Inigo Montoya: “You keep use that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” You said hypercomputation is a research area you’re interested in, but also spoke of being in philosophy of mind, so I need to ask. What is your field?

    I agree, though, that just about any “test” we can devise to prove or disprove intelligence runs the risk of being an argument for solipsism.

    Thanks, Barnaby! I hope we’ll hear more from you.

    ps. the computer’s self-awareness (as in it’s temperature) is not really the computer’s but the programmer’s awareness, encoded in the system in order to respond to a future event.

    Matt, this touches on exactly the problem I have with even producing good evolutionary algorithms, much less artificial intelligence. Programmers set up the environment, and so the whole process is completely determined from square one, even if we have a hard time seeing all the ramifications. (After all, there are only a finite number of chess games, at least once we include the 50 moves without a capture draw, but that finite number is so big that we could never examine every single game.) From a practical standpoint, I’d then argue that in order to produce A.I., we have to be able to fully understand our own intelligence, and that’s still a work in progress.

    Thanks, Matt!

  • Barnaby,

    i guess if you put enough artificial constraints then it’s impossible to prove ANYTHING is impossible.

    We know that man’s capacity to “engage in abstract reasoning, create new ideas or understand concepts” is not limitless, because that would make us God. But you’ve yet to show that AI is capable of ANY original thought let alone limitless.

    It seems to me that AI could achieve the level of intelligence of the highest animals short of humans, and with massive computational power, but that is distinct from human thought.

    Just curious, are you a materialist? It seems that you’re treating man as just a higher animal, rather than possessing an eternal soul.

    If you are arguing from a purely materialist perspective then it would be impossible to demonstrate the impossibility of AI achieving human intelligence.

    Matt
    ps. snootiness aside, do you REALLY believe intuitively that AI could ever participate in such a discussion?

  • Careful, Matt. I don’t think Barnaby is being snooty. Rather, I have a suspicion (and I hope he’ll either confirm or deny this) that he’s in a particular field like philosophy, rather than theology or computer science. I say this–and I’m not being mean-spirited, Barnaby, I promise!–because he seems to have appropriated the term “Turing computable” and is twisting it slightly to fit his field. Now, all fields do that to some extent (A.I. itself borrows heavily from psychology, and in ways that make psychologist flinch), so I’m not in any way calling him down for it. (If you want an example of something gets grossly pulled out of context, just think of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems!) With a little more clarification, we should know exactly where each of us stands, and hey, we might have even more insightful dialogue!

  • Barnaby,

    I meant no offense by the “snootiness”, but a little sarcasm, and for that I apologize. I guess I was just trying to reject the idea that intuitive ideas ought to be rejected out of hand, or are not worth discussing. It’s my understanding that Einstein developed the special theory of relativity triggered by an intuition that it was the case.

    I think Ryan has very effectively placed a lot more intellectual rigor into the points I was trying to make.

    Matt

  • Response to Matt:

    No offense taken. I’m arguing that if AI is impossible then that would imply a revolution in physics. And I am concluding that until further evidence emerges we should assume that AI is possible.

    “..AI capable of ANY original thought..”. I would argue that you have not shown that people are capable of any original thought either by the exceedingly stringent definition you appear to be using. I am arguing that by any reasonable definition if people can reach a certain level of intelligence then that level can be reached by a suitably programmed, and powerful enough, computer.

    I don’t think the term materialist is very well defined so I wouldn’t call myself one. I do think that the laws of physics are Turing computable where they are relevant to the human brain/mind.

    I think there is a much bigger difference between today’s computers and ‘higher’ animals than between ‘higher’ animals and people. But never the less I really am convinced that artificial intelligence is possible! Furthermore my intuition that AI is possible is as strong as my intuition that other people think and feel. I am fascinated by the fact that others lack this intuition or have an opposing one. I try not to be over reliant on my intuitions, however, even when they are this strong.

    “If you are arguing from a purely materialist perspective then it would be impossible to demonstrate the impossibility of AI achieving human intelligence.”

    This is only true if you think the idea that the universe involves hypercomputation is not compatible with being a materialist. Do you assume a materialist must believe the universe has a finite number of laws of physics? Because if not then a materialist could in principle reject the possibility of AI (realised by faster computers of the type we have today rather than hypercomputers).

    Response to Ryan:

    “You’ll have to clarify universe in this dialogue”.

    I normally use the definition: “Causally connected region” and for ‘our universe’ I use “The unique, and smallest, causally connected region including myself”. I do not try to separate the universe up into domains such as material and spiritual.

    “Do you hold to hidden variable theory?”

    I meant to add the caveat: OR Turing computable with some random noise added. In any case I understand Feynman proved that the predictions of quantum mechanics can be computably calculated which I think is enough for the purposes of my argument.

    “What is your field?”

    I am a mathematician working within set theory on hypercomputation. If I have misused the term Turing computable it is through carelessness not a lack of understanding. Never the less I think that at worst I have failed to specify what I meant rigorously enough. I didn’t say at any point that I work in the philosophy of mind (I don’t). I just mentioned the area.

    “What specifically do you mean by laws being computable?”

    I mean that the predictions of those laws can be calculated (with initial conditions as input) by a Turing computer. Richard Feynman proved that quantum mechanics is computable in this sense. Strictly speaking the same is only true of general relativity under the assumption of a space time like the one we observe in our universe (but this is enough).

    “Intelligence, thought, etc. are actually phenomena…”

    Hmmm, I didn’t really mean to say this. I really ought to have said: But for you to be right would really imply that the physics relevant to the mind is not just a combination of Turing computation and randomness. This doesn’t really effect my argument though.

    Now that was a very long response! I’ve enjoyed this discussion and regret I may not have the time to continue it (I have my research to write up).

  • Barnaby,

    The philosophy of materialism holds that the only thing that can be truly proven to exist is matter, and is considered a form of physicalism. Fundamentally, all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions; therefore, matter is the only substance.

    What I am saying is that we believe that there is more to man than the sum of his biological parts. Our thought processes extend beyond the material world to the non-material world. We possess an immortal soul which gives us this ability, which a purely material creature or construct could not. I suggest that this capacity is a critical component of human intelligence.

    Matt

  • Barnaby,

    Hey, thanks for clearing things up! Forgive my misconceptions. And now I’m curious. Can you pare down in a few sentences (they can be incredibly technical and terse, I don’t mind) what you’re looking into as far as hypercomputation? I admit, the extent of my knowledge of hypercomputation is limited to things like letting a Turing machine compute for infinitely long (which then removes concerns of computable reals among other things). Or do you have a paper you’d point me at? So… Any thoughts on the P v NP problem? Equal? Separate? Independent?

    “The unique, and smallest, causally connected region including myself”.

    As I note, I just have to laugh. This is so a mathematician’s answer! And I can say that, ‘cuz I ar one, too.

    In any case I understand Feynman proved that the predictions of quantum mechanics can be computably calculated which I think is enough for the purposes of my argument.,

    If you’re simply talking about the predictions being computable in that sense, then I suppose I don’t have too much to quibble about (other than maybe asking whether we’re talking completely computable, or probabilistically computable…). I certainly haven’t researched any into the computability of the laws physics in that regard, but then, your answer suggests you were stating a much weaker proposal than I originally thought.

    If I have misused the term Turing computable it is through carelessness not a lack of understanding. Never the less I think that at worst I have failed to specify what I meant rigorously enough.

    Well, now knowing that you’re mathematician working within the realm of hypercomputation, it now makes perfect sense why you’re fairly strident at saying “Turing computable”. In my field (resource bounded measure and dimension), all the notions of computability we work with are polynomial-time equivalent, so we tend to just say “computable”. I definitely retract my flippant Montoya comment.

    Hmmm, I didn’t really mean to say this. I really ought to have said: But for you to be right would really imply that the physics relevant to the mind is not just a combination of Turing computation and randomness. This doesn’t really effect my argument though.

    Well, this comes down to fundamental views of mind/brain interaction. If we suppose that all human thought, intelligence, and whatnot is determined by physical laws, if there’s nothing more than the brain at work, that’s one thing. If there’s a spiritual soul, which we can’t prove or disprove mathematically, but which is a doctrinal statement of the Catholic Church, then there’s more at play than are touched by physical laws. That’s the only point I was trying to make.

    Thanks again, Barnaby! Now, I should probably hit my research, as well.

13 Responses to Margaret Sanger and the Klan

  • Margaret Sanger is a sick human being. Unfortunately, her legacy lives on with Planned Parenthood.

  • As a fledgling investor- with actual hundreds of dollars invested- I have come to an irrevocable conclusion: never will I invest dime one in any stock whose executives came to Capitol Hill, tin cups in hands, between September 15 and December 24. In retrospect, largely an effort to cover over years of negligence and/or incompetence with federal dollars. So PP finds itself in similar bind. Along with the entire adult entertain- make that, filth peddler industry, as Larry Flynt has requested a $5 billion donation. PP has laid off 30 employees, cut back businesses. In part because a major donor, some Florida joint big in subsidizing pro-death projects, allowed House of Madoff to manage its funds. Poof there went House of Madoff following financial sector meltdown. Funny how the skeletons of the past show up when the dirt which buried it is washed away. Thus the saga of the Klanswomen and La Singer. May stick in minds of certain Congresspersons when their current acolytes arrive, tin cups in hands.

  • We can never remind people enough of this connection.

  • Mark,

    I guess you think extending this connection to Planned Parenthood sponsored politicians is a stretch?

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Mr. DeFrancisis, I think it only fair to allow you to respond to Matt’s comment if you wish. After that I would prefer it if both you and Matt could comment without attacking each other. The comboxes of many other blogs tend to get bogged down in combox feuds. I am not going to allow that to happen in my threads. This is a place to debate ideas not to attack personalities.

  • Donald,

    I’ll respectfully pass…

  • I can not believe people here are going now this rabbit hole. DOn’t you know the real crime is how Bush and others wanted to purify New Orleans in a ethnic way after Katrina and how this is all part of the Reagan famous Southenn game plan!!!

    We should be discussing the racist dresses that will be in Obama’s parade not this!!! (SARC)

  • Thank you Mr. DeFrancisis. Sanger’s connection with outright racists and the eugenics movement is completely unknown to most people and you are correct that we cannot raise this enough.

  • I do wish this was examined more. Most Black Ministers I know are not pro-abortion but there is has been a curious lack of poltical action on this.

    There is much attention given to have the Pro-life Catholic voice lost the battle in the 70’s in the machine of Democrat politics. Little to no attention is given what the African American clergy and activist were doing.

