Thursday, September 25, 2008

AND OUR STORY SHALL BE THE EDUCATION OF OUR HEROES: Some thoughts about those posts about eros and education.

First, and most importantly!, a correspondent tells me that Yale's focus on extracurrics and relative insouciance about course/section hours is not nearly as exotic as I'd thought. Go find out if this is true at your campus!

THIS IS THE ONLY STORY I WILL EVER BE ABLE TO TELL: And second, keep in mind that all of my opinions about everything were forged in a genuine philosophical community. I don't promote underage drinking because I think the usual dance-and-vomits or DKE watch-your-drink parties have anything to recommend them. When I talk about drinking, I always and only mean drinking in the company of people who are dedicated to philosophy, to pursuit of the femme fatale Truth. Wine (and by wine, I mean cheap vodka) is one of the easiest recruits for the philosophers' army, and so I praise her, but if you don't follow Sophia's flag you should probably just stay sober.

This same context applies to my comments about chastity. What I'm saying makes sense in a community where leadership, and its erotics, serves to seduce freshmen into philosophy--where Diotima's ladder is as boringly obvious as the transition from sophomore year to junior. I don't know that I can make claims about how eros and education interact in contexts and campuses where they're estranged.

COURSE CREDIT IN THE STRAIGHT WORLD: On reflection I think that gay guys tended to have quite a bit more a) volatility in self-concept (less willingness to think of themselves as Good People/rational actors in a rational sexual arena/totally ethical and responsible and your parents will love me) and b) self-awareness, than most sexually-active straight people I knew in college.

B) is a huge part of why sex strikes me as different from other possible realms of cognitive dissonance. The point is not merely, "Some religions say sex out of wedlock is wrong!" The point is more, "There's a whole philosophical and cultural apparatus designed to promote the belief that sex out of wedlock is morally neutral, said apparatus would help you feel good, and this belief is so all-pervasive that you can swim in it like a fish in water, never even noticing the degree to which it may be shaping or constraining your own beliefs."

It doesn't help that the prevailing philosophical/cultural apparatus supporting "sex is morally neutral!" is based on a deeply banal understanding of sex and the body.

My guess is that the coming-out process forces a sense of the contingency of prevailing cultural norms around sex, and thus perhaps made the gay guys I knew a lot less complacent, a lot more willing to state forthrightly the ways in which their sexual activities had affected their worldviews, rather than--like so many straight undergrads--defensively denying that their sexual activity was in any way philosophically interesting or meaningful. The straights tended to seem so entitled about sex!--and so heavily invested in their own self-images as rational, responsible actors.

YOU WILL NOTE THE SAMPLE SIZE PROBLEM HERE. *g* I think I'm talking about, like, maybe six guys at this point! And again, all but one of them were POR members, thus within that eros/education model. AND, too, sexually-active POR members may be disproportionately likely to be libertarians, hence already prone to complacency and overinvestment in their own rationality!

...And, too, I may be bitter. Wouldn't be the first time! And yeah, I do realize that my judgments of other 20-year-olds are not the best examples of humility, or self-overhearing. My advice is always worth exactly what you paid for it!

SADDLE UP THE LLAMA, I'M GOING IN!: And finally, a reader writes (quite acutely):
Your comment "the cruel intensifying of drama I associated with sex really only took place in heterosexual couples" seems exactly right (to this straight guy at least). It raised this thought: the standard heterosexual relationship is morally problematic in a way the standard homosexual relationship is not. And this difference explains why ethical systems have an institution of marriage.

Heterosexual relationships are often, indeed typically, characterized by massive disparities -- differences in physical strength, level of and frequency of sexual desire, degree of emotional involvement, and, of course, the ultimate differential risk of pregnancy. We have ethical norms like marriage, like chivalry -- intensely powerful, civilization-shaping norms -- precisely because this relationship is a disaster waiting to happen. Leave aside any practical consequences (who takes care of the kids, etc.) these norms are essential for reliable moral behavior. Without them, people just inflict endless injustices and cruelties on each other. Homosexual relationships simply do not pose analogous problems. No one ever created 'homosexual marriage' or homosexual chivalry, because, by and large, no such institutions were needed.

