"Go not for every grief to the physician, nor for every quarrel to the lawyer, nor for every thirst to the pot." —George Herbert (1593-1633)

Monday, July 09, 2007

The #1 Rejected 2008 Campaign Slogan

Obama Nation.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Retrieved from Down the Memory Hole

Lost in the, may I say, euphoria of the end of the Clinton presidency was his deal cut with federal prosecutor Robert Ray. I think it has probative value as we consider the justice of the Libby commutation. (Libby was fined 10 times as much, and will lose his license to practice law permanently):


Clinton admits misleading testimony, avoids charges in Lewinsky probe
President's law license suspended for 5 years

January 19, 2001


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton will leave office free of the prospect of criminal charges after he admitted Friday that he knowingly gave misleading testimony about his affair with Monica Lewinsky in a 1998 lawsuit.

Under an agreement with Independent Counsel Robert Ray, Clinton's law license will be suspended for five years and he will pay a $25,000 fine to Arkansas bar officials. He also gave up any claim to repayment of his legal fees in the matter. In return, Ray will end the 7-year-old Whitewater probe that has shadowed most of Clinton's two terms.

"I tried to walk a fine line between acting lawfully and testifying falsely, but I now recognize that I did not fully accomplish this goal and am certain my responses to questions about Ms. Lewinsky were false," Clinton said in a written statement released Friday by the White House.

The admission, which came on the president's last full day in office, stems from the same allegations that led to Clinton's 1998 impeachment by the House of Representatives, and the later acquittal by the Senate.

In a statement minutes later, Ray said "the nation's interest has been served" by Clinton's admission.

"This matter is now concluded," Ray said. "May history and the American people judge that it has been concluded justly."

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Bush Should Have Gone All the Way and Pardoned Libby (Sorry, Tom)

Mr. Van Dyke thinks the president’s Libby commutation is the end of the Bush presidency as we know it (see July 2 post). He cites very low poll numbers for a commutation or pardon, as if anything Bush did now would make him even more unpopular with the American people. The Iraq war, Katrina, immigration and other failures large and small have already brought him just about as low as he can go.

The problem with TVD’s assessment is that it isn’t with Democrats and Independents that Bush is losing support. He never had much Democrat support once the glow of 9/11 wore off, and Independents have been going south for quite some time. And there is nothing he can do at this point to win back any of these people. No, it is shrinking support among Republicans and the conservative base that has brought his approval ratings to historic lows.

To let Mr. Libby go to prison would not only not win back Democrats and Independents, it would have put another nail in the coffin for conservatives. Yet as Robert Novak argues (here and here), commuting Libby’s sentence doesn’t completely satisfy his conservative supporters and still drives Democrats mad. He may as well have gone all the way and just pardoned him now. But Novak makes a very interesting case for what he calls this “strange administration.”

This whole sorry episode gets at the personality of this president, which Novak does a good job of capturing.


That (the commuting of the sentence) might be described as a Solomonic decision, but only if King Solomon actually split the baby and distributed halves to rival mothers. Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who called the president's conduct "disgraceful," would not have been any more upset by an outright pardon. While friends of Libby toasted champagne Monday night, they complained there was no pardon. It was an unsatisfying performance as an unhappy presidency nears its end, with Bush again standing aloof from the passion he has stirred.

Fierce Democratic critics seeking to criminalize Bush's military intervention three years ago seized on the Valerie Plame case. In his harsh reaction Monday, Reid described Libby as part of "White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq war." The president and his political advisers always have seemed oblivious to this intense campaign against him. The White House attitude that what we don't know won't hurt us resulted in Bush pointing with pride to the appointment as special counsel of Patrick Fitzgerald, the non-partisan U.S. attorney in Chicago. At that point, Bush lost control of a case that his enemies seized on as a serious threat to his presidency.


What this points out, contrary to the left’s demonizing of Bush, is that he is just not a partisan guy. Liberals think he is the devil himself, a right-wing zealot bent on destroying America as we know it. But liberals have been divorced from reality for a long time. If the president had been a movement conservative and philosophically grounded in the principles that it represents, many of the problems that brought him down would have never happened. (Of course, he may never have gotten elected either, so this is very much an academic discussion.)

