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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Get ready for the hate.

First in a new and intermittent series of posts for my children.

Dear Madeleine, Dale, Rachel and Louis:

I've decided to start writing posts to and for you. Sure, eventually you're going to be able to read this blog (and your Mom's) in full, but that's not necessarily the best snapshot of what I think on a particular issue, even if I happen to be addressing it. Blogs are blogs--they aren't epistles, or essays, or anything so formal as that, and occasionally I think I need to be more formal, or at least talk to you directly.

I guess I've been inspired by two models: the late Professor Randy Pausch, who recorded "life lessons" for his three young children as he was dying of cancer and (2) the advice given by European monarchs such as King St. Louis IX and Emperor Manuel II to their heirs. Not that your Dad has any such delusions of grandeur, elevating himself into such august company, they are merely an inspiration. Oh, and rest assured that while I haven't been in the best of health lately, I'm not expecting to shuffle off this mortal coil prematurely. But I do want to leave you with something from me to you that you may find useful in life.

I'm not sure when you are going to be reading these, so if you are doing so really early on and stumble on some of the words, here's my advice: the dictionary is on the shelf behind the chair you are sitting on.

Today's letter is on hate. Specifically, being hated for being Catholic. I'm going to start out without fanfare. Take a good long look at this photo:



Yes, Sprout, that thing with the nail through it sure looks like a consecrated Host similar to the one you received last month at your First Communion. The very same Body of Christ which you were ecstatic to receive and which we as a family and parish celebrated with you on that blessed Sunday.

Yep, someone decided to drive a nail through it, toss it into the trash and take a picture of it. Along with trashing what appears to be a page from a Koran (though this is not at all clear: Muslims don't regard translations as actual Korans, which I will explain to you when you get to comparative religion) and a page from something called "The God Delusion," a book which purports to conclusively prove that religious belief is a form of mass hysteria which should be cleansed from the human mind. We'll give that notion a whirl in comparative religion, too.
You're shocked, and you should be. I was and still am to a certain extent.

This is the man who did it, Mr. Paul Z. Myers, a biology professor from a small public college in Minnesota which touts an endorsement from Cosmo Girl! at the top of its kudos page.


As you may have noticed by now, your Dad thinks the rapier is an excellent writing tool.

In addition to being an employee of the State of Minnesota, Mr. Myers is a world class jerk who decided he simply had to desecrate a Catholic Eucharist. I know--try to be nice, Dad. Another lesson--sometimes the only words that fit are the harsh ones.

Why did he do it? Well, if you follow this link (DON'T do it yet), you'll read a lot of finger-pointing about Catholic persecution of Jews, the Fourth Lateran Council and so forth. Given Mr. Myers' resolute pig-ignorance about religion and his non-Catholic upbringing, it is unlikely in the extreme that he'd ever heard of the history he cites in his extended fart-lighting (uh--I'll explain much, much later--outside of your mother's earshot. Preferably the Upper Peninsula) rant. It's likely that he cribbed it entirely from Wikipedia, which is to serious, in-depth study what Ripple is to Dom Perignon. By the way, champagne is another fine Catholic invention.

Wikipedia--use in moderation.

Then again, moderation is not a virtue the Myerses of the world possess.

Which is not to say that Catholics haven't in the past done horrible things to Jews. Far from it--they certainly have. Even in the recent past, I'm appalled to say. Remember what I've told you about Hitler and the Second World War, and how he tried to exterminate the Jewish people? Some of Hitler's supporters were baptized Catholics, and even Hitler himself was, though he thoroughly hated Christianity by the time he came to power. We must always remember that horrible history and to try to make up for, in our own way, the evil actions of our forebears. One of the underlying rules of Confession is that you can never whitewash the past. To try to do so is lying. The same applies in our dealings with other people. And we have to try to remember and imitate the Catholics of the time who saw that hatred of Jews was evil and fought it, like one of my favorite Saints, Hugh of Lincoln.

But since there is no hint of violence against Jews today based on desecration of the Eucharist (if there had been, Mr. Myers would have trumpeted it with delight), this is grandstanding on his part. He whipped up an after-the-fact excuse to justify his actions, probably to ward off the alleged grown-ups who are supposed to be supervising his employment as a salaried worker for the State of Minnesota.

The thing that really set him off was an incident where a grown man had his arm grabbed by a much smaller woman at a student Mass in Florida after he tried to walk off with the Body of Christ. Then the guy in question started lying about what happened. And then some well-intentioned but wrong-headed loud Catholic guy decided to make it a national crisis. No, really. It's that stupid. Then Mr. Myers, who claims that reason should trump all, didn't bother to investigate the particulars of what really happened before going, well, berserk.

Very rational.

By the way, Mr. Myers and his noisy religion-hating friends call themselves "brights."

So, Mr. Myers decided that the grown-up way to address the situation was to ask one of his fellow "brights" to "score" him a consecrated Host so that he could wreak vengeance for this heinous arm-grabbing at a Mass 1500 miles away. The bottom line is that he had someone lie (because we don't just give the hosts to everyone, as you know from your First Communion, Maddie) and take the Eucharist from a parish that offered it in good faith, expecting good faith in return. A parish that almost certainly does more charitable work in a year than Myers and his dishonest drone will do in a lifetime, I have to add.