    I know that evangelicals had sort of odd attitude toward abortion. For instance the SOuthern Baptist Convention passed a vote basically supporting the right to privacy I believe as to abortion. It was not till ROE they got activated in a huge way and it took the Carter years to do that.. Is this a matter of perhaps African Americans Protestant Christians sort of sharing in the same Pre-Roe mindset?

  • BlackGenocide.org – One black minister who’s putting up a fight.

  • Thank you Catholic Anarchist and Christopher for the book cites. I think we just have scratched the surface here of a very dirty story, and it needs more research. Sanger and Planned Parenthood did their best to sanatize her pre-war activities after World War II and I think there is still much documentation, especially in private correspondence, yet to come to light.

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The US of Empire

Thursday, January 15, AD 2009

This is a thesis that could use far more development than I can give it at the moment, but I hope I can lay it out clearly enough that to generate some interesting discussion and perhaps revisit it later.

It’s frequently complained that the US is in danger of becoming a global empire. Traditionally one elaborates on this by quoting Washington’s farewell address if one is of the right, and by citing the evils of colonialism if one is of the left.

I’d like to suggest that the imperial horse has pretty much left the stable a long time ago. The US has been a global empire since World War II, and since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been the sole global power. Although, like the later Roman Republic, the US has not actually taken direct political control over countries beyond its traditional borders (nor does it collect tribute from abroad) it has a sphere of influence covering much of the known world and is repeatedly involved in exerting pressure or deploying force to ensure regional conflicts do not spin out of control.

This in itself is perhaps not a terribly unusual thesis.

29 Responses to The US of Empire

  • What of — not only lefty americans but — the countless peoples throughout the world who do not see u.s. imperialism(s) as “generally a good thing.” Do their voices matter?

    Are global empire and “isolationism” the only alternatives?

  • Also:

    Empires are obviously not the only means of “keeping the peace” and spreading “culture and technology.” What of those who see the u.s. not as a force for peace but of destabalization? The Iraq experience should at least clue you in to this possibility. Do the views of these people not count?

    Does the u.s. “keep a lid on nationalistic conflicts”? Really? Has it done so in the Middle East? Elsewhere? What of the u.s.’s own nationalism?

    I could go on. But these questions are glaringly absent in your brief reflection.

  • Its okay for me for the US to step back and let other nations resolve international issues. France has attempted to do so in Georgia and the EU has attempted in Iran.

    The problem is that these countries also have to be willing to do the heavy lifting (financial aid, military intervention etc.) when called to do so.

    As my dad says, “You drive the car, you gotta pay for the gas.”

  • One other thought. As Mr. Obama is about to find out, its one thing to make pronoucements from the grandstands, its another to actually try to call the plays on the field. I look forward to the efforts of other countries.

  • Michael,

    What of — not only lefty americans but — the countless peoples throughout the world who do not see u.s. imperialism(s) as “generally a good thing.”

    Certainly everyone “matters”, but when there is disagreement among people as to which of two alternatives should be followed the supporting of one side over the other does not mean a rejection of the worth or human dignity of those one opposes.

    The question I would ask in this regards is: Overall, do people _want_ the US to withdraw back within its own boarders and keep to itself, or do they sometimes find their pride offended by the US’s power, and yet actually appreciate the results of having it be a global power.

    I’m reminded, tangentially, of the interview I read some years ago with an Iraqi man who’d been wrongly jailed (they got the wrong guy) and suffered some of the abuse at Abu Graib. At the end of the interview he was asked, “What can the US ever do to make up for what it’s done to you and your country.” He answered immediately, “I would really like a green card.”

    Also instructive is the experience of many former British colonies. They pretty universally wanted Britain out, and yet increasingly people in places like Singapore and India are realizing they are actually much better off as a result of their colonial experience. Historical evidence would similarly suggest that most peoples brought into the Roman sphere of influence at first resented Rome’s presence, and yet the world still benefits from the legacy of Rome’s empire.

    What of those who see the u.s. not as a force for peace but of destabalization? The Iraq experience should at least clue you in to this possibility. Do the views of these people not count?

    I would tend to think that their analysis is wrong. Remember, the reason the US was even in the area in the first place is that Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, with the result that the US stepped in and pushed them out again.

    It’s certainly a subject that could be debated, but my current impression is that the US is more stablizing than destablizing.

    What of the u.s.’s own nationalism?

    As I wrote recently, I think the modern US is actually pretty free of nationalism properly definied. In that sense, it’s well placed to act on the global scene in a way that more nationalistic powers (such as China) are not.

  • Philip,

    Its okay for me for the US to step back and let other nations resolve international issues. France has attempted to do so in Georgia and the EU has attempted in Iran.

    The problem is that these countries also have to be willing to do the heavy lifting (financial aid, military intervention etc.) when called to do so.

    Agreed. I guess my contention is: I think we and the rest of the world have got used to the benefits of having some sort of global power keeping order — and none of the other candidates (as shown by the failures of the UN, EU, France, etc.) are really cut out to do the work.

    I’m not at all sure that I like that we’ve got to this position, but it strikes me that it may be a situation we need to recognize and live with.

  • What of — not only lefty americans but — the countless peoples throughout the world who do not see u.s. imperialism(s) as “generally a good thing.” Do their voices matter?

    Of course they matter, but keep in mind that neither their disapproval nor the general approval of the right makes or breaks the argument. As I note, I only bother saying this because too often I’ve encountered relativistic discourse in which “feelings” alone are the guide to anything. Arguments for or against American imperialism need to consider a number of prospects like the question you asked at the end of your first comment:

    Are global empire and “isolationism” the only alternatives?

    I like this question, because it is probably one of the most serious questions we can ask. As a global power, can we only either hide away from the world or be overbearing in the world? I would argue that global empire and isolationism are not the best way to set up the question as either-or. I would say that the first either-or is either we can interact with the world, or we can isolate ourselves. After that, if we choose interaction, we then have to ask to what degree and in what realms.

    Economic interactions seems quite sensible, since trade typically benefits both parties involved (unless one partner runs up a huge deficit importing and does very little exporting). But once economics are involved, politics have to become involved in order to protect trade investments. (I know this may be a point of contention, but simply put, do we really believe, given fallen human nature, that without political involvement trade will always proceed peacefully and justly?) And once politics are involved, then the military necessarily becomes involved, at the very least as a means of last resort.

    This does not mean that a global power must needs be overbearing in dealing with other nations. Hubris is always a problem when power is involved. But here there are also important questions to ask. Why is a particular nation a global power? If it is because it is doing things right, one could make an argument for having a stronger influence on neighbors, allies, and others. If it is because it is doing things wrong, then one could make the argument that national influence should be kept to a minimum. But then, who thinks it is going to be one way or another?

    Let’s look, for example, at the case of “exporting” democracy to the world. Now, we know that–for quite a while, anyway–that the American experiment of a democratic republic has worked with amazing results. Because we’re doing something right in here, it makes sense that we’d want to encourage others to do the same. What many–Bush included–got wrong was that they supposed some sort of “immaculate conception” of democracy, that anyone with a democracy will automatically find themselves in a better society. Yet underpinning the success of our democratic experience is the strong Christian principles that we are rapidly sloughing away. Without any firm grounding of moral, social, political, and even theological truths, democracy is nothing more than the “tyranny of the majority”. Anything goes, as long as a majority of people agree with it. Thus we have democracies that we’ve backed immediately elect terrorists into office, or at least people who hate Western values and would revert the newly democratic state back to a dictatorship.

    Back to the question of how influential a global power should be. This question essentially boils down to: what are the power’s legitimate needs, and how threatened is that power by other powers in the world? For example, how important was it to the United States to keep Hitler from conquering Europe? How important was it to the United States to keep Europe from falling under the Iron Curtain? How important is it to the United States to protect Europe from a) itself b) secularism and c) Islamic radicals? How important is it that United States deals with terrorism abroad? I’ll concur that Iraq wasn’t really necessary, by the way, but what about Afghanistan and the Taliban?

    Frankly, I think the United States could step back a ways from the national scene and let others shoulder some of the burdens, but we can’t forget that because of her power, the United States has grave responsibilities to the rest of the world. The degree of influence, I believe, is what we’re talking about, and let more learned men than myself haggle over the details.

  • “Agreed. I guess my contention is: I think we and the rest of the world have got used to the benefits of having some sort of global power keeping order — and none of the other candidates (as shown by the failures of the UN, EU, France, etc.) are really cut out to do the work.”

    Yup, I think they’ve gotten pretty used to having the military (and a large part the financial side) taken care of by the US. I just think there won’t be a desire by most countries to shoulder the responsibility their decisions will entail. At least not till we’ve refused to follow their lead and they’ve had to pay for the gas.

  • “Frankly, I think the United States could step back a ways from the national scene and let others shoulder some of the burdens, but we can’t forget that because of her power, the United States has grave responsibilities to the rest of the world.”

    I would agree. But I would also say the rest of the world has responsibilities towards the US in the use of its power. I think the debacle in diplomacy leading up to the Iraq war was fueled in large part by international powers not addressing legitimate US concerns. Also the occasionally hinted at hope for an Athens/Rome nature of a future European/American relationship smacks of European intellectual arrogance not to mention historical amnesia.

  • Ryan,

    a sphere of influence covering much of the known world and is repeatedly involved in exerting pressure or deploying force to ensure regional conflicts do not spin out of control

    I think you’ve done a great job of defending the notion that this interaction is largely good for the world.

    US of Empire…evils of colonialism

    I would suggest that opposition to the use of “empire” and “colonialism” to describe this interaction is in order as well. While it’s common in left-wing and certain right-wing rhetoric to use such language, I think that America’s world position is decidedly different from one of colonialism or empire. All of the nations in the US sphere of influence are completely free to leave that sphere and many have. They do not need to fear military reprisal, or even, in most cases economic reprisal. The use of force or sanctions against any country by the US has not been a result simply of departing the “empire” but due to other obvious reasons.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • All of the nations in the US sphere of influence are completely free to leave that sphere and many have. They do not need to fear military reprisal, or even, in most cases economic reprisal.

    You ARE aware of the history of u.s. military interventions since WWII, right? A good overview is William Blum’s book Killing Hope. It may open your eyes just a little bit.

  • How about the Friedman-ites’ economic meddling in Central and South America, oftentimes complemented by U.S. military power…

  • Michael,

    I am aware of the history of u.s. military interventions since WWII. Why don’t you tell me which ones involve a state that tries to leave the US sphere of influence and is met with reprisals? Of course, the example could not involve cases where US citizens are kidnapped or killed, US embassies are bombed, genocide or massive human rights violations are involved, as those circumstances would at least arguably be the principle reason for the US reprisal.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Mark,

    perhaps it would be best to discuss a particular instance rather than vague generalities?