Two conclusions:

a) At least one strand of opposition to gay marriage (I am a supporter, FWIW) should be "it's not you, it's us." You don't need these powerful norms -- you'll do just fine! Using a jackhammer to crush a walnut inevitably degrades the performance of the jackhammer. Can't we please find some other way to officially validate your lifestyle!

b) absent a teleology of the human body, we should admit that an active homosexual lifestyle is less morally problematic than an active heterosexual lifestyle. No risk of pregnancy. Lower average asymmetries in power, expectation, and emotional investment. Less likelihood of accidental deception. Better fit with contractual liberal models all around.

All for now! Write more, pumpkins!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"MEMORIES ARE FILMS ABOUT GHOSTS": Some responses to my abortion-in-horror piece.

I'll note one thing I couldn't fit in to the piece itself: Horror is so often concerned with the return of the repressed, the intrusion of the denied and terrifying past into the complacent present. Sometimes it works to convince us not to disturb the Old Ones; sometimes it argues that the past isn't dead, it's just waiting to rise from the grave and eat your brains. Abortion is an attempt to return to status quo ante. Of course there's abortion-horror. Pregnancy can often seem like memory in flesh--for better and very much for worse--and horror is the most obvious genre where memory can be either laid to rest or reawakened.

That said, reactions from readers:
In PREDATOR 2, the monster detects a woman's pregnancy, and spares her.

a reader:
Here's another example of the "haunting" sub-genre of abortion-related horror: the first two episodes of the anime Mononoke. A pregnant, desperate young woman spends a night in a room that was once the abortion chamber of a brothel. ...It's noteworthy also for its art, which suggests ukiyo-e crossed with Yellow Submarine.

a different reader:
You mentioned that stories of aborted ghosts returning for revenge are "almost exclusively in short stories and independent comics." Well, I can give you an example of a mainstream movie with that very premise. The title is Impakto; it came out in the Philippines a little over ten years ago.

(Eve adds: Wow. The ensuing description of the movie suggests that it's very hard to watch... though not as much so as our next entry.)

Jeremy Biltz:
Speaking of abortion in horror, have you seen Imprint, which is Miike's contribution to the Masters of Horror series? It was so disturbing that they didn't air it, but it was released on DVD. It's got some strong abortion themes, among other grotesqueries.

I'm thinking it's not for the faint-hearted.
I DON'T WANT ANOTHER DRINK OR FIGHT, I WANT A TREMENDOUS LOVER: One of the things I do when I'm not here is Always Our Children, St. Matthew's Cathedral's ministry for lgbt Catholics and our friends and families. We're doing confidential support groups every month (the second Sunday, 3:30 in the West Conference Room) and trying to line up discussion groups. If you know anyone in the area who a) is really struggling with gay-Catholic stuff in their own life or their family's, or b) would be interested in a group like this for other reasons, why not let them know?

(FWIW my opinion of Catholic teaching on this stuff is a minority opinion in this group, but we do work hard to make sure that controversy around orthodoxy doesn't distract from the point of our ministry. I would recommend this group to anyone, although I'd also suggest that you email me if you have questions or concerns.)

If you're in the DC area and this is "relevant to your interests," as they say, why not email Adam Kline at adamzenyverizonnet except with an at sign and a dot in the obvious places, and ask to be added to our newsletter list? We'll have the next newsletter out very soon, since it's almost done.

The group is named after the US Catholic bishops' surprisingly non-awful letter. It has some ecclesiastical bafflegab (especially in the brief, waffly discussion of chastity), and is clearly directed more to gay Catholics' families than toward actual queer Catholics, but I'd still recommend it. Oh hey, I did recommend it, in the sidebar! It's always good when bishops fail less.
SWEET HOME ATHENS: You guys. You guys!!!
...Auburn is a land-grant university: it became one in 1872 under a federal program geared toward helping the working class obtain practical college educations. That mission continues largely to this day. A public university with an annual tuition of less than $6,000 for Alabama residents, it accepts roughly 70 percent of those who apply. Among its 20,000 undergraduates, business and engineering are the most popular majors. When students choose liberal-arts majors, they tend to be the more practical ones — communications, criminology, psychology, prelaw.

