Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sorry Dr. Jones, It Belong in a Church

Recently I visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.  The museum had many fascinating items on display.  Of particular interest to me was exhibition of Catholic liturgical art such as this beautiful 15th Century Spanish altarpiece:

And this French reliquary from the 12th or 13th Century:

I enjoyed viewing this exhibit, but as I continued to explore the museum I remembered the liturgical items and thought, what are they doing here?  This is sacred art. Liturgical art.  It belongs in a Church or in a Catholic museum, not in the Nelson-Atkins.  In a secular museum, an altarpiece is cataloged by probably irreligious curators who see it not as ornamentation for the focal point of the Mass but as a cultural curiosity, of no greater significance than the lewd Hindu statuary on display in the room adjacent.  The curators and patrons of the museum at least appreciate the beauty of traditional liturgical art, which is more than can be said for many contemporary bishops.  If you want to see the glory of God reflected in art, don't go to a Catholic Church, go to a secular museum.  Catholics have traded away their artistic birthright for ugly architecture and felt banners.

Education Update

I survived yet another semester.  I am looking forward to my graduation in May, and to whatever comes afterwards.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The President's Christmas Card

Many legitimate criticisms are made of our current President, but some are bizarrely petty.  For example, in 2011, Todd Starnes of Fox News Radio condemned the Obama's Christmas card design in a blog post titled No Christmas in White House Holiday Card.  (This happened two years ago, but it's Christmas card season, and that makes it topical.)  He reported ominously that the card features First Dog Bo and poinsettias but no Christmas tree. Sarah Palin offered her opinion,
“It’s odd,” she said, wondering why the president’s Christmas card highlights his dog instead of traditions like “family, faith and freedom.” Palin said the majority of Americans can appreciate the more traditional, “American foundational values illustrated and displayed on Christmas cards and on a Christmas tree.”
Palin may find the card odd, but I think it is odd to associate "American foundational values" with something that withers and dies in our living room.

This was the offending Christmas Card:

I don't know about you, but I like this card.  The room looks cozy and the poinsettias and the evergreen on the mantle certainly indicate that it is a Christmas card.  I have no problem with highlighting Bo.  I like Bo.  He is the only member of the Obama household that would happy to see me if I showed up unannounced in the White House living quarters.  Sure it would be nice if the card included something religious, but I rather doubt that a non-religious Christmas card is an affront to God.  Pick your battles and leave Bo alone.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Correction of Terminology

Introverts are often accused of being "anti-social."  This characterization is based on an incorrect use of the term.  At least, I hope that those who call me anti-social are unintentionally employing the wrong terminology.  I say this because those who are truly anti-social like to murder people and bury their chopped up bodies in the woods.  Those who dislike being around a lot of people and require periods of solitude are merely "un-social."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Divided and United

Garden and Gun is offering a preview of Divided and United: The Songs of the Civil War in its entirety.  The album features Civil War songs sung by contemporary country and bluegrass artists.  Some of the renditions are a bit too modern for my tastes, but overall, the album is quite enjoyable.
H/T: The Crescat

Check it out!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Presidential Hams

For some reason I really like this website featuring portraits of American presidents holding hams.

A couple of samples:

Taft holds his ham with confidence.  Our fattest president, Taft hefted many a ham in his day.

Woodrow Wilson looks appropriately sinister.  He strokes the ham while fiendishly plotting the destruction of the Holy Roman Empire.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Hail Holy Queen!

I have said to myself that Marian spirituality "isn't my thing" yet I find myself coming before the Blessed Mother more and more in prayer.  Not every sort of devotion is suited for every person of course, butt if you find yourself unenthusiastic about Marian devotions, it can't hurt to try them some more.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Religious Liberty or Religious License?

A speech I heard on religious freedom is an excellent example of how the promotion of religious liberty can go wrong.  The speaker, who shall remain unnamed for prudential reasons, declared that we must fervently defend the religious freedom of everyone, including people we don't like.  He employed as examples the historic persecution of the Mormons and the current issue of the Westboro Baptist Church protesting at military funerals. 

Much of the violence against Mormons in the 19th Century was senseless and shameful, such as the Mormon Extermination order, which the speaker highlighted.  However, not all actions against the sect were unjustified, and our speaker did not seem to make this distinction.  For example, the sanctions against Mormon polygamy were certainly just.  19th Century Mormons complained that the prohibition on polygamy violated their religious freedom, but if absolute religious freedom means the right to commit bigamy, then perhaps it is not such a great thing.  The Mormons were an armed, polygamous, state within a state, and though a victim of unjust violence, they committed their own atrocities such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  I would obviously oppose the murder of 19th Century Mormons and not only because I number them among my ancestors.  However, to plead religious liberty as an absolute defense of their actions is a mistake.

Our speaker disagrees strongly with the Westboro Baptist Church, as does anyone with even a rudimentary grasp of Christian theology.  However, he seemed far too enthusiastic in his defense of their supposed freedom to harass military funerals.  Though the framers of the constitution would probably have had the WBC flogged, a reasonable man might apply First Amendment protections to their disgusting displays, which is exactly what the Supreme Court did in Snyder v. Phelps.  Though I am not entirely sure of my opinion on the legal issue, I think that a good argument can be made to consider funeral protests obscenity, and thus outside of free speech protections. 

However, even if one considers the protests to be protected by civil rights, it would be the height of folly to believe them to be protected by natural right.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what the speaker implied, saying that he could not try to sanction the protests just because he disagreed with them, and he seemed to hold this position as a matter of fundamental principle rather than as a prudential application of the civil law.  It would be obvious to previous generations that there is no natural God given right to protest a funeral.  If the WBC showed up at the funeral of one of your ancestors in Medieval Europe and started calling people fags, the bereaved would hack them to death and the local bishop would advise the faithful on the best place to dump the bodies.  Though we are presently constrained by the civil law from such actions, we must not confuse the civil rights of those in error for natural rights, which sanction only that which is good, true, and just.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I have been neglecting the blog, but never fear, loyal reader(s)!  I shall return very shortly with some comments on religious liberty, historiography, and other such interesting topics. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fasting and Prayer for Syria

The Holy Father has declared today a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria.  Pray for a just peace, for the protection of the innocent, and the preservation of Christian communities in Syria.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

College Cooking

It's good to be back at Benedictine!  I had a good first week of class and look forward to the rest of the semester.  I am living in an apartment this semester, and I will be mostly cooking for myself.  I hope that this stuff doesn't kill me:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Liberal Advantage

Conservatives are better at some things, and liberals are better at others.  For example, conservatives are better at target shooting, and liberals are better at appreciating bad art.  Unfortunately, the ability to effectively articulate one's political philosophy is an area where liberals have an advantage.  The reason for this is simply, simplicity.

Someone who restricts his reading to the Huffington Post might think that liberalism is a nuanced and complex philosophy, and that conservatism is nothing more than a primitive instinctual reaction to a changing world.  Like much of what one reads on HuffPo, this is not entirely accurate in the sense of being true.  Though there are plenty of complex debates between liberal technocrats about how to best apply their ideology, that ideology is actually quite simple. 