    To be clear, US foreign policy has not always been ethical, and benevolent to a particular country. I’m simply on the one hand agreeing with DarwinCatholic’s assertion that US interactions have on the whole been beneficial, and on the other hand that the US sphere of influence can not be reasonably called an “empire”.

    When Ceasar puts down a rebellion he doesn’t do it with economic meddling or low-level covert operations….

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Interesting post, DC… it reminds me of a a couple books that I’d started back in November but had to return to the library before I could finish (all in good time, I guess), both by Andrew Bacevich, a conservative who came to see US policy and culture as overly militarized. (It’s one of those unfortunate realities of human nature that I was more willing to give this thesis a hearing from someone like Bacevich precisely b/c of our broader agreements… I need to keep working on that. 🙂

    He did prompt me to reexamine some of the premises which serve as the foundation for my own views on US foreign policy, among them my somewhat reflexive assumption that a foreign policy which has (military) power projection as a key component is an absolute. As he notes, this is a view which is taken for granted on both sides of the aisle in Washington, but which *needs* to be reconsidered.

    More apropos to DC’s post, I think we need to look again at the idea that if we don’t do “it”, no one else will… perhaps that’s true, but perhaps rather than simply going it alone, we might make new, differing attempts to rally others to the cause (advancing the common good of humanity). People who’ve known me for years will be shocked that I’m saying this, but wouldn’t it be great if we could redirect a significant portion of our defense budget in another manner, whether by giving it back (tax cuts), paying down the debt, or other domestic programs?

    Okay, time to shut down the rambling. As I said, DC, nice post.

    (Sorry for the absence of late, btw… between work, holidays, impending birth, and sickness, it’s been a crazy couple months.)

  • Matt,
    Read about Guatamala in 1954. The coup backed/initiated by the Eisenhower administration against the socialist government.

  • How do you see the principle of subsidiarity coming into play, in the situation of a U.S “empire” generally, but especially in those countries that experience the influence of the U.S.?

  • Zak,

    I won’t defend the CIA backed coup in 1954. However, let’s be honest about the facts around it and the concerns that led to US support for it.

    Unlike you I will actually make a case instead of telling you to read a book. In my point that this was not empire-building it is necessary to consider the point of view of American leadership, and not 20/20 hindsight.

    1. Arevalo the overthrown leader’s predecessor had greatly expanded freedoms and was moving Guatemala towards stable democracy while preserving a free-market economy. At the same time, there was a degree of communist penetration into his administration.

    2. The key opponent of Arbenz to succeed Arevalo, Franciso Arana was killed in a gunfight. While it appears this was the result of a failed coup on his part, Arbenz and Arevalo concealed this and reported that he was killed by unknown assassins. This led CIA to conclude that Arbenz had done away with his opponent to ensure his subsequent electoral victory.

    3. The US initially had hoped to work with Arbenz and considered him a moderate. He received US military aid early in his regime.

    4. Communism was becoming stronger under Arbenz. Given the the Cold War, a strong communist presence in Central America was seen as a serious threat to US security.

    5. As Arbenz electoral coalition began to fold, he relied heavily on his close friends in the PGT (communist party), this was particularly concerning to the US.

    6. A “land reform” law (read confiscation of private property, which was ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court untel Arbenz fired all the justices) that was believed to be initiated by PGT began to radicalize the moderate revolution which had been occurring in Guatemala. This radicalization would empower the PGT, and was thought to be under the influence of the Soviet Union. This radicalization was criticized by the Catholic Church.

    Subsequent investigations have mostly proven that the action taken by the US was not justified, and was unduly influenced by private concerns (US Fruit), that doesn’t change the fact that at the time the US was deeply afraid of communist expansion. Bear in mind that this was during the Korean War, which we suspected then, but now know involved participation of the Soviet Union in attempting to expand communism by force in a region that it was able to establish a foothold.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Kyle,

    US foreign policy does not well respect the principles of subsidiarity, buy then again neither does the federal government’s domestic policy, at least since FDR.

    On another note, if the US “sphere of influence” is an “empire” it seems to be a particularly ineffective one because we can’t even get our “colonies” to vote with us in the United Nations.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    I think that you’re right generally speaking “sphere of influence” is a more accurate term than “empire” for what the US currently has. The reasons I chose to use the more inflammatory terms were basically:

    1) A case of adopting the terminology of those who advocate a much smaller global role for the US while arguing challenging their assumptions as to whether those terms necessarily connote something negative.

    2) Trying to work towards awareness. It strikes me that in many ways the US right now is in the position of the Roman Republic circa 200-150 BC, post Carthage but prior to actually taking control of any lands outside of Italy. At that point, it did not have an “empire” but was behaving increasingly imperial in the sense of enforcing order outside Roman territory, and then retreating back to Italy once they’d secured a friendly power in charge.

    It strikes me that if this way of looking at the US position in the world is accurate, it’s important to realize it so that we can make the right kind of decisions for ourselves and for others. In many ways, it was the Romans’ refusal to admit that they were running an empire of influence that led to some of their decisions which resulted in running an empire of direct authority instead.

  • Kyle,

    From a subsidiarity point of view, I don’t really like the situation, though as I said: One of my fears is that since we’ve effectively been doing this for the last 60 years, we can’t really back out now without either passing power pretty obviously to another power (as the Brits did to us after WW2) or creating a lot of chaos.

    However, I think the right course of action would be to maximize subsidiarity within the existing order in the sense of being clear about what sort of things we _should_ push for in order to maintain international order and otherwise knowing to back the heck off and let people do their own thing.

  • Michael & Mark,

    I’m not trying to argue by any means that every time the US has intervened in international situations in the last 60 years, it necessarily made things better or did the right thing. More that the benefits of the US being an empire of sorts outweight the negatives — and that since this seems to be the situation it should perhaps be acknowledged more clearly in order to maximize benefit and minimize harm.

    Nor would I necessarily say that the US has some sort of innate right to hold this role, or is ordained by God to do so or some such nonsense. Clearly, other nations have done similar things before, with varying results. The Soviet empire was pretty appalling. The British empire a mixed bag but certainly seems to have done the “anglosphere” a lot of good in the long term. The Hellenistic Greeks and the Romans both ran empires that were are times cruel and clumsy and oppressive in their actions, and yet in the long run did the world great benefit.

    I’m mostly arguing that we should both recognize what we are for what we are, and following from that seek both to do the best that we can at the position that we have taken upon ourselves and also think to the future and make sure that we work well with our potential successors (at the moment, India springs to mind) since no nation holds international hegemony forever.

  • Darwin/Brendan,

    a fair point, I guess I’m a little leery of surrendering the language on this. Your concern about crossing a threshold to true empire is valid, and something that is important to discuss while attempting to avoid the blind rhetoric.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,
    My principle goal was to point out to you a case where a state tried to leave the US sphere and was met with reprisals. Your description of the events makes clear that you recognize that it happened, so your scepticism about it in your comment to Michael seems unwarrented. I will not defend Arbenz, but I will say that “fear of Communism” is the position used to justify a multitude of sins in US foreign policy, just as fear of Islamic extremism has been used to justify torture, preventive war, and a foreign policy that has diminished our ability to secure allies to achieve our goals.

  • principal, not principle, althoughI think my goal was principled.

  • DC,
    Are you familiar with the work done on Empire as an alternative model of international relations (as opposed to anarchy, unipolarity); not as a pejorative criticism? One of my professors at Georgetown, Daniel Nexon, has been exploring this subject at length.

    http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=F0168951CF6824F3DB911A28D402F80E.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=1028252

    He argues that since WWII, the structure of international relations has definitely been imperial, and that understanding US relations with Pakistan, for example, is best done using this framework (like understanding Roman relations in the Near East from 50BC through 100AD).

  • Zak,

    My principle goal was to point out to you a case where a state tried to leave the US sphere and was met with reprisals. Your description of the events makes clear that you recognize that it happened, so your scepticism about it in your comment to Michael seems unwarrented.

    I guess I should have been more clear in my post and that is my fault. Referring back to my original post:
    The use of force or sanctions against any country by the US has not been a result simply of departing the “empire” but due to other obvious reasons.

    The other obvious reasons are fear of Communist take-over followed by aggression which would ultimately lead to the destruction of the USA and her allies.

    I will not defend Arbenz, but I will say that “fear of Communism” is the position used to justify a multitude of sins in US foreign policy,

    It was expressly not my intent to defend this, or any other particular US action, but to demonstrate that it was not aimed at building or maintaining an empire, but at protecting itself from Communism (justifiably or not).

    just as fear of Islamic extremism has been used to justify torture, preventive war, and a foreign policy that has diminished our ability to secure allies to achieve our goals.

    Are you saying that the fear of communism or Islamo-fascism are not legitimate and grave enough to take extraordinary measures?

    In any event, there is no justification for torture, nor has their been any significant defense of it. Only an important argument about what torture is.

    God Bless,

    Matt
    ps. on a side note, I think the people of Guatemala today are doing much better than those still imprisoned under Castro…The ensuing events in Cuba suggest that the dangers of a communist takeover were serious and long-lasting to the inhabitants and to the USA.

  • I’m mostly arguing that we should both recognize what we are for what we are, and following from that seek both to do the best that we can at the position that we have taken upon ourselves and also think to the future and make sure that we work well with our potential successors (at the moment, India springs to mind) since no nation holds international hegemony forever.

    On the contrary, rather than simply “recognizing what we are,” perhaps we can think of what we are called to do christologically (as we are supposed to do in ethics, right?). The united states, rather than “recognizing what we are” needs to engage in a little bit of political kenosis or self-emptying, as Paul talks about. If Jesus is really Lord, and if we are really supposed to follow him, then we can’t isolate our foreign policy from his influence.

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7 Responses to I Hope There Is "Rich Corinthian Leather" in Heaven

  • Fascinating post, Donald. I had no idea he was a committed Catholic. He was unforgettable in The Wrath of Khan. (Remember those desert slugs he put in the ears of the Enterprise crew?) I’ve probably watched that movie ten times and will add it to my Blockbuster queue. “I like what they’ve done to my car” is another one of his trademark lines for Chrysler.

  • In Khan he took a role that could so easily have descended into camp and invested him with a tragic dignity. It is interesting to compare the Khan of the movie and the Khan of the original Star Trek episode and see how Montalban skillfully took the tv Khan, a relatively benign tyrant, and showed in the movie how his soul became completely twisted by the death of his wife and followers which he blamed on Captain Kirk. Montalban could have sleep walked through the role and collected his pay check. Instead, as he did throughout his career, he gave a performance that commands attention. A consumate professional.