So it came as something of a surprise when, in the late ’90s, Auburn’s college of liberal arts undertook an internal ranking of its dozen academic departments and philosophy came out on top. The administration figured that there must have been a problem with the criteria it used, and a new formula was drawn up. Once again, philosophy came in first. This time, the administration decided to give up on the rankings altogether. “As I often put it to the dean, you’ve got a philosophy department that you have no right to have,” Kelly Jolley, the chairman of the department, told me recently. “It’s just way, way out of step with what you would expect to find at a place like Auburn.”

Jolley is almost single-handedly responsible for this state of affairs. ...

This is not to say that Jolley isn’t, above all, a philosopher. It’s just that he sees philosophy less as a profession than as a way of looking at, of being in, the world. “I am convinced that philosophy is not just about theory,” he told me. “It’s about a life well lived and thoughts truly thought.”

In May, when I visited Jolley, the Auburn campus had just cleared out for the summer, but he was teaching a summer class, Introduction to Logic. He was also running two unofficial, noncredited study groups, one on an early Greek theologian named Gregory of Nyssa and another on the 20th-century philosopher Bertrand Russell, which met in the philosophy department’s cramped, poorly air-conditioned lounge, known as the Lyceum, after Aristotle’s original school of philosophy in Athens. ...

Being a philosopher requires you to engage in the practice of relentless inquiry about everything, so it’s not surprising that Jolley has spent untold hours puzzling over how to best teach the discipline itself. What he has decided is that philosophy can’t be taught — or learned — like other academic subjects. To begin with, it takes longer. “Plato said that you become a philosopher by spending ‘much time’ in sympathy with other philosophers,” he told me. “Much time. I take that very seriously.” We were sitting in his office, which was dark with academic books and journals; a large paperweight reading “Think” sat amid the clutter on his desk. “Plato,” he went on, “talked about it as a process of ‘sparking forth,’ that as you spend more time with other philosophers, you eventually catch the flame. That’s how I think about teaching philosophy.”

Jolley says he thinks of his relationships with his students less as teacher-student than as master-apprentice. His goal, as he sees it, isn’t to teach students about philosophy; it is to show them what it means to think philosophically, to actually be a philosopher. When the approach works, the effect can be significant. Several years ago, a student named Zack Loveless wandered into one of Jolley’s classes and very nearly dropped it after the first day. “I was expecting a survey course, and in walks this big scary guy, using words I’d never heard before, talking about Hume as background for Kant, telling us how hard the class was going to be,” Loveless told me.

Loveless, who grew up in a working-class home in a small town in Alabama, stuck with the course and soon switched his major from psychology to philosophy. He took at least one class with Jolley for each of his remaining semesters at Auburn and did several independent projects with him and is now getting a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Chicago. He describes Jolley as more of a collaborator than a professor; rather than answer his questions, Loveless said, Jolley tried to work through philosophical problems with him.

Jolley is always on the lookout for students with a philosophical bent, and has urged his colleagues to recruit aggressively as well. While I was at Auburn, he introduced me to one of the department’s current top prospects for graduate school, a rising senior named Benjamin Pierce. Jolley told me that Pierce’s gift for reasoning was first identified a couple of years ago in an entry-level logic class. “If A is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C,” the professor said, introducing the so-called transitive relation.

“Not in rock, paper, scissors,” Pierce volunteered.

read the whole thing or I'll kill you while you sleep!

also, oh! this is so fantastic, and brings me back to alma mater almost as much as reading my freshman-year emails!
There will little learning die that day thou art hang'd.
--somewhere in Timon of Athens... I'm re-reading old emails from my freshman year of college, obviously!