Conservatives refer to multiple "first principles" but liberals need look only to a single first principle, the principle of equality.  Russel Kirk attempted to summarize conservatism in "Ten Principles," but the liberal ethos was adequately defined in three words by John Rawls, who preached, "Justice as Fairness."  Chesterton's description of Islam as a "simple faith for simple men," is applicable to liberal egalitarianism.  This does not mean that Muslims and liberals are stupid people, but that their belief is straightforward and easy to articulate. 

When liberals talk about the need for an equal society, they sound convincing because their rhetoric comes directly from their basic principle.  When conservative politicians try to articulate their philosophy, they tend to sound uninspiring at best, and foolish at worst.  Many politicians don't want  to make the effort to thoroughly examine political ideas, and conservative ideas require more effort.  Even those conservatives who have thought deeply about their principles can struggle to communicate them because the depth of conservative thought makes it difficult to express in a soundbite.  Instead of a genuine explanation of conservative ideas, the public is treated to vague assertions about American exceptionalism and the value of a free market.

What is the solution?  I don't know; I'm a blogger, not a rhetorician.  However, I do recommend that politicians and voters alike, whatever their political persuasion, truly educate themselves about conservatism .  An education in conservatism can begin over the internet.  Check out the Russel Kirk Center and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute for stimulating conservative thought.

Crossposted on The Raven Republican

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Crazy Awesome Ghanian Movies

My mind was blown by watching clips from Ghanian action movies.  I'm not saying that these movies are crazy because I'm a xenophobic jerk who can't appreciate foreign cultures, but because they are objectively and gloriously insane.  H/T: Lasse Josephson
(I'm not providing a link because some of Jospheson's posts are disgusting, but I feel obligated by the blogger code of honor to give him an attribution.)

A badly rendered monster from the movie Predator will attack Ghana in the year 2016.  Or something.

The title of this clip calls it "The best movie ever made in Ghana and Africa."  The description says, "This effort made by director Rockson Emmanuel is exceptional.  He is the best special effects director in Ghana."  Mr. Emmanuel's work certainly is certainly unlike anything I've ever seen before, so I would say it is pretty exceptional.

In this film, one of the super-soldiers from the Crysis games shoots at people while riding a hoverbike. Actually, that sounds like the premise for a pretty good movie.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pray like St. Dominic

A belated observation of St. Dominic's feast day.  I read Pope Benedict XVI's reflection on St. Dominic in the Magnicficat magazine and thought it was really good.  Check it out.

Dear brothers and sisters,
Today the Church celebrates the memory of St. Dominic de Guzman, priest and founder of the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans. In a previous catechesis, I already illustrated this noble figure and the vital contribution he made to the renewal of the Church of his time. Today, I would like to bring to light an essential aspect of spirituality: his life of prayer. St. Dominic was a man of prayer. In love with God, his only aspiration was the salvation of souls, especially those who, at the time, had fallen into heresy; in imitation of Christ, he radically embodied the three evangelical counsels uniting the proclamation of the Word with witness to a life of poverty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he progressed along the path of Christian perfection. In every moment, prayer was the force that renewed and rendered fruitful his apostolic works.

Blessed Jordan of Saxony (who died in 1237), his successor as head of the Order, thus writes: “During the day, no-one was more sociable than he…conversely at night, no one more diligent in keeping vigil in prayer. He devoted his days to others, but the night he gave to God “(P. Filippini, Domenico visto dai suoi contemporanei, Bologna 1982, p 133). In St. Dominic we can see an example of the harmonious integration of contemplation of the divine mysteries and apostolic activity. According to the testimonies of those closest to him, “he always spoke with God or of God.” This observation indicates his deep communion with the Lord and at the same time, a continued commitment to lead others to this communion with God. He did not leave writings on prayer, but the Dominican tradition collected and handed down his living experience in a work entitled: The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic. This was composed between 1260 and 1288 by a Dominican friar, it helps us to understand something of the Saint’s inner life, it also helps us in all our differences to learn something about how to pray.

There are therefore, nine ways of praying according to the Saint, and each of these was always carried out in front of Jesus Crucified, and express a corporal and spiritual attitude, that intimately interpenetrating, favor recollection and fervor. The first seven ways follow an ascending line, like the steps of a journey, towards an intimate communion with God, with the Trinity: St. Dominic prayed standing, bowing to express humility, lying prostrate on the ground to ask forgiveness for his sins, on his knees in penance to participate in the sufferings of the Lord, with his arms open staring at the crucifix to contemplate the Supreme Love, with his gaze directed towards the heavens feeling himself drawn towards the world of God. Therefore there are three forms, standing, on ones’ knees, lying prostrate on the ground, but always with our gaze toward the Crucified Lord.

However, I would like to pause briefly on the last two ways which correspond to two forms of piety that the Saint normally practiced. First, personal meditation, where prayer acquires a more intimate, fervent and soothing dimension. At the end of the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, and after the celebration of Mass, St. Dominic prolonged his conversation with God, without any time limits. He would sit in an attitude of quite recollection and listening, reading a book or staring at the Crucifix. He lived these moments of his relationship with God so intensely that his reactions of joy or tears were outwardly perceptible. Thus he assimilated this through the reality of faith. Witnesses say that at times he would go into a sort of ecstasy, his face transfigured, but immediately afterwards he would humbly resume his daily activities recharged by the power that comes from on High. Then prayer while traveling between one monastery or another, he would recite Lauds, Sext, Vespers with companions, and, crossing the valleys and hills, contemplate the beauty of creation. At such times a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God for so many gifts would gush from his heart, especially for the greatest wonder of all: the redemption accomplished by Christ.

Dear friends, St. Dominic reminds us that at the origin of witnessing to the faith, which every Christian should give in the family, at work, in society, and even in moments of relaxation, is prayer, a personal contact with God; only this real relationship with God gives us the strength to live every event, especially the most suffered moments, intensely. This saint reminds us of the importance of external attitudes in our prayers. That to kneel, to stand before the Lord, to fix our gaze on the Crucifix, to pause and gather ourselves in silence, is not a secondary act, but helps to us to place ourselves, our whole person, in relation to God. Once again, I would like draw attention to the need to find moments to pray quietly everyday for our spiritual life, we particularly have to take this time for ourselves during our vacation, to have time for this attempt to talk with God. This is also a way to help those who are near to us to enter into the luminous rays of the presence of God, who brings the peace and love that we all need.
-Pope Benedict XVI

Friday, August 9, 2013

To Prog

The word "prog" is used a derogatory shortened version of the word "progressive."  I was amused by this entry from Samuel Johnson's 1755 Dictionary:

to prog

1. To rob; to steal.
2. To shift meanly for provisions.  A low word.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Metro

My sister and I have just returned from a trip to Washington DC.  She visited Catholic University to check out its undergraduate program while I looked into the law school.  I also visited George Mason School of Law in Arlington.  To get around, we rode the Metro, which reminded me of this song:

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Worrying about Hillary Movies

The Chairman of the RNC is unhappy about two upcoming documentaries about Hillary Clinton.

Dylan Byers reports,
On Monday, RNC chairman Reince Priebus threatened to pull NBC and CNN's access to the 2016 Republican primary debates unless those companies pulled their Clinton-related film projects.
Preibus' complaints seem very silly too me.  How many Americans does he really think will take time out of their day to watch a Hillary Clinton documentary?  Of those few people, the large majority are going to vote for Hillary anyway.  The networks are certainly biased, but threatening them like this makes Republicans look weak and desperate.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Defense of Favoritism

Popular wisdom is often anything but wise.  One statement that irritates me is the oft repeated complaint that "These days, it's not what you know, it's who you know."  This sentiment is objectionable because it implies that there was once a golden age of meritocracy from which our society has fallen, and that there is something terribly wrong with favoritism.

