Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union: Strong?

I really don't like watching the State of the Union speech. The constant interruption by politicians clamoring for the cameras is disgusting and sophomoric. The only really interesting thing that happened all evening did so prior to the speech when Cindy Sheehan got arrested--or detained; I've heard both phrases used. It's too bad no one else did. I think they should arrest people for clapping more than, say twice, and I'm only half kidding.

It only took Bush two minutes to lose me. He tossed out protectionism and isolationism immediately, and only revisited the two later when he again pointed out their historical folly. It is ironic that a man who knows nothing about history is lecturing on the topic, but irony is a common theme in modern America. We may as well try to laugh at.

Bush cited Roosevelt and Reagan in demonstrating the importanced of being engaged militarily with the world. I tend to think that it has been a turn from isolationism and towards engagment that has us involved in our eventual decline.

Briefly, Wilson eventually got us involved in World War I because he was, much like Bush, a globalist. Consequently, the allies won the war and we got Versailles, which brought on Hitler and WWII. So we again stayed out of it until FDR messed with Japan enough to draw us in. I'm not saying we shouldn't have entered the Second Great War, but we freed some of Europe from Nazism to give them Communism. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Since then, isolationism has never been tried again by Americans. My account of history is vague, but it is based on some truths we've not even looked into. Bush can't assert that isolationism has failed in the war on terror when he hasn't tried it or really even thought about it.

The same could be said for protectionism, which Bush has also cast aside without looking at it. We have lost 1 in 5 factory jobs since Bush took over, and it keeps getting worse. Yes, the economy is doing well, but real wages are stagnant. Free trade is a boondoggle.

I apologize for the brevity of my points. I always get flustered after these things, realizing how badly our country--which I love so well--is hosed. Bush can be an optimist, but I'll be a realist and as such I'd say my generation is going to have a lof of work to do. Oh how I wish Pat Buchanan were president...

His ideas and books are needed more than ever to illustrate why conservatism--which Bush and the Republicans have strayed from--is really the only thing that will lead us back to a sane America. While all his books are golden., on the inefficacy of free trade see The Great Betrayal, and with respect to why isolationism is needed check out A Republic Not an Empire.

You'll be glad you did, then you'll be sad at how bad things are in Washington.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Darn Falwell

Monday means Vox Day and Pat Buchanan have columns posted over at WorldNetDaily. I'm not a huge fan of WND for the simple fact that like most news sites, every story is way too sensationalized. Journalists, and more especially bloggers, have a tendency to try to be profound. It is a tendency I certainly tend to exhibit more than I would care to admit. It seems to be that the harder one tries to be profound the more likely the piece will be banal. The desperation in the headline and the build-up really diminishes whatever point the author was trying to make. The most shocking things about a headline is the word shocking, and our anticipation for the shock is more exciting than the fact that once again, a celebrity has been caught sniffing coke. So please put your expectations aside, I don't like the pressure.

Anyway, I was over at WND and noticed that Jerry Falwell had an article. I don't go looking for Falwell, but he draws me in not unlike the accursed tabloid headlines. His piece is entitled "Anti-evolution Revolution" and Falwell is near ecstatic that polls have demonstrated that more and more Americans are supporting creationism over evolution. I did not finish the article because it ceased to interest me. It shouldn't matter that the same populace that once supported slavery and butchered the Indians now affirm truth in a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. That a majority of people agree on something does not make that something true, and Mr. Falwell should remember that it was a mob that crucified Christ.

As I think I have mentioned before, the subject of evolution versus intelligent design verus creationism or what have you bores me. I am not a scientist, and I will let the scientist worry about those sort of things.

Now if I may, I will attempt an aside that I hope will connect back with the main point eventually. If not, we at least have the shocking incident of a metaphorical train wreck in the form of this brief article.

Shortly after I had re-discovered the wisdom of the Catholic Faith and called it my own once again, I decided that I would attempt a bit of a Summa, not unlike the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. Not unlike, except that his was a masterpiece and mine is a series of disconnected thoughts lying somewhere forgotten on my hard drive. A friend of mine was reading bits of it and told me it was quite difficult. Rather than attempt to read the Summa I decided to create my own, which was the most profoundly idiotic thing I could do.

If I was half smart enough to understand a fourth of Thomas's work, I would have known that I would be better served working through it, however incomplete my understanding. But I was not this smart, or at least far to proud. Although my Summa is not complete and will probably never be, I did learn something important. Until we accept some basic truths, such as the fact that what I am typing is real and that what I am hearing is in fact The Who emanating from my speakers, we'll probably be stuck forever offering conjectures and making excuses to bring truth into the manner, probably concluding with the dratted Pascal's Wager, which is not at all a proof of God's existence.

