Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pope John Paul II

My wife and I watched the made-for-television movie about Pope John Paul II. It was not bad at all for a made for TV film. As far as I could tell, it was not only historically accurate, it contained a lot of true to life actual events--i.e. the film is actually a good source of information about the pope. The only criticism I have is that the death of his mother then brother then father, from what I understand, made perhaps a bigger impression on him than anything else in his life, but the film doesn't really go there other than portraying sadness at his father's death. Also, there is a quasi-romance in the movie that I don't think ever actually happened.

It did an excellent job of showing his love of Poland. It also hit on his strong beliefs in controversial areas--of course I agree with him on all those areas!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's a Wonderful Life: Support a Mom and Pop's this Christmas

Somebody somewhere said that It's a Wonderful Life and The Wizard of Oz were opposites with the former being a pro-capitalist film and the latter being anti-capitalist.

I think that It's a Wonderful Life makes for an anti-capitalist cautionary tale. The way things are with George Bailey never having existed is the world Capitalism creates. Of course, whether you agree with me may depend on your definition of Capitalism.

"All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." --Edmund Burke

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Summa

The real world has been kicking my butt keeping me busy, so I haven't had much time for blogging.

As I said before, reading the Summa have been a long time brewing. I bought the 5-volume set about a year or so ago, but I have had Timothy McDermott’s “Concise Translation” for about ten years. If you don’t know already, the full text of the Summa is on the net. I have to tell you, McDermott’s translation makes it a lot more accessible. If you went through the Summa and condensed each article to a paragraph cutting out the “Objection 1….Objection 2…. On the contrary…I answer than…” format and summarizing it as a good student of philosophy would do and cutting out technical terms as much as possible, at the end, you would have McDermott’s Concise Translation. It is marked such that you can easily refer to the full text if you want to see the objections and responses etc, but if you want to cut to the chase, you have McDermott’s translation.

It still requires some straining of the brain, but it makes it much easier for the Peeping Thomist. It is well over my head, but I’m trying to practice what Mortimer J. Adler prescribes: “You do not understand the book perfectly. Let us even assume—what unhappily is not always true—that you understand enough to know that you do not understand it all. You know the book has more to say than you understand and hence that it contains something that can increase your understanding. [Doing the job of reading] is done in only one way. Without external help of an sort, you go to work on the book. With nothing but the power of your own mind, you operate on the symbols before you in such a way that you gradually lift yourself from a state of understanding less to one of understanding more. Such elevation, accomplished by the mind working on a book, is highly skilled reading, the kind of reading that a book which challenges your understanding deserves.”

Like I said, I’m trying. I have no guilt about consulting the glossary in Peter Kreeft’s Shorter Summa and the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy to make sure I understand the symbols. Anyway, all that being said, although I could have easily thrown in the towel already as in the first 90 pages (fifty-something pages of the translator/editor’s introduction and fourty-something pages of the Summa) I found multiple occasions to feel stupid, I keep going. I have four things to say to anyone thinking about reading the Summa: 1) You won’t feel any more stupid than I do reading it, 2) I recommend this translation as a starter—this coming from one who has made multiple attempts at reading the Summa—as it is doable 3) the moments of feeling stupid are balanced with moments when something else makes sense and provides a deeper understanding about something you’ve thought about before, and 4) This book like few others is worth the effort.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

If God is Good......?

Rodak, Paul, Dick, (Just noticed he wasn't on my blogroll) and I have been having a most enjoyable conversation regarding the problem of evil. What is nice is that we have been having a rational exchange of ideas. Although we do not always agree, our minds meet and grasp one another's arguments. I love it! The latest question is the following, posed by Rodak:

"If God is all-good and all-knowing, how can evil exist in a world He created?"

Here is my answer:

We know happens one moment at a time as they occur. Got knows things all at once because he is outside of time. To know something happened, will happen, oris happening, is not to make it happen. I know what happened on September 11, 2001. Does that mean I caused it?

Imagine that I have a time machine and can travel into the future. Imagine also that (as happens in every story involving time travel) time stops when I travel. If I travel all through the future and make video tapes of everything that happens in every place for the rest of time and I create a collection of videos in the present. I know everything that is going to happen and can access any video to see what is going to happen in the future. Do I now control the future—or just know it in advance?

I have gotten to know my friend very well. I have learned how he “ticks,” if you will. When something happens, I know how he will act. He has a girlfriend and I know that he is going to break up with her in the next couple weeks, although he does not. I know that another friend sent him an e-mail which he has not read yet, but when he reads it I know exactly what he is going to do: he is going to fly in to a fit of rage and is going to send a nasty e-mail back. Am I making him break up with his girlfriend? Am I making him write a mean e-mail?

I know that America is going to suffer an economic decline and is going to decline in power and military strength. This knowledge is based on my study of world history and international political trends. Do I control the American economy? Do I control American power?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

How Should We Improve Our Minds?

How does a person best go about improving his mind? That has been on my mind a lot lately. There is so much to know, and so much we need to know, yet so little time. Since everyone in the U.S. is entitled to an education, education is under valued (like the right to vote), and it is dumbed down so that everyone can be crammed through the system regardless of whether their interests and abilities lean toward academics or toward a trade or something else.

But even without a deficient educational system, if we are to have a government by, for and of the people there has to be an informed citizenry. They need have a knowledge of history, philosophy, the social sciences, economics, religion etc. In a truly ideal world everyone would be educated. That exists only in Utopia. But the author of Utopia, who was a practical man, often said, what you can’t make perfect, make as little imperfect as possible. In a somewhat less ideal world there would be at least a few good people who would look out for the others. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in either.

Maybe it’s just our country: we’re all rich by world standards, over weight, we have pill for everything, maybe we think we don’t need our fellow man’s help so we don’t help him; we don’t need the quid pro quo thing so we just look out for ourselves. And because we are rich and fat, and powerful we forget about how our grandfathers worked in the fields and in factories and felt they were doing well if their family didn’t starve to death, and our 6x great grandfather had to come over the mountain and meet the British before the British came over the mountain and raped their wives. Anyway, we are pretty apathetic at this point. So I guess more encouraging that St. Thomas More’s admonition is the one from Mother Theresa: “God doesn’t call me to be successful; he calls me to be faithful.”

But where to start and what course to follow? That has been irking me for a while. Part of me says to recall what St. Augustine said, “We learn better in a free spirit of curiosity than under fear and compulsion.” Part of me says I need to read about things I don’t want to read about like American Foreign Policy and Bioethics, and I need to learn how to best approach such complex issues, not from my gut but to find the right way whether my gut agrees or not. And there are times when a person needs to keep studying a subject even when it becomes tedious
Well, I think I have begun to find some answers….for me. First, I think I learn better in a discussion or debate. For one, sometimes we don’t appreciate an idea unless we have something to compare it to. I think this is one of the reasons that converts whether they be to Capitalism, or communism or to a religion, tend to have so much zeal: because they have seen both sides and struggled through from one to the other. Second, if a person challenges my faith (be it religious of political) it forces me to learn my faith, and to see the gaps in my belief that need to be bridged. As it happens, I started blogging to find people who were interested in discussing the same books and ideas. I’ve met some great people so far.

Second, and this has been a long time coming (over ten years), I’ve decided to read the Summa Theologica. Well, I’m reading a concise translation. Timothy McDermott translated the Summa and reformatted it into a more normal flow of writing than the “Objection 1….Objection 2…. On the contrary…I answer than…” format. It contains the all the meat and cuts out only things that are of only historical interest. I solemnly swear that I will read it once. It’s only 600 pages (In Aquinas’ format it is 3,000 pages). I ought to read it 3-5 times, but we’ll see. It’s not that I don’t want to read the Summa, it’s just that I really have to stretch my brain to follow it.