It is obvious to anyone with an historical perspective that we are living in an exceptionally meritocratic age.  In an increasingly individualistic world, our lives are less and less intertwined with our church, our neighbors, or even with our immediate families.  We may "know" more people through facebook, but we have real relationships with fewer and fewer people in our postmodern isolation.  In an agricultural society, people worked primarily with their family and neighbors, often for their entire lives.  Today, people rely much less on local ties and much more on their particular set of skills.  Someone can get a job by sending out resumes to people around the world who have no previous connections with the the applicant.

Society should be a meritocracy to some degree.  People with the highest skill levels should generally rise to more powerful positions in their field of expertise.  However, such technical competence is not always sufficient.  The character of a person matters a great deal, as do the bonds between persons that are essential to a functioning community.  Someone who knows a man personally and has a positive impression of his character will naturally be more likely to hire him or recommend his services.  In addition, the ties of friendship and family that stimulate favoritism are in and of themselves good things.  For a a store owner to hire his son as a cashier over a more qualified stranger is nepotism, but it is a good act of nepotism.

Favoritism ought to have some limits of course.  Favoritism should not be applied simply out of a selfish desire for favors reciprocated.  If your child is an idiot, you shouldn't hire him to run your company.  Some people, such as nuclear warhead technicians, should be hired strictly on the basis of their qualifications.  The comparative emphasis placed on personal relationships and competence should vary with different situations.

The world should not be run exclusively on the basis of favoritism, but it is good that we are are carried through our lives not only by what we know, but also by who we know.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Space Monkey

I finally get my computer to work and all I can think to do with it is post a funny picture of a monkey.

 from Fake Science

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Down with Democracy

I really hate this damn picture.  For one thing, it promotes the unsafe handling of firearms.  The only gun that should ever be used to drive nails is a nail-gun.  Even worse, it serves as propaganda for the cult of democracy. 

The ethos of a republic is conservative, and promotes careful deliberation grounded in the traditions of our fathers.  In contrast, the spirit of a democracy, as exemplified by this sign, is anarchic, and encourages "free" citizens to vote for whatever or whomever feels good at the moment.

Notice, the sign says, "vote as you please."  It does not say "vote for what is good," or "vote for what is just," or "vote for what is reasonable."  Such absolutist sentiments are not welcome in the modern egalitarian West, where everyone's ideas are equally worthy and thus equally worthless.

The relativism espoused on the top part of the sign is especially dangerous when combined with the  imperative to VOTE found in block letters on the bottom.  It is an idea nearly universally held in Western nations that everyone who is eligible to vote should do so, yet this notion is absurd on its face.  Some will insist that they do not really want everyone to vote, but only "informed" voters.  In practice, this is a pretty shallow requirement.  Barack Obama is an informed voter.  Nancy Pelosi is an informed voter.  The NARAL board of directors is doubtless composed of informed voters.  An informed voter is simply someone who can present some sort of reason for their policy positions and can properly identify which candidates are most closely aligned with those positions.  We need good voters, not voters who are merely informed.

A good voter believes in the moral natural law, and acknowledges that just positive law (the law of the state) is nothing more than the limited application of the natural law.  A good voter understands the difference between civil rights granted by the state and natural rights derived from human dignity, and understands that there is no natural right to do wrong.  A good voter knows that true justice consists not of treating all equally, but in treating everyone equally to the degree that they are equal.  A good voter honors his ancestors, and considers the opinions not only of the living, but also of the dead.  A good voter understands that by acting as a part of the state, he wields power over the life, liberty, and property of his fellow citizens, and will vote cautiously, careful not to abuse that power.  A good voter recognizes that the fundamental unit of society is neither the individual nor the collective, but the family, with which the state must not be allowed to interfere.  These are among the most important attributes of a good voter and a good citizen.

There are plenty of citizens who fail to meet this standard and yet are decent people.  Such people can do much that is good, but when election time comes around they ought to do their civic duty and stay home.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

Today marks the 237th year of our nation's existence.  Celebrate our country, and everything we love about it!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Our Place in the Cosmos

Neil deGrasse Tyson does an excellent job of educating the public about scientific topics.  Unfortunately, he is rather less skilled at articulating a coherent moral philosophy, as demonstrated in his preface to my astronomy textbook The Cosmic Perspective.  The astrophysicist writes,
When I pore over the date that establish the mysterious presence of dark matter and dark energy throughout the universe, sometimes I forget that every day-every twenty-four-hour rotation of Earth-people are killing and being killed.  In the name of someone's ideology.
When I track the orbits of asteroids, comets, and planets, each one a pirouetting dance in a cosmic ballet choreographed by the forces of gravity, sometimes I forget that too many people act in wanton disregard fot the delicate interplay of Earth's atmosphere, oceans, and land, with consequences that our children and our children's children will witness and pay for with their health and well-being.

And sometimes I forget that powerful people rarely do all they can to help those who cannot hep themselves.

I occasionally forget these things because, however big the world is-in our hearts, our minds, and our outsize atlases-the universe is even bigger.  A depressing though to some, but a liberating thought to me.
Consider an adult who tends to the traumas of a child: a broken toy, a scraped knee, a schoolyard bully.  Adults know that kids have no clue what constitutes a genuine problem, because inexperience greatly limits their childhood perspective.
As grown-ups, dare we admit to ourselves that we, too, have a collective immaturity of view?  Dare we admit that our thoughts and behaviors spring from a believe that world revolves around us?  Part the curtains of society's racial, ethnic, national, and cultural conflicts, and you find the human ego turning the knows and pulling the levers.
Now imagine a world in which everyone, but especially people with power and influence, holds an expanded view of our place in the cosmos.  With that perspective, our problems would shrink-or never arise at all-and we could celebrate our earthly differences while shunning the behavior of our predecessors who slaughtered each other because of them 
Sometimes the smartest people say the dumbest things.  Tyson's "cosmic perspective" does not serve to make human dignity more valuable than ideology, it instead makes both things equally worthless.  In his vision of the universe, human beings are insignificant specks of cosmic dust.  The ideological reasons for one group of specks to murder another group of specks is meaningless in such a universe, but so are the specks themselves. 

Tyson condemns the idea that humans have some sort of elevated place in the universe, and in his attempt to support his claim, instead proves that humans are in fact centrally important.  He writes about astronomical observations that reveal the majesty of the universe.  Tyson seems to think that the scale and complexity of the cosmos that he sees through a telescope make humans insignificant, but he fails to consider that he can observe nebulas, but nebulas cannot observe him.  We can look at the universe and think about it, but the universe can neither see nor think.  A human person is more important than a black hole for the same reason he is more important than a rock.  We humans are rational animals, and are therefore the most significant things on this physical plane.  Any one of those selfish, closed minded, ideologues that Tyson criticizes is of greater value than the physical cosmos that he studies.  Galileo, who died a faithful Catholic, would probably tell Neil deGrasse Tyson that as it turns out, the universe really does revolve around us.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Real Marriage Problem

The recent Supreme Court decision United States v. Windsor struck down the Defense of Marriage Act using a rather inventive interpretation of the 5th Amendment.  This is arguably a bad thing for the rule of law and public morality, but it is only a tiny judicial footnote to the great cultural crisis in our nation.  The great problem is not Justice Kennedy's jurisprudence, but rather that the vast majority of Americans, gay and straight, Protestant and Catholic, do not understand marriage.