All so that he, as a droll Catholic commenter noted, could demonstrate the superiority of pure reason by gleefully assaulting a foodstuff. To the triumphant howls of fellow "rationalists."

All righty, then.

The horror for us is that he abused the trust of a Catholic parish and then desecrated a consecrated Host. Probably.

Or maybe just possibly. Remember, you shouldn't trust the word of people who will readily turn to lies to achieve their aims.

Regardless, Mr. Myers' behavior shows pure hatred at work. That's what hate does, children: it presumes the worst of the hated, always and everywhere, and reacts accordingly. It also is an example of Dad's favorite form of bleak humor at work--irony. [Which, I suspect, has to be God's favorite form of humor since we see so much of it.] This is man-is-the-measure-of-all-things reason at work?

Now, Mr. Myers and his fellow "brights" claim they don't hate Catholics. They just hate Catholicism. Which merits the following response: Bullshit.

Yes, I know--language. Your mom will tell you I have gotten better. But once again, the harsh response is best. Go ahead--take a look at this, which was Mr. Myers' original explosion, the comments there and then look the link I originally told you not to read. Make sure you read all of the comments, use your God-given reason and see if you can believe that Mr. Myers and his bright friends don't really hate us.

That's hate right there, kids. Hate. Fangs bared and slavering. They hate us. Not so much you right now, as you are young children. But they certainly hate me and your mother for our act of "child abuse," meaning that we teach you the Catholic faith. Or, as the ever cool-headed and reasonable Mr. Myers puts it:

And if I wanted to be so evil that I would commit a devastating crime against the whole of the human race, twisting the minds of children into ignorance and hatred, I would be promoting the indoctrination of religion in children's upbringing, and fomenting hatred against anyone who dared speak out in defiance.

You want to know the really hilarious thing? I think he's serious.

Remember, kids--this is a "science" blog. It says so right in the URL. Note also how he squeals about other people
fomenting hatred" in his run-on sentence accusing religious parents of the worst possible crime in human history. At least in his book. Which is apparently written with crayons.

So much irony that magnets are confused and spinning.

It's abundantly clear he hates my guts and your mother's, our catechism lessons being a crime against humanity and all. Yet his heart is without hate for us. Sure.

Not to mention that this claim is absolutely contrary to reason. You cannot have a deep-seated, furious loathing for religion and the teaching of it and not have this spill over to a hatred of the faithful adherents to same.

Rest assured, the older you get, the more you will be fair game to the Myersian haters. Who, I am bleakly amused to inform you, will invariably march under a banner reading "Tolerance." Again, irony. I'm sorry to say that it will probably happen sooner rather than later, given how little our society respects and gives a breathing space to childhood these days.

What I'm going to tell you next requires maturity and balance. You can be angry about this, but you cannot let your anger turn into hate. Otherwise, you'll just end up looking like a hopelessly angry ranting old man who thinks ripping pages from books and putting rusty nails through Hosts makes him a better person than you.

No, you cannot hate.

Just because a person believes the wrong thing and even acts upon it in a certain way does not mean he deserves hatred. As I've explained, an atheist is a person who does not believe that God exists. There are a variety of reasons for this, but it boils down to the fact that they don't think there's any good evidence supporting this belief. There are days when I sympathize with this a great deal. I've had periods of doubt, and I don't know how well my faith would survive shock, to be honest with you. But, in the end, I end up believing in God and that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. In another letter or letters I'll go into the whys and wherefores of that, including the "Why Catholic?" question.

For the purposes of this letter, it is enough to say I'm on the opposite side of the atheists. But I believe many of their arguments deserve respect and that their persons always deserve respect, as long as they act within the bounds of the law and human decency. I'll make this easy for you: there are plenty of atheists who live worthy lives and make our world a better place. Let's start with your Aunt Diane and Uncle Mark, two very admirable and caring people that you would do well to imitate on a number of levels, starting with their integrity, concern for others, care for the environment and for abused animals.

Now on to some names you don't know: Mr. Nat Hentoff is a fervent defender of our constitutional freedoms and a champion of the right to life. The man is fearlessly honest, even when he doesn't necessarily like where the evidence is taking him.

The late Sidney Hook, whose autobiography is in our library, stood against communism and other threats to liberty at great personal cost. Oh, and another lesson--you don't have to agree with everything a man writes to admire his intellectual courage and integrity.

And finally, there is a friend of our family and frequent visitor to this site, Mr. Steve Stirling. He doesn't believe, but he respects what Catholic belief has helped to build. And he writes great stories, which the world can always use more of.

Remember these folks, and the fact there are many more like them. You could do far worse than to imitate their virtues.

In other words, do not equate atheists with "brights."

Now what to do about Mr. Myers and those who shrieked their approval or made excuses for his behavior? First and foremost, prayer. Not just for them, but also for ourselves that we will respond appropriately and not with the inexcusable hostility of some of those who were angered enough to send threats. Prayer is never the last resort, it is the first.

Second, your mother and I will continue to build our dossier for the inevitable Myersberg Trials by passing on our faith in Jesus Christ and the teachings and beauties of the Catholic Faith to you. Just knowing the "brights" regard it in such a deranged light gives me an additional incentive to be thorough. I've decided to call it the Secondhand Incense Effect.