We all remember the “new tone” Bush tried to bring to Washington way back when. It didn’t work, as we can see, but that attempt reflects Bush’s penchant for believing that he could transcend partisan politics. You can see him thinking, “If only people will realize that my intentions are good, that I’m an honorable person, they will surely give me credit for . . .” Wrong. This is probably why, as Novak points out, that the president was oblivious to what his enemies were really trying to do to him and his administration. He was going to stand above it all. Wrong again.

So he lets a special prosecutor be appointed to basically harass his own administration. It was a travesty, and all the while Bush thinks he’s getting political points for allowing Fitzgerald almost unlimited power to uncover a crime he knew never happened. You think Bill Clinton would have ever allowed this to happen? I may despise the man and his politics, but he had the game down pat. But it’s just not in Bush’s nature, and he is suffering for it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hillary In the Tall Grass

Well, now, I see that many of the Dems are condemning the commutation by El Presidente W of Scooter's sentence. I cannot remember what these particular Beltway blowhards said when Slick Willie handed out a bunch of pardons while helping himself to some White House knickknacks in January of 2000; but I'm willing to bet a lot that the ineffable Hillary won't have much to say about the commutation of Libby. Not today and not tomorrow. I wonder if the other Dems will call her on it during their next debate/forum; they cannot lose by doing so. And during the general election, I cannot see her saying a word about it. And so it seems to me that all this puffery in the papers today about the problems created by the Libby commutation for the eventual Republican nominee is a lot of crap. But what do you expect from the New York Times?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Libby Freed, Bush Administration Cooked

Previous objections to a Libby pardon here, along with objections to the objections.

Libby's motion to remain free on bail pending appeal was rejected today by a 3-judge panel that included a Reagan, a Bush41, and a Clinton appointee. Since I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was therefore headed directly to jail (no passing Go, no $200), President Bush promptly commuted his sentence.

All that can be said at this point is that with a Libby pardon (technically a commutation) polling at 18%, all the administration has going for it is a bit of surprise, as the pundits didn't get in gear punditing on the prospect, and that July 4 falls on Wednesday this year, disrupting the 24/7 newscycle.

But I don't think we've heard the end of this by a long shot, and even if prosecutor Fitzgerald and the jury were wrong wrong wrong, it will be difficult to call this panel biased. I think today marks the end of the Bush Administration for all practical purposes. The lame duck just died, and the next 18 months will be spent on autopsies and cremations, if not barbecuing.


Looks yummy, and this is just too delicious for anyone to pass up what with the "rule of law," etc. at stake. With the 2008 primaries and general election coming up (and the question will be asked), the Democrats will dig in, although Mrs. Clinton has a few bones at the bottom of her own closet as a result of the closing days of her last co-presidency. And don't rule out the GOP turning into the Donner Party, either, although the undeclared candidate won't.

Friday, June 29, 2007

It Lives! No, Wait, It's Dead Again

Well, that didn't take long. While a few Democratic senators were pandering to their base about resuscitating the Fairness Doctrine to battle the mighty monster of conservative talk radio, the House just passed the Pence amendment, which hammers that one back into the crypt. (And with a hundred or so Democrat votes!)

The House jumped in because the Senate might have passed it, especially since they could have counted on Trent Lott's vote. Still, it would have been great fodder for discussion, and the Dems didn't want any discussion since the bias of the network news not to mention tax-supported NPR would have been highlighted.

Me, I'd love there to be more liberal radio. The problem is that Air America and many of the rest don't let conservative guests or callers on the air. The folks at RedState alone could clean their clocks every hour on the hour. I'd tune in for that, hell yeah. Ratings bonanza.

Good Show, Abbas

A commenter who signs Myron Pauli left this poignant, and pungent, ditty over at Ilana Mercer's blog. I thought we should afford it some space as well.

We love you Abbas .. oh yes we do
Though you hate every .. single Jew
You’re not in HAMAS .. that’s true
Oh Mahmoud, we love you

Deny the Holocaust .. who knew
When Fatah uses force .. boo hoo
We’ll pay your every cost .. what’s new
Oh Mahmoud, we love you

You teach your hatred .. in every school
But when you curse at us .. you do not drool
So now it’s our turn .. to play the fool
Oh Mahmoud, we love you

You wear a suit and tie .. you look so neat
And when you’re killing us .. you smile so sweet
And even should we face .. utter defeat
Oh Mahmoud, we love you

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Order, Not Faith

One of the more interesting subtexts of the 2008 presidential campaign has been Rudy Giuliani's popularity among religious conservatives. Given his stark pro-abortion views, his sympathy toward gay rights, and the "turbulence" of his private life, one might expect especially evangelicals to view his candidacy with skepticism.