Fortunately for mankind, we have Thomas, who took for granted that when he was writing he was doing so in a book, in the world and the things his senses perceived were in fact real. Thus he could establish his five proofs of God's existence and go on from there, into far more difficult realms where only the brightest and most gifted of men can follow him.

I am now reading the Compendium of Theology, a sort of Thomism for dummies that he was composing when he died at the age of 49, not finishing the book. It is too bad that he didn't finish it, or write another Thomism for people too dumb to be dummies, because even the Compendium is rather dense. Just because I am not getting everything out of it doesn't mean that I'm not picking up a few thing hear and there, and everyone who wishes to consider himself learned and well-rounded should at least dabble in Thomism, especially Christians.

If I may at last return to topic, I think it is safe to assume that Falwell has not read Thomas. If he has, he certainly hasn't applied his thoughts to anything. It probably isn't fair to pick on so little a man as Falwell weilding so large a man as Aquinas for a weapon, but for some reason that escapes me Falwell is not regarded everywhere as a fool and I mean to point that out.

The obvious point that Thomas demonstrated and Falwell ignores is that God exists, and we can learn about him through this life of ours on this particular planet. It makes precious little difference in Christian theory whether God decided to create every animal out of nothing day by day or whether he created a pile of chaotic matter and watched it stir into fantastic life with his laws as the Creator playfully watched. It does not matter, except that the former theory does not mesh with the facts.

And that is a very big problem. No intelligent person is ever going to believe something they know to be false. By waving the banner of literal creationism, Falwell is implying that to believe in Christianity you must believe in nonsense, which is a blatant lie. The Incarnation is a tough pill to swallow, but the idea of creation in the purely literal sense is impossible, and no one is going to attempt to swallow the larger pill after spitting out the smaller one.

It is difficult enough to try to explain to skeptics why Christianity is good, and more importantly why it is true without Falwell trying to let everyone know that even though it is false, you should believe in it anyway.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The PCP That Almost Was

I wrote this one for the Lode, but my esteemed opponent didn't want to do global warming this week. Well, I had already written this so I decided just to post it anyway. I'm sure I'll need to clarify later, but try to enjoy it anyway.

I once read somewhere that global warming can cause global cooling. This is certainly curious. I wonder if drinking causes sobriety, or if it really is possible to eat yourself thin or starve yourself to obesity. Anyway, the weather has exhibited rather perplexing patterns as of late, but the real question is whether or not humans factor in these trends.

In dealing with the subject of temperature it is pivotal to understand this rock we call Earth. While even a very crude history of said planet could not be contained in point counter point, there is one fact that must be noted. Our planet is 4.5 billion years old. Although there are disagreements, it is generally believed that human beings have been on this planet for a grand total of 200,000 years.

If we treat the earth's existence as the history of major league baseball, there have been about 124 seasons—excluding playoffs—and the human expansion team debuted in the last game of the last season. We started collecting stats—keeping track of weather—with two outs in the bottom of the tenth. Based on that, we've determined that if the trends that were starting to develop at the end of the last pitch continue, we'll never win the World Series and probably end up dead.

The analogy is comical and probably a bit absurd, but it demonstrates a clear truth. The fact that the weather has been weird lately is irrefutable. The fact that humans are to blame is less clear. But when any change in temperature is deemed to be the fault of humans, is it any surprise some of us can't take global warming all that seriously? Someone get me a drink, I need to sober up.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Church: Right Again

The Pope has published his first encyclical. I am not certain I will read it, though perhaps I should. It weighs in at an impressive seventy-two pages, which is a bit dauting. It is supposed to be a letter after all and not a novel.

Ordinarily, I would avoid commenting on something I haven't read, but the press is behaving so humorously I cannot let this opportunity pass by. First,
The New York Times has this to say:

The encyclical, titled "God Is Love," did not mention abortion, homosexuality, contraception or divorce, issues that often divide Catholics.

The reason is that Benedict knows they are settled matters. He helped write the latest Catechism. Since he is an orthodox Catholic, he's not going to change what he knows to be God's revealed truth, but he's not so dumb as to risk alienating liberal Catholics over something that cannot change. So instead he dealt with the less divisive, but no less important topic that God is love.

The Economist behaves in any even more curious fashion:

An old story tells of a bishop who is asked for his opinion about sin. He reflects for a while and says that, in general, he is against it. This week may be remembered as the moment when Pope Benedict XVI offered his views on erotic love and, contrary to expectations, said he was broadly in favour of it.