But the Summa is only half of the story. I am thinking I want to follow what might be called the “Jazz” method of self-improvement. I don’t know if this applies to all Jazz. In fact, what I’m thinking about may actually be better described as Boogie—anyway, on the piano, the left hand plays a steady tune while the right hand goes crazy. With part of my time, the mornings, I’ll try to engage in more steady, determined reading, while in the other part, the evenings, I’ll read whatever piques my interest: worldview, natural law, bioethics foreign policy, something someone tells me I ought to read.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Is X wrong just because God says so?

This is a continuation of the discussion from the previous post, "Is God Evil?"

There is a lot to discuss under this question. It seems to me that it is a good idea to take things one step at a time and focus first on where right is right and wrong is wrong simply because God says this is right and that is wrong (a.k.a. "The Divine Command Theory").

In discussing this question, Rodak has touched on a number of important points, all of which I would like to discuss. The topic of God's omniscience seems to be a favorite under the previous post, so under the comments to this post I hope to discuss The Divine Command Theory further.

As of uploading this post I am still getting a grip on Rodak's thinking. Rodak asked me to play Socrates. I must say, I'm feeling an awful lot like Socrates must have felt when he talked to Euthyphro--if we take his words at face value. Nevertheless Rodak, unlike Euthyphro, has thought through what he says.

Let me start with this statement of Rodak in response to my question "You say a thing is right because it is good. So then, you would say that God says that Y is immoral because it is immoral?"

"I would say that any act involving a moral choice (i.e. not undertaken out of necessity) is moral if motivated by truth, goodness, and love, all of which are aspects of the One, which alone is Good."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is God Evil?

Recently while in a thread at The Dawn Treader we got into a discussion about the problem of evil. I wanted to discuss the issue further but as it wouldn't be nice to start my own off-topic discussion on someone else's blog, I invited my friend Paul to come discuss it here. Here is a synopsis of our discussion:

Paul said: God commanded everything to happen, down to the smallest beat of a fly's wings; being omnipotent, omniscient, and outside time, he could not do otherwise. Hence, you would say, everything is good?

Civis said: When you say “God commanded everything to happen, down to the smallest beat of a fly's wings; being omnipotent, omniscient, and outside time, he could not do otherwise. Hence, you would say, everything is good?” surely you don’t mean that. Do you believe that God commanded the Holocaust? Millions of babies being aborted? The starvation of 11 million people in the Ukraine? Divorce? Fornication? Child molestation?

Paul said: Civis - yes, I mean exactly that, and I don't understand how it is logically possible to think otherwise. If I set a go-cart rolling down a hill, and can see that it's heading towards a car, you would rightly think that I'd meant it to hit that car - if I didn't I could have pointed it in a different direction.

Civis said: If I am showing my son how to ride a bike, at some point I have to stop holding him up. I have to give him a push and let him peddle and balance on his own. When I do this, I know that he is going to fall. He is going to fall a lot. He’ll get cut and bruised. He could even get hit by a car. Does this mean that I want him to fall or get hurt on his bike? No. I would rather that he not hurt himself. I do not directly will for him to get hurt. On the other hand, I want him to be a normal little boy and grow up to be a healthy man, so I permit him the freedom to ride his bike and allow him to be hurt from time to time. I permit it, though I would prefer that it not happen.

Alternatively, I could protect my son from all harm by keeping him in a padded bomb shelter and not let him do anything. I wouldn’t even let him read books because he could get a paper cut, and die of an infection. I also would not let him have any friends, because they would carry germs. The problem with this second plan is that if I followed it, my son would be something a great deal less than what I want him to be: a healthy adult.

I would say that God does not directly will bad things. I would say that he “permits” it. I think I have heard this referred to as his “permissive will.”

Paul said: the flaw in your analogy is that you don't make the 'rules' of cycling. A more appropriate version would be if you were teaching your son chess, and every time he made an illegal rule you stabbed him in the arm. That, as far as I know, would be a rule unique to you. Having settled on that, I don't think you could retain the excuse that you don't really want him to get hurt - you made the rules, knowing that he would fall afoul of them.

Civis said: Paul, it seems to me that you are confusing an arbitrary rule with a natural consequence.

Things work better when they act or are used according to their nature. Let me use another example to illustrate: I make a glass figurine and give it to my son. The purpose of this figurine is to be looked at for its beauty. My son wants to hang a picture in his room but can’t find a hammer. He then decides to use the figurine to drive the nail and it shatters into shards and cuts him. His cut is a natural consequence of the misuse of something.

If God wants to give us free will (for whatever reason), a part of that free will must be the freedom to misuse things and this causes pain. Just because you give someone freedom to make choices, does not mean you desire the choice the person makes or desire the consequences.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sunday Editorial (From Viewpoint)

I was invited to join a number of non-journalists in the York area who will be submitting columns to the local Sunday paper over the next year. My first contribution is on the Iraq war and borrowed from a post I had written some time ago for Viewpoint. It appeared in yesterday's paper:

Feb 11, 2007 - President Bush has taken much criticism, some of it deserved, for the way the post-war has played out in Iraq. Disillusionment with the Iraqis and the rules under which we operate there has led many to favor bringing our troops home as soon as logistically possible. The day may come when we decide to do that, but before the American public signs on to such a step we should understand clearly what withdrawal will entail.

One need not be a military expert to anticipate that the aftermath of an American pullout would likely include at least these seven consequences:

1. Sunni and Shia would be at each others' throats in a desperate civil war for political dominance. It would be a fight for survival because whoever prevails would surely oppress, if not utterly eliminate, the loser.

2. Iran would move into Iraq on behalf of the Shia and to settle old scores with the Iraqi Sunnis dating back to the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. They would doubtless annex the oil fields in the south. Meanwhile, pressure would mount on Sunni nations like Egypt and Saudi Arabia to come to the aid of their beleaguered brethren. Turkey would take advantage of the chaos to settle their chronic Kurdish problem by invading northern Iraq. Syria would be sorely tempted to grab some oil fields wherever it could. Iraq would get carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey among its neighbors and would be almost completely helpless to prevent it.

3. Al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations would exploit Iraq's weakness to establish training areas and safe havens in the country from which to launch terrorist attacks around the world.

4. Anyone who had collaborated with or cooperated with the coalition would be marked for torture and death by insurgent forces. This could amount to perhaps hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Iraqis.

5. The chaos of war and the rape of the country's resources would result in severe shortages of food, water, medical care, sanitation and electricity. Refugees would flood into neighboring states and subsist in squalid camps. Perhaps millions of Iraqis would starve or perish from disease if these conditions persisted more than a few months.

6. The United States would be thoroughly discredited and blamed for the misery and strife in Iraq because of our retreat. No nation would ever trust us again to honor a commitment. Pressure from their people would cause governments in Kuwait, Oman and Qatar to insist we abandon our bases there. Other Muslim nations, like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia, seeing that we are undependable partners in the war on terror, would ratchet back their cooperation. As the last American helicopter flees Baghdad, every Arab nation with enough money will begin looking for nuclear weapons to protect themselves from the Iranians. Nations like Libya, which had given up the quest for nuclear weapons, would feel safe to resume it.

7. Our lack of credibility in the region would embolden Israel's neighbors to settle the "Zionist problem" once and for all. Once we start pulling out of the Middle East, it would be psychologically impossible to reverse course and go back in. The enemies of Israel would see our withdrawal as presenting them with a golden opportunity to wipe Israel from the Earth, and the Israelis would probably resort to nuclear weapons to keep that from happening.
It may be, of course, that none of these things would occur. It may be that in the vacuum created by our absence the Shia and Sunni would turn their swords into plowshares and live amicably with each other.

It may be that other nations would not be at all tempted to grab what they can of Iraq's oil wealth.