Just to be clear, I've said before around here that under no circumstances would I vote for Giuliani given his very robust abortion rights stance. Others apparently disagree, at least as evidenced by the very warm reception he received at Pat Robertson's Regent College. Apparently, whatever other virtues Giuliani has outweigh in these folks' mind his clear disagreements with their putative claims. Of course, it's probably a mistake to expect some intellectual and moral consistency (not to mention integrity) from Pat Robertson, but if the polls are right, some significant portion of religious conservatives are willing to forbear on their movement's signature issues. Why?

There are, I think, two answers. First is the War on Terror. They think he'd be the best guy on that set of issues. More broadly, though, it suggests that at least some portion of what's termed the Christian Right is as much concerned about what we might call "social order" as it is about "social issues". Here's what I mean. Giuliani seems to me to be running essentially on two things: a promise to fight successfully against the Islamists and a promise to help "clean up" (my phrase, not his) the nation in the same way that he helped clean up NYC. Conservative Protestants were mobilized into politics in the 1970s much more by what they saw as threats to the moral and social order than by the specific issues of abortion and gay rights. (The SBC didn't affirm a pro-life view until, if I'm not mistaken, 1979, for example.) The disorder of the late 1960s and 1970s was unleashed by the sexual revolution and social permissiveness of the era and the "Christian Right" hoped to reverse those. (Hence the term "Moral Majority.") Giuliani appeals to them, I'm hypothesizing, on the grounds that he is promising "order," and at least some of them are buying.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cameron the Moron

Well, now, it appears that Cameron Diaz, Hollywood airhead, or airhead even by Hollywood standards, showed up in Peru the other day with a handbad inscribed with a red star and the brilliant adage "Serve the People," served up awhile back by the brilliant mind of Mao. Tens of thousands of Peruvians, of course, were killed by the Shining Path Maoists during the 80s and 90s, and so Maoism is not high on the latest fashion trends in Lima. So our beloved Cameron has apologized for giving inadvertent offense, and blah blah blah.

Put aside the Shining Path; has Cameron never heard of the 100 million or so Chinese killed as a direct result of Mao's policies? Maybe she has, but those poor souls are gone, and so why not be trendy? Or maybe she has not; can she possibly be that much of a moron? Only her hairdresser knows for sure. Well, actually, so do we all. By the way, she is an expert as well on global climate models.

Obama on Christian Materialism

Since we major in the interface between political philosophy and religion around here, it seems proper to announce that I'm about sick of Barack Obama. That didn't take long.

If it is inevitable that our next president be a Democrat, I figgered we could do worse. The center of the party has largely collapsed anyway, so at least Obama was statesmanlike and came off like he wanted to be everybody's president including mine.

False alarm. He hit the Daily Double the other day, going into a church for political purposes and excoriating the opposition for doing the same. Make it a trifecta---he used the word "hijacked," as in, hmmm, who else has "hijacked" a religion for nefarious purposes...?


The message was the same old stuff, that Jesus preached charity for the poor, which to a lefty means more programs and higher taxes. He charged that the Christian Coalition made tax cuts its priority at one point (a legitimate criticism, I suppose, if true---is it?), but in doing so, proved that for collectivists, tax increases are good in their own right, a moral imperative.

Raise taxes, for what? To increase tax revenues? To give more to the poor? What if tax increases and indiscriminate charity are counterproductive?

Doesn't matter. Simply doesn't matter. Christianity's purpose is the same as the secular Enlightenment's and world leftism's and the Democratic Party's---the "relief of man's estate." Raising taxes is your way of showing your virtue.


And there was the usual noise about abortion and stuff, as if the GOP uses my religion to exploit me for my vote. But I don't need a church to tell me there's something morally questionable about disposing of human life out of convenience or using it for spare parts.

Christians heard the Beatitudes. Religious types give more to charity than more secular folks. Christians also heard Christ when He said that His Kingdom is not of this world. Democrats still ask us to vote as if that Kingdom doesn't exist, as if Jesus was all about the relief of man's estate. In fact, He was anything but. If Jesus was all about relieving man's estate, He would have sat there all day cranking out loaves and fishes.