Third, when you face this hatred (I'm afraid it's only going to get worse), take a little holy pride in it and rejoice. We have it on good authority that it's a good thing. And remember the hard part--to love your enemies. It doesn't mean not being angry with what they do, nor does it mean acquiescing to violence against you or others, but it's not optional.

Someone pointed out this exchange from the film version of The Two Towers (maybe when you're ten), and I think it's an excellent take on this and other assaults on our faith:

Theoden: What can men do against such reckless hate?

Aragorn: Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.

Theoden: For death and glory?

Aragorn: For Rohan. For your people.




We are not to cower. We are not to run away. Even--especially--when the odds appear the bleakest. We are to go forth into battle, noting that those who attack us are not, in the ultimate sense, our enemies. They are, regardless of how they feel about it, sinners for whom Christ died, and people for whom we should desire the joy we have and the ultimate good of salvation.

For His people.

If they won't have that, and they won't be civil, then they'll just have to suffer as we show them that the Faith is alive indeed, and will not go away, will not retreat from the public square. Just imagine how nuts they will get with that.

Finally, live joyously and don't whine. Avoiding the latter alone will make you stand out in our crabbed day and age. Remember, the victory is won, even if the other guys get the occasional first down or even manage to string a drive together. Joy is infectious--try it and you'll see.

I love you all, with all my heart,

Dad

OK, one important bit of data you should have.

My lovely wife is threatening to become a star of the internets. Run over, congratulate her and offer her your best wishes. The call-back confirmation (which I received) stated that they "definitely" wanted her back on Saturday. I've told her that one day very soon she'll simply be recognized as "Heather," in the same way we recognize "Beyonce" or "Marilyn." In fact, I've started calling her "Heathe'," to her pronounced non-satisfaction.

And it happened on her birthday, which, yes, I remembered. She received (what else?) a book, a chocolate cake and a bonus package of semi-sweet chocolate. My child bride is a radiant twenty-nine, so congratulate her on that, too.

Don't forget to congratulate Heather Siekierski ("the other Heather" as she is known as at Casa Del Price), too.

You'll be able to say you knew them when.

I was just thinking "Hey, maybe I owe the folks a post."

Fortunately, this was immediately followed by a rush of good sense to the head and I realized "No I don't."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Sed Contra Archive.

Many of you will remember David Morrison's top-notch Sed Contra blog. If you don't remember it, you missed out. David was a fearless and charitable commenter on many subjects, most notably Catholic teaching on and living with same-sex attraction. However, his blogging defied easy labeling and deserves to be well-known for his views on a variety of issues. For example, he had a good commentary on the morality of buying Chinese products in the midst of the regime's persecution of Catholics and others.

Sadly, David stopped blogging in September 2007, but was successfully talked out of deleting the archives by The Sheepcat. He sent me an e-mail at the end of June, and thanks to consistent brainlock, I kept forgetting to post about it until now.

Namely, the Sed Contra Archive is now up and running. Take a look--it's very much worth your time.

And make sure to thank Alan for his great work.

Soy: Sex Change Surgery in Bean Form.

Just one more reason to avoid the stuff: infertility.

The reason? Pumps you full of estrogen:

Eating half a serving of soy food a day lowers sperm concentrations and may play a role in male infertility, particularly in obese men, Harvard University researchers report.

The reason for this relationship between soy and sperm count isn't clear. However, researchers speculate that soy increases estrogen activity, which may have a negative affect on sperm production and also interfere with other hormonal signals.


Pass the venison.

Yep--he's my son.

Heather just called me and opened with "This is your fault."

She then informed me that Dale is marching about the house saying "Spam egg sausage and Spam. Spam Spam baked beans and Spam."

Et cetera.

I called him to the phone and instructed him to sing "Lovely Spam/Wonderful Spam!"

He complied.

Blame the bloody Vikings, not me.

I almost drank a moth this morning.

How's that for an attention grabber.

No, it's true, and no, I'm not trying some kind of Bear Grylls thing.

I left my travel mug on the table with some coffee in it while I took a shower. I was preparing to fill the vat as my "one for the road" and decided to drink some beforehand.

The texture was all off.

Yep--a moth had landed in the interim and went to Vermin Valhalla. Buzzing all the way.

I switched mugs.

So, how did your day start?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

There are some things so stupid only an economist could propose them.

Vad Yazvinski has a cunning plan.

Hey, who's up for a gas tax increase so we can cut the corporate tax rate?

Whoo-hooo!

Score!

Boo-yah!


Yes, even though I believe government intervention is usually a bad thing, establishing a variable gasoline tax that ensured gasoline never declined below $4 a gallon could alter the dynamics of the global economy and help the U.S. maintain its economic leadership status for years to come.

Economist Gregory Mankiw has estimated a $1 tax increase on gasoline could raise $100 billion in revenue that could (and should) be used to reduce the ridiculously high U.S. corporate tax rate. That, in turn, could lead to more jobs and better pay in virtually all domestic industries.


Let's see--a guaranteed price floor for gasoline, which obliterates the working of the market and institutionalizes the economic crunch for people who have to drive--in return for cutting the corporate rate and the *possibility* of economic growth.

I suppose this is a more efficient way to inflict economic pain on American families than visiting each household individually, flamethrower at the ready.