It may be that al-Qaida feels content in the hills of Pakistan and wouldn't move in force into Iraq.

It may be that the insurgents would forgive and forget the collaboration of their fellow Iraqis with the infidels.

It may be that Israel's Arab neighbors would feel sorry for Israel in its isolated and vulnerable state and offer to make peace instead of war.

And it may be that the Second Coming will be tomorrow, but all of our experience tells us it probably won't be, and it is our experience which should inform our judgments and policies, especially our foreign policy.

The status quo in Iraq is certainly not acceptable, and we may soon decide that we've done enough there, but, if so, let us not delude ourselves by thinking we are doing something noble or moral by withdrawing. A premature exit would consign hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Iraqis to almost certain death and would earn us the contempt of history for our betrayal.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mounting Fears of Assyrian Genocide in Iraq

(AINA) -- According to Assyrian Christian leaders in Iraq the future existence of Iraq's dwindling Christian population hangs in the balance as violence continues unabated. Moreover, direct blame has been leveled at Iraqi governmental as well as Coalition forces' inaction in the face of mounting attacks against Christian population centers.

Read the full story.

Friday, September 21, 2007


My friend Dick is a supporter of the war in Iraq. He asked me to take a look at an article he wrote for his local paper (see "Sunday Editorial"). It seems like in the past when I have discussed Iraq with people we have been all over the place and trying to discuss too many things at one time, so I think I'll comment on just one of his comments at a time so that we can discuss them better.

First a preliminary question and an aside.

Question: Dick, maybe you could share with everyone why you were asked to write this and what your qualifications are to comment on this subject.

Aside: I heard a sound bite from Joseph Liberman yesterday that is a good example of the DoubleSpeak of the Chickenhawks. A measure that would have required the military to allow soldiers to have more time in garrison between deployments was defeated. Joe Liberman, praising the defeat of the measure said that he voted against it to "allow our men to keep fighting the war on terror." Bill Mauldin would have a field day. I'm sure there there are thousands of GI's who forgot what their kids look like who are much appreciative!

But now for what Dick said:

"One need not be a military expert to anticipate that the aftermath of an American pullout would likely include at least these seven consequences: 1. Sunni and Shia would be at each others' throats in a desperate civil war for political dominance. It would be a fight for survival because whoever prevails would surely oppress, if not utterly eliminate, the loser."

My Comments:

1) Did you say "would be"?

2) It is amazing how supporters of this ill-thought-out preemptive war against someone who never attacked us and had no plans, ability or desire to attack us, use the mess that the invasion has created as an excuse for continuing our occupation.

3) a) No government we leave behind will remain in existence, so this is the result no matter how long we stay and nurse it b) It is not possible for us to keep order in Iraq. What you suggest is that we do what no Army in Human history has done for the rest of human history

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Disconnect

What I originally planned for this post was a recap of my questions on worldview, what I have been thinking and where I stand right now with each question. But this turned into ten pages of disjointed ramblings (my wife says this is too much for a blog, that when she started reading it, she got depressed), so I decided maybe it would be best to do one question at a time. I think may be able to break my 10 pages of rambles into about seven posts.

At any rate, I have been picking everyone else’s brain for so long, I thought maybe it was time I shared some of my thoughts.

It started with the following passage from How Should We Then Live:

“People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By Presuppositions we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic worldview, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People’s presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth in the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions.”

QUESTION 1 [“The Disconnect”]: If we assume that what Schaeffer said above is true, why do we so often see such a disconnect between what people say and the way they actually think and live? All of the following are explanations of the disconnect depending on the circumstances, but only some of them are correct when/if Schaeffer is correct on this point.

I have come up with several answers/reasons:

ONE POSSIBILITY: Schaeffer is wrong.

PSEUDO ANSWER 1 (“Hypocrisy”): The first and most obvious reason, one that several people have suggested, for the disconnect is hypocrisy. What Schaeffer says is that people do act consistently with their worldview. So this cannot be an answer if we are assuming that Schaeffer is right, but would mean Schaeffer is wrong.

PSEUDO ANSWER 2 (“It’s difficult”): Living a moral life is hard; through human weakness we fail to live up to our worldview. This is my neighbor’s explanation and is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, it would seem that the correct worldview would be the best life. It is my belief that God does not simply make up rules, but rather the moral law is a road map for the best life. A thing is wrong/a sin because it hurts us. So I wonder about whether the moral life is really hard, or whether perhaps it isn’t easier than an immoral life. Or maybe the life that cuts corners is easier only in appearance.

Second, I wonder if some worldviews aren’t impossible to live, including what might pass for a Christian worldview, and I wonder if it isn’t sometimes a blessing that some do not live their worldviews consistently. Aren’t there certain things we believe we should do or certain ways we believe we should act, which if laid down as an absolute rule would lead to inhuman and ridiculous results?

Nevertheless, this answer won’t work if we are assuming that Schaeffer is correct, but would mean that Schaeffer is incorrect, since Schaeffer says that in fact people do live in accord with their worldview.

ANSWER 1: (“Fragmentation”): Many people hold fragmented worldview that are pieced together from more than one of the worldviews Sire describes. This answer was suggested by Ron at Universitas Veritas and by David at The Bird Proofer.

ANSWER 2 (“Out of touch”): One’s true worldview may not be what he thinks it is. This answer has been suggested by several people, and is what I read Schaeffer to imply. This happens to be the answer that intrigues me the most and leads to another question, one that will be discussed in a later post.

ANSWER 3 (“Façade”): Sometimes consciously, most of the time subconsciously, a person’s professed worldview is a façade. This is related to Answer 2 (the true worldview is something other than the professed worldview) and Pseudo Answer 1 (it is something like hypocrisy, but I would say it is hypocritical only when it is conscious). There are two ways that this happens that I can think of right now.

The first is the search for identity and meaning in life. We see this especially in youth. In High School we might find identity in being a “skater” or “head banger” or “good ole boy” or a hell raiser. In college we may go through stages where we see ourselves as “a writer” or “a businessman” or whatever (and change our major accordingly). I guess this is due to insecurity. Sometimes we aren’t satisfied with being an ordinary human being, so we look for some label. I think this type of façade is temporary. Maybe we could say it is part of growing up: you have to “find yourself.”

The second reason for a façade is to hide something, like a deeper insecurity or guilt. A person may try to find meaning by being a “philosopher” and may hide their insecurities and their feelings of inadequacy behind their ability to parrot some philosopher or dazzle people with their clever arguments. A person who wants to be better than the next guy, but who is not the best looking, doesn’t have money and isn’t very popular, might resort to trying to be the “better man” and turn to Christianity or Marxism or Atheism or environmentalism or feminism as a means to feel better or more on the ball than everyone else. So also, person who has problems with the moral teachings of the Church, may list theological reasons for having left it.

Just a reminder and a little plug for other blogs who discuss worldview, you can check out the discussion that has taken place at Universitas Veritas, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (note the link "Next" at the bottom), Blah Blah Blah, and Confessions of a Seminarian. In Confessions of a Seminarian see "Dear Legalism", "Extreme Apologetic Approaches" and "Apologetic Approaches".

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Misspent Energy

Someone I've been chatting with said "Your creation story will largely determine the direction of your worldview." Most Evangelicals and Fundamentalists would probably agree with this, but I don't think that it necessarily or even very often affects a person's worldview. I personally don't see that evolution makes a whole lot of sense and I can't really see how anyone could buy into it, but if I belived in evolution my worldview would not change one bit. Further, I don't think that most people who believe in evolution see it as a reason to doubt thier faith.

Another issue that I think gets an inordinant amount of attenton is prayer in school. Kids should be allowed to express thier beliefs, and their freedom of religion should not be infinged, and when it is, I think the affected person should sue for an injuction, but do we really think that our society is going to turned around by changing the government's approach to prayer in school?