By emphasizing material concerns to the exclusion of the other important things, Sen. Obama is just as dull as the rich men in the Bible. They just don't get it.

Truth, Sir, is a cow that will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull.---Boswell: Life of Johnson


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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Symbols have consequences

It is too easy to go after someone like Cameron Diaz, but not every post should be challenging, right? It seems that on a recent visit to Peru Ms. Diaz's accessories caused a bit of stir. Her handbag boasted a Red Chinese star and Mao's famous dictum written in Chinese, "Serve the People."

Apparently, the global-consciousness-raising star didn't know that the Maoist Shining Path terrorists wreaked havoc on the country not so long ago, killing tens of thousands. Pablo Rojas, a Peruvian human rights activist, aims for an understatement award when he says, "I don't think she should have used that bag where the followers of that ideology did so much damage."

Perhaps this is a rare instance where some sensitivity training could do some good . . .

UPDATE: Diaz has now apologized.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Scooter Libby: Ham Sandwich, Movable Feast

Everybody's learned from crime dramas that any prosecutor worth his salt can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.

And if that ham sandwich happens to be a Republican in an unsympathetic city like Washington, DC, a conviction is just the mustard on a piece of cake. So it was with the hapless I. Lewis Libby, Jr., #2 man to Lil' Bush's #2 man Dick Cheney. Poor Scooter might as well had "Hormel" tattooed on his forehead.

I dunno if he lied, but it seems he was guilty of fudging, anyway. But lying was the charge he was convicted of, because if fudging were illegal, every damn single one of us would be in jail. It turns out that the real culprit was


Colin Powell's own #2 man, who doesn't have Hormel on his forehead---in fact I think there's a U in a circle there---Dick Armitage. Armitage is downright kosher, because everybody loves Colin Powell, and so he remains a free man, and unindicted as well.

Because there's no such thing as a kosher ham sandwich.


But there's the problem of the rightosphere, especially the National Review, calling on President Bush to pardon poor scapepig Scooter. Now, I agree that this whole thing was a travesty and Christopher Hitchens has a good roundup of this panoply of slime and punishment here. Hitchens, whom I admire, also calls for a pardon, but like the Founders, I must defer to an even wiser man:


"Again, there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with all the violence of an oppressor."---Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws (1748)


It must be noted also that as governor of Texas, Bush's record shows that he denied clemency to condemned criminals if the proper procedures had been followed, and pardoned himself from considerations of mercy or even justice, relying instead upon the rule of law. The rule of law, the same drumbeat heard throughout the Clinton impeachment debacle, we must add.

So must it be with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. He must go to jail. Now, as the court has ordered (altho Libby's motion for freedom pending his appeal seems quite justifiable). So sayeth Montesqieu, so sez me.

I'm OK if President Dubya wants to clear the decks at the close of his administration for the sake of his successor's: there's precedent for pardoning whatever miscreants made bad calls in pursuit of their duty as they saw it. Dubya himself was purposeful in wiping the Clinton slate clean and that was a good thing.

But for now, no pardon for Scooter. He got a raw deal, true, but as GOPers are fond of quoting JFK, life isn't always fair. Or even kosher, he might have added.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Independent Illusion

I’m so heartbroken that Mayor Michael Bloomberg left the Republican Party. It must really be that the Party left him! Of course this lifelong liberal was only a Republican so he could run for mayor of NYC. Now the Mayor thinks he has what it takes to be President of the United States. Hubris is certainly a disease that the rich and powerful more easily succumb to, and Bloomberg has it in spades.

The illusion I refer to is two-fold. One is the illusion that to be devoid of ideology is some kind of virtue, as he implied in a recent statement: "Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology." Of course this assumes that “partisan” is bad and that political ideology is incompatible with “good ideas.” This also assumes that “real results,” whatever that means, cannot come from partisan battles.

There is so much hogwash in this statement that it leaves one flabbergasted that such a smart person could be so stupid. Yet it is not so much stupidity, but disingenuousness. Bloomberg, a lifelong Democrat before his conversion of convenience in 2001, is also a lifelong liberal. When he denigrates partisanship and political ideology he is speaking about conservatives and Republicans. Independents or “moderates” almost always tilt toward the left side of the political spectrum.