Yeesh. You know, I don't consider myself a class warrior, but this is about as regressive a taxation scheme as it gets. A Dennis Moore plan if ever there was one. It might just be me, but something tells me (1) Vad lives in the big city and (2) takes the train to work.

While, yes, he does make certain good points, the actual proposal is so poisonous that it ruins the whole package. To praise any of it is akin to saying, "Yes, he pissed in the coffee, but he served it in such *lovely* china!"

"Get out! Just go. We are through. Through! Because of your actions, you scorpion woman!"

Or, When Life Imitates Anchorman.

Former Philadelphia newscaster indicted for illegally accessing former colleague's email account. Obsess much?

Federal prosecutors issued a one-count information charging Mendte, a former KYW-TV anchor, with a felony count of intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization.

Authorities said he repeatedly hacked into the accounts of Alycia Lane, whose personal life had routinely become tabloid fodder and eventually led to her own dismissal from the station.

"People expect that e-mail in a password-protected personal e-mail account is private," acting U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid said. "The mere accessing and reading of privileged information is criminal. This case, however, went well beyond just reading someone's e-mail."

Mendte gained access to Lane's accounts for more than two years, prosecutors said. In a four-month span starting in January, Mendte accessed her accounts approximately 537 times, authorities said.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I've started reading Harry Potter.

Just like me--jump on the bandwagon after the wheels have fallen off.

You have to admit, it's easier to climb on that way.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to offer up short reviews of each book, along with a numerical scale from 1 (Negligible) to 10 (Platonic ideal) to gauge my view of the hot-button issues raised by other reviewers or the author herself.

For instance:

Occult/Dark Magical Themes

1: James Randi
5: David Copperfield
10: Cthulhu


The Dumbledore Gaydar Detector

1: Stacy Keach
5: Rupert Everett
10: Liberace


Clancyitis Infection Level (this metric measures the extent to which responsible editors have become afraid of a blockbuster author and have allowed logorrhea to take the reins)

1: Hunt for Red October
5: Red Storm Rising
10: Debt of Honor

Sure, it's going to be on the lighter side, but I am going to wrestle with the serious criticisms of the work. But I have to finish reading them first.

I'm gonna go with the Muslim complaint on this one.

It's the NY Times, so I'm naturally inclined to be contradictory.

But this one is a no brainer--the ethicist is so wrong it's not even funny.

The questioner himself admits it was "a men's soccer league." Then that's it--end of story. No changing the rules in midstream. The team with the female player was violating the rules and should have accepted the full brunt of the consequences, not the team with the Muslims on it.

Sure--perhaps the Muslims may have been motivated by chauvanism. So what? That's not the point. The point is, the Muslim team was playing by the rules, and the "Dream Center" team was not.

Thanks to Victor for his review of "Kit Kittredge."

It inspired us to see a morning screening of the film as a family on Sunday.

Really, if you have a chance, go see it. Kit is excellent family entertainment in the old-school sense. And I admit to absolute bafflement about some critics' product placement critique--it's nonsensical to the extreme. Going to be hard for me to find a '32 Buick, for starters. There isn't a whiff of the pushing of the American Girl franchise, either.

It was good, with fine acting (including a nice bit part by one of my favorite comic actors, Colin Mochrie) and good writing. A touch sentimental, yes, but it conveyed the shock of the Great Depression at a very good level for kids. There isn't an objectionable moment in the whole thing, and Victor's right: if we don't support quality family entertainment, we aren't going to get more of it.

Take. See.

Chess Boxing.

A new Russian sport.

Any commentary I offer would be superfluous.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sometimes a water tower is just a water tower.

Then again, there's Ypsilanti:



No sniggering.

Thanks to Zach for the reminder, as we are informed that "the fullness of the faith" resides in the American Episcopal church.

It's kinda cute, really--like watching a snail having a hissy fit and proclaiming itself "king of the jungle."

You cannot sacrifice others on the altar of your own sanctity.

At some level, I understand the discomfort with this:

Vatican security forces now include an anti-bomb squad and a rapid response team, according to Domenico Giani, the head of the Holy See's 130-man gendarmerie.

The Vatican will also work more closely with Interpol to gather information on any threats, he said.

The deal with Europol, the pan-European police agency, will give the Vatican access to a large data bank of suspects and information on the latest anti-terrorism techniques.

"The teams report directly to the head of the Gendarmerie," said Mr Giani in an interview with L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper.

"The rapid response team will carry out investigations across the spread of information channels and will be supported by a sophisticated technical team. It will be able to intervene immediately in case of danger," said Mr Gianni.

"The second group is made up of highly-specialised experts, armed with sophisticated and innovative technology," he added.

He said the two teams would not be confined to the Vatican, but would also travel with the pope.

The Swiss Guards have also been given anti-terrorism training, and now carry SIG P75 pistols and Heckler-Koch MP5 sub-machine guns, as well as their traditional halberds.


Some qualms, yes. Then about five seconds later, I got over it.

Look, I'm certain the Pope was not delighted with the idea that he had to upgrade a modern security force already armed to the figurative incisors. Leaving aside the theology, he saw an awful lot of violence done while growing up and regards the prospect of more with horror.