  • This cat had class down to his bone marrow. Distinguished any role with his personage. Never lowered standards even with spouting third-rate noise on Fantasy Island. Methinks Father Neuhaus has hired him to narrate the celestial audio book update of Nekkid Public Square. Vaya con Dios, Senor.

  • I never knew that he was a devout Catholic. Just his long marriage alone is witness enough of his Catholicism.

    He single-handidly saved that Star Trek franchise in my opinion as well.

  • I remember seeing an interview in which he told of his respect for his father because he REALLY loved his mother and romanced her for their whole marriage. Class begets class

  • Actually Ricardo said “soft corinthian leather” in the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba commercial.
    It was Eugene Levy that said “rich corinthian leather” in a SCTV parody.
    At any rate he was a true ‘Gem” of a man, and will be forever missed.

    “Smiles everyone..Smiles”…..

  • Thank you tatoo for the correction. It has been a very long time since I saw the commercial.

41 Responses to Remember Catholics for Kerry?

  • Donald,

    Respectfully, I think there is an enormous difference between deciding that Obama/Kerry/Clinton is the lesser of two evils, and being involved in a prostitution ring.

    Of course, there is a difference between doing a ‘lesser of two evils’ analysis, and attacking the Knights of Columbus while serving as head of Catholic outreach. But I think it would be better not to imply a link between that and running a prostitution ring either.

    It is a disappointment and a scandal that this Catholic guy (who apparently was fairly well-known, although I had never heard of him) was involved in this, and the post almost suggests that you are trying to use it to score points. I do not want to accuse you of that, but the post nonetheless seems in bad taste to me.

  • Actually John Henry I think what he was doing in supporting pro-abort candidates for President and encouraging Catholics to do likewise with transparently sophistical arguments was far worse morally than running a prostitution ring. At least no one in a prostitution ring usually dies, while death is the inevitable result of every abortion. We will have to agree to disagree.

  • I’m with Donald. There’s not such a big jump between prostituting yourself and … well … prostituting yourself.

  • The man has an odd idea of what Catholic “outreach” means.

    I don’t mean to change the subject, but NRO also reported on something more surprising to me than the fact that a pro-abort Catholic has been behaving disgracefully: The Holy Father is a fan of “Steppenwolf.” (The novel, not the band.) I’ve associated the novel with drugged out hippies and so avoided reading it, just as I purposely steered clear of “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Trout Fishing in America.” But if Benedict sees some merit in it, perhaps I should give it a chance.

  • Sorry … that should be “There’s not such a big jump between prostituting others and … well … prostituting yourself.”

    But let’s also not forget that, at this point, we’re talking about allegations.

  • Important point Jay. McFadden allegedly ran a prostitution ring. His guilt or innocence on that charge will be decided in court.

  • I guess I have conflicting thoughts because I think, to oversimplify the world for a moment, there are three basic types of Catholics that support Democrats:

    1) The good Catholics who decide that Democrats are the lesser of two evils. I outlined here why I think Catholics can decide this in good faith: http://the-american-catholic.com/2008/12/03/if-you-should-disagree-with-your-brother-even-70-times-70/

    2) The indifferent Catholics. Many people who self-identify as Catholics do not take the Church’s teachings into account at all when voting. They vote Democrat (or Republican) without even considering the issues in light of the moral considerations outlined by the Church.

    3) The professional ‘Catholic’ frauds (e.g. Frances Kissling, Gary Wills, etc.) who hold themselves out as Catholics to gain notoriety, and then promptly disavow the basics of what it means to be ‘Catholic’. At various points, I think Kmiec has ventured into this territory, particularly when he was mis-representing Obama’s record and going on and on about how abortion is an issue in which we need space for people (not including fetuses) to make their own decisions. Hopefully with some time for reflection and the end of the political season, he will not progress any further down that road.

    I have a great deal of sympathy for group 1, but not much sympathy at all for group 3. I start out with the assumption that people are in group 1. If this guy is actually in group 3, then I don’t mind the implication as much.

    I think most Democrats reading this blog would be in Group 1, so I was concerned that the post might be interpreted as an indictment of all Catholic Democrats, rather than just people who claim to be Catholics in order to promote Democratic politics.

  • Oh…the wish for magic reigns with a certain poster here…hoping that saying something often enough will make it so…

    A vote for a pro-abortion politicial as the lesser of two evils does not make one a pro-abortionist. Especially when the alternative was George Bush.

    Keep on repeating your mantras, as you recede further into your ideological nooks…

  • Donna,

    Steppenwolf is a great novel. I actually took a whole course on Hesse and Mann in my undergraduate days. Give it a try…

  • We are close in our views John Henry. I think clearly Mr. McFadden is in the number three category. He has trotted out the fact that he is Catholic in order to help give cover for the pro-abort Democrats that he has supported and has made a career out of doing so. That is far different from a Catholic who is either indifferent to his faith, or who votes for a Democrat not because he supports abortion but in spite of it for some grave reason. Like Archbishop Chaput I find it hard to imagine another issue so grave, but I accept the possibility.

  • “Oh…the wish for magic reigns with a certain poster here…hoping that saying something often enough will make it so…”

    Mr. DeFrancisis, I think you will find that the reasons you voted for pro-abort Obama, anti-war, universal health care, etc, will not be realized while his determination to advance the pro-abort cause will be.

  • Mann, yes, especially Joseph and His Brothers. Hesse on the other hand is only good for curing insomnia.

  • I see your point, John Henry, and I agree.

    I have long held, like you, that folks in your category 1 should not have their good faith questioned just because they see Kerry/Obama/Clinton as the lesser of two evils, especially when John McCain is all that’s offered as the alternative.

    That said, I would place Mr. McFadden in category 3.

  • Donald,

    I’ll go with my chances, especailly since the likelihood of McCain’s leadership’s actually getting in a 5th SC judge against R v. W was next to nil.

    The Republicans have been batting .000 in the above regard, and I determined that McCain would be no different.

  • Mark,

    I wouldn’t say Roberts and Alito are ‘batting zero’. Reagan and Bush I had terrible records. But W, despite his many failings, put two justices on the court who are very likely to scale back or overturn Roe if given the opportunity (i.e. one more justice). We’ll never know for sure, but I’d be lying if I thought the odds were better than 50/50 that McCain would have appointed the fifth vote though, even absent a Democratic Senate.

  • McCain was not even my 15th choice for Republican standard bearer. However, compared to Obama, he was Mr. Pro-life himself. Politics is always a comparative endeavor and on my most important issue, abortion, Obama was clearly on the other side. I do truly believe Mr. DeFrancisis that you on the Left will be heartily disappointed with Obama. I think Obama will do whatever it takes to maintain his current popularity and taking the country in a Leftward trajectory is not the way for him to accomplish that. I suspect that he will be like Bill Clinton without the sex scandals: a fairly conventional liberal Democrat who will be risk adverse. The signs all point that way. We will know more after Obama encounters his first crisis, which I suspect may be an attack by Israel on the Iranian nuclear facilities.

  • I’m with John Henry on W’s picks for the SC. That is one of his redeeming acts as POTUS.

  • A certain logical pattern emerges with this cat. If A then B. If A I beat the drum for Demo candidates and B say they’re okey-doke when it comes to abortion and C I write a scathing letter to top K of C poobah and D run a house of ill repute I clearly connect the dots. Sorta reminds me of the new Dunkin Donuts enterprise about 10 minutes away from my abode. Which allows the customer to pump gas, buy a couple of cream donuts, pour a cup of Joe, purchase the local Dead Tree Journal or half gallon of milk or Slim Jim- all at one site. One stop shopping as it were- first the night of pleasure, then the medical procedure to allegedly clean up the mess. Quite the economy of scale. Too bad for him that it went kablooey.

  • John Henry,

    Being charitable, I’d suggest adding another category of Catholic who somehow votes Democrat. That category would be the elderly who has voted for Dems since FDR. I know my mother-in-law and my God-mother are both good, decent Catholic women. However, both continue to vote Democrat without acknowledging it is tantamount to advancing the greatest evil in our time.

    Mark,

    Whatever allows you to sleep at night. You can claim that McCain may not have been guaranteed to appoint a pro-life justice. And that is partly right, but only because you can not have a litmus test for decency. However, when Ginsberg, Stevens etc. retire I can guarantee you that Obama will manage to appoint a pro-abortion justice because for some reason it is allowable to have a litmus test for evil. It is intellectually dishonest for you to disparage Bush’s SC nominees because you don’t KNOW for certain their position on Roe v. Wade since if they stated a position on that legal issue they would have never been confirmed. Also, not sure if you realize this, but George Bush was not the alternative. Beyond that, Bush isn’t exactly evil (or the lesser of two evils) regardless of what you’ve deluded yourself into believing.

    Separately, regarding the characher who was arrested . . . . we can wait until he is tried and convicted or gets off on a technicality to draw any conclusions about him. It would be easy to try to make a connection between his alleged behavior and the sort of politician he tends to support, but truth is there are miscreants and derelicts within each parties tent. Both sides are certain the other side has more crooks.

  • I’m sorry, I just don’t see why we would try to convince ourselves that it’s defensible to be in category 1-3 or the FDR Democrats. Nobody who takes their faith seriously can be unaware that the Democrats have been co-opted by the abortion lobby since Roe vs. Wade. Since the abortion lobby owns the Democrat party they ARE the party of death. Now, one can argue whether the Republicans are the party of life, or slightly better than neutral on the matter, there is no reasonable argument that they are as bad as the Dems.

    We should pray for those who vote for the party of death with good intentions, but there is no defense of their actions.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • “Now, one can argue whether the Republicans are the party of life, or slightly better than neutral on the matter, there is no reasonable argument that they are as bad as the Dems.”

    True. The Democrat Party, with certain honorable exceptions, is the party of abortion. I would argue that on the national level abortion is the one non-negotiable issue for the Democrats. Pro-life Democrats deserve our praise and encouragement, but the party as a party is as pro-abort now as it was pro-slavery prior to the Civil War.

  • Donald,

    I’ve often wondered about pro-life democrats that go along with their party, giving it the power to do what it will to destroy innocent life. Even when you elect a pro-life Democrat to the House, you are voting for Nancy Pelosi as the speaker of the house and furthering the cause of widespread abortion. As long as abortion is a plank of the party, I don’t see how one can even support a pro-life democrat (except perhaps against a pro-abortion republican).