The other illusion I speak of is that an independent can win the presidency. Ain’t gonna happen. It has never happened and most likely never will. What independents do when running for president is take votes from one or the other party’s candidates. Two recent examples are Perot in ’92, who took votes from the first President Bush which led to the Clinton presidency, and Ralph Nader in 2000 who took votes from Al Gore and likely gave the election to the current President Bush. Bloomburg would almost certainly take votes from the Democrat nominee.

He states that were he to run he would first have to decide that he could win; if he decides to run you will know that Michael Bloomberg is delusional.

thenewswalk.com---America's Reform Club

A hearty welcome to Los Angeles Times readers who've tracked down our Dr. Ben Zycher (his column linked here) and to American Spectatorites who caught my (TVD's) latest essay there.

Since every blog unapologetically loves new folks coming around, we hope you'll poke through this, our home page, because there's something here for everyone.

And we encourage comments from all comers and promise to keep all vampires off your neck if you agree to do the same; although everything starts with a monologue, dialogue is why we're all really here. Kick off yer shoes, mix up a nice toddy, and feel free to jump on in.---Ed.

(We also feature a Fred Thompson News Ticker on our sidebar>>>>>>>>>
Worth bookmarking for that alone!)

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Opera Omnia

Over the weekend my husband and I were catching up on our knuckle-dragging right wing blog favorites, and this coy link from Jonah Goldberg introduced us to Paul Potts, a somewhat more-than-ordinary looking bloke from South Wales who mustered up the courage to bare his epiglottis to Simon Cowells and a couple of people I don't recognize, on audition for the British version of American Idol.

If you have not seen this clip yet (although as of this writing YouTube reports three million viewings, so I suppose it's unlikely), watch it before reading my comments below.





Followups on NRO from some readers and the resident cranky old Englishman/immigration scold/opera buff John Derbyshire filled out the story a bit. I particularly liked this bit of analysis from a reader to Goldberg:


The video came up and there’s this dumpy guy with bad teeth. Then he started to sing. Now, I’m not an overly emotional person, but halfway through I realized I was crying. Haven’t done anything like that in many, many years, and I wondered, as I dried my eyes, how in the world his singing could have caused such a strong reaction in me....His expression before he begins to sing is that of a man resigned to disappointment. Even when he smiles, his eyes convey a profound sadness. He has been a nobody all his life. He, and perhaps only he, knows he has greatness inside of him, but he is obviously a humble man, massively insecure, afraid of rejection, unsure of himself outside the cocoon of anonymity. But you get the feeling he also knows that this may be the one chance he gets to escape the cocoon, and as he begins to sing, you can see him fighting down his fear. I think that is the wellspring of the emotion that pervades his performance. He is fighting against a life of obscurity.

By the song’s end, what was an average Joe has stepped up, beaten back his fear, and broken through. In those few seconds, he put the void behind him, and his life will probably be changed forever because he called up the courage at that moment to show what he was really made of. We saw greatness, long denied, finally being born.


Well, I agree with all that. This performance is an iconic illustration of the most beloved of all stories, the peasant who turns into a prince, but I also think there's a little more to it. It's not just that he is singing with emotion, but that this particular song expresses everything Jonah's correspondent saw.

I am by no means an opera nerd, so I may be a little out of my depth here, but I believe this is one of the few times I have heard a tenor sing an aria and really mean it. There are undeniable, significant flaws in Paul Potts's performance (which is, by the way, a shortened version of the aria, I assume to accomodate time restraints) but it is equally undeniable that he is, for the sixty seconds he is singing, wholly in character.

The aria Paul sings, Nessun Dorma, is from Turandot, the Persian fairy-tale opera Giacomo Puccini left unfinished when he died in 1926. Turandot, a cold-hearted princess, has already executed several potential suitors when a mysterious and anonymous man accepts the usual challenge: solve her riddles and he gains her hand; fail and she gains his head. The stranger solves Turandot's riddles, but gives her a second chance: if she can discover his name before dawn, she may behead him.

"Nessun dorma" means "No one shall sleep" -- it is Turandot's command, on pain of death, that all her subjects shall strive all night to discover the stranger's name. The stranger takes up this phrase, now on a major chord: yes, no one will sleep,

Even you, o Princess,
In your cold room,
Watch the stars,
That tremble with love
And with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me;

My name no one shall know,
On your mouth I will speak it
When the light shines
And my kiss will dissolve the silence
That makes you mine.