I think if we want to make a difference in our society, there are plenty of other areas where our time would be better spent. I think these two areas get more attention than they deserve.

There is an old saying "You have to pick your battles." Is it fitting to spend so much energy on these two issues when we are engaging in preemptive war overseas, mass killing of infants and the elderly and sick here at home, and most everything we buy is made by slave labor in an oppressive communist country with one of the worst records of human rights violations?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Diving into Worldview Studies

In my odyssey into "worldview studies" I’m finally diving into The Universe Next Door by James Sire.

I have a couple questions for discussion. Some of these questions are specifically about the book, but others are more general. Even if you haven't read the book, I'm interested in your opinion:

1) What is the purpose of studying worldviews? What should I look to get out of it?
2) Sire says, “The gap left by the loss of a center to life is like a chasm in the heart of a child whose father has died. How those who no longer believe in God wish that something could fill the void.” But people who share Sire’s worldview have the same void. In fact, I think it would not be a stretch to say that people who share Sire’s worldview generally have a greater void than atheists and agnostics.
3) Does anybody know what Sire means by saying that man is “self transcendent”?
4) Is it true what Schaeffer and Sire say, that "the world" has no moral absolutes?
5) On the eighth page of Chapter 2 [middle of page 28 in the 3rd edition] Sire says “[W]e participate in part in a transcendence over our environment. Except at the very extremes of existence…a person is not forced to any necessary reaction.” This is a statement against determinism and in support of free will [the question of free will is a “family dispute”]. Even if you believe in free will (which I do), do you think he overstates the point? Are our reactions really so radically free? Aren’t there a number of things that inhibit our free will?
6) Does Sire say that good is good because God says it is good or says it is good because it is good or neither? I’m not real sure how Sire comes down on this. This is something important to answer because it would have a huge impact on one’s worldview. Just reading what he says, it would appear that he thinks good is good because God says so, which is problematic.
7) Is it possible that there may be less of a difference between someone with a Catholic worldview and someone with a materialistic worldview than between a Catholic and one who believes in Sola Fide and predestination?
8) To take another example, it seems clear to me that there will be a greater difference in the way we live between those who do or do not believe in free will and someone who does not than between someone who believes in linear as opposed to cyclical time.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Buy Low, Divorce High.

“After home prices rise, unhappy couples realize they can afford to split.” This was the subtitle of one of the two top stories on page 1 of the New York Times “SundayLifestyles” section, the “little-noted side effect of the property boom of the past decade [is the] real-estate-enabled divorce.” According to the article, “A spouse who has not worked…might decide that with a divorce settlement enriched by real estate, it is possible to maintain a comfortable standard of living. Or a breadwinning spouse might recognize that even after dividing community property, it will be possible to live well as a single person.”

Now, you are expecting me to bemoan the banality of America’s views of divorce, after all, this is a vow people have taken, most of them before God almighty. But I’m not. I like this article. It’s down to earth. It’s real. Divorce is expensive. Not only does it increase the number of violent crimes, drug use, unwed mothers (not among former spouses, but their children), it is the numero uno cause of poverty in America (ahead of race, lack of education etc.). The divorce itself is often cheap—under $500 depending on where you live—but the after effects, if not the litigation and settlement, are financially crippling. Next time you hear about how hard it is for a two-income family to make ends meet, double their expenses. That’s what divorce means. Two houses, two electric bills, two of everything instead of one.

And who pays for this when it drives someone below the poverty line? We the taxpayers. Historically, the fact that the Government has to foot the bill for so many things has been an excuse to regulate things closely. I say we model regulation of marriage after our regulation of smoking. The cost of caring for smokers is leading us to a smoking ban. And, we had a “War on Poverty”—or do we still have it? (I can’t keep up with all the wars we declare). But anyway, let’s win the war on poverty. Here’s the plan: we begin with heavy taxes. The tobacco in a pack of cigarettes costs $.25 and then there is about $4.75 in taxes. That takes the cost of the tobacco and multiplies it by 20. We’ll do the same with divorce. $500 times 20 equals $100,000. While, like the tax on tobacco, this bit of regulation will not compensate for the financial burden divorcees will put on society, it will save us millions since it will be a significant deterrent. Then we’ll work our way to a ban.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Do We Live What We Think?

Last night my neighbor came over and we decided to start reading How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. One of my sisters may read along too, though she is in about 47 book clubs herself right now.

Anyway, I don't have the book in front of me, so I can't quote his language, but he said that people's lives are driven by their world view and their preconceptions about the world to an extent even they do not realize. He said that we act according to the way we think both personally and collectively ("politically").

Here is my thorny question: if this is true, why is it that people's actions so often do not match their words? I'm inclined to think that the author is correct. The book of Proverbs says "As a man thinks in his heart so is he." But why is there such a disconnect between words and actions if this is true? Are the things we say just a bunch of empty platitudes that we don't really mean? It seems we say things, and we mean them, but then we often do not act accordingly. Could it be that we often are unaware of our own preconceptions/world views? To quote another scripture that might appear to contradict the proverb, St. Paul talked about the war within his flesh etc. and said "what I want to do I do not do, and what I do not want to do I do."

Are the contradictions only in my head? Am I confusing things? Have I missed the author's true intent?

This is the book:

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Quote of the Day

"All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." --Edmund Burke

Okay, book switch. Confero, Qualitas and myself decided Imperial Hubris would be a better book to read. So as soon as they get their copies we'll start.

A response to Aquila is forthcoming.

Monday, August 6, 2007

A Penny for Your Thoughts


Below is an excerpt from a Speech by John C. Calhoun. Based on the following argument, he draws a conclusion that I would disagree with (and have edited out), but I think the speech could make for an interesting conversation:

If he should possess a philosophical turn of mind, and be disposed to look to more remote and recondite causes, he will trace it to a proposition which originated in a hypothetical truism, but which, as now expressed and now understood, is the most false and dangerous of all political errors. The proposition to which I allude, has become an axiom in the minds of a vast majority on both sides of the Atlantic, and is repeated daily from tongue to tongue, as an established and incontrovertible truth; it is that "all men are born free and equal." [Quoted from the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.—TGW] I am not afraid to attack error, however deeply it may be entrenched, or however widely extended, whenever it becomes my duty to do so, as I believe it to be on this subject and occasion.

Taking the proposition literally (it is in that sense it is understood), there is not a word of truth in it. It begins with "all men are born," which is utterly untrue. Men are not born. Infants are born. They grow to be men. And concludes with asserting that they are born "free and equal," which is not less false. They are not born free. While infants they are incapable of freedom, being destitute alike of the capacity of thinking and acting, without which there can be no freedom. Besides, they are necessarily born subject to their parents and remain so among all people, savage and civilized until the development of their intellect and physical capacity enables them to take care of themselves. They grow to all the freedom of which the condition in which they were born permits, by growing to be men. Nor is it less false that they are born "equal." They are not so in any sense in which it can be regarded; and thus, as I have asserted, there is not a word of truth in the whole proposition, as expressed and generally understood.

If we trace it back, we shall find the proposition (that "all men are born free and equal") differently expressed in the Declaration of Independence. That asserts that "all men are created equal." The form of expression, though less dangerous, is not less erroneous. All men are not created. According to the Bible, only two, a man and a woman, ever were, and of these one was pronounced subordinate to the other. All others have come into the world by being born, and in no sense, as I have shown, either free or equal. But this form of expression being less striking and popular has given way to the present, and under the authority of a document put forth on so great an occasion, and leading to such important consequences, has spread far and wide, and fixed itself deeply in the public mind. It was inserted in our Declaration of Independence without any necessity. It made no necessary part of our justification in separating from the parent country, and declaring ourselves independent. Breach of our chartered privileges, and lawless encroachment on our acknowledged and well-established rights by the parent country, were the real causes, and of themselves sufficient, without resorting to any other, to justify the step. Nor had it any weight in constructing the governments which were substituted in the place of the colonial. They were formed of the old materials and on practical and well-established principles, borrowed for the most part from our own experience and that of the country from which we sprang.