But I'm metaphysically certain he's over his misgivings, too.

Why? Because Pope Benedict realizes that ultimately it's not about his personal preferences on the subject. There are upwards of 400 citizens resident in the City proper, and if Wikipedia is to be believed, another 3,000 Italians work in the City on a daily basis at the various museums, fire and railway stations, and even a pharmacy and supermarket(!). These 3,400 members of his flock are at risk of harm should he decide to play the pacifist. So, of course, he won't. And by "hardening" the Vatican as a target, it makes it much less likely that it will be attacked and any of those people killed or hurt.

You can be a martyr, should that time of ultimate reckoning come. You simply cannot force anyone else to be one with you.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Remembering the Vendee.

Someone has to--because France won't.

The intruders, for their part, thought they were bringing progress, enlightenment, improvement, release from superstition, liberty, for heavens sake. Equality, fraternity. They would drag these benighted savages into modern times, even if it cost them some battles. But it would be easy; these savages, these half-humans, would soon be a dying race.

But it wasn't easy. The people resisted fiercely. Sometimes they won. Sometimes the intruders grew very worried indeed. But soon, the lack of arms, the superior technology, and also, it must be said, the independence of the people who found it difficult to band together in total unity, saw reason win over their courage and faith. Theirs was not a warlike culture; they longed for their former peace. It was then, in the defeat of the people, that the most terrible revelation came to the spirit of the intruders. This dying race of savages could be helped on its way. And so the genocide began.

The atrocities multiplied, the exterminations systematic and initiated from the very top, and carried out with glee at the bottom. At least 300,000 people were massacred during that time, and those of the intruders who refused to do the job were either shot or discredited utterly. But still the people resisted. Still there were those who hid in the forests and ambushed, who fought as bravely as lions but were butchered like pigs when they were caught. No quarter was given; all the leaders were shot, beheaded, or hanged. Many were not even allowed to rest in peace; the body of the last leader was cut up and distributed to scientists; his head was pickled in a jar, the brain examined to see where the seed of rebellion lay in the mind of a savage.

That was two hundred years ago; but at the recent bicentenary celebrated by the intruders, not a mention was made of the dead. Not a mention was made of the genocide.


The revolt that started on Bastille Day went down a path far different from Lexington, with hideous consequences that have to this day not been fully acknowledged.

Thanks to Hilary for the reminder.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Little man, smaller mind.

By now most of you have probably heard about Paul Z. Myers, a biology professor at a second-tier Minnesota public university who is soliciting his equally stunted fanboys to provide him with a Host from a Catholic Mass whereupon he can visit some destructive, sacrilegious behavior. Here's a link to the idiocy in question that won't drive up his link score. First, let me state that if he has been the subject of credible death threats, I hope those who made them are punished to the fullest extent of the law. And if any of them are Catholics, I hope they are subject to excommunication. Just because he's an ass doesn't mean that it's open season. Ever.

Moving on.

Please note that Myers is not a model of godless consistency, being a critic (!) of the Muhammad cartoons published a couple years back. For all of the proper leftist-cant reasons, natch.

Let me just add at this point that taunts to do the same to a copy of the Koran are contemptible, really. Why bay for the same mistreatment of others? "Hit him, too!"

Oh, I know--he's motivated by pure pragmatism, given Minnesota's burgeoning traditionalist Muslim population. And he made a threat to desecrate a Koran that he didn't follow through on last year. Good. I don't want to give this clown the license to do something equally asinine to someone else. Myers has done his level best to poison public discourse and toss a grenade into the public square--let's not coarsen it any further.

To get to the point, Myers is not a particularly impressive man. And I fully predict he'll back down. In fact, he's already started a climbdown as his last statement in the interview shows.

Prediction? It was a joke/satire/thought experiment (the rationales will be confused) to demonstrate how violent Christians are when push comes to shove. The reaction proves it, you see, and this explanation will leave him confirmed in his moral superiority over the godbotherers. His dim fans will stomp their approval and the administration/trustees of the University of Minnesota--Morris can go back to lives of contented anonymity.

On the positive side, we've learned a lot about the Myers brand of atheism, to the disgust of other nonbelievers. It is a thoughtless and unreflective ideology that can't be bothered to engage the other side on its own terms, preferring the irrational, emotional and insulting. A great advertisement for the brights, PZ!

Finally, his own behavior contradicts his claim that "Religion is actually fading a little bit." If that were the case, he would just wish it ill and let it continue to fade. Stunts like this argue that he thinks the opposite.

Why so loud, Prof. Myers? As was said of the equally shrill Richard Dawkins:

Scientists all over the nation must hold their heads and groan whenever Richard Dawkins appears on television, as he did in The Root of All Evil? (Monday, C4). He is such a terrible advertisement, such an awful embarrassment, the Billy Graham of the senior common room. His splenetic, small-minded, viciously vindictive falsetto rant at all belief that isn’t completely rooted in the natural sciences is laughable. Dawkins is a born-again Darwinist, an atheist, so why is he devoting so much blood pressure and time to arguing with something he knows doesn’t exist? If it’s not there, Richard, why do you keep shouting at it? He looks like a scientific bag lady screaming at the traffic, and watching him argue with a fundamentalist Christian, you realise they were cut from identical cloth, separated at birth.