Again, this is not hard to understand if anyone at The Economist knows anything about Catholicism, which evidently they do not. John Paul II left an impressive legacy behind. The press likes to talk about how he was the most traveled pope and worked to build bridges between other faiths. His most lasting legacy, however, will most likely be the Mysteries of Light, an addition to the traditional Catholic rosary, and his Theology of the Body teachings.

Pope John Paul II gave a great many talks on what he called this Theology of the Body and it is clear from the first encyclical that Pope Benedict is trying to affirm these talks. For the world has got it all wrong in regards to sex. Sex is good, but it is not always used for good. Like anything, there is a time and a place in which it can be used fruitfully and when it can be turned on its head and abused. How could a group of people who are known for having a large number of children despise the means through which those children came to be? I suppose masochism is always a philosophy one could have, but it is not a good one and it is not the Catholic one in respect to sex.

More from The Economist:

Love—whether sexual, spiritual or something in between—was the topic of the German pontiff's first encylical since being elected, at the age of 78, last April. While denouncing the modern world's reduction of eros to “pure sex... a commodity, a mere thing to be bought and sold”, he says erotic love could be “purified” to fulfil man's highest calling.

The latter portion of the statement is largely a manner of faith, even if it makes a large amount of sense. The former, that sex has become "a commodity, a mere thing to be bought and sold" is painfully true. It is possible to say that the church was oppressing people's sexuality, but do not tell me that the world is treating it with the respect sex deserves. Christopher West, who has written some books on the talks by the Pope in regard to the Theology of the Body says:

The things which are the most sacred are those which are most violently profaned. And nothing is more profaned in our culture than our human sexuality.

It is a powerful statement to make, and it is quite true. I hope and pray that the Pope's teachings reach many ears, freeing those who have been so oppressed by the ways of the sinful world.

The Church has been decried for being out of touch with the modern world. Having been called to be "in and not of" that same world, she has accepted the criticism. What is truly fascinating is how well this antiquated group of superstitious mystics has been right from time to time--indeed often--despite being out of touch with the modern world.

Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth) was a ground-breaking encycical which drove liberals mad with rage that Pope Paul VI would dare claim that birth control is immoral. It is only with a clear understanding of the nature of sex that an opposition to birth control makes sense. I will leave it to the reader to decide if the Church's position makes sense.

I will however, take the time to examine just one of Pope Paul VI's four prophecies he mentions in Humanae Vitae.
Janet Smith, a professor at the University of Dallas covers all four prophecies succintly. She notes:

Paul VI also argued that "the man" will lose respect for "the woman" and "no longer (care) for her physical and psychological equilibrium" and will come to "the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion."

Sounds quite familiar to what Benedict recently said. Could it be that Lord Melburne's old adage is true? “What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damn fools said would happen has come to pass."

Perhaps, just perhaps, the damn fools have got this world figured out after all. After all, we do profess to have God's revealed Truth, which makes sense. Any other boasting of infallibility would be nonsense, but the Catholic Church has a distinct advantage. We know all the answers because we cheat.

To Whom Shall We Go?

This past Sunday marked the 33rd anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade, which removed abortion from the jurisdiction of the states. Coupled with the lesser known Doe v. Balton, abortion on demand quickly became the law of the land.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I am virulently opposed to abortion. Since I believe that life begins at conception, I hold Roe v. Wade as one of our nation's darkest moments. Roe has rendered forty-five million of our countrymen and women dead before getting a real opportunity to live in the sacred name of “choice”.

Rather than waste another column pointing out the inefficacy of the pro-abortion argument, I will impugn the character of another group of citizens who has abdicated responsibility on the abortion front. Though the party is “pro-life”, the republicans have used abortion as a means to buy votes of mostly Christian citizens.

Pro-lifers often take heat for being single-issue voters. While it is one thing to disagree with someone, it shows a tremendous capacity for ignorance to be unable to comprehend where a political enemy is coming from. If the fetus is really a child, abortion is the greatest injustice being perpetuated by Americans, bar none.

Thus, it is entirely consistent for pro-lifers to vote based on this one issue. But what if this issue were to suddenly fade away? Surely some members of the republican party would find a new ticket to punch come election day. Eleanor Clift recently made a similar observation in Newsweek.

Now that the GOP is within striking distance of overturning Roe, they're having second thoughts ... "Any activist will tell you they'd rather have the issue out there than to have it resolved," says this pro-choice Republican, who has worked on the Hill and for various Republican interest groups. "If Roe were overturned, we'd be electing Democrats as far as the eye can see."