If the proposition be traced still further back it will be found to have been adopted from certain writers in government who had attained much celebrity in the early settlement of these States, and with whose writings all the prominent actors in our revolution were familiar. Among these, Locke and [Algernon] Sidney were prominent. But they expressed it very differently. According to their expression, "all men in the state of nature were free and equal." From this the others were derived; and it was this to which I referred when I called it a hypothetical truism. To understand why, will require some explanation.

Man, for the purpose of reasoning, may be regarded in three different states: in a state of individuality; that is, living by himself apart from the rest of his species. In the social; that is, living in society, associated with others of his species. And in the political; that is, being under government. We may reason as to what would be his rights and duties in either, without taking into consideration whether he could exist in it or not. It is certain, that in the first, the very supposition that he lived apart and separated from all others, would make him free and equal. No one in such a state could have the right to command or control another. Every man would be his own master, and might do just as he pleased. But it is equally clear, that man cannot exist in such a state; that he is by nature social, and that society is necessary, not only to the proper development of all his faculties, moral and intellectual, but to the very existence of his race. Such being the case, the state is a purely hypothetical one; and when we say all men are free and equal in it, we announce a mere hypothetical truism; that is, a truism resting on a mere supposition that cannot exist, and of course one of little or no practical value….

But to call it a state of nature was a great misnomer, and has led to dangerous errors; for that cannot justly be called a state of nature which is so opposed to the constitution of man as to be inconsistent with the existence of his race and the development of the high faculties, mental and moral, with which he is endowed by his Creator.

Nor is the social state of itself his natural state; for society can no more exist without government, in one form or another, than man without society. It is the political, then, which includes the social, that is his natural state. It is the one for which his Creator formed him, into which he is impelled irresistibly, and in which only his race can exist and all its faculties be fully developed.

Such being the case, it follows that any, the worst form of government, is better than anarchy; and that individual liberty, or freedom, must be subordinate to whatever power may be necessary to protect society against anarchy within or destruction from without; for the safety and well-being of society is as paramount to individual liberty, as the safety and well-being of the race is to that of individuals; and in the same proportion, the power necessary for the safety of society is paramount to individual liberty. On the contrary, government has no right to control individual liberty beyond what is necessary to the safety and well-being of society. Such is the boundary which separates the power of government and the liberty of the citizen or subject in the political state, which, as I have shown, is the natural state of man—the only one in which his race can exist, and the one in which he is born, lives, and dies.

It follows from this that all the quantum of power on the part of the government, and of liberty on that of individuals, instead of being equal in all cases, must necessarily be very unequal among different people, according to their different conditions. For just in proportion as a people are ignorant, stupid, debased, corrupt, exposed to violence within and danger from without, the power necessary for government to possess, in order to preserve society against anarchy and destruction becomes greater and greater, and individual liberty less and less, until the lowest condition is reached, when absolute and despotic power becomes necessary on the part of government, and individual liberty extinct. So, on the contrary, just as a people rise in the scale of intelligence, virtue, and patriotism, and the more perfectly they become acquainted with the nature of government, the ends for which it was ordered, and how it ought to be administered, and the less the tendency to violence and disorder within, and danger from abroad, the power necessary for government becomes less and less, and individual liberty greater and greater. Instead, then, of all men having the same right to liberty and equality, as is claimed by those who hold that they are all born free and equal, liberty is the noble and highest reward bestowed on mental and moral development, combined with favorable circumstances. Instead, then, of liberty and equality being born with man; instead of all men and all classes and descriptions being equally entitled to them, they are prizes to be won, and are in their most perfect state, not only the highest reward that can be bestowed on our race, but the most difficult to be won—and when won, the most difficult to be preserved.

They have been made vastly more so by the dangerous error I have attempted to expose, that all men are born free and equal, as if those high qualities belonged to man without effort to acquire them, and to all equally alike, regardless of their intellectual and moral condition. The attempt to carry into practice this, the most dangerous of all political error, and to bestow on all, without regard to their fitness either to acquire or maintain liberty, that unbounded and individual liberty supposed to belong to man in the hypothetical and misnamed state of nature, has done more to retard the cause of liberty and civilization, and is doing more at present, than all other causes combined. While it is powerful to pull down governments, it is still more powerful to prevent their construction on proper principles. It is the leading cause among those…which have been overthrown, threatening thereby the quarter of the globe most advanced in progress and civilization with hopeless anarchy, to be followed by military despotism. Nor are we exempt from its disorganizing effects. We now begin to experience the danger of admitting so great an error to have a place in the declaration of our independence. For a long time it lay dormant; but in the process of time it began to germinate, and produce its poisonous fruits. It had strong hold on the mind of Mr. Jefferson, the author of that document.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Prologue to Blowback

An interesting bio covering Mr. Johnson's career studying "Far East" countries. His comment on Japan's unique form of democracy-military, industrial, university complex is very interesting and hopefully he will go into depth about this topic.

On a down note, his information jumped back and forth between China and Japan unexpectedly and without reason. Secondly, he makes statements without justification. For example, on pg. xiv he states he was "appalled by our government's policy of 'sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem.'" His basis is his research in "guerrilla war, revolutionary politics, and foreign armies." Is his knowledge based on Vietnam or just China and Japan given they have different histories than Vietnam. Another confusing statement is his suggestion that research is not as accurrate as the Vietnam War protestors intuition about our government(same page). How can he undermind his own credibility and then present himself as an authoritarian on the subject? (NOTE: He cites himself which is a bit of a problem for me.)

I look forward to reading his book about the Far East's government, culture, and economics.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Order your Copy

We will start reading Blowback (and I'll be back from hiatus) the last week of this month.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Look below

Well, I did not notice till this weekend that Confero posted on THE CUBE. Please see his questions below.

RE the proofs Confero requested from me: I have some notes, but I'm going to need to to chill for a couple weeks as I prepare for a test. I'll return to the Iraq discussion towards the end of this month. Hopefully by that time Confero will also have responses to my requests for support. Whether you side with him or me, we all think that the fate of the nation's security is at stake, so this is an important issue.

I will try to keep up with THE CUBE discussion though.

ANNOUNCEMENT: We have decided to read BLOWBACK, so I hope some of you will join us. You can get a copy for a couple bucks used on amazon.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


I haven't been buying in to the immigration excitment, but I'm cracking.

I was readings something lastnight by someone who is supposedly something close to THE expert on suicide terrorism (Name escapes me; the book is DYING TO WIN) and what we need to do to end terrorism. He said that whatwe are doing in Iraq is about the stupidest thing we could do to stop terror and we need to do one of two things: go back to the our old policy of "off shore" influence on the middle east, (i.e. noboots on the ground in the Middle East but troops ready rearby for rapid deployement to protect our oil interests) which we had until 1991 when we left troops in Saudi after Desert Storm.

The second option, is more difficult but better he claimed: Get away from dependence on foreign oil byd eveloping alternative energy sources such that we no longer give a crap about the Middle East. The former would make terrorism almost go away, the latter he claims, would "suck the oxygen out of the air terrorists breath."

But either plan, he argued, depended on securing our borders.

I'm pondering all of this.