Marriage is both indissoluble and ordered toward procreation, but only a small subculture of Americans actually believe this.  The institution of marriage has not been killed by gays, but rather by straight couples, many of them churchgoing Christians, who have been contracepting and getting divorces for decades.  This does not mean that most marriages are worthless, but we must recognize that they are radically different from what marriage is supposed to be.  By making marriage an increasingly sterile and arbitrary arrangement, straight couples set the foundation for the gay "marriage" movement.  Assigning blame is not the most productive activity, but if we must blame some group for the destruction of our most central social institution, we should blame neither gays nor judges, but the great mass of straight Americans.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dolan and Muslims

I think that a post on A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics mischaracterizes a statement by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
tantumergo writes,
Cardinal Dolan is becoming a one man gaffe machine. Just this week, he encouraged muslims to remain muslims.
Certainly, the very last thing his very modern model of a modern major Cardinal is muslims becoming Catholic!
This is the allegedly problematic statement:
On a recent visit to a mosque, he told the Muslims there that their plight was similar to that of Catholic immigrants 150 years ago, and they face the same challenge of ”how to become loyal, responsible, patriotic Americans without losing their faith.”
Cardinal Dolan is certainly not above criticism, but I don't see a problem with what he said.  If modern Muslim immigrants lose their faith after moving to America, it is not because they are converting to Christianity, it is because they have become secular hedonists like everybody else.  There are certainly some bishops who would encourage Muslims to stay Muslims out of a false sense of ecumenicism, but I strongly doubt that Dolan among them.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Arming the Opposition

The President has recently decided to arm rebels in Syria, and we are assured that we will only arm "moderate" members of the resistance against Assad.  How exactly do we tell which bearded men with Kalashnikovs are moderate?  Do we ask them, "Are you a member of Al-Nasruh?  If you say no, we'll give you a howitzer?"  This situation is crazy.  Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and presumably the Russian Spetsnaz will be protecting pro-Assad Christians from Al-Qaeda affiliates armed by the CIA.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Surprising Quotations

Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded great empires.  But our empires were founded on force.  Jesus alone founded His empire on love, and to this day millions would die for Him.  I think I understand something of human nature, and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man.  Jesus Christ was more than man.
-Napoleon Bonaparte

In my opinion it is a grand book.... Morally and philosophically I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it.
- John Maynard Keynes on Hayek's The Road to Serfdom

Can’t you say "shit!" like everyone else?
- Blessed Pope John XXIII admonishing a worker who used the Lord's name in vain 

I regard him as a great economist and a great man.
- Paul Krugman on Milton Friedman

Secession is nothing but revolution.  The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will.  It was intended for “perpetual union,” so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution or the consent of all the people in convention assembled.
- Robert E. Lee January, 1861

There is hardly a pioneer's hut which does not contain a few odd volumes of Shakespeare.  I remember reading the feudal drama of Henry V for the first time in a log cabin.
-Alexander De Tocqueville, Democracy in America

It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it.  Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope.
- Blessed Pope John XXIII

Reason must be left behind for it is the enemy of faith.
- Martin Luther

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Athanasian Creed

The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity is an excellent time to recite the Anthanasian Creed.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.  Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.  And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.  Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.  For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.  But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal.  Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.  The Father Uncreated, the Son Uncreated, and the Holy Ghost Uncreated.  The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible.  The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal.  As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible.  So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty.  And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.  And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God.  So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.  And yet not Three Lords but One Lord.  For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords.  The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten.  The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts.  And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal.  So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshiped.  He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born into the world.  Perfect God and Perfect Man, of a reasonable Soul and human Flesh subsisting.  Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood.  Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but One Christ.  One, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God.  One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by Unity of Person.  For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one Man, so God and Man is one Christ.  Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again the third day from the dead.  He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.  At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works.  And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.  This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Divorced from Reality

I was reading The Great Divorce for the first time, and I found it especially relevant to my own life.  Lewis writes,
There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself . .  as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist!  There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ!
I sometimes find myself thinking of God as a interesting abstraction and Christianity as a mere social force.  In reality, Christianity is more than theology, it is a relationship with God, and that God is not just a necessarily existent, all powerful being, but a person to whom we owe our greatest love and devotion.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Blessed Rifles

The Russians have holy rifles.  Yet another reason why it's a bad idea to invade Russia.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Logic Problems

If only answers like these were acceptable for the logic games on the LSAT.

From Fake Science

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Gun Closet

Houston police say a group of thieves broke into a house and forced a resident into a closet so they could ransack the place. The closet chosen during the Tuesday afternoon home invasion was the one where the resident kept his guns. Houston police Sgt. Jerri Brandon said the man, now armed, confronted the thieves and exchanged shots with them, wounding one and flushing all three from the home.

The wounded intruder collapsed down the street with gunshot wounds to a shoulder and leg.
The resident was not wounded.
 H/T: Blowing San #1 who says, "For it is written, 'The stupid, they shall be punished."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I am preparing to take the LSAT in June, and I would appreciate prayers.  On a related note, the next person who tells me that he aced the LSAT without studying will get hit over the head with my prep book.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Syrian Christians

Assad is a murderous dictator, but our aid to the opposition may result in a radical Sunni ascendancy and the massacre of Christians.

These are the people threatened by America's Syria policy:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Going Tribal

Catholics are often told to avoid tribalism, and to instead focus on the Church and Her teachings.  This is a well intentioned admonition, but it is misleading.  Urging Catholics to obey the Church is itself an appeal to tribal loyalty.  Humans are tribal by nature, and that's a good thing.  The problem is not tribalism itself, but a failure to properly prioritize tribal loyalties.

Politics is the most obvious arena of mixed loyalties.  Catholics who care more about their political party or ideology than they do about their faith are in error and place themselves in danger of grave sin.  This can be a problem not only in cases of obvious and intrinsic moral evils such as abortion, but also in the sphere of prudential judgement.  When some Catholic Republicans give rubber stamp approval to every drone strike, invasion, and morally dubious interrogation method without even considering the moral teachings of their church, they are demonstrating inordinate loyalty to the wrong tribe.  Catholic Democrats do the same when they nod in unison to every extension of domestic federal power without any consideration for subsidiarity.  That being said, it is certainly possible to be overcritical of party loyalty.  To condemn any and all who maintain loyalty to their political party is to make a judgement too far.  So long as they properly prioritize their tribal identification, it is entirely possible for someone to be loyal to both God and party, though this is obviously harder for the members of some parties than for others.

In addition to politics, a  broader crisis of tribalism exists in the modern world.  The pseudo theology of many Catholics incorporates the heresy of universalism, the idea that everyone with the possible exception of Hitler and that guy who cut you off in traffic is a great person who is assured of salvation.  Universalism makes the Catholic tribe seem no more important than any other.  It is a grave mistake to think this way.  Ours is the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the one means of salvation, and the original, vintage, old time religion.  All those who are saved are not necessarily members of the visible Church, and may not have even heard of the institution, but they are nevertheless saved by Christ through his Church.