What's a good pro-lifer to do? Obviously we cannot vote for the democratic party. For though the commitment to end the evil of abortion is tepid in republicans, it is non-existent among their democratic counterparts. The obvious—if disappointing—answer is that citizens concerned for innocent life must look to that ugly alternative of American politics, the dreaded third party.

In truth, voting for a third party is probably a waste if the only measure of worth is who wins in the current election cylce. For if pro-lifers turn out en masse to vote for a third party candidate, the election will probably be thrown to the democrats. Though unfortunate, this is hardly the end of the world. Surffering through a Hillary presidency may be just the trick to get the GOP to realize pro-lifers mean business.

In thirty three years, all the gains on the abortion front have been small ones made at the state level. The republican party has been a source of platitudes at the national level, and little else. For they know the game. As long as abortion is legal, they have a very large and very loyal base from which to draw votes to remain in power.

It is high time we called their bluff. One day, pro-lifers may be able to march on an altogether different day, marking the day the injustice known as abortion was purged from our midst. As long as the republicans are allowed to refrain from fighting, save in campaign speeches, that day is going to remain but a pleasant fantasy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Lode 1-25

Here again is my column from this week's edition of the Lode. Please enjoy.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Catholicism IS Exciting

Though raised Catholic, attending parochial schools until college and participating in weekly Mass, my love affair with the Faith is a recent thing. I could probably blame many of my teachers, especially in high school, who presented the rich catholic faith as dead, something that was more dull than even geography. I don't think I can really fault my teachers though, and for two reasons. First, I had in me the pride and arrogance of any adolescent who has finally figured out that he can use his brain on his own. I have been told, by a good friend, that my ego is so big it exploded. While I respectfully disagree, he is right on one point. I firmly believe that I am right about most everything, but so do most people. I have the audacity to admit it. And believe it or not, this confidence has actually waned a bit. There is humility in me somewhere, I sarcastically brag.

The other reason I cannot fault my poor instructors is that the school, while ostensibly Roman Catholic was comprised of, primarily confused or self-righteous agnostics--or apathetic. It was not that I became a pagan, dissenting to rebel. Ironically, I took the side of the Faith in most debates, but it was mostly because this put me on the short end of things, and I loathed a fair fight. My defenses were notably pitiful, as I could not defend what I did not understand and what I only tepidly believed.

College marked a turning point for the worse. Although I attended mass, sometimes, God was put up as a contractual obligation to be fulfilled right before the Packer games. Then came the dark time which every Christian who has turned from God knows all too well. This period of despair lasted for far too long. A dark cloud covered me most of sophomore year.

I had finally started to attempt to come back at the end of the year. My mom, who is a strong Catholic woman, gave me a book by a man named G.K. Chesterton at this stage. I had never heard of him. Although he is now a staple of mine--if not an obsession--I did not quote the man until August 3rd in this particular blog. He is one of the newfound treasures of the Catholic Faith.

Anyway, I began to read his book, Orthodoxy, some time during the early summer. The book has a fascinating and strange quote on the copy my mom gave to me.

People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.

Still a skeptic at this stage, I almost laughed aloud. Orthodoxy might be mildly amusing, but it is certainly not perilous or exciting. I actually had to look up the definition of orthodoxy, for fear that I was mistaken about what was at stake. But Chesteton had set his hook and lured me in, and the best part about it is that, unlike much modern advertising, he does so while telling the truth.

It might be expected that I devoured the book, but this was not the case. For starters, Chesterton can be a bit mystical. At this stage in my journey he was certainly a bit too mystical for me. But I still enjoyed it, working my way through his many paradoxes. For here was a man who could stake a claim to truth, not despite his faith, not apart from it, but because of it. And he was witty and funny too!

It is a great regret of mine that books do not make me laugh very often. Perhaps it is a testament to how drawn to reason and ideas that I am that I often miss the jokes in a great many books. I read Catch 22 and enjoyed it well enough, but only chuckled a few times throughout. One of my math teachers had recommended it as the funniest book of all time, and I allowed myself to suffer no small amount for missing the joy of the thing.

But as I have said, it was not the same with Chesterton. Further, no one had told me Chesterton was funny; no one had told me Catholics could be funny. Sure, our priests made jokes from time to time, but they were always the light kind that I was far to dignified to laugh at, not being a simple adult, but being instead a complicated and difficult teenager.