Friday, September 19, 2008

BUT NOT EVEN VERONICA MARS COULD MAKE "FRAK" AN OKAY WORD: Mark Shea has a terrific column on cussin'.

I find myself more or less diametrically opposed to the most common Catholic views of obscenity. I would absolutely, always in all cases, write "God d--n" rather than the horrific unhyphenated word, if it would read as reverent rather than twee; of all the four-letter words, it's obvious that "damn" and "Hell" are the worst, and yet they're the ones our culture treats most casually.

Meanwhile, if character and genre require me to use the basic Anglo-Saxonisms about sex, or describe an activity inter Christianos non nomine, or move from double entendre to single to zero... I'll do it, because the story needs it. I will say that almost every writer--very, very, super much including Catholic or otherwise explicitly Christian writers--thinks she needs explicit talk to be the next Graham Greene or what honkin' ever. And usually she really, really doesn't; nor is that necessarily a model to which she should aspire, that mid-twentieth-century mindset where the "seventh proof of God" (the obvious existence of the Devil) becomes an excuse for wallowing, where self-indulgence is misdescribed as an attempt at ekstasis.

But even so, there are times when Christians need to make art that isn't for everyone. And as much as the contemporary Christian culture really needs a vocabulary for making fun of its edgy, peacock-epigone sparkly descent into implicitly-disclaimed obscenity... sometimes it also needs a way of talking about nipples and "country matters" and the old in-and-out.

Shea notes this ground-level view from Clive Lewis:
C. S. Lewis once remarked that almost the whole of Christian doctrine could be deduced from the fact that we tell dirty jokes and feel the dead to be uncanny. Why? Because both testify to the fact that we are curiously estranged from our own bodies, a clue which, when followed, leads us back to the fact of original sin.

Shea's column is one of the very few examples of a Christian who gets it. Bullocks fart in approval!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

CALLED TO SINGLENESS... OR JUST WAITING BY THE PHONE?: So I found this Christianity Today article to be provocative, but somewhat naive.

You know, I'm thirty, and single, and not interested in marriage for boringly obvious gay-Catholic reasons, and yet I still feel tripped out by these attempts to recast singleness as just as normative as either marriage or a vowed religious vocation. They so often seem to rest on an ideal of self-knowledge which I think is probably chimerical, and generally fail to provide an alternative vocation--like the artistic one, think Emily Dickinson or Flannery O'Connor.

This article made me notice a third potential problem: the difficulties inherent in creating a Christian culture of long-term but temporary singleness. Can there really be a vocation to singleness faut de mieux?

On the one hand, ordinary single people in the world can take heart and inspiration from the example of celibate saints. And I take Hintz's paragraph
This said, celibacy is not necessarily a terminal vocation. God could certainly call a single adult into a new way of being in the world. But that presumes that he or she was first in full possession of a previous identity. In other words, our attentiveness to marriage as a holy calling—a calling "not to be entered into lightly," as the Anglican service book puts it—proclaims itself most strongly when it is assumed by two people who have first known themselves to be celibate.

as meaning that you need a self before you can give that self in marriage, which is entirely true.

But... if singleness is a temporary vocation, things get really, really quite strange. A married man shouldn't date. A monk shouldn't date. A consecrated virgin shouldn't date.

Should someone with Hintz's understanding of Christian celibacy date? Should he put up the Bat signal to friends who might help him meet ladies? Should part of her sacrifice to Christ be the acceptance of the fact that her plans and self-understanding may radically change when she meets the right guy? Can there be a vocation to which you're only loyal if you don't fall in love--rather than a vocation to which you're loyal, regardless of emotions and possibilities, because you made a promise to your beloved?