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    It’s hilarious how I am asked how I can sleep at night and given God’s blessings, by the same person, in the span of some 100 words.

    But I’ve gone over too many times in too many placesthe reasoning in my prudential judgments in my votes for Kerry and McCain to repeat it again here, .

    Even though J.H. did not vote for Obama, he layed out a hypothetical line of reasoning that leads to a vote for Obama, within the parameters of Faithful Citizenship and other Church teachings, that was starkingly similar to mine.

    Look it up in this blogs archiv, if you still so care.

  • Mark,

    It’s hilarious how I am asked how I can sleep at night and given God’s blessings, by the same person, in the span of some 100 words.

    It’s not hilarious at all, nor is there a contradiction. Asking you how you sleep at night is not the same as wishing you were in hell, when I ask for God’s blessing on you it’s perhaps to He will show you the error of voting for pro-abortion politicians. In any event, I don’t think you should take this personally. If YOU don’t feel your argument is worth posting here then don’t, I have no problem with it.

    Let’s be honest here, everyone in their “sensus fidei” knows it’s wrong to support abortion and those that support abortion, you can use all the “legalese” you want to try and make it “feel” ok. That’s exactly how the supreme court introduced the universal abortion regime.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Gerard,
    One-stop shopping, indeed. I was just wondering while reading the post if he wasn’t supporting pro-abort candidates just so he could keep his girls marketable.

  • Incorrigible One,

    There is way too much simplication and conflation in your comments for me to respond here.

    Sophia,
    Mark

  • ‘Sophia, Mark’ Are we to interpret the sign-off as ‘wisdom from Mark’?

  • John Henry,

    “Wishing you wisdom,”… as in “Peace,” = “I wish you peace”. 🙂

    Please understand that a certain interlocutor here was privvy to much, much discussion about ‘Faithful Citizenship’ on another blog last year. No matter how many times distinctions were drawn, the response was still the same…

  • Mark,

    I thought you’d be afraid to get into it.

    Sleep well and God Bless,

    Matt

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  • Matt,

    You are such a daunting opponent, I must say.

    What type of cereal do you eat it the morning? And how old are you? The courage and stamina you exude are quite impressive.

    I bet the brainier and brawnier men in the Catholic world love homosocial bonding with you. I am simply not up to the challenge.

    In awe,
    M

  • Mark,

    you really are pathetic.

    I will pray for you.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Matt,

    In your prayers, don’t forget to ask that I receive especially that cardinal virtue courage.

  • Matt,

    If you could refrain from directly insulting people on these threads, I would appreciate it.

  • Mark,

    Courage, Prudence and Temperance for good measure…

  • Matt and Mark, I think that’s enough back and forth. I will delete any futher comments in this thread which I perceive to be personal insults directed at someone else who is commenting.

  • I deleted your comment Matt as to who started the personal attacks. I am merely interested in stopping them, and they will stop.

  • Donald,

    it was a reasonable response to John Henry’s attempt falsely isolate me as the instigator when I responded to the attack. Perhaps, in the interest of fairness you could remove this post as well.

  • Reasonable or not Matt, I’ve decided that this thread and my posts in general on this blog are not going to get bogged down with this type of back and forth. I gave fair warning at 12:17. Anything prior to that I will not touch. Anything after that comes under my rule that ideas are to be debated but fellow commenters are not to be personally attacked. Flame wars are not going to be tolerated by me.

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A Letter to the Apocalypse

Wednesday, January 14, AD 2009

Via Ross Douthat, I ran into this Slate article about the Letter of Last Resort:

At this very moment, miles beneath the surface of the ocean, there is a British nuclear submarine carrying powerful ICBMs (nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles). In the control room of the sub, the Daily Mail reports, “there is a safe attached to a control room floor. Inside that, there is an inner safe. And inside that sits a letter. It is addressed to the submarine commander and it is from the Prime Minister. In that letter, Gordon Brown conveys the most awesome decision of his political career … and none of us is ever likely to know what he decided.”

3 Responses to A Letter to the Apocalypse

  • The hysteria around the letter, of course, deals with whether MAD is morally licit or not. The question there has bothered me for some time. On the one hand, I’m a firm believer that MAD assures that nuclear weapons are never used, because no one wants an apocalypse from a nuclear holocaust. (Apocalypse due to the Second Coming and the end of time, maybe.) MAD, I’ve always felt, works as a great deterrent, a last ditch effort to forestall war. On the other hand, the sheer gravity of committing to the obliteration of an entire nation, or an entire continent, tells me that we’re walking on thin ice. MAD only works if there’s a guarantee that, if it comes to it, the nukes will be used. Thus implicitly we’re condoning the use of nukes. But if we cannot condone the use of nukes because of the indiscriminate destruction they cause, then MAD falls apart. So does that mean MAD itself cannot be condoned? I’m not so sure. The situation is so paradoxical that it is difficult to make heads or tails of it.

    What really compounds the problem of MAD is the escalation factor. The threat of annihilating an entire nation is not very palatable, but as long as it keeps the enemy quiescent, there’s seemingly no problem. But in terms of advantage, MAD still leaves a bitter taste, because it only guarantees mutual destruction. We can annihilate you if you choose to annihilate us. However, that still leaves us annihilated. So we try to develop defenses and weaponry that ensure that we can’t be annihilated, whereas we can still annihilate the enemy. They do the same. Worse, if we don’t keep developing, we’ll find ourselves in the exact opposite position. All this makes me wonder what happens if we ever develop a means of incinerating an entire nation so quickly (perhaps with weaponry traveling at a significant fraction of the speed of light) that they cannot react in time to retaliate. What happens then, or even if both sides attain such technology? Preemptive strike then becomes the only assurance of survival, but surely that cannot be morally licit. It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

    If I were elected president and had to sit down and compose such a letter, I would not be able to pass the order to make a nuclear strike. My letter would read:

    If you are reading this, then the United States has been annihilated by a nuclear strike. Thus the cause is lost. There is no nation to defend. Do not retaliate; the whole world need not burn for that which cannot be recovered.

    Of course, one could argue that most the US would still persist in the aftermath of a nuclear strike, even if Washington D.C. and all our politicians were lost. That might change the dynamics of the situation. And of course, if anyone knew that I had told our submarine commanders not to strike, then we might be vulnerable to an attack. In a way, I’m grateful I’m not president. These questions are sufficient to drive one to madness.

    But yes, I’d certainly hope that our new president would be willing to interrupt the party to attend such a serious matter. Frankly, I think some people think that Obama’s presidency will be one endless celebration, an eight year jubilee.

  • “Of course, one could argue that most the US would still persist in the aftermath of a nuclear strike, even if Washington D.C. and all our politicians were lost.”

    It might even be a better place. 😉

  • It might even be a better place.

    Hey, I resent that!

    No, I actually don’t. Just give me a few minutes to evacuate.

21 Responses to Obama Broken Promises, A Continuing Series

  • Thus hope that he will not inflict abominations such as FOCA on the republic. Clear that in his Chicago political schooling, our man learned to slip and slide with the best of them. Still believe there is much of the hardcore ideologue within him. But not on display early. And the longer he delays, say, FOCA or Fairness Doctrine, the less likely they will become reality. Still, stay on watch, for these and other chicaneries.

  • I think Obama is finding out the hard way the difference between idealism and practicality. Pundits are easily given to idealism, because they don’t have to work out the nitpicky details themselves, and thus don’t really know the full extent of the problem. Senators, though they do deal with details, can still adhere to practicality because they can always cop out with the “I didn’t realize the full extent of what I was voting for” or the “Sure I voted for it, but that was to please my constituents, and I didn’t think it would pass.” As president, Obama is going to have to deal with the fact that, even if he doesn’t like the buck stopping with him, all the fingers will be pointing in his direction. I think he’s going to learn that you either cave to public opinion and idealism and be a weak president like Clinton, or you have to grit your teeth, suffer low approval ratings, and do things that actually work (or at leas that you think will work).

  • Years of disaster are difficult to clean up overnight.

  • It is sad to see a Catholic man gleeful that Gitmo won’t close soon…

    We can at least be sure that Obama-Biden will not open another facility like this one…

  • From today’s New York Times:

    The senior Pentagon official in the Bush administration’s system for prosecuting detainees said in a published interview that she had concluded that interrogators had tortured a Guantánamo detainee who has sometimes been described as “the 20th hijacker” in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

    The public record of the Guantánamo interrogation of the detainee, Mohammed al-Qahtani, has long included what officials labeled abusive techniques, including exposure to extreme temperatures and isolation, but the Pentagon has resisted acknowledging that his treatment rose to the level of torture.

    But the official, Susan J. Crawford, told Bob Woodward of The Washington Post that she had concluded that his treatment amounted to torture when she reviewed military charges against him last year. In May she decided that the case could not be referred for trial but provided no explanation at the time.

    The main conflict of this story is:
    “There’s no doubt in my mind he would’ve been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001,” Ms. Crawford said in the interview. “He’s a muscle hijacker.”
    She added: “He’s a very dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don’t charge him and try him? I would be hesitant to say, ‘Let him go.’ ”

    So they can’t just “Let him go” and because of the confirmed torture they can’t try him.

    Tell me again why torture is such a good idea? It doesn’t bring in any useful info, it taints future prosecutions and demolishes any claim to any sort of “moral high ground.”

  • Tell me again why torture is such a good idea? It doesn’t bring in any useful info, it taints future prosecutions and demolishes any claim to any sort of “moral high ground.”

    All too true, though I would hesitate to say that Donald is ‘gleeful’ about Gitmo remaining open. Looking at what promises are broken doesn’t necessarily mean that the broken promise is a good thing from either a liberal or conservative or Catholic perspective. Personally, I don’t think Gitmo should be closed, but I do believe some extensive reform is needed. The harsh interrogative methods need to go. The information extracted from prisoners is not worth the tainting of one’s soul. Certainly I feel these prisoners should be detained, at least until our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are over, but we can handle them much more humanely.

    A question, Mark: do you think subjecting Gitmo prisoners to endless hours of Gregorian Chant (time off at bedtime so they can sleep), and the occasional rosary (perhaps dictated by Mother Angelica) over loudspeakers would constitute to torture?

  • My preferred policy in regard to terrorists would be the same as traditionally was accorded pirates: swift trials followed by swift executions. The same policy followed by the papacy until the dissolution of the papal states in 1870.

    As Obama is finding out, despite what the hard core of his supporters believe, the terrorist threat is real. Almost all Americans understood this after 9-11. After the next 9-11 all Americans will understand it again.