Just so.

The Inquisitron isn't working, honest.

I knew the blogpoll would be disproportionately Catholic.

I didn't realize it would look like a conclave.

I have no idea who you are when you vote--that's the truth.

Really, I'm not coming after you with the Poperizer (Now With 50% More Guilt!) if you don't ID yourself as a mackerel snapper. At least not right away.

Odd, really. I guess I am speaking into an echo chamber?

As you may have noticed...

Weekends are Price Family Time. We had a Knights of Columbus Mass/religious tour sponsorship matter, Confession, a Costco run and a nice BBQ get together with the Freys on Saturday. Zach's eldest, Joshua, a gangling giant who is undergoing an Apache Chief transformation before our eyes, cooked the burgers. Fine job, too. Sunday, we had Mass, I had to prune back a lawn undergoing a no doubt sinister mutation before my eyes and coached Maddie on her bike riding.

Unless I get into a DefCon 1 Someone Is Wrong On The Internet posture, I'm not interested in commenting or blogging, even though I do glance over here periodically.

So, while I thought the combox arguments below were generally fair, if sharp, I'd prefer that 4 letters be used sparingly, if at all. If for no other reason than Madeleine is starting to read over my shoulder. Criticize the arguments and argument tactics all you like, but try to keep the personal out of it.

As to the actual thread, I may or may not have something further to add.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Latin Blog Of The Year.

Audio Latin Proverbs--you can hear how it sounds, too.

There are widgets and links aplenty--enjoy!

Belisarius.

Justinian's greatest general, and one of Byzantium's Great Captains, Belisarius was one of the rare non-imperial Byzantine figures to retain a hold on the Western European imagination.




He *may* be the bearded figure to Justinian's right in the famous Ravenna mosaic at San Vitale Church.

This would be appropriate, because Belisarius would be Justinian's right hand in the campaigns to restore the Western part of the Empire. However, Justinian's paranoid streak perennially hamstrung Belisarius, who nonetheless worked miracles time and again in defeating barbarian armies with grossly inferior numbers, first vanquishing the Vandal kingdom, then defeating the Ostrogoths and liberating Rome herself. Sadly, he lacked the resources to finish off the Ostrogoths, and the latter rallied. The resultant generation of warfare, which finally ended in the Goths' defeat, led to horrific destruction throughout the peninsula. The ravages of war meant that the invading Lombards in the 570s-80s were able to conquer most of northern Italy and finally confine the Byzantines to the Mezzogiorno and Sicily by the middle of the 8th Century.

Justinian's paranoia--probably exacerbated by Belisarius' wife's actual political manuevering while the Emperor was stricken with the plague--finally got the better of him, and Belisarius was removed from office in the middle of the Gothic War. Justinian, paranoid as he was, still knew a talent when he saw one, reattached his right hand when the Bulgars threatened the provinces to the north of Constantinople. Once again, with an inferior force, Belisarius prevailed and routed the barbarians. He would die within a few months of Justinian in 565, a tragedy in many ways, not least that the Empire would need a military genius to address the multiplicity of threats that would hobble it over the next decade.

Interestingly, the West remembered both Belisarius and Justinian's ingratitude in the form of legends about a blind Belisarius being reduced to beggary.


Belisarius also survives in two popular works I've read, the fine and straightforward historical fiction of Count Belisarius by Robert Graves, and the slam-bang science fiction homage of Steve Stirling and David Drake, The General.

The General fictionalizes and transposes the campaigns of Belisarius to the future, on a planet settled by humans after the discovery of interstellar travel and the subsequent collapse of that civilization. The Belisarius figure, Raj Whitehall, a descendant of Texas settlers in a Spanglish speaking Byzantium analogue, is assisted by a very diverse group of loyal lieutenants, a loving wife and one slightly sardonic intelligent computer which survived the collapse. Five books in all, but very fun, and available in two omnibus hardcover editions, Warlord (the first two books)and Conqueror (the concluding three).

Remember the Culbreaths in your prayers.

The California heatwave and wildfires are affecting them, too.

Best Imaginary Mascot.

Twitchy the Martyr! [Content Warning regarding the rest of the site, too.]


That was exciting.

An F/A-18 (I think--definitely a modern fighter) just banked over the Detroit River, low and moving fast. Northbound.

Yep, apparently I still have 9/11 reflexes.

[Update, 12:40pm: I've heard it twice, in the distance. Sounds like it gets close, then banks away.]

[Update II: We have an explanation--it was an F-18, and it was a flyover for the Gold Cup powerboat races this weekend.]

Thursday, July 10, 2008

You Catholic girls start much too late...

Congratulations to Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban on the birth of their daughter, Sunday Rose.

Another source said the name is her last jab at Scientology. "Nicole is a Catholic, and Sunday was an important religious day for her until she was involved in Sc----ology," said the source. "She's still bitter about her experience with Sc----ology and the fact her baby’s name could be perceived as one last jab doesn't exactly upset her."

As Glenn Reynolds would say, "Heh."

Welcome back, sister! May all of you have many blessed years together.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pansy Moss once again extends her lead to three.

Go on over and congratulate the expectant Mom.

BTW, the Moss Place has long been one of my favorite mom blogs, so add it to your bookmarks.