The interesting thing about Chesterton's story is that he discovered Christendom quite by accident. He calls Orthodoxy a “slovenly autobiography”, which I suppose it is, if by slovenly he means excellent. Anyway, the young Chesterton was a firm atheist, committed against the heresy Christianity. He recounts his journey to a philosophy and his amazement that this philosophy already existed in Christendom.

My readers know my love for GKC; now you know a bit of the reason for it. Suddenly Catholicism had the possibility of being even more fun than explaining why liberalism was so problematic. And Chesterton was right, it was more dangerous too. In comparison to eternal life, disagreements over public policy seem, and indeed are, trivial.

Although this is getting a bit long, it must be pointed out that this is not the end, but only the beginning. For Chesterton lead oddly enough to the first autobiography: St. Augustine's Confessions. Here I understood better the dark times I had gone through, and empathized with the great doctor of the Church. It was a very difficult read, but must beneficial as well.

I have read other things besides, but it has been conversion stories which I have enjoyed the most, perhaps because I can relate with what I can only call my reversion. I read C.S. Lewis's Surprised By Joy as well, and smiled when he recounted that he too had done a bit of reading of Mr. GKC before coming around and becoming the greatest Christian apologist of the twentieth century.

Now I am reading Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain. There are themes running through all of these at once horrific and wonderful stories. Perhaps the most important lesson of all though, is that Christianity is not something to be entered into out of fear, as many moderns believe. Certainly, there are many whose only raison d'ĂȘtre is the fear of God, which may be more accurately called in this case, the fear that they are wrong about Him.

Instead of being terrified into compliance with the Lord, these very reasonable men have discovered that just as there are laws which govern a man's body, so too are there rules that govern his spiritual and emotional health. Just as eating Oreo cookies will make a person not well, engaging in what we Christians call sin leads the soul to hell and the mind to despair.

It is one of the more preposterous fallacies of the modern world that freedom means doing whatever you want. “Art, like morality,” says Chesterton, “consists of drawing the line somewhere.” No sane humanist would believe that unfettered sexual promiscuity is acceptable. They draw a line in the sand somewhere, though they do not really know where that line may be at any given moment. Isn't it at least reasonable to believe that the Church, which had held her line steady for two thousand years, has a better chance of getting it right?

The Church offers a paradox to humanity. Obey rules which God had revealed to be good for you and you will be free. Just as the ins and outs of a ball game give us the liberty to enjoy the sport, so too it is with the moral life. It is only by submitting that we can ever be free.

I Dislike Coming Up With Titles

I have been shirking my blogging duties. There are several excuses I have to offer, only as a matter of moderate interest. First, I have been writing a great deal, but it is not the sort of thing meant for this particular platform of ideas. I've been throwing around the idea of writing a book, and have a few ideas that are plodding along well enough for someone who is reminding himself semi-frequently that he is only twenty.

I have also been trying to work on an article for the Lode. Actually, I've written several of them, and am now hoping that the editor calls upon me this week for one of them. I was rather perturbed last week when he printed two of his own, one of which proceeded to call out the fellow from Iran for his foolish remarks stating that there wasn't a Holocaust. Of course, I have what Flannery O'Connor calls "Catholic smugness" that would allow me to commit to writing the entirety of the editorial page for a given week would they let me. My editor is not so foolish as that, for though I would very much like to do that, at least for a week, it would probably make for a boring read to most of the school population.

Yet I am still not too happy about my editor's selection. Though I could impugn his writing ability without too much guilt, it is probably unchristian to do so. But as T.S. Eliot notes, "Editors are bad writers, but so are most writers." That would seem to apply to the poor Lode, which it must be remembered, is the paper of a university known for its engineering.

I promise I shall post my articles at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later. There is another reason for the delay, though. Whether from a resurgence of the perfectionism that I firmly is buried somewhere inside me, or a simple matter of a temporary funk, I've been none too pleased with the writing I've managed to do in recent times. Perhaps that will change. I'm not too worried about it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Lode 1-18

Here's my article from this week's edition of the Lode. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

There Once Was A Man Named Ahmadinejad

I was going to be sensible and go to bed, but then I saw a link over at Drudge that impelled me to comment on.

As Iran rushes towards confrontation with the world over its nuclear programme, the question uppermost in the mind of western leaders is "What is moving its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to such recklessness?"

Could it be something under than recklessness? After all, America has her hands full with Iraq. It is sad that the country which bailed Europe out of two World Wars is in a struggle for supremacy with a country the size of California. Such has been the history of empires. Guerrilla warfare can be most unkind. Perhaps Iran realizes that if it wants to join the nuclear club, now is as good a time as ever. Though cliched to harp on France, no European country is going to stop this; we and Iran know that.