A failure to prioritize tribal loyalties is evident in the foreign policy views of American Christians.  It makes sense that we would identify with Israeli Jews, but we should identify even more strongly with Palestinian Christians, whose interests are not entirely aligned with those of the Israelis.  Americans were not wrong to sympathize with the plight of oppressed Iraqi Shiites, but we liberated them at the expense of Chaldean Christians, who were largely protected under Saddam's evil but secular regime.  This failure is repeated throughout the Middle East, where Americans voice support for "democratic" uprisings that threaten to annihilate our coreligionists.  The brotherhood of Christians need not be so insular and exclusive as the Hebrew tribes or the Islamic Ummah, but we must not forget that Christians are our people, and that we must practice solidarity with them.

It should be noted that solidarity with other Christians and with Catholics in particular does not mean that we must choose the "Catholic" side in every situation.  We must consider what loyalty to our coreligionists demands of us, but in some situations, we can justly favor another tribe.  For example, illegal immigrants in the United States tend to be Catholic, but American Catholics need not feel compelled to support amnesty and open borders simply because it would help other Catholics.  Loyalty to the teachings of the Church should make us consider immigration policy with respect to the dignity of the human person, and we should be especially considerate of those immigrants who are Catholics.  Even so, restricting illegal immigration may be so vital to the lesser tribe that is our nation, that it can outweigh our sympathies for those members of our greater tribe.  Unlike the Chaldeans or the Copts, Mexican laborers will not face death if we do not prioritize them.  There are certain things that constitute outright betrayal of our Church that must never be done, no matter what it means for the other tribe to which we belong.  However, within an area of prudential judgement, the we may justly prioritize the needs of a lesser tribe over the needs of our coreligionists, whilst maintaining our greater loyalty to the Church and its members.

The two most important tribes in human history are the Hebrews and the Catholics.  The covenant with the former has been fulfilled by Christ, and the number one spot has been passed to the latter.  Ours is the greatest tribe in the world, and we must not forget that. It is a great error to discard tribalism in a spirit of egalitarianism.  It is not merely acceptable for Catholics to maintain tribal loyalties, it is essential, for the natural law and the teachings of the Church demand loyalty to family, community, country, and Church.  To be Catholic is to be tribal.

Semester Survived

Finally done with my junior year!  Now back to that blog thing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


My time is all dumfungled with term papers and so I can't post too often until I get to the sockdolager of my academic consarn this semester.  By the way, check out this guide to swearing like an old prospector.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Divine Mercy Sunday

It is fitting that the Divine Mercy devotion was revealed to St. Faustina and promulgated by the Church in the 20th Century, a time when man has needed the mercy of God more than ever.

Jesus I trust in you!
St. Faustina pray for us!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Misquoting a Cosmonaut

Yuri Gagarin, Soviet Cosmonaut and the first man in space, was alleged to have said that he did not see God when he left Earth.  In reality, Gagarin never said this and was actually a lifelong Christian.  Rob Kerby writes in Orthodoxy Today,
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, in line with the official atheistic Soviet line, proclaimed that Gagarin had told him the famous line about not seeing God in space. But nobody else ever heard Gagarin say it –and he never repeated it.
In fact, “Gagarin was a baptized faithful throughout all his life,” says General Valentin Petrov, Professor of the Russian Air Force Academy and a personal friend of the cosmonaut. “He always confessed God whenever he was provoked, no matter where he was.”

In a 2007 article titled “Yuri Gagarin, the Christian,” by Maria Biniari, she wrote on his birthday in 1964, he visited a monastery, the Lavra of Saint Serge, and met with the Prior — the monk in charge.
There, he had a photo taken of himself, which he told the priest “this is for those who don’t believe.” He signed it “with my best wishes, Yuri Gagarin.”
“That famous phrase which has been ascribed to him, well, in actual fact it was Khrushchev who had said it,” says Petrov. ”It was heard during a meeting of the Central Committee, whose desire it was to promulgate anti-religious propaganda.

“Khrushchev had mockingly addressed the following words: ‘Why didn’t you step on the brakes in front of God? Here is Gagarin, who flew up to space, and yet, even he didn’t see God anywhere.’
“Immediately after that, those words were placed into another’s mouth, because the people would have believed more in Gagarin’s words than Khrushchev’s,” says Petrov.

In fact, Gagarin should be remembered for completely different words, says his friend:
"I always remember that Yuri Gagarin said: “An astronaut cannot be suspended in space and not have God in his mind and his heart."
I had read Gagarin's alleged line about God, and until now I had no idea that he was actually a believer.  I wish that my own country had beat the Communists to space, but if someone had to beat us, I'm glad it was Yuri Gagarin.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

He is Risen!

Fra Angelico 15th Century

O filii et filiæ
Rex cælestis, Rex gloriæ
Morte surrexit hodie.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beauty and Worship

More greatness from one of my new favorite blogs, Lamentably Sane
Some priests were formed with the idea that being humble means dressing in rags, celebrating banal liturgies, and building ugly churches. With all respect, there is no one in this world more patronizing than someone who professes to love the poor but has never been poor themselves. The poor, by and large, don't want ugliness and banality. Their lives are hard and they want a glimpse of heaven. Think about it: the most beautiful churches in the United States were built with the money and hard work of poor or working class immigrants. Our great-grandfathers worshiped in ornate cathedrals and gorgeous parish churches with reredos and high altars adorned with exquisite wood working, stone altars, and lovely statuary. It was their comfortable, easy going, middle class descendants who tore it all down and replaced them with felt banners and picnic table altars. "Why was this expensive oil not sold and given to the poor?"
Humans are made to appreciate beauty, and beauty on earth points to the beauty of heaven.  Those who would do away with beauty at Mass are implicitly embracing a sort of Cartesian idea of a transcendent rational will that works best when it is not influenced by "worldly" things like aesthetics.  This is utterly opposed to the traditional Christian understanding that we are not simply intellects inhabiting bodies but that each person is a unity of body and soul.  Our neurochemistry and our immaterial intellect are both ordered to appreciate a beautiful liturgy and a beautiful church.  We should not fight against our natural attraction to beauty but embrace it, especially in  our churches.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick was a Superhero