  • “A question, Mark: do you think subjecting Gitmo prisoners to endless hours of Gregorian Chant (time off at bedtime so they can sleep), and the occasional rosary (perhaps dictated by Mother Angelica) over loudspeakers would constitute to torture?”

    I think given that it would be psychologically painful for a Muslim many would say so.

  • No, Donald, it is not an issue over the reality of the terror threat. Everybody realizes that. But some–and sadly some lawyers–have stepped towards hysteria in their response to such a threat.

    Obama has just found out that the legal and poltical mess Bush made is closer to irreparable than he may have thought.

    And you seem to assume that all that were/are at Gitmo are actually terrorists…

  • “And you seem to assume that all that were/are at Gitmo are actually terrorists…”

    Well, I’d say that apparently the government assumed that 61 were not terrorists who actually were, at least judging by their actions post release. A terrorist, like the pirates of old, puts himself outside of the framework of cpnventional warfare by his actions. He should be treated accordingly. In regard to torture I am against, and have always been against, physical torture. I suspect that the Obama administration may not share my scruples after the next 9-11. There is precious little “voting present” in the Oval Office, as Obama is learning, and the American people will show little patience in regard to any politician who does not keep us safe from terrorist attack.

  • Donald,

    Mistakes over release of certain prisoners do not justify wrongful detainment of others.

    It is heartening to see your staunch oppositiom to torture.

    Sad to realize, though, that you still hold an to capital punishment as a legal remedy, especially since countries like ours have the institutional means to sufficiently isolate any criminal dor its self-defense.

  • “Sad to realize, though, that you still hold an to capital punishment as a legal remedy, especially since countries like ours have the institutional means to sufficiently isolate any criminal dor its self-defense.”

    I would venture to guess Mr. DeFrancisis that you have never worked as a guard in a prison or served a stretch as an inmate in a prison. If you had I doubt you would have made that statement. In my county I have represented numerous guards and felons over the years and they all have expressed concern for their personal safety. On one day in my county which has two prisons, three guards were murdered by inmates. Life imprisonment does not render a murderer harmless. Until John Paul II the teaching of the Church on capital punishment was quite clear, and the Church was not against it.

    “Mistakes over release of certain prisoners do not justify wrongful detainment of others.”

    That begs the question Mr. DeFrancisis. In a war a detainee, as opposed to a criminal held for an alleged violation of the law, has the burden of establishing why he should be released. In a not insignificant fraction of the cases of the detainees released from Guantanamo we have clear evidence that the government was releasing detainees who were quite willing to carry on their war against the US. That concerns me a very great deal, just as I bet it now concerns Obama. Hence his go slow attitude.

  • Mr. McClarey,

    Christ’s image still shines, however obscurely, in the hardest of criminals. In my country, I have worked with numerous priests who have done prison ministry with the ‘worst’ of criminals, including capital offenders, and these priestd embrace JPIIs Gospel of Life and the developments re: capital punishment as set forth in the recent Universal Catechism.

    I can, nevertheless, empathize with your position.

  • Im glad gitmo will stay open a little longer, we still need a place to put the bad guys.

  • We are in agreement Mr. DeFrancisis that even the most evil criminal can find redemption in Christ. That of course does not have anything to do with the penalty to be paid for crimes, or whether a life imprisonment sentence ensures the safety of those who will come in contact with the convicted murderer. Capital punishment has never moved me as an issue as does abortion. If the people of a state want or do not want capital punishment is of little moment for me. However proponents should admit that there is always a possibility of an innocent man being executed and opponents should admit that life imprisonment is no panacea in preventing a convicted murderer from murdering again.

  • I think where a prisoner continues to murder in prison might be a case where the death penalty would be licit.

  • It is sad to see a Catholic man gleeful that Gitmo won’t close soon…

    Sad, yes. Surprising, considering it appeared on this blog? Not at all.

  • Catholic Anarchist, your comment is as unsurpising as your vote for the pro-abort Obama. I think his adherence to open season on the unborn will be one of the few promises he will keep during his term in office.

  • What will be my next comment, Donald?

  • Probably something to do with my Eric McFadden post I hope.

  • Probably something to do with my Eric McFadden post I hope.

    I could care less about the guy.

17 Responses to Theology, Sanity, and Homosexuality

  • We are not to conform to the world but conform to the kingdom of heaven which Jesus preached as love, care, concern for one another. If same sex couples are called to love care and concern for one another then they must follow their truly formed consciences. Sin occurs when we turn away from love. Christians must follow Jesus and Jesus is not made in our image but we in is. Follow love and allow otehrs to do the same. Love is AND not OR.

  • Ryan,

    an excellent post!

    Ken,

    actually Christ also called us to sexual fidelity in marriage, or celibacy. He defined marriage as one man and one woman. There’s no loophole for “loving same sex couples”.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Ryan,

    Thank you for explaining the role of the Holy Trinity. That is one aspect that I am still a novice at understanding how the family roles are to be understood.

  • Tito,

    Glad you liked it, though I wonder if I truly did it justice. There’s so much to say on that one particular topic, especially in addressing concerns of how we can compare such a physical, material action with the spiritual nature of God, and how the condition of man as both matter and spirit applies. In addition, I still feel like a novice myself about it.

    My wife suggested that I glossed over a lot of things in my post that would have made it better, especially with leaving out statistics. For example, I could have (and maybe should have), for example, linked in to Catholic Answer’s tract on gay marriage, or searched out the studies themselves to cite the negative consequences of homosexual acts. She also felt I more or less wimped out (PC style) in denouncing homosexual acts as sinful. Any thoughts?

  • Great post. I’ve enjoyed the whole series, especially this one.

    Maybe you could write more about infertile couples and how a love that is “open to life” even when it is not likely to occur is still sacramental and valid. I get very irritated when people compare infertile married couples to homosexuals. Like you wrote, love is not more important than procreation. But sometimes we can be made to feel inferior because of our infertility. We want to be both unitive and procreative. I’d like to have a short but effective position statement on why male and female are still important, even when procreation is not possible.

    Are there any good Church documents that explore infertility and adoption in more depth?

  • Ryan,

    Good post. I think a sincere and candid discussion about the nature of homosexuality is so vital and yet so far away with the politicization of everything in society.

    It is very, very difficult to grasp the understanding you have presented with a poor understanding of metaphysics and how things relate to one another. The Theology of the Body which is fundamentally what you’re arguing is a metaphysical presupposition of a certain ordering and arrangement of things.

    I’ve heard it argued and in the past, have argued that homosexuality is natural. What occurs in nature, by definition, is natural. There are actually documented cases of homosexual behavior in hundreds of animal species. However, this is not the Christian theological connotation of the word “natural.” God creates objectively, that is, toward an objective, toward a goal. We have a purpose, a meaning, our being—our human nature—is aimed toward some objective, an end that we must achieve that will “fulfill” our human nature. Our nature is how God designed us, so what is “natural” for human beings is clearly not what you find some animal doing; it is only what fulfills our design. Cows are different from dog. The nature of a dog is different from that of a cow. A cow cannot live a life as a dog and still be a cow. What is natural to a dog is not natural to a cow. It does not fulfill the cow’s nature. Cows do not go about sniffing and burying things. So, it follows what is “natural” to animals is not necessarily “natural” to humans. In fact, some animals can change their sex. Male seahorses bear life. This is not the case for humans; hence, animals should not be the objective point of reference for human behavior. But with a reductionist mentality and with little sense of Christian metaphysics, it is rather difficult to get people to see this point though to us it seems self-evident.

    In my own life, I came to a startling realization and it is clearly based on Christian metaphysics. The sexual design — which goes beyond sexual activity — is wired into our very nature and to participate in its fulfillment by the act of free will is to flourish and be human.

    However, when I became suspicious of whether or not — and I’ll say it is my view that there is a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, but I don’t believe it to be the sole cause — God actively intends homosexuality rather than “passively” allows it. If the latter is true, which I’ve become convinced of, to act on homosexual desires is destructive because it’s an attempt to abolish the very order written into human nature and thus harmful at every level.

    One can begin with the most obvious — the physical — it seems curious as to how it is so readily never considered how it could not harm a man to suffer rectal trauma by being penetrated repeatedly through an opening clearly designed for a radically different function.

    Emotionally and spiritually, the harm is not as self-evident, but I think, more pronounced. Consider the emotional harm: if God designd the male-female pair to complement and balance one another, then it follows that same-sex relationships drive each partner to extremes — instead of balancing, the two reinforce one another.

    If one considers — presupposing one actually believes this — the fact that because men are more inclined to be promiscuous than woman because a difference in physiology as childbearers that makes women more conscientious, unbalanced by women (this is not considering contraception) such inclinations ca lead to anonymous no-brakes promiscuity of men who have sex with hundreds of other men. On the spiritual level, through homosexual acts one is seeking union with someone that is one’s own mirrior image; in other words, yov are still trapped in Yourself and I think this is the ultimate manifestation of the self-indulgence and pride behind homosexual desire. It is a ‘no’ to martial sex that takes you beyond Self and allows you to know someoe who is really Other. I think this in many ways confirmed by the fact that among homosexuals, typically one person plays the more masculine role and the other adopts a more feminine role in regard to sexual activity. In that way, homosexual acts are less like marital love than like masturbation with another body. Same-sex sexual activity is fundamentally an imitation of marital love, but can never be it and that’s the real moral frustration.

    I think much sociological evidence confirms such notions not to mention basic concerns of health — active male homosexuals on avg. have a lifespan 20 years shorter than that of heterosexual males from a variety of reasons.

    I think even if a couple is not capable of giving birth to physical life, there unity is life-affirming and giving in emotional and spiritual ways. The union and activity of marital love in an infertile couple does not directly contradict the very design of the sexual order. They have a magnificent cross and will suffer a temptation not shared by many others; I read about a Catholic couple who can’t procreate because of natural reasons and to protect themselves from impurity, they practice NFP as penance. So I think there is much possibility there; at least, I don’t think it is immoral as long as the intentions are correct.

  • On the spiritual level, through homosexual acts one is seeking union with someone that is one’s own mirrior image; in other words, yov are still trapped in Yourself and I think this is the ultimate manifestation of the self-indulgence and pride behind homosexual desire. It is a ‘no’ to martial sex that takes you beyond Self and allows you to know someoe who is really Other. I think this in many ways confirmed by the fact that among homosexuals, typically one person plays the more masculine role and the other adopts a more feminine role in regard to sexual activity. In that way, homosexual acts are less like marital love than like masturbation with another body. Same-sex sexual activity is fundamentally an imitation of marital love, but can never be it and that’s the real moral frustration.