The most remarkable aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad's piety is his devotion to the Hidden Imam, the Messiah-like figure of Shia Islam, and the president's belief that his government must prepare the country for his return.

Uh oh. What would be the reaction if Bush started talking frequently about Jesus coming back?

He is said to have gone into "occlusion" in the ninth century, at the age of five. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed. After a cataclysmic confrontation with evil and darkness, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace.

This is similar to the Christian vision of the Apocalypse. Indeed, the Hidden Imam is expected to return in the company of Jesus.

Does Jesus know about this? Revelation does not mention the Imam. I guess that would be, at least partially because Revelation was written before Islam was founded. Still, if this Imam fellow and the Christ have traveling plans together--my thought bubble shows Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; I bet the Imam snores really loudly--shouldn't they cool it with the Jihad? Just a thought, Ahmadinejad.

Mr Ahmadinejad appears to believe that these events are close at hand and that ordinary mortals can influence the divine timetable.

The prospect of such a man obtaining nuclear weapons is worrying. The unspoken question is this: is Mr Ahmadinejad now tempting a clash with the West because he feels safe in the belief of the imminent return of the Hidden Imam? Worse, might he be trying to provoke chaos in the hope of hastening his reappearance?

See "Uh oh." above. Of course humans can influence the "divine timetable." It's not as if Jesus is going to let us nuke ourselves and show up after. There would be no sheep and precious few goats, rendering his last sermon quite anti-climatic.

Their sneaking suspicion is that Iran's president actually relishes a clash with the West in the conviction that it would rekindle the spirit of the Islamic revolution and - who knows - speed up the arrival of the Hidden Imam.

I'm a religious person, but I believe I have something that many orthodox Muslims lack, namely a sense of humor. Laugh a little, Ahmadinejad, and try to cool it with the nukes. Please. Someone needs to tell these guys a couple of good jokes. Mine are terrible, but here goes.

Q. Why did Robin Hood steal from the rich?
A. Because the poor didn't have any money.

And on that Ayn-Rand-esque note I am actually going to go to bed. If Jesus comes back soon, Ahmadinejad is going to have some explaining to do.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Fishing and Wrestling, the Hidden Link

Head over to thoughtstreaming. That's an order.

Dear Troutsky,

My cousin is an avid fisherman, and he gets a bit angry when I make fun of the "sport". In truth, I have nothing against it except that I find it uninteresting. I much prefer grabbing a good book and laying in a hamock near the shore. I'd much rather catch a good idea than an infernal scale-covered creature.

Anyway, your point--which you almost made--was a good one. Let me see if I can explain what I think you were trying to get at.

I come from a family of wrestlers. My youngest brother just started his career; he is in pre-kindergarten. We start them young. My brother finished his second varsity collegiate match yesterdaty. Thus far I'm the only one who has "retired" before college.

One of my favorite wrestling shirts said: "You are made better, not by winning easy battles, but by competing in hard fought ones." Living in a capitalist society, winning is the ultimate goal of everything we do. Competition is a good thing, but the shame isn't in losing but in not trying to your fullest. As Ghandi put it, "Full effort is full victory."

My fondest memories of the sport were not the easy matches in which I pinned "fishes"--the sport's term for weak opponents--but the hard battles I triumphed in at the end after a large struggle. Yet the lasting lessons had little to do with how many times I won or lost. In the end, my record was trivial and has not stayed with me, but the years have left their mark. One of my coaches used to tell us that we worked harder than anyone in the high school. He was right. Boy, did we work hard. I know now that the human body can go a lot further than I would have guessed. Self-discipline can take a man a far way.

The point is that through tension we grow. This is most obviously understood in the physical realm: lifting weights makes for stronger muscles; cross-training puts one in better shape. This applies not only to the human body, but the human spirit, mind and soul as well.

Sun Tzu famously intoned that we ought to "know thy enemy." This applies to the intellectual realm. Rush's listeners are often called "ditto-heads". They listen to Rush and assume that because he says something, it must be true, and often do not engage with members of the left. There are exceptions of course, but "How many Rush listeners does it take to read a Chomsky?" might be a fair question to ask. The same applies to liberals as well. Head on over to The Huffington Post for what could be termed the other "ditto-heads".