Today we celebrate my patron St. Patrick, one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church.  The 17th of March falls on a Sunday this year, so there is no liturgical celebration, but we should still honor St. Patrick.  Many saints have fantastic miracles attributed to them, some more credible than others.  St. Patrick's miracles are in a class by themselves.  According to the 7th Century Irish monk and historian Muirchu, Patrick killed scores of pagans with jedi powers of the Holy Spirit. One of the pagan priests insulted the Faith, and Patrick rebuked him.  With a rock.
As he uttered such things, Saint Patrick regarded him with a stern glance, as Peter once looked on Simon; and powerfully, with a loud voice, he confidently addressed the Lord and said, O Lord, who canst do all things, and in whose power all things hold together, and who hast sent me hither, as for this impious man who blasphemes Thy name, let him now be taken up out of this and die speedily.”
And when he had thus spoken, the magician was caught up into the air, and then let fall from above, and, his skull striking on a rock, he was dashed to pieces and killed before their faces; and the heathen folk were dismayed.
Afterwards, the Irish sent chariots against Patrick.
Then St. Patrick, seeing that the ungodly heathen folk were about to rush upon him, rose up, and with a clear voice said, “Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; let them also that hate him flee before him.”
And straightway darkness came down, and a certain horrible commotion arose, and the ungodly men fought amongst themselves, one rising up against another, and there was a great earthquake, “and [God] bound the axles of their chariots, and drove them with violence,” and they rushed in headlong flight — both chariots and horses — over the level ground of the great plain, till at last only a few of them escaped half alive to the mountain of Monduirn.
And, at the curse of Patrick, seven times seven men were laid low by this stroke in the presence of the king and his elders, until there remained only himself and his wife and two others of his companions; and they were sore afraid.
These are among the more violent of the many miracles credited to St. Patrick.  His miracles often seem more like Irish folk tales than real history, but I think that Patrick truly performed some of the miracles attributed to him.  I believe this for the simple reason that he was not killed immediately upon setting foot in Ireland, and in fact managed to single-handedly convert the warlike Irish.  The Irish had been fighting each other and sacrificing people to pagan idols for millenia, yet Patrick converted them armed with nothing but his crosier and the Holy Spirit.  I don't know if Patrick smashed a bunch of chariots, but he certainly did something to impress the heathens.  Perhaps he really did drive the snakes from Ireland.  Serpents have always been conspicuously absent from the Emerald Isle even though they live in Britain, just across the Irish sea.  Whatever he did in life, we can be assured of his intercession in Heaven. 

St. Patrick pray for us!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Link Fest

Fr. Z reports that then Cardinal Bergoglio immediately complied with Summorum Pontificum after it was released.

Mr. T prays for the pope.

Benedictine College celebrates pope Francis.

Some humorous vocation advice at Lamentably Sane.

The American Spectator recalls conservative folk music . . . from the 60s!

The state of California literally regulates holes in the ground.

Fake Science: For when the facts are too confusing.

John Wilson explains why 1913 was the worst year ever.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Back at BC

I'm back from "spring" break in Minnesota.  This Floridian will tell you that Kansas now feels warm.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Case for a Celibate Priesthood

I really like Damian Thompson, the Telegraph' snarky Catholic blogger, but I must disagree with him on his recent proposal to get rid of priestly celibacy.  Last week Damian wrote a piece titled, "The Next Pope must think seriously about married priests - because the celibacy rule isn't working."  He writes that the married clergy in the Anglican Ordinariate seem to be doing just fine, so why not do away with clerical celibacy throughout the Church?
The question the Church faces now is: will the next Pope allow married Catholic laymen to become priests? And might he go further, and allow existing Catholic priests to marry (something ex-Anglican priests can’t do after they have been re-ordained)? As events over the past few days have shown, the debate is likely to be an awkward one. Last week, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and Britain’s most senior Catholic cleric, told the BBC: “I’d be very happy if [priests] had the opportunity of considering whether they should be married. Many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy … and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family.”
Damian claims that conditions within the church demand an end to the celibacy requirement.
To put it bluntly, the new Pope must confront the suffocating hypocrisy of the Vatican and Bishops’ Conferences on this subject. For example, I’ve never heard a bishop acknowledge what is obvious to so many of us: that in certain large cities in the Western world, a majority of Catholic priests are gay, albeit celibate. If the Vatican were to enforce its current ruling that homosexuals per se are unsuitable for the priesthood, then it would have innumerable empty urban churches on its hands. And furious parishioners, too, since discreetly gay men often make wonderful priests. On the other hand, you don’t have to be a homophobe to wonder whether it’s healthy to have such an imbalance between the sexual instincts of priests and their flocks.
In other parts of the world, there is no such imbalance. In the words of an East African missionary friend of mine: “We used to joke that the celibate priests were the guys who had only one wife.” Unofficial marriages among African Catholic priests are the norm in some regions. But, again, you won’t hear bishops acknowledge it. Instead, there’s lots of politically correct rhetoric about thriving evangelism. (And perhaps there is a connection: the fast-growing Pentecostal churches in the Third World are all run by married men.)
I have no idea if Damian's claim about the proportion of gay clergy is true or not.  Likewise, I don't know what the situation is like in Africa.  However, even if what he says is accurate, I must disagree with Damian's proposal.

Firstly, it is important to note that the celibacy requirement is a discipline, not a doctrine, and any Catholic may freely disagree with it.  The priesthood is not at all incompatible with married life.  Historically many priests including St. Peter were married.  Today there are married clergy in the Anglican Ordinariate, the Eastern Rites, and the Orthodox churches.  The question of married clergy is one of prudential judgement.  I happen to think it imprudent to change current church policy on priestly celibacy. 

I believe that allowing married clergy throughout the entire Latin Rite would do more harm than good.  A celibate priesthood is one of the "small t" traditions rather than a big "T" Tradition, but as Vatican II and its aftermath show, when too many of the former are abandoned, the latter is endangered.  The large majority of Catholics are horribly catechized and don't know the difference between the two types of tradition.  The Catholic dissidents who write for the National Catholic Reporter or the New York Times will often mention married clergy in the same breath as a variety of heretical "reforms" they want implemented.  The dissidents do not understand the difference between legitimate changes in policy and impossible changes in dogma.  Unfortunately, most people in the pews hardly know any better than the heretics.  Most Catholics think that one can pick and choose which Church teachings they want to accept.  Many feel justified in this belief because of the changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council, which in their minds proves Church teaching to be arbitrary.  Further large changes can only make the situation worse.  Getting rid of priestly celibacy would cause a great deal of confusion among the faithful.

I further object to Damian's proposal because he takes the idea of married clergy too far.  He wants those who are currently priests to be allowed to marry and likes the idea of a married pope.  He hopes for the day when "an old lady at a dinner party will turn to the person next to her and say: 'Hello there – I’m the Pope’s mother-in-law.”  I do not share Damian's enthusiasm for a married pontiff.  If the Church were to allow married priests, it should put the same sort of limits on the the practice that exist in the Anglican Ordinariate and the Eastern churches.  Namely, though married men may become priests, priests are prevented from marrying, and married clergy cannot become bishops.  The rules are designed to honor celibacy.  Celibacy is superior to the married life, and the priesthood should reflect that.  We need role models of purity now more than ever.  The secular world has embraced hedonism and most Protestants have forgotten about the biblical endorsement of celibacy.  Monks, nuns, and other religious are good examples of celibate holiness, but diocesan priests are much more visible.  If the requirement for priestly celibacy were abandoned I would hope that celibacy would still maintain a superior place in the priesthood.

Spring Break

At the moment I am on spring break at a friend's house in Minnesota.  It snows here.  A lot. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The High Crusade

I recently read The High Crusade, a science-fiction novel by Poul Anderson.  Anderson was an agnostic but his story is a paean to medieval Christendom.  The novel is written in the style of a medieval chronicle and concerns a 14th Century army that becomes involved in an intergalactic war.  I don't want to spoil the story so I won't say much more about it.  I do want to quote a passage about the politics and culture of the alien Wersgorix empire.  When Anderson wrote the novel in 1960, I suspect he was thinking not only of  the Soviet Union in this critique of the egalitarian Wersgor, but also of Western democracies. 
No one was born to his place in life.  Under the law, all were equal, all free to strive as best they might for money or position.  Indeed, they had even abandoned the idea of families.  Each Wersgor lacked a surname, being identified by a number instead in a central registry.  Male and female seldom lived together more than a few years.  Children were sent at an early age to schools, where they dwelt until mature, for their parents oftener thought them an encumbrance than a blessing.