And to put it another and more ground-level way: If the Christian choice is between no-sex-'til-thirty-four and economically-dicey early marriage... I think the fact of dating, and the anchorless yearning it acknowledges and responds to and sustains, means that most people will still pick Door #3, a.k.a. "Forever's gonna start tonight." (Hey, it's better than "Tonight is forever"!) Or, sometimes, "She said, 'I've got news of my own.... I'm two months late, and it's not with the rent.'"
CA MA DIT LACAILLE EN ARRIVE? What will you say, when you arrive at the final judgment, about the hurricane devastation in Haiti?
KENLEY IS THE MARK MILLAR OF FASHION. She critiques (as much by her persona as by her designs) in a way that really should be interesting, and which other people have made interesting, and yet her own work just comes off as ridiculously "I'm fifteen and so edgy." (I haven't seen her design for tonight, though--this is based on previous weeks plus Bryant Park.) The critique is so desperately needed that even a bad version can briefly seem refreshing... but it sours quickly.

Sorry, CSB. I wasn't expecting to say this, but after spoiling myself for the Bryant Park collections at Project Rungay... Korto's the only one I really love.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

KEEP YOUR MUSIC FOR EVENINGS, AND YOUR COFFEE FOR CALLERS: Offer your suggestions in the comments for the music of tomorrow's monks. I'm therein with a theremin, baby.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

NOT JUST ANOTHER MOUTH IN THE LIPSTICK VOGUE: Hey, so one of the things I do to earn money involves a newsletter from the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. I don't pick which stories go in it, but I will say that it's usually a really interesting collection--five interesting marriage-related stories (sometimes with multiple perspectives and iterations) each week. If you want to keep up on all of the various marriage-related controversies in our culture (not solely or even primarily same-sex marriage), you should sign up for it. Scroll down on the iMAPP page for a place to enter your email address. (It's also designed so you can easily skip the stories that don't interest you.)

Really, I'm not being paid to do this. I just think that you should know that there's a newsletter that aggregates a surprisingly good NYTimes story on teen marriage (which includes not only clashing sociological-consequentialist perspectives, but also a virtue-ethics perspective); a fascinating piece on single fatherhood; and Ross Douthat's provocative piece on whether pornography should be considered a form of adultery. Plus lots more, on every aspect of the contemporary marriage debate, and from a wide variety of perspectives.
CHANGE THE OIL AND OIL THE SQUEAKS...: Just realized yet another of the five thousand things I love about the Weakerthans: They can sound like the most sentimental, wailiest country; with lyrics about Bigfoot, which are also lyrics about sublimity.
I WILL LET YOU DOWN: The comments to the post linked below reminded me again of my hatred of all things Giving Tree.

You all, the tree is the villain. It spoils the child, gives him no basis for a real life in the world, and then martyrs itself so he can keep being dependent on it forever. There are reasons to martyr oneself... and some of them are awful.

As I said once on a whiskey-soaked evening: "That tree is not fulfilling its tree-los."
SUBTEXTUAL CRITICISM: Helen contributes to the porn/adultery/norms discussion (which is also ongoing if you scroll around Ladyblog), asking, "Instead of 'negotiating' or being all American and sincerist about your relationship, couldn't you be doing something more exciting with your mouth?"

She adds, "Like pedagogy?"

More on that second link's subject--eros and education--soon.

ETA: She also offers her intro-to-decadence reading here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

HE HIT ME AND IT FELT LIKE A RSS: In which I suggest that marriage is a genre, and Internet pornography might change that genre for the worse.

Go and comment!
It was an exalted festival. Even the envoys from the outside world sensed this, and proclaimed it; and in the course of those days a good many new converts were won over to the Glass Bead Game forever. In the light of this triumph, however, Joseph Knecht, at the end of the ten-day festival, made some highly curious remarks in summing up the experience to his friend Tegularius. "We may be content," he said. "Yes, Castalia and the Glass Bead Game are wonderful things; they come close to being perfect. Only perhaps they are too much so, too beautiful. They are so beautiful that one can scarcely contemplate them without fearing for them. It is not pleasant to think that some day they are bound to pass away as everything else does. And yet one must think of that."
--The Glass Bead Game

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

THREE DREAMS: 1) I am at what was billed as a conference on marriage, but has, so far, been just a lot of household tips, like Hints from Heloise. I am very, very bored. Finally the last speaker gets up--I'm pretty sure he was a Hispanic guy whose first name started with a G.--and gives a speech about how gay marriage is the result of a quest for Heideggerian authenticity*. He's against it--he argues that gay marriage, like all attempts to re-ground transcendence in desire rather than the other way around, will necessarily fail. (I think he meant "fail at its own professed objectives" as well as "fail to be good.")