And finally, the triumphant climax:

Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
All'alba vincerĂ²!
VincerĂ²!
VincerĂ²!

To be honest, the high B seems a hair beyond Paul's reach, but it doesn't matter. The slight crack is endearing, for he is declaring I shall conquer! And indeed he does. The audience, most of whom have never heard of Turandot and would have trouble distinguishing Puccini from Punchinello, are cheering him like Caruso at La Scala. The female judge is openly weeping, and even the snooty looking fellow, who raised his high-bred eyebrows in alarm when this lumpy nobody announced he was there "to sing opera" is won over.

The character who sings this song, Calaf, is, like Paul, an apparent nobody. His father is the former king of Tartary, deposed by Turandot's father. Calaf himself lives in anonymity, fearful of discovery, yet he retains the heart of a prince. Is that why Paul Potts chose this aria? I have no idea. It took serious cojones in one sense, because he is almost demanding to be compared to Luciano Pavarotti. Not only has Pavarotti made it his signature piece for thirty years, his recording of it was used by the BBC as the theme for the 1990 World Cup, and it became a quirky hit in Great Britain. On the other hand, perhaps he knew a comparison would be in his favor. Here is Pavarotti:



It is technically as close to perfect as man's voice can be. But it is somehow cold. No frozen heart, certainly not Turandot's, could be melted by such singing. Compare this, Paul Pott's performance in the final competition. He has spruced up, and sings the entire aria.



He won, by the way.

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Shameless Self-Promotion

My op-ed in today's Los Angeles Times, in opposition to the various proposals for disinvestment by public pension funds in firms doing business with the Iranian mullahs, can be found here. It was butchered a bit due to space constraints---in particular, the explanation of why sanctions against South Africa had the effect of strengthening apartheid was essentially dropped---but I think that the central argument still gets through. Comments welcome.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Wither the Episcopal Church?

Via Mark Steyn at NRO, an Episcopalian priest has decided she's also a Muslim.

[Rev. Ann Holmes] Redding's bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting.



"Exciting" is one way to put it. Unknown at this time is how a Muslim can take Communion when there's wine involved, since Muslims don't do alcohol. But if the Catholics are correct and the wine is transubstantiated into the Blood of Christ, I guess it's not wine anymore, so that's cool. But head Protestant honcho Martin Luther thought that although it's the Blood of Christ, it's still also wine (consubstantiation). As near as I can tell, the Episcopalian Church is firmly on the fence. Looks like they might have to finally sort that one out after all these years, unless they just start using grape juice.

Then again, Muslims don't believe in the Eucharist at all, so when a Muslim Episcopal priest consecrates the Eucharist, well, I remember the nuns telling us that if a fake priest said Mass but you took Communion in good faith, it was still Communion.

At least I think that's what they said. I never thought about it much because there wasn't much likelihood of running into a fake priest. Until now...

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Stupid Little Leftists

As Christopher Hitchens sagely noted, denigrating President Bush's intelligence is the sort of thing that stupid people find funny. Comedy Central has a new show for such folks.

It's predictably infantile enough, based on the clip I saw. It takes place while Bush 41 is president, and Lil' (sic) Bush and Lil' (sic) Cheney, et lil' al. won the softball game for Team Halliburton by getting revved up on crack. 41 says that cheating is fine if it wins back the trophy (apparently a reference to the 2000 election), and a knowing evil laugh is had by all. Dubya is portrayed as diabolical, but still an ignoramus, natch.










The correct contraction for "little" is li'l, of course, not lil'. This incorrectly punctuated graphic passed before literally hundreds of people at Comedy Central who apparently find the show funny.

Not a single one of them caught it. Irony knows no measure these days.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Bigotry of the Journalists... and the UN

Well, there's quite a party going on in Gaza, don't you think? Fatah thrown off buildings here, shot in the head there, people cowering around the corner. Quite a show. Of course, were it the Israelis wreaking such havoc upon Fatah terrorists, the mainstream press and the UN bureaucrats would be having a field day: front-page denunciations, resolutions, calls for sanctions and boycotts. The possibilities are familiar and endless.