Yet this realm, in theory a republic of freemen, was in practice a worse tyranny than mankind has known, even in Nero's infamous day.

The Wesgorix had no special affection for their birthplace; they acknowledged no immediate ties of kinship or duty.  As a result, each individual had no one to stand between him and the all-powerful central government.  In England, when King John grew overweening, he clashed both with ancient law and with vested local interests; so the barons cubed him and thereby wrote another word of two of liberty for all Englishmen.  The Wersgor were a lickspittle race, unable to protest any arbitrary decree of a superior.  "Promotion according to merit" meant only "promotion according to one's usefulness to the imperial ministers."
Read the High Crusade.  Its good.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Button on Drugs

Hopefully that title got your attention.  Unfortunately for my readers, this post is not an entertaining story of drug fueled adventures like those penned by P.J. O'Rourke or Hunter S. Thompson.  It instead concerns political philosophy.

(Note: The definitions I am using for "libertarian" and "conservative" are not shared by all those who identify as libertarian or conservative but some generalizations must be made.) 

It is important for conservatives and libertarians alike to differentiate between practical and philosophical libertarianism when approaching public policy.  Drug policy is an excellent way to illustrate the distinction.

Libertarians would have the production, sale, and consumption of recreational drugs legalized.  However, is entirely possible to support the legalization or at least partial decriminalization of drugs without being a libertarian.  The difference between adopting the libertarian position and being a libertarian is a matter of how one views human freedom.

A pure libertarian would say that individuals have the right to do whatever they want so long as they do not harm anyone else.  Therefore, the state has no right to prevent the use of drugs or the free exchange of drugs between consenting parties.  The conservative position is quite different.  Conservatives believe that one does not have the right to do evil and that the recreational use of hard drugs is not only evil, but a gravely harmful evil.  The fact that the evil is done to oneself does not make it acceptable.  A person has no more right to use heroin than he has a right to hang himself.

However, despite the evils of drug use, it is entirely possible for a consistent conservative to adopt a practically libertarian position.  One may maintain that there is no right to do an evil but that the evil should be tolerated by the civil authorities for legitimate prudential reasons.  Whatever one thinks about drug policy, no one can deny that the War on Drugs has caused overcrowding in prisons, an increasingly militarized police force, and a significant amount of violent crime in both in the United States and Latin America.  Drugs are undoubtedly more difficult to get than if they were legal, but they are far from impossible to obtain.  The conscientious citizen must weigh the negative effects of drug prohibition against the decreased availability of harmful narcotics. 

Well intentioned people can disagree about how to establish a just and free society, but it essential that a common understanding of justice and freedom is maintained.  Just states may differ in the severity of sanctions against evil behavior, but people need to properly identify evil, and recognize that there is no freedom in doing wrong.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Clarence Thomas at Harvard Law School

Justice Clarence Thomas is one of my greatest heroes, and I really enjoyed this video of his recent visit to Harvard Law School.  H/T: Althouse

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Video Games for Conservatives

Video games are often mindless diversions, but some do contain stories and themes of depth.   I do not claim that the following games are "conservative" but rather that conservatives may especially appreciate them.

Freedom Force

Freedom Force and its sequel, Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich are delightfully goofy games in which the player commands a squad of superheroes in battle against the enemies of freedom and justice.  What makes these games especially appealing to conservative is the commie bashing.  Literally.  You can hit communists over the head with street lamps.  Your team of superheroes fights Soviet villains like the radioactive Nuclear Winter, and the Russian sorceress Red Oktober.  In Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich, you battle both Communists and Nazis.  When the team of superheroes go back in time to fight the Third Reich, they must prevent the Nazis from burning great books of Western Civilization, including the Summa Theologica.

Check out this video featuring the origin of Minuteman.  The audio quality in the video is not great but it should be sufficient.

Call of Duty


Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2 are First Person Shooters in which players fight in the Second World War from the Soviet, British, and American perspectives.  The Soviet portion of the games shows the brutality of Communism.  In the beginning of the first game, you play a Russian infantryman who takes part in the battle of Stalingrad.  You survive crossing the Volga and are thrust into combat with a clip of ammunition but no gun.  The commissars will shoot you if you take one step backwards, even if moving backwards is a good idea tactically.  In order to gain an advantage on the Germans, you help a comrade kill your commissar.  A political officer also makes an appearance in the second game.  He sends you off to fight the Germans while he stays behind to murder a POW and only emerges when the danger is over.  The portrayal of Communist Russia is one of the elements that make the old Call of Duty games great.

Fallout 3

Fallout 3 is an action RPG that takes place in post-apocalyptic Washington D.C.  The player wanders the wasteland completing a variety of assignments.  Two of these quests are especially relevant for conservatives.

Players can visit Tenpenny Towers, a hotel run by the elitist and not entirely sane Allistair Tenpenny.  He has a problem with nearby ghouls, ugly zombie looking people deformed by radiation.  The ghouls, led by one Roy Phillips, wish to live in the Towers but are denied admittance.  Their presence frightens the tower residents, and the chief of security commissions the player to solve the ghoul problem by any means necessary.  He suggests that you kill Roy Phillips, the leader of the ghouls.

Roy Phillips

If you speak to Roy, he will try to enlist your help in a violent takeover of Tenpenny Towers.  However, he also seems open to a peaceful solution.  The player may return to Allistair Tenpenny, who relents, telling the player that if he can convince enough Tower residents to accept the ghouls, he will allow them in.  You go about convincing the residents in the manner of a progressive, simply telling them that change is happening and that they need to accept it or leave.  After going through this process, you can report to Tenpenny that "the bigots have been taken care of."  The player  informs the ghouls and they move in to the tower.  You then go on your way, pleased with your victory of integration.

The story takes a dark turn at this point.  After you leave the Tower, Roy and his gang murder all of the humans and dump their bodies in a utility closet.  Conservatives can appreciate that complex social problems can't be solved by a simple pro-diversity mandate from on high.  Solutions must be considered in light of human (or ghoul) nature.

Another episode in the game can be appreciated by traditionalists.  After taking a riverboat ride down the Potomac, you land at Point Lookout, Maryland.  There you discover Blackhall Manor, and old plantation house and it's sole resident, the aged Obadiah Blackhall.  He asks you to retrieve a book belonging to his family that has been stolen by the mutant swamp people for some sort of ritual purpose.  As you leave, a woman named Marcella tells you that the book, called the Krivbeknih was evil and must be destroyed. ( So yeah, it's the Necronomicon.)  When I got to this part, I was supsicious of Marcella.  I though that there wouldn't be anything supernatural in a sci-fi game.  Blackhall will tell you that Marcella is a crazy religious fanatic and the book is a harmless family heirloom.