Friday, June 29, 2007



Anyone who would like to read one of the four foreign policy books proposed previously, please voice your preference. I'm going to call my die-hard companions (Confero and Qualitas) this weekend and try to decide something so we can order through Amazon/interlibrary loan. I propose we shoot for beginning in the last week in July (i.e. spend the next three weeks on THE CUBE), unless we finish early. I don't want the reading of THE CUBE to be rushed for anyone; The less pressure we have, the more likely we can continue to educate ourselves in spite of busy lives.

I have previously described BLOWBACK. I think we all know about the 911 Commission Report (and I don't think anybody is interested plus its long--though thumbing through it, it does look like it might be good).

I've made the case for BLOWBACK, now let me make the case for IMPERIAL HUBRIS:
Like BLOWBACK, it is realtively short (263 pages). This time the author is not a foreign policy expert, but a CIA Agent, the former head of the CIA's "Bin Ladin" unit. It was orginally published anonymously ( and my copy says "anonymous") but the author has revealed himself as Michael Scheuer.

ADVANTAGES: book by someone with first hand knowledge, directly on topic for what we are discussing and what is a burning topic that needs to be decided one way or the other and should inform our decision in the upcoming election.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Do you believe in Santa Clause? Response to Confero

Made a new post because this is long, but pertains to your response to my last post.

Well, Confero, I like the spiritedness of your reply. I have to say this is stimulating.

Do you believe in Santa Clause? What if I said to someone that in deed Santa Clause is a jolly fellow; he just doesn't exist?

RE question of whether we want stability, see my discussion previously regarding our disbanding of the Iraqi army. This is too stupid to be a mistake. Even in his “March to the Sea” in which he intended to “make Georgia howl” Sherman kept the Confederate leadership in place; see also quote from Michael Ledeen/Jonah Goldberg above. Would you like further support? Let me know. It’s a question of how much time I need to spend to find the proper references, before you believe me. This is not, by the way, a moral argument. It is a suggestion that people are asking the wrong questions. I told you the answer to your moral question is “yes.”

If you doubt point three, you don’t understand the Middle East, but I’ll find support. I will admit also that Israel wants us there, obviously, and that people we put in power will want to keep the power if they can, obviously.

As for point two, it has everything to do with us leaving the region. If you believe, and apparently you do (I have my doubts), that we are trying to set up an independent government, what kind of government are we supposedly setting up? If you run over someone out in the middle of nowhere, what good does it do to give them a bicycle if they don’t know how to ride and have a broken leg?

Trust me, my sympathies lie with Iraq on this. My point, and this is a moral point, I think we have done enough damage over there. Its an old joke, but you know what the most dreaded words in the English language are? “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” I think this whole bit about how we are doing this for the good of the Iraqi people is a sham and an insult. If anybody thinks the Bush Administration gives one hoot in hell about the people of Iraq going in or now, I’m got some solar powered flashlights to sell them.

We have an obligation to see to it that the Iraqis don’t slaughter each other? Have you been watching the news? What do you think they have been doing? We have to stay there to prevent something that we can’t prevent right now?

I’m telling you, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. You didn’t comment on my exit strategy. Do you think we need to stay for the rest of time? At some point the Iraqi people have to decide what they want to do.

Really, I’m not sure I made any moral arguments in my previous post. What I’m saying is you are defending a hypothetical situation; I think we should solve the problems of the real situation. You are defending King Arthur. I don’t doubt that what you have in mind is good and right and just. I’m trying to tell you that Camelot doesn’t exist.

You have asked me to establish a few things. As a matter of fact, I don’t think there is much of anything that I haven’t backed up with hard data. Thus far I have not asked you to support anything you have said. I think there are a lot of contingencies and assumptions in what you have been saying, a bunch of “ifs” if you will. To convince me, change each “if” to an “is it true that”:

If our presence in Iraq is helping us win the war on terror.......; or
If our departure from Iraq will help Al Queda.......
If we are physically capable of carrying out he task that you suggest.....
If other middle eastern countries will be destabilized....
If we are helping the Iraqi people (long and short term).....
If we are not merely setting up puppet regime........
If democracy can take root in Iraq.....
If other countries in the middle east will accept a government we set up........; or
If a democracy that takes root can defend itself against the Arab nations.......

Why are my arguments on shaky grounds?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Cube (Chapter Three)

I don't disagree that Europe is secularized.

The third chapter of Weigel's book is a summary of Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order. To summarize his summary, "on major strategic and and International questions today, Americans are from MArs and Europeans are from Venus". Kagan p. 3. WE have different understandings of how the world works, of the "nature" and "utility" of power and this is before we get to diffrences on the Middle East. Due to its expereince of devistation from war, prominent Europeans are of the mind conviction that "secuirity threats can and should be met, in the main not by traditional applications of military 'hard power' but by the further refinement of international legal and political instruments of conflict resolution...the rule of law had replaced the crude interplay of power...power politics have lost thEIr influence." But Europe think this way only becasue the U.S. keeps the world safe.


1) The Middle East Again? Three references to Iraq in five pages. Mighty fishy.
2) That we want peace in the Middle East is questionable [see previous discussion]
3) I wonder if he counts among these "prominent Europeans" men such as Karol Wojtyła and Joseph Ratzinger who, last time I checked, are closely identified with the "culture that built the cathedral." What about Thomas More?
4) If this is the European undersatnding of power, what is America's? Peace through hegemony?
5) Is he implying we have traded the rule of law for the crude interplay of power? I'm not arguing with him--inside the U.S. or in the rest of the world--I'm just asking.
6) Does he forget we won the cold war through not going to war?
7) I see no indication that GW disagrees.

Confero's Questions

If we assume that The Invasion of Iraq was a mistake, Confero has two questions:

"ONE- Are we morally obligated to help the Iraqis establish a government since WE removed Saddam Hussein?"

Yes, however I think this is the wrong question for a couple reasons and a few comments are called for:
1) We may not be trying to establish a government. For reasons stated previously in this discussion, it appears that we have purposefully tried to ensure that Iraq remains unstable. Further, certain policy makers have indicated our aim should be instability.
2) Iraq is not prepared for our kind of government. See Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France for discussion of the preparation required for a people to govern themselves. See Plato, The Republic for discussion of how tyranny follows from collapsed democracy.
3) No country in the region nor any power within Iraq will allow any government Americans sets up to continue once we leave.
4) No independent government is being set up in Iraq, the only “government” we are setting up is one we control directly.

"TWO- If it is morally permissible to leave, how do we do this without:
A) Letting Iran set up a puppet government, such as Lebannon?
B) Guarantee that other Middle East countries will not be destabilized, since Al-Queda will view this as a victory?
C) How do you contain the Al-Queda threat, since they are growing in numbers?"

Generally: There is a 99.9% chance that there will be a bloodbath when we leave, which is part of why I am livid with the Bush Administration. When you topple a government, you create a power vacuum. We did not only this, but also disbanded their army (criminal for reasons discussed previously in this discussion). But staying does not help either: it increases recruitment for Al Queda and there iff never be peace in Iraq as long as we are there. The question could also be posed, can we stay there morally?

A: defend the border between Iraq and Iran and/or supply and back Iraq (the latter is what we did in the past). Meanwhile divide Iraq in half between Sunni and Shia. Guard the border between them for a time. Then leave and hope for the best.

B: As I mentioned above it appears we want instability over there. Second, our presence is the source of instability. Third, Our presence is a victory for Al Queda; it’s exactly what they want. They and the Neocons want a fight.

C: basically the same comments as B. We are their best recruiters. The best way to prevent the growth of Al Queda? Follow our founders’ advice and stay out of foreign wars.

Chapter Three: Martians and Venusians?

Weigel devouts an entire chapter to Robert Kagan's examination of the differences between Europe and the U.S. in terms of the use of "Hard Power" and "Soft Power." His premise is that Europe has been devasted by two wold wars thus causing them to have "a different set of perceptions about the threats to peace and freedom..." He underscores Europe's soft power, which is the "further refinement of international legal and political instruments of conflict resolution" approach by suggesting that it can only be soft under the umbrella of the United State's "hard power" protection.