But because it is one group of Arab terrorists killing another, well, what do you expect from such people anyway? They are simply incapable of adhering to civilized standards of conduct, obviously, and so why waste precious ink and time on it? From the news bureaus to Turtle Bay: Let's go have a drink.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What is the South?

There are a lot of ways of distinguishing our cultural differences and especially of what has been that most distinct of areas, the South. Here is one take, dividing things up by the availability of sweet tea. Pretty cool.

(HT: Evangelical Outpost)

"a wonderful young lady..."

Apparently, out in La-La land, they have a pretty wide view of what counts as wonderful . Even if the young woman in question didn't murder her newborn child, anyone leaving a baby in a dumpster is far from "wonderful."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Strict Constructionists, The Bible, Democracy and the Natural Law

When Rudy Giuliani says his appointees will be like Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, as if they're peas in a pod, I don't think he has any idea of what he's talking about. True, they often arrive at the same place, but it's by completely different paths, as we shall see.

Scalia is certainly not the ideologue he's made out to be. He believes in a natural law and believes he can discern it, but his position is that the Court (since Erie RR v. Tompkins [304 US 64, 78 (1938)]) is not free to use its own determination of natural law to override legislation. His judicial philosophy is that we have no choice but to achieve a provisional morality (or truth, I imagine) by consensus.

This rides on a kinda Rawlsian acknowledgement of what Aquinas, et al., admitted—-that there is a natural law, but interpretations will vary. Natural law, in all their views, of course must guide legislation. Unless one believes that questions of right and wrong are not germane to how a society orders itself.

These things get abstract to the point of nonsense in a hurry, because some believe the language of "rights" or tradition supersedes right and wrong. Justice Thomas disagrees, in that he would never subordinate his moral conscience to novel but reasonable legal theories or even to stare decisis. This is why John Locke wanted to drum the Catholics out of public life, as their allegience is to something higher than man's law. Scalia, however, would be quite acceptable to Locke, as he appears to have become a "reasonable" man, and stare comes with the performance of his duties.


Surely, using the Bible as “proof” to someone who rejects it is foolish if not tautological. It certainly stands to reason to use the language of the Other while trying to sway him to your position. Natural law was rehabilitated by Catholics in the past century as a lingua franca, and is achieving increasing acceptance by other philosophically-minded Christians as well.

But on the other hand, sometimes a “reasonable” theory of law is inadequate to the task, or the locutor is. That’s why Justice Thomas boldly holds to the asserting natural law, as simple as the statement “slavery is wrong.” Many reasonable men tried to make the reasonable case against slavery over the centuries, but with only a non-foundational view of human rights (i.e., absent the endowed by their Creator part), it was a tough go.

And so, because we are all citizen-rulers in this here democracy, sometimes, joining that Rawlsian consensus that x is wrong is all that remains, regardless of whether the minority thinks the way the judgment was reached is “reasonable.” This is Scalia’s pro-democracy, non-ideological view of law. However, since the Constitution, as a social contract, permitted slavery, Scalia's legal philosophy would be powerless to overturn something like Dred Scott.

Dang. Such are the limits are reason and of law.

To illustrate, we as a society have decided that cruelty to animals is wrong, and have codified that sentiment into law. The abstract “neutral” theories of law that have been bandied about of late cannot reasonably accomodate that sentiment. A bland, neutral reading of property rights yields that animals are property that we can dispose of as we see fit and nobody can say boo.

But that is not society, it is not the law, it is not “rights,” and it’s not reality. Cruelty to animals is wrong because it’s wrong. Sometimes we cannot transcend such tautologies; words and abstractions fail us, yet we ban it anyway. And if Peter Singer and PETA can convince a sufficient number of Americans that meat is murder, so shall it be.

It is often proposed that the Bible must be left at the door when we decide how we should legislate. But it must be noted here that Christians believe revelation is real. If the Constitution is truly neutral on religion, it must be agnostic, not atheistic. If one votes in this here democracy that x is wrong because God said so, that will have to do. Agnosticism must leave the room to answer, maybe He did.

On this, Scalia and Thomas would agree, but for very different reasons. They are not pod people. I find Rudy to be a thorough Lockean; he should adore Scalia, but Thomas should scare the bejesus out of him. Once you get into questions of right or wrong, the sky's the limit.

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