    Eric, it’s amazing how you can articulate so much better than I can the points I want to make! Thank you.

  • Eric,

    What occurs in nature, by definition, is natural.

    I don’t think that is the proper definition of “natural” as it’s generally used. Would anyone describe a Siamese twin as “natural”?

    From Merriam-Webster:
    occurring in conformity with the ordinary course of nature

    Just because it occurs in nature does not mean it’s “natural”.

    God actively intends homosexuality rather than “passively” allows it

    Don’t you think that this would be accusing God of doing evil? It seems to me that this is dangerously close to the anathema addressed by the Council of Trent regarding Calvinism (props to Peter Park on pointing this out):

    Canon 6 on Justification:

    If anyone says that it is not in man’s power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil God works as well as those that are good, not permissibly only, but properly and of Himself, in such wise that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of Paul; let him be anathema.

    It follows that, if God actively wills homosexuality then does it not follow that the behaviour inherent, is a work of God as well. We do not believe that concupiscence is the active will of God but a consequence of original sin, how could this particular temptation be actively willed?

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • I don’t think that is the proper definition of “natural” as it’s generally used. Would anyone describe a Siamese twin as “natural”?

    Don’t you think that this would be accusing God of doing evil?

    Matt, I think you missed the point here. Eric was stating that these are the arguments put forward by people trying to justify homosexual acts. He then goes on to explain why those arguments are wrong. For example, he states:

    However, this is not the Christian theological connotation of the word “natural.” God creates objectively, that is, toward an objective, toward a goal. We have a purpose, a meaning, our being—our human nature—is aimed toward some objective, an end that we must achieve that will “fulfill” our human nature. Our nature is how God designed us, so what is “natural” for human beings is clearly not what you find some animal doing; it is only what fulfills our design.

    This clearly refutes the proposition that you (rightly) denounced but (incorrectly) attributed to him. He also goes on to state that he has examined the argument of whether

    …God actively intends homosexuality rather than “passively” allows it. If the latter is true, which I’ve become convinced of…

    Latter, here, refers to the passive permission as opposed to the active intent. Eric is fully stating that he believes that God passively permits people to struggle with same-sex attraction, not that God actively intends people to deal with same-sex attraction and act on it.

    We appreciate your comments, but I would ask that you carefully consider what someone actually says before rebutting his arguments. (On the other hand, don’t for a moment think that I haven’t been guilty of the same many times before!)

  • Ryan,

    I’d appreciate if Eric explained his intent here, it’s quite possible that I’m misunderstanding, but your response only adds to the confusion. I certainly wouldn’t want the apparent contradiction to be left unclarified.

    Matt

  • Matt,

    I was making a distinction between the world “natural” as used in modernity in reference to anything that has a genetic cause — directly wired into one’s behavior via genes — or biological, which refers to things inborn that are not necessarily genetic. Some extend the connotation to things that frequently occur, e.g. sayings like it’s a “natural” temptation or it’s “natural” to feel that way. I clarified that this is not what Christians, in theological language, mean by the word “natural” — the word in theology implies what something’s place is in the creative order and respects God’s design. The nature, is practically synonymous, with the very essence of something. Thus, I was implying that this reality if taken to be true, redirects one’s opinion of homosexuality as acceptable to be expressed to a inclination toward a grave sin. The latter being my conviction.

    In regard to God’s will, I was making a distinction. God from a purely metaphysical basis is the First Cause, therefore, he literally holds everything in existence even creatures with free will that can choose to do evil — God wills actively that we have free will with the full knowledge we may misuse it. I once had the challenge of explaining to someone how a good and loving God could somehow be involved — don’t misunderstand my language — in creating at every moment of it’s existence, the planes that were crashed into the twin towers because any existing things hinges upon God’s creative act, which is not a one time thing, but rather creation is an ongoing activity and God is participating in it with an incomprehensible divine plan that we humans struggle to learn.

    Now in regard to homosexuality, I do believe that God allows homosexuality to exist. Nothing can exist without God allowing it. However, the question I asked myself before I converted to Catholicism, as a person who is homosexual was whether God actively intends it — that is, he creates it and intends it, or is it the fruit of moral disorder or physical evil that God only passively allows to exist though it is not something he intends, but rather permits as it were. I personally believe — and this isn’t at all infallible — that there is a genetic or biological basis for homosexuality. I don’t think it’s the sole cause or the cause of it for everyone. I don’t believe this reality — a physical evil — changes the very essence of human nature or implies that man should re-write his metaphysical place in creation to accomodate homosexual acts. Homosexual acts are fundamentally against the natural law and in Christian terms it is a sin.

    I didn’t think I was in anyway ambivalent on the matter, seeing that I was praising a post that made zero accomodations for morally accepting homosexual behavior.

  • Eric,

    I think I understand what you’re saying, but could you clarify that you what you are saying is that it is God’s “passive will” to allow homosexuality to occur? I guess I’m just too simple, but you seem to keep leaving that question open.

    a. active will – God actively intends it — that is, he creates it and intends it, or

    b. passive will – is it the fruit of moral disorder or physical evil that God only passively allows to exist though it is not something he intends

    I think the only orthodox answer is b, wouldn’t you agree? While “a” doesn’t necessarily justify homosexual acts, I believe it is contradictory to Catholic teaching on God’s nature.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Yes. Point “b” is the position I hold and was expressing.

  • I personally believe — and this isn’t at all infallible — that there is a genetic or biological basis for homosexuality.

    Just for what it’s worth, I thought I’d add my thoughts on the issue, though I’m by no means an authority.

    The question is: is homosexuality a matter of genetic predisposition or is it a psychological phenomenon? Or I should say, this is how people pose the question, and I think it glosses over a huge number of important factors, the first and foremost being that “both” is as a legitimate answer as either.

    Part of the problem, as I see it, is that we do a lot of training and conditioning of ourselves in matters of sexual attraction, especially in bad ways. There are many, many “fetishes” out there that people wouldn’t normally ever consider sexually arousing, but with exposure and a disordered desire for arousal and sexual gratification, these fetishes become very sexually charging.

    This is exemplified in the largest plague of sex crimes in Wyoming: child pornography (possessing, not producing, thankfully). Therapists and offenders themselves both will tell you that most people who get heavy into child porn don’t do so because they were naturally inclined to pedophilia or anything like that; rather, in their usage of pornography, and their ongoing drive for new ways to stimulate themselves, they came across child porn, and developed an association with it. Through repeated exposure (and willingness to expose themselves to it), they eventually trained themselves to be aroused by children.

    Of course, that’s on the extreme end of deviancy, and many people will protest that those people are latent pedophiles, anyway. They’ll also claim that people who go for the weird fetishes are latent perverts, as well. I disagree, for the most part, but where I do agree will wait until I hit the biological portion of this reply.

    Part of the problem of following this line of thought is that many will jump down my throat for comparing homosexuality to child porn, but I feel there’s a connection. Christopher West said that humans aren’t necessarily programmed for homosexuality or heterosexuality, but instead are programmed for sexuality, and the natural (as in the Christian “natural” that Eric defined) development of that is in opposite-sex attraction. Various influences in a person’s life lead them towards and away from properly ordered desire (positive influences like a strong, committed, loving family; negative influences like movies, TV shows, magazines, etc). Some of these influences can occur very early in a person’s life so that they’re not even aware, years later, that they even had an influence. Others are recent enough that it is easy to track back how a person ended up with a particular sexual desire.

    So yes, I do believe that there is a “nurture” component to same-sex attraction. I’ve seen too many people “nurture” themselves into a particular sexual deviancy not to believe that. And yes, I feel I’ve seen people “nurture” themselves into same-sex attraction. In some of the more “socially progressive” areas of high school and college (I’m thinking the liberal arts here, specifically theater), the pressure to be openly homosexual or at least openly supportive of homosexuality was strong enough to lead some to experimentation and to the struggle with sexual identity. Of course, one can simply say that in such a homosexual-friendly environment, homosexuals would naturally drift there, especially those who had hidden it away for so long (even from themselves). But as I said, this whole reply is a matter of personal opinion, not a scholarly treatise.

    But I also believe that there is some genetic propensity towards homosexuality, as well. This belief comes from two lines of thought. First, I believe that there is a biological imperative to see the opposite sex as sexually desirable, and if we are to believe that, then I think we must be willing to admit at least the possibility of the wires getting crossed in some people. Second, while I hold that training has a lot to do with what we find sexually appealing, I also believe that some people are more prone to various forms of sexual behavior than others. Some people naturally have a huge sex drive, others barely have a sex drive at all. Some people very easily slip into (or readily embrace) sexual fetishes, others continue to be repulsed no matter how often they come across it. Thus I believe that no only can wires get crossed, but they can cross in a spectrum of degrees.

    So, to sum up, I believe homosexuality originates first in a biological predilection (very strong in a small number of people, less strong in a few more, and weakly in others), but after that, it depends on influences and training. Some people, a very few, need practically no influence or training at all; others need only a nudge, and others still require some traumatic experience. People with only a weak predisposition (or even no predisposition at all) can still train themselves into same-sex attraction.

    So there’s my theory. It squares with what I know from my limited exposure to homosexuality (I have had a couple friends who are homosexuals, but we’ve almost never talked about it) and from my struggles with my own sexuality. However, it may not square with anyone else’s experiences, so I’m willing (and perhaps eager) to hear what others think.

    As a note, when I say that I feel people are trained or conditioned into homosexuality due to particular influences, that is not to say that they chose to do so of their own volition, or that they would have agreed to it if they knew what was happening. Indeed, my theory of influences and conditioning tends to lean towards early life experiences that perhaps aren’t even remembered. But in any case, my belief that there is training, influence, and conditioning leading to same-sex attraction does not in any way imply that anyone is culpable for his homosexuality.

  • Ryan,

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Studies by the Catholic Medical Association find very similar conclusions. This a very strong argument indeed, for the dangers of the homosexual indoctrination that is being foisted on our children.

    Frankly, the attempt by gay activists to push for the genetic origin is simply a red herring. It really doesn’t matter whether this propensity is purely genetic or purely learned, it is still disordered in a moral sense, and in a biological sense.

    God Bless,

    Matt

  • Excellent thread.
    If some genetic material carries a ‘homosexual’ component, Why is the homosexual act described as an ‘abomination’ in Scripture?
    i.e God creates the process for this genetic material then condemns His creation…we’d better call Plantinga on this one!
    Could it be that homosexuality is not a psychopathology but rather a pneumopathology?
    Scripture also says that homosexuals will not gain heaven, but then neither will liars, whoremongers, ect., an indicator that we all require forgiveness and salvation.