Weigel, in my opinion, fails to clarify Europe's approach to terrorism. In other words, why do they have military stationed at airports in various parts of Europe? Why do they even have a military if they are so focused on "soft power"? Also, he does not clarify the U.S. approach to terrorism such as our negotiations with other countries in trying to deal with North Korea and our current relationship with European countries in the fight against terrorism. He bases everything on our use of force against Iraq, a one time event which is debatable.

A couple questions arise from this chapter:
1) What is the balance between hard and soft power?
2) Does Europe appreciate or even understand that our military provided their protection against the Soviets which ultimately laxed their views on international affairs?
3) Is it safe to suggest that Europe is approaching terrorism as Chamberlain approached the Nazis?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Second chapter ("More Questions")

George Weigel (GW) says that his questions about the difference between the U.S. and Europe were intensified when "after an initial period of European solidarity" with the U.S. after 9/11 until "fundamental differences arose between the U.S. and its allies on the question of how best to respond."

Later in this short chapter he bemoans "the protrait in the European press of Americans (and especially an American President) as religious fanatics intent on shooting up the world."

On neither count does GW stop to question whether possibly Europe is right on this one, er these two. On the first count, the "initial period of European solidarity" ended because the world recognized that we were attacking someone who did not attack us. The Europeans saw what was going on because they watched the news which reported the facts. In the U.S., although the president proclaimed they hate us for our liberties, the only commentator in our "free press" that saw through the story the administration was feeding and told the truth was an anchor on a cable access, comedy channel show airing late night, : The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. [See Tom Fenton, Bad News: The Decline of Reporting, the Business of News, and the Danger to us all; Frank Rich, The Greatest Story Every Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina].

On the second count, consider that Bush indicated be wanted to invade not only Iraq, but also Syria and Iran and the Administartion repeatedly tested the waters to see what Americans would think if they made either or both moves. He has also indicated the possibility of action against Venezuela, and is currently fanning the flames of the cold war we all thought was over. He established "The Bush Doctrine": it is now U.S. policy to launch pre-emptive war on any rogue regime that seeks weapons of mass destruction, and to go to war to prevent any other nation from acquiring the power to challenge US hegemony anywhere in the world. How dare they call him a religious fanatic!

After describing Europeans as "cranky" he begins talking about Europe's low birth rate: "western Europe is sommitting a form of demographic suicide." What does this have to do with having a different view of "how best to respond to international terrorism". Smells an awful lot like an argumentum ad hominem.

GW says the "European problem," which we may ourselves be developing is best understood in moral and cultural terms. What is this "European problem"? I'll have to tune in tommorow for the next chapter. If the "European problem" means we might start thinking it's a bad idea to invade, bomb or threaten everyone in the world, I'd like to see what I can do to exacerbate the problem.

Christians united for Israel (Link sent by Qualitas Loquor)


If you want, let’s talk about this, briefly.

Watch the video at the site.


Quote of the Day

"Debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open, and that...may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government public officials."

New York Times vs. Sullivan (1964)

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Cube: dust jacket and "Questions Atop the Cube

The question this book proposes to answer is , or the first chapter leads me to understand it to be, between the culture that built the cathedral of Notre Dame and the culture that built the Cube, "Which culture, I wondered, would better protect human rights? ...would more firmly secure the moral foundations of democracy?" Although I already have an opinion on that subject, thus far the book sounds interesting.

Nevertheless, from the just jacket, I gather that this is book about how Europeans and Americans see the world differently. Is America supposed to have some connection to the culture that built the cathedral? French and American "culture" are both grown from the Enlightenment and political liberalism. I'm suspicious.

As for democracy, that's a concept foreign to the culture that built the cathedral and is in fact at the foundation of the one that built the Cube.

I get the sinking feeling this is going to be another attempt, common amoung contributors to First Things, to link the Vatican with "The American Way." I'm firmly Amrican and firmly Catholic, but I don't think America and the Vatican are hand in glove.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Politics, Sex and Religion

Jason and I decided to start discussing on a blog rather than e-mail, since a blog is set in a way that better serves our purposes. He came up with the title: the three most taboo topics. Jason wants to talk about something positive and suggested we discuss The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America and Politics without God. by George Weigel. I called him up and agreed to read it with him (and another book of his choosing since The Cube is short) if he would read one of the foreign policy books I suggest. We agreed to read and discuss The Cube then the foreign policy book then Without Roots. So if anyone who wants to read along or comment, please do so. I'll let Jason tell you more about Without Roots.

I would suggest we read Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire . It's short (229 pages), the first chapter is about relations with the middle east and the rest appears to be more about the far east. This would be good, methinks, because it it less controversial and must of us know next to nothing about the far east let alone our foreign policy with that part of the world. One reviewer says "[I]t's probably the best critical introduction to US foreign policy in Asia....he explains America's military and economic policies toward Asia without getting stuck in the stultifying prose of security experts or the bewildering technical jargon of economists."

The other books are:
The 9/11 Commission Report
Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror by Michael Scheuer (the former Chief of the CIA’s bin Laden Unit, Alec Station)
Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism by Professor Robert A. Pape of the University of Chicago

Anyone who wants to read along and/or discuss please express your preference(s).