Or, should you be of the conviction that my opinion smells like a used diaper filled with Indian food, give it a try anyway. Stopped clocks, etc.

Steve has spoken. The case is closed.

Over at Inside Catholic, whereupon Mr. Skojec definitively ends the church breastfeeding brawl in favor of discreet nursing.

Naught more needs to be said.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Traditionalist Spring.

Read this entire essay by John Zmirak, which is upbeat, clear-eyed, and radiates hope.

If bishops faithfully follow the Holy Father’s wishes—which apparently now extend to training new priests to say both rites—it will work miracles at luring back the scandalized souls of the 70s. It will gradually convince the gun-shy, self-styled Traditionalists to poke around at their old parishes. This will take time, of course. Given the sheer number of falsehoods imposed on Catholic laymen trying to schlep our way to Heaven by “highly placed officials” and the committees who loved them, is it any wonder that when some people learned the truth, they became a little… suspicious? No wonder so many of those people I met at reluctantly tolerated “indult” Latin Masses—it was easier, in some places, to get permission for gay-sponsored Dignity liturgies—carried plastic grocery bags full of poorly printed pamphlets with the names of “cardinals who are 33rd degree Freemasons.” It wasn’t so much a sign of a “schismatic mentality” (although that exists) as a symptom of Post-Conciliar Stress Disorder. I once adopted a beagle whose previous master used to beat him; he still winces whenever I try to pet him. But he’s learning to trust….

Pope Benedict understands all this, and has shown a fatherly compassion toward those of us who suffered from priestly liturgical abuse. His warmth and wisdom are washing away the bitterness, even as solemn liturgies attract new vocations to the priesthood. (When I was in Rome, the Latin liturgies were always scattered with curious seminarians from Indiana.)

What remains is an outreach to the other lost sheep of the 1970s, the millions who drifted away from catechetical psychobabble and liturgies lacking the dignity of Cub Scout ceremonies. Faced with the prospect of a Church that was being dressed up by wishful thinkers in the trappings of dying, “mainline” Protestantism, one out of three Americans who grew up Catholic have already left the Church. Many ceased all religious practice, but far more sought out the starker certitudes of Evangelical churches—whose embrace of Biblical principles and rejection of sacramental rites is straightforward and sincere.

I’m not saying that people who’ve gone off to Pentecostal churches to speak in tongues will be lured back by hearing Latin. But the recovery of the Church in the West from a generation of chaos and self-indulgence can only be advanced by the slow and solemn recovery of dignity, beauty, and order.

Let me try to nip this one in the bud.

Breast-feeding, that is.

Nothing stirs up a fooferaw quite like the topic of nursing in public. The latest detonation can be found here and here at Inside Catholic. I posted on something similar five years ago.

Yes, Heather has nursed all four of our children, weaning the eldest three at roughly 12-13 months. So I'm not exactly an honest broker here.

But I think Hilary has an indisputable point in the second thread--modesty is also a virtue, making discretion essential. No one wants to see the mom unleashing her rambunctious milk zeppelins* as she sits nekkid from neck to navel. [As some deliberately-unhelpful breast feeding videos have depicted, sad to say.] At least I hope that's the case.

Even dad's not going to want it to be a public spectacle--I assure you. In any event, we are not supposed to scandalize our brethren, and it isn't asking to much to cover up.

In a spirit of compromise, it is also nice to refrain from asking a suitably discreet mother to take it elsewhere. My wife was asked whether she wanted to go to the bathroom to feed Madeleine.

Let me be blunt--how often do you have a snack on the toilet? Didn't think so.

There are two genuine goods in potential conflict here--modesty and motherhood. We can find a suitable compromise that honors both.

---------

* -- h/t to Ace for that incomparable turn of phrase.

There's a Sequel to Niven and Pournelle's Inferno.

Awesome! It's coming out in February 2009!

This probably means bupkis to most of you, but N&P's Inferno is one of the most interesting sci-fi books with an explicitly Christian theme ever written. Not quite in the stratosphere of A Canticle for Leibowitz or A Case For Conscience, it is nevertheless interesting, and absolutely unique.

It is an attempt at a theodicy of Hell.

The answer the authors came up with is not exactly orthodox, but it is thoughtful.

It should be interesting to see where N&P go with the sequel, so I guess that goes into the queue in early 2009.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Request for advice.

The one downside to the vacation: some a--h--e keyed the driver's side door of our minivan last Saturday. I'm not talking minor scratching--the horse's ass scraped over a space roughly two feet square.

I'm not happy. And I'm looking for cheap cures. I'd rather not take the hit on the insurance if I can avoid it.

What's the point?

Meaning the sophomoric finger-in-the-eye posted by self-described "Catholic anarchist" Michael Iafrate at Vox Nova.

I've racked my brain trying to find a non-ego-driven reason for what is the equivalent of a frat boy mooning episode. I haven't found it.

Vox Nova aims very high, indeed: "United in our Catholic, pro-person worldview, yet diverging in our socio-political opinions, we seek to provide informed commentary and rigorous debate on culture, society, politics and law, all while unwaveringly adhering to, and aptly applying the principles of Catholic doctrine." It is to VN's great credit that it hits this target as often as it does. Even professional gadfly Morning's Minion has cranked the occasional shot over the fences.