Another good example of those who avoid tension intellectually would be most Christians. Francis of Assisi noted that we are to "Preach the gospel. Use words if neccesary." and there are many who would be best off winning converts that way. But Christendom would be worse off if it never produced another Chesterton who spent his time actively engaging all the moderns of his day. St. Augustine was called the baptizer of Plato and St. Thomas Aquinas the baptizer of Aristotle. If one is going to engage non-believers in the attempt to convert them, one is going to need to do more than quote the Gospel.

The point of tension being necessary for growth applies emotionally as well. Longtime bachelors who refuse to date because there are no good women are often hiding rather than giving themselves a chance to grow. The same can be said for those who are never without a significant other, rebounding ad infinitum rather than being left alone. It behooves one to be uncomfortable once in awhile, or as Chesterton put it, "I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean."

This is the part where I leave the computer and go out and socialize in order to experience some tension. Perhaps I could even turn off my music, which I am quite comfortable with and tune the radio to the teeny-bopper station.

No thanks. Remember, there is such a thing as taking this too far.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lode 1-11 (I think)

I think the Lode printed this one. I'm not on campus this semester and the website is down, so they may not have printed this article. Regardless, here it is.

With Lenin's death in 1924 a power struggle began that would eventually give Stalin the premiership in 1941. During a famine in the early 30's, George Bernard Shaw returned from seeing a Russian play to report the good news that the people were overfed. H.G. Wells declared of Stalin that he had “never met a man more candid, fair, and honest.” He also remarked that, “no one is afraid of him and everyone trusts him.” According to some reports, the same Uncle Joe once had fully half of the population of the U.S.S.R. under some sort of surveillance. With conservative estimates of the dead from the purges numbering 1.3 million, it is safe to say that Mr. Shaw and Mr. Wells didn't peg Stalin and his totalitarian regime quite correctly.

The blind faith evidenced by communist sympathizers more than half a century ago is neither a new phenomenon nor an outdated fad. It should be noted that much like playing the Hitler card, it is always a bit disingenuous to compare Stalin to anyone. Yet there is a group of citizens which holds this same slightly irrational faith when it comes to their esteemed leader and the creed he possesses. I am speaking of the Republicans.

In an effort to better fight the war on terror, George W. Bush has allowed the government to listen in on certain Americans who make calls to citizens of foreign lands deemed uncouth by the establishment.

It is not surprising that Bush and his cronies have defended his actions. What is surprising is the reaction by most so-called conservatives. From Rush Limbaugh to Ann Coulter, conservative pundits stumbed all over themselves in an effort to explain why a possible violation of fourth amendment protections is necessary and proper in an effort to defeat that terrible foe: terror. Slightly less surprising is the party rank and file following of party hacks. Once the party of skepticism, especially in regards to a violation of a Constitutional provision or a possible growth in government, the Republicans now answer differently. Though there are some signs of a weaking of faith, for now, when it comes to the War on Terror, the Republicans have let it be known: in Bush we trust.

Make no mistakes about it, the War in Iraq, as part of the War in Terror is a matter of faith. Bush has vowed that we are to sow the seeds of democracy in the Middle East. It seems slightly ironic that in an age where Bush cannot use the bathroom without a cry of foul from the ever-opposing left, I am calling for more skepticism. Yet that is precisely what is needed from what remains of the conservatives in this fair land. The Democrats will continue to oppose Bush at every turn. It is the responsibility of true conservatives to make sure that we are dedicated to actual principles. We need to ensure that the Republicans are not merely the anti-Democrats. With the Bush administration possibly suspendingcivil liberties, we need to start asking some serious questions.

When do we receive our rights back? When will we hand Iraq over to the Iraqi people? Just how many liberties—and which ones—will we have to forfeit in this war? Until we have answers to these and others, you will have to excuse my intolerance for the behavior of the Bush administration. A tenant of conservative idealogy is the tendency to react cautiously. We've heard platitudes about world leaders before, and while Bush is not likely to send dissidents to Siberia, it is always good to recall history which has shown a terrible urge to repeat itself.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Pat Robertson has done it again. His television show, the 700 Club, exists--one would assume--to draw the general public into the wonders of the Christian faith. In actuality, the show probably drives more people away than it saves. The Reverend runs the gambit from tolerably eccentric to raving lunatic who in no way speaks for the rest of us simple Christians. His latest antic involves Ariel Sharon, whose latest stroke is apparently divine retribution for "dividing God's land."
"The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who, quote, 'divide my land.' God considers this land to be his."

Quick query Pat: Technically, doesn't God consider all land his? Shouldn't all division of any land fall under the jurisdiction of this one verse? This means we have to give Texas back... I think. Also, I am not certain if we are allowed to sell our homes anymore. After all, private ownership is suspect under this one verse. Maybe God wants us to be socialists!