Afterward, another participant argues that the parent-child bond is evidence against G.'s claim that transcendence can't be rooted in desire. G. mulls this over, and agrees.

*eta: Actually, his problem was with the language of "commitment," not the language of self-expression.

Then there's a lot of swimming, and a thing shaped like a pineapple.

2) A guy I knew in high school argues with me that "meta-emotions"--what we feel about what we feel--actually cause much more angst and problems for people than the emotions themselves. E.g. shouldn't I be grieving more? Why don't I feel happier?

3) I forget who said this, but I have a vaguely diva-ish impression of the person (a man): "I'm just so tired of all these post-fathers. If you're going to be post- something, be post-art."

...Yeah, it's a carnival in here, I'm telling you.
GUESS WHO'S BACK! And she's in DC!
KITCHEN ADVENTURES: WANTON! WANT ONE? In which I make some things with wonton wrappers! This was ridiculously easy--not sure why I was so intimidated beforehand.

Basically, I bought a $2 pack of wrappers. I set the oven to somewhere in the low 400s--I did several batches of these, generally between 400 and 420, adjusting the cooking time accordingly between about 8 minutes and 10 minutes--and covered a baking tray with parchment paper. I laid out lots of wrappers on the tray.

In the center of each wrapper, I made a little mound of whatever the filling was. I did a few really simple ones with a papaya goat cheese plus some fresh cilantro. (I bought a cilantro plant, and I haven't even killed it yet! I have been calling it my nom-nom plant.) But the ones I did most frequently were filled with cream cheese, chopped garlic, fresh corn cut off the cob, plum tomato, crushed red pepper, and fresh cilantro. Obviously you only use a little bit of each thing, and it can feel kind of fussy messing around with this tiny chunk of tomato, but it's totally worth it.

Anyway, once I had my filling on there, I filled a shallow bowl with water, dipped my fingers in, and moistened the edges of each wrapper, then folded and crimped and smoothed it until it was, you know, some kind of dumplingish thing. Sometimes I needed to add an extra wonton wrapper because I'd put too much filling on the thing. Once the dumplings were formed, I brushed them all over with olive oil and put them in the oven on the parchment-papered tray, and baked, as I said, between 8 and 10 minutes. I think 9 minutes at 400 was just about perfect. The more dough you use the greater the chance that the edges will blacken, so, you know, keep an eye on your oven. If you're making these for the first time, you might check up on them at the five-minute mark, or when you start to hear the oil sizzle.

When they were all crispity and brown, I took them out, and used a fork to lift them off the paper into a bowl. I haven't tried eating them in soup yet--I just waited several tantalizing minutes until they were cool enough to eat by themselves. They were delicious. Just incredibly tasty.

The one problem is that the wrappers did get noticeably harder to work with each day after the first day. The second day was basically fine; the third day was dicey and I had to throw some wrappers out because they were too dry and stiff. Either there is a better way to store them in the fridge, or you should save these for when you want a lot of wontons....
My friend, Steve, told me this once: "All the girls I've ever loved should have their faces on the backs of milk cartons."
--Sherman Alexie, "Distances" (in The Business of Fancydancing)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

GROTESQUERIE AND GRIEF: ABORTION IN HORROR MEDIA. A column by me at the First Things blog.

...And yes, I moronically said that David Lynch and David Cronenberg are the same person. As exciting as that horror-movie premise would be, it's false, and I'm about to email FT to ask them to correct the post.