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Voluntary Human Extinction

Tuesday, January 13, AD 2009

save-plantet-kill-yourself1

 

When I first came across this group, I thought it was a joke.  Well it is, but they are serious.  The humorous side of me wants to say, “Great!  I am very happy that people with your views will not be having kids!”  The more serious side of me thinks it a calamity that any group of people can seriously call for the extinction of humanity.  Needless to say, although I will say it anyway, this group supports abortion.

This ties in with a particularly foolish blog entry by a woman who believes the path to social progress is to end human reproduction.

Pope John Paul II was fond of speaking of “a culture of life”.  If we don’t have a culture of life in this century I think we will most certainly have a culture of death that will dwarf the body count of the last century.  Silly groups like Voluntary Human Extinction and the deluded blogger are merely ludicrous manifestations of a culture that increasingly views human life not as a sacred gift from God, but rather a disposable commodity.  As Catholics we face no greater challenge than rekindling in our society a respect for innocent human life, and an optimism that life, with all of its challenges and pain, is to be embraced with joy.

10 Responses to Voluntary Human Extinction

  • At least they’re honest about it. Not buried in p.r. jive like the thugs at Planned Parenthood or spouting the jive about empowerment at NOW. They just hate people. Pretty much the final collective bundle of similar groups- PETA, Greenpeace, other organizations populated by folks with deep- seated issues. Probably hate themselves. Would be fun to see one in a debate with Pope JP Superstar. Nope. Would be like Alex Rodriguez at bat, facing a little league pitcher. Maybe they could arrange an audience with Benedict XVI. Then would be like Ryan Howard to a little leaguer. In the meantime keep an eye on these woowoos. Bad ideas can fly around like computer viruses these days.

  • Well, I don’t know about honest. The woman holding the sign is telling you to kill YOURSELF. She obviously hasn’t killed herself….

  • Well, the messenger needs to persist until everyone else has killed himself, or some might stubbornly insist on self-preservation after the annoying prophet has gone.

    But this just lends credit to what many have said. Once you throw out any notion of God, and man a creation of God, and the dignity of man, you can embrace any stupidity around, especially the materialistic view that somehow the earth should be freeze-framed so that temperatures and climates never vary, and animals never go extinct, and urban sprawl doesn’t mar the beautiful landscaping, and forest fires never ruin the beautiful trees….

    It may sound a little arrogant to say, but the earth was made for man to inhabit it. The earth, like man, has no inherent right to exist in and of itself, and someday–assuming God permits things to progress this far, the world will be a charred cinder before a rapidly expanding sun. Granted, we should be good stewards of the earth, but that doesn’t mean we should view ourselves as such a blight on the planet that we should destroy ourselves.

    But then, the message of the evil human spread across the globe has be pounded quite often, in the media and in our entertainment. I’m thinking specifically of the Matrix when Elrond–I mean, Agent Smith describes humanity to Morpheus as a virus infecting the world. Granted, it was a “bad guy” making the monologue, but the message is still clear.

  • Ryan: PETA has now launched an ad campaign directing us all to think of fish as “kittens of the sea,” which is supposed to make them less appetizing, I suppose. More than a few bloggers have had a great deal of fun mocking PETA (one poster at Tim Blair’s noted that his land kitten enjoys eating sea kittens and thus is guilty of cannibalism; another expressed concern for the day when his sea kittens share a plate with hush puppies), but although these groups are easily ridiculed your point remains:

    Once you throw out any notion of God, and man a creation of God, and the dignity of man, you can embrace any stupidity around,

    PETA and the human extinctionists are jokes now, but for how long? Groups and ideas which would have been laughed off the planet 50 years ago (or met with a shocked silence) are mainstream now.

  • Humanity is (has always been) seventy to a hundred years away from extinction. Why do these morons want to hurry the process? The least they could do is lead the way if they’re THAT adamant about it. We’ll follow, of course (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge…)

    BTW, if we make the change from fish to “Sea Kittens”, I can modify my “cats are cheaper than dog food” schtik to “Sea Kittens are cheaper than catfood”.

  • Yeah, I read about the movement to call fish “sea kittens”. Perhaps it is cliche to wax Shakespearean, but the line “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” always comes to mind. Call fish what you will, it is still an aquatic animal that people love to catch, deep fat fry, and serve up with chips. Personally, I dislike fish, but I might be tempted to try this new feline of the sea. It could be reclassified as a delicacy and served at the really posh restaurants. “Here is your Indian Ocean tabby with garlic, sah!”

  • All right, everybody, sing together:

    “Ask any mermaid you happen to see:
    What’s the best tuna? Kitten of the Sea!”

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  • “Ask any mermaid you happen to see:
    What’s the best tuna? Kitten of the Sea!”

    Message to self, do not drink soda while reading something this humorous!

  • Oops–
    I hope your keyboard didn’t fare too badly!
    Thanx for the compliment, anyway.

Blagojevich Impeached

Monday, January 12, AD 2009

Blagojevich impeached in a cliffhanger, with the vote for impeachment only 114-1.  Here is the House report on which the impeachment vote was based.  Blagojevich is the first Illinois governor to be impeached which is rather remarkable when you consider some of the public thieves who have misgoverned my state.  Now on to the Senate for the trial.  Blagojevich is vowing to fight on, and I expect his legal team to pull every possible maneuver to delay the inevitable.

3 Responses to Blagojevich Impeached

  • Yowie zowie. What shall I do? My Iggles continue their magical mystery tour thru playoffs in 23-11 beatdown of New York Football Giants. And yet a new chapter in the Blago Story emerges with impeachment. Combined with tawdry spectacle of Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon indicted for doing tacky stuff like using gift cards meant for poor folks. Such quality entertainment on so many fronts.

  • Well, this whole mess is making me feel better about my governor, Doyle, although he’s no treat either.

    Can it possibly be that Blago honestly (I know, I know, those are two words not often seen together in the same sentence) does not think he’s done anything wrong? Does a fish know it’s wet? Well, this is going to get better and better, although my sympathy really does go out to hapless down-staters who are outvoted by Chicagoland.

    I really wish Blago would stop quoting Kipling. As a poster on another site pointed out, if it’s poetry he wants to quote, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” would be a more appropriate choice.

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4 Responses to Shall We Pass the Hat?

5 Responses to The Bold Fenian Men

True Bread

Friday, January 9, AD 2009
ecce-agnus-dei
We all know that there is a global economic crisis and no one can predict how it will play out. Will it be short or will the world seek deeper and deeper into a global economic depression? These questions cannot be answered by any man or woman on earth. Many have lost all hope? We should remember that all economic systems are man made and thus imperfect. During the dot com boom of the late 90’s economists were stating that we had conquered the economic cycle and entered an age of unstoppable economic growth. When that flopped, they looked to housing and real estate. It never goes down, right? Any person who had studied property prices knew that to be incorrect, nevertheless, many fell for the lie. But how many people believe the words of Christ? Seems to me that these economic times call for heeding the words of Christ in Matthew 6: 25-33:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”
 
 

Of course, there is some good news that has come out of the financial turmoil and scandal:

“Madoff fallout drains funding of abortion advocacy groups”

 

2 Responses to True Bread

13 Responses to Shameless

  • Mr. McClarey,

    Did you major in outrage as an undergraduate?

  • No Mr. DeFrancisis, although I would say that Doug Kmiec, based upon his “eulogy” for Father Neuhaus, must have minored in chutzpah.

  • Dr. Robert Royal, editor-in-chief of “The Catholic Thing” and President of The Faith & Reason Institute, will be my guest tomorrow on “Catholic Radio 2.0” to discuss Fr. Neuhaus’ work and legacy. You can either listen live at 11:00 AM ET or download the archive of the show later that day by going to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/CommanderCraig.

  • I suspect that if Kmiec’s conscience was entirely clear on this matter, he simply would have praised Fr. Neuhaus in general terms without having to get in the last word in an argument.

    May Fr. Neuhaus enjoy his reward in heaven.

    And Donald McClarey, it is a pleasure to find your blog. You are a sensible man and an eloquent writer.

  • OK, I’ve just had more of a look-around and I see it is a group blog. Well, this is good news. I’ve just bookmarked it.

  • Thank you Donna V. I hope our comboxes will often be graced with your always insightful comments.

    Kmiec is still desperately trying to convince people that he simply did not switch sides on the abortion issue last year. Perhaps if he repeats it often enough he will believe it someday. I doubt if he will ever convince anyone else.

  • Don’s getting a little desperate. Kinda like Alger Hiss for the last 50 years of his life- No I Wasn’t Stalin’s Sock Puppet. Welcome Donna V. We have big fun at this playground. Y’all come back any ol’ time.

  • Don as in Kmiec. Not the always sensible Mr. McClarey.

  • It is good to see you here as well, Gerard E. and your very unique writing style, which always brings a smile to my face. I look forward to your reports from the city (the one of Brotherly Love, if I remember correctly) and all it’s pomp, works 🙂

  • Here’s First Things Editor Joseph Bottum on Doug Kmiec’s “obituary”:

    Finally, there is Douglas Kmiec’s odd obituary. I’m tempted to say a reasonable response can be found here, but some readers may not appreciate the profanity. Anyway, Kmiec’s attempt to pose himself as a friend and dialogue partner of Fr. Neuhaus may be the saddest and most pathetic of all the responses to this recent death. “It absolutely delighted Father John that the Holy Father gave American Catholics credit for resisting the secular trends of Western Europe,” Kmiec writes—to which the only response is: Who the hell ever called Richard by the name “Father John”? Only people who didn’t actually know him and want, after his death, to pretend that they did.

    Ouch.

  • And I must admit, I did indeed find the linked blog’s assessment to be pretty much all Kmiec’s piece deserves.

  • I concur.

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Uncle Sam Borrower

Friday, January 9, AD 2009

broke-uncle-sam

A look at the credit score of the US government if Uncle Sam had to fill out a credit app.  Hattip to Instapundit.

Update:  Powerline has a depressing look at the projected budget deficit for this year as a percentage of gdp.  We are getting into very dangerous territory, starting with the 750,000,000,000 bailout under President Bush last year, as to the amount of debt that the Federal government is incurring in a very short time.

2 Responses to Uncle Sam Borrower

  • Obama is predicting trillion dollar deficits for years to come… this is insanity, get ready to start using your dollars for fuel or toilet paper.

    This is a deeply immoral action, as it involves taking money from our descendants.

    Mat

  • I like the way you present the number with all the zero’s… Really helps the size of this thing sink in.