This incident demonstrates two things. First, one cannot read one verse of the Bible, apply it literally and out of context, and proclaim that to be God's will. This seems to be evidence of the need of some authority on the faith, such as we Catholics have in Rome. There are many people who disagree with the teaching of the Popes, but at least the magisterium takes its time issuing a decision, rather than making careless claims in an effort to boost ratings. Further, since there is one authority within the Church, there is no confusion over multiple and contradictory interpretations by people like Robertson.

Secondly, Joel may be "clear" in this one verse, but the entire book of Job makes something clear that Robertson chooses to ignore. Job was punished, not merely despite being good, but despite being the best. In this way he prefigures the Christ that Robertson claims to serve, who suffered though he did absolutely no wrong. Now, Sharon is not Christ; he is not even Job. But is it so beyond the pale to believe he is being punished, not for some sin he has committed, but only because he is human? We live in a world that is full of suffering. Yet the rain falls on the righteous as well as the wicked. The Reverend should either consult Job or read Matthew 5:45.

If justice is enacted by God on this earth, we have no need for heaven. Yet Christian teaching is clear that while Heaven and Hell exists, perfect justice on this earth does not. The writers of the Old Testament were caught up in a painful fact. This life is not completely just. Thus, the wailings of the Psalmist, the frustration of Solomon in pleading men to behave justly, and the "vanity of vanities" lamented in the book of Ecclesiastes.

My point is not to claim that I know more about Christianity than Robertson. In an effort to be brief, I may seem to have fallen into the same trap as he did, namely taking a solitary verse and using it to show a wider truth. I will let the reader judge, but it should be noted that I do not have my own TV show. With power, comes responsibility--or rather, it should.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Dependence Problem

John Kerry used to say something I actually agreed with when he was running from president. He mentioned several times that we needed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. That was about the extent of his plan as he didn't mention any specifics. This may or may not be one reason he lost to a cowboy from Texas and is still the junior senator from Massachusetts.

There may still be those who see a dependence on foreign oil as a non-issue. I believe they call themselves free traders. However, there is an incident overseas which suggests that this may be a problem after all.

Russia took Europe to the brink of a winter energy crisis yesterday when it carried out a Cold War-style threat and halted gas deliveries to Ukraine, the main conduit for exports to the West.

With a quarter of its gas supplied by Russia, Europe is facing serious disruption and price rises for as long as the dispute rumbles on.

This should certainly settle the matter. When the lifeblood of the economy comes from foreign powers which are volatile, so too is the oil supply. An oil supply that can be cut off, even briefly, can wreak havoc on a nation. Close eyes should be paid to this situation to see just how bad things get for our European brethren.

It would be nice if the powers that be would take heed. After all, we too get a great deal of oil--about half--from abroad. Yet recent news tells us we won't be drilling in ANWR. Before someone--Troutsky, I'm looking at you--hops in telling me that drilling in ANWR wouldn't have helped ease dependence on foreign oil significantly, something must be clarified.

There are two ways to reduce a dependence on foreign oil: using less or producing more domestically. Drilling in ANWR would have reduced this dependence at least to some extent. Whether or not the sacrifice of the pristine arctic tundra would have been worth it can be debated, but the point remains that every increase in domestic drilling minimizes the risk of having what is happening to Europe happen to us. If we are not to drill in Alaska, what is to be done? We could always ration gas like we did under Carter, but I think Bush's approval rating has fallen far enough.

It is true that America will not be dependent on oil forever. As gas prices increase, so too will demand for alternative fuels. There will come a day in the not too distant future where gas-powered cars are a minority on the highway. But the oil goes for more than automobiles, and oil will still be a vital part of the economy for a long time. Thus, it behooves the federal government to come up with an energy plan that won't end in an economic slowdown, or worse, all out war.

I don't wish to paint a bleaker picture than exists. There is not going to be a war in Europe over this business of oil. Likewise, it would be foolish to predict a war with, say, Canada, over a dispute about gas. Yet the point is still valid. Were a nation to be cut off from its supply of oil, least of all America, one can bet that a war would soon follow.

If I over-state the issue it is only because it seems that it is being ignored in Washington. Scrapping the plan to drill in ANWR is acceptable so long as another option takes its place in the debate that should be going on in the halls of Congress. Unfortunately, procrastination on contentious issues and pork-barrel spending seem to be the only issues that unite Congress.

Still, it couldn't hurt to hope for change. Maybe Congess members resolved to do their jobs in the new year. Keep those fingers crossed.