If you want more on A Small Killing, I wrote about it here; I wrote a bit about other short stories featuring abortion here. Hat-tip for the "Pro-Life" Masters of Horror mention goes to Sean Collins, who also influenced the "don't force horror into a political scheme" mantra.
FANNIE LOU HAMER'S CONVENTION. Powerful post at Balkinization.

Hamer, like many minority American women, was also sterilized against her will--a practice which continued through the 1970s.
Stand beside her, and guide her,
Through the night with a watch from a blog...

But first... context. I sometimes forget that not everyone reading my blog is also reading my email, you know? So I should probably say that the two Palin posts, below, are not an endorsement, nor were they intended as such. I'm not registered to vote (...I live in DC), do not plan to vote, and have no idea what I would do if I did plan to vote. I am not planning to try to get you guys to vote for somebody, largely because of the colossal naivete I displayed the last time I tried that.

But I'm still interested in figuring out what Sarah Palin's deal is, because I do hope that both parties can be reshaped so that neither of them is based on support for radical evil. (And I'm also interested in how the parties may or may not shift on less overwhelming issues, like education reform and free trade.) It would be nice to have someone to vote for, you know, eventually. So while I understand the point Jim Henley is making, it doesn't answer all of my questions about what Palin will do for the Republican Party--and what it might do to her.

So, for those who do want to know more about her than, "She's running for VP under John McCain," here are some good points and links and stuff like that.

The Agitator: Palin (1); not really a reformer?

The Wall Street Journal's news section, on her record.

Mark Shea: "In addition, the one sour note of Palin's speech for me (and it may be a signal that she's willing to play the same game that McCain has played with Bush war crimes) is this:
'Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?'

"That's all she's got to say about the Bush Administration efforts to make the US into a legal torture regime? Yeah, pretty much."

Ross Douthat: "Instead of opening new vistas for conservative politics, it reinforced the perception - which is unfair, but not all that unfair - that the only thing John McCain's GOP has to offer on the domestic front is a big yes to drilling, an end to earmarks, and a big no to Obama's tax increases. It's possible that this is enough of a message to win this Presidential election; it's definitely not enough of a message to rebuild the GOP over the long haul."

Posts about other stuff forthcoming.
"...Quite a few historians and biographers, to say nothing of journalists, consider this ability to divine and seize upon a historical moment--in other words, temporary success--as in itself a mark of greatness. The corporal who becomes a dictator overnight, or the courtesan who for a while controls the good or ill humor of a ruler of the world, are favorite figures of such historians. And idealistically minded youths, on the other hand, most love the tragic failures, the martyrs, those who came on the scene a moment too soon or too late. For me, since I am after all chiefly a historian of our Benedictine Order, the most attractive and amazing aspects of history, and the most deserving of study, are not individuals and not coups, triumphs, or downfalls; rather I love and am insatiably curious about such phenomena as our congregation. For it is one of those long-lived organizations whose purpose is to gather, educate, and reshape men's minds and souls, to make a nobility of them, not by eugenics, not by blood, but by the spirit--a nobility as capable of serving as of ruling. In Greek history I was fascinated not by the galaxy of heroes and not by the obtrusive shouting in the Agora, but by efforts such as those of the Pythagorean brotherhood or the Platonic Academy...."
--The Glass Bead Game (Father Jacobus again)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I should really save that headline, you know? I've been saving it for years. And only Alan Wolfe's ostensible belief that evangelicals don't know the word "forgiveness" finally got me to use it.


And you guys know how important I think this line is: "Still unknown is whether Mrs. Palin would be as flip-flopping as Mr. McCain on the Bush torture policy that has so blighted our reputation in the world."

Radley Balko also seems to be holding fire, and Jim Henley hasn't really tried to sway me against her yet (I could be swayed!), so... interesting.
"To study history one must know in advance that one is attempting something fundamentally impossible, yet necessary and highly important. To study history means submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning. It is a very serious task, young man, and possibly a tragic one."
--The Glass Bead Game (Father Jacobus)