More on the Middle East

This discussion has given me motivation to learn more about the issues. I hope it continues. If you are getting bored with it, I may have to find some die-hard Sean Hannity fan. Ha! You know there is nothing like a dialog to stimulate thinking. Books on foreign policy will put you to sleep, but I find a discussion like this stimulating. I see now why St. Thomas More and Plato liked dialogs. What’s scarry is that, if you watch the Republican debates, the candidates seem to know less about this stuff than we do. And they want to run the country? That’s real scary. Well, back to the discussion:
I recently made an interesting discovery. If you recall, I was talking about how getting ourselves engaged in a war in Iraq weakened us militarily. Here is an example from recent history of what I am talking about. As it turns out, we have done (and are continuing to do and our leaders want to do more) voluntarily to ourselves what the CIA apparently lured The Soviets into doing in the late 70’s.
Former CIA director Robert Gates in a 1996 interview admitted that America began aiding the mujahideen guerillas in Afganistan six months before the Soviet invasion knowing that the American involvement would provoke the Soviets to invade. When asked in 1998 if he regretted doing this, Carter’s former National Security Adviser said “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afgan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving the USSR its Vietnam War.”
We suckered them into a middle east quagmire to speed their demise. The Soviets could beat the mujahedeen on the battle field, but the mujahdeen we trained (and the tactics are now being used on us—talk about blowback, it’s like teaching somebody how to fight and then they kick your butt) fought more like William Wallace (The “highland way” of hit and run) than William of Normandy. Now we are doing the same thing and speeding our demise. Who suckered us?
After the Soviets withdrew and bombed them into the stone age, Osama Bin Ladin didn’t want to be our friend anymore. I guess nobody likes to be a pawn. By the way, in this whole “war on terror” they can’t even find this one guy who is six feet tall and sticks out like a sore thumb. What does that tell you? Either this is a hopeless cause (I mean if they can’t track this guy whose face is known and is easy to spot, how are they going to find people who are terrorists but look like gas station attendants or tourists or exchange students) or they don’t want to catch him because they want to keep up this phony war on terror. “War is peace.”
I have a bit of a problem with the whole “War on Terror”. First of all, the government declares a lot of “wars”. There is the war on terror, on poverty, on drugs (even a “Drug Czar”). It’s ridiculous. Then in actual fact congress refused to declare war on Iraq—so much for the Constitution, and oh by the way, the president takes an oath to defend the Constitution. And speaking of the Constitution, this “War on Terror” is used as an excuse to trample all over the bill of rights. Tell me if either of these trigger any memories of recent events:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury.”
Further, the Botox candidate finds these ideas funny.
Watch this video and tell me honestly the American People are not being manipulated:
Second, and you are not going to like this, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. How do we define a terrorist? Someone who attacks innocent civilians in order to instill fear and get the civilians to conform to their will out of fear? Please recall that we fire bombed the city of Dresden in Germany during World War II. Dresden was filled with hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the cruelty of our allies, the Soviets. Dresden had not one single anti-aircraft gun, and was undefended. Fire bombing is a type of attack where you start a chain reaction, and turn a city into a huge torch. I’m not entirely sure how it works, but it creates temperatures over 1,000 degrees which sucks air through the city (actually picking up crowds of people and hurling them through the streets) and makes it one big inferno. Dresden had no military significance whatsoever. 135,000 people were killed. We did the same thing to Tokyo. We also dropped nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—also non strategic targets. In fact I think it was Nagasaki—but maybe it was Hiroshima—actually had the highest concentration of Christians in Japan and the greatest center of resistance to the Emperor. I need to verify this, but I am told that since the classified documents have been released, we now know that the Emperor of Japan actually surrendered before we dropped the Bombs.
We made numerous other attacks on civilian populations in Japan and Europe. Why did we do this? According to the official Air Force history, “ produce a stupefying effect on morale.” Robert H. McNamara, in a recent interview/documentary that you can rent from the movie store entitled FOG OF WAR: 10 LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF ROBERT H. McNAMARA, describes his memories as an officer in the pacific theatre. At one point his next in command turned to him and said “I sure hope we win this war because if we don’t we are going to tried for war crimes.” McNamara reflected in the interview, “And he was right. We would have been.”
We don’t call these men terrorists do we? We call them “The Greatest Generation” we call them heroes. I’m not trying to cast aspersions on WWII veterans. Many of them were heroes, but we did some bad things.
Third, we need to consider why these people hate us. You have to know your enemy. Before General Patton met the forces of Rommel in the deserts of North Africa, he read Rommel’s memoir from World War I, INFANTRY ATTACKS. Before Clarence Darrow defended Thomas Scopes, he studied William Jennings Bryant, learned his weaknesses, but also learned how he thought. Before any game, Bear Bryant would study the other coach and watch footage of his team in action (Sorry, shameless attempt to win brownie points with my father-in-law). The point is, you have to get inside the “enemy’s” head.
Bill Maher had a good point. He said after 911 we asked, “Why do they hate us? What did we do?” but after about three days we said “Oh, they’re just evil.” They are not evil any more than we were “evil” for bombing civilian targets in WWII. We took a utilitarian view: the end justifies the means. We were not right. It was not right to do what we did, but we did what we thought would bring about the result we wanted. The “terrorists” are doing the same thing. They are wrong to use the tactics they use, but that is what they have, “the weapon of the weak,” terror. “Before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye, take the log out of your own eye so you can see better.”
There is nothing I would like more than to stop them from committing these acts. My point is that bombing countries into the stone age, sanctions, invasions and all of that is not going to stop terrorists: It makes them multiply. Further, there is no way, regardless of how diligent and brave we are, that we can track these people down who are scattered throughout the world.
Further, this “we all need to be united against the terrorist” thing will not work if the plan we are all behind is making things worse. We have to have some self-criticism. This is what I mean by the Bush administration sounding like 1984. “Ignorance is strength” is the Bush Administration’s message. I say we need to learn about these issues. As the saying goes, “look before you leap.”
You asked for support of the facts I listed. There is a lot of support for these facts. Here is a start:
1. BACKGROUND: Michael Ledeen, a former onetime consultant and special adviser for the U.S. State Department and the National Security Council and former adviser to Karl Rove wrote in THE WAR AGAINST THE TERROR MASTERS: “Stability is an unworthy American mission, and a misleading concept to boot. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia; we wants things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize [governments in the middle east]” Maybe this explains why we disbanded the Iraqi army and destroyed all infrastructure. Jonah Goldberg adds “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business.”
2. ADGENDA: In ALL ENEMIES: INSIDE AMERICA’S WAR ON TERROR, Richard Clarke, former member of the Senior Executive Service and advisor to Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush Jr. describes a meeting in the White House on September 12th: “I expected to go back to another round of meetings examining what the next attacks could be …Instead I walked into a series of discussions about Iraq [Clarke had told Wolfowitz in April that it was clear that Al Queda was not backed by Iraq: “We’ve investigated that five ways from Friday and nobody believes that (Iraq was backing Al Queda).”]. I was incredulous that we were talking about something other than getting Al Qaeda. Then I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq.
3. REAL REASON: Colin Powell, also said it was a mistake to be talking about Iraq rather than Al Qaeda. To which, “Rumsfeld complained that there were no decent targets in Afghanistan and that we should consider bombing Iraq, which at first I thought he was joking. But he was serious and the President did not reject out of hand the idea of attacking Iraq.” [Again, this is Richard Clarke].
4. REAL REASON: “Paul Wolfowitz put forth military arguments to justify an attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan….attacking Afghanistan would be uncertain…[but] Iraq was a brittle oppressive regime that might break easily. It was doable.” Bob Woodward, BUSH AT WAR
5. “THE INTELLECTUALS”: General Anthony Zinni, former CENTCOM commander said “The more I saw the more I thought this [war] was the product of the neocons who didn’t understand the region and were going to create havoc there. These were dilettantes from Washington think tanks who never had an idea that worked on the ground.”
6. “THE INTELLECTUALS”: Chalmers Johnson, President of the Japan Policy Research Institute, refers to the neo conservatives as the “chicken hawk’ war lovers (that is the soi-disant [self-styled] military strategists with no experience of either the armed forces or war) who seized on the national sense of bewilderment after 911 to push the Bush Administration into conflicts that were neither relevant to nor successful in destroying al-Queda.”
To be continued…..
I would like to know how much [of Muslim’s increasingly siding with radical Islam] is due to us confronting problems with their culture. For example, when the U.S. govt tried to address problems with Social Security and Immigration everyone was highly upset. Could this be the same as what is going on over there? I'm not sure but it is something to think about. Change angers many people.
Well, like I said, these people are not ready for democracy. You can’t impose a form of government on people. That’s what the French did under Napoleon et al. and it didn’t work. That’s what the Soviets did, and it didn’t work. Our crusade to spread democracy will end up just like all the other movements to spread a form of government, we and our ideas will be on the ash heap of history. Personally, I like the American way, but to continue it requires that we mind our own business and not try to force the American way on everybody else. When Reagan used Jonathan Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” reference to America, he was talking about attracting people to the American way, not impose it on them at the point of a Howitzer. I forget which American President it was that took a Soviet Premier on a tour of our weapons systems. He was unimpressed and said “We have these.” Reagan, took Gorbachev to a shopping mall. Gorbachev said “I want this for my people.”
But the bottom line is not whether we have the best plan for these people or if somebody needs to write a different plan. The bottom line is that we are over there and we are not welcome. Put yourself in their position, imagine China or Russia comes over and invades us and topples our government, or not even us, maybe Canada or a South American country. We would be angry, and not because they didn’t use supply side economics. We’d be mad because they are on our turf.
In actual fact, withdrawing from Iraq might (if it is not already too late) help the war on terror in yet another sense (besides getting out of these people’s country). Other countries were behind our “war on terror” until be invaded Iraq. They helped us in our invasion of Afghanistan, and from what I understand no one but the Taliban had a problem with that invasion. But when we went into Iraq, everybody turned on us. Afghanistan had something to do with 911. Iraq did not. The world saw we were up to something else.