Which makes Iafrate's (or should that be iafrate's?) "look at me" nose-pulling all the more striking. If he wants to be Ted Rall with a rosary, so be it. Substance? There is none. Let's see: St. Elizabeth was Queen of Portugal, a land born of two bloody struggles for freedom, the Reconquista against the Muslims and secession from Spain. She was Queen two generations after Portugal finished taking the southernmost part of the nation from the followers of Muhammad.

Yet she's the counter-"american" Saint? De gustibus.

There's no attempt to persuade, no suggestion that those on the other side are anything other than quasi-blasphemous dupes. Nope--just time to break one off in their punchbowl. All the while asserting with a straight face that, no, of course not, he doesn't hate America. Indeed, how could one come to such a conclusion?

In the final analysis, the 4th of July post lacks a truly Catholic spirit, as Benedict XVI would admonish him. Without hesitation, the Pope referred to America as "this great country" and praised the founding documents. The most Iafrate can do is the ipse dixit "I don't hate it."

Moreover, he's capable of much better, as his series on Appalachia shows. Yes, it's sometimes freighted with theological jargon, but genuine concern and care for the "least" among us shines through.

Such is not for the killbots/killbot enablers who go to parades and display the Stars and Stripes, however. No, for them it's the tall finger of fellowship, served up with the sneer of a pharisee.

Vox Nova's bloggers can publish what they want, and I am neither suggesting nor implying in any way that the post should be taken down. I simply recommend that they consider the effect of such posts in light of their stated aims. These sorts of things have the effect of making people wash their hands of the entire endeavor, which would be a genuine shame.

Awakenings, Robots, the Human Spirit and Other Trifles.

I think Rod has pegged Wall-E very well--read it all. But 'ware the spoilers, which are extensive. And this commentary is ever-so-slightly spoilery, too.

It is a great film, and, like Ratatouille, a risky one. As with all things Pixar, it is technically flawless, a film that repays multiple viewings just for the artistry alone.

On to themes.

It is a movie about tradition, connecting with others, being distracted by Things, the human spirit, love, using technology rightly (as opposed to casting it aside altogether) and the indispensibility of the natural world.

And it does so with less dialogue than any other film you will see this year.

To dismiss it as kiddie-friendly environmentalist propaganda only--and ironically--proves how disconnected some people have gotten, especially those who identify themselves as conservatives.

If conservative "thought" requires you to kick the film away with a knee-jerk, then you are welcome to it. Enjoy life in the solipsodome.

Such as it is.

Let me just add, in my patented Certainly Reading WAAAAY Too Much Into It Review Mode that I think that Wall-E also makes two other subtle nods.

First, to the importance of both Moms and Dads in making things work. Both Wall-E and EVE have to protect the plant, and without both, all would have been lost. I don't think that one goes too far afield.

Second--and all aboard for Conjectureville--I think there is a Jesus/baptism metaphor in Wall-E's encounters with Mary and John, both of whom the robot wakes from their waking, disconnected slumber.

"We have a pool?"

They go to the pool and are changed. They feel real joy for the first time in their lives. They ignore the "no splashing" command from the robot supervisor. They rescue the falling children when the Axiom tilts. In other words, after going to the pool, the two of them stay in Reality--the True, the Good and the Beautiful--and never return Plato's cave (to homogenize my metaphors). Siloam, anyone?

Yeah, ok--I'm the guy who can read a "Peter vs. Judas" subtext into Falling Down. Still....

Do not let my hallucinatory Christianist godbothering deter you from seeing it. The film has something for anyone of good will.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Recognizing the Problem.

Or: the end of Glitterchesis in Marquette, thanks to Bishop Alexander Sample:

I am beginning to hear “rumblings” in some quarters that perhaps I am placing too much emphasis on this area of faith formation and education. In my mind, we cannot place too much emphasis on the proper evangelization, catechesis and formation of our children, young people and adults. Our future as a Church is intimately linked to these efforts.

I truly believe that the Lord has placed into my hands as bishop the task of revitalizing the transmission of the Faith to the adults and future generations of our diocesan Church. As bishop, I am entrusted with the task of proclaiming and teaching the Faith in all its resplendent beauty.

At ordination I was given the responsibility to be the primary teacher of the Faith in the midst of the people of God whom I serve. I cannot be everywhere to teach, but I will one day have to give an account before the Lord for my stewardship of this teaching office. I must do everything I can to see that the people of God entrusted to my care have the tools they need to fully understand and vibrantly live their Catholic Faith.

I come to my episcopal ministry as a child of the late 60’s and 70’s. I know the defects in faith formation and education that were present during that time period in many quarters of the Church. My generation, to a large extent, did not get the foundation in the Faith that we needed to deeply understand and sustain our faith in the midst of a world that grows increasingly secular and devoid of religious and spiritual values.


Brilliant, all over. You can't share what you don't have.

Contrary to the destructive experiment that lasted for two generations, that principle applies to your faith.

[Thanks to Zach Frey for the link.]

Back.



Had a marvellous vacation.

Have stories to tell and pictures to develop.

Beat the miserable I-75 holiday traffic.

Are unpacking.

Louis is crawling.

Do not have to thresh and bale the lawn--thank you, Kazz Mabe.

Will get back with you shortly.