After shooting your way out of their ritual site with the book in hand, you can visit Marcella's campsite.  The player will find her camp overrun by hostile smugglers (I have no idea why smugglers exist in a world without tarriffs or laws of any kind, but whatever).  After eliminating the smugglers,  you enter Marcella's tent to find her dead on the floor.  An audio log on her computer relays Marcella's last words.  She was dying and recorded a message for the player to find, imploring him to destroy the Krivbeknih.  She then begins the standard Roman Catholic act of contrition, and dies.

If you choose to act in accord with Marcella's instructions, you must bring the Krivbeknih to the Dunwich building (another Lovecraft reference) back in the Capitol Wasteland.  The Dunwich building is an extremely creepy office building full of feral ghouls, who seem to have been ghoulified not by radiation but by some sort of spiritual evil.  After fighting your way into the basement, you find an obelisk.  Press the Krivbeknih into the obelisk and it bursts into flames.

The reason I include the entry is the spiritual element put in a sci-fi videogame.  The fictional Fallout setting reflects our own world in a way.  It is seemingly material, but the supernatural will appear at surprising times.  I would certainly not say that only those who identify themselves as conservatives believe in the immaterial, but a belief in the supernatural is certainly not considered progressive.

Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 has a story that conservatives can definitely appreciate.  You play as Gordon Freeman, a physicist who is surprisingly skilled in the art of crowbar combat.  Freeman fights the Combine, interdemensional aliens who have invaded Earth and set up a puppet government under Dr. Breen, Gordon's former boss.

A few things stand out to the conservative gamer.  Firstly, the game mostly takes place in City 17, a decrepit Eastern European city full of drab Soviet architecture.  Its possible that I'm just a crazy Mcarthyite, but I think that this association of the Soviet bloc with tyranny is deliberate.

The worst Combine atrocity portrayed in the game isn't the suppression of free speech, or the shooting of dissidents but the sterilization of humanity.  An energy field that somehow inhibits conception has been deployed on Earth.  This reminds one of the Communist Chinese and other progressive antinatalists.  

Dr. Breen's propaganda is undeniably progressive.  He tells humanity that they need to purge themselves of "instinct" and "superstition."  Breen preaches obedience to the Combine, promising that Earth's alien overlords will lead humanity into a new era of science and reason.  He promises that the sterilization field will be turned off once humans are sufficiently enlightened.  Enlightenment and progress are always promised by modernists, but instead we get misery and tyranny.  Free men, like Freeman, must oppose the evils done in the name of progress.

Breen's Speeches:

Friday, February 15, 2013

St. Valentine is Hardcore

You remember those posts I said I was going to write?  Yeah, well they're coming.  Sometime.  Eventually.  Hopefully tomorrow.  Anyway, I hope you had a blessed St. Valentine's Day!

H/T The Crescat

Monday, February 11, 2013

Losing Our Shepherd

The BBC reports
Pope Benedict XVI is to resign at the end of this month after nearly eight years as the head of the Catholic Church, saying he is too old to continue at the age of 85.
The unexpected development - the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years - surprised governments, Vatican-watchers and even his closest aides.
The Vatican says it expects a new Pope to be elected before Easter.
Pope Benedict XVI is a great pope and a great man.  We will miss him.  Pray that the Cardinals are receptive to the Holy Spirit and make the best possible choice.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ron Paul Disrespects Chris Kyle

I sort of supported Ron Paul in the Republican primaries because he was the only candidate who had the vaguest idea of what the constitution means.  Even so, I disagree with the Congressman on some fundamental points of political philosophy.  I ended up filling in his circle on the primary absentee ballot, but felt conflicted and didn't mail it in.  I wish I had actually voted for Paul but I have been feeling better about my indecisiveness after the Congressman issued a twitter statement in response to the death of Chris Kyle, a Marine sniper who was shot last week by a veteran suffering from PTSD.  Kyle had brought the man to the range as part of therapy.
As reported on TAC the twitter post reads:
Chris Kyle's death seems to confirm that "he who lives by the sword dies by the sword." Treating PTSD at a firing range doesn't make sense.
This comment was heartless at best and malicious at worst.  Paul dug himself deeper when he tried to justify his comments instead of simply apologizing.  Ron Paul has admirable qualities but this twitter statement is not the act of a gentleman.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Guy on a Buffalo

Rather busy at the moment.  Here's a song about a guy on a buffalo:
For those so inclined, here are links to parts II, III, and IV.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Women and War

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently announced that women who meet the same qualifications as men will be allowed to serve in combat.  This is a terrible idea, and if you don't realize this then keep reading, because I'm about to tell you why.

Those who want women in combat seem to think that the only relevant issue is the physical ability of female soldiers, but that is almost beside the point.  True, many women are not capable of the extreme physical exertion that men are.  According to the AP, "When the Marine Corps sought women to go through its tough infantry course last year, two volunteered, and both failed to complete the course."  However, there are certainly some women who can meet the qualifications to serve in combat, but that does not mean that they should serve in combat.

What I am about to say is so anachronistic, so sexist, so insensitive, that it may grievously offend most modern Westerners, but it must be said.  War is unfeminine.  Even just killing is a terrible thing that should be done by men when it must be done at all.  Since prehistoric times, men have been warriors.  Men have fought for millenia to defend their homes, their people, and especially their women.  To bring women to the battlefield and place them in front of enemy guns is contrary to instinct and tradition, but our ruling class nominalists have little use for either.  

In his interview with Peter Seewald titled God and the World, then Cardinal Ratzinger says,
It is false when people want men and women to be cut to the same measure and say that this tiny biological difference has absolutely no significance.  That tendency is dominant nowadays.  Personally it still horrifies me when people want women to be soldiers just like men, when they, who have always been the keepers of the peace and in whom we have always seen a counter-impulse working against the male impulse to stand up and fight, now likewise run around with submachine guns, showing that they can be just as warlike as the men.  Or that women now have the "right" to work as garbage collectors or miners, to do all those things that, out of respect for their status, for their different nature, their own dignity, we ought not to inflict on them and that are now imposed no them in the name of equality.  That in my opinion, is a Manichean ideology that is opposed to the body.
One might accuse Ratzinger of putting women on too high a pedestal of feminine domesticity.  However, his basic point is absolutely correct, that women are not supposed to do all the things that men are, and that among those male jobs is the business of killing and dying in war.

The fact that war is not a feminine occupation does not mean that women should not serve in the military.  Support positions are a way for women to serve their country in uniform and frees up men for combat duty.  It is entirely appropriate that women are trained in the use of weapons and that they are armed in order to defend themselves.  In extraordinary cases, female soldiers may be sent into combat.  When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, it made sense for the desperate Russians to throw everything they had at the invaders, including female soldiers.  To use an example from fiction, it was appropriate for Éowyn to fight at the battle of the Pelenorr Fields.  If the Free Peoples were to fail, the people of Rohan both male and female would be subject to torment and death.  At that point, women might as well fight.  It should be noted that after her brief military career, Éowyn married Farimir and became a housewife.  Hardly a model feminist.

Unlike the people of Middle Earth, the United States faces no existential threat from foreign enemies.  Women need not fight.  Women should not fight.  Instead of trying to conform the U.S. military to trendy egalitarianism, Secretary Panetta should respect the natural differences between the men and women in the armed forces.  The secretary is leaving his position soon, and will presumably have more free time.  I recommend he read some